Tuesday, 30 July 2013

What's Your Story? - Kenny McCormick

Just when it seemed the well had run dry on What's Your Story entries, Kenny McCormick has come through with the goods. Given his favourite game listed below, I think I know what the 20 CAPs he has earned might go towards! Speaking of CAPs, there is not much more opportunity to adjust the playlist for 1990. The list will be set in stone the moment I post the introduction for The Colonel's Bequest, since that will be the last game for 1989.

Kenny McCormick: I thought you were dead!

My home country is… Singapore. A small island nation in the South-East Asia. Most of you might think it to be a rather exotic place. In some perverse ways, I guess it is!

My age is… 35+. Around the same age as the Trickster.

The first adventure game I played was… I can't recall exactly... It could be "Ulysses and the Golden Fleece", I think.

Another reader that was around for the very beginning of this fine genre!

When I’m not playing games I like to… Play with myself. Okay, seriously, I'd probably go out for a walk or chat with friends and maybe catch a movie if something particularly good is screening.

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… Digital. It's a godsend. I'm no collector and not one to hang onto material stuff. That said, I'm always misplacing stuff... so I'd rather have someone (Steam, Desura and GoG!) to keep them for me.

My favourite adventure game is… "Circuit's Edge". But it also has some RPG elements. But then again, I love QFQ as well. Guess I love CRPGs too much to not have them bastardizing my other games.

Circuit's Edge: There's a still a chance to get this onto the playlist! You'll need some assistance though.

The thing I miss about old games is… I think creativity would be the most common answer here. But what I think is actually 'connection'. Those games connect with me in ways that new games fail to do so. I mean, there must be a reason why I would dig out an old copy of a game on whim during a certain weekend and play the shit out of it while that shiny new jewel-cased FPS-RPG-RTS-WTF game languished beside my keyboard.

The best thing about modern games is… Big. The gameworlds are huge! And detailed too. Basically transitioning from 'what the hell is that?!' to the 'where the hell is it?!' phase.

The one TV show I never miss is… A Taiwanese veriety programme about spooks and UFO conspiracies. Doubt any of you will have seen it. But I love Misfits! The remake is certainly funnier than its predecessor!

I take it this is the Misfits you're talking about, although I didn't know it was a remake (or has a remake)?

If I could see any band live it would be… Aerosmith! But I'd also check out Korean girl groups... Damn, Girl's Generation look good... *ahem*

My favourite movie is… Monty Python and The Holy Grail. 'Nuff said!

'Nuff said indeed my friend!

One interesting thing about me is… That my feet are so flat that my footprint looks like an imprint from a cue-ball, 4 marbles and a bowling pin.

If anyone else wants to send their What's Your Story responses through and get 20 CAPs in the process, please send them to theadventuregamer@gmail.com.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Game 33: Space Quest III - Hasta la Vista, Baby

Roger Wilco Journal Entry 2: "Can't I just have a simple life? I finally escaped that junk freighter by repairing a cool little spaceship and blowing my way out, but of course that wasn't the end of my dramas. I chose the most sensible option, being to land on the nearest planet and see if I could get some resources, only to find there was a murderous robot after me for not paying a few measly buckazoids. Lucky his brain didn't match his brawn, and I was able to destroy him before he could complete his mission. As if that little confrontation wasn't weird enough, now I've got a couple of guys held captive on Pestulon contacting me through a damn video game. Can't a guy just get some escape in without having to be a hero all the time? Sigh...I guess no-one else is gonna do it!"

This thing's like the Tardis! There's much more room inside than appears possible from the outside!

Well, my fears around the challenge offered by Space Quest III were unfounded, as would come as no surprise to all of you that ripped through this game in the last few days. I haven’t quite finished yet, but that’s only because I wanted to get this post out while the experience was still fresh. My last post finished with me finally gaining entrance to the space ship submerged in junk upon the garbage freighter. As soon as I did that I was given an over the shoulder view of the ship’s internal setup. There were only three things I could do inside, being exit, look at the ships status monitor, or hop into the cockpit. Looking at the monitor revealed the power was critically low as the auxiliary reactor was not on-line. I of course had a reactor in my possession, so I typed “use reactor” (5 points). “You drop the reactor into the hole. In attempting to reconnect the cables, you find that one is much too short.” I had some wire too, so I typed “use wire” (5 points). This was all that was needed to get the ship’s power unit back online, and I was given a view of all the ship’s sections along with a message telling me they were all “nominal”.

As it just so happens, one of the two items I picked up on this entire junk freighter is the exact reactor that fits this ship!

Landing gear nominal? Well, that's one less typical space genre drama to deal with!

With that all sorted, I hopped into the cockpit and looked at the computer screen. There I found eight menu options, which were 1. Engines, 2. Navigation System, 3. Takeoff, 4. Cruise, 5. Light Speed, 6. Attack Speed, 7. Radar and 8. Weapons System. I pressed 1 to turn the engines on, and heard a whirring sound as the ship prepared for launch. I turned the radar on and tried to use the navigation system, only to be told that it was “inoperable while not in flight”. I received the same message when I tried to view the weapons system, so I simply tried to takeoff instead. “The ship rises several meters, then stops abruptly. An alarm from the computer attracts your attention.” Looking at my monitor revealed that my ascent was halted due to an obstruction. I was a bit confused by what that obstruction might be until I realised it was the room’s ceiling! My memory told me that using my weapons system was the solution, and while I wasn’t yet very trusting of my memory, I gave it a shot anyway. I brought up the weapons system screen, where I could turn my front or back shields on or simply fire away. I pressed fire, and was given a view of the outside of the freighter as my weapons blew a hole through the side of it!

