Monday 31 December 2018

Missed Classic: Labyrinth - WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski

Modern (Awkward) Theseus Diary #3: Finally. I’ve solved all of the nasty and absurd puzzles the labyrinth had to offer me and hacked the evil minotaur to pieces with a lightsaber. I don’t even know who hid it deep inside the labyrinth but you’ll have to beware of my jedi moves from now on. The original Theseus would have been such a proud Obi-Wan to my Luke – wait, that didn’t come out in my favour now, did it?

Welcome back to the Labyrinth! Last time, I finally made some progress by throwing a cream pie at a wraith and thus opening up the fifth and final level. I also reckoned that I might have to feed a witch disguised as a maiden to a hungry cave bear and if you are worried about the dangerous effects the Med Systems games seem to be having on me, let it be known: My other guess also proved to be correct, so I'm officially on a roll (excuse the pun)! Getting it right took almost half an hour, though. I really had to drop the witch at the bear's feet but I'm too slow to get there on time unless – I wear the roller skates. That seems like adventure game logic, so I'll let it slide. Wearing the roller skates is a real pain, though, as you cannot navigate like you used to, splashing into walls at every turn. Having figured that out, the parser posed the next serious problem. Just dropping the witch wouldn't work, so I tried to throw it, open the box at the right moment, kill the bear with it, attack the bear with it, persuade the witch to kill the bear (in a multitude of ways) and the other way round. The parser is REALLY sensitive here and the right solution was actually “feed bear”. As it's a two-word parser and “kill man” implies ‘with the sword’ if you happen to carry it, that doesn't seem too bad. It still took me some time to find the solution. Also, this is the only time the parser asks you “with what?” after you've stumbled onto the right command. You actually have to add “with maiden” to succesfully poison the bear and get rid of the witch in the same turn. Had I tried to feed the bear before (although why I should do that is still beyond me), I would possibly have received a clear hint at the solution but how should I have known that the bear was hungry in the first place?

Saturday 29 December 2018

Missed Classic: Labyrinth - Minotorious

by Will Moczarski

Modern (Awkward) Theseus Diary #2: I’m running out of paper! Without a whole book of maps anyone would be lost in this amazing labyrinth. I’ve stumbled over all sorts of obstacles, too, without finding much treasure yet. I even met the minotaur but don’t seem to be a match for him yet. A cave gnome, a bear, an ugly little man and a wraith also demand my attention – I wonder if my ancient predecessor could have had it any harder.

Recap and More Mapping

So here’s a short recap of my first hours in the Labyrinth: I started out by mapping the first level where I found a book containing the word “PTOOII” which teleported me to a closed-off section I couldn’t escape from. I also found a sword there but without a way out it’s no use to me. I also found a pile of salt and have no idea what that means. Teleporters seem to be in three of the corners of the first level, all leading me to different levels, respectively. To the west of the level, a swathe of magic fog hinders my progress. I cannot see anything there and am unable to map the section because after a few moves the maze is beginning to rumble and the minotaur rips me asunder. In another part I find a pit that only leads me to another pit – as that seems complicated I won’t go down that road for now. Instead I use the long east and north corridors to measure the size of the labyrinth and my initial hypothesis that it’s 11 by 10 rooms per level appears to be correct, making it so much easier to spot the otherwise hidden teleporters.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Missed Classic 64: Labyrinth (1980) - Introduction

by Will Moczarski

A belated ho ho ho to you all! It‘s time to resume my Med Systems Software marathon that already brought us the goodness that was Deathmaze 5000. We‘re still in territory uncharted by Moby Games (their Med Systems list starts with The Institute which is two adventure games away) and still in the early days of the company. According to the copyright stamp on a manual I found online, Labyrinth seems to have come out in 1980 as the second game of the so-called Continuum Series. Like its predecessor it was written by Frank Corr, jr. and William F. Denman, jr. Labyrinth uses almost the same graphics as Deathmaze 5000 and the premise is very similar, too. We‘ll see if this is just more of the same or if Labyrinth is a genuinely different game.

One thing I‘d neglected to mention in my post about Deathmaze 5000 is the improbable popularity of the Continuum games in TRS-nostalgic circles. They even got namechecked in Mark J.P. Wolf‘s seminal video game history The Video Game Explosion, stressing their importance as predecessors of 3-D games such as first-person shooters (I‘ll get back to that when talking about Phantom Slayer in another post which is the company‘s sort-of proto-FPS). I hadn‘t had any knowledge of this before doing the research for Labyrinth so I was in for quite a surprise. Some users in the comments section of the website seem to be crazy about Deathmaze 5000, as is reflected in some of these quotes: ″Awesome! I looooved that game on the Apple″, ″Absolutely loved them [the Continuum games]!″, ″I loved this game.″ and so on. Most of the other commenters admit that they got stuck in the calculator room or at the very end, confirming my impression that those puzzles were really unfair. Labyrinth doesn‘t seem to be quite as popular, not having provoked one single comment. I have refrained from reading the main article as it may contain spoilers but looking at (or rather for) the comments section I inadvertently read the final paragraph: ″In my opinion, Labyrinth is an excellent follow-up to Deathmaze 5000. It is a more challenging adventure, with more logical puzzles, and one of the best examples of a TRS-80 adventure game.″ More challenging? Really? I‘m sure I‘ll be in for a bumpy ride now…

No, not that Labyrinth, although it‘s definitely
another missed classic (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Missed Classic 63: Humbug (1990)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Merry Christmas! Can you believe it’s been another year? This one feels like it passed quite quickly. We have an especially good Christmas treat this year: Humbug by Graham Cluley. While previous years holiday adventures have been little more than vignettes, Humbug is a full-length shareware text adventure game first published in 1990. It features the adventures of Sidney Widdershins as he explores his grandfather’s old mansion on his winter holiday. Along the way, it features a menagerie of animals, two lost Vikings, time travel, and more charm than it has any right to have. It’s also quite difficult. If you haven’t had a chance to play it, the now-free version can be downloaded from Mr. Cluley’s website. Either way, I hope you enjoy this look at a holiday classic.

