Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Game 46: Countdown – Wile E. Coyote, Eat Your Heart Out!

Written by Aperama

Mason Powers Journal Entry #5: “And to think, they didn't rate me as a field agent on my last performance review! I've had one heck of a last twenty four hours. The first thing I did was to run off to my old sweetheart, Lisa Loomis. She's given me another name of one of the CIA operatives I ought to be avoiding – Earhardt Fleischer. Apparently, he's following Jack Quinn around like a puppy dog. Still, she didn't have much to offer me – she believed I didn't kill McBain, but wasn't going to put her neck out to help me. It didn't knock off much time, though – I was immediately off to Rachel Akure. She greeted me with an uzi in her lap, and didn't even want to say hello until I'd given her some info I found in McBain's office. She also seemed happy enough to blow me off – but at least she gave me a tranquiliser to knock out Fontaine. Turkey to Lebanon to Egypt, knocked out the baddie, got him to give me the location of the Black December HQ in Athens, took out two terrorists and saved a hostage.. not bad for a day's work! But there's more to do yet – I'm off to Spain, next, to try and follow the trail of the illusive 'Jackal'!”

The pyromaniac in me told me that I had to at least trial the plastic explosives...

Countdown is a terrible, awful game that I want to die a horrible, horrible death Countdown is not the fairest game in the world. As though the pain of constantly dying throughout Sanctuary weren't enough, I encountered a potentially gamebreaking bug while getting this update up – but more on that later. Last I left, I was really positive about what Countdown had left me. A clear sleuthing pathway, some solid puzzle solving that didn't take too much to get through – I was quite happy with where things were. I was left with three obvious places to go – Lebanon, and Rachel Akure, a Mossad agent. Egypt, and Fontaine, the hitman that took out McBain. And local Turkey, and Mason's old sweetheart, Lisa Loomis. Given that time is still looming on my head, the obvious next step is to the local Turkish branch of the CIA – they're not looking out for me, because Sanctuary can't get any information out, has no transport and is in the middle of nowhere.. and that's where they all think Mason is. So? To Ms. Loomis!

Aww. You really care that I'm being hunted for my life! True love!

Lisa Loomis seems to more or less largely be a dead end. She offers everything freely with no need for coercion, and quickly explains lots of stuff that has already been explained. Stormbringer is the CIA mole, they think I killed McBain (and am therefore Stormbringer myself). She's more or less telling us as gamers that our character is so lacklustre that she can't actually see us as having done half of the stuff that the CIA has accused us of – now if that's not true love, I don't know what else is! Still, the only thing that I seem to be able to get out of her is a name – 'Earhardt Fleischer', who is apparently Jack Quinn's 'personal advisor and friend, who follows him around like a puppy'. I'm assuming that the only help in getting this information is knowing a name to avoid if it comes down to it – but there again, it's fully possible that he's the mole himself – or that I need to know his name when Quinn ends up being the villain. I'm always like this in mystery flicks, too, but aren't we all? Still, that point (literally, I earned a point for it) taken, we leave Turkey – losing Lisa as a choice to go to.

Beginning to see why we broke up, dear.

Pre- 9/11 checks really WERE lax. I've got a fake passport,
four doses of plastic explosive and a knife that I'm taking with me on the plane to Lebanon..

The next stop is the next most obvious one – we take our Indiana Jones line (which does actually occur, just it wasn't noticeable in the tiny motion taken through Turkey) next down to Beirut, where Mossad agent Rachel Akure greets us with more than a touch of scepticism. Essentially, she tells us that she could care less what we have to say – McBain was helpful to her in the past, and she's fairly confident that we're not here to tie her up as a loose end – but the CIA can deal with us as they see fit..

The fact that she has an uzi in her lap is probably not hurting her confidence, either.

After cycling through her talking for a short while, I give her the dossier found in McBain's office, and she's suddenly willing to give me a whole heap of information. Unfortunately? Again, much of it is stuff already known. She lets us know that McBain counted us as the only one we could trust (go us!), that Black December has an operation coming up shortly (codenamed 'Thunderbolt', which gives us another conversation topic.) She mentions to us that she heavily dislikes Jack Quinn, denoting him as a pencil pusher, and when we mention Fontaine, she suggests that she might be able to help us out with him.. for a price. Yup, the Mossad pay her so well that she needs a bribe.

Naturally, I retried everything.
The 'bribery' angle goes up in tens – from $500 onwards she'll hand over something.

That something, to my surprise, wasn't actually just plain old information – it was something a little more tangible, I'm happy to say! It's something to 'get information from Fontaine' – a hypodermic dart. Apparently, it needs to be shot 'within three feet to get maximum penetration. The hypo is filled with Sodium Thiopental, a highly effective truth serum'. It does make no small amount of sense that instead of just trying to kill Fontaine for his attempted murder of us that we're actually to get information from him – sorry if I hyped you all up by the thought of taking him out with explosives!

Hi, Joe! My game wants to be your game.. I mean. To Egypt!

Fontaine is in Cairo, Egypt, as the goodly Doctor Hashish told us way back in Sanctuary – he didn't give any more information than that, but I like to think that Mason simply walked around and asked as to 'where the murderous hitman was'. Mason seems like he's that sort. Anyhow, we end up in an alleyway and a description that we're in a hot place, and that this could 'turn out to be unpleasant if I'm not careful'.. Yeah, he was right.

Back to stealth mode.. 'yay'

He's not a nice hit man...

But here's his truly devastating technique

I'm not certain whether it's just my copy of this game, or whether it's an innate problem of the game that the few people who have played it have kept to themselves – but... the bug that I alluded to. Oh, it's horrid. Basically, it seems as though the game struggles to find the 'gunshot' sound effect fired out when you die from anybody who chooses to fire a gun at you, Fontaine included. The first time he shoots, it immediately breaks the game, giving me the above error message. A reload and another attempt later gives the 'death' message, half of the gunshot sound effect, and then crashes DOSBox. Were it not my first game, I think that this would likely be the straw breaking the camel's back. The camel's back on account of I'm in Egypt, see? Right? Yeah, I'll get back to it..

Thankfully, you don't need to let him fire his gun

Fontaine is very much a throwaway character, I feel. Given the truth serum, I suppose, he's quite robotic in his responses, simply telling things as they are. For instance, he's mad at the doctor for letting on who he is and where to find him, and unlike the majority of the other characters in the game, he simply responds with statements of what out and out happened. All of the information he gives is seemingly truthful, and he gives us only a little bit of stuff that we didn't know again. For instance, he attests to the fact that he wasn't the one who shot McBain – that was actually somebody else!

You can literally say anything – apologising for how much the hypo hurt
 – and this is all he comes out with!

Athens, Greece.. a lead!

I was tempted to end it here (and just for the record, Fontaine doesn't actually go anywhere – after you dart him, he just stays in the same spot – as you can tell, Mason really is a hardcore secret agent), but after the aggravation that came of the bullet shots, I decided to charge on to another, slightly more interactive scenario. Athens, Greece leads us into 'an ancient fortress'. Or, to put it another way, an ancient torture chamber..

I'd kinda like to know how he got INTO the torture chamber..

Peeking around, there are only a couple of interactive objects – the majority of them simply blow you off with no explanation of what they're actually supposed to do. There's several old torture devices – an iron maiden, a pillory, a rack – a dungeon gate, and.. a catapult. The catapult is in pieces, with a large stone in one section, an arm in the other – it's not too hard to work out what you're going to be using a catapult arm for! Arm and rock? Grabbed. Installed into catapult. My mind stated that we'd be breaking down the door with the catapult? But no.. no, that wasn't to be, as the door opened to reveal a white-dressed member of the Ku Klux Klan – er, Black December, that is to say.. well, let's just have the screenshots tell the tale.

The 'squish' sound effect is quite possibly the most cathartic noise I've heard made in this game

Walking out of the door, I was expecting to take a peek and then know I was ready to wrap things up – but instead, I was greeted with.. you guessed it, another stealth action section. Another guard (by the way, both of these guards were armed with guns, and had the previously explained Fontaine bug every time I took a misstep) was patrolling the corridors, making some extremely fast motions – this one wasn't one that was going to be easily avoided! The layout has us in the bottom left, a small cell with a prisoner inside in the bottom right, and a pair of rooms in the top right. On the wall outside one of those rooms is a monitor, which the guard seems to look at rather religiously.. and immediately, my first plan flashed into mind. After working out his patterns, I quickly darted (meandered as swiftly as the game would allow me, anyhow) to the top right room, used my ESP fingers to set up an explosive on the monitor.. which it allowed me to do! Wait ten seconds..

… no more guard!

In the top right room is a safe, which is impervious to my beloved explosives. So, disappointing though I do find this on a deeply personal level, I instead go to the bottom right room, and talk to the hostage..

He's another person who is all too willing to help you – but I best liked the 'hassle' option..

It turns out that the man in the chair is Michael Kirkland.. and he doesn't have much to say once more – or at least, nothing that we don't already know. Basically, he's just been sitting in that chair being fed bad food and being largely harassed. He hasn't actually received much information in his time on the ground, but he does at least have a couple of things for us. One, he has the name of the local agent that he believes is due to be in charge of Operation Thunderbolt – the 'Jackal'. More importantly, though, he has a picture of one of the Black December operatives unmasked!

Unlike so many people in this game, he just bolts as soon as you let him go

We're left in a room with an unopenable safe, an empty chair and a broken monitor, so this seems like a good time to pull up the CAD and see if it has any more information on the Jackal. It lets us know that his name is Rick Hogarty – he's an ex CIA agent! A master of disguise, he has no photo listed against his name. He retired on the 20th of September, 1991, and his former control agent was Carlos Ramirez – a man who is presently on rehabilitative leave in Barcelona, Spain. Looks like we have our next lead, and a nice place to close off! Of course, while I still had the CAD open, I decided to inspect the photo, and felt like I'd seen the face held therein..

… Uh oh.

As always, I'll leave off with my inventory, though it hasn't really changed an awful lot since my last post.. 

- Coat hanger
- Mason's wallet
- Scalpal
- Keys
- Grappling hook
- Flashlight
- Boots
- Bag
- Old wine
- Box (two separate ones)
- Fake passport.
- Cash ($4903 – spent $500 on plane travel twice. And weirdly, lost nothing in bribing Rachel – is this a bug?)
- Three doses of plastic explosives
- The CAD
- A battery
- Pliers
- Wire cutters
- Note with hidden message to Rachel
- Screwdriver (this popped into my inventory since last post, and was clearly in the toolkit, but I have no idea where it came from)
- A photo of who I am rather worried might be Scorpio...

Session Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no 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. Looks like the game uses two different kind of art assets for character portraits. Key characters would have portraits of real people while supporting role characters would be some kind of horrific pixelated art.

    1. Michael Kirkland, you mean? His facial expressions are so comically limited. Three pixels of black differ normal from shocked. Kinda reminds me of those old David and Goliath cartoons where only the lips/mouth move...

    2. The photo Kirkland gives you looks more like "Kirkland with hair" than it does Scorpio, IMO

  2. Christmas is coming! I am looking for Christmas-themed adventure games. Right now, I only know of two:

    Humbug (1990) - Text adventure
    Paranoia (1993) - Text adventure (but more of a CYOA with a very tight track, based on a 1987 mini-gamebook)

    There is one Japanese game for the Sega-CD that might count, but out of scope as it is a console game. Are there any more?

    1. I'm not sure about adventure games but there are quite a few Christmas themed games.

      Christmas Lemmings (strategy/puzzle) http://www.dosgamesarchive.com/download/lemmings-christmas/
      Merry Gear Solid (action) http://www.superfundungeonrun.com/?page_id=256
      Marvin's Mittens (platformer) http://www.desura.com/games/marvins-mittens
      Costume Quest - Grubbins on Ice (RPG) http://www.ign.com/games/costume-quest-grubbins-on-ice/xbox-360-93411

      Man... there really is a severe shortage of adventure games about X'mas!

    2. Oh, wait. Here's one.


  3. Ok, so I've gone through all 12 pages of Steam sales and found EVERY adventure game. However, my rules only let me post them when I'm caught up, so I'd better get reading!