Can Roger withstand the temptation to push the red button?! The beautiful, shiny button! The jolly, candy-like button!

Apparently not!

The smile of victory on my face was quickly eradicated, when a message popped up saying: “Unfortunately, your inadequately protected ship is struck and subsequently destroyed in the bottle neck of metallic objects striving to pass through the same relatively small opening.” The solution of course was obvious, so I restored and went through the same process, this time putting my front shield on first. This worked, and I was free! I brought up my navigation system and ran a scan. A cursor passed across my surrounding space sectors, revealing locations of interest as it did so. I could visit Planet Ortega in sector 82, Planet Phleebhut in sector 39, or Monolith Burger Fast Food Dive in sector 62. I vaguely remembered each of them, but not enough to make a judgement on where I should go first. I therefore selected the first one (Ortega), and set my ship to light speed. I watched as my ship took off at light speed, but was then surprised to find another ship gradually appearing (it must have been using some sort of cloaking device) close to where mine had been! The close-up of a robot face appeared on the screen, and computer generated messages began appearing in the reflection of his shades. “Identity confirmed... Roger Wilco... Case OU812... Wilco wanted for vending machine fraud... Plaintiff: Gippazoid Novelty Co.... Judgement: TERMINATE”

Hmmm...unknown habitants...volcanic crater-strewn surface...seems safe to me!

A nice Van Halen reference within a Terminator reference

The Terminator’s ship took off at light speed in pursuit of my own, which didn’t bode well. I wasn’t particularly stressed though, as I clearly recalled how I took him out when I first played the game. I knew what to do when the time came, so I focussed on the task at hand. After a short trip, a message popped up on my screen, telling me that I was in orbit above the planet Ortega. I chose to land on the planet’s surface, and watched as my ship spiralled down towards the volcanic planet. Exiting the Aluminium Mallard, I soon realised that I’d made a very poor decision in coming to Ortega first! “My, my, this is one hot planet! Hopefully you’ll last more than a few minutes.” I didn’t, and watched as I fell to the ground and simply melted into nothingness! “You sizzle into oblivion. This planet wouldn’t be so bad if you could keep cool somehow.” Well at least now I knew that I needed some form of heat protection before coming back to Ortega! I restored my game, and this time chose to visit planet Phleebhut. After the same cut scene with the terminator setting off in pursuit, I quickly found myself departing my ship onto a purple landscape with green rock formations. There appeared to be a storm brewing, but thankfully I didn’t seem to have any issue with the environmental conditions.

This image reminded me of something. Project X on the Amiga?!

Now that's hot!

Another cut-scene interjected, with the terminator’s ship also landing down on the planet Phleebhut. I was given a close-up of the Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike robot exiting his craft, then pressing a button on his belt that caused him to disappear. Footprints forming on the sand leading away from the ship clearly referred to the fact my pursuant was damn well invisible! I set out from my own craft, exploring the alien landscape and trying to avoid the various deadly creatures that inhabit the planet. While I was methodically mapping out the area, I was killed by a venomous scorpazoid, some pulsating pods that dropped down from a cave roof and ingested me, and some sort of huge serpent that ate me whole! It appeared for a moment that I was also going to be confronted by a Godzilla-like monster, as I could see one chomping away in the distance! As I got closer though, I realised it was merely the World o’ Wonders souvenir shop, built into the base of a huge Godzilla replica named Mog. My memory told me that there was a second entrance to the building around the left side, so I went to check before entering the shop proper. It was there, just as I remembered, but since I knew the time for its purpose had not yet arrived, went back and entered the front door.

Probably not as cut as Arnie

Alien hillbillies! Now that's scary!

Fester Blatz awaited me inside the World o’ Wonders, hoping to sell me a wide range of junk, collected from all over the planet. Blatz began making suggestions to me, uch as an Orat on a stick, an official Astro Chicken flight hat, and a nice pair of thermoweave underwear that will “keep your internal environment pleasant on even the sweatiest worlds.” The last of those items was exactly what I needed to survive the heat on Ortego, so I tried to buy them. “Everything here costs 25 buckazoids, and you don’t have that much!” I couldn’t remember doing it when I first played the game, but I thought I would try selling him my used up glowing gem. It seemed likely to work, since he had others like it sitting in the cabinet in front of him, and it was the only thing in my inventory at this point. Blatz was very pleased with the rock, and offered me 350 buckazoids! (2 points) That was more than I needed, so I purchased the Orat, the hat, and the underwear for 75 buckazoids (15 points). There seemed nothing else to do in the shop, so I left with my new goodies, ready for what I knew would be coming when I got outside.

Perhaps I could purchase one of your chins. You seem to have a few spare at the moment!

Blatz's poker face sucked!

The terminator appeared out of nowhere and grabbed hold of me before I had any chance to react. Disappointed with how easy I was to track down, he revealed the purpose of his mission: “Seems you forgot to pay for that Labionian terror beast mating call whistle. Now let’s see... with interest that comes to 400,000 buckazoids. I don’t think you’ve got that kind of cash on you hmm? No... I didn’t think so.” In typical villain style though, the terminator offered me a chance at escape, albeit an unlikely one. “I will count to ten real slow then I track you down. If you make it to your ship I forget I see you. But if I catch you again... I dust you like bundt cake.” I knew from past experience that trying to reach my ship would mean certain death, so I headed straight for the side entrance of World o’ Wonders instead. I guess it’s a sign of how memorable this scene was, since I recalled exactly when it would happen and how to deal with it. After ascending one of Mog’s legs in an elevator, I found myself in a machine room of sorts. There were some gears spinning round and a couple of heavy chains hanging from the ceiling.

