Thursday, 27 July 2017

Missed Classic: Enchanter - Magical Mystery Tour

Written by Joe Pranevich



Last week, I started my explorations of Enchanter by breaking into an ancient castle inhabited by an evil warlock. It seemed to be going well at first except I was too tired to memorize any spells, failed to find a safe place to sleep, and then was captured by cultists and sacrificed on an altar to a bloodthirsty god. I did manage to learn two new spells (one to open doors and another to repair damaged objects), found a mirror leading to the original Zork games, and encountered a door so heavily guarded that it’s defenses had defenses. Fort Knox would be easier to enter! The game is a ton of fun so far but I’ve barely cracked the surface. How am I going to find and defeat the Warlock? Will I win by opening a stuck door at him?

I will start this week by saying that I solved the sleeping issue immediately. Not really having any better ideas, I tried sleeping immediately after restoring from my trauma and that worked for some reason without any hassle. I have to assume that it’s a random event and I was just unlucky the last time, but I honestly have no idea. Did I just sleep in the wrong room? At the wrong time? Who knows but at least I can memorize some spells and start a less haphazard exploration of my environment.

“She turned me into a newt! … I got better?”

Northern Part of the Castle

For the rest of this post, I’m going to divide the castle into regions for ease of digestion. There will be a map at the end in case you have difficulty following along. Although I didn’t know it yet, the castle is a square with towers in all four corners plus a temple in the courtyard in the middle. There’s a western exit that I haven’t quite found a way into yet which will have to wait until I solve some more of the mysteries. I’m going to narrate the areas as I found them; unlike in most of the Zork games, I did surprisingly little “puzzle hopping” this week and so this is a more faithful retelling of the events as I experienced them than usual.

My first stop is in the swamp north of the castle. When I briefly paused here last week, I had found a group of frogs sitting on lily pads but I was too tired to learn the “speak to animals spell”. Now that I’m rested, I cast that first and have a chat with my amphibian neighbors. Actually, just standing around hearing them talk is funny enough (apparently, they all used to be princes and enjoy playing games by Infocom) but they also tell me that there is a scroll hidden under a lily pad. I search there and find the “cleesh” shell which turns someone into an amphibian. Well, now I see the source of frogs’ troubles! Why would someone leave that scroll hidden there, I have no idea, but it seems useful and I transcribe it into my spellbook.

In the northeast part of the castle, I darted through a library last time but did not pause to explore it. This time I realize that all of the books have been destroyed, burned in a bonfire in the center of the room. Only one book survived (more on that in a second) but there seems to be a trail of rat footprints that lead from the pile to a hole in the wall. The hole is too dark to look into and feeling around doesn’t seem to help. I try to shine my lamp in the hole but I don’t think the game understands me. Do I need to find a rat to talk to? I try turning myself into a newt and crawling into the hole, but apparently when I do that I die immediately because newts don’t care much about defeating Warlocks. Every now and then, a group of cultists enter the room and I have to leave before they capture me. I can defeat them easily enough by turning them into newts, but all that wins me is a few turns. There seems to be no end of evil cultists.



The Terror that Flaps in the Night

The burned book I found still has two sections legible: a passage on the “Unseen Terror” and one on the “Implementers”. The Terror was a great evil who was lured underground by the promise of a powerful scroll and then left trapped there. That sounds distinctly like a hint. Am I going to have to use one of my scrolls or my spellbook as magic-bait? The Implementers seem to be meta-fiction, probably a callback to the Tomb of the Implementers back in mainframe Zork. Is this the first real Implementer reference since that game? I’m not sure. Does anyone remember? I know they will be quite important in a later game, but I do not recall which one. (Maybe Beyond Zork?) I try to fix the book using the “krebf” spell to find more to read but that does not work.

Just south of the library is the junction where I was captured last time with exits in all cardinal directions. I can’t seem to find a way to go anywhere without being captured; even turning monks into newts doesn’t get me through. I’ll need to find a way past them to explore the eastern annex of the castle. As I head back to the entrance, I pass again through the Hall of Mirrors. I mentioned this last week as the spot where I occasionally see the adventurer from Zork. I can’t seem to talk to him, knock on the glass, or do anything else to get his attention yet and he doesn’t even always appear. I’ll have to come back later.
 