I will warn you up front: this review (and this game) is quite long. As has become our Christmas tradition, we will cover the whole game in one Santa Claus-sized chunk. If you just want to get a flavor of it, I recommend reading the first couple of sections to get a sense for the layout and how the game plays, then jump down to the “walkthrough” summaries just above the final rating. That will give you a good feel for how the game plays without having to follow along through the whole thing.

Monday 24 December 2018

Game 103: Putt-Putt Joins the Parade (1992) - Introduction

By Ilmari

In 1937, a young person, known only as a Junior, got into a fight with his mother over his future career choice. Like all mothers, she wanted him to get a proper education, grow up into a respectable citizen and follow in his father’s footsteps. But pleasures of big city lured Junior away from school road and led him into a seedy bar. With a drink too strong for minors removing his last inhibitions, Junior became too cocky, went playing on railroad tracks and was promptly hit by a train. You’d think he was a goner, but only a short trip to hospital was required to get Junior running again. This wasn’t any miracle, since Junior was a cartoon car.

Streamlined Greta Green, first known instance of sentient vehicles appearing in animation

Thursday 20 December 2018

Missed Classic: A Mind Forever Voyaging - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

“Only you can view the future. And only you know what must be done to save humanity.” Those words on the back of the box kicked off this adventure, but now it is time to see whether humanity is truly saved. As we wrap up this game, I can already tell from the comments that some of you will be disappointed no matter what the final score ends up being. Is it a great Infocom game? Is it the greatest Infocom game? Or is it just another game on the pile? We’ll have to finish to find out.

We ended the previous session having unlocked the simulation for the year 2081. We had explored the city of Rockvil in each of the previous decades and slowly watched the city slump into decay. By 2071, it was a theocracy where a group of schoolboys stoned me to death for being a nonbeliever. My creator, Dr. Perelman, still believes that there is hope and so we need to take a look at this final time period before he can decide whether all is truly lost. Let’s jump into the simulation and see just how wrong he is.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Waxworks - Won!

By Deimar

Bernard Rinaldi's Journal: So my recent career success has come to a stop. My supervisor is sending me to this remote mine in the middle of nowhere so I can make a safety report. Yeah, sure. A safety report about an abandoned mine that no one cares about. And don’t get me started with those supposed reports we have been receiving saying it is operative again. That makes no sense. But I will endure. I will go there, write my report, maybe kill my evil twin and go back to show him that I can carry any job he sends my way. Wait, what twin?

Attack of the killer lettuces!

So… real life got in the way. I don’t know if this happens in other countries but in Spain we usually have lots and lots of Christmas dinners with friends and coworkers before the actual Christmas and it also usually coincides with deadlines to finish that year’s projects. So I had to let the game wait for a while. And it was a pity, because The Mines, the last waxwork left, is not very long, and not very difficult once you notice a few things and find the most important location in the map. Without that, it is pretty frustrating and infuriating and I can only hope I can convey my pain and desire to kill the designers through my writing.

Saturday 15 December 2018

Island of Dr. Brain - Books and Balances

Written by Reiko

I just completed various language puzzles (synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms) to collect three items to place on the counterweight to a bridge in order to access the interesting hut in the corner of a robot village. Inside the hut we have a very eclectic collection of decorations, including several native masks that each have their own sound effect, a "bird in the hand", a "Coconut brand computer" (a riff on Apple, I'm sure), and a locked bookcase.

Look how similar a lot of these guys are.
When I click on the computer, I trigger the Match Three puzzle, in which I have to find five sets of three matching masks in an arrangement of thirty masks. It's rather tricky because so many of them have similar features but aren't identical, and often there are two that match but not a third. I stare at the masks for awhile and eventually manage to piece together which sets actually exist. When I find all five, I get the "Visual Pairing" plaque, and then the top face on the totem statue in the corner spits out the key to the bookshelf. Hmm. I had noticed that the bottom face, when activated, spits out a lizard that runs away. I guess that was foreshadowing, of a sort, and also the description comment that Dr. Brain considers the statue his "key to good fortune."

Thursday 6 December 2018

Island of Dr. Brain - Mathematical Wordplay

Written by Reiko

Last time we went through the first two "rooms" of puzzles, essentially, since the beach just has the polyomino door puzzle, and the jigsaw puzzle is the door puzzle for the second room. The third room presents us with a wooden bridge with several planks missing. A cliff carved like the face of Dr. Brain has a forest for "hair". The path goes through the forest and up the mountain behind it to a door.

It's not a code! It's just scrambled.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Missed Classic: A Mind Forever Voyaging - Hell on Earth

Written by Joe Pranevich

In Wishbringer, we learned that a little magic and a lost cat could turn the world into a dark place. In A Mind Forever Voyaging, we learn that people can do that even without the magic and that cats are not essential to the equation. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, but last week we had finally been given the “real” mission in the game: explore the simulation and collect data that would prove that Senator Ryder’s plan is flawed. I had already looked at a fairly happy 2041 and a less happy 2051. Now, we are challenged to plunge even further in the future to find data that supports or undercuts the success of the Plan. I apologize but in my previous post, I got the dates wrong a couple of times: the real world of the game takes place in 2031, not 2021. It doesn’t matter quite enough to go back and fix it now, but I hope I did not confuse things too much. Just keep in mind that the two variations we saw were current year plus ten and plus twenty.

