Thursday, 30 April 2015

Missed Classic 7: Questprobe Featuring the Hulk - WON! and Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

Incredible Hulk Journal #2 - Stupid journal machine repaired by Banner. Puny Banner. Hulk held nose. Hulk beat Ultron. Hulk talked to Dr. Strange until he went away. Hulk got all stupid gems for Chief Examiner. Hulk won, now Hulk sleep.

Hulk good enough and strong enough and Hulk know people like him.

At the end of my previous post, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had scored 78 out of 100 points, I had a lead on what to do next, and I was pretty happy with the level of challenge in the game’s puzzles. My feelings of elation evaporated quickly as I started this session, but let me start at the beginning. I had just worked out how to get the beeswax off of the killer bees (by blowing them away with the metal fan) and I suspected that I knew what to do: block the poison gas outlet that Dr. Strange revealed to me. What would happen next, I have no idea, but that would get me to the next puzzle and perhaps that could be solved by one of the items I had already picked up.

Let me jump to the chase: it didn’t work. The game text keeps hinting that I am going in the right direction, but either the beeswax is the wrong item or I am using the wrong verbs. I have tried “block”, “fill”, “put in”, and others and I remain stuck. I put this puzzle aside and decide to work on the ants next.

Hulk vs The Ants (Part 2)

Hulks Kampf mit den Ameisen

When I arrive at the ant colony, I always have three turns or so to live. I arrive to a plain with a group of tiny holes, ants swarm out of the holes to attack, and before long they find a weak point by crawling into my eyes. It’s a gruesome way to die, but even the Hulk can apparently be taken down this way. But are the eyes a clue? I try covering them in the wax, but that is pretty stupid even for an adventure game. My other inventory items are a mirror and a broken chair, neither of which seem to be helpful in this situation. I cannot cover all of the holes, or fill them in. I try punching and kicking at the ants, but I cannot kill them faster than they can kill me. After a little while, I decide that I am stuck. With no leads on any of the game puzzles, I turn to the blog admins to try to help me complete the game in time to make this posting. They thankfully oblige with a sequence of rot13 hints that I can unpeel as I need them. I would have preferred to ask the blog, but there just wasn’t time.

The first hint that I took was from Ilmari:

You have a perfect protection for your eyes in your own anatomy.

Aha! I guess I am on the right track by trying to cover my eyes, but I have been so focused on finding an item to do it that I missed the obvious. I work on that a bit before I catch on the right solution: “close eyes”. I am not sure if I love this solution or hate it, but it works… up to the point where the ants crawl up my nose and kill me. On my next attempt, I not only close my eyes, but I also “hold nose” and that works! At least it works until the ants crawl into my ears and kill me. These ants are persistent.

Correctly placed apostrophe: +1 points.

What can I use to cover my ears with? Wax, of course! But once again, I struggle with vocabulary. I am positive that this is the right approach, but the parser and I just cannot come to an understanding. I unpeel the rest of Ilmari’s hints on the matter and he gives me the answer that I needed: the command is “plug”. Please pardon me as I beat my head against my desk. Do I need to play this game with a thesaurus? I know in retrospect, I look like an idiot, but sometimes you miss the obvious.

With my eyes, ears, and nose all covered, I survive the ant attack. And… I want to apologize for this in advance, but I have to tell you that I burst out laughing right after. The message you get for surviving the attack is “Ants attack, but find no opening.” And all my apparently juvenile brain could think of is that the Hulk must have very tight pants. I know, I know. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

With my holes properly covered, I can attack the ants without dying, but they never stop coming. We reach an impasse: they cannot kill me, and I cannot kill enough of them for it to matter. As I search around to find something to do, I realize that I can pick up an ant and carry it with me, even out of the room. The down side to that discovery is that as soon as I open my eyes, no matter where I am, the ant kills me immediately. But all is not lost! I learned that the game knows “plug” and now I’ll go back to try to solve the nozzle puzzle. I restore my game back to where I was before and head back to Dr. Strange’s dome.