Northern Towers

By popular request...

Before I finish with the northern part of the castle, I still have to explore the towers in the northwest and northeast corners. The eastern tower, close to the library, has one of the most amazing descriptions we’ve seen in a long while. I can’t give it justice, but it’s essentially a massive door with a lock wrapped in six-inch iron chains, guarded by a five-headed monster, gargoyles, “slimy groping tentacles”, and a sign with a helpful note just to “Don’t Bother”. I included a screenshot above. I tried a “rezrov” spell just in case this was the Zork equivalent of the Colossal Cave dragon (you know the one…), but all that happened is that the sign changed to read “Fat Chance”. Attempts to open it or get past the monsters eventually result in my death. Is this where the Warlock is hiding? Or a particularly awesome piece of treasure? I will have to find another path through there later.

The northwest tower is less imposing, essentially containing only a room with a mechanical golden egg, reminiscent of the one from Zork I. This one has several mechanisms to help you unlock it including a handle, a slide, a knob, a crank, and a button. Expecting a combination lock, I manipulate all of those in random order and the egg opens! With 120 combinations, there is no way I could be that lucky, but when I peer inside all I find is a scroll that has been shredded by the internal mechanism. Do you need to find the right order to open the egg? I try a few more times but each time the scroll is shredded and there does not seem to be any clues that help you narrow down the combination. Just before I give up, I remember that I have a “krebf” spell to “repair willful damage”. Is failing a puzzle considered willful? I don’t know, but I try it and the scroll is restored as good as new! That gets me “zifmia”, a spell to summon a creature. I don’t know what to do with that yet so I add it to my spell book and head south to explore the rest of the castle.

Southern Part of the Castle

The one and only, Lord Dimwit Flathead

With the northern section explored, I arrive back at the courtyard where I entered the first time. There’s a temple complex in there and possibly two more towers (the descriptions are a bit difficult to visualize) but whenever I get too close, I get captured and sacrificed. The only thing of note in that area is a small closet that contains a jeweled treasure chest wrapped with thousands of gold strands. My first instinct is to treat it like a Gordian knot and cut it, but I neither have any cutting implements or spells. I mark it on my map and will come back later.

Just as before, there is a tower in the corner but I pass it for now to explore the southern hall. Roughly parallel to the Hall of Mirrors on the other side of the castle is the Portrait Gallery, a hall containing pictures of familiar faces including Dimwit Flathead (mentioned in Zork I and encountered in III) and the Wizard of Frobozz (from Zork II).These are the first real signs that this game takes place in the Zork universe! I cannot find anything useful I can do with them so I move along. In the east side of the castle, apparently just south of the junction where I keep getting captured, is a banquet room containing a seemingly delicious (but somehow un-filling) spread of food. Is the food an illusion? I’m not sure. Just east of there is a kitchen containing garbage and a rat’s nest. I search for an actual rat so I can talk to it and maybe learn about the library, but there’s none here either. There is also a southern gate out of the castle and that leads to a beach. A rainbow-shelled turtle lives there. I can talk to him using the “nitfol” spell but he doesn’t help me much. This is clearly a puzzle but not one that I think I have the spells or objects to understand yet. I am getting frustrated.


The one in the game is much more colorful. 

Southern Towers & Dungeon
Just as in the north, there are towers in each of the southern corners. Actually, now that I think about it, this castle is surprisingly regular and easy to visualize. A nice easy “map” for new adventurers? The top of the southwest tower contains an old-fashioned four-post bed. I don’t do anything with it immediately but I’ll cut to the chase by saying that I came back here right away the next time I was sleepy. When I sleep in the bed, I have a strange dream: a damsel, holding a scroll, is standing nearby fiddling with the bedpost. When I awaken, I search the post where the dream-girl was fiddling and discover a “vaxum” scroll! That spell makes a hostile creature into a nice one. I run back to the library to try it on some of the cultists but that just buys me a little extra time. The eastern tower contains a gigantic engine with hammering pistons that crash down in the center of the room. There’s a doorway to the southeast, but I can’t go down there without being flattened. I’ll mark it on my map to come back to it later.

