Thursday 30 January 2014

Guest Game 1: Circuit's Edge - Leads to Nowhere

Trickster's Note: The below post (and indeed all posts for Circuit's Edge) was written by guest blogger Zenic Reverie.

Night 2: "I bumbled through the better part of the night. The leads I stumbled upon leave me even more stumped. To pass the time and get my juices flowing I've taken up a regular seat at the baccarat tables. Strange that there's only a single gambling den in the whole Budayeen. I'm not even sure how they stay in business with odds like these, but nothing left to do except buy everything I can."

I've lost all faith in the parser.

It's difficult, at least for me, to stay interested in a game that doesn't give clear objectives. I've circled the city at least twice looking for leads. I'm just not sure what the game expects me to do. Take the holodisk I have. There are viewers in the adult store, and I can rent a video for my pleasure; however, there's no other way to interact with the viewer. No way to view the holodisk in my possession. Interaction with the environment is extremely limited; it instills a sense of hopelessness. I'm sure at some point I'll find myself in the possession of a viewer, and will finally watch the video. Then I'll be really lost knowing this game.

For a game so ensconced in debauchery, there's currently no way to partake in it.

I entered every establishment like a drunken fool name dropping everyone I could think of, "HEY! Do you know Mack Dixon?" "My good friend Mustafa, have you seen 'im?" It's a wonder anyone took me seriously, but what would normally seem strange in the real world is normal in this game. With zero regard to tipping off Mack Dixon that I was looking for him I stumbled into every dive, every brothel (he seems to frequent them), and every open store asking about him, Mustafa, and Kenji Carter. I got results, but currently all my leads dead end into further obstacles.

Finally, someone knows something about Mustafa

And a lead on Mack Dixon, now we're getting somewhere... I just don't know where yet.

Mack Dixon seems well outside our reach unless I randomly run into him. I currently don't have a good way to convince the attendant that I'm in desperate need of Mr. Dixon's assistance in solving two murders he may or may not be involved in. In any case, I followed up on the lead that Mustafa sold off the items in his store to another pawn broker. A tip from AAA Loans suggested someone named Friendly took out a loan to make the large purchase. Arriving at the shop and asking about Mustafa prompted Friendly to take the ticket from my inventory, look up the item number, and inform me it was 20 kiam. Kiam is the local currency (in case I failed to mention it), and I have a total of 1100 at present.

It goes quickly though as I buy up an answering machine for 154... if only I knew how to use it.

The pawn ticket, plus 20 kiam, bought us an unlisted item: half a ring inscribed with "MAAL MOS." One possible lead down, and I'm now even more confused. I bought an answering machine from friendly. My new answering machine allowed me to play out the answering chip. I can't believe the police couldn't tell me how much of a waste of time this would be tracking down. I mean... just look at the message: "M-C-D-I-X. He'll kill me if he finds me first!"

Chinese-2-Go wouldn't even translate the rest of the message; guess it's not Chinese.

I ended up buying out the pawn shop because, why not? Nothing too relevant at this point, but I'm sure it'll become useful. The lens is for a holographic camera, allowing low light hologram creation. Mr. Lightning is a daddie that doubles my agility. I scooped all this up without actually spending anything since I spent the majority of my time at the gambling hall raking in cash at the baccarat tables.

The Natural

The sure bet seems to be on winning as hitting an 8 or 9 puts me in a win unless the dealer gets the same. Ties don't count as a win or loss. I can choose to draw one card or stand, and about the only time I want to draw is if I'm already losing. I'll take the tie if offered, but the majority of cards will lower my total value as it wraps from 0 - 9. Face cards are equal to 10. To get the total, add up the cards and look at the ones place. Odds have strangely fallen in my favor the majority of the time and I don't even have a gambler moddie (not sure if one exists).

Speaking of moddies and daddies, look who finally decided to open.

I stopped by Laila's shop, high off my winnings at the gambling hall next door, and found she'd opened up since the day before. I haven't saved up enough to afford everything here yet, but I picked up Super Spy, Muscle Man, and Alpine Jack, which basically max all my stats. I'm fairly sure The Outlaw is a gunslinger moddie, Rad Hacker is a computer hacker moddie, and Kung Fu Master is a bare handed moddie. This is all guesswork though, as there are no descriptions before I buy them. I also picked up English 101 (not sure how it'll help, but it's cheap), and Julius Caesar, which oddly enough turned out to initiate a hint on 'McDix'.

