Saturday, 6 May 2017

Dark Seed - Groundhog Day

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Mike Dawson journal #1 : That’s it I’ve finally found the house of my dreams where I’ll be able to write my first best-seller. Funny how cheap it was. The real estate agent didn’t even try to negotiate when I lowered the price. It’s remote, calm and old, perfect for my needs. Now if I can only find some aspirin in order to remove this horrible headache I have since I’ve made this terrible nightmare…

The first minutes in Dark Seed perfectly gives the tone for the rest of the game. We begin with a quite jarring nightmare scene where aliens split Mike’s head open and put some kind of embryo in it. The Alien comparison is still accurate, even if this way is kinda even scarier than the facehuggers.

Even more horrifying : Mike’s moustache.


The game properly starts right after that when you wake up from this horrible dream. Mike keeps on telling he has a terrible headache, so the first task is to find aspirin. The interface is straightforward enough. Three icons, one to walk, the other to look at and the last to interact with something. Simply waving your cursor around shows the hotspots, which are kinda scarce so at least it’s generally easy to find what you can interact with. I first go to the bathroom next door and find some aspirin in the closet. I also take a shower because in a Sierra game, it would grant me some points.

And considering the risk of dead-ends, I wouldn’t want to face a game over screen later because I smell bad.

I then proceed to explore the house. The interior decoration would be enough to put nightmares in anyone’s head. In the attic I find a locked trunk that seems conspicuous enough but I don’t have any way of opening it yet. Downstairs, I realise that my precious mirror has been broken! The movers were kind enough to leave me a note explaining they didn’t do it. Of course. They also tell me that if the piece missing turns up, they’ll send it to me. How kind.

Maybe the house did belong to a Giger fan?

I then proceed to explore the kitchen which contains no less than five empty cabinets. Suddenly, the doorbell rings! Excited by this promise of plot setting up in motion I go open it and get a package. The package contains a cute baby doll that suddenly turns into a grotesque horrible deformed shape! Shaken by this vision, I also realise that nothing else happens. I don’t have a package or a doll in my inventory, nor does my character comment on it. Strange. Let’s proceed with my exploration of the house.

Cute doll. Thanks. Now what was I doing? Oh yeah the cabinets in the kitchen.

The cellar contains hundreds of wine bottles. Score! Then I realise they’re all empty, which is probably the most horrifying thing in this house so far… In the study, I find a map of the house, which is the first item to show up in my inventory. On it I spot a secret passage going between the study and the upstairs bedroom that I can now open. I find a length of rope in it.

What? No game room and no sauna? What a ripoff.

Another spot on the map attracts my attention : the balcony which I didn’t see the first time. Going back to the attic I see an exit behind the trunk and realise I can push it by clicking on its side. After three tries I manage to free the exit and get on the balcony. I also pick up a watch on the ground. Seeing a gargoyle on the balcony (or grotesque as Bargon Attack taught me) I proceed to tie the rope to it and use it to go into the garden because why not? Adventure game logic!

Weeeee I’m enjoying my new house!

In the garage next door I find an old battered car and a crowbar in its trunk. Going on the left side of the house allows me to get to the front door. I find a newspaper on the ground telling me that a crime spree is in the neighborhood. What a charming welcome…

As soon as I come back into the house the phone starts ringing. I have no idea if these scripts happen after actions I’ve taken or just by the time passing by. Looking at the watch every now and then shows my the hour is (quickly) moving on so I’m guessing I’m under a time limit if I want to do all the things I need to do per day (whatever they may be…). Funnily enough after a few times checking the watch, it stopped working and I had to wind it up for it to give me the time again… Maybe I can only check the watch a limited number of times? We’ll see about that.

The phone ringing was the librarian, Sue, telling me she had a book on hold for me. Finally, a quest! An ordeal! Something to do with myself other than just randomly tying ropes to gargoyles and pacing back and forth the house! I have one last thing to check before leaving the house.

I bought the house, I can break whatever I want in it!

Opening the trunk with the crowbar I find a diary in it. Apparently I wasn’t the first guy in this house to be having nightmares and strange visions. The last owner had the same trouble. In his diary, he is also talking about a “other side” and alien beings. Apparently the mirror is some kind of gateway. Too bad it’s broken then! Finding this missing piece will probably be important if I want to check this “other side”.

I finally exit the house and start to explore the surroundings. On the left path I find a cemetery which is probably the best place for a nice, relaxing stroll. Except for a huge mausoleum with the name “Tuttle” on it, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of things of interest. I’m guessing I’ll probably have to come back there later.

The cemetery has a few celebrities buried in it though…

The path on the other side of the road allows me to reach the quiet little town next door, which has a kind of a “Twin Peaks” vibe to it (mainly because any little town in a horror or mystery game has a kind of a “Twin Peaks” vibe to it nowadays). Aaand… everything is closed because it’s after six… I think I’ve been a little too long mainly because I stopped playing every now and then in order to write notes… Let’s restart and try to reach the town before dark…

Okay campers rise and shine, it’s the groundhog day!

Redoing everything allows me to see that the postman comes at 10 am and the phone rings at 11:30. Retracing all my steps, I can now exit the house with the same items and informations before midday. Time to explore the town!

Welcome to Silent Hill.

I pass the police station, food market and barber shop to reach the library. There an “extremely beautiful woman” (the game's words, not mine) hands me over the book they had on hold for me. When I look at it, the first page changes and reads “Tune in to the right station for a dependable word from a concerned friend.” Ok, too bad the only thing I wasn’t able to locate so far was a radio player. I explore the rest of the library but can’t find anything except an empty microfilm reader which I’m sure will come in handy later.

Trying to touch the librarian grants you what I guess is a Leisure Suit Larry reference!

I proceed then to explore the rest of the town. The barber already has a customer so I can’t do anything here. I go into the general store and buy a bottle of cheap scotch. The clerk then tells me “it’s the last one, Delbert’s gonna be mad!”. Said Delbert then comes in the store and introduces himself as my neighbor and proposes we meet the next day at six. He gives me his card, telling me he is a lawyer. Might come in handy.

He probably will kill me in order to get the scotch for himself, however.

I can buy other stuff as well, crackers! Sardines! Soy sauce! Then I realise I only have three bills in my inventory, which it would have been nice to warn me about, especially now that I see there is also insecticide to buy, which by the laws of adventure game logic, is usually more useful than a can of sardines. I smell a potential dead-end here. I reload and buy the crackers and insecticide. The next building is the police station, which is empty, except for… a gun. On the wall…

Obviously

Not trying to think too much about what kind of police stations has guns on the open for everyone to take, I also look around the place to see an empty “lost & found” box and a map of the city which doesn’t grant me any new information. I save my game and go back into the general store with my gun. I want my can of sardines! Using the gun on the clerk tells me I have no bullet for it. Good to know the only thing stopping my character to randomly kill anyone he wants is the lack of bullets.

Not knowing what else I could do in the town, I decide to go back to my house. I walk around it a few hours to see if the doorbell or the phone rings but no luck. With a very clear feeling that I’ve missed a few things along the ride, I save my game and go to bed… Strange first day. At least I have a meeting for tomorrow, but the lack of general purpose or goal is disturbing. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll find the missing piece of mirror and a way in the alien world…

Me and my bottle of scotch will go to bed now

Session time : 1 hour
Total time : 1 hour

Inventory : Watch, Blueprints, Crowbar, Diary, Scotch, Crackers, Insecticide, Business Card, Gun.

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!

10 comments:

  1. Doesn't look too promising, as the tone is already all over the place, what with the overly obvious in-jokes (Threepwood gravestone) and everything.

    >I think I’ve been a little too long mainly because
    >I stopped playing every now and then in order to write notes

    Alt-pause pauses (and unpauses) DOSBox, so you could always pause it when making notes.

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    1. Thanks for the pause shortcut. Now I know how time can fly by and put you in an dead-end position, I'll be more careful. Since the post, I've been caught outside my bed at 21:00 and Mike just lies down in the street to sleep in this case, waking up the next morning having been robbed of all his items... Talk about narcolepsy issues...

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  2. This is a game that I've been wanting to play since its release but for various reasons I was not able to. Many years later, when I tried it on Dosbox I had many technical issues and problems which stopped me then as well. I'd try it now but I think it would feel a bit dated and clunky interface-wise so instead of that, I will carefully read all your progress and pretend I'm playing it! :D

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  3. "I smell a potential dead-end here."

    Yep, the game is just a snare full of dead-ends. I am actually pondering, whether we should be merciful and warn you of some of the worse mistakes you could be making or just let you play the same scenes multiple times. Oh well, I guess the score you give will be more realistic, if you will hit the wall a couple of times.

    "Strange first day."

    Yeah, the neat stuff begins next day. And you really won't know why you did some things during the first day, before you'll have played the second day.

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    Replies
    1. I say it depends on the nature of the dead ends. Hitting one or two minor ones to let him get a taste sounds reasonable, but I haven't played the game so I wouldn't really know. I think we definitely should avoid another resurrection card -type scenario of forcing the blogger to replay the whole game - it was funny only once.

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    2. I think ROT13 might be in order here.

      Gur tnzr vgfrys vf cerggl fubeg - vg ynfgf bayl guerr qnlf - fb gurer'f abg gung zhpu ercynlvat gb or qbar. Gur terngrfg ceboyrz vf gur gvtug fpurqhyr, juvpu qbrfa'g tvir zhpu bs n yrrjnl sbe enaqbz jnaqrevat.

      Fb, gurer ner guvatf Nyserq unfa'g frra lrg, nygubhtu ur pbhyq unir - naq ur zvtug abg unir gvzr sbe gurz va yngre qnlf. Gurer ner ng yrnfg guerr fhpu guvatf:

      n) Ur unfa'g sbhaq n pneq bs n yvoenel obbx jvguva n wnpxrg va uvf jneqebor. Guvf pneq bcraf hc n jubyr arj yvar bs chmmyrf gb fbyir.
      o) Ur unfa'g orra JVGUVA gur pne, jurer ur jbhyq unir sbhaq n arj vairagbel vgrz naq gur enqvb ur frnepurq sbe.
      p) Ur unfa'g cvpxrq hc n cvkry-jvqr cva va gur yvoenel.

      V nz nyfb cerggl fher ur jbhyq fgvyy arrq gb ubyq ba gb uvf qbyynef. Whfg gnxr gur fpbgpu naq abguvat ryfr.

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    3. Thanks for your support guys, I'll look into it if (when?) I'm stuck. For now I'm still making progress. Still, I've encountered another dead-end but was able to reload and go around it. Good to know I have some help here if needed...

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  4. I am really enjoying this playthrough! This is a game I always wanted to get into, but never found the time or opportunity. This blog is the bestttttttttttttt

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  5. If adventure games thought me anything, it was that you never should buy a house with hidden rooms. Survival horror games reinforce that.

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  6. I like the shot of meeting Delbert in the shop, or as I like to call it, "Blue shirt with brown pants meets brown shirt with blue pants while bluecoat watches on, hoping one of them will buy some of his blue or brown goods, or even some of his rarer green items."

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