Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Missed Classic: Cyborg - Feeding the Machine

Written by Voltgloss

Apologies to all for the delay in continuing our Cyborgian adventures. Rather than dwell on the issues driving those delays, let’s dive back in where we left off:

Our map from last time.

With light source (matches) in hand, we head off to our clearest lead: that dark area in the northwest corner of the map. This brings us to a “detoxification chamber,” where a sign informs us to “press the touchplate” in order to “cycle detoxification procedure.” But trying to do so has no effect; our computer half suggests we are lacking “the proper ID.” There’s also a partition to the north, but we can’t seem to walk through it or open it. And then when we go to leave, apparently our match went out without my noticing and we unceremoniously die in the dark. Well, that’s an auspicious start.

Reloading, I decide to ask our computer half for assistance. With the command “HELP” I can ask its opinion on things in our inventory or that we can see… or on our present location. Cycling through our inventory, though, doesn’t offer any sort of useful insight. I tour around the locations we’ve visited but again our machine half is of no real help. All the while, our “bio level” is steadily ticking down, with more and more dire warnings. Finally, when bio level reaches 500, I get a “hunger level critical” message and the game unceremoniously ends, wishing me “better luck next time.” Well, thanks for nothing game!

An example of our machine half’s idea of “help.” TREES TREES TREES TREES TREES TREES

I was actually stuck here for quite some time. Nothing feels quite more annoying than being stuck early in a game, confined to a small potential solution space, with what feels like an exhausted supply of options. Eventually, and to move things along, I broke down and checked the early parts of a walkthrough to figure out what I was missing. I discovered two things:
  1. The food that the lizard wants (from our starting location) is the dead insects by the electric fence. That makes sense. But I tried to pick those up and couldn’t! Turns out there’s apparently a bug (har har) in some Apple II versions that doesn’t LET you pick up the insects, so you can’t feed the lizard and learn what he has to say. Thankfully, I’m assured by the walkthrough that this isn’t a necessary step. But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (har har)
  2. To get the string looped around the trees, I need to cut it. ...Cut it? Cut it with what? I don’t know, but I wander over and yup, we can cut it just fine and I now have “string in pieces” as an item. What’s going on here? With some experimentation and reloading I realize that I’m using my microlaser to cut the string. (Not that the game says this, but if I don’t have the laser, I can’t cut it.) Well… that would have been a really helpful thing for the game, or my computer half, to tell me I could do upon scanning the laser or asking for help about it.
Well, anyway, we now have “string in pieces.” What can we do with that? I try to repair it with “tie string” and get an OK message. Checking my inventory I realize I’ve done a lot more than fix the string… I now have “laced sneakers” as an item. Oh, the sneakers didn’t have laces? That also would have been nice to be told! And now I can wear them. Does THIS help me any? Touring the world again (and reloading after I inevitably die of hunger), I discover that I can now enter the “wooden-floored room” where a force field had kept me out before. Turns out it’s a gymnasium. I guess you can’t go in the gymnasium without proper footwear.

Proper gym attire is important.

At the south end of the gym where we came in, there’s a “massive cabinet” making strange noise and leaking steam. I can’t seem to open it, but asking my computer half for help finally bears fruit: it comments that rungs lead up its side. Climbing up, I find a hatch that I use to get inside. It’s dark, but our matches give us light; we find a set of lenses and a “mini-droid.” I nab both and retreat out before the steam inside does us any more damage. The droid’s purpose isn’t clear (other than that it seems to fit in our shoulder harness… I guess without the harness we couldn’t pick it up), but the lenses I can wear; they apparently have “infrared and other features.” I sense another grand tour in my near future, to see what the lenses could reveal for us.

Exploring further, I map out the rest of the gym. The west side has another exit, with links back to the previously blocked exit over by the detoxification chamber. The north side has bleachers with which I can’t seem to interact. The east side is empty. And both the north and east sides tell me I feel a draft coming from the roof in the center of the gym. In the center I find rings suspended on ropes overhead. We’re apparently quite fit as going up has us effortlessly scale those ropes, to a trapdoor overhead. But the trapdoor seems rusted shut or is otherwise beyond our strength to open; shooting or cutting it has no effect either.

Before making a grand tour with the lenses, I resolve to try a cutting spree as well (now that I know my laser does this). First I try my inventory, and am surprised when cutting the plastic cube slices a seam in it! And inside is an ID card! Perhaps now I can activate some of the machines I’ve been finding in the corridors outside the forest area. OK, let’s backtrack! (After reloading to stave off hunger, of course.)

The preferred solution for all intricate puzzles.

First stop: the vending machine. My ID goes in the slot and an apple bounces out! Chowing down boosts our bio level by 500. Hooray, immediate starvation averted! A second try informs us the machine is empty. Moving over to the nearby partition, our ID again gets us through… but this is disappointing as we find ourselves back at the cubicle where we found the black plastic cube. Although maybe that’s not so bad, as this allows us to retrieve the stepladder (that we previously couldn’t remove from its area as we needed it to climb back over the electric fence). Retrieving my ID each time (it gets ejected onto the floor after each use), I return to the detoxification station to test that. And as I arrive, our droid suddenly speaks up, telling me to “try the plate!” Maybe this is another built-in hint source? I touch the plate but get the same “don’t have the proper ID” message; after tinkering around a bit I realize we can also wear the ID, whereupon touching the plate cleanses us with antiseptic mist and opens a door to the north. Onward!

We find ourselves at the top of a zero-gravity chute leading down into darkness. Heading down one floor there’s a hatch leading into ventilation ducts, but most of those are too narrow to enter and I can’t seem to do anything useful there. Down two floors we find a network of corridors with colored stripes heading off in four directions: red (NW), yellow (N), green (NE), and blue (S). Experimenting, I discover that this entire area is dark and our infrared lenses are letting us see. Let’s see where each stripe leads us. I’ll address red last for… reasons… but here’s a quick description of the other three:
  • The yellow stripe leads to a sickbay, with medical supplies scattered about and a latched and locked tall glass cylinder. There’s also a chem lab that seems to have suffered an explosion; I pick up an empty beaker here and find a ruptured pipe leaking “liquid oxygen that boils in a puddle.” My droid comments “Kaboom!” and I decide to leave quickly. We also pass a grill on the wall here, which my machine half says has a lifeform behind it; but there’s no obvious way to open it.
  • The green stripe leads to a hydroponics lab with a bunch of smashed tanks. We find one surviving peach to eat, giving us another bio level boost. There’s also a ripped-out wall section exposing a bunch of loose cables, along with a bunch of wire we can take with us.
  • The blue stripe leads up a ladder into a domed room through which we can see stars. The edges of the room present a small exit through which we can’t fit, but beyond which we can see a “small, white room with rows of hooks on the wall”; a button for cycling the airlock; and an observation bubble where we can see another planet, “definitely not Earth.” Seems the way to exit the… yes, clearly a spaceship that we’re on; but without proper precautions and gear, exiting to space seems unwise.

As the game tells us if we cycle the airlock: “Oops! Vacuum City!”

And what about that red stripe? That leads us to a high steel wall - which our machine half recommends we try getting to the top of, but no clear means to do so exists. The stripe bends north and south from there as well. Heading south we find a “trip balance,” a set of scales with a “power crystal” on it. Seems important, but just grabbing it proves lethal as the scales go out of balance and we get blasted by a hidden laser. Do we have anything that could balance the scales? Some experimentation reveals… that we can place ANY object here (the matches, the remains of the black cube, the ultrafiche, etc.) and safely take the crystal; we just need to leave at least one object here to keep the scales weighted down. I leave behind the cut-open cube assuming it won’t be helpful later, and move on with power crystal in hand.

The ancients did it better. These new-fangled future scales weigh everything the same.

What about following the stripe north? That leads to a damaged cabin with… an ultrafiche reader! Maybe now we can read our ultrafiche to find out what’s going on? But getting the reader to work is fiddly. There’s two slots and no clear means of using the thing. I try “inserting” the ultrafiche, which gets an OK response, but I can’t “read” it or “use reader.” Asking my machine half for help prompts me to “try ‘activating’ the reader,” but doing that tells me nothing happens and suggests maybe the reader is broken. I spend a while here before realizing… the reader has two slots. Is it waiting for me to insert something else? And what else have I been inserting in other places? My ID! Inserting the ID and the ultrafiche finally lets me “activate” the reader:

I wonder if these were Oo-Topan aliens.

The story seems clear now. *We* are the cyborg captain of the ship, and it’s our job to fix the thing and land it safely. This seems a logical stopping point but there’s one last thing I want to try first before ending this post… can our stepladder get us up and over the high wall? Turns out it can! And that leads to an area full of controls, viewscreens, switches, and dials. Our machine help comments this must be the bridge. There’s a switch for an auto-landing sequence with a flashing red light; but throwing it does nothing (yet). I suspect we’ll first need to resolve the three issues I see on nearby viewscreens:
  • A “berserk” cleaning robot wandering around;
  • A  hull breach in the cargo hold; and
  • Rows of “sleepers” - our precious cargo, presumably of humans.

Nearby is a dial with two clear and helpful settings: “sleep” and “wake.” The dial is currently on “sleep” and, once other threats are resolved, will I’m sure need to be set to “wake.” But the dial is broken and does nothing when turned; my machine half comments that it needs some parts. Our machine half tells us that the power crystal’s shape indicates that it goes in the dial, so that’s one part; but I can’t seem to fix the dial with just the crystal, so there must be more to gather.

So… deal with a berserk robot; fix a hull breach; and fix a dial to wake up our cargo. All in a day’s work for Captain Cyborg. And that day… will be the next post. For now, I’ll leave things off in the bridge, surrounded by blinking and beeping switches, lights, and knobs.

Blinking and beeping and beeping and blinking and I CAN’T STAND IT ANYMORE
THEY’RE BEEPING THEY’RE BLINKING AND… I’m all right. I’m all right.

Inventory: ID card, pack of matches (12 left), ultrafiche, empty beaker, bunch of wire, microlaser (worn), laced sneakers (worn), mini-droid on harness (worn), set of lenses (worn)

Cyborg level: 918
Damage %: 21
Bio level: 1128

Time played: 3 hr 50 mi


  1. Welcome back! I am very eager to see how this one plays out.

  2. That picture of the rubik's cube makes me want to warn the person with the knife - cutting plastic cubes may work in computer games, but NOT in real life.

    If you use that method to cheat at rubik's cubes - you'll cut the pieces holding individual cubes in place and never be able to put it back together again!!

    The way I did it was to get a screwdriver to pry out a single corner piece, making all other pieces easier to get out, then put it back together with the correct colours in the correct sides.