Saturday, 15 September 2012

Game 24: Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess - Introduction


The DOS version doesn't seem to have a title screen, so this is from the Amiga version.

We’ve made it through to 1989 and I’m pretty excited about the year ahead. There are some classic games to come, some of which I’ve played (Hero’s Quest, Space Quest III) and some I really should have but haven’t (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Colonel’s Bequest). Before I can get to any of those however, there are some lesser known adventures to be had, including Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess. This is a game that didn’t originally make the cut, and was the first one to be added to the list by a reader when Lars-Erik traded in 50 CAPs. I knew very little about the game prior to my intro research, apart from the fact its original (and just as corny) title in Europe was KULT: The Temple of Flying Saucers.


Who the hell has a shrink wrapped copy of this game?

Speaking of research, I’ve learnt something today that has me more than a little bit concerned. Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess was made by the same company that released Captain Blood! I didn’t initially make the connection because I distinctly remembered listing ERE Informatique as the company behind that intriguing yet ultimately baffling creation, but somewhere between Captain Blood and Chamber, Philippe Ulrich decided to make a change. Apparently buoyed by the success of Captain Blood, he came up with the idea of a god named Exxos that was apparently guiding the programmers, designers and artists in creating their games, and subsequently changed the company name to Exxos. Philippe even went as far as holding a ceremony at Studio 102 before members of the press to announce the change. This is what he had to say:


If I'm not mistaken, my research has unveiled a gem! Philippe Ulrich released an album prior to making games!

"Mesdames and Messrs, the decision was not easy, but all the same, we have agreed to reveal to you the secret of our dynamism and the creativity which makes ERE Informatique a success. If there are sensitive people in the room, I ask them to be strong. They have nothing to fear if their vibrations are positive; the telluric forces will save them. My friends, the inspiration does not fall from the sky, the genius is not the fruit of chance. The inspirer and the genius which designed Macadam Bumper, that is not the fabulous Remi Herbulot or the marvellous Michel Rho, the inspirer and the genius which generated Captain Blood, it is not the inextinguishable Didier Bouchon and even less your servant. It is Him! Him who has been in our offices for months! He who comes from outside the Universe! He that we reveal today to the world, because the hour has come! I name Exxos! I ask you to say after me some magic sentences which point out his country to him: ATA ATA hoglo hulu, ATA ATA hoglo hulu." I'll let you decide whether this is genius marketing or just plain insanity!


ATA ATA hoglu hulu, ATA ATA hoglo hulu!

Now you guys will know that I wasn’t a fan of Captain Blood, despite acknowledging how original and interesting it was, so I immediately set off to find out whether the exact same people were behind both Captain Blood and Chamber. It turns out there’s only one man involved in both projects and that’s graphics man Michel Rho. Along with Michel, Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess was designed and written by a guy called Johan Robson (aka Arbeit von Spacekraft), programmed by Patrick Dublanchet, with music by Stéphane Picq. After the demise of Exxos, Johan would go on to make the acclaimed adventure game KGB, which quite a few readers here have listed as a highly intelligent yet challenging experience. All this gave me some hope that I wasn’t necessary about to embark on another Captain Blood like journey. Then I read the manual!


KGB: I believe we were talking about this game a couple of days ago.

To be more precise, it was the Background document that gave me cause for concern. While looking for the original documentation that came with the game, I came across two PDFs, being a typical manual that describes how the game mechanics work and a separate document that gives the game some historical background. I decided to read the background doc first, assuming that having this knowledge would help me make sense of the manual. Seriously, what are these guys smoking? Perhaps it’s merely a translation issue, but no matter how weird the Captain Blood novella was, it’s a masterpiece of literature compared to this! I couldn’t possibly convey the sheer lunacy here, so I highly recommend you all go download it from Replacement Docs and check it out. Here’s a short snippet:


So much for that Race indeed!