Our hero will certainly require a new pair of pants after this confrontation

I think I'll just keep the elevator doors open on the top level. Problem solved!

The terminator came up the elevator after me and began his slow walk towards my position on the top floor. I waited until he was a few steps away from me, then typed “get chain”. Roger pushed one of the heavy chains into the robot, causing him to fall into the spinning gears, breaking him into many parts (35 points). Investigating the remains revealed that “the terminator’s invisibility belt has survived relatively intact”, so I picked it up (35 points). Blatz arrived on the scene, at first quite cranky that I’d ignored the signs telling people this section was closed for repairs. His mood lightened when he saw what I’d done though: “Oh! I see you’ve gotten rid of that grease swilling android. Never did like that terminator series.” I could see no further reason to stay on Phleebhut, so decided to take my leave. Once I was back on my ship, I put my new underwear on in preparation for visiting Ortega once again (10 points). However, once I accessed the monitor, I realised the closest joint to my current location was the Monolith Burger fast food dive. I set a course for it, dreading the fact that I would soon be required to play the horrible arcade game that is Astro Chicken!

It was almost too easy! Well, actually, it was too easy.

Ever wondered what the Trekkers ate between episodes? Now you know!

On arrival, I had a giggle at yet another Star Trek reference found in an adventure game, with the Starship Enterprise taking off from one of five entrances to Monolith (clearly a reference itself to McDonalds). My own ship docked, and I was soon walking amongst the numerous strange aliens lining up for greasy food and sugary drinks. I approached the counter and typed in “order food”. I had no recollection of what I should purchase from the menu, or indeed whether I should purchase anything, but the Monolith Fun Meal seemed an obvious choice. With any luck it would come with a surprise item that might be useful (10 points)! The geeky looking employee asked me whether I would like something to drink to go with my meal, and rather hilariously both options available to me were “Yes”! The same joke was applied to whether I wanted Space Spuds and Blattfruit Pie, and eventually I was able to hand over my seven buckazoids and sit down to eat. “OWWW!!! Hey, what’s this in my burger? Oh, it must be my Fun Meal prize! Hey, it’s a swell decoder ring!” (10 points) Awesome! To be honest, I don’t think I found the decoder ring when I first played the game, and had to resort to a walkthrough to decode the message when I came upon it.

Ha! I only just realised now that it's in the shape of a "monolith" burger

I didn't need audible voice to know what this little twerp would have sounded like

It was time to work my reflexes, so I walked up to the Astro Chicken arcade game and reacquainted myself with the controls. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know how frustrating this section is! The idea is a simple one though. All you have to do is continually land the chicken on the landing pad which is surrounded by mines. If the chicken lands with too much speed though, it will bounce onto the mines and explode! The player needs to press the up arrow to make the chicken flap its wings and therefore slow its descent, while also directing it left and right to make sure it lands on the pad. If it sounds easy, then that’s because I haven’t told you how unresponsive the controls are, and how stupendously difficult it is once the chicken is dropped from either of the screen’s top corners. Each time I successfully landed the chicken I received a few points, with the total maxing out at fifty (50 points). At some point the game decided that I’d landed enough chickens to be rewarded with a huge amount of encoded text on the screen. It was just as well, as my finger was cramping up from the exertion!

Astro Chicken? How can that be bad?!


I used my decoder ring, and a cipher was displayed at the bottom of the screen, setting me the task of decoding the message manually (although a lot of it can be figured out just by looking at it) (70 points). “Help us! We are being held captive by Scumsoft on the small moon of Pestulon. An inpenetrable force field surrounds the moon. It must first be deactivated. It’s origin is unknown to us. Scumsoft security is armed with jello pistols. We’re counting on you whoever you are.” The message was signed off by “Two Guys in Trouble”. So now I have a new motivation! Before I would consider visiting Pestulon though, it was now time to revisit Ortega. In case anyone is wondering, at this point my inventory contained an Orat on a Stick, some ThermoWeave Underwear, an Astro Chicken Flight Hat, a Monolith Decoder Ring, some Buckazoids, and an Invisibility Belt. If I didn’t know better, I’d figure the game was really about to take off (excuse the pun), but as plenty of readers have already stated, Space Quest III is a very short game. I’ve already got more than half the points on offer, and it’s very possible to next post title could end in Won! Well, I’m about to kick the Aluminium Mallard back into light speed mode. I hope to see you all at the destination!

A blatant attempt to add a few minutes onto a stupidly short game

It's interesting that travelling at light speed always has a light effect. Kinda silly when you think about it.

Session Time: 1 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've 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. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Game 33: Space Quest III - Ratman: The Spark Fight

Roger Wilco Journal Entry 1: "How long have I been out? I woke up today after who knows how long, my escape pod having been brought onboard some sort of huge rubbish freighter. I've spent the last few hours trying to find a way off, and thankfully my craft isn't the only one nestled amongst all the junk. I reckon I might be able to get one of these ships back into functional shape, but finding the parts I need has turned out to be quite difficult. It doesn't help that the rats here have evolved into huge thieving bastards, but I'm close now. Hmmm, perhaps this large metal plate could be useful? I'll just...OMG!!!! That really hurt! So much blood! Aaaaaggghhhh......."

