Wednesday 2 August 2017

Game 86: Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2: Gas Pump Girls Meet the Pulsating Inconvenience from Planet X - Introduction (1992)

Written by TBD

Since Maniac Mansion, Green Tentacle's become hungry for something else

After completing the original Leather Goddesses of Phobos, I was very much looking forward to the sequel, not so much for the opportunity of seeing the aforementioned goddesses in all their VGA graphical glory (Mmmmm, pixelated boobies...), but because of a point-and-click mouse interface - no more parser problems

{I don't understand the word 'point-and-click'}

Screw you, 1980s Intercom.

{I don't see any 'you' here}

Infocom struck me as the adventure game equivalent to what Nokia were in the mobile phone world before smartphones became a thing. When graphics came along, Infocom seemed secure in being the best at the text parser adventure game rather than investing in all the fancy GUI and features.

Well, Infocom was bought by/merged with Activision in 1986, effectively shut down in 1989 and repurposed as a brand name for re-releases of old games in 1992. According to Mobygames, Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2 was the last game showing Infocom as developer, though Infocom was just a name at that point.

Steve Meretzky, after Infocom's demise, had been freelancing, largely with Legend Entertainment, as we've seen in the Spellcasting series. He worked with Activision on this game, which makes sense as the original was one of his babies.

The manual has something to say about Mr. Meretzky

I like the touch of fake animosity where they show Steve's credits for other publishers in a much smaller font.

As with many games of the era, Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2 was entering the world of digitized speech for the first time – the manual proudly mentions over an hour of recorded speech. The game actually came with some hardware that you plugged into the parallel port (and then plugged into your TV/Monitor/Audio system) for music/sound without having a sound card.

Arguably the most useful of Intercom's 'feelies'

Lane Mastodon and the Blubbermen

Before this game Infocom had created an Infocomic that was tangentially related to Leather Goddesses of Phobos: Lane Mastodon and the Blubbermen

It was released in 1988 and was, to put it simply, terrible. It wasn't actually a game, it was a graphic novel with CGA graphics and the only choice of interaction being able to at certain points swap view with some other character and see the story played out in their location. I 'played' it - it took about 30 minutes to watch and was just an unimpressive story. If you went to the trouble of rewinding to see the other character's views you'd get an hour out of it, but with no way to affect the story it doesn't have much replayability. The Commodore 64 version looks a bit better - or at least more colourful, but I can't imagine anyone putting this amongst their favourites.

The relationship to Leather Goddesses was that the character of Lane Mastodon was the hero in the 3d comic that came with the original Leather Goddesses of Phobos game - Lane Battles the Shameless Leather Goddesses.

Joe Pranevich will be likely delving into Infocom's Infocomics in the future as two of their other titles were ZorkQuest games, but for now it's time to get back to the game at hand.

I think we've spent enough time on this for now

Preface to the Story

The year is 1956. It's an election year in the United States, and Eisenhower and Nixon are running for re-election; Elvis Presley appears on the Ed Sullivan show, Rock & Roll is starting to shake things up and the Leather Goddesses of Phobos are once again formulating plans to invade the Earth and turn it into their private pleasure world.

The first time, twenty years ago, the Leather Goddesses were thwarted by an ordinary Earthman named Zarmen, who nobody believed.

Earth scientists suspect the existence of a tenth planet in the Solar System, called Planet X. As it turns out, Planet X is inhabited by a peaceful and technologically advanced society who are pawns in the Leather Goddesses' gameplan.

And on this night in 1956, a lone spacecraft crashes on the outskirts of town...

Before getting past the preface, it's worth pointing out that the existence of a tenth planet is unlikely seeing as we actually lost the ninth planet in 2006 when Pluto was found to not be doing its duty and was therefore no longer worthy of being called a planet. And even if there was a planet X, the 1956 scientists can't find it because it actually won't be discovered until the 24th and a half century... Duck Dodgers

The Game

The interface is a simple point-and-click one. The cursor changes based on what you hover over. If the cursor is an arrow, it shows the direction you'll move if you click, if it's a hand you take or examine, a mouth talks, an atom means there's nothing there and the Infocom logo means the computer is thinking

You have an inventory box in the bottom left corner, where you keep items and can use them on the environment.

When you talk to people icons on the left indicate the subjects you can talk about.

One of the titular 'Gas Pump Girls'

The manual contains a section on 'radiointeractive fiction' where it describes an adventure game as if this is the first adventure game ever made and these developers invented the concept of puzzle solving because they call it something different – weird.

One thing that makes me very happy is this part of the manual...
“Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2 has been specifically designed so that you can never paint yourself into a corner. You won't get killed, and you can't create a situation that necessitates quitting and restarting the game from the beginning.”
Thank you game. No... seriously... thank you!

I'm very glad to see other companies are starting to follow Monkey Island's lead on this one.

The save game screen is a novel one -

You don't get to name your own saves, but you have 20 slots. I wouldn't be surprised if the save names are involved in a puzzle at some point so I might as well list them here:
  1. Looking for My Baby
  2. My Baby Done Left Me
  3. Stuck on Earth
  4. The Key to My Baby's Heart
  5. I Can't Get No Radiation
  6. We're Searchin' Around
  7. P.I. Blues
  8. Everybody's Mad at Me
  9. Gotta Get Off This Planet
  10. 186,281 Miles from Earth
  11. My Baby From Planet X
  12. Bad Moon Horizon
  13. Locked In Your Heart
  14. Evil Women
  15. My Home Planet
  16. Gotta Get That Thing
  17. Need That Other Thing Too
  18. I'm Hungry Baby
  19. Heal Me Baby
  20. Back on Earth Again
Preface to the Preface

The game's opening cutscene shows me highlights of my adventure in the previous game.