You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Faces look ugly when you’re alone.

Back in front of the gas nozzle, I try my new verb and it works! I can “plug” the outlet with the wax, preventing the poison gas from coming out. I turn into the Hulk and now I can see Dr. Strange clearly. Even better, he gives me some cryptic advice: “Remember your worst enemy, Nightmare.”

I am not a huge fan of the Hulk, but I have read a few Hulk comics over the years and had never heard of “Nightmare” or thought of him as the Hulk’s “worst enemy”. So I did a little digging and it seems that Nightmare and the Hulk were tussling in an ongoing plot arc at the time of the game’s publication. From our vantage point more than thirty years later, this seems obscure. But for players in the fall of 1984, a direct connection to the ongoing Hulk plotline may have been a welcome addition to the game!

The “Hulk” issue for August 1984 (same cover date as Questprobe #1)
featured Nightmare on the cover.

So, what happens when I type “remember nightmare” into the parser? Hulk gets even angrier!

Looks more like Vulture to me...

What does that mean? I try remembering Nightmare again and Hulk gets so mad that he rampages off and I lose control of the simulation. When I recover control, we are back in the fuzzy room.

To recap: I know how to survive the ants and even pick one up, but do not know what to do with it. I can get Hulk angry enough to storm off and that seems like it could be used to get back to the fuzzy room during a puzzle. Together, neither of those bits of information seem like enough to get me to solve the next puzzle. So for the third time, I go back to the tip well.

This one is from TBD about the iron ring puzzle:

Are you too relaxed?

I had almost forgotten about the ring puzzle! That was the iron ring in the floor of the first starting dome, but which I could not do anything about the last time I was there. I cannot enter the room as the Hulk, and the ring is too heavy for Banner, so I have just assumed it was something I would get to later. But obviously there is a way to get the Hulk in there (and mad enough) to pull the ring. Remembering Nightmare must be part of that solution.

Back at the first dome, I experiment around before I hit on the real use of “remember nightmare”: an angry Hulk is less susceptible to the anti-Hulk gas! If I get myself into that state, it gives me 1-2 more turns as the Hulk before I transfer back. I can transform in the hallway, quickly remember Nightmare before I would have transformed back, then head into the ring room and pull on it all before I change back!


I head into the hole in the floor, but instead of finding something new that took me to somewhere familiar: the exploding egg room. If you do not remember from my last post, there is a room that you can access by going north of the fuzzy room that has an exploding egg and a “bio gem”. I surmised that it was an important puzzle because it was also in the comic. But I did not have a way that I could get in and get the gem without dying. How does this new hole in the ceiling change that?

Aha! I had already discovered that if I turned into the Hulk in the room, that I could survive the explosion but lose the Bio gem in the process. But using “remember nightmare” in the fuzzy room then going north to the egg room meant that I could be the Hulk in there on the first turn. I could then grab the Bio gem and both it and I would survive the explosion.

Except… that didn’t work. It broke just being near the explosion.

Once again, I get a tip. I know this is number four, but I told you it was a train wreck… And that didn’t help at all. Let me just give you the tips that TBD gave me for this:
  1. Do you have time to take any actions before the explosion?
  2. What can you do to stop it
  3. You shouldn't need to use any of your inventory here
  4. What can you do with the egg
I really tried, but it took me all the way to the fifth hint before I could figure it out: “eat egg”. Really? So the Hulk has such an amazing stomach that he can swallow an exploding egg? This is the first puzzle that I do not think I could have solved on my own. The vocabulary issues aside, I doubt I would ever have come up with that solution. I put the Bio gem back in the fuzzy room and continue my explorations.

Age of Ultron

This image perfectly sums up the 2015 Marvel summer film schedule.

With the egg taken care of and Dr. Banner able to become the Hulk in the room, I could explore further. There are scratch marks on the wall, but what are they from? I do not see anything I can do with them immediately except to try to do some scratching of my own. When I “scratch wall”, a crack opens up in the floor? Why the floor and not the wall? I have absolutely no idea.