I am going to have a lot to say about this game as we get closer to the final rating. If it does one thing well, it encourages you to think about its message and the way in which it presents that message. Does that make it a good “game”? I’m not sure yet. Please join me as we travel to the far off and exotic year 2061 in the dreamscape that once was the United States of North America.

Sunday 2 December 2018

Waxworks - Zombie

By Deimar

Diggie McGravery's Journal
“Oh man, I love this new job!. The town is already very quiet, but in the week I have been working as a gravedigger here, nobody has come to the cemetery. Well, only the priest, but he mostly keeps to himself. It was a bit weird seeing him for the first time, with his uncanny resemblance to me and always wearing a black robe with a red five pointed star but hey, what do I know about these quirky monastic orders, am I right? There are only two things that could spoil this experience for me. The first one is the continuous odor. I know, I know. Silly me. I work at a cemetery. It is normal that it smells like rotting corpses. It is only that this one reeks of it, you know what I mean? There is that, and the gigantic bat that comes every night at dusk and heads right for the church. It always scares some poor women there, because we hear the screams. I hope it will fall onto my new friend, the gardener, to clean that mess.

Hum, I just noticed I am missing my trusty shovel. Better make a quick run to the cemetery and get it before some rascal steals it from me. Maybe we can even pay a visit to the priest while we are at it and kill him. That’s what Boris wants”

Two gone, two to go. And the next one by popular demand is the cemetery, which in many reviews is recommended as the perfect waxwork to start the game. After having played it, I can see why. It is very small and focused, with very little in the way of puzzles and surprisingly, at least to me, it even gives more insight into the lore of the game. But it is frustrating as hell.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Waxworks - London Calling

By Deimar

Frederick Abberline's Journal: I am quite concerned with all the deads in Whitechapel and I don’t know why. The dead of the five women has stirred not only the district, but the whole country. But that’s not it. Nor the gruesome manner in which the killings were carried out. No, it something else. As if I had to find him. But why? Why go there and chase a murderer? Because Boris said we must? Who is Boris? And now I am preparing to go out into the night to hunt him. To hunt our brother.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Missed Classic: A Mind Forever Voyaging - Jewel of the Quad-State Area

Written by Joe Pranevich

A Mind Forever Voyaging isn’t like any game that I have played before. It takes its time introducing you to the characters and the plot, encouraging you to explore rather than setting out a stream of puzzles for you to solve. It is content to follow its own rules. I absolutely love that Infocom is unafraid to experiment with their conventions; it makes their games a joy to experience for the first time. If you think back on how different Deadline and Suspended were from the puzzle-adventures that preceded them, you have an inkling for how I feel experiencing this game for the first time. It might even be a game that is best experienced in a second playthrough. As I wrap up another five or so hours of playing, I am just now seeing the shape of the game that Steve Meretzky has built and it is impressive. I’m just not sure yet how it will play out as an “adventure game” and whether I will run out of patience before I run out of game. Only time will tell.

As we left off last week, I had just entered the 2031 simulation for the very first time with a set of tasks to complete, nine events or places that I need to make recordings of, and return them to my boss/creator, Dr. Perelman. I had mapped out 30 locations, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. This is a big game, the first that has come close to the 150+ rooms of the original mainframe Zork. Welcome to Rockvil, the “Jewel of the Quad-State Area”!

Sunday 25 November 2018

The Year Ahead - 1993

By the TAG Team

It's again that magical time, when our community of readers gets to spend their well-earned CAPs and decide what is to be expected during another year of TAG. This time the stakes are on 1993, a year remembered fondly by all friends of good scifi TV shows, because then began the on-going search for paranormal events and alien life and government conspiracies trying to cover them up. Yes, I am talking about the truth that is out there.

Unfortunately we couldn't pay David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson
 for appearing on our blog, so here's instead the crew of seaQuest DSV

Friday 23 November 2018

Island of Dr. Brain - From Beach to Beach

Written by Reiko

We are on the hunt for Dr. Brain's special battery for his latest secret project. His pilot has dropped us off (using a parachute!) onto Dr. Brain's private island, and we must now tackle the piles of puzzles between us and our goal. The copy protection requires that I enter map coordinates every time I start up the game, but of course with the manual that's trivial. In fact, I think the version I have has had the puzzle nerfed such that clicking anywhere is automatically considered correct.

Instructions for the first real puzzle.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Missed Classic 62: A Mind Forever Voyaging (1985) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

I keep just missing all of the possible holiday tie-ins. Wishbringer, as it turns out, would have been absolutely perfect for Halloween with its child-friendly monsters and campy darkness. A Mind Forever Voyaging could have been an “Election Day Special” to connect with the recent midterm elections in the United States on November 6. I’m not sure exactly what it says that a game is a good tie-in to an election, but it makes some thematic sense. Truth is, and I’ve only played this game for a bit over two hours for the introduction, this game isn’t like any that I’ve seen before. I have trust in Steve Meretzky, but this one won’t be our usual fare.

