Saturday, 28 July 2012

Game 22: Psycho - Introduction

Oh man! Didn't we leave CGA behind in 1987?

It’s unlikely many people out there need a lengthy introduction to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho, so I won’t spend much time talking about the inspiration behind the game I’m about to endure. All I’ll say is that the 1960 movie starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh is one of the most acclaimed of all films (it’s currently ranked number 30 of all time on IMDB). Even those that haven’t seen Psycho would probably be aware of its existence and in particular, be able to recognise the often imitated shower scene and the jarring music that accompanies it. If you haven’t seen Psycho, you really should, so I’m not going to reveal anything about the plot in these posts unless there are recognisable scenes in the game. After reading the back-story to Psycho the game, I highly doubt that’s the case though.

The Hitch knew exactly how to build up intrigue. Thankfully he also knew how to deliver!

While I have found a playable DOS version of the game (which I'll be playing in DOSBox), I’ve not been able to get my hands on a manual (if anyone can find one they'll be rewarded with CAPs). From what I can find on the net, I will play the role of a detective sent to investigate a theft. A set of jewels have gone missing, as has the curator that was looking after them at the time. The number one suspect for the crime is none other than Norman Bates (the antagonist of the movie Psycho), so he will be the subject of my investigation. I don’t want to read up too much more in case I come across spoilers, so I haven’t been able to figure out whether this is all supposed to occur after the events of the movie (or its sequels for that matter), or whether this is just an alternate story involving the Bates character. A quick look at the title screen suggests that the Bates Motel and Norman’s creepy house will likely play a role in some form.

The cover for the game is lifted directly from the poster for 1983's Psycho II.

I can’t deny that I’m both intrigued and hesitant to play Psycho. The game is considered by many to be the worst commercial adventure game of all time, as well as the worst film to videogame adaptation (and that's saying something!). What's particularly surprising about this is one of the names involved in its creation! The game was made by StarSoft, a company started by a guy named Hal McCrery. Hal isn’t particularly notable and nor is StarSoft, having also developed unknown games such as Pirates of the Barbary Coast and The California Raisins, but the credits for Psycho contain none other than Scott Adams (widely considered the founder of adventure-style games for personal computers with his game Adventureland in 1978) as the programmer of the PC version. I don’t know whether he had any involvement in the creation of the game or merely played a role in bringing it to the PC, but I can’t imagine he’d be all that thrilled to have Psycho tarnishing his reputation these days. Anyway, it’s time to see just how bad Psycho really is. I cling to hope that it’s at least finishable!

Scott Adams brought interactive fiction to home computers...then gave us Psycho.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 points (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 20 points in return! It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Multiple readers can predict the same score, but will be rewarded a decreasing amount of points if it turns out to be correct.

Example Bet:
Bet: Jung jnf Nyserq jrnevat va Cflpub?


  1. Please note that I've doubled the reward for predicting a specific part of a game that I will require assistance. I feel there should be more reward for putting 10 CAPs on the line, particularly as I don't give up easily.

  2. I'll be watching this from the sidelines, but I wonder if you'll be able to keep your no-spoiler stance for long...?

    As for Alfred -- a hat?

  3. You're right Charles, a cowboy hat.
    Damn time zones :)

  4. Puzzle: What was Alfred wearing in Psycho?

    Charles types: "a hat"

    The Adventure Gamer Parser: "you do not need to use the word "a hat" in this blog"

    daubeur types: "a cowboy hat"

    The Adventure Gamer Parser: "Yes, Alfred Hitchcock was wearing a cowboy hat in Psycho. You receive 10 CAPs."


    1. So that's what happens when you play five Sierra games in a row - you start to become one.

      And as for what Alfred was wearing, I'm pretty sure he was also wearing pants. Can I have CAPs too?

  5. I predict low points. I don't know how low, but let's go with 20. I will start my playthrough.

    You know what also might be fun for games where you can die/fail, guessing the death count. I'm going to play now, and see if I can get a bet out of the game.

  6. What difficulty level are you going to be playing on?

  7. I know this is sadistic, but I get more pleasure reading about the bad games than the good ones.

  8. And.... done... 1 hour 30 minutes. This game is buggy, but I think you'll get through it just fine Trickster. I'm here to help if you need any though. The higher difficulties only seem to increase monster speed.