I may have had Sierra overload earlier in the year, but I'm thrilled to be back with them again now!

Well I have to say that I’ve been surprised by Space Quest III so far! I was looking forward to a leisurely walk in the park after Manhunter 2, Mean Streets and Neuromancer really tested my stamina, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case (at least not so far). Considering I’d already completed the game within the last decade, and that many of the readers’ comments were predicting I would complete the game in just a couple of hours, the truth is that I underestimated how challenging it would be. The crazy thing is that I think I’m struggling with the same puzzles that I struggled with when I first played it, proving that my memory isn’t as good as I thought it was, and that my way of thinking when approaching puzzles hasn’t changed in the slightest. That’s enough banter though, let us begin! Space Quest III begins where the second game ended; with Roger floating through space in suspended animation after escaping Vohaul’s burning space fortress. This peaceful existence is interrupted when a garbage freighter, controlled by a robot, discovers the escape pod and draws it onboard. The robot cares nothing for organic life, which may or may not be a good thing for our hero, and Roger is awoken when a “sudden shock triggers the Sleep Chamber’s Revive Mode.”

A very good question indeed Roger

Roger stumbles out of the pod, which is now sitting amongst the rest of the trash aboard the huge freighter, and it’s at this stage that I gained control. I couldn’t go back inside the pod, so it was time to explore my surroundings. The only thing in my inventory was the glowing gem I used in the sequel to get through the dark tunnels, but its light had been expended long ago. The first thing I noticed in my new environment was a strange object on the ground, which was described as a warp motivator with a protruding modular plug near its base. I was unable to pick it up (although trying nearly gave me a hernia), remove the plug (it was permanently attached), or seemingly do anything at all with it, and yet I was certain from my previous play through that I was supposed to. This is where I think previous experience in adventure games can actually be a disadvantage to a player at times! My memory wasn’t clear enough to tell me what I needed to do. I just knew I had to do something! After wasting a few minutes typing everything I could, I left the modulator there and travelled east, assuming I would figure it out later.

At first the small size and velocity of my character was off-putting, but then I realised I'd simply got used to the bigger, dawdling characters of the last couple of games

On the next screen I came to a large tube, apparently part of a stripped down space tanker, and I entered it. Reappearing inside the tube, I immediately noticed the exposed wires in the wall. They seemed to be the only thing of note in the screen description, so I typed “get wire”. I was able to, and gained my first points in the game (5 points). I could find nothing else to do in there, so continued east, arriving on a screen with a giant robot head situated in the bottom right. Everything was so familiar, and yet I still had to wander around checking out whether or not I could enter other screens in any direction. This resulted in my first death, as walking off the bottom of the screen caused me to plummet a distance far beyond that which a human can survive (even a computer generated one). Looking at the robot head revealed that it was “an ancient model of a battlebot”. The description made a note of saying that one of the eyes was missing, so I did what any adventurer worth his salt would do. I climbed through it! (5 points)

I immediately knew that this object held more than meets the eye!

Climbing down the interior of the robot head brought me to another scrap-filled area. There were no further screens accessible in any other directions, so I began investigating the two ships that were situated there. The first one was a small white pod with a hatch in it. Looking at it revealed some writing: “For a good time, don’t call HAL!” Clearly this was supposed to be the pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey, making Space Quest III the second game in a row to make reference to Kubrick’s sci-fi classic! It seemed obvious to me that I should be able to climb into the pod, or at least find something hidden inside, but the game kept telling me that the hatch was too small. It certainly didn’t look too small! Once again my memory was playing tricks on me, making me think that I was simply struggling with the parser, but eventually I had to accept that the pod was there for decoration only. I turned my attention to the larger ship, which was half buried in rubbish. I was absolutely one hundred percent certain that I was at some stage going to get into this ship!

The hole certainly looked big enough for me to get into

Looking at the ship only revealed that it had the name Aluminium Mallard etched on each side, and that it had a small hatch on the top. I tried climbing up onto the ship, but was continually told that “the ship is too slick”. I tried climbing up the various giant toys strewn around it, but that didn’t work. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out how I might have reached the hatch when I first played the game, but simply couldn’t do it. By now I was starting to think that my brain might just have a 30 game memory limit (perhaps my deck has a RAM of 30?), and that any games I revisit from now on are going to draw blanks! I once again had to admit temporary defeat and made my way back to the starting screen, stopping to try using the wire on the motivator with no success. I then took the south exit, reappearing on a screen with various spaceships amongst all the junk. One of the crafts was clearly a tie fighter, but the game described it in a rather humorous way: “This bulbous craft looks like it has seen a lot of action in its day. You believe it to be a bowtie fighter dating back to the cologne wars.” Looking over all the other ships and junk turned up nothing, although the metal plate leaning against a typical UFO craft looked suspicious.

Yes, that's blood spurting out of my wrist as I rapidly die!

Luckily I’d just saved my game, as trying to move the plate resulted in me cutting my wrist and then dying in horror with blood literally spurting upwards out of my wrist! I was torn between being horrified that the game would randomly kill me in such a bloody fashion at no fault of my own, and giggling in glee for exactly the same reason! I restored and made my way east to where a bucket conveyor carried trash upwards and offscreen. Once again there was a bunch of oversized bits and pieces on the screen, including a giant arm, but none of it appeared useful. I hopped into the bucket and was carried up to a conveyor belt, then unceremoniously dumped onto it (5 points). Here my memory finally kicked into action, and I knew I would have to firstly “stand”, and then “jump” to avoid being shredded (10 points). I could now walk west or east along a narrow rail, with one wrong move certain to result in my gravitationally assisted death. Walking as far as I could go to the west brought me to a machine hanging from the rail which was located directly in front of a small room. There was a droid in the room, and I had the feeling I didn’t want to hang around to draw its attention!