Crawling through the crack, I emerge into a cavern where I confront my first Marvel villain of the game: Ultron. He has captured Ant-Man in a cage and seems content to gloat about capturing his “creator” rather than attack me. (In the 2015 films, the trailers suggest that Tony Stark, not Hank Pym, will be Ultron’s creator. I guess we will need to watch and see.) I talk to Ant-Man and he asks me to bring along one of his “friends” so that he can defeat Ultron. Obviously, I need to bring an ant here and I think I know how to do it!

But before I could get started, I realized that I was dead-ended: I used up all of my wax to talk to Dr. Strange, so I have no more to put in my ears to use against the ants. (I had reloaded between when I went after the ants the first time and when I did the nozzle puzzle, so did not notice this earlier.) But now I am stuck and without a save slot that far back, I have to play the whole game over. This time around, I do not bother with Dr. Strange at all and I did not need to talk to him to make “remember nightmare” work. It seems that I never need to “solve” the nozzle puzzle at all! I am not very happy about this from a game mechanics standpoint, but oh well.

Ant-Man: Stupid super power since 1962.

For all that Nightmare sort-of fits in this game, I am confused about Ant-Man. The manual makes it clear that this Ant-Man is the original, Hank Pym, rather than one of the myriad of other men (and women) that have worn the suit. (Heck, even Spider-Man’s Aunt May became Ant-Man in a “What If?” comic in 1982.) But in 1984, Pyn was going by Yellowjacket and was somewhat mentally unstable. Three years earlier, he famously punched his wife (the Wasp) when she disagreed in his crazy plan to get back in the Avengers good graces by attacking them with a robot that only he could defeat. He was caught, humiliated, kicked out of the Avengers, and did not return to costumed heroics for some time. If we are to connect this game with the comics, we have to assume that this version of Ant-Man was pulled out of the Hulk’s memories for the sake of the simulation, rather than implying that the “real” Ant-Man was active at the time. This is one of the details that would have been well-known to comic readers when the game came out, but not at all obvious to those of us playing thirty years later.

And we’re supposed to be rescuing this guy? Let Ultron keep him.

While you were reading my Ant-Man digression, I went back to the ants, closed all of my orifices, and picked up an ant. I know from my previous experimentation that opening my eyes means instant death, but fortunately I know the way back: any direction from the ant hill goes to the fuzzy room, then north to the egg room, then “go crack” to get back to Ultron. As soon as I arrive, Ant-Man takes control of my passenger and defeats Ultron, leaving on a gem behind for me. I miss the whole exciting scene of course, because my eyes were closed.

The Final Gem

Anyone know if there are names for these Escher-like shapes?

With that gem in hand, I head back to the fuzzy room and expect to find a victory scene. I am disappointed. I have solved every puzzle I know of and have picked up every gem, but when I get there I only have 88% completion. That is the same as I had before picking up the gem that Ant-Man dropped. What happened?

I look more closely: the Bio gem is gone. I had dropped it off in the fuzzy room before finishing up Ultron, but it is nowhere to be found. But even with the Bio gem, I would only have been at 94% complete so there is something else that I missed. This time since I did not want to wait to message TBD or Ilmari, I consulted a walk-through and that suggested two things:
  • That the ants probably devoured my “bio gem” on their trip through the room when I was taking one to Ultron.
  • That I needed to talk to Dr. Strange three times to get him to drop a gem.
To fix the second problem first, I head back to Dr. Strange and realize an extremely annoying aspect to this puzzle: the only way to talk to Dr. Strange without using the wax (which I need for the ants) is to “remember nightmare”. And when I talk to him, he still gives me that advice first. It’s just another moment in stupid reloading-puzzle design. I talk to him three times (the second time he gives me an ad for more Scott Adams games) and the third time he gets bored of me and leaves, dropping a gem behind.

