Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Game 44: Altered Destiny - Fraggle Rock

P.J. Barrett Journal Entry 1: "What the hell is going on!? Am I on a bad trip or something? One minute I'm preparing for an evening with Trudy and the next I'm being told that I'm the only one that can save some race of beings from a guy called Helmar by stealing his Jewel of Light! I'm now on some alien planet talking to really strange creatures about things I can't possibly understand! I just want to get off this floating island and somehow go home. Hey, I wonder where that platform goes."

Ah, the early nineties. Man we were cool back then!

Well, well, well, isn’t this a surprise! More often than not my expectations going into games turn out to be pretty much correct. That has as much to do with all the comments and score predictions that you guys make as it does to any I might have formulated through my own experiences. I was expecting Altered Destiny to be a bit shit, but so far it’s been quite fun! Sure, it’s very strange indeed, and the parser is undoubtedly going to give me some trouble, but the crazy plot, alien environments, and truly bizarre characters have got me more than a little intrigued. It’s much too early to get carried away, but so far I’m into it. (I should point out that this post only covers half of my first session) So what’s it all about? Well, the intro begins with P.J. Barrett calling his girlfriend Trudy to see if she’s still on for a date at his place that night. P.J. is a typical eighties sales sort of guy, with aviator sunnies and a bright pink polo shirt. In other words, he seems like a complete wanker, but I’m sure the designers were going for cool! Luckily for P.J., his girlfriend Trudy Foxlitner thinks he’s a bit of alright, and tells him she’s totally up for watching an all-night film festival on cable with him, and that she’s be bringing a “little something special” as well. This reminds P.J. that he needs to pick up his TV from Bob’s TV Repair shop on the way home, so he sets off to do so. This is where things get weird...

All-night film festival? As in ALL night? Surely we can skip a couple of films right?

As P.J. walked into the shop, a huge barbarian charged out with a TV under his arm and a sword slung across his back! P.J. commented how strange this was, but entered regardless. He told the owner, Big Bob-Roy, that he was there to pick up order 701, but things don’t go to plan. Big Bob-Roy: “Seven oh one? I think I, uh, seven oh one, eh? Dat big guy what was just in here took seven oh one.” As you might expect, this didn’t please P.J., who demanded to know how he could possibly give his TV to someone else. P.J.’s fortune seemed to take a turn when the big dumbass comes up with a plan: “Uh...maybe I musta got the slips mixed up. But why dontcha take his as a loaner? It’s one of them hi-def models. He’s not coming back for awhile. He said he was goin’ on a trip.” P.J. left with this hi-def TV, which he put on the seat of his white BMW, then headed home to prepare for his big date. He put on a white suit (with oh so lovely fleurs-de-lis on it) and began getting the popcorn ready just as Trudy arrived. She immediately went to the bathroom to change into the “little something special” she’d mentioned earlier, and P.J. turned on the TV. As soon as it was on, some sort of portal activated, with P.J. being literally sucked off the couch and through the TV into some other dimension!!! As if this event wasn’t strange enough on its own, a ghostly face then appeared before P.J. as he seemingly floated in outer space!

You're not a barbarian unless you have no clothes on.

Deleted scene from Falling Down.

The TV ain't the only thing I'll be warming up tonight baby.

These new hi-def TVs really make you feel like you're part of the action!

The face belonged to a being named JonQuah, who was clearly disappointed by P.J.'s presence: “Who are you? You are not the warrior who was summoned. You lack the stature and the experience.” P.J. was understandably bewildered by what was going on, and could only ask what the hell was going on and who he was speaking to. The response he received would not have been very comforting: “I am JonQuah, and you float between here and there. Had I the power, I would send you back and summon the warrior we need. But you will have to do. Our time runs out. The Universe faces immediate destruction. My brother, Helmar, has had the Jewel of Light too long. It has begun to affect him, and he it. He was untrained in its power, and an instability has started that will cause our destruction if you do not help.” P.J. questioned why this JonQuah couldn’t resolve the problem himself, but it turned out he was in no position to do so: “I am imprisoned by Helmar. I could manage only this one task. It will take a stranger whose presence is unknown to Helmar to approach him. We entrust this task to you. You are our only hope. Find the Jewel of Light and wrest it from Helmar. Before we all perish.” With that P.J. was thrust into a very strange environment, and control was handed over to me. JonQuah hadn’t bothered to tell me where this place was, nor had he given me any clue as to where his brother might be found or how to defeat him. Clearly I was going to have to figure things out for myself!

Plus you've put too much butter on the popcorn and not enough salt. This won't do!

Wow! This atmosphere doubled the size of my sunglasses!

Feeling a bit daunted, I began checking out the interface before even attempting to navigate the environment. It was soon apparent that things were going to work the same way they did in Les Manley. Commands were typed through a text parser, and movement was controlled through either the mouse or the keyboard (or a combination of the two). Typing “i” and pressing enter brought up my inventory, which contained nothing more than Orville’s Corn O’ Pop, which was the popcorn I’d made back home. I was actually quite happy to see a Sierra-like score in the top left corner, as I’ve always liked having some idea as to how far through a game I am, especially difficult ones as this one is likely to turn out to be. With the interface sorted, it was time to look at my surroundings. I was standing in “A Clearing” that appeared to be far above ground level, and there were strange creatures that looked like hovering jellyfish floating around. I typed “look” to get a description, and was told the following: “You look to the horizon in all directions and realize you’re on a mesa or butte, high in the air. Wherever you are, whatever this place is, you figure you’d better find Helmar and the Jewel of Light. And quickly.” I looked at the large hole in the centre of the screen, only to be told that it was “a hole”, and that “like most holes, it was empty”. Oh great...a smartass parser! Just what one needs on an alien world!

Seriously parser, this is not the time for immature humour!

I figured I might be able to walk through the archway to the left of screen, but decided to head off to the east to get more of an understanding of where I was. On the next screen I found myself standing in front of a very strange building. There were large trays and cauldron shaped containers catching what appeared to be large globules of paint that were falling out of the sky! I could see some stairs leading down into the building, but I wasn’t going to be able to reach them from this southern part of the screen. I typed look to see if the description would make more sense of what I was seeing: “You stand near two structures. The angular one has a series of roofs which catch gleaming pigments that drop from the sky. Troughs channel these pigments into the structure.” Well it seemed my assessment was correct, but I hadn’t really paid any attention to the smaller structure that was right in front of me. I wandered in through the entrance and was a bit concerned to be confronted by a close-up of what was obviously an alien. I typed "look" again: “You’re in a small building, face to face with Alnar, the metal shaper. Acid drips from his hand, sizzling on the counter. Lining the wall behind him are swords and battle axes.” I took a look at Alnar specifically, and gained a little bit more information: “Alnar is a massive, powerfully-built creature, a metal shaper. His palms secrete acid which softens metals, making them pliable. Alnar can then mold the metal as if it were clay.”

By Two Structures: By the time they named the screens, all of their creativity had clearly been used up.

Remind me not to high five this guy!

I tried talking to Alnar, and found him to be a rather gruff individual: “Hrrr. What is it that you want? I have better things to do than make idle chit-chat with puny ones.” The obvious thing to do was to ask him about all the weapons that were displayed on the wall behind him, but doing so resulted in “Why bother me with that?”. I tried “ask about swords” instead of “weapons” and had more success: “Hrrr. I made them in preparation of the mighty warrior’s arrival. What of it?” Hmmm, this was interesting. I wondered who this mighty warrior was that he spoke of, so I asked. Unfortunately, the parser didn’t understand the word “mighty”, and asking about “warrior” got the standard “why bother me with that” response from Alnar. I’d only just started and yet it was obvious the parser was going to mess with me. Asking about the axes gave me the same message as with the swords, so I asked Alnar about “planet” instead, hoping to find out something about my location in the universe. His response didn’t make things much clearer: “It’s a nexus of sorts, a traveller’s locus on a network of Universes.” I had a think about what information I really needed to get going, and after checking all my intro screenshots, figured asking about JonQuah, Helmar, and the Jewel of Light would be the most likely to achieve progress. JonQuah: “He’s alright, but difficult to understand at times. His brother Helmar is another story. Hrrr. A bad one at that.” Helmar: “Although I could crush him like a pebble if I chose, the jewel has made him powerful. And far too dangerous.” Jewel of Light: “There’s not much I know about the jewel. Hrrr. Only that we’ll perish if it’s not rescued from the hands of that little brat Helmar.”

I don't think you could crush him. In fact, I dare you to! I double dare you!!!

Since I’d got all the information out of Alnar as I could, I turned my attention to trying to get one of the weapons. I saved my game first, as I figured trying to steal from the angry guy might result in my death (this isn’t The Secret of Monkey Island after all!), but to my surprise typing “get sword” resulted in said pointy thing being added to my inventory (3 points). Stealing had got me my first points in the game, so I tried taking an axe too (5 points). Was I really going to be able to take two weapons off the wall and walk out with them? I figured there was only one way to find out, so I walked out of Alnar’s hut. Nothing happened! Putting aside my surprise, I decided it was time to enter the other larger structure, but there appeared no way to do so from the southern part of the screen. I therefore made my way back to the starting screen, with the intention of trying to walk through the archway. On my way I typed “look at creature” to see if I could find out anything about the strange green things that were floating around. I was shown an image of what I now knew was called a “Large Floater”, with the following description: “This is a large floating seed, the spawn of the tubeplants found at the crossroads.” I had no idea where these crossroads might be found, so this seemed a strange description to me. I tried talking to the floater to see what would happen, only to be told that “the large floater isn’t a sentient creature”. Still, it was cool to learn about some of the alien things I was seeing.

Yeah, sure. I've still got a bit of growing to do!

The what found at the what?

I was happy to discover that I could walk through the archway to the upper portion of the screen, and it was only at this point that I noticed there were some stairs heading down into the ground below a huge plant. I typed “look at plant”, but was asked which one I meant, “the bunch of roots or the blooming flowers”? I soon learnt that the roots were tethering the island, stopping it from floating off into space, and that the constantly blooming red flower behaves that way “to attract small floating rocks”. This was interesting and all, but I was much more interested in finding out what was down the stairs. I didn’t get far down them before I ran into a floater carrying three oval boards that appeared to be attached to each other. Typing look informed me that it was a “sign made of three leaves, shaped like pieces of parchment”, and that it was indeed blocking my way down the stairs. I typed “read sign”, not actually expecting P.J. to be able to read what would obviously be an alien language. “Thanks to the years you’ve spent watching PBS specials on the Japanese, Chinese and Hieroglyphic languages, you are able to apply your interpreting skills to these ideographs. The three sections of pomenta-leaf parchment seem to say, “Divining on small island. Be back much later. Private Property.” This explanation was utterly ridiculous of course, and I had to wonder why they didn’t come up with some sort of Babel fish item to explain P.J.’s stupendous translation abilities.

Alright already! No need to be rude about it!

Somehow P.J. doesn't seem the guy to sit at home watching language documentaries.

Ignoring the silliness, I made my way back to the surface and off to the right of screen. As expected, I was now standing to the north of the pigment-collecting structure, and was therefore able to walk down the stairs. To my delight, I didn’t actually have to move P.J. manually along the curve, as he was automatically controlled once I came close to it. When I was at the bottom I took a look at the liquid that was filling up the trays. “They look thick, like a cross between paint and gel.” I tried picking some up, and received the following response from the parser: “Tentro needs them to make frags.” I of course had no idea who Tentro was, let alone what a frag was! I’d only been playing for twenty minutes and I was already having “resurrection card” moments! At least I didn’t have to wait long to find out what it was all about. After entering the structure I found myself standing in Tentro’s Shop. He was a thin, blue creature, and was busy using the various collected pigments to make what I had to assume were frags. Typing look told me a bit more about what he was up to: “He works a mechanism which seems to be making little cubes, spheres, pyramids and cylinders of different colors. Leaning against the wall are golden tubes.” While he was busy at work, I figured it was a good time to check out all the items that were mentioned in that description.

"Get resurrection card"

Oh Tentro, oh Tentro, what's he doing today?

The little shapes turned out to be frags, and I was shocked to find that all of them had mouths. Looking at them caused them to tell me some information, although it seemed it was up to me to decipher its meaning. Square Frag: “Invitations must be presented at the Order.” Sphere: “My story is long and arduous. The Longa were a hated tribe, known for their violence. Their lands bordered on the Yula’s land. The Longa might have survived if the prince hadn’t shot his arrow true. A scroll in the Order of the Jewel tells more of this.” Pyramid Frag: “You are cordially invited to attend the training session of JonQuah, master.” Tubular Frag: “Of the Jewel. No RSVP necessary, but no leave.” This was all very strange, and I hoped that eventually I would be able to make more sense of it all. Looking at the golden tubes that were leaning against the wall revealed that they were used to carry frags. Thievery had served me well so far, so I tried my luck again by attempting to pick up one of the tubes. I was able to! (2 points) I tried picking up one of the cubes, but was told that “holding a frag is harder than it looks”. I typed “put cube in tube”, but was then told that I’d “break its sucking mechanism” if I did. Typing “use tube on cube” resulted in “You’d better figure out just how to use the golden tube in a more specific manner”. Thinking Tentro might assist me, I figured it was time to have a chat.

No seriously! The frags talk!

As with Alnar, Tentro told me how busy he was, and that I should only ask what I absolutely needed to know. I began questioning him about everything I could think of! Tentro: “I do what little I can to use the special skills I acquired while being trained at the Order of the Jewel.” Frags: “They are examples of what this frag technology can do – fragments of information.” Jewel: “I leave those things to the Order and to JonQuah.” JonQuah: “He may be a fool, or he may be a spiritual leader. But sitting and meditating is not the answer we need.” Planet: “It somehow supplies my steady drops of pigments. Of that I know.” Pigments: “Ah, the pigments contain knowledge and information. They flow down from above and I capture them and make frags with them and they’re wonderful.” Alnar: “His answer for everything is the sword.” Helmar: “Please don’t ask about this person. He was swept up in forces beyond his control. An innocent, corrupted by forces beyond his control.” Order: “I have just finished a batch of invitation frags for them.” Tube: “That gruff but soft-hearted Alnar makes them for me.” By this point I’d run out of topics to ask about, but that last answer had given me an idea. Perhaps asking Alnar about the tube would help me find out how to use one? I made my way back to Alnar’s hut and tried my luck: “Yes, I make tubes for that eraserhead Tentro. The mechanism which makes them suck up the frags also makes them drop them when you point the tube. A clever device.” Point the tube?! Was that all I had to do?

Tentro: "I fucking love frags!"

Alrrrright! This was the inforrrrmation I was afterrrr!

I raced back to Tentro’s Shop and typed “point tube at cube”. P.J. pointed the large tube in the direction of the frags, and one of each of them was sucked up into it!!! (5 points) I was very pleased with this result to say the least, and left the shop, eager to explore more of the floating island. To my dismay, walking to the right of screen, the only direction remaining to me, took me to what at first looked like a dead end. The screen description suggested there was something off to the right of screen though: “Off in the distance, to the east, you can make out a smaller floating island.” At first I wondered whether I might need to catch a ride by hanging onto one of the floaters, but as I walked over to the edge of the cliff, a living platform floated into view! (3 points) Looking at it revealed that it was called a transporter, and that it was “a relatively safe method of getting from one island to another”. There seemed to be some markings on the rock next to the ledge and looking at them showed me an image of the transporter with arrows heading away from it in left and right directions. Clearly I was supposed to hop on it, so that’s what I did. The transporter closed up around me and plummeted to the ground below, killing me in the process!!! Yeah, real safe!!! It appeared I was going to have to figure out how to use this contraption too. You’re probably suffering as much information overload as I was by now though, so I’ll save the rest of my first session for the next post. Stay tuned!

Yes! I got the friggin' frags!

Now this is what I call service! I'll just step on board and...


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!


  1. To give it some credit, it really does feel like an alien world. It would help if the information received from looking around and talking to characters was a little better written though. Almost feels like they didn't get people to play through it before release.

  2. Looks like you had the exact same experience as I did when I started the game up. I managed to get the parser to say 'Tentro isn't here.' on the first screen somehow, while trying to think how to describe the floating things that kept bouncing across the screen.

    One peculiarity in this game also stood out to me in the next, as I had the bright idea of dipping my sword/axe into the strange neon liquid (lifelong Nethack fan I guess) - which made him put them down instead. All items stay on the screen as you drop them! Weird, no?

    1. It's not that weird, when you have an inventory limit. You essentially must horde items somewhere and come and get them when you need them.

    2. Inventory limit? Noooo!!!!!

  3. That parser is wrong. A full hole could be an asshole, since assholes are full of shit.

    1. Also, Trix, I'm just wondering why you would go back to Alnar to ask about the "Tube" but neglect to ask him about "Tentro" when you now know about his existence. Onvgvat gb frr vs Gevk jvyy or ubbxrq sbe frirer chavfuzrag.

    2. I did try that Kenny, and the response I got didn't seem worth mentioning. I don't describe every single thing I try in my posts. Only what I think might be relevant.

    3. That means you must have heard about enaqbz enzoyvatf bs ovgf naq cvrprf bs hfryrff fghss. You're good to go then. As long as you remember it, no dead ends later at the crags juvpu zbfg cebonoyl rkvfgf va fhpu nqiragher tnzrf. Abg gung V'q xabj fvapr V qvqa'g cynl guvf bar.

  4. Tex Murphy is currently on sale at Steam. Now is a good excuse to try out Mean Street if you haven't and see if your expectation jibes with the Trickster's. Personally, I'm interested in finally playing Under a Killing Moon.


    The complete pack contains: Tex Murphy: Mean Streets, Tex Murphy: Martian Memorandum, Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon, Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive, Tex Murphy: Overseer

    1. Good deal to get any or all of the old Tex Murphy games for less than $5 a piece.

      But who decided it should be called the 'Tex Murphy Complete Pack', when it doesn't contain Tesla Effect?

  5. Tim Schafer does a retrospective of Grim Fandango.


    I really like the trend of developers playing their old games years later.