    1. That hour and a half was beating the game a couple times after the first by the way. Like TBD said below, I think the next post will be a "won" post.

  9. In case anyone wants to bet against Trickster to earn some extra points, but don't know the game that well, here's a few bets I thought about after beating it. Still, I think because it's such a short game, none of these will trip him up for long:

    V org Gevpxfgre jvyy arrq nffvfgnapr va svaqvat gur urneg zrqvpngvba sbe gur phengbe orpnhfr gurer'f n oht jurer vg znl abg npghnyyl or gurer, erdhvevat zhygvcyr frnepurf bs gur fnzr cynpr, juvpu vf qbar ol yrnivat gur nern naq ergheavat gb frnepu ntnva.

    V org Gevpxfgre jvyy erdhver nffvfgnapr va xabjvat ubj gb cnff gur zbgure va gur Nggvp. Guvf vf orpnhfr gur pyhr gung "2 crefbanyvgvrf ner bar gbb znal" qbrfa'g rknpgyl yrnq bar gb xabj gung lbh zhfg xvyy Ongrf qerffrq nf uvf zbgure va gur frpbaq sybbe onguebbz orsber lbh'er noyr gb xvyy gur zbgure. Guvf vf nyfb qvssvphyg orpnhfr Ongrf vfa'g nyjnlf gurer, naq qhr gb gur onq tencuvpf, vg ybbxf yvxr whfg nabgure enaqbz tubfg.

    V org gur Gevpxfgre jvyy erdhver nffvfgnapr va tvivat gur urneg zrqvpngvba gb gur phengbe. Gurer'f n oht gung vf pnhfrq ol fbzr haxabja inevnoyrf jurer ragrevat gur phengbe'f ubyqvat pryy jvyy pnhfr gur tnzr gb or hajvaanoyr. Lbh pna'g tvir gur cvyyf naq lbh pna'g yrnir gur ebbz. Fhqqrayl gur pybpx jvyy whzc gb 6 nz (juvpu abeznyyl raqf gur tnzr), ohg vg'yy whfg fgnl va gung ebbz. Gurfr inevnoyrf ner fnirq, fb ybnqvat n cerivbhf fnir qbrfa'g uryc, arrq gb erfgneg gur ragver tnzr.

    Happy betting.

  10. Despite the fame of Scott Adams, I can honestly say that his games were not my cup of tea - technically quite crude, at least when compared to what Infocom was doing at the time, puzzles out of space and at best a threadbare plot. So I am actually not at all surprised Psycho is his work :P

    Never played the game and won't have the time to play it with you. CGA alone forebodes low points - let's say 18.

    1. Having played a few Adams adventures, I agree. His "Hulk" game also included one of the most infuriating parser puzzles in history.

    2. Oh, by the way, I predict a 25.

    3. 18, 20 and 25? Screw this; 30. That way if you are generous I'll get it again.

  11. After Zenic's information and what I read on the web, I'm going to guess 12.

    I also wouldn't be surprised if the first game post was also a win post.

  12. I am really curious to see how this turns out, because I am firm believer in "you can't know the best until you've also see the worst." It's how I can like both Blue Velvet AND C.H.U.D. ;)

  13. After looking at what the previous score bets were, I'll go with a low-middle ground with a 15 (Not sure if it works with the calculation system, but we'll see about that). Maybe we'll finally see a Lechuck grade on a game ;)

    I'll stand out of this one too, but in the meantime, I'll try to install a good version of Scumm on my work computer in order to join the party on Zak Mc Cracken, which is the only Lucasarts game I've never played.

  14. I guess 13 for me. Not sure if the scoring system ends up going that low, but we'll see.

    I said I'd play along on this as I haven't played it before, so here goes.
    Attempt 1: Gur svefg guvat V abgvprq rkprcg sbe gur njrfbzr PTN tencuvpf jnf gur ubeevoyr pbagebyf. Gur cnguvat qbrfa'g zngpu hc jvgu gur fperra irel jryy, fb lbh raq hc oybpxrq ol pbearef naq vgrzf gung lbh ner fgrrevat jryy pyrne bs.