Unfortunately, I hit yet another block which is that I am dead-ended again. All of my saves are after the Bio gem’s destruction and I have to replay from start. (This is in part because I am experiencing a bug in the C64 version or emulator where my saves are getting corrupted if I use multiple save slots. Sometimes they work, sometimes the save starts me over from scratch, and sometimes I get a different save entirely. Once, my disk image was corrupted so badly when I saved the game that I had to download it again. I do not credit these problems against the game because it may be an emulation problem, but it has been very annoying.)

I play through the sequence again and again and notice that the Bio gem is just very… delicate. It does disappear when the ants go through, but it also disappears if you leave it anywhere but the egg room for more than a few turns. The solution to that is just to move the Bio gem last, and this time I am rewarded by a victory screen!

In his off time, the Chief Examiner plays jacks.

I received a score of 100% and a password, “ARIA”. This password does not seem to do anything in this game, so it must do something in a future game.

Time played: 4:15
Total time: 7:15

Final Rating

That’s it for my very first Scott Adams/Marvel adventure! My feelings on this game alternate between being pretty pleased overall and wanting to throw the game out a window. Had I stopped after the first post, I think it would have received a much higher score. But let’s find out!

Puzzles and Solvability - 2

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but if I had to judge it was the worst of times far more often than the best. This game had one really great puzzle: the final confrontation with Ultron and bringing the ant to his lair. It was multi-layered, innovative, and yet made sense once you put all the pieces together. It was also well-integrated into the environment, for all that means anything when moving in any direction from most rooms teleport you to the fuzzy room. But despite that bit of brilliance, the dead-ends in this game are terrible (especially with the Bio gem), the “remember nightmare” puzzle requires you to reload and use the answer you get from Dr. Strange without your in-universe character knowing it, and finding all of the gems is a real chore. You have to dig holes and look under the domes, really?

So much promise. I hope that subsequent games do better.

Interface and Inventory - 2

Let’s get the good out of the way first: I love the inventory screen. I love that you can be either Hulk or Banner on it, that it gives a graphical representation of everything that you are carrying. I love that many items in the game have close-ups. But the parser in this game is terrible, seemingly designed to be a frustration rather than a seamless gateway into the world. I had frequent difficulties with the limited vocabulary and more than once I had to take a hint just to get the right word for something I was already trying to do. Not acceptable.

The frustratingly fragile Bio gem.

Story and Setting - 4

I was torn when it came to this category. Should I include the tie-in comic, or not? After some deep consideration, I think that I will include it. The game was designed to be able to be played without the comic, but it is richer for it and the backstory for the Chief Examiner and his people is well done. I legitimately want to know what is happening next.

That said, the story did not integrate as well into the game as it could have. We know it is a simulation and that the task (collect the gems!) is ultimately meaningless, just a check to determine if you have the skills to “pilot” the replica of the Hulk in the upcoming war. But more information about this could have been integrated into the gameplay, perhaps even some aspect of the simulation could relate to a difficulty that they might encounter while fighting the Black Fleet, rather than what might be encountered in New Mexico. In the end, the story boils down to a treasure hunt and that is a shame.

Sound and Graphics - 3

The lack of a sound effect other than a “beep” during certain events dooms this game to a low score, but the graphics are actually quite good for the hybrid text adventures we have seen. There are lots of good moments where we zoom in on the Hulk performing an action and while those are not animated, they are keeping with the comic book experience. For example, the first changing into the Hulk is around three screens as a slide-show.

I also liked that they used different art assets across different versions of the game, rather than just scaling for different resolutions and color pallets. That made the game look as good as it could across more systems, which is a nice sign of the maturity of the Scott Adams adventure-creating machine.

Transformation scene on the C64.

Re-colored scene for DOS.

But a fully redrawn scene for the ZX Spectrum.

Environment and Atmosphere - 4

Difficult decision here, too. I was going to go lower because of the limited number of rooms and the constant teleporting, but on further thought this actually works with the story given that we are supposed to be a simulation. The art and the design of the game really allowed me to feel like I was playing a comic book, which was very nice! I want to say that the fetch-quest nature did harm the atmosphere more than a bit, but I already docked points in “Puzzles” so let’s leave this as-is.