I waited around once to see what the droid would do if it noticed me. Needless to say, it didn't end well!

I hopped into the machine, which turned out to be a “grabber”. I was then able to move around the oval shaped rail, dropping the claw at the base of the grabber down to the ground beneath. Doing this at different parts of the rail caused the claw to drop down into each of the screens I’d visited previously, but I knew exactly what I was attempting to do. I moved from screen to screen until I was situated above the starting screen, and then dropped the claw directly down onto the motivator I’d spent so long trying to manipulate (15 points). I also figured I knew where to drop the motivator too, so I moved around until I was directly above the space ship (the one I wasn't able to climb onto) and lowered the motivator into the cavity at the back of it (15 points). It fit perfectly, although I didn’t have much idea how this would assist me in the short term. Clearly the motivator was needed to prepare the ship for takeoff, but I still had no idea how I was going to actually get inside it! I continued to ride the grabber around the rail until I noticed a hole just outside the room with the droid. I hopped off, and stepped into the chute...

I think I've got something....yep...I've definitely got something! It's a biggin' too!

I tumbled out the bottom of the chute into a darkened room, lit only by three wire connected lamps (5 points). Three evil looking rats looked on as I explored the area, finding that the lamps and wire connecting them up were the only items on interest. “Some brittle-looking wire runs from lamp to lamp and then disappears into a hole to the left.” Why did the game make such a point of describing the wire as “brittle”? I already had some wire of course, but I tried unsuccessfully to pick up some more. I checked out the “hole to the left”, and inside I discovered a “reactor which seems to be providing power for the lights”. I added it to my inventory (15 points), and since I couldn’t find anything else that I could do down there, ascended the ladder at the end of the room, reappearing amidst the junk on the screen with all the derelict spaceships. I wondered whether I would be able to get back down underground from my new location and found that I could if I typed “climb down” while hidden amongst the rubbish. I took stock at this point, and wondered what I was supposed to do with the wire and reactor.

Roger had always wanted to hold centre stage, yet he hadn't expected such a tough audience!

It seemed likely to me that I was supposed to use the reactor on the motivator somehow, yet I’d already dropped that into the back of the submerged ship. I certainly wasn’t going to be able to use any of the items I had to climb up onto the ship. Confused, I decided to revisit every screen and see if I could find something I’d missed the first time. To my great surprise, when I re-entered the tube where I’d originally collected the wires, a large rat dropped down and mugged me! The damn thing stole my wire and my reactor, causing me to lose 20 points in the process! Why didn’t I remember any of this?! Was I dead ended now? Did I need to do everything in a different order? Was I supposed to use the reactor and wire on the motivator before I slotted it into the ship, and this was the game’s way of telling me? Surely not! I knew that Sierra could do bitchy things like that, but by 1989 they were much better at behaving themselves. Weren't they?! I calmed myself down and thought about the situation rationally. The rat had run off to the right of screen. Where might it have gone? Perhaps I could get my stuff back?

Biff!! Pow!! Ratman wasted little time in taking down the evil janitor!

Long story short, I wasted a fair bit more time trying to climb up onto the ship, and looking for a place that the rat might have put everything, to no avail. I even tried to figure out what might happen if I got the reactor before moving the motivator, in the hope that if I attached it prior to dumping it into the ship something might happen. It was only when I went back underground to where I originally collected the reactor that I found the lights were all back on. The rat had returned the reactor and then turned the lights back on. I gave myself a face-palm, annoyed that I’d not remembered the three evil looking rats that were overlooking that screen from the edges. When I looked at the wires attached to the lamps, I also discovered that they were no longer brittle and cheap! So the rat had stolen back the reactor and replaced their crappy wiring with my SQ approved wiring. There was only one thing to do…I stole it all back! I realised that my downfall so far was that I was trying to remember my way through the game instead of approaching everything with the logic I normally use. I tried to forget everything that was oozing out of my memory banks (or not) and tried to look at my current position with fresh eyes.

It's a little tricky that I couldn't take the wire before but now I could. It's not completely obvious that the rat replaced the wiring with my better quality stuff either.

What was my main obstacle? Getting up onto that bloody ship! Has there been anything on any of the screens that I might be able to use to assist me with climbing? Well, there was a ladder right in front of me. But that was the only way out of the room, so I couldn’t exactly remove it. Was I supposed to pick the ladder up from outside the room, despite the fact I couldn’t even see it from amongst all the scrap metal? How exactly would I carry a ladder around anyway? I climbed up the ladder and out of the underground area, then typed “get ladder”. “You grab the ladder and jam it in your pocket.”(10 points) Why was I surprised? This sort of thing had occurred in other Sierra games in the past! Did others out there struggle with this puzzle as much as I did? Regardless, I took the ladder straight to the ship and used it (10 points), giving me access to the hatch on the top. I opened it up and hopped inside (10 points), delighted that I might finally get off this freighter and into the guts of the game. I’m not blaming the game for my woes so far. The puzzles have been a little bit tricky, but the extent of my struggle has been pretty much self-inflicted. I’ve learnt a couple of valuable lessons: 1. Don’t be overconfident when starting an adventure game, and 2. Don’t rely solely on memory when I replay a game and instead apply logic to every scenario.

Finally I can get outta here...I think!

Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've 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. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Game 33: Space Quest III - Introduction

Oh, yes! There will be blood!

After a couple of lengthy adventures in non-Sierra territory, we’re back in the comfort zone with the third in the Space Quest series. The game, subtitled The Pirates of Pestulon, was released on March the 24th, 1989, and was once again written and designed by the Two Guys from Andromeda, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy. As usual, they weren’t alone in this endeavour, and sought the assistance of a bunch of eager young fellows, made up of both newbies and industry veterans alike. On the programming side, Mark and Scott were joined by Ken Koch (who’d already worked on King’s Quest IV so had experience with the SCI0 engine), Doug Oldfield (who would go on to work on Codename: ICEMAN later in the year) and Christopher Tudor-Smith (this was the first of many Sierra games for him). Veteran Mark Seibert was once again involved, although this time he handled only sound effects for the game and surprisingly not the music, given his credentials. The reason for this was that the music gig was given to Supertramp drummer Bob Siebenberg. From what I can tell, it’s the first and only computer game involvement that Bob had, so it will be interesting to see just how notable it is.

Someone named John T. Shaw designed the box. It's certainly action packed!

To put the game into perspective, Space Quest III was the fourth game to use the SCI0 engine, behind King’s Quest IV, Leisure Suit Larry 2 and Police Quest II. Both Hero’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry 3, which I’ve already blogged through, were created and released after Space Quest III. It was actually one of the very first games to utilize Sound Blaster cards and interestingly, despite it also including a few examples of digitized audio sampling, they were only included in the Tandy, Amiga and Macintosh versions of the game. There was only very minimal use of digitized speech for these versions anyway (I think Roger says “Where am I?” during the introduction), so it’s not a huge loss. Before anyone makes any predictions about me getting stuck, please not that I played the game about five years ago (for the first time), so should be able to cruise through it. I own the Space Quest 1-3 Collection from GOG, so that’s what I’ll be playing (it uses DOSBox). I’ve skimmed through the manual, but its standard Sierra fare, recounting the closing stages of the previous game and then explaining the controls. It does however break away momentarily to inform the player that the Two Guys from Andromeda have been abducted by software pirates! There really isn’t a whole lot more to say in this introduction, apart from the fact you should all click on this link right now!

You gotta love these guy's wacky, self referential sense of humour!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's 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 CAPs 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 CAPs (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 120 CAPs 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. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

Example Bet:

N cevingr vairfgvtngbe vf jung V nz
Va n jbeyq jurer znzznyf pneel gur ybnq
N ybire ybfg vf jub V zhfg svaq
Ba n qnexre guna rkcrpgrq ebnq

Jub nz V 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 Loom from Steam! How awesome is that!? Good luck!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Game 32: Neuromancer - Final Rating

It feels like ages since I last applied the PISSED rating system to a game. I've taken a quick skim over some previous scores, just to get my calibrations set. I have a feeling that Neuromancer is going to get a bit punished, since it falls down in quite a few areas that one would normally attribute to a decent adventure game. Let's see how it fares...

Puzzles and Solvability
The truth is that there are very few puzzles in Neuromancer to solve, which probably seems strange when you consider that I spent close to twenty hours playing it. Just as in Mean Streets, the aim of the game is more about gathering information (from bases in Neuromancer and from interrogations in Mean Streets) and then applying it once the right opportunity arises. In fact, despite their contrasting styles and themes, the abovementioned games have quite a bit in common (which is probably why my methodical approach gave me so much comfort). That being said, while there were quite a few typical inventory based puzzles in Mean Streets (ie. use key on drawer), there are next to none in Neuromancer (using the gas mask to get the superdeck is a rare example), although one could argue that the use of skills and software merely replaced traditional items in an inventory. Probably the biggest similarity between the two games though is the way the player can cheat with no repercussions. Once you’ve spent loads of money to gain information, you can simply restore your game back to prior to spending it and yet still retain the information via screenshots or a notepad. A clear example of this is the whole Irish cop part of the game, where my character used the CopTalk skill to gain loads of information from the unbelievably stupid cop in Donut World. Once I took screenshots of all his answers, I could safely play through the game without ever purchasing CopTalk or visiting Donut World at all.

He's not kidding either!

Neuromancer therefore became a game of thoroughly investigating certain locations or bases, taking screenshots of everything on the way, and then restoring with the intention of either rushing through it all again taking the most cost effective path or simply never visiting the site again. I find it hard to believe that anyone could comfortably complete the game (for the first time) without this kind of “cheating”. The other issue that I should raise here is that the player becomes so powerful towards the end of the game, that all the ICE and AI battles just become longwinded formalities. I’ve been pretty negative so far though, so I’ll turn to some of the positives that I did find for this category. Firstly, some of the puzzles are clever and satisfying, particularly the ones where the player causes change elsewhere in the world by hacking into bases and editing information. Two examples of this are adding Larry Moe’s name to the Chiba Police warrant list to remove him from his store and adding your own details to the Hosaka employee list so you can show up at the office and collect your weekly salary. If the game had more of this sort of stuff and less of the repetitive levelling up, then I wouldn’t have to be so harsh with my scoring. Secondly, while the game is confusing and difficult, the upside is that making serious progress brings with it a huge sense of satisfaction and reward. It may not be something I should praise the developers for, but I sure felt fantastic when I finally nailed this one! I’ll have to give the game the same P score I gave Mean Streets, which was a 4.
Rating: 4