Does that mean Mack Dixon is a red herring, or is he still useful?

Even with that additional information I have no use for it at the moment. My only hope is I'll stumble upon another clue that allows me to pick up the story soon; at this point my goal is to completely drain the gambling hall, and stock pile every item I can purchase from every store. My inventory and chips are limited to 10 each, so I've been offloading all excess items in my apartment strewn about the floor. I haven't really gone over moddies and daddies yet, but basically I can equip 1 moddie (personality modification) and 3 daddies (data skill chips). The only difference I've seen between the two is moddies add some flavor text as the personality pops out during conversations and wandering around.

Oh goodie, more junk to buy.

I really have no idea what any of this is good for yet, but I picked up the camera as having the most potential for usefulness. I'm fairly sure I'll have to get everything eventually, but with the gambling hall as my only source of income I'm starting to get picky. I've had to reload twice after bankrupting myself. Still not bad considering how random/stacked gambling normally is.

Well, not my only source of income, but recovering from a battle takes up most of that money.

Once again I have no idea where I'm going, and I'm now down to 2 leads to follow up on (the holodisk and Mack Dixon). I haven't found any new leads for MAAL MOS or 1409, but I'll keep them in mind if I trip over something relevant. In the meantime it's back to the tables and slowly becoming a hoarder. Wish me further luck for digging out this story as it's all but evaporated in front of me.

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 00 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 Zenic requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for him...unless he really obviously needs the help...or he specifically requests assistance. In this instance, he's not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Game 40: Future Wars - Medieval Mechanical Wolves

Hero Journal Entry 2: "I don't know how I got here, but this really does seem to be a village in a medieval town! I've been forced to keep disguising myself so as not to give away my true identity. Thankfully I've met at least one friendly man, and for some reason I feel it is important that I help him in his current situation. His daughter is missing and he seems to think that I might be able to find her and return her to him. Everything points to the local monastery, and after everything I've experienced today, I have to agree! I've found quite a bit of evidence that links them to whatever plot I'm wrapped up in, but the girl's location still evades me. I don't know how, but I'm pretty sure finding her is the key to getting my life back!"

I really hope no-one expects me to clean this joint up!

I was hoping that I could give you good news by the time I got around to writing this post, but unfortunately all the frustrations I faced during session one if anything increased for session two. It’s sad when a game shows immense potential but is tarnished by a dodgy interface and horrible movement. Signs that things were unlikely to improve were immediately apparent as I tried to manoeuvre my hero through the swampy environment I’d travelled to at the end of my last post. I could see that there was a cluster of mosquitoes between me and the next screen, but just getting to them was a challenge. There was a very thin path that I was allowed to walk on, with even the slightest diversion ending in me sinking to my death. The problem was that with no keyboard control, the only option was to click where I wanted to go and hope for the best. Of course I could travel really short distances at a time to make sure my character didn’t stupidly choose a pathway a drunk might choose, but even that didn’t guarantee safety. Once I did reach the mozzies, it was pretty simple to operate my insecticide on them to remove the obstacle. I was very relieved when I made it all the way across this one screen of swamp, and just as I was about to leave the screen, something caught my attention. There was a glint of light in the grass in front of me, and it turned out to be a pendant.

Seriously, do I have to hit the mosquitoes with the can?

That's damn good eyesight you've got there buddy!

I actually temporarily restored my game to see whether I was able to find the pendant with my cursor before crossing the swamp, but I wasn’t. I had to be standing right next to it. Regardless, I picked it up and moved onto the next screen. The good news was that the swamp was gone, replaced by a very pleasant lakeside scene with tall trees and bushy shrubs. I began the process of carefully pixel hunting across anything and everything that seemed likely, finding I could interact with two trees, a tree branch, the bushes, the lake and a mound covered in moss. These gave me simple descriptions that offered no impression that further exploration was required, but looking through my inventory left me with one possibility. I walked up to the lake and operated the plastic bag on it. My character filled it with water, but I was informed that it contained leaks, so wouldn’t hold for long. I pondered what I might possibly use the water on, and tried everything on the screen, despite seeing no reason to do so. Nothing worked, and since I wasn’t able to leave the screen in either northern or southern directions, continued to the west. The next screen contained an inn and a drawbridge leading to a castle, but neither of these took up my attention. “Two monks are staring at you curiously...and then with open HOSTILITY!” Before I had any chance of taking action, the monks killed me until I was dead!