For those of you that sensibly ignored my suggestion to read the full background, the idea of the game seems to be that I will be controlling Raven, a Tuner (a mutant with psy-powers) that has purposely got himself caught and been transferred to the temple of the Protozorqs (physical mutants), who hold his girlfriend Sci-Fi as their prisoner, armed with “zapsticks”. It appears I will need to go through five ordeals, although I have no idea how that will help or why the Protozorqs would even give me that opportunity. I’m going to try to go in with an open mind, giving the game the benefit of the doubt despite my apprehension. I assume you’ll be playing along with me Lars-Erik? After all, this is your fault! ;)


Arbeit von Spacekraft: Probably smoked a lot of pot with Philippe and Didier

The game was released in a couple of different versions, so I should be clear about what I’m going to play. Apparently the European version (KULT) was a CGA game (4 colours) with only PC speaker beeps for sound and no music. The U.S. version (Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess) added EGA support, AdLib music and sound effects, and since both were released in 1989, that’s the one I’ll be playing. During my research I discovered that the DOS version of the game had some significant graphical glitches (white and cyan pixels scattered around the place) that didn’t appear in the Amiga and Atari ST versions, and a modder fan named Sam Jeffreys released a patch around the year 2000. I’ve loaded the patched files, as I assume no-one will have an issue with me playing the game the way it was originally intended. Here we go...


I liked the KULT cover better

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 30 points in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! 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: N jvmneq, n cvt naq gur qnhtugre bs n ynaq oneba...nyy arrq erfphvat...anzr nyy guerr punenpgref naq gur tnzrf gurl jrer va sbe 20 PNCf?

Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of the Quest for Glory collection from GOG! Good luck!

52 comments:

  1. I fly out to Hong Kong tomorrow and will take the game on my work laptop. I have no idea whether I'll have any chance to play or post (probably not), but I'll be back in Sydney before the end of the week regardless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. All I could think about when reading that passage from the manual was this scene from Ghostbusters:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Skxhii6VFdo

    I'm going to get my guess of the score in early, and say this will do much better than Captain Blood:

    SCORE GUESS = 48

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  3. I have absolutely no idea how this one will fare, so I'll go for a wild guess...

    SCORE GUESS = 45

    ReplyDelete
  4. V'yy tb sbe Pnylcfb va Fvzba gur Fbeprere, Ura Jra va Oynpx Pnhyqeba, naq Xngr Ybznk va Urneg bs Puvan. Pbeerpg?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually thought this would take a while, yet Alfred nailed it straight away!

      20 CAPs, coming your way!

      Delete
  5. PS : you can read that, Trick ;) No spoiler involved...

    And on an absolutely unrelated note, 1UP is going through the 100 essential video games of all time for a few weeks now, they're down to n°27 (Super Metroid) and it makes for a quite interesting read for anyone curious about video games.
    First articles here : http://www.1up.com/features/cover-essential-100-part-one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A note related to your unrelated note, IGN just finished ranking their 100 Greatest RPGs of all time:

      http://www.ign.com/top/rpgs

      Delete
  6. Im gonna take a guess of 42 for this one, mainly as i know nothing about it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hmm. The game has two different but equally generic sounding names, a ridiculous sounding backstory and an almost as ridiculous sounding backstory for the company who made it.

    That doesn't fill me with confidence. I'm going low, with 34.

    By the way, Reading about Zorq and Qriich arriving in a flying appliance now has me picturing them in a washing machine with wings. And I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly what they were thinking of when writing it.

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  8. I played the Spanish version (Kult) running on a CGA card ages ago. No manual, etc. The story was incomprehensible to me, but the goals are actually quite immediate. I don't remember finishing it but it seems to me it's quite short... and I enjoyed it despite the weirdness. As far as innovations go, this is probably the first game to feature a talking fetus :-)

    It's been a long time however so I'll go with a score of 44.

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  9. I'll randomly go with 40. Good luck Trickster.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried the game five years ago, but forgot it after solving few puzzles. I definitely didn't read the manual - which was probably for the best. I don't remember much, but I seem to recollect there was some slight element of randomness in the beginning - don't know if it meant much. If I find time, I might fire up the game again and join you for the ride.