This seems especially odd in light of the overall Infocom story at this point. For all that the Business Products writing was on the wall when Wishbringer was published, A Mind Forever Voyaging had the writing on the pink slips themselves. September 1985 saw the start of layoffs at the company which would continue at regular intervals through the end. It was essential that Infocom produce another hit, and the previous two games had been some of the most successful in the company’s history, but AMFV wasn’t-- and probably could not have been, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment-- the commercial success that they needed. Maybe in the era of President Reagan, Meretzky had hoped to stoke controversy and have the game go “viral”. Maybe Infocom had hoped that inventing a new genre would pave the way to new markets. Maybe no one was watching the store and this was just a vanity project that went too far. I have no idea, but I am curious how this one is going to play out.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Waxworks - Walk Like an Egyptian

By Deimar

Prince Cassim's Journal: For Hathor I will have my revenge against my brother. He pledged allegiance to the God of Death, Anubis, bringing shame to our family. He even had the audacity of becoming the High Priest and constructed a pyramid in my territories. But worst of all, he has just kidnapped my beloved princess. What’s her name? At the verge of our wedding! We have to find him and kill him. It can only be us, so said uncle Boris. Wait a second, who is Boris?

The people have spoken and so I listen. And the people have decided a very weird order for my playthrough. But I am getting ahead of myself. Our first stop through history begins with the original twins, the Egyptian High Priest of Anubis and prince Cassim of… Egypt? My guess is as good as yours.

Where is Brendan Fraser when you need him?

Sunday 18 November 2018

Amazon - Final Rating

Written by TBD

It's time to see how Amazon: Guardians of Eden fares in our PISSED rating. In my rating I'll be specifically comparing it to the developer's predecessor, Martian Memorandum.

Do I feel like I was treated to an incredible journey of adventure? Let's find out.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Missed Classic: Wishbringer - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

Last week in Wishbringer, I reached a dead end. While I had managed to do just about everything that I think I needed to do in the game, including get the password to the Evil One’s tower and break into the town’s abandoned library, I did not have all of the pieces to put the solutions in order. I’m faced with the fact that I need to restore back, at least a little ways, and that is making me cranky. Sure, lots of games that we have played so far have dead-man-walking scenarios, but somehow this one felt like it would not. I should have been more careful. If only the password that I used to get into the tower worked more than once!

On the whole, I cannot complain too much. This has certainly been one of the most fun games that I have played in this marathon so far, by a designer that I should have expected it from (knowing his future on Loom), but didn’t (having just played his first game, Adventure in the 5th Dimension). While I’m not happy restoring, I will be glad to rescue this kitty and put another game in my marathon to bed.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

What's Your Story - Leo Velles

Answers: Leo Velles
Introduction and Captions: Leo Velles (and TBD)

Leo is apparently a lion, but looks more like a mouse to me.

It's always nice to have new people discover our blog, but rather than introduce Leo myself, I'll let him introduce himself...

Sunday 11 November 2018

Missed Classic: Wishbringer - Now With More Evil

Written by Joe Pranevich

Bring out the goatees!

You can say this about Infocom games: they sure have a diverse set of goals. Whether it is to discover a treasure, solve a mystery, escape a planet, defeat a wizard, or explore a ruin, we have done it all. And in Wishbringer we have one more epic quest: rescue a cat. It’s a fantastic start to the game, even if the cat has been captured by someone known only as “The Evil One” who lives in a place known as “The Tower”. If more games revolved around rescuing cats, I’d be pretty happy.

As we ended last week, I had just made it on time (barely!) to the “magick shoppe” in North Festeron and delivered what turned out to be a ransom note to the shopkeeper. No sooner had I done so however than the world went through a strange change. Under the cover of fog, the Post Office where I started my adventure has been transformed into an intimidating looking tower. Could it be The Tower? I have no idea, but with no other options it’s time to go down off the mountain and see what the heck is going on.

Friday 9 November 2018

Game 102: Island of Dr. Brain (1992) - Introduction

Written by Reiko

Who's ready for another Dr. Brain puzzler? It's been almost three years since I played Castle of Dr. Brain, and now it's time to hit the Island!

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Game 101: Waxworks (1992) - Introduction

Written by Deimar

I am starting to think I am the place adventure game sagas go to die. This is the fourth saga I am closing and this time we can even add the company behind it to the list of casualties. Well, it was more like a rebranding. But the fact that this is the last game of Horror Soft as we know it is still relevant. So, without further ado, I give you Waxworks.

I am already missing Elvira’s... erm… personality. This one can’t hold a candle to her

Monday 5 November 2018

Amazon – WON!

Written by TBD.

Jason Roberts Journal Entry #5: I'd guessed I needed an arrow to enter the secret door – but for some reason two perfectly obvious arrows that I saw in a treehouse weren't the ones I needed – I needed one that was hiding behind a bush – Bravo, Amazon jungle – you outsmarted my logic and observation with your unnecessarily specific arrow requirements.

Chapter 12 cont'd

Okay, let's get this confession out of the way early.

After trying everything I could possibly think of behind the waterfall (and reloading my saved game multiple times because I can only try a few things before dying) I was totally out of ideas.

Rather than request assistance without having made any progress, I decided it was time to test out the game's hint system. I turned hints on and question marked some of the items in the area.

Saturday 3 November 2018

Missed Classic 61: Wishbringer (1985) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

When Wishbringer launched, the writing was already on the wall for Infocom. Cornerstone had been thrashing in the marketplace for five months and a successful game launch-- or two or three-- was the injection the company needed to keep its feet on the ground and its future focused on games rather than business products. At least in some respects, they succeeded: Wishbringer was the highest-selling new game other than Hitchhiker’s Guide, and it would eventually receive both a “Solid Gold” release as well as a novelization. And yet… before starting into this series, I knew absolutely nothing about this game. It had even been relegated to the second “Lost Treasures” set alongside such classics as Cutthroats and Seastalker. How exactly could a game simultaneously be Infocom’s most successful launch at their most dangerous time… and also fade away quite so quickly?