Oooohhhh prreeeeeeettyyyyy!!!!!!!

Surely they wouldn't mention a tree branch unless it served a purpose

That really is a pile of castle!

I restored and tried everything I could think of to avoid dying. I tried operating the bag of water on the monks, speaking with them, operating the pendant on them, and all sorts of other unlikely options. Nothing worked! Since there was no way of going in that direction, I figured there must be something I was supposed to do on the lake screen. I pixel hunted again, and tried pretty much every object I had on everything there. I was continually drawn back to the tree branch, since that seemed a very odd thing to highlight if it served no purpose. Eventually, after over twenty minutes of failed attempts, I found the solution. Despite having pixel hunted the screen numerous times, my cursor mustn’t have crossed the tiny area at the foot of the tree that was the answer. Examining the foot of the tree revealed a little hole, and in this hole I found a rope. I operated the rope on the tree branch, and my character pulled himself up and sat on it. There he sat for ages, while messages popped up stating that “Time passes” numerous times. Finally, just as he was about to fall asleep, a man entered the screen from the west and made his way towards the lake. He walked behind a tree, stripped off, and then jumped into the lake! Ignoring how strange this was, I hopped down from the tree and put his clothes on, knowing that this disguise would allow me to bypass the monks.

I assume the rope is only a few pixels long!

Even my character is getting a bit over this

Seriously dude. You look like a chick!

Wearing my new, more suitable attire, I figured I’d be able to walk straight past the monks, but instead they simply weren’t there at all. This felt a bit forced, and it wouldn’t be the last time the game is made to feel linear, with obstacles appearing and disappearing depending on unrelated occurrences. I decided not to try my luck entering the castle for now and instead popped into the inn for a beer. Inside I found an innkeeper and three customers sitting by a fire having a conversation. I was told that I was not able to hear their conversation, and the innkeeper demanded coin if I had any intention of making myself comfortable. I tried a few things, but eventually could only wander back outside. It was at this stage that I realised the game world had opened up a little. There was no way to go north, but I could head south or go around the castle to the east. I decided it would probably be best to see what would happen if I tried to enter the castle before choosing another path. I walked up to the guard who told me to “HALT!”. Attempts to speak to him were met with cold silence, so I turned to my inventory. I didn’t have much hope that it would achieve anything, but I tried operating my pendant on the guard. “He examines it carefully, and says to you, “That’s a real nice trinket yee ‘as thur, zur, my maaaster would like to zee it, I’m sure. Come back later. When my maaaster gets back, I’ll talk to ‘im about it””.

This guy has well established priorities.

Come back later when you've completed some other completely unrelated task.

He gave me no idea as to when his “maaaster” might be getting back, so I could only assume his arrival would be dependent on some action of my own elsewhere. Setting it aside for now, I made my way south, where a bridge led to a monastery. On the other side of the bridge stood a large wolf, clearly guarding the path from strangers such as myself. I considered going back to the lake and getting some water to throw on it, but figured that was pretty unlikely to scare off a wolf of this size. If anything, it would probably just piss it off! Instead, I made my way back to the castle and then around it to the north-west. This path opened out into a dark forest, which I began pixel hunting with even more care than I’d given previously. I discovered the large tree that was clearly the focus of the screen, a small point on the ground beneath it, and a monk’s habit that was hanging from a branch. I figured I would need the habit to disguise myself and enter the monastery, but wondered whether the wolf would be fooled by that. I tried getting the habit, but it was much too high. Examining the ground near the tree revealed nothing. I therefore tried operating the tree in the off chance that I could climb it. “You shake the tree... SOMETHING FALLS FROM THE CASSOCK!!!” I hadn’t even considered shaking the tree. Have you ever tried shaking a tree this size? How did it go???!!!

Now this is a real obstacle!

Apparently trees have evolved to be firm and heavy in the past few centuries.