One of the more satisfying puzzle solutions in the game

Interface and Inventory
The interface is initially very daunting, with numerous buttons and options that have non-standard uses. After an hour or two or play though, combined with a couple of manual read throughs, it all becomes pretty easy to use and perfectly functional. There are definitely some counterintuitive parts to it, and I struggled to figure out how to use software once in bases in particular, but overall I think they did a decent job with the layout. There are some flaws that irritated me though, not least of all that there are only four save game slots. In a game where saving and restoring is a critical part of making long-term progress, having to save over the top of slots caused much anxiety. Not being able to erase software once in a base was also irritating, particularly when I faced challenging RAM limitations. Spending over five minutes breaking through ICE, only to find that there’s a software library filled with awesome warez for which you have no room for, really sucks. I found myself having to exit the base, delete some of my software, and then fight my way back into the base all over again (without the use of the erased software), more than a handful of times. Movement is handled adequately, and really isn’t a major part of the game, although it was annoying that I couldn’t stop walking once I started, unless I ran into something. That leaves only the inventory, which was in a basic list format. It was fine at first, but eventually became unruly as there was no way to order my warez and skills, meaning I had to scroll through pages every time I wanted to select one (which is every few seconds in cyberspace). All up I think the interface worked perfectly well, with just a bunch of niggling flaws lowering my score.
Rating: 4

I can't tell you how much I wanted to reorder these warez so I could find Slow, ArmorAll and Jammies easily

Story and Setting
Hmmmm, this isn’t going to turn out particularly high either. I’m genuinely interested in reading the Neuromancer book after playing the game, but that has more to do with the obvious potential than what was actually implemented here. I have a lot of issues with the way the plot was revealed, not least of all that I had no motivations as a player. It’s fine to set a player down in a well realised world and let them find their way, but at some point you have to give them a reason to do anything at all. My curiosity pushed me forward, but I don’t think I did much at all in the game because the plot suggested I should. There’s also way too much irrelevant information thrown at the player, with a lot of it clearly there to reference the book, which I hadn’t read. As an example, within the first five minutes of playing I was told that I owed FFargo $2000, Armitage gave me $10000 to work for him, and I was told that one of Lonny Zone’s girls was looking for me. I never met any of these people, and none of these bits of information led to anything! Worst of all was that I once again broke the storyline by doing things in an order the game wasn’t expecting. The game was confusing enough already, without being told things had already occurred that clearly hadn’t. The setting was never going to be an issue, as a futuristic Chiba City is a perfect place for a cyberpunk game to be set. Unfortunately, there are some oddities that detracted from the end result, such as Donut World and the House of Pong, which felt completely out of place (I’ll punish that in the E category though).
Rating: 4

I wasted so much time being concerned about topics that had no relevance

Sound and Graphics
I’ll say straight up that one of the first things I did while playing Neuromancer was to look through the manual to see if I could turn the sound off. I put up with it for a couple of lengthy sessions, but found it to be completely unrewarding. There are minimal sound effects and what there is becomes repetitive quickly, and the theme song is very irritating after you’ve heard it more than ten times (it replays every time a day comes to a close in game time). The main issue is the quality of the sound, with the PC speaker blips and blops dating back to the earliest games on this blog. I’ll describe the graphics as adequate, but that’s being pretty generous. As with the Manhunter series, there’s some nice detail to some of the screens, but the colour scheme is atrocious and the overall quality of the images on the lower end of the spectrum. I tried to use interesting screenshots while blogging through the game, but there was no way I could avoid the overall repetition that occurs due to most of the game being spent on text only screens. On the plus side, I do think the cyberspace sections were handled pretty well, and the visual representations of the Artificial Intelligences were effective. It would have been nice though if they’d been able to use different graphical effects (even just colours) for each different skill or piece of software launched. I imagine Neuromancer would have been much more enjoyable with better sound and graphics, so I’m giving it a low 3.
Rating: 3

If you look closely, the detail isn't bad. Shame about the colours and resolution though!

Environment and Atmosphere
The real world environment of Neuromancer is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the world is well defined, with a distinctive futuristic feel to it. On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned previously, some of the locations feel really out of place, and seem to be included for comedic value only (House of Pong!!!). The majority of the game is spent online though, either surfing the net or traversing cyberspace. I do think these environments are well handled, even if they are very repetitive in their use. There’s no denying that Neuromancer has atmosphere, but the majority of it is built upon information that the player reads rather than the environments themselves! All the extra (and for the most part irrelevant) information that I’ve criticised in other categories undoubtedly helps to make the player feel like they are part of something big, and that they can have an influence on proceedings in both positive and negative ways. I can’t argue that it’s more realistic to have heaps of information strewn around that isn’t relevant to the plot, and I think the use of the PAX for daily news is a good idea, particularly when the player starts to see their own name and actions amongst the articles. Fighting ICE and AIs is at first quite exciting too, particularly when one wrong move can result in death, but it gets pretty old after a while, particularly when there is no longer any real threat.
Rating: 5

The News in Brief was also a more suitable place to insert humour into the game, with the above being a fine example

Dialogue and Acting
There’s not all that much dialogue between characters, but there sure is a heck of a lot of text in Neuromancer. It might seem a ridiculous number, but I actually took 2384 screenshots while playing the game, which shows just how many pages of information the player is subjected to on the numerous bases they are required the visit. I really have no idea how anyone would have completed this game back in the pre-screenshot era, as I found myself looking over all my screenshots regularly, looking for things that made no sense to me when I first read them but probably would later on. A lot of the information is well written, and there were numerous times I found myself wondering whether some of it came from the pen of William Gibson, although unsurprisingly I did notice quite a few spelling and grammar issues along the way (excusable given the sheer amount of text). The most impressive thing about it all is that it contains a consistent language that remains intelligible despite attempting to represent a future generation of youths. Probably the biggest negative I have regarding it is that there are few instances of individuality assigned to the inhabitants, with the vast majority of voices have no real defining features. That being said, the Rastafarian dudes on Zion sure did have a unique voice in the game, but my inexperience with that style of language made it pretty hard to decipher.
Rating: 5

I'm not sure I do "know wha mean"!