      Since I didn't really see much of the game, I just have to guess the score: 47.

      Delete
  10. I'll go for a 41. This looks and sounds pretty weak.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hum... I'm going with 46. I played the game a few years ago and I remember it fondly, although never finished it (some weird logic behind the puzzles).

    By the way, don't remember if someone already told you, but I really liked this book:

    http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/book.html

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was afraid you very going to say that. :p
    Ah well, I can take my punishment like a big boy, I'll join you for this one. Off to get it working!
    And my random number generator says this'll get a 43. I adjusted it upwards after always guessing low on earlier game, but had to lower it to find an open number.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Those scores so far (in numerical order):

    Andy Panthro: 48
    Ilmari: 47
    Deimar: 46
    Alfred: 45
    Charles: 44
    Lars-Erik: 43
    Bleaghhh: 42
    Cush1978: 41
    Zenic: 40
    TBD: 34

    Seems I'm the most optimisic (just) and TBD the most pessimistic (by far!).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well having never played this one any guess I'm going to make is a complete shot in the dark. Knowing that I using my most sophisticated forecasting methodology of polyhedral random number generation to guess at... 32.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have no idea about this game, so I will have to judge it based entirely on that awesome album cover. I predict a 38.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Everything sounds ridiculous enough.. 37

    ReplyDelete
  17. I started this and it wasn't really my thing - there's some interesting ideas in it but I really wan't enjoying myself playing it. I think it will not rank too highly on your list, probably in the low 40s but since those have all been taken I'll predict a more pessimistic 38.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops, Chumazik already got that one, so I revise my prediction to 39.

      Delete
  18. Those scores so far (in numerical order):

    JosephCurwen: 50
    Andy Panthro: 48
    Ilmari: 47
    Deimar: 46
    Alfred: 45
    Charles: 44
    Lars-Erik: 43
    Bleaghhh: 42
    Cush1978: 41
    Zenic: 40
    Bunyip: 39
    Chumazik: 38
    Fenrus: 37
    TBD: 34

    Quite a spread!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What? You forgot me! I made a highly accurate polyhedral probability matrix derived prediction of 32!

      Delete
    2. Whoops, sorry!

      Unfortunately I can't edit my post, but I'll repeat the list (in full) when Trickster posts again (so that the guesses are final).

      Delete
  19. If the final score is exactly half-way between 2 of our scores, can I recommend a fight to the death at the edge of a live volcano for a tie-breaker?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seems like the sensible way to do it. I'm in.

      Delete
    2. Surely a fight on a rickety wooden bridge above an active volcano would be better?

      Delete
  20. Mid thirties sounds about right for this one. Before this post I had no idea this was KULT. I have very vague, unimpressed memories of this one from my childhood. Or perhaps I was just too young.

    So, my prediction is 35.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hmm, I have no confidence that this game can achieve the not-yet-predicted 49...

    I doubt it will achieve the ignomy of as low a score as 33 either, but as I want a chance to win QfG that is the score I will be going with.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I guess I'll go with 31 then, as that's what's left.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Refresh, then post, refresh, then post:

    I'll move to 49. If someone has already taken then without me noticing, I'll take the next highest number without someone on it (51 I think)

    JosephCurwen: 50
    Canageek: 49
    Andy Panthro: 48
    Ilmari: 47
    Deimar: 46
    Alfred: 45
    Charles: 44
    Lars-Erik: 43
    Bleaghhh: 42
    Cush1978: 41
    Zenic: 40
    Bunyip: 39
    Chumazik: 38
    Fenrus: 37
    daubeur: 36
    unimural: 35
    TBD: 34
    Mooki: 33
    Jarikith: 32
    Novacek: 31

    ReplyDelete
  25. Just to let everyone know, three broken sword games are currently in a pay what you want bundle at indie gala.