    Naljnl, V sbhaq gur yrggre sebz hapyr Znk gung rkcynvarq zl dhrfg, naq nyfb gur abgr nobhg gur urneg zrqvpvar va gur cbpxrg bs gur pbng. Pbhyqa'g trg vagb znal ebbzf gubhtu, hagvy V sbhaq gung nsgre (F)rnepuvat guebhtu gur infr V unq gb (Q)vt va gur fnaq va vg gb (C)vpx hc gur xrl. Fbzrjung qvssrerag sebz lbhe hfhny Frnepu naq Cvpx hc va bgure tnzrf.

    Jnvg jung, qbtf naq tubfgf(!) chg zr gb fyrrc?

    Attempt 2:Bu ybbx, n pyhr! "Fxryrgba xrlf bcra qbbef, abg fxryrgbaf!" Hhhhu, gung'f tbbq gb xabj V thrff? Bu avpr, V pna pyvzo vagb gur qhzojnvgre, abj V pna ernpu bgure sybbef. Unu, n tha uvqqra va na nypbir va orgjrra sybbef ba gur qhzojnvgre? Frrzf V'z abg gur svefg hfvat vg sbe genafcbegngvba.

    Fjrrg, pnssrvar cvyyf, abj V pna pna nibvq snyyvat nfyrrc jurer V fgnaq sbe ab ernfba ng nyy. Pbagebyf fgvyy ubeevoyr, raqvat hc ehaavat npebff frireny fperraf ng bapr jura V bayl jnagrq gb tb gur arkg ebbz.

    Attempt 3: Sbhaq gur phengbe, arrq gb svaq uvf urneg zrqvpvar. Ena bhg bs gvzr frnepuvat gur ubhfr.

    Attempt 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8: Fghpx ng gur phengbe, vg qbrfa'g nyybj zr gb yrnir gur ebbz.

    Attempt 9: Bu url, gur urneg zrqvpvar! Njrfbzr ubj vaivfvoyr vgrzf fhqqrayl ghea hc va cynprf lbh'ir frnepurq orsber naq sbhaq abguvat.

    V'ir fgnegrq fubbgvat rirelguvat gung zbirf, vg frrzf yvxr lbh qba'g eha bhg bs ohyyrgf? Unira'g fb sne ng yrnfg. Ena bhg bs gvzr ntnva.

    Attempt 10: Sbhaq gur fnsr naq gur wrjryf, jva! Yrsg gur ubhfr, frrzf yvxr gung'f vg? Fb vg npghnyyl unf nyzbfg abguvat gb qb jvgu gur zbivr ng nyy, vg'f ohttl, htyl, ubeevoyl pbagebyyrq naq znxrf ab frafr.

    V pbhag n gbgny bs 5 chmmyrf guebhtu gur tnzr. Svaqvat gur xrl gb gur xvgpura, gur tha, gur phengbe, gur urneg zrqvpvar, gur wrjryf. Naq svaqvat gur tha pbhyqa'g or nibvqrq, fb vg fubhyqa'g pbhag.

    Total of...around 45 minutes played, around half of that due to having to restart because of bugs.

    I want to forget, can we please move on? :p

  15. I'm gonna take a guess at 17 being the score for this one.

  16. I've finished the game, but have decided to split the experience over two gameplay posts and one final rating post. There are just too many delightful bugs and flaws not to describe in detail.

    Since I've stated that, no further score predictions will be accepted.

    That means:
    TBD - 12
    Lars-Erik - 13
    Alfred n the Fettuc - 15
    Bleaghhh - 17
    Ilmari - 18
    Zenic - 20
    Charles - 25
    Canageek - 30

    First gameplay post will be up sometime tomorrow.

    1. Dammit, I was hoping to lower mine! Guess you can't win them all.

    2. Did you find the spot in the upper right of the Game Room where you can get permanently stuck in the awful collision detection? I'm not even going to bother putting this one on my other blog.

  17. If you want to play along, Psyco can be streamed from at:

    Note that you can't save in the streaming version of DOSBOX they use, but if you want to give it a go with zero set up, give it a try.