Tuesday 25 February 2014

Game 41: Les Manley 1 - Hypersensitive Carnies

Les Manley Journal Entry 3: "These circus folk sure are needy, but none of them seem all that keen to help each other out. I checked out another section of New York today, but I really couldn't see how spending time there might help me find The King. This might be harder than I thought! Hey, why isn't this Test-O-Strength working anyway? Maybe I can fix it. I'll just NO....AAAAAAAaaaaggghh........."

I'm considering leaping off a great height myself at this point!

I was determined to prove all of you wrong and get through Les Manley unassisted, but it’s clear that’s not going to happen. The combination of unclear motivations / objectives and horrendous parser technology is leaving me frustrated and disillusioned. Unless I have a eureka moment while typing up this post, it will finish with a request for assistance, but let’s go back to where things were left at the end of my last post. I’d just gained a bit of information from Alona the airhead circus assistant. When I’d asked about Frederick Von Leepov, she’d responded with "Vot hes doink? Vy he not climb ladder?”. I examined the ladder, but couldn’t find out anything useful. Frederick couldn’t speak English either, so I couldn’t ask him what the problem was. Eventually I tried climbing the ladder myself, and was told “You’re not that daring. Besides, there’s something strange about the rungs.” I typed “look at rungs” and got “They look OK. I wonder how they feel?”. This game really likes to make the player work overly hard for everything!!! I typed “feel rungs” and was informed that “they feel a little slippery”. So, after all that I’d figured out that Fred wouldn’t climb the ladder because the rungs were too slippery, but what could I do about that? Of course!!!! Luigi’s rosin was the answer! I must have to get the rosin off him and give it to Fred!

So...rungs...how does it make you feel to be walked all over all the time?

I made my way back to Luigi, but couldn’t think of anything to try. He wasn’t just going to hand it over, and since I had nothing to make him feel stronger or more good looking (which I assume is what I need to do), I would have to ignore the lead for now. I still hadn’t explored the northern part of the circus, and doing so revealed one final location of interest. There I found Helmut, “The World’s Smallest Man”! Talking to Helmut revealed that he too was feeling sorry for himself: “I’ve been feeling a little small lately. Seems like there’s no future for a guy of my stature. Nothing to look forward to. The same old routine day after day.” Great! Another guy with insecurity issues! I started asking him about all the other circus inhabitants. Luigi: “He’s no rocket scientist but he’s good at what he does. I wish I was good for something.” Zarmooska: “She’s really deep.” He wouldn’t say anything about Fred or Alona, but when I asked about The King I got “Let’s go find THE KING!” I had to wonder whether Helmut really did want to come with me, so I tried to pick him up. “Why should he go with you? You’ve never done anything for him.” OK. So I need to somehow make Luigi and Helmut feel worthwhile, with the end result being that I might get the rosin off Luigi to give to Fred, and possibly be able to pick up Helmut and take him with me.

I thought I could only "use" things in one of those Half Dome games!?

Are you kidding me? You could break into anywhere!

I made my way around the circus, asking everyone about Helmut. Zarmooska: “Ah yes, all we ladies of the circus know him well. He’s such a handy fellow to have around.” Luigi: “He’s-a my leettle-a buddy. But my eyes aren’t-a so guud these-a days. Is he still-a depressed? He keeps-a complaining that he has-a no future here. Nothing to look-a forward to. No-a reason to plan ahead-a. No-a dreams for his-a future.”Alona: “Oooooh, that Helmut! Oh..I mean…Vot hes doink? I vant him see me tonight.” This last one was particularly interesting. Not only did it seem Alona was faking her accent, but it also looked like she was genuinely interested in spending some time with the little guy. Perhaps I could talk to Helmut about Alona to show him he still had a nice future? I went back to Helmut and typed “tell helmut about alona”. The message I got back was simply “Helmut says nothing”, as it was for every other variation I could think of. Damn it! I thought I was onto something there. I’d exhausted all my options in the circus, so it was time to go somewhere else. I’d never turned right after leaving the Station WILL office, so I made my way back past the bus station and onto the screen beyond. There I found a parked bus with “NEW JERSEY” on the destination screen. I couldn’t find anything to do with the bus (when I tried to get on I was informed that I get bus sick) or anything else on the screen, so continued to the east.

The ladies really do find little Helmut to be very useful! What are they suggesting?

Another screen with nothing to do...apparently.

To the east was a house with a fire hydrant and a couple of trash cans outside. I failed to find anything to do with the hydrant or the cans, so I walked up to the door and looked at it. “Looks like there is a peephole in the door.” I looked at the peephole and found that “there’s someone peeping back at you”! I knocked, and someone came to the door and spoke through it. “If you’re who I hope you are…prove it, or get lost.” I wracked my brain to think of who they might hope I am, or what that person might say or do to prove it, but came up with nothing. I tried a few random things that were never going to work before walking away and continuing east. The next screen contained a barrier which I was unable to pass. I couldn’t find anything that I could do there; meaning my excursion east of the station had achieved absolutely nothing. It was at this point that I decided to go back to the station and see if I could find anything I’d missed the first time around. I made my way straight to the water fountain, now that I knew what Americans call bubblers, and tried filling my thermos with water. “Gee…I’m glad I remembered that I almost forgot to fill me thermos today!” Wow! I achieved something in Les Manley! (10 points) Unfortunately, I had no need for water, and I’d spend the next hour wandering around aimlessly trying things with no success.


At least it's only a literal dead end!

One thing I realised I hadn’t done was ask Luigi, Helmut and Angelina about Alona and Fred. Doing this produced some results, but nothing that helped me make any progress. When I asked Luigi about Fred, he said “He’s-a high-a flyin’-a no guud-a bambino. I don’t-a know what-a my Angelina sees in him. He’s-a too nervous for this-a kind-a work.” So Angelina was into Fred! When I asked her about him, she replied: “He doesn’t speak any English…but who cares?” Otherwise their responses seemed uninteresting. I got the idea in my head that perhaps I was supposed to ask Zarmooska something about Helmut’s future, since he kept banging on about having no future. I tried asking her various questions and even taking her crystal ball, but got nowhere. The final thing I should mention before requesting assistance is that I figured out what the Test-O-Strength guy was all about. Whenever I looked at the thing he was hitting, the game made a point of telling me not to get too close. I decided to do it anyway (what did I have to lose!?) and the result was startling to say the least!!! When I stood on the platform, instead of the man hitting me with the hammer, him hitting it somehow launched me high into the sky! I didn’t die though. Oh no. I flew all the way from New York to frickin’ Las Vegas!!!!!!!! My crash landing was epic, forming a body shaped crater in the Earth, but I was miraculously unharmed. Seriously?!

And you thought the Italian racial stereotype in Police Quest was bad!

They're my legs leaving the screen!

I couldn't help but notice there are three locations on the map. My geography isn't up to knowing where the third one is though. Texas?

This sounds like great news right? You’re finally getting somewhere Tricky, right?! Well..no. As soon as I got there, a message popped up saying: “You seem to have come through that experience fine. Unfortunately, not everything you’ll need was with you.” In other words, I’d just dead-ended myself. At least now I knew how to get to Las Vegas when I needed to, but there seemed little point exploring the environment when clearly I wasn’t going to be able to complete the game. This is where I currently am. I’ve not figured out how to get the keys off my boss’ desk. I figure I need to distract him, but couldn’t figure out how. I assume I will then be able to use the keys to open the locked door nearby. I have no idea what use Dave the guard has. I figure I need Luigi’s rosin for Fred to be able to climb the ladder, and I also have a suspicion that I might be able to put Helmut through the peephole in the door to the east of the station if I can manage to take him with me. Perhaps helping Luigi will allow me to help Fred, which in turn will allow me to help Helmut? If this is the case, then everything seems to be linked to making Luigi feel good about himself, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to do that. So…HELP!!!!!!!

Uh huh! Not to mention completely suicidal!

All this fun awaits me!

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 3 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 particular post, I have made a request for assistance! Thanks!

Monday 24 February 2014

Game 41: Les Manley 1 - Ball Reading and Palm Jobs

Les Manley Journal Entry 2: "My search for The King led me to Bob's Travelling Circus, where I've spent the better part of the day. After earning a ticket from Bob himself by cleaning up some truly horrendous elephant dung, I visiting a bunch of circus folk to see if I could get any information out of any of them. They haven't exactly been forthcoming, seemingly unable to get past their own personal issues to offer up anything useful. Most disappointing of all was Madame Zarmooska, who promised a LOT, yet delivered very little. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. These people are all about the show after all!"

This really isn't how I pictured "The Big Apple" to be!

Well, I haven’t needed assistance yet, but I fear it won’t be long. I’ve uncovered a few “puzzles” that require solutions, but I can’t say I have much clue how I’m actually going to start making real progress. My first gameplay post finished with me leaving Station WILL, wandering onto the streets of the Big Apple for the first time. Directly across the road was a bus station, and there was a mailbox on the path outside. I decided to see if there was anything of interest within the box, and was happy to receive a message saying “Inside the mailbox is a letter”. I was quite sure that I’d be able to pick this letter up, but trying to do so was met with “Tampering with the mail is a federal offense”. I tried reading it: “None of your business.” I tried opening it: “I don’t know how to open the letter.” I was distracted from my disillusionment by a man walking onscreen and stopping to post a letter. “It’s Justin...one of the artists who worked on this game.” I immediately typed “Hey Justin, how do you sleep at night knowing that you contributed to such a derivative yet utterly craptastic  adventure game?”, and other such insults. Unsurprisingly, the parser wouldn’t accept this perfectly legitimate question, so I reverted to simply trying to talk to him. “He’s too busy to talk. He’s on his way to finish drawing the next scene before you get there.” This game seemed to be relishing wasting my time!

Well it is!

I entered the bus station, determined to make some progress. Inside I found a woman with a pram, a vending machine, and a bum asleep across a few seats. I looked at the woman and was given some very strange information! “This woman looks vaguely familiar...kind of like your mother when she was young. But wait! The baby also looks familiar. Kind of like you when you were young! Maybe you’ve entered a time warp...Maybe you’ve entered the Twilight Zone...Maybe you’ve entered a great scenario for another game...naaaaw...too cliché.” For a game clearly trying to rip off the style and humor of Al Lowe, Les Manley was so far incredibly unfunny! It’s fine to put random events and setups into adventure games to liven things up and make the player smile, but only if they bookend decent puzzles and story progression. I wasn’t at all surprised when I checked out the vending machine and was merely told that it was “out of your microwave popcorn” as I was getting completely used to not just achieving nothing, but also having nothing to achieve. A man in a suit stopped just outside the entrance at this point. It’s possible it was supposed to be Alfred Hitchcock, taking part in one of his infamous cameos, but I can’t be certain. When I tried to talk to him I was told to try “wake man” instead, which was clearly referring to the man asleep on the chairs. Assuming doing so would have some benefit, I walked over to the sleeping man and typed “wake man”. The response? “He isn’t sleeping. Just meditating.” Thanks for nothing again game!

...because there aren't any to be found in this one!

Nipplesaki! Tossifukfuk! Terpypoobum!

Since I now knew that the man wasn’t sleeping, despite being told to try waking him, I changed to simply attempting to communicate with him. His response was “Gribfrosh! Snormth! Fiddlebaum!” What?! Let me get this straight. The bus station contains nothing more than a vending machine with nothing in it that I want, a woman whose purpose appears to be nothing more than a poor attempt at a joke, and a man that appears asleep but instead is merely meditating and whom spouts nothing but drunken gibberish. Awesome! Putting my frustration away, I decided to ignore all these timewasters and instead concentrate on getting myself a ticket. Perhaps I could purchase a ticket to Las Vegas to pay Lyla Libido a visit? I set about manoeuvring Les through the maze of metal railings that we're all so used to navigating in the real world, only to find that there appeared no way to reach the end. Once I got to a certain point the railings starting overlapping with each other, allowing no further movement towards the ticket booth (which was unmanned anyway). OK game, you win! I left the bus stop without further ado, wondering what purpose it served at all apart from annoyance. Once back on the street, I made my way past the mail box and off the screen to the left, reappearing in front of a large fence with a Circus poster on it. “The strains of organ music and the scents of popcorn and wild animals drift from over the fence. Either the circus is in town or next year’s election campaigns have begun early.”

Games are supposed to be fun right? This is like a nightmare that won't end!

I guess a few clowns around here will fit in nicely!

The poster on the fence confirmed that the circus was Col. Bob’s Traveling Circus, which I’d seen an advertisement for on the TV in the boss’ office. I noticed I could walk behind the fence or in front of it, so I decided to take the former option. Apart from being able to see myself through a particular part of the fence, going behind didn’t appear to achieve much, so I walked back in front and continued west. I was now at the circus, and could see various circus folk, rides and exhibits all about. I soon discovered that trying to talk to anyone was met with “The circus folk don’t like to waste time talking to the crowd” and looking at anything with “You might be able to see more with a ticket. And since you don’t have any money, getting one may take hard work.” That comment seemed to be a direct suggestion to me, so I continued to the west to see if I could find this “work” it mentioned. I came upon a trailer, and examining it revealed that it was the travelling home of Col. Bob. If anyone would have a job for me, Bob was the one, so I tried to open his door. “You might interrupt something going on inside.” I figured I knew what that “something” was, so I tried knocking instead. After the sound of a zipper was heard, Bob called out “Ah’m a comin’, Les...just a cotton pickin’ minute.” Thankfully, Les seemed just as flummoxed as me as to how Bob knew my name, but then the game had the gall to suggest the guy must have a hint book!

Was there a point to letting me walk behind the fence...

...apart from making me appear above it on this screen as opposed to below it?

I think I might know what that aroma is!

Finally Bob came to the door in his white suit, looking just as you might expect our real favourite sex hungry loser might do in his old age. “Boy...Ah say...boy, Ah’m a busy man. Yessiree, Bob. No time to sit here jawin’ wit-chya, boy.” I asked him about The King, and his response was strangely “Ah ain’t seen the boy lately.” Boy?! I’d still not seen anything in the game to confirm that “The King” is actually Elvis Presley, and some of the answers I was getting when asking about him weren’t doing anything to clear things up. I typed “ask about ticket”, and finally got somewhere! “Y’all have to do some work to earn it, boy.” He didn’t go any further than that unfortunately, so I was forced to ask more questions. Thankfully “ask about work” was met with “Ah suppose Ah could use some hep around cheer.” Once again though, Bob didn’t extrapolate as to what work he wanted me to do! I tried asking about everything else I could think of, but I continued to get variations of the same answer with no direction. Ready to pull my hair out, I looked at the manual to see whether there was a verb in the “Some Verbs” section that I might be able to make use of. The second one on the list was “ask for”, so I tried typing “ask for work” instead of “ask about work”. Doing so caused Les to say “Gee, sir...uh Colonel? I’d really like to see more of your circus”, to which he responded with “Boy...Ah say...boy, Ah sure could use some hep cleanin’ up around them thar critters.” (10 points)

Sure thing Foghorn!

Lesson learnt. The parser in Les Manley simply cannot be trusted! If I think I’m on to something, I’m going to have to keep at it until the solution comes out of the wash. Bob told me that if I did a good job cleaning up around whatever these “critters” were, he’d give me a ticket for the circus, which was just what I needed. I could see an elephant’s butt in the lower left portion of the screen, so I wondered whether I might be able to access another screen either to the west or south. The latter was correct, and I found myself looking at a couple of large elephants. Clearly it was them that Bob wanted me to clean up after and there was a shovel at the bottom of the screen to do the job. I typed “get shovel” and immediately Les set to work cleaning up the dung. (10 points) Oddly, rather than putting it into the large box in the corner, he simply transferred the dung from one pile to the other! He kept at it for a while and I began to wonder how long he would have to clean before the task would be considered complete. I sped the game up to the highest speed and watched for another thirty seconds or so before being satisfied that I’d either done it enough or had to do something else to be finished. I told Les to stop working and made my way back to Bob, not sure what was going to happen. “Boy...Ah say...boy, y’all did a mighty fine job.” I was forced to ask him for the ticket though before he gave it to me. (10 points)

Les seemed quite content to go on shovelling shit from one pile to another for hours!

Despite me having taken the ticket from Bob, his hand appears sticking out of the door holding it forever more.

With ticket in hand, I set out to walk around the circus, stopping to look at everything on the way. The vast majority of places produced the message “This spot doesn’t look to be interesting”, but a few of them brought a result. The first place of interest I found was Madame Zarmooska’s. I’d seen her in the newspaper that came with the game, being quoted as saying “According to my sources, The King is near.” On entering her caravan, I found her seated in front of a crystal ball, surrounded by occult-ish looking items. When I talked to her, Zarmooska told me that she’d been expecting me, so I began questioning her about all sorts of things. When I asked about “The King”, she simply stated “I see him all the time.” I tried to get more out of her but couldn’t. When I asked about my future, she told me I would be going on a long journey, that there would be a search, and that I would see a King. The King that appeared in her crystal ball was definitely not Elvis Presley, giving me the impression that I’d been correct to doubt it was ever meant to be. However, for the first time in the game, I found myself chuckling as Madame Zarmooska apologised: “Sorry...wrong King!” I continued to ask her about my future, but all I could get out of her was that there would be a “violent ending”, then “peace and tranquiliity”, and that “it ain’t over till it’s over”. From then on all she would say is “The rest is up to you, Les.”

I'm not sure I want some crazy psycho woman to read my balls and give me a palm job!!!

Actually...um...about that palm job!

OK, that was actually funny!

So Madame Zarmooska was about as useful as any psychic or fortune teller, unless of course I’d failed to ask her a precise question I was supposed to. I moved on, and soon arrived at a second place of interest: Luigi the World’s Strongest Man! A close look at Luigi revealed he may not be as tough as advertised. “It seems that beneath that impressive exterior lies a troubled mind. He sits…clutching his rosin and staring solemnly at the ground.” I wasn’t sure what a rosin was, so I examined it. I was shown a picture of a little cloth with the words “Good for sweaty palms.” Needless to say, Luigi wouldn’t let me take it, so I talked to him to see if I could find out what was troubling the big guy. “I don’t-a feel so strong today.” I couldn’t get anything else out of him, nor did I have anything in my possession that might be of assistance, so I began asking him random questions instead. When I asked about Madame Zarmooska, I got an interesting reply. “Ah…My-a daughter Angelina. You keep-a your hands-a off.” Was this a lead?! I made my way straight back to Zarmooska and asked her about Luigi. All I got was “He’s so vain about his appearance.” Was I supposed to think that Luigi wasn’t feeling so good today because he wasn’t feeling very attractive? What could I do about that? Perhaps I would come across a particular item that would help him to look better?

Dude, this really isn't the job for insecurity!

I had to show you this, just so you all understand why my rating for this game will be on the low side.

What am I supposed to do? Give the guy a compliment?

I continued exploring the circus, coming across another location of interest soon enough. Towards the northern border I found a large tent, with a popcorn booth and a guy trying to prove himself on the Test-O-Strength outside. I focussed on the popcorn booth to begin with, finding I was able to pick up a box of artificially flavoured goodness (10 points). This meant I now had a jar of peanut butter, a thermos, a circus ticket and a box of popcorn. I then spoke to the man that was constantly hitting the plate with a large hammer. “I’m getting a little frustrated. I keep hitting this thing but nothing seems to happen.” I wondered if this failure was related to the man’s lack of strength or perhaps the Test-O-Strength was in need of repair. Either way, he wouldn’t tell me anything else, and I didn’t seem to be able to get the hammer off him either. With the tent exterior investigated, I made my way inside. There I was confronted by a lion! There were two lions sitting on pedestals at the back, but they weren’t of much concern to me. It was the one standing in front of me, with a thought bubble intimating that it was extremely hungry (the bubble contained a raw piece of meat), that had me worried. Did I have any food I could offer it? Well…there was the popcorn I’d just picked up. I typed “give lion popcorn”, and the following response appeared: “Right idea. But you don’t want to get that close. The lion may take more than you want to give him.”

Well he's not alone on that front!

How the hell did I end up here? I just walked through the tent entrance!

Throwing the popcorn didn’t seem to work, so I tried dropping it. That did work, and the lion padded over and began aggressively eating the popcorn immediately. This didn’t allow me to do anything else on this screen, but it did let me move onwards to another screen to the right. It was there I found Frederick Von Leep (aka The Flying Leep) along with his vacuous assistant Alona. I attempted to speak to Frederick only to discover that “he speaks not Englaise”. I was therefore forced to speak to Alona, but she wasn’t any more useful: “Alona isn’t a great conversationalist. In fact, she’s rather shallow.” I figured there must be some reason for them being there, so I started asking questions of Alona. I asked her about Fred: “Vot hes doink? Vy he not climb ladder?” Luigi: “Vot hes doink? He teekle me vit dat musdache of heez.” Angelina: “Vot she doink? She alvays vear too much leepsteek.” Bob: “Vot hes doink? Vy he not pay me lately?” The King: “Vot hes doink? DA KING run my country eento ground.” Finally someone seemed willing to talk, but I was going to have to sift through her nonsense to try to find something useful. First and foremost though, why won’t Fred climb the ladder? That will be the first thing I look into during my next session…

Lucky I had some meat flavoured popcorn on me!

Vot shes doink? Vy she talk like dis?

Session Time: 1 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 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!

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Game 41: Les Manley 1 - Long Live THE KING

Les Manley Journal Entry 1: "Gee...this could be my big chance. Station WILL is offering a million dollars for anyone that can locate The King! I reckon I just might be able to do that, and it sure beats manually rewinding video tapes in that hole of an office. Aahhh the things I'd do with a million bucks! Maybe even Stella would be interested in me then! Damn she's hot! Anyway, I better get going if I'm going to find The King before someone else does."

Um...sir? $1 Million isn't really that much these days!

Oh man, this is going to be tough! It took next to no time at all for me to find out that Les Manley: The Search for the King is a badly designed and programmed game! The question doesn’t seem to be “if” I’ll get stuck, but more like “when” I’ll get stuck. Let’s get on with it then so I can move onto better things! The game begins with an intro that explains the reason behind Les’ need to search for “The King”. The TV station that Les works at (named WILL) is struggling for ratings, and desperately needs some new promotion to boost ratings. The marketing team promises him that they’ve got an idea for a national contest that will get them the ratings they need, without any requirement to hand out a prize at the end of it. Their idea is to offer a million dollars to anyone that can find THE KING! They attempted to show the boss their promo video for the contest, but nothing would appear on the screen. Who do they call when the TV doesn’t work? That’s right, the lowly TV technician Les Manley! Les gets the call from the gorgeous blonde assistant Stella, asking him to come to the boardroom and fix the VCR. On arrival Les finds that the TV simply isn’t plugged in, so does what he does best and “fixes” it. The promo plays, during which Les whispers to Stella “I’ll bet I could find THE KING if I really tried”. His boss overhears and tells him he couldn’t even find his way to work, but the seed has been planted in Les’ mind. “Gee...this could be my big chance. I’ll go find him on my lunch break!”

This is pretty much what my first IT job was like...

...and even today this is a very standard troubleshooting technique.

If Les scores Stella in this game, then it will reach a whole new level of developer wish fulfillment!

That was all the motivation I was going to get, as I was abruptly given control of Les as he stood in his office. The view I had made it look like there was a huge, strangely shaped window in the wall of his office, but when I typed “look at woman” to get a description of Stella as she bent over to get a drink at the water dispenser, I received the following message: “YOU may be able to see through walls...but LES can’t! Besides...only suits get to see that area of the world.” I didn’t yet know just how much of a Sierra clone this game would be, so I typed “look” to see if I could get a description of my surroundings. “This is the world as you know it. Your fifth job since High School...working at the fourth rated network in a three channel market. Your main responsibility – saving electricity by manually rewinding video tape. At least you occasionally get a glimpse of your secret love, Stella Hart.” So typing “look” did give me a brief description, but unlike recent Sierra games, said description didn’t mention the items in the room that I could do something with. This wasn’t good, as it meant I would have to figure out what things were by sight, which isn’t easy when the graphics are far from great. I began scouring the room, attempting to look at everything I could.

What a shame Les can't see the show.

I typed “look at desk” and was told that it was a mess. I typed “look on desk” and was told that “Sitting on the desk are a radio and a telephone.” I typed “look at radio” and was told that “The dial is set to your favorite talk show.” I typed “use radio” and was told that “The switch is broken. Luckily it’s stuck in the ON position.” I typed “look at telephone” and was told that “The 9, 7 and 6 digits are worn off the buttons.” You get the idea! If I’d been playing a Sierra game, simply typing “look” would have said something like “You are standing in your office, where you spend hours a day manually rewinding tapes to save the fourth rated network a pittance (which is clearly more than you’re paid). There is a telephone and a radio on the desk, with the latter being permanently stuck on your favourite talk show station. A ramshackle filing cabinet fills one corner of the room.” Clearly I wasn’t going to get such assistance in Les Manley, so would have to make sure I examined everything and followed every half-lead. I wondered why the 9, 7 and 6 digits might be worn off the phone. Perhaps this would mean something to an American player?! I tried typing “dial 976 on phone” and was told that “dial” wasn’t a word I would need in the game. I typed “use phone” and got the following: “Use? USE??? Hey...this ain’t just another Half Dome game!” Huh!?

Should I know what that's referring to? Is it referring to anything!?

No, a "Half-Dome" game wouldn't give me 10 points for using an incorrect word!

What the hell is a Half Dome game? More importantly, why did I get 10 points for trying (and failing) to use the word “use” (10 points)? Were Accolade taking a stab at Sierra? I recalled that I’d seen a Kickstarter project by a Sierra Composer called Under the Half Dome, but I’d never questioned what it actually meant. I Googled the word “half dome” and discovered that Half Dome is a granite dome in Yosemite National Park. It’s also the image that appears in the Sierra logo! Well you learn something every day! It’s a bit cheeky for Accolade to include this little “joke”, as it suggests their game isn’t just a clone of the work of Sierra...which it clearly is! Anyway, finding no use for either the phone or the radio, I turned my attention to the calendar and the cabinet. Looking at the calendar revealed that “Today’s date is circled. You’ve been working at the station two years as of last Thursday! Your probationary period is finally over.” So why is today circled if my probation finished last Thursday? Hmmm... I looked at the cabinet and was told that “It was once full of important documents until you took over this office.” I could see that items were sitting on the top of the cabinet, so I typed “look on cabinet”. The response I got was “There’s nothing in the file cabinet.” I already knew that of course, but no matter what I typed, I didn’t appear to be able to see what the briefcase looking thing on the top of it was.

Yeah, thanks, but that's not what I asked!

Frustrated at having found nothing in the very first room, I walked out of my office and into a corridor. It was reasonably empty, with only a door and...well...something on one wall. I looked at it for quite a while, trying to figure out what it was. Was it a vending machine? A bubbler? An electrical box? I tried looking at all of those things but was told they weren’t there to look at. Out of desperation, I typed “look at thing” and got the following message: “I don’t see the resurrection card here.” WTF!!?? What has resurrection card got to do with “thing”? Giving up, I tried looking at the little sign I was told was on the door. It said “Authorized Personnel Only”, but I tried opening the door anyway. Unsurprisingly it was locked, so I left the corridor to the right of screen. The next section of corridor had an elevator door and a doorway leading into a room. I decided to check out the room before accessing any other floors, and soon found myself in the big boss’s office! I only knew it was the boss’s office because it said so at the top of the screen. The man sitting in the chair at his desk looked nothing like the boss I’d seen in the game’s introduction, with a full head of white head instead of balding dark grey.

Seriously, what is that thing!? It looks like a bubbler, but maybe it's called something else in the U.S.? (I just asked my wife and she told me it's called a water fountain, so I'll try that next session)

That's nice. No, really it is!

What this room needs is a really big oversized set of keys...oh wait, there's one!

A news reporter appeared on the TV at the back of the room, so I watched it. “Locally, Col. Bob’s Traveling Circus opens today, although tickets have been sold out for weeks. On the national level, this update from WILL’s million dollar Search for THE KING contest. Correspondents report that one Lyla Libido, long-time friend of THE KING and current close companion of Mr. Fabulous, has been spotted poolside in Las Vegas. When asked if her prior relationship with THE KING would help her achieve a quick victory in the contest, Miss Libido replied “Huh? What? Get out of my sun!”” I’d read an article about Lyla in the newspaper that came with the game, but it hadn’t told me anything more really. The woman had dated The King, and would neither confirm nor deny whether she knew his whereabouts now. I figured I’d have to find her at some point, but neither the article nor the TV report gave me a clear indication of where this poolside in Las Vegas was. I turned my attention back to the room, and tried talking to Mr. Burnbaum. He gruffly told me to get back to work, but did respond when I typed “ask about contest”: “Normally, a promotion like this would not be open to employees of this station. But hey…who’s gonna win?!” I tried a few other questions on him, but didn’t get anything useful. It was time to investigate the giant set of keys that were sitting on the desk in front of him.

There's a guy called Mr. Fabulous and it's not me!?

I looked at them and was told that they were the master keys for the office. After looking around the room a bit, I thought I’d see what would happen if I took the keys. Les picked them up, and a message appeared saying “Careful, he might have seen you take them.” When I attempted to walk out with them, the boss was clearly not impressed. He pressed a secret button on the floor under his desk, opening a hole in the floor that I fell through and died! I’m not sure OH&S would be too pleased with that result, but I had no other option than to restore or restart. I chose to restart, wanting to examine everything in my office a little bit closer. Initially I found nothing new, but oddly, when I typed “open drawer” from right in front of the cabinet, I got a message saying: “From here?” Where should I be standing to open the drawer!? It suddenly dawned on me that there must be a drawer in the desk, but since the description of the desk didn’t mention it, and my first attempts to stand in front of the desk were blocked by the chair, I’d let go of the idea. I managed to stand somewhat in front of the desk and typed “open drawer”. It worked, and inside I found a thermos and a lunch bag (20 points)! Now that I’d finally picked something up (and not been killed for it), it was time to check out my inventory.

That horrible moment before gravity kicks in!

I bit the green weenie!!?? Is that bad?! It sounds bad!

Oh man! Is this going to be like Future Wars? "Go a little closer."

I accessed the inventory by typing “I” and pressing enter. Rather than a list of items, I was told “You have a thermos and a lunch bag”. This is similar to the inventory in Police Quest 2, which I really didn’t like. It becomes very unruly once you’ve got around eight or more items in it, and doesn’t allow you to interact or visualise the contents within. Typing “look at lunch bag” did bring up a visual and short description though, which is an improvement on Future Wars where I had no way of examining them. Inside the lunch bag I found a jar of peanut butter, but the thermos appeared to be empty. I still wasn’t able to figure out what the thing was on the wall in the corridor, and after satisfying myself that there was nothing else to be done in the boss’ office, I hopped in the elevator. When the doors opened I found myself in the rear entrance lobby of Station WILL. There was a guard named Dave asleep with his feet resting on the desk alongside a telephone. I woke Dave up without any great purpose, at which point he informed me that he’d been having a great dream. I really wasn’t sure what to talk to him about, but I tried asking him about the contest. “Don’t waste your time. Nobody’s going to win.” With my options depleted, I walked through the glass doors out onto the street, leaving WILL for the first time. It’s time to go hunting for Elvis, with nothing more than a jar of peanut butter, an empty thermos, and the feeling I’ve missed several important items and information already!

Awesome inventory Accolade!

I have no idea what to say to anyone yet! All I can do is "ask about the king".

I'm genuinely scared about what awaits me in this game! Wish me luck!

Session Time: 0 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 0 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!