Friday 1 April 2016

Missed Classic: Impossible Mission

After we came up with Panthro's Law, allowing us to play non-traditional adventure games, it occurred to us that we missed a lot more classics than we'd thought. So to rectify that we're doing a Missed Classic of a game that's not considered a traditional adventure game, but has enough adventurey elements for us to go, “Meh... Close Enough.” I'm talking, of course, about Impossible Mission.

This cover makes me think of the movie Wargames

Enough preamble, on with the review...

Impossible Mission is known now as a Commodore 64 classic. It was amazing for its time, and like many games of the time, would be considered simple and repetitive if released today. But it, unlike many of its peers, still somehow manages to be compelling (to me at least) to this day.

Wait, wasn't that just another paragraph of preamble? Ignore me, I've never been quite sure when preamble ends and amble begins.

According to the manual, your task in the game is to defeat an evil scientist named Elvin Atombender, who turned evil when he couldn't kill enough giggling space penguins in a computer game. Now Elvin plans to destroy the world using nuclear weapons!!!!!

To stop Elvin, we need to do two things; explore his lair to find the pieces of the control room password, then assemble that password from the dozens of pieces he's stashed randomly within his furniture. And I almost forgot to mention the time limit - we have 6 hours to get to him or the world is doomed.

Fit the First: Search the Rooms

There are many (33) rooms full of platforms, lifts, robots and furniture, with each room requiring its own strategy for completing.

I'll have to search the bed, drawers and candy machine in this room, all while avoiding the robots

Unlike most adventure games, the strategy changes from game to game despite the room and robot layout being the same. This is because the robots can take many forms. There are many robot types, which I've taken the liberty of naming myself.
  • Blind Walker – they just travel at a constant speed along their platform, turning around when they reach the end
  • Edge Shooter – similar to blind walkers, but at each platform end, they shoot electricity both before and after turning, but don't shoot unless they're at an edge
  • Still Shooter – they guys just stand still and shoot, often alternating between shooting left or right, sometimes shooting constantly in one direction, occasionally starting shooting one direction then switching direction just when you think they're simple still shooters.
  • Constant Follower – these robots follow the player horizontally wherever they are – they are sometimes shooters, sometimes edge shooters and sometimes not shooters.
  • Constant Shooters – these are like blind walkers but stop regularly to shoot, they don't notice where the player is at all
  • I See You Robots – these can be constant followers or blind walkers but when they see the player, they either immediately shoot until they lose sight of you or travel extremely fast in the direction of the player
  • I'm Looking For You Robots – these guys are like blind walkers, but turn around to look behind them regularly as they travel. As soon as they see you, they either shoot or travel like the I See You variant
  • Big Black Balls – these things are giant balls that act like Constant Followers, but are the only robots to travel vertically as well, following the player not just left and right, but up and down as well. They can't travel through platforms though, so can be herded with careful planning. With some good placement, these can even be directed into the path of a robot which instantly kills the Big Black Ball.
  • Big Black Figure Eight Ball – this is the one variant of the Big Black Ball that, instead of following the player, travels quickly in a constant figure eight pattern, This requires careful timing but the predictability makes them easier to avoid than most robots
Not only are robots randomly assigned by type in each game, but they are also randomised in speed. The speeds range from very slow to significantly faster than the player.

With the variety of robots in the game, even after many attempts, each room requires careful planning in case a robot does something unexpected.

There are four ways to die in the game: touching a robot; getting hit by a robot's electricity bolt; falling down a bottomless pit; or entering Elvin's room without the password. Each death costs you six minutes (doesn't sound like much, but you pretty much have to search every object and you will die A LOT in this game, and have a six hour time limit.

Each room has lots of items you have to search. Searching requires you to push forward at the item until the search bar decreases. Again, the search bar is of a random size, often requiring multiple attempts only slightly decreasing the search bar between dodging robots.

I always thought the 'searching' animation looks like I'm peeing on his furniture

The items are simple household/office items like chairs, printers, computers and toilets. Searching them can give one of four different things. Most of them contain the dreaded “Nothing here”. Others contain “Snooze” which lets you put robots to sleep for a small time, “Lift Initializers” which lets you reset the lifts to their default position in case you've explored but then left the lifts in a position that makes it impossible to search an item, or “Puzzle Pieces”

Puzzle pieces are the required items for the second part of the game.

Fit the Second: The Big Puzzle

The final room requires a password of nine letters. Each letter requires four puzzle pieces correctly assembled to create the letter in the form of a punch card.

Do any of these punch card parts match? I found this screen overwhelming before I knew what the hell I was supposed to do

You need to rotate the pieces to find out which ones belong together, and also have to change the colours so you can match them. This sounds a lot easier than it is, as it takes a fair bit of practice to sense which pieces fit together. And often you can match two or three pieces but not find the remaining matching piece, which means you've matched the wrong pieces together and need to start again.

Can you guess what 9-letter word the password is spelling?