I might not have mentioned it before, but the southern hallway also featured a stairway down into the castle’s dungeon. There’s a partly blocked hole deeper into the earth, but I explore the dungeon level first and find a single unoccupied cell. Searching carefully, I find a loose brick which I move to reveal a partly-completed secret passageway. Whatever poor soul was digging this passage didn’t quite finish before he or she met their fate… At the end of the incomplete tunnel is a silver spoon and an “exex” scroll which causes things to move at greater speed. Using that scroll, I backtrack to the hammer room and use my newly increased speed to run through the hammers. Crossing the room triggers something of a trap because the hammers actually increase further in speed. I pick up the scroll (“kulkad”, a spell to dispel magic) and try to cross back across the room. I’m able to avoid the hammers! Unfortunately, I’m less successful avoiding a mass of flying spears which shoot out of the walls and kill me. I have the start of a good idea, but there is more to this puzzle…


A nice square castle.

I return to the dungeon and explore the lower recesses of the dungeon. Down there is a set of “Translucent Rooms”, strange cream-colored walls with perfectly round exits which have a black, inky darkness. This is clearly a magical place, or at least a strange one and not a typical castle dungeon. Dave Lebling loves his strange twists on mazes (the baseball maze in Zork II and the village in Starcross come immediately to mind) and I suspect this is another one of those. Mapping it is easy by looking at the unique exits but even in the innermost room, there is nothing to do. I’ll need to work out the trick.

With that, I’ve explored the castle from end to end and found everything I can. I have a few new spells to try in different places and a few new leads, but I’m going to pause my explorations here for now. I should also mention that I’ve been eating and sleeping at regular intervals and am nearly out of bread. I am also getting messages that the days seem to be getting shorter. Infocom is legendary for making you replay games to do them in a fewer number of turns and I may be getting to that point with Enchanter already. My map is filling out nicely but there are still far too many unsolved puzzles marked in red.

Inventory: Spellbook, brass lantern (glowing), bread, jug of water, book, mechanical egg, spoon
Spells: blorb, nitfol, frotz, gnusto, rezrov, krebf, cleesh, zifmia, vaxum

Time played: 3 hr 35 min
Total time: 4 hr 35 min

5 comments:

  1. Excellent progress. Here's today's useless Fun Fact, and also a quality-of-life piece of advice (not a spoiler, but something that will allow to better focus on the meat of the game).

    Fun Fact: REZROV works on the egg (same result, shredding the scroll, but much faster than manipulating the buttons etc.) and on the bedpost with VAXUM in it.

    Quality of life tip: You don't need to eat the instant your stomach growls. You can wait to chow down until the warnings are much more dire - I believe your last chance is something like "you are about to pass out from lack of food." Eating restarts the hunger timer completely no matter how hungry you are when you eat, so by delaying as long as possible you can stretch your bread for quite a long gameplay session. (Same holds true for drinking water, though that's less important as water is infinitely renewable.)

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  2. Forgot to mention that it's not possible to find the button to open the bedpost unless you've actually had that dream. You can search the bedpost all you want, but if it's before that dream, you'll never find the button. Weirdly however, you *can* use REZROV to open the bedpost even if you haven't had the dream.

    Points scored so far:

    15 - drinking water for the first time
    10 - eating bread for the first time
    20 - opening the castle gate
    20 - creating a light source
    5 - opening the egg
    10 - repairing the shredded scroll
    20 - opening the bedpost

    100 points so far out of 400 total. Title: Novice Enchanter. (Previous titles: Charlatan at 0, and Parlor Magician at 50.)

    And I see from your screenshot that you've already gone significantly past this point, score-wise. :)

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    1. Yeah. I'm a bit farther in my playing than my writing but I jumped back to the guarded door to take a screenshot. You are very detailed to notice the score being too high. ;)

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  3. Sometimes when I'm reading these posts I forget you're playing an all-text adventure as your descriptions have me clearly visualizing the scenes. Nice work!

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    1. Well, don't thank me, thank Infocom. They are the ones with the vivid descriptions, I'm just trying to do my best to convey how I feel about the game as I write it up.

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