    ReplyDelete
  26. GoG Weekend Promo:
    Alone in the Dark 1,2,3: $2.39
    Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare: $2.39

    Action adventure, but I think it errs on the side of adventure from what I've seen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Justifying them (at least the first one) as adventure games:
      "However, combat only plays a partial role in the gameplay. For example, the total number of slave zombies throughout the entire game is only about a dozen, and many opponents can be beaten by solving a particular puzzle rather than a straight fight - indeed, a significant number of opponents cannot be killed. Much of the game involves exploration and puzzle-solving, and searching the house for clues to advance the story and learn more about what happened before the player's arrival. Unlike its sequels, and much of the survival horror genre, the game is quite non-linear and many areas of the house may be explored in any order, and revisited, from the outset." From WIkipedia

      Delete
    2. Yeah, the first Alone in the Dark is very much a puzzle/adventure game with some combat, while the other two have much more combat in them (but are otherwise quite similar).

      Haven't played AitD: The New Nightmare though, cos I heard it was a poor relation.

      Are they on the list for Trickster though? I would happily throw in some CAPs towards getting them there.

      Delete
  27. New adventure game on Steam: Anna.
    Also on sale (DO I get the CAPS for both?): http://store.steampowered.com/app/217690/

    ReplyDelete
  28. So, I've been trying this one for a bit. Can I change my mind about using CAPs for you to play it? I regret it already. :p

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've resumed playing the game also (tbg gur svir fxhyyf svanyyl), and if it makes you feel any better, this sure beats Emmanuelle...

      Delete
    2. Obviously I can't give up now then (bayl tbg bar fb sne), we'll see how it goes.

      Delete
    3. Well, I had a bit of head start, as I had already played the game earlier, but had stopped after svaqvat gjb fxhyyf naq gura pubbfvat gur jebat phc jvgu gur genqre. This time I fortunately ortna jvgu qnttre, juvpu znxrf vg rnfl gb bognva gur bgure vgrzf erdhverq sbe gur fxhyyf chmmyrf. Don't know how far from the end I am...

      Delete
    4. Wait, lbh fgneg jvgu qvssrerag vgrzf rnpu gvzr? V fnirq jura V fgnegrq naq unir whfg orra fnivat/erybnqvat jura vg srryf evtug.

      Delete
    5. Lrf, gur fgnegvat vgrz nccrnef gb or enaqbzyl pubfra jura lbh ortva gur tnzr. Qnttre vf cebonoyl gur orfg gb fgneg jvgu, orpnhfr lbh pna hfr vg gb tnva gur bgure sbhe vgrzf.

      Delete
  29. I'm back in Sydney after a whirlwind business trip to Hong Kong. I've also played my first session of Chamber, and am about to start writing the first gameplay post. I'm very unlikely to finish tonight however, so will aim for tomorrow.

    It's nice to know I have companions for this one! :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Are there any companions that have always wanted to play Realms of Arkania 1+2? I have a giftable copy after completing the GOG survey.

    Please don't put your hand up if you have no intention of playing the game. I'd much rather it go to someone who actually wants to play it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I accidentally took the survey twice, so I have an extra giftable copy as well.

      Delete
    2. I have a copy for myself, didn't think to gift it.

      ...hey Trickster, how many CAPS is a copy of Audiosurf on Steam worth?
      Or anyone else, make an offer CAP or another game.

      Delete
  31. If you want to play along, Chamber of the Sci-Fi Mutant Priestess can be streamed from Archive.org at: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Chamber_of_the_Sci-Fi_Mutant_Priestess_1989

    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.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Te story is easy,set in a postapocalipticworld ,zorq is an alien controlled by qrriich, he needs procreate and centurias ago create the Burn, to build genetic mutants for his race, he is worshipped as a god and interbreed with the protozorq and failed,he needs some genetic component and use human females ti procreate,the Game begins with raven girldfriend being kidnapped to serve as womb for zorq, qrriich is a symbiotic alien Who needs psysical mutants(protozorq) to interbreed .

    ReplyDelete