But after a bit of practice it's fairly straightforward.

Finally, you have to go to the Mad Doctor Elvin's room and confront him at which point he turns around and gives you the third piece of voice synthesis of the game. “No. No. NO! Before an announcer gives you the final voice work of “Mission Accomplished. Congratulations.”

At this point any self-respecting Mad Scientist would have pointed out that I didn't bring a weapon and killed me - is Elvin the only evil genius who doesn't keep a weapon close to hand in the control room of his subterranean stronghold ?

Now, on to the ratings.

Final Rating

Puzzles and Solvability - 6
The main puzzle is in the second part of the game, but each room is kind of a puzzle in itself. I'm inclined to give this game a 6 for this category. Working out a plan for each room is fun and the final puzzle really feels like I'm achieving something

For this room my tactic was to get to the top level where the bookcase is and... damn, it's a Still Shooter - need to find a robot snooze password

Interface and Inventory - 5
Inventory consists of 36 puzzle pieces and up to 9 each of Snoozes and Lift Inits. The interface is simple and does the job. A solid 5 for this one!

Story and Setting - 1
The story is simple, and the setting is ridiculous – even a mad scientist wouldn't have 33 rooms full of random household objects and robots – I'm calling it here – stupidity brings this score in at a mere 1

Sound and Graphics - 8
Going back to 1984 I'm calling this a great effort. You can easily tell what each item is (no mean feat for the technology of the time) and the speech was amazing for the time. Not to mention the jumping animation, which for the trivially minded was an unused Summer Games animation that Epyx asked their programmers to create a game around! A promising 8 in this category

Environment and Atmosphere - τ
I don't even know what these two words mean, so I'm going with a score of Tau here.

Dialogue and Acting - 9 ¾
With a whopping four lines of acting (and, incidentally, exactly four lines of dialogue) I'm very close to going with a low score here. I'd like to give it a zero but the voice acting really blew people away at the time so I'm upping it to give this wizardly platformer 9 ¾!

Final Rating
That makes the final score, um... (6+5+1+8+τ+ 9 ¾ )/.6 which equals... 60.05!!!

If you played the game back in the 80s and only remember one room, I'm guessing it's this one

And now that we've broken the seal by including our first primarily action game with adventure elements into the mix, we're really looking forward to adding many other games onto our To Do List. Keep the ideas coming!

Total time: 65 minutes
Deaths: Somewhere in the vicinity of 15

New CAP spending opportunities

And now that that's taken care of, we'd like to announce a new way for you to spend your hard-earned CAPs and alter the future of this blog itself (as much as can be done without a DeLorean, anyway)

Is your favourite game not coming early enough for your liking? Do you hate that we sometimes have two games from the same studio in a row? Do you wish you could change the order that we play games here at The Adventure Gamer?

Well now you can.

Introducing the new “Order Altering scheme”

You can move any game you like up in the order for a simple one time fee of 15 CAPs!

But wait – there's more. If you really can't wait and would like to move your game further up the order you can move it a further place along for 10% less CAPs. You can stack these rewards indefinitely.

Let's look at an example from our spreadsheet:

Our planned 80th game is Dune.

Our 71st game will be Heart of China.

To move Dune into 71st position (up nine places) will cost (15+15*.9+15*.9*.9+15*.9*.9*.9+15*.9*.9*.9*.9+15*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9+15*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9+15*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9+15*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9) or, 91.89 (rounding up to 92 CAPs)

It's as simple as that! For 92 CAPs we could be playing Dune in 3 games time!

Of course, other readers who are fans of Heart of China could vote otherwise and put Heart of China back at number 71 by spending their own 15 CAPs.

Moving games backwards will also work, but won't be quite as simple as moving forwards. To avoid people moving games around too much, moving games backwards will again, cost 15 CAPs, but this time each extra place you move the game will cost an EXTRA 12.5%.

For example, to move Hugo III until after Batman Returns at number 109 (What? We're playing Batman Returns? When did this happen?) it will cost 15+15*1.125+15*1.125*1.125+... what am I, your maths teacher – work it out yourself this time.

So, much fun ahead. For now, we'll bring you back to your scheduled Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck's Revenge post in two days time.

You thought I was kidding about the giggling space penguins, didn't you?


  1. Interesting stuff, but how about letting us move back a game that's already been played? How many CAPs do I have to fork over to make Aperama play Les Manley 2 again?

    1. I am pretty sure that will have to take into account a) how bad the game was and b) how many times it has already been played. I propose that the formula for this would be

      (100 X (100 - PISSED rating of the game))^(number of times the game has been played)

      So, for Les Manley 2, the cost would be 100 X (100-31) = 6900 CAPs. Not impossible, although very improbable.

      Clever readers might have notices that this means Monkey Island 2 (which will obviously get full 100 CAPs) might be played infinitely many times with 0 CAPs - but I guess readers (and Trickster) wouldn't have anything against it.

    2. I'll do it again for a round 7000 paid directly to me. Crowdfund away, Torch.

      Why do we have to round up the figure though, Ilmari? I reckon we can introduce decimal CAPs now that we're in charge.

    3. Hmm... sounds like a good deal. I have 75 CAPs. Anyone wanna chip in...? Only 6925 to go. Can you do a Kickstarter for CAPs?

      Why stop at decimals? How about imaginary CAPs? Like for blogging through a game, you receive 50i+100 CAPs.

      Then again, I guess all CAPs are imaginary...

    4. All sounds good to me. But I'm not sure if 7000 CAPs will get all the way to Aperama. To be sure he gets them all we should raise a bit extra to cover spillages and breakages.

      I'd chip in with 800 CAPs, but I don't quite have enough. Anyone want to lend me 34 CAPs 'till payday?

    5. I can surely offer a loan of 34 CAPs for such an important project. Of course, I demand a reasonable annual interest rate, say 43 %.

  2. Can we spend CAPs to increase a game's score? Like, I think Trickster was FAR too hard on Loom. I want to move it up by just a few points-- like 20. You know, to put it at its proper place on the leaderboard. What will that cost me? 10 CAPs? 100?

    Democracy is really the best way of rating games anyway. Having our community put their money where their mouths are and "vote up" games with their wallets is the best way to ensure fairness. (Just like the American political system!)

    1. I think 1 CAP for 1 point seems fair and obvious. We'll be adjusting our spreadsheet shortly with "commenter bonus" column, just to cover such democratic changes to TAG ratings.

      Of course, our spreadsheet has the curious feature common to many early games that putting too many points in it will eventually get the score back to zero. We thought there's no need to adjust this, since it will give us a a great way to handle negative transactions. Do you think Les Manley 2 deserved no points at all? Don't worry! Just spend 70 CAPs for extra points and its rating will be exactly 0.

    2. I'd like to donate 20 CAPs to each Police Quest game, because Jim Walls is scary and I want to get on his good side.

  3. I rented the Master System 2 version of this game and it bored me to death. Glad to see the Commodore 64 version is slightly better...

    1. Or perhaps Commodore 64 owners were easier to impress...

  4. I assume this rating is an April Fools joke, since the site thinks it's April already (it's still March here in the USA). There's no way this game deserves a 60.

    1. The Adventure Gamer was created by an Australian. Us down here in GMT+10 have two things going for us - we live in the future, and bad Internet due to living in the middle of nowhere.

      I, too, think that Ilmari was too sparing with the numbers. Perhaps π would be a better fit than τ in this instance?

    2. Hey, it's TBD's fault this time! Personally, I would have settled for e.

  5. How many CAPs for me to claim Doom is an adventure game (It has puzzles! It has an inventory (of coloured Keycards)! It's point and click (fire)! Character development (got the chainsaw)), and also make it the next game after Monkey 2? Is it 1 CAP per demon? 1 CAP per shot fired?

    1. 1 CAP per shot fired sounds fair. Of course, the player will have to keep track of shots fired and if we raise 1000 CAPs the game will have to be abandoned if ti takes more than 1000 bullets to beat it. We're no charity here, we ain't shooting demons for free!


      Sure about that promise, TBD?

  6. I love these new additions to the site. Personally, I can't wait for someone to spend 9000 CAPs to make me play Captain Blood through to completion.

    1. I would, but I've already promised all my CAPs to Aperama.

    2. Seems like the CAP spending potential is increasing drastically, so you should also find some new ways of earning CAPs. Or increase the amount of CAPs you can gain from current activities.

      Perhaps you could introduce some kind of combo multiplier. So if you play 2 games in a row, you'd get a x2 multiplier, giving you 200 CAPs for the second game. Then x3 for the third and so on. But if you make a silly comment, you'll break the streak and go back to normal. The multipliers would also be in effect during regular contributions to the blog, like correctly guessing the score of other games, getting a Jim Walls style for moustache for movember, and so on.

    3. *Jim Walls style moustache

      ( y u no hav edit btn? )

    4. Now how much does one earn from growing Jim Walls -mustache? Or should we hand over CAPs for every successful attempt to cosplay famous adventure game developers?

    5. Sigh. As he designated Jim Walls game player here, am I going to have to go back and play Codename: ICEMAN while growing a Jim Walls-style mustache?

    6. Ilmari: I'd say it depends on the mustache. The better the duster, the more CAPs you'll muster

      Alex: Yes! And then you blog about which was the least fun. Playing the game or growing the mustache

  7. Is there any chance in the entire cosmos that a guy named "Elvin Atombender" does NOT grow up to be a mad scientist?

  8. I loved this game when I was a kid but never could finish it. I can't even remember, was it possible to save your game on the C64? That was the downside to alot of games back then. No save option. :(

    1. I'm pretty sure it wasn't possible to save the game back then, sadly - of course, today on a C64 emulator you can save any game at any time :)