My guess, having not played it yet, is that it has something to do with Wishbringer’s status as the second “Introductory” (previously called “Junior”) title, a successor to Seastalker to bring kids in the door and get them hooked on Interactive Fiction. Am I going to find the game too childish for lasting appeal? This is also Brian Moriarty’s first game for Infocom having done a tour of duty as a backend software engineer working on 6502 systems. I wrote a long introduction to his career last week, as part of my review of Adventure in the 5th Dimension. If you skipped that one because you never heard of the game, please check it out. Mr. Moriarty had finally achieved his dream job; that is the story of how he got there.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Spellcasting 301: Spring Break - Final Rating

By Deimar

And here we are, another game in the bag. In retrospective, I have a good feeling about the game in general, although it is worse than when I started. The first sections of the game, where you are exploring such a vast land, getting to know the different ecosystems and its people, is truly great. But very soon you start to notice some stagnation, exploration becomes sparse and, simply put, there is not that much to do or enjoy.

It doesn’t help that the humour fell completely flat on me. I didn’t find any of the situations the game places you in worth a laugh, at most just a giggle or a smile of complicity. And I am a bit conflicted about the reason for that. The Digital Antiquarian for example simply states that this game is not that fun regarding its style of comedy. Not even as a product of its time. However, reading some reviews and comments in other sites, like for example Adventure Classic Gaming, seems like the game has a fan base. On my part, I tend to agree with the former. Comedy, as most other things, evolves with time and what at some point might have looked hilarious and daring can now be seen as quite plain and boring. But I don’t think this is the case here. I really think this game was not that fun to begin with even on release.

Weiner jokes, that’s a low bar even for 1992

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Amazon - Treehouse of Horror

Written by TBD.

Jason Roberts Journal Entry 4: Determined to get inside a treehouse, Maya and I decide to attempt some acrobatics. Will we find the Swiss Family Robinson inside? I can only hope...

When we last left our heroes, they had just followed Professor Stroheim's directions and found a treehouse in the jungle. We'd made a see-saw, but the game didn't let me do anything with it (or so I thought).

I'd tried walking up it, but it merely seemed like I was walking behind it (perhaps another example of my poor skill at navigating in a 2d perspective.)

I couldn't climb any of the trees, including the stump. I'd tried everything with both characters, including using all my items on all the items on the screen. Eventually I accidentally found the answer.

This worked only because I coincidentally had Maya near the end of the see-saw

Saturday 27 October 2018

Amazon – That's a Paddlin'

Written by TBD.

Jason Roberts Journal Entry #3: Well, I finally found out what the Captain of The Amazon Queen wants from me apart from cigarettes. Now I'm settled in for a nice relaxing trip to our destination. I'm sure nothing can go wrong here – Maya and I feel completely confident in trusting this man with our lives...

Flashback: Chapter 6

Once again I start a post with a flashback due to the game hitting me with another dead-end. Is this going to happen for the rest of the game? Most likely.

Anyway, not knowing what to offer the captain in order to get him to give us a boat ride, I asked for help, and Alex Romanov was kind enough to give it.

I checked his first two clues.
  1. What you are missing is in chapter six
  2. Someone needs your help.
I felt confident that I knew who Alex was talking about. I felt a little guilty about the serving boy being beaten up by my actions, but didn't know what to do. Now that I knew I needed to help someone, I thought about it more thoroughly. The answer came quickly – the ladder I'd picked up at the same time the boy started being assaulted. Now, I didn't have the ladder when I originally found the boy being beaten, but if I'd thought saving the boy was an option, I'd have almost certainly noticed it immediately. I use the ladder on the hotel wall.

Now I get a much better view of the fight. I should sell tickets and call this the balcony section.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Spellcasting 301 - Won!

By Deimar

Ernie Eaglebeak's Journal #5: And so, once again I have saved the day. From my old nemesis/stepfather Joey Rottenwood. Again. And almost got to meet Lola, my long lost love. Again. I am beginning to note a pattern here. We even managed to win the contest by quite a margin in the end. And I say we, because my brothers really came through in the end. I really hope we can get another Spring Break like this next year.

I am a bit disappointed with the final stretch of this game. It seemed to me like there is a lot of time between some of the contests that serve little to no purpose. I reckon that might be because I reloaded a lot during the first stages of the game so I could do as much as possible. However, each contest should open new opportunities, new places to explore before the next one. It was not the case, and at this point you just have to wait from an event to the next one as there is nothing to explore or to open up.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Last time we left with Ernie just leaving the Sheriff office through digging a tunnel after having been incarcerated for freeing a raging bull on the city. I really hope you are up to date and that phrase made sense. So let’s start with...

Murder at the dance floor

The next event in the schedule is an off-tournament night out with the boys at the dance club. When we arrive there at the designated time, our brothers are already waiting for us, ready to pick some girls. Or try at least. Wanting to feel like belonging to the group, I tried my luck by following the club rule: hitting a woman with a foam club to ask her to dance. I was as successful as my brothers but it was at that time that our rivals, the GLYs arrived to the party.

I think the real draw of the game is seeing the next title card

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Missed Classic 60: Adventure in the 5th Dimension (1983)

Written by Joe Pranevich

A funny thing happened on the way to Wishbringer… 

As we start into 1985 in our Infocom marathon, we need to bring one new and influential game designer into focus: Brian Moriarty. Mr. Moriarty is the designer behind Wishbringer, as well as Trinity (which I know nothing about) and Beyond Zork. After leaving Infocom, he was the designer on Loom for LucasArts, one of my all-time favorite titles, plus smaller roles in other games. The more I dug into his history, the less I wanted to cram it all into one post. So instead, we’re going to take a brief detour into Adventure in the 5th Dimension, Mr. Moriarty’s very first text adventure game.