4 + 4 + 4 + 3 +5 + 5 = 25, divided by 60 = 41.6667, which is 42 rounded up! Hmmm, that does feel a bit low, as I really did enjoy the game to a certain extent. I'll use my discretionary point to raise it to 43. If I look over the year of 1989, that leaves Neuromancer well in front of Emmanuelle and Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess, and just in front of Codename: ICEMAN, which feels right. It also feels right that it sits behind Manhunter 2 and Mean Streets, as they were better games for completely different reasons.

43 it is! Did anyone predict that? Oooohhhhh...boukensha nailed it, but unfortunately he did so after the cut-off date, which rules him out. That leaves the next closest as the winner, which is Jean-Jacques with 42! Interestingly, his prediction was the lowest, so you guys really thought this game was going to rate higher than this. I wonder if you still feel that way? Have I been too harsh? Most tellingly, both Lars-Erik and Ilmari gave it 49, and they've both played it, so I'd be interested to hear their thoughts. Anyway, congratulations Jean-Jacques! I have your email address, so will send through your code for the Space Quest Collection.

CAP Distribution for Neuromancer:

100 CAPs for Lars-Erik
• Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it without assistance
• Companion Assist Award – 10 CAPs – For helping Zenic through a tough spot
• Bonus Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For regular comments during a two month slog
• Tex Murphy Trailer Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing the release of the Tesla Effect trailer
• Case-mon Award – 10 CAPs – For telling me who Case is
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Broken Age News Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing the Broken Age release news
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Enthusiasm Award – 5 CAPs – For building a library of the games I’ll be playing up to 1994!

80 CAPs for Ilmari
• Legend Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it without assistance
• Companion Assist Award – 10 CAPs – For helping Zenic through a tough spot
• Interface Assistance Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining how software is run from within a base
• Bonus Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For regular comments during a two month slog
• Body Part Discount Award – 10 CAPs – For figuring out the “use” of the bargaining skill
• Jammies Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining the use of Jammies
• BattleChess Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining the use of BattleChess 4.0

75 CAPs for Canageek
• Resident Expert Award – 10 CAPs – For sharing his extensive cyberpunk / Neuromancer knowledge
• Kickstarter Wrap Award – 10 CAPs – For covering off all the latest adventure games on Kickstarter
• Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new Kickstarter adventure game
• Tears for Fears Award – 10 CAPs – A truly wise comparison
• Cyberpunk Article Award – 10 CAPs – For discovering a very relevant article about cyberpunk
• Google Adventure Game Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing the cool like Google game
• Wilson Award – 5 CAPs – For picking upon my Castaway reference
• Geeking Out Award – 5 CAPs – For raising the geek stakes by discussing the reality of the 68000000
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG

55 CAPs for Zenic Reverie
• True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing the game with me and completing it
• Technical Assistance Award – 10 CAPs – For describing a bug in the game
• Bonus Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For regular comments during a two month slog
• Cryptology Award – 10 CAPs – For telling me how to increase my skill to level four
• Beach Skill Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining how I got off the beach with skills
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG

50 CAPs for Cush1978
• Mother Goose Award – 30 CAPs – For solving my Mother Goose riddle
• Monty Python Award – 20 CAPs – For figuring out my Meaning of Life reference

35 CAPs for mpx
• Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new Kickstarter adventure game
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game on GOG

30 CAPs for JosephCurwen
• Keats Award – 20 CAPs – For figuring out my Clipping Angel’s Wings reference
• Sharing Award – 10 CAPs – For sharing his childhood memories with us

20 CAPs for TBD
• Dracula Award – 10 CAPs – For describing his experience with the first two Dracula games
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG

10 CAPs for Jean-Jacques
• Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For predicting what score I would give Neuromancer

10 CAPs for Olivier Galibert
• Burning Chrome Award – 10 CAPs – For explaining the Burning Chrome reference at the spaceport

10 CAPs for boukensha
• Translation Award – 10 CAPs – For translating some of the Japanese words that appear in the game

10 CAPs for Lupus Yonderboy
• Fanboy Award – 10 CAPs – For being named Lupus Yonderboy

10 CAPs for Aperama
• Kickstarter Release Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing the release of Larry 1
• Good Advice Award – 5 CAPs – For reminding me to wait for the sales on GOG

10 CAPs for Tymoguin
• Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new Kickstarter adventure game

5 CAPs for Reiko
• Peace of Mind Award – 5 CAPs – For checking to make sure I hadn’t lost all my spreadsheets!

5 CAPs for Charles
• Peace of Mind Award – 5 CAPs – For checking to make sure I hadn’t lost all my spreadsheets!

5 CAPs for Novacek
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG

5 CAPs for Jarikith
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game on Steam

5 CAPs for Laukku
• Broken Age Award – 5 CAPs – For reminding me to change the Kickstarter name for Broken Age

5 CAPs for Knurek
• Kuang Eleven Award – 5 CAPs – For letting me know the novel reference for this piece of software