So, it seems the character I played in the original game was canonically a man (not surprising) whose name was Zarmen (first name or surname, I'm not sure) who ended up having a son who's in this game (perhaps Zeke, one of the possible protagonists of this sequel)

I at first thought it might be possible the character in question isn't me, but Trent and that Trent Zarmen's son will be involved in this game. But on reflection, I recall Trent telling me he came from Alaska, while I definitely started the game in Joe's Bar in Upper Sandusky.

Who Will I Be?

This B-movie looking, small-desert-town, pulp-fictiony, things-crashing-from-space thing is sounding eerily familiar... why do I feel I've done this before... and before that...

Oh well, it seems I'm the one we go to for this kind of game - might as well enjoy it.

As for the game, as soon as it starts I'm given the option of who to play with.

I'm including a poll along with this post as part of Adventure Gamer's patented ChoiceClicker (TM) technology so YOU can decide who I play with. The poll should be at the top left of your screen.

Here's what the characters have to say when I hover the cursor over them...
  • Lydia: "Greetings. I am Lydia Sandler of Earth"
  • Zeke: "I fix cars, I hunt rattlesnakes, I watch shooting stars... I drink bourbon"
  • Barth: "I'm just an ordinary pulsating inconvenience" (I at first thought he was saying ball-breaking instead of pulsating - his alien accent and the background music combined to made it unclear)
I'll be playing as all three for comparison purposes and posting interesting differences as I go, but the poll results will determine who I am for the main playthrough. So get ChoiceClicking (TM).

And don't forget to get your score guesses and any possible bets in. Here goes... 

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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 or some other appropriate cipher for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

Example Bet - what's the final word?:



  1. can *play as* the titular pulsating inconvenience?

    Barth for protagonist, all the way.

    1. And Barth hits the early lead with Lydia making some ground. Only one person likes Zeke...

    2. With voting time nearly up, Lydia's in the lead with Barth lagging a little behind.

      Despite the back of the box supporting Zeke, most people just don't want him - it's because he watches shooting stars, isn't it?

  2. Memory suggests that you actually get three substantially different games depending on who you play as, so you might want to get reports from play-alongers taking on the other characters to see what changes and what remains the same.

    1. I seem to remember that the three character paths converge at some point, so the differences are not that prominent.

    2. My plan is to play the other characters concurrently as well and mentioning interesting differences as I go, but if anyone wants to play along as one of the 'losing' characters that would be great.

      The idea of them being substantially different at the start excites me. I'm quite optimistic about the game at this point.

  3. That parallel port "Feelie" is actually one of the many implementations of the Covox Speech Thing, an odd device that provided some pretty scratchy sound off of what most people would call the "printer port". Disney Sound Source was a more refined version of it, but still kinda sucked.

  4. The missing word is surely "Genius", I cannot think of a single other member of the dictionary that could fit the rhyme.

    Also I'll guess 60 for the final score.

    1. Well, that wasn't the word I was thinking of, but it fits! :)

      I'm impressed that someone worked it out so quickly. Well done!

      I won't give my answer yet in case someone else wants to take a guess.

    2. @TBD (rot23)
      Tbii, F afa qefkh lc xklqebo tloa qexq tlria cfq, yrq qelrdeq fq tlria yb jlob xjrpfkd ql xslfa qexq lkb xka zljb rm tfqe xklqebo! (xipl F'j promofpba klylav bipb exp pxfa fq, yrq qebk mboexmp tb'ob xii qll morafpe ebob!)

  5. This can't get a high score. Let's say 43.

  6. I believe this is a terrible game, I guess 34

  7. Duck Dodger was a blast, maybe not so much the series that came around the millennia but it had it's moments.

    And I'm gonna guess the names of the saves are parodies of different songs, like Can't Get No Radiation is Can't get no Satisfaction by Rolling Stones, Gotta Get of the Planet must be something like Gotta Get out of this place and Bad Moon Horizon is Bad Moon Rising by Creedance Clearwater Revival which is strange since I think they mostly are 60's and 70's songs. Or maybe I don't know enough 50's rock music.

    Oh, and the dice says 35.

  8. My vote is for 40. I have a lot of faith in Mr. Meretzky but this doesn't look like his best work.

  9. Something that might be of interest for adventure gamers: currently ongoing is a story bundle for game-related ebooks. One of them is for Once Upon a Point & Click by David L. Craddock.

    From the blurb: [This book] charts the careers of Sierra designers Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen, from the origins of graphical adventures to the merger of computer games and Hollywood cinematography that paved a path for the interactive stories of today

  10. And the final results of voting are in.

    Lydia won, with 53% of the vote
    Barth was next, with 33%
    Zeke was least preferred, with a poor 13% showing.

    The other 1% of voting vanished into the space-time continuum, or perhaps into Richard Pryor's bank account. (CAPs for whoever gets the reference)

    So we'll be playing as Lydia (and also the others, but primarily as Lydia. First post will be in two days. In the meantime, in 10 hours you can enjoy our next Enchanter post.

    1. Of course, that's from the Superman movie that we all thought was the worst Superman movie until it was conclusively proven again and again (and again and again) just how bad a Superman movie can be.

    2. Weĺl done. I always found that part of the movie to be quite clever - I could see it working in the real world. Not that I've ever tried it...

  11. One of the titular 'Gas Pump Girls'

    Yeah, she's titular, all right.

    I'm kind of annoyed they assigned a gender to the LG1 protagonist.

    1. It wouldn't have been that hard to keep the gender open.

      Change the intro voice acting from 'man' and 'he' to 'person' and 'they', and there's only one or two times Zeke mentions his father - have a second voice acting line with 'mother' and they could have done it, and ask the player their gender from the first game at the beginning.