One of the things I have tried to do as we introduced each new Implementor is to look at their past works wherever possible. For Mike Berlyn, I read his novel Crystal Phoenix while Voltgloss was kind enough to play Oo-topos (1981) and Cyborg (1981). For Jim Lawrence, this involved me reading his first Hardy Boys and Tom Swift novels. For Brian Moriarty, this means digging into the history of ANALOG Computing, an unofficial Atari enthusiasts magazine where he started as a freelance contributor but eventually rose to become the Technical Editor of the publication. Along the way, he wrote reviews, utility software, and even two games. I cannot think of a better place to start our look at Moriarty than the magazine that he helped to shape and that shaped him in return.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Missed Classic: Deathmaze 5000 - WON! and Final Rating

By Will Moczarski

Adventurer's Journal #3: I finally found a secret passage that got me out of my previous conundrum – I got to kill the monster eventually and even found a sword. When I thought that I was in for the home-run the monster's mother came out of the woodwork and taught me otherwise. I also did away with this beast, though, and poisoned a vampire bat on my way out only to be killed no less than four times in the most painful ways imaginable. My guardian angel (or rather guardian demon) kept on resurrecting me, however, and I finally got out of this mess. If there's one thing I've learned it's to cherish the safety of escape rooms...

The third day in the maze starts with a facepalm moment. While examining the perfect square I accidentally press the up button and reappear on the other side. Is this “puzzle” nothing more than an unconventional door? On the other side, I discover the usual essentials: a torch and food, as well as a ball of blue wool. Will there be a vicious cat to accompany the vicious dog from level 2? I have to drop some items, too, so I want to put everything that seems like a treasure – the ring, the ball, the paint brush – in the same square and head out to re-explore level four. Unfortunately, dropping more than one item in the same location results in the hallway being “too crowded”. I'll have to pick a whole corridor, accordingly. The next minutes are spent experimenting with all the items. I finally find out that I can play the flute for the snake and it rises out of the box. Moving towards it results in it biting me and me dying once more, though – not exactly breaking new ground here. Reading the usual message about the game again I suddenly know how to cross the pit in level 2 and get the magic staff! Maybe that is the item I am missing? I restore back and fart my way across the pit, thus avoiding the second vicious dog. Still, the staff doesn't have any effect on my remaining puzzles – not the wildest success I could have come up with in my dreams.

In-game graphics for the snake!

Saturday 20 October 2018

Missed Classic: Deathmaze 5000 - Telephone for Van Gogh

By Will Moczarski

Adventurer's Journal #2: This maze really gets to me. I have been stuck in the strange trap for quite a while before getting my throat ripped out by a vicious dog, starving to death and getting mauled by a foul-smelling monster. Someone or something continues to resurrect me, though, and I have to live through all of these horrors again and again until I find my way through – at least I'm making progress...

Interestingly, the biblical passage that the Byrds borrowed for their hit “Turn, Turn, Turn” is from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, a number too similar to 317.2 to ignore. In Ecclesiastes 3, the 17th word is an „a“, and this „a“ is at the beginning of the second part. Furthermore, the second half of Ecclesiastes 3:7 (thus including 1-7.1 but excluding 1-7.2) is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”. This line is apparently not featured in the lyrics to the song by the Byrds – it's left out. Latin Jehovah begins with an “I”. In short, all of this got me nowhere – my cabbalistic approach was doomed to fail. Instead I put my tail between my legs and took a hint from the in-game hint system which told me to “invert and telephone”. What? The hint is just another puzzle? I appear to have been right by inverting the calculator but how do I use “2.LIE” on a telephone? At least this didn't take me too long but I was astonished just how cruel the game really was. In 1980, the letters L, I and E would have been on the same buttons as the numbers 5, 4 and 3 on a telephone. For example: If you wanted to call the LucasArts helpline from their adventures, it would be advertised as “1800-STAR WARS”, translating into “1800-7827 9277”. 5-4-3-2 was so clearly a sequence that I didn't believe in coincidence and indeed turning right five times, left four times and right three times set me free from my conundrum and I was able to leave with the calculator in hand. What a cruel, cruel puzzle! If there is anybody here who was able to solve this without the in-game hint system, please let me know in the comments – I'd be most interested in your train of thought.

Friday 19 October 2018

Missed Classic: Deathmaze 5000 - Conference of the Byrds

By Will Moczarski

Adventurer's Journal #1: So I entered the five story building with the ominous name Deathmaze 5000 although everybody had warned me about it. I figured that escape rooms are for pansies and I'd need more of a challenge to get my righteous adrenaline fix. The maze was really something, though – I was perpetually beheaded by some invisible guillotine, found a lot of treasures but nothing edible so far and finally got stuck in a devious trap that seemed to be quoting either the Bible or the Byrds – not really sure which. I'm already longing for the safety of a conventional escape room although naturally I'd never admit that. Here goes nothing!

[From excerpt from a Med Systems catalog]

In-game manual and contact data for unbecoming insults...right?

Thursday 18 October 2018

Missed Classic 59: Deathmaze 5000 (1980) - Introduction

Written by Will Moczarski

One of the creepiest gaming experiences of my childhood was called Asylum, a downright crazy text adventure with graphics scaring the hell out of me back then. As I never actually managed to complete the game it has kind of stuck with me over the years and hung over my head like an unfinished memory. To finally come to terms with it, I've decided to blog through the adventure games developed and published by Med Systems Software of which Asylum (confusingly aka Asylum II) is the last.

The rather unknown company was founded around the beginning of the 1980s and first released a series of simple maze adventure games called Rat's Revenge, Deathmaze 5000 and Labyrinth for the TRS-80. They cannot be found anywhere on MobyGames and the early history of Med Systems is generally in the dark but sometimes retro gaming calls for a little bit of digital archaeology, right?

Wednesday 17 October 2018

What's Your Story - Will Moczarski

Answers: Will Moczarski
Introduction and captions: Ilmari

Due to various game, computer and work related problems both our main game line and Infocom Marathon are a bit stumped. In order to give our fine reviewers some time to get back on track, we've decided to conduct a Special Week, with a still secret Missed Classic as the topic - let's just say this game might be first title in another potential marathon of sorts. We'll start the Special Week proper tomorrow, but let us first introduce ourselves to the kind person who volunteered to write the review for us - Will Moczarski.

No, this is not Will, but he was the only Moczarski in Wikipedia we could find

Monday 15 October 2018

Amazon - The Bridge of Reloading (Request for Assistance)

Jason Roberts Journal Entry #2: I've made it to Rio Blanco – it's taken a bit of effort – getting past one homicidal pilot and more than one deadly piranha. But for some reason I feel I need some cigarettes - and I don't even smoke! (Boy those things must really be addictive.) I have $1000 in my wallet - should I go to a shop and buy them like a normal person... nah, I have a better idea...

Flashback: Chapter 4

Well, after my last gameplay post, I was politely informed in encoded comments that I had dead-ended myself. Thanks to Voltgloss (and some confirmation from Alex Romanov) I was informed that I'd missed something important in Chapter 4. So I reloaded back to that chapter and tried to find what I'd missed.

First I tried other dialogue items with the ticket seller and barman and see if there was anything I could do with Alberto the Rayon salesman, but had no luck.

Then I furiously looked at every section of every item outside, and I found that the TRUCK and TRUCK DOOR were two separate items – it's a good time to note that this game has no mouseover tooltips or any way to differentiate which parts of items are separate without actually LOOKing at all parts.

Now that I knew the truck had a door, I opened the door, but there was nothing inside. Fortunately I was paying particular attention as I knew I'd missed something, and I noticed a white pixel that was somewhat out of place.

That while pixel below my feet wasn't there until I moved (opened) the truck door.

The white pixel turned out to be a pack of cigarettes. I've never been a fan of puzzles that make me take things that any normal person would buy at a store, and it's not like Jason had no money at this point, so I'm not a fan of this puzzle at all.

Anyway, that's it for our flashback. Let's get on with the next Chapter.

Thursday 11 October 2018

Infocom Marathon: Cornerstone (1985)

Written by Joe Pranevich

One of the sad truths about our beloved genre is that nothing is forever. Some of the greatest names in adventure games-- Sierra, Adventure International, and even LucasArts-- saw their day in the sun only to fall leaving behind unfinished games and frustrated fans. By 1992, where we are in the main-line reviews, many of our big players are still in their heyday. But for the rollercoaster that is the “Zork Marathon” and Infocom, we are approaching the top of the hill. You can argue when the descent started, but there is no doubt that the story of Cornerstone is the story of the beginning of the end for Infocom. There are more games ahead of us than behind, but we cannot continue on to Wishbringer without looking at the product that would change everything.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Stu Galley who passed away in August. You can read his obituary here. Stu was many things to Infocom: one of the founders, designer of three games (The Witness, Seastalker, and Moonmist), and jack-of-all-trades around the office. Perhaps most importantly, he was the writer of the “Implementors Creed”, the mission statement that guided Infocom in its later years. I used to have a copy of this printed out on my desk. In his memory, let’s recount it in full:
I create fictional worlds. I create experiences. 
I am exploring a new medium for telling stories.

My readers should become immersed in the story and forget where they are. They should forget about the keyboard and the screen, forget everything but the experience. My goal is to make the computer invisible.

I want as many people as possible to share these experiences. I want a broad range of fictional worlds, and a broad range of "reading levels". I can categorize our past works and discover where the range needs filling in. I should also seek to expand the categories to reach every popular taste.

In each of my works, I share a vision with the reader. Only I know exactly what the vision is, so only I can make the final decisions about content and style. But I must seriously consider comments and suggestions from any source, in the hope that they will make the sharing better.

I know what an artist means by saying, "I hope I can finish this work before I ruin it." Each work-in-progress reaches a point of diminishing returns, where any change is as likely to make it worse as to make it better. My goal is to nurture each work to that point. And to make my best estimate of when it will reach that point.

I can't create quality work by myself. I rely on other implementors to help me both with technical wizardry and with overcoming the limitations of the medium. I rely on testers to tell me both how to communicate my vision better and where the rough edges of the work need polishing. I rely on marketers and salespeople to help me share my vision with more readers. I rely on others to handle administrative details so I can concentrate on the vision.

None of my goals is easy. But all are worth hard work. Let no one doubt my dedication to my art.
Stuart was one of the men at Infocom that I have most come to admire since starting this project. I had hoped to interview him someday and maybe even meet him-- he lived just one town over from me. Realizing that he is gone is a big blow. He will be missed. His family has asked for donations to be made in his name to Mass Audubon. I’ve made one already and I hope you will consider one as well.

I’ll have a lot more to say about Stu when I come to Moonmist in a few months. For now, let me wipe away the tear running down my cheek and get back to your regularly scheduled business software review.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Amazon - Fight or Flight

Jason Roberts Journal Entry 1: My brother is missing so I've decided to trick my workmates in order to get what I need to follow him to the jungle. I've already deceived Darlene Fitch and Male Guard, and tricked Female Guard by proxy. Now I need to try to deceive the librarian - but first, I have to deal with a heavy metal monster.

Chapter 3

Despite Chapter 2's cliffhanger of the robot telling me I'll be terminated, at the start of this chapter the robot simply paces back and forth, not bothering Jason at all. Looking at B.O.B. Tells me that he's waiting for his replacement to arrive so he can finish his shift!

Sunday 7 October 2018

Missed Classic: The Worm in Paradise - Won! (With Final Rating)

By Ilmari

The main problem throughout the whole game has been a lack of clear goals. I had to finally go to the well of the official clue sheet to get some idea what I was supposed to do here. It turned out there was a whole area of game, the existence of which I hadn’t been aware of. You see, my bed was usually hidden within the wall of my home, and with the command SAY BED I could make it appear. Now, if I lied on my bed and again used the command SAY BED, I was whisked away to somewhere else.

Where am I?

Friday 5 October 2018

Spellcasting 301 - Wet T-Shirt Nite

By Deimar

Ernie Eaglebeak's Journal #4: This contest is never going to end. It is contest on contest on contest to battle for the right of coming to Fort Naughtytail for the next five years. Our opponents, the cow wizards from the GLY fraternity, are stronger, more handsome, and frankly better at all of the test, but they are not as keen as us on cheating. I mean, they are not as wise as we are. Or I am. It is not as if any of my brothers were doing anything to help. But here we are now, having beaten them at weight-lifting, partying, sand castle building, belly flop jumping, drinking contests, bull fighting and even on an improvised bar brawl. I am starting to feel like Hercules, being tasked with my own naughty version of the twelve tests.

Oh, almost forgot. I think I have made a new friend. The sheriff and I are becoming quite intimate and I think he is getting more and more fond of me. Only time will tell.

Last time I was complaining about finances when I was just about to tackle two contest, the belly flop and the drinking one. Spoiler: I’ve beaten them and two more contest.s However, some of the challenges ahead have been a pain in the ass. So allow me to tell you how much I hate casinos in adventure games or a not very intuitive puzzle.

Solving my financial crisis

After hitting my head against the wall for a while and realizing that I was going to be very money constrained or plan very well how I had to buy and sell every item available, I decided to read Ilmari’s suggestions about how to ease my financial problems. The clue that got me the solution was that I had to “uncrook” the casino. Oh boy did I feel stupid after reading that sentence. You can UPPSSY (spell of opposites) the casino from the plaza to make it straight. Simple. Efficient.

Perfectly balanced as all things should be

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Amazon – Deceiving My Workmates

Written by TBD


After the opening cutscene we went through in the introduction post, we start the game with Jason Roberts arriving at work. As always when starting a new game, I look at everything I can see.

Just what I wanted – a mundane description of each individual part of an everyday item.

Looking at the green (sorry, olive drab) car's trunk tells me it's locked. I make a mental note to try to steal the key from the owner (Darlene) at some point, as leaving anything locked just isn't done when playing an adventure game.

Monday 1 October 2018

Zork Marathon: A Rush to Uniformity - 1984 Books & Wrap-up

Written by Joe Pranevich

Sixteen games! It’s been another year both in real-time and in Infocom-time as we have reached the end of 1984 in our misnamed “Zork Marathon”. I’m still having a ton of fun, but as I mentioned in my last post, we need a bit of a breather and catch-up before I want to start on Wishbringer. This year marked two more events in the history of Zork that I cannot pass up without mention: the completion of the Zork series of gamebooks by Steve Meretzky, and the expanded manuals and Zork material provided when Infocom transitioned into the “gray box” format for all of their games. We’ll kick off the 1985 coverage next time with Cornerstone, Infocom’s disastrous move towards the business computing market.

Before we begin, I have written a bonus post covering Suspect, the final game in the Sergeant Duffy mystery series. Ilmari already did an excellent official review of the game, but I couldn’t pass up playing it before moving on. It’s a great game and a good end to the year for Infocom and it is worth your time to (re-)read either of our reviews. I also have a strange kind of “Request for Assistance”. For the last four years, I have played a "classic" holiday-themed adventure game for our Christmas bonus post. There is only one more 1980s Christmas adventure that I know of left to play: A Christmas Adventure (1983) by Bitcards. This is a true rarity: a customizable game that you could give to your Apple II-owning loved ones as an electric holiday card. Unfortunately, the only copy I can find anywhere is 150 UKP (around $200). That’s a bit steep, but I’d like to see if we can collaborate to purchase and donate it to the Internet Archive. As an experiment, I have set up a GoFundMe page as a fundraiser and already coordinated with the good folk at the Internet Archive to import this game if we purchase it. (In fact, it will be shipped straight to them.) I’ll get to play it, but so will anyone else that wants to. Please take a look and donate if you would like to see me play this game this Christmas and for it to be saved by the Internet Archive. I hope no one is offended that I am asking for help; I just really want to play this game for posterity (and Christmas fun).

Saturday 29 September 2018

Missed Classic: The Worm in Paradise - A Golden Handshake

By Ilmari

At the end of my last post I planned to try gathering enough money for the more expensive items. After that I noticed that the price of dagget (a mechanical dog) had come down in a couple of days - indeed, it appeared to have lost 100 creds of its price during each day.

Unfortunately we don’t see the dagget

...but I assume it looks something like this

Thursday 27 September 2018

Alