Thursday, 6 July 2017

Missed Classic: Leather Goddesses of Phobos - The Sultan of Schwing

When we left off last time I'd just escaped from a gorilla's body in a mad scientist's lab in Venus.

Inside the locked lab is another black teleportation circle, which I enter, ending up outside the scientists' house. A few screens later is another black circle, which I also enter.

After entering the circle I am now in...


MARS

I arrive in a ruined castle where I get told the story of King Mitre – on Earth we've heard a bastardized version about King Midas who turned everything he touched into gold, including his daughter. The real story is about King Mitre, who turned everything he touched into a forty-five degree angle. Next to him is a pile of angles, including one with golden hair and a flowing white gown {HINT! HINT!}



Lebron knows exactly how King Mitre feels

One of the items I need is an 82º angle, but the ones in Mitre's throne room are all 45º. Touching the 'princess' angle just gets King Mitre upset. I try to think of ways to convert them to 82º, but as there's no obvious way to change them, I continue exploring.

What I discover is that Mars is big, like, REALLY big, and unlike last time I was here, when I had a flying car to help me traverse the planet, here I have to do it by foot (or boat, but we'll get to that later)


ANNOYANCE OF THE WEEK

Last time my annoyance of the week (which wasn't actually in the original post, but I did mention it) was the text parser. I knew what I wanted to do, and tried a few ways to make the game understand what I wanted to do. The problem is, if I KNEW I had the right solution, I would have kept changing my wording until I'd succeeded, but that's not how adventure games work. You try something, you fail, you try something else. If nothing works, it's either something that can't be done or something that requires an item I don't yet have.

My annoyance this week is games that deliberately make mapping difficult. It's not hard to map a game if it works the way it should. If I go west, then go east, I should be at the same place. Easy to map – easy to understand. If instead of going east I have to go south, screw you game – stop wasting my time. The worst part is that, while last week's annoyance is caused by limited technology and foresight, the reason mapping is difficult has to be a deliberate design decision to lazily extend play time/difficulty.

Fortunately for me, while in the past I would have had a piece of paper with lots of scribbling out and starting again, these days with my multi-monitor setup I can simply Alt-TAB to a spreadsheet and change where the squares are at will. But even a spreadsheet seemed like too much for me this time, so I found a program (Trizbort) that would let me make a map of an annoyingly designed adventure game world. Here's my map

Despite finding mapping a chore as I did it, I actually do enjoy seeing my final results here - looks somewhat elegant now

BACK TO THE GAME

Apart form King Mitre's Castle, the most useful or interesting things I found on Mars were:
  • A frog – the frog has a crown, so I try to kiss it – my character won't do it due to the disgusting sight (I try CLOSE EYES, which works until I notice the smell)
  • A dock with a marsmouse (I need a mouse for my collection)
  • Some dunes with a dead alien, a coded message and some lip balm (I take the coded message and the balm) – the coded message is gibberish, but we'll attempt to decode it later.
  • An 'Exit Shop' who wants 1 marsmid in exchange for an 'Exit' – a coin I picked up on Venus is worth 10 marsmids, but he won't give change.
  • A desert oasis with a rabbit and a white circle. I can take the rabbit, and for a little fun, put him in the TEE remover to turn him into a rabbi, who immediately leaves to find a machine gun. I can also use my can of black stain on the white circle, creating a portal to Cleveland
  • A Sultan's palace, that I'll get to in detail shortly
  • And a canal system, which I'll also get to in detail a bit later

THE SULTAN'S PALACE

The Sultan's Palace is an area off one of the docks. Of small interest, it contains:
  • A laundry room with a clothes pin – I immediately think of using it to block my nose when kissing the frog
  • A tower with a teleportation circle that takes me back to my cell in Phobos
  • A garden with a well that teleports me back to the barge at the dock (which I later found out was ANY dock the barge was at)
Of greater interest is the Sultan's Audience Chamber. As soon as I arrive, he tells me that I must answer a riddle. If I answer correctly I may spend one hour with any of his wives. If I answer incorrectly, or do anything else, I will die.

I, of course, save the game.
“Oh, all right,” says the Sultan, “I'll bend the rules a tad. You may SAVE.”
He tells me the riddle, but before I can answer Trent butts in.

No.... Trent... My loyal compan... ah, you know what? I can't even pretend I care. But I will think about you next time I need some shoulders to stand on.
>“I don't understand the word 'shoulders'.”
Get stuffed, game!

Feel free to make your own guess at the riddle before reading on...
Some say I'm pointless,
yet many are obsessed by me.
I have caused heroic gambles
and sown endless frustration.
Uncounted deaths have I caused.
What am I?
I think for a moment, then SAY “TIME”

Wrongo! I get eaten by a very very very very ferocious tiger.

I try a few other options, all of which seem to fit the riddle...
LIFE
DEATH
LOVE
GOLD
I'm dead, each time.

Then I had a thought. I didn't think it would work, but it did fit the clues (as did a whole lot of answers, including the ones I'd already guessed)
>SAY “RIDDLES”
It worked! It didn't seem any more likely than the other answers, but hey, I'm not tiger food, so I'll worry about the lack of clarity in the Sultan's riddle later.

A guard blocks my way to the harem, and after pointing out that I'm not the first to get the riddle – some guy got it last year and now everyone knows, I'm even the twelfth winner this week – she asks me to pick a wife between 1 and 8379.

I figure there has to be a trick to which number I choose, so I start with 8380, then zero. No luck with those. I tried 507 for no reason other than I saw it on TV last night, but she wasn't available. A few others weren't around, including wife #731 (the only recognisable number from the encoded message) but eventually wife #55 was here. She showed up and I got to smell her with scratch 'n' sniff spot 4 (She smells like fine perfume, and if you expected anything else that's on you.)

I slept with her because who wouldn't sleep with wife #55, and I somehow did it without removing my brass loincloth (worn).

I was certain there had to be something else I needed to do with her, but couldn't think of anything. I tried giving her everything from my inventory but she wasn't interested in anything but my (admittedly alluring) body.

Eventually I just left.


THE CANAL SYSTEM

The barge, which starts off at the Royal Docks, where I arrived from Venus, can be controlled somewhat. It follows the current, and its two controls can be used to stop it; an orange button turns the magnetic lock off or on, and the purple button turns the engines on or off. Basically I kept the engines on, and by disengaging the magnetic lock, then re-engaging it a turn later, I could always end up at the next dock. Some of the docks are many screens (or turns) away, but I usually just WAITed until the maglock found the next dock.

Most docks have comedic names (The Hickory and Dickory Dock, made from Earth Hickory wood and Venusian Dickory wood, Donald Dock, Wattz-Upp Dock, and Now THIS is My Kind of Dock

At one point, where the exit to the Wattz-Upp Dock is, there's a buoy with a skull and crossbones on it

I keep going past the skull and crossbones buoy and...

Oh, is that all. I was expecting something dangerous

Further on, the barge stops at the edge of the polar ice cap. I get out here and notice I have a headache. Looks like I won't be able to spend too much time here due to the cold, I thought, and continued exploring.

I found an Allusion Room, which contained another black teleportation circle that takes me back to the Wattz-Up Dock. It has a somewhat amusing description.
Allusion Room
A solitary black circle is the only break in an vaste expanse of whiteness extending to the horizon. Like a dark speck in a sea of white, or a huge piece of typing paper with but a single period typed unon it, this black circle seems to have been placed here entirely as an opportunity for some silly literary allusions. To avoid the danger of accidentally typing an “L” and having to read them again, follow the faint trails to the north or east.
Further on, I find some penguins, one of which wants a donation to the Penguin Retirement Fund of nine marsmids. I give it my coin and get one marsmid back (I recall that I can use that one marsmid coin to buy an exit from the “Exit Store")

I also find a robot gypsy camp. After greeting me, the robot gypsies are immediately destroyed by a meteorite, leaving their baby robot shivering and crying.


Naturally I take it.

At this point I realise that my headache was not caused by the cold, and I'm dead. Turns out my headache was caused by the ion blast from the metal object I passed in the canal, and I was killed by a cataclysmic exothermic reaction.

Like this but more cataclysmic

I try to be a bit more economical with my turns and find that there is an orphanage at the south pole. I try knocking or dropping the crying baby but am treated with the same thing – the matron kicking me out.

I restore to before I passed the danger buoy and try a few more things.

I attempt to kiss the frog, now that I have a clothes pin. I pin my nose and close my eyes, but...

If I wasn't in an adventure game I'd have people wondering why I'm so damn keen to kiss a frog.

I try a few other things – using the loincloth or different ways of using the blanket or basket. One attempt gets me a reference to one of my favourite books.
>Put blanket on head
Where do you think you are, Traal?
Eventually I try "COVER EARS WITH HANDS" which works. I wear the lip balm (after some serious inventory juggling) and can now kiss the frog.

The frog turns into a princess who starts to make love with me until she disappears, leaving behind only a blender and a note of gratitude.

ITEMS FOUND: 2 of 8 – blender, rubber hose

At some point I also have a great idea that I should have had much earlier.

I go back to the scene with the marsmouse and show him the picture of a pussy cat that I have in my overflowing inventory. He freezes in fear and I now have a mouse

ITEMS FOUND: 3 of 8 – mouse, blender, rubber hose


TITS

I searched google for an appropriate picture, but then I got distracted. What was I doing again?

At one point, which seems to be random, I got a warning. The warnings continued for a few turns and... rather than explaining I'll just pop up a summary of the incident...

Possibly my favourite part of the game


THE BOSS KEY

Something I found about online that doesn't appear in the documentation is a BOSS key – it has nothing to do with the puzzle we're solving now, I just thought I'd mention it.



BONUS BLACK CIRCLE

As I was looking at my screenshots to write this post, I found another black teleportation circle I'd missed.

This circle was subtly mentioned so I missed it first time through – I didn't see it on future visits because you don't get the description a second time unless you type LOOK (or change the settings to VERBOSE, which I did after noticing what I'd missed.)

This circle just takes me back to the basement of Phobos. Many of theses circles seemed to be placed deliberately to lessen the chance of dead-ends by allowing you to return to previous locations. This is something else I appreciated. (Take note, Sierra!)


CLEVELAND


I go back to the Martian Oasis and hop into the black circle to Cleveland.

Cleveland is a small area with a house and a yard. I can take a rake, a trellis and a sack of leaves. I can remove the leaves, leaving more room in my inventory for items. I found earlier that I could put items in my wicker basket and carry more. Now I also have my very own sack of holding.

Inside the house is a bedroom with a window overlooking a street. Nothing exciting there, but a car parked on the street is a 1933 Ford and one of its headlights is loose.

Leaving by the window has me promptly in multiple pieces on the pavement, so I try a different method. I take a sheet from the bed, tied it to the bed and throw it out the window. It doesn't go very far. I try to ...

>TIE TRELLIS TO SHEET, only to be told that I've tied the trellis
You've tied the trellis! In the third quarter, with forty seconds on the clock, the score is trellis 17, player 17!!! But seriously, folks, you can't tie the trellis.

DECODING THE MESSAGES

I have two messages I need to decode

Let's try them

MESSAGE FROM TRENT

I had noticed that the crumpled up message from Trent's cell had some of the items I needed written on them. Further investigation showed that all eight items were all listed on the paper. I shoved the letters onto a spreadsheet and coloured them in to see if there was a pattern.

The ones in yellow are letters that appear, green are letters that appear twice and blue is a letter that appears three times.

Most importantly, starting from the top left with the letters that don't appear at all gives me...

HISSING FRIGHTENS FLYTRAPS

This would be of more interest to me if I'd decoded it before passing the Venus flytrap by hiding in the hole, but thanks for the help anyway, Trent's subconscious.

I thought I'd try it anyway and went back to Venus, hissed at the flytrap and watched it immediately die of fright. I also noticed I could now go west, as the creature had been blocking the exit.

I did so, and found a jar of untangling cream

This woke my brain up as I had a 'eureka' moment.

These eureka moments are the moments I love in adventure games. When I get an item, or see something or get told some information and I don't just guess, but I KNOW what puzzle it's used for - it's a puzzle I discovered a while ago and have been unable to solve but as soon as this happens, I have my answer. This was one of those times. And it felt good!

If you've been paying attention you may have worked it out too. I had a jar of untangling cream and a 'T' remover. I also have a room full of angles surrounding a depressed King.

I put the jar into my TEE remover machine and now I have a jar of UNANGLING cream. I went straight to the King, and rubbed the cream on his daughter. She turned back into a princess.

The King was overjoyed, and gave me an 82 degree angle he'd made earlier because he just brushed against it (This makes no sense, but since it's a comedy game I'd forgive it if it was funny – actually it wasn't funny enough for me but it was trying to be and I'm in a good mood from solving a puzzle so I'll forgive it anyway.)

Because I'd saved her, I attempted to kiss the princess. King Mitre didn't let me – let her answer for herself, Mitre. I then attempted to get amorous with the King instead. He slapped me across the face. Oh well. I'll accept my 82 degree angle as full payment instead.

One problem solved and another item found.

ITEMS FOUND: 4 of 8 – 82 degree angle, mouse, blender, rubber hose

As I left the throne room I heard a noise as the King said, "Oh no, not again."

MESSAGE FROM DEAD ALIEN

The message I got from the dead alien reads as follows

VSDFHHQN UXRB VVLN RW UHK JQLNVD BE UHK RW IOHVUXRB BILWQHGL – SDP WHUFHV HKW WHJ GQD QDWOXV HKW IR 731 UHEPXQ HILZ WFDWQRF RW VL QRLVVLP UXRB

This one I solved by reading the documentation – particularly the 3D comic included in the instruction booklet.

You know, if the message had five words, this would be fun, but that's a long-arsed message. Sigh.

Rather than decode the message manually, I decided to shove the letters into a spreadsheet and write a formula to work it out for me (not sure if that makes me lazy or clever)
=CHAR(CODE(A73)-3)
This worked great, except for the Bs, which gave me an error. I considered just doing the Bs manually, but I'd gone this far, so...
=IF(CODE(A73)>69;CHAR(CODE(A73)-3);CHAR(CODE(A73)+23))
Perfect. This gave me SPACEENK RUOY SSIK OT REH GNIKSA YB REH OT FLESRUOY YFITNEDI DD PAM TERCES EHT TEG DNA NATLUS EHT FO (804) REBMUN EFIW TCATNOC OT SI NOISSIM RUOY

Well, it starts off promisingly with SPACE, then continues into gobbledegook. I keep looking at it until the answer hits me - it's also backwards...

YOUR MISSION IS TO CONTACT WIFE NUMBER 408 OF THE SULTAN AND GET THE SECRET MAP – IDENTIFY YOURSELF TO HER BY ASKING HER TO KISS YOUR KNEECAPS

I wasn't sure which number to use. Do the numbers use the same cypher? I had a few options to try. I'd already tried 731 and that didn't work. Other possibilities were 408, 804 or 137.

I ask for wife #137, ask her to kiss my kneecaps, and now that she knows I'm with the rebels she gives me the secret map and a torch and ushers me to a secret entrance to the catacombs. I sleep with her first because, why the hell not, and enter the catacombs


THE CATACOMBS

I should mention that all the adventuring I'd done since my first visit to the palace had been without Trent, as he'd been eaten by the tiger.

When I entered the catacombs, Trent appeared from behind me, mentioning that he was saved by dimension-hopping midgets that had come through at the right moment, and the tiger cage also lead directly to the catacombs.

I was so surprisingly happy to see Trent. I hugged and kissed him.
[I don't know the work “hug.”]
What kind of an emotionless game are you, anyway?

The documentation also comes with a handy? map to the catacombs. The map consists of 2 parts. Here it is.

I THINK I start at the arrow, but this is very confusing.

This catacomb map is copy protection, but it's also annoyingly convoluted. But that's not all. There's three more issues that make it harder.
  1. Some passages are blocked off - the map is old, and the catacombs have changed (seriously?)
  2. There are two items you need to get from the catacombs 
  3. I keep getting killed by creatures in the catacombs

To get around number 1, you just have to work your way around the map, marking it appropriately when you find blocked off sections, involving lots of saving and reloading.

To get around number 2, you just need to work out which rooms you need to go to in order to get these items.

To get around number 3, we go back to the comic...

Just don't ask me how many fingers you're holding up - I'm genuinely not sure

Yes. You have to CLAP at least every 5 turns, HOP every 9 turns, and KWEEPA every 11 turns.

This would be hard enough without having to refer to the map and get around backtracking due to blocked passages.

After numerous tries and not really wanting to be bothered with tedious mapping and forgetting to KWEEPA at the right time anymore, I gave up and looked up a walkthrough.

A few times I even screwed up following a walkthrough – not sure if that says something more about me than the game.

Here's one such walkthrough...
NW. N. NE. E. CLAP. NE. NE. SE. HOP. CLAP. KWEEPA. D. NW. NE. CLAP. N. S. HOP. NE. CLAP. U. KWEEPA. NW. GET PHONE BOOK. CLAP. NW. HOP. S. SE. CLAP. SE. D. KWEEPA. NE. CLAP. HOP. W. E. W. CLAP. SW. SW. KWEEPA. HOP. CLAP. GET RAFT. N. NE. E. CLAP. NW. N. UP.
Well, it seems so easy when you write it down like that, but trust me. It's hard and annoying.

ITEMS FOUND: 5 of 8 – Cleveland phone book (I really thought I'd find that in Cleveland instead of Mars), 82 degree angle, mouse, blender, rubber hose

Now I've got the fifth item I need and most importantly, I have my friend Trent back. I didn't really care about Trent until I got him back after thinking he was dead. I think playing so long without him made me appreciate his company more.


BACK TO CLEVELAND
Who'd have thought a game from 1986 that takes place in 1936 could somehow justify TWO pictures of Lebron James in a single post

Trent and I go to Cleveland and try to find out how to get the headlight.

I'd previously tried tying the sheet to the bed and putting it out of the window, but it was too short. I tried tying the blanket to the sheet, but that didn't work. Eventually, I decided to RIP SHEET. I ripped the sheet into strips of cloth and tied them together (TIE SHEET TO SHEET) – now it was long enough. As I looked out the window, Trent decided he was lighter, so he'd go down (I'd actually tried this earlier while Trent was missing and I'd died because the sheet broke)

Trent succeeded and got the headlight, but a speeding truck smashed into him, blowing up moments later. I'd just got him back and he'd died. I grieved for a move, then Trent returned.

What a guy!

ITEMS FOUND: 6 of 8 – Headlight, Cleveland phone book, 82 degree angle, mouse, blender, rubber hose

Time to end for now. Tune in next time when I find the last of the two required items and finally meet a Leather Goddess.

Time played: 6 hr 30 mins
Total time: 10 hr 20 mins

Inventory: I actually have no idea - the things I wrote about in this post were all done out of order and in different saves, so it's hard to determine what I had in my possession after solving these particular puzzles. Suffice to say I have a crapton of stuff, and some more stuff dropped in a few places due to having a full inventory.

5 comments:

  1. What a strange game! I can only imagine some of these puzzles if they were made into a graphical adventure...

    And that "tits" gag--legendary.

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  2. I feel an opportunity was lost by the game not using "boobies" so that you could post a picture of some birds.

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  3. But there is a bird called a titmouse.

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    Replies
    1. I was very close to including a picture of great tits from here...

      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/130920-shy-bird-great-tit-science-animal-personality/

      But eventually decided the 'image not found' would be funnier. I may have been wrong.

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  4. No way! That was a great gag! Perfectly fitting for a game like this.

    I'm always in awe as to the patience you and others here have for mapping these text adventures.

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