Whatever had fallen out of the habit was now on the ground, so I checked it out. “At the foot of the tree, you find a silver COIN.” Well, there was the solution for one puzzle, but it didn’t look like I was going to be able to get the habit to solve the other. I took the coin back to the inn and gave it to the innkeeper. “He mutters a few words which you find hard to understand and indicates somewhere for you to sit.” I sat down at the only spare table, and nothing much appeared to happen. Then “snatches of conversation come to you from the neighboring table”. So I hadn’t been able to hear what the men were saying when I was standing right next to them but could now that I was sitting at a table on the other side of the room?! Anyway, this is what was said. “... wen’ missin’ yes’day ev’nin’ ... Mas’er’s in righ’ despair. Aaar... ‘e’s a great man, we all feel right sorry fer ‘em!... I’m tellin’ yer! ‘n’ since then  ever’thin’s changed... They’s right queer fulk! Yes’dy evenin’ Ginette tol’me... ‘Tis a reeel pi’y! Some’ne mus’ve anger’d powers tha’ be...” Trying to decipher this chat was pretty difficult, and all I could pick up for sure was that someone important was missing someone they cared about. I had a strong feeling that this person was inside the castle and thought perhaps the “maaaster” might now be home. I left the inn and walked over to the guard to find out.

Excuse me sir. Have you perhaps been partaking?

As I approached him he said “Come in, my maaaster’s waitin’”. I felt like I was coming to grips with Future Wars now, knowing that there was a sort of unrelated cause and effect process going on the way there was in some of the early Sierra adventure games. The castle interior turned out to be huge, but I wasn’t able to explore any of it. I waited at the end of a long hallway while a man slowly approached. When he was finally standing in front of me, he had the following to say: “Good day to you, stranger. I am Torin, Lord of the Province of the Lowlands. My men told me of your arrival. I’m told that you possess an object that might interest me. Can I see it?” My character gave it to him, explaining that he’d found it in the marshes. “Ah... I feared the worst... and I wasn’t wrong. This belongs to my daughter, Lana. Yesterday, she went for a walk in the woods that surround the castle... she has not been seen since. This medallion confirms my worst suspicions.” My character then informed the lord of the conversation he’d heard at the inn. “Yes, the people at the monastery have been behaving very strangely ever since the arrival of the new Father Superior. The villagers claim that monks indulge in very unchristian ceremonies. This may just be idle gossip but my men have become frightened by venturing near the monastery.”

It's like Lawrence of Arabia...without the desert

...caption contest.

The lord continued, revealing my quest. “The villagers are too superstitious but I still think there’s some truth in what they say. Unfortunately, I’m not as strong as I was twenty years ago. Stranger, you give me confidence. Find my daughter and you will be rewarded. You are my last hope.” My character responded to this plea in a very anti-antihero way: “Don’t worry, sir, I will find your daughter again, if I have to move heaven and earth to do so.” Finally, the old man gave me the pendant back, telling me to give it to Lana when I find her so she would know that I’m a friend. I left the castle, realising on the way out that I’d gained no new items during my visit. I had a quest now, but what would my next move be? I found the answer as soon as I was out of the castle, as the guard was now asleep on the drawbridge. I picked up the lance that was leaning on the wall next to him, figuring I must be able to use it on the wolf at the monastery. I quickly discovered this was incorrect, as using the lance on the wolf was met with “Try and find something else”. Hmmm... what else hadn’t I solved? The habit! Of course! I made my way back to the tree in the forest and used the lance on the monk’s habit. “Go a little closer.” I moved closer. “Go a little closer.” I moved to a bit further around the tree. “Go a little closer.” “Go a little closer.” “Go a little closer.” “Go a little closer.” “You go a little f$#@ing closer you stupid piece of sh!t game!” “Go a little closer to my fist you bastard game developer!” “Go a little....aaaarrrgghhhh.....mwwaahhfdoerjjke..........(sob)

And also with you. Hey, hang on a second!

A man should always take care of his lance!

The hero's lance only raises under very specific circumstances.

In reality it took me about two minutes to find the right place to use the lance, but I must have tried about fifteen different places before I finally found it. This sort of thing is immensely frustrating, and makes finding the solution to a puzzle far less satisfying than it should be. Once I did have the habit in my possession, my character got changed behind the tree and reappeared looking uncannily like a manhunter. Would I now be able to just waltz past the wolf and into the monastery? Somehow I doubted it, but I set off to give it a try. I never did try though, as I noticed something I hadn't previously when I approached the wolf this time. There was an odd little green wiry thing between his legs! What was that? It was rather unfortunate if it was just a graphical glitch! I tried to examine it and found it to be a real object. “A little light attracts your attention. A spark dances at the end of an ELECTRICAL WIRE! Good grief, could this wolf be a MECHANICAL DEVICE?” What?! A mechanical wolf in medieval times? There better be a connection between the monks and time travel or that has to be the most ridiculous puzzle ever! After approaching the wolf with every intention of trying to walk straight past it, I now knew exactly what I was supposed to do. It was the thing I considered doing the very first time I saw the wolf, albeit not knowing it was mechanical at the time. I made my way back to the lake and returned with a leaking bag of water. Operating the water on the wolf caused it to go up in a blaze of light!

Don't mess with this brother, yo!

The little wire was always there, so I could have passed the wolf at any stage.

I assume entering the monastery in the wrong attire would have had "dire" consequences though...ahem...sorry.

I entered the monastery, finding myself in a square room with three real monks walking around it. I watched them do a full circuit and then tried walking towards one of the three doors leading out of the room. As soon as I did so the monks shouted “A SPY! A SPY!” and violently beat me to a pulp. Some religion this is! I restored and tried following the monks around the outer edge of the room. It worked, allowing me to open and walk through the door on the left. The doorway led to an alcove where another monk stood in front of a large gold cup. As I approached him, he turned and spoke: “Is the scorzuum ready, brother?” Huh? What’s scorzuum? Apparently my character said yes as the monk continued: “Good, we can begin the second phase. Go and inform the supervisor.” The monk turned his back on me, leaving me with no other option than to go and check out another location. I re-entered the main square and followed the monks around to the second door. This one led to a cellar, and down the stairs I found eleven barrels on shelves. The barrels were the only things in the room that I could interact with, so I operated all of them. I found out that two of them contained some form of liquid, yet all the others were empty. I thought about how useful that gold cup would be, since I had nothing to hold the liquid in. I had no choice but to return to the square and tried the third and final door.

These peaceful, meditative monks sure have a nasty streak!

Um...yes...if you just tell me which scorzuum you mean and I'll go and get it for you.

Is it a barrel of scorzuum?

Within the last room I found the Father Superior! As soon as I entered he demanded I go fetch him a cup of Chikapok, whatever that is. I made my way back to the first room, hoping that there would now be some way of getting the cup. When I got there I found that the other monk had left the room, so I just walked up and grabbed it! I took it to the cellar and used it on one of the barrels containing liquid, then took the full cup back to the Father Superior. He drank from it, and then cried out in disgust: “Bgorak!! Black gjirb! This isn’t Chikapok!” Whatever I’d given him was potently alcoholic, causing him to slump over completely drunk! I was now free to explore his little room, but first I examined the Father Superior himself. “You search the Father Superior and in one of his pockets you find a box that looks like an infrared remote control device!” More high tech gadgetry in a medieval monastery! Clearly these monks were involved in the time travelling plot. I found no use for the bed, the table or the library, but operating the remote control on the wooden furniture at the base of the library caused it to open. “There is a little magnetic card inside the piece of furniture. The back of the card bears the following inscription: Bio Challenge.” Bio Challenge? Am I supposed to know what that refers to?

I see your srabyr is as big as mine!

Father Inferior more like it! Can't even handle a single drink.

This message suggests I should recognize the words Bio Challenge, but the only thing I can think of is the insecticide which acted Retro Biactively.

I’d been on a bit of a roll at this point, but that was all about to end. I took the magnetic card to all of the rooms in the monastery, but simply couldn’t find anything to use it on. I thought perhaps I’d missed something tiny again, so spent ages pixel hunting on each screen, including the central square. When I was absolutely convinced that there was nothing else to do in the monastery, I tried to leave. Perhaps I could use the magnetic card somewhere outside? To my surprise, I simply wasn’t able to leave. Trying to walk back through the door I entered through resulted in the three monks killing me, and I could find no other way out at all. I’ve been to each room several times now, but am at a loss as to what I’m supposed to be doing. I even restored back to my arrival at the monastery, thinking perhaps the whole “second phase” “scorzuum” conversation had some meaning I’d missed, but the result was the same. I’m not making an official request for assistance just yet, as the answer has to be in the monastery somewhere (if it’s not, then it’s a shocking dead end). I'm going to head back in and try everything on everything. If that doesn't work, then I'll have to assume that I'm either dead-ended or the interface is screwing me again. Time will tell...

I thought for sure that the light in the centre of the square would be a portal, but running into it achieved nothing.

Session Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 00 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!

Saturday 25 January 2014

Game 40: Future Wars - Subatomic Solutions

Hero Journal Entry 1: "What the hell is going on!? One minute I'm cleaning the windows, the next minute I'm standing in swampland! OK, so I may have snooped around a little in one of the offices in the building that I probably shouldn't have been in. What was that machine I was checking out? It looked like a photocopier, but unless they've advanced dramatically since I last used a copier, I don't think they have the ability to teleport people to other locations! Let's hope I'm not too far from civilization. Time to look around I guess..."

A few seconds in and I can already see that Mr Chahi did a great job!

I played just under an hour of Future Wars and it’s been a bit of a slog. I’m hoping that I’m just going through a an adjustment period, given the new interface and visual design. It’s either that or this game is really going to make me work to make consistent progress. I certainly can’t deny that Future Wars looks very pretty indeed! Right from the intro, things look really nice, with great use of colours and smooth animation. It’s in this intro that I got a glimpse of the dangers that await me. Three humans walked out into an opening in  a dark looking forest, only to be attacked by a large spaceship descending while firing highly destructive laser beams. The humans fought back with their own laser weapons, but they were no match for the death from above. I assumed that this event took place in the future, given the weapons and dress of the now deceased, yet as soon as it was over, I found myself looking at the side of skyscraper in the present. Here I was introduced to the character I’ll be playing: “You are standing in a cradle, perched on top of a skyscraper. Muffled traffic noises reach your ears as you work energetically at what is, believe it or not, your full time job.” So I’m a cleaner! Well that's certainly a step down from my last two occupations (the King of Britain followed by an astronaut)!

The pay might not be good but the view sure is!

A window opened above me and my boss Ed looked out. Just as he did, I kicked the bucket of water over that had been sitting next to my foot. “The list of invectives that Ed hurls at you would be too long to quote here.” As my cranky boss moved back inside and slammed the window, it struck me just how similar this was to the typical Sierra formula (particularly Space Quest). I had control now, so it was time to check out this newfangled interface. Right clicking anywhere on the screen brought up a menu with Examine, Take, Inventory, Use, Operate and Speak in it. Clicking on Examine allowed me to move my cursor around the screen and be told whenever I crossed over something I could interact with. This meant I was going to have to pixel hunt to make sure I get everything on every screen! I moved my cursor around and found I could examine the scaffolding, the empty bucket, the window and myself (I’m labelled simply “hero”). Examining me only got a message saying “Hey, that’s me!”, so I tried the scaffolding. “There’s a control box in the cradle. You notice two buttons on the box.” After this discovery, a little image of the control box appeared near me, allowing me to interact with the two buttons that were mentioned. I didn’t feel ready to press either the up or the down button just yet, so I instead examined the empty bucket. “The bucket of water stands on the floor of the platform. Empty.”

Perhaps this is an ancestor of Roger Wilco?

Seems pretty straight forward.

Apparently pressing up is dangerous!

I figured I might be able to pick the bucket up, so right clicked, selected Take, and then clicked on the bucket. “OK, so you pick up the bucket.” I’m not going to continue to describe my actions in such detail, but I’m sure you can tell by now that the Cinematique interface is a very functional one. I tried to operate the red button on the control box, only to be told to “Come a little closer”. I had to position myself in front of the box to be able to press the buttons, which seemed fair enough I guess. When I managed to press it, the cradle rose up and then stopped just below the window from whence my boss verbally assaulted me earlier. The window was half-open, so I opened it fully by operating it and then climbed in. Inside was a waiting area, with two doors leading to what I assumed would be offices and another leading to a bathroom. It was obvious already that I was going to have to scour each screen really well in Future Wars, and my tactic in games with that requirement is to approach it in small segments. I chose to check out the bathroom first, so wandered in and started looking around. I examined the mirror: “You look at your reflection in the mirror. You wink at it, and it responds, setting your mind at rest.” I wondered whether I might be able to fill the bucket back up with water from the sink, so felt it was a good time to check out the inventory.

I find it hard to believe any skyscraper would have windows that open at this height.

I guess they had the option to either increase the size of the on-screen character or decrease the size of the frame to keep things in proportion. Not sure they made the right choice.

The inventory was as simple as an inventory can get. I could see that there was an empty bucket in it, but I wasn’t able to select it to get a visual or text description. I thought perhaps if I selected examine I might then be able to pick the bucket somehow, but couldn’t. I got back to the task at hand and clicked use, selected the bucket, and then clicked the sink. The sentence “USE empty bucket on sink” was formed at the bottom of the screen. “OK. You fill the bucket with water.” After playing Conquests of Camelot and Earthrise, I expected to be rewarded with points for this action, but nothing happened. I wasn’t going to be given any hint as to whether my action was a positive one or not. The bathroom had a door leading to a toilet and a cabinet on the wall. I opened the toilet door, and was surprised to find that I couldn’t interactive with anything in there. I opened the cabinet and found a canister of insecticide inside. It was difficult to examine it because I couldn’t select it if I was standing in the way and was told to move closer if I stepped even a short distance away. I eventually found the right spot. “It’s the usual type of insecticide canister. You read the label: flies, mosquitos, wasp-effective retro-bioactively!!” It sounded useful to me, so I picked it up.

The interface is super simple. Perhaps too simple?

Ever tried to carry a bucket of water around with you?

Retro-bioactively? Well I'm convinced!

The bathroom was done, so I moved out into the waiting room. There was a waste-paper basket in the corner which I discovered had an empty red plastic bag in it. I wasn’t able to pick up the basket itself, but I was able to add the plastic bag to my inventory. It was at this point that I tried operating the carpet, not really sure what that might achieve. I got the “come a little closer” message, which seemed a bit odd. I walked around on the carpet until I was informed that I could feel something under my feet! When I operated the carpet in that area I found a little key underneath it! I picked it up, thinking it most likely would unlock one of the two office doors. It turned out that it didn’t, and neither of the doors was locked anyway. I tried opening the door on the back wall, only for my boss to come out and shake his finger at me. “Ouch! The boss!! He doesn’t look as though he appreciates your escapades. You get a nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach and think you might be better off going back to work.” I tried the other door, but the boss came out of his office again and aggressively discouraged my snooping. I’d expected to be able to get into at least one of the offices, so was now not sure what I was meant to be doing. Perhaps I really was supposed to get back to work!

I'm standing right in the middle of the damn thing!

Looking under the carpet was

I took a brief trip back outside onto the cradle, but was soon pretty satisfied that there was nothing out there to do. The cradle wouldn’t descend further than its starting position, and pixel hunting revealed nothing else of interest on the side of the building. I went back inside and began going over everything again. It had seemed really strange that I wasn’t able to examine anything after opening the toilet door, so I concentrated my cursor sweeps in that area. Suddenly some words flashed up next to "Examine" as I moved past a section on the floor. I moved back over it until I found that there was a tiny little flag sitting on the floor just in front of the toilet. Seriously, the flag was represented by the smallest collection of pixels you could have without making something entirely imperceptible. I examined it: “It’s a little red flag. You pick it up and put it in your pocket.” Well that was good and all, but how would a tiny little flag help me? I looked through my inventory and the items I’d collected, trying to figure out how any of them could be useful. Suddenly I had an idea. No...surely not! That can’t be the solution! Can it? Was I really expected to put the bucket of water on top of the boss’s door?! I operated the bucket on the door, almost hoping that I was wrong. “OK. You place the bucket of water on the half-open door, giggling to yourself in advance at the great joke you are playing (little things please little minds).” Really?!

I'm really going to have pay a lot of attention while playing Future Wars. This flag was tiny!

I can't believe I'm doing this!

My boss opened the door and the bucket of water fell on his head. Part of me figured this was not the right thing to do and would perhaps even cause a rapid end to my game, but this feeling was soon allayed. “This is not time to hang around!!! You rush out of the room before your boss can find out who was responsible for this pathetic practical joke.” I was now able to walk straight through the door to the right of screen, which made absolutely no sense, but whatever. The room within was an office as I’d expected it would be. Given what I’d just done, I thought it would be a good idea to close the door after entering, but it was much harder to put this thought into practice than it should have been. Closing the door while standing in front of it resulted in: “Yes, but I can’t close it from here”. Trying to close it from just to the right of it gave me: “Come a little closer!” So did trying to close it while standing behind the door! I considered giving up trying to close it, but thought doing so might stop me from discovering something on the shelves behind it. I tried standing in several different spots until finally my character was able to close it. I’d only played the game for half an hour or so and it was already frustrating me. Clearly I’m going to need all of my patience reserves to get through this one!

There's no way that he will know it was me! What with all the other people in this office.

An office is an office is an office.

Apparently I'm not close enough to this door to close it.

It was time to explore the office, so I took a left to right approach. The shelves had books on them, but none of them appeared to be of any interest. The first cupboard that I tried opening was locked, so I tried operating my key on it. It worked, but sadly it was empty. The second cupboard was also unlocked by the key, and inside I found a typewriter. I examined it: “There is a small ribbon cartridge in the typewriter. On examining it, you notice that a series of digits has been typed... 40315!” Clearly this was a code of sorts, so I took a screenshot and moved on. The key didn’t unlock either of the last two remaining cupboards, so I turned my attention to the desk. There was nothing on it, but inside the drawer I found a sheaf of blank paper. I tried operating it on the typewriter, but it didn’t work. Examining the large military map on the wall gave me a close-up of it, at which point I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. There were red flags stuck in it, just like the one I’d found earlier, and there was a small hole on the close-up. I operated the flag on the hole, and the wall moved away to reveal a secret passage!!! I felt I’d done everything I could in the office, so I walked into the passage to see what lay beyond.

It's been so long since I've seen a typewriter, I'm not even sure how viable this is.

Does a sheaf differ from a ream? (quickly Googles) Well you learn something every day!

I can only imagine the frustration if I'd not found the flag in the bathroom.

I was now standing in a small enclosure, and before I could start pixel hunting a message popped up telling me that the ceiling was descending down upon me! I quickly noticed there was a keypad on the wall in front of me and figured the code I’d found on the typewriter ribbon would likely get me out of this situation. To enter the code I had to right click, select operate, and then press a number button, then repeat. By the time I’d pressed 4 and 0 the ceiling was on top of me and it was game over. I restored, and this time made it to 4031, but still wasn’t able to complete the code! I made it on my third attempt, but it was clear that the interface was not designed with speed in mind. Let’s hope there aren’t a lot of time limited activities in Future Wars! Once the code was entered, the ceiling stopped descending and I was able to walk through a doorway leading out of the passage. This brought me to a room filled with high tech equipment, including what looked like a photocopier sitting in the centre. “There is a small opening in the front of the machine, and two buttons on the top panel.” I didn’t seem to be able to interact with anything else in the room, so I pressed the green button. “Apparently nothing happens, except that the machine is now emitting a faint humming noise.” I examined the small opening and found it to be about 20 centimeters wide. I operated the sheaf of paper on it and it got sucked into the machine. What now?

One thing's for sure. I'm soon going to be a lot shorter!

Shame it took me about thirty seconds to enter it!

This is one awesome utility room!

There appeared nothing else to do but to press the red button, so I did. “I think you’ve just managed to set off the ALARM!” The room began flashing and a man in black soon entered through the same door I had. He stood behind the machine and just looked at me. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, but then I noticed the sheaf of paper had been spat back out of the machine. I examined the document, but was simply told that it contained “figures and more figures”. I took a step towards the man, at which point he shot me with some sort of high powered laser gun. I was instantly fried, so restored to try to figure out what the hell was going on. This time I quickly picked up the document after turning off the machine, at which point a bright light appeared between the two circles to my right. I walked into the light, just as the man walked into the room, and...disappeared!!! Clearly I’d just time travelled, and I flashed back into existence in a swampy area filled with trees and lushly green grass. This was a very interesting development, and I had absolutely no way of telling what year it now was. This seems a very good place to end my first gameplay post for Future Wars. I’m really interested to know what’s going on, but I do feel a bit daunted by the pixel hunting, interface and proximity issues I’ve faced within this first short session. At least now I know what I’m in for!

Clearly saving on electricity is not a high priority around here!

Agent K arrived just too late this time

The visuals are absolutely gorgeous! Let's hope the rest of the game doesn't detract from them too much.

Session Time: 0 hours 45 minutes
Total Time: 0 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!