Dialogue and Acting - 3

The text in the game is serviceable, there are a few characters to interact with, and overall this felt fine. It brought me into the game world, but did not “wow” me in any way. It’s just there and okay.

Drumroll please…

2+3+4+3+4+3=19/.6 = 30!

Wow. This places the game right on par with Wizard and the Princess, but I do not think that tells the whole story. The Hulk was a mixed bag of great promise and crappy implementation, while Wizard and the Princess felt more consistent over but lacked the few heights that this game had. And hey, it’s tied with Les Manly, too!

If you take the comic out of the equation (dropping points in both “story” and “environment”), the game would probably have scored 28 instead. The next game in the series will have a comic, but it will need to do something more with it as the backstory is already established here.

New Spring-Summer Contest!

Would you like to win this completely un-signed and non-mint copy of Questprobe Vol #1 Issue #1? How about issues #2 and #3 as well? I bet you would! Between now and August, I will be playing the three Questprobe games, with each “Missed Classic” coming out with a summer Marvel feature: #2 prior to Ant-Man in July, then #3 with The Fantastic Four in early August. After that is over, I will wrap up with a series-wide recap and an “epilogue” of how Marvel ended the series (and the Chief Examiner) after the collapse of Adventure International, as well as announce the winner.

All you need to do is write a comment (as many as you want) describing why you love or hate a character that appeared in our Questprobe adventure. I will randomly pick from the best comments to select the winner. For #1, the included Marvel characters are the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Nightmare, and Ultron. Please avoid using characters from later in the series so as not to spoil me on those games. Good luck!

Coming This Summer:

My spider sense is tingling...


  1. Is it actually possible to take the wax a second time? That would solve the confusion with Dr. Strange.

    1. No. It appears you can only take the wax once. Unless I did something wrong at some point.

  2. Should get an extra point for "I'm The Incredible Hulk (Tm) now!", truly a masterpiece of dialogue!

  3. Regarding Yellow Jacket, in Spain they did a lousy job translating his name. They just translated it literally: "Chaqueta Amarilla". At that time, being a child with very limited english language knowledge and no access to the original american comics, I never understood why he was called that, specially considering that he had no jacket and his uniform was not totally yellow.
    Only many years later I discovered that Yelow Jacket is the name of a kind of hornets, so the mistery of many years was finally solved for me!

  4. By the way, why the caption in german? Am I missing some reference here?

    1. It's the original title of a famous short story, known in English as Leiningen Versus the Ants. I do not remember it very well, but it involves millions of aggressive African ants swarming over a plantation. I enjoyed it as a kid, but it has been a few years so I do not remember the details.

      See? Not all of my references are movies and video games. :)

    2. There are some really outstanding adaptations of Leiningen Versus The Ants on the old radio show Escape. I've heard at least two different casts perform it and recall it very vividly. Great story!

    3. I remember reading that story in high school. I don't remember how it ended though.

  5. The King's Quest Collection and Space Quest Collection are on sale on Steam at the moment, £2.49 each!

    Also there's a tonne of Sierra games on sale on also, which as well as the above games, also includes Police Quest, Phantasmagoria and more.

    1. Steam Activision deals:

      GOG Activision deals (3 days left):

    2. Nice! Too bad GOG still hasn't gotten Alien Legacy even though they have so many other Sierra games.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I'm back from China! Stupid Great Firewall stopping me from visiting Blogspot (which is owned by Google).

    Anyway... does The Incredible Hulk (Tm) actually say (Tm) when he was proclaiming that? Why does he have that but not Ultron, Ant-Man (The manic wife-beater) or Dr. Strange?

    "I AM THE INCREDIBLE HULK!!! ...trademarked."

  8. I found this site after finishing Questprobe: The Hulk, and wondering what the heck the 'ARIA' password was for... that is still a mystery to me, but I'm glad I found this site as I love reading peoples thoughts on old games! It's fascinating to read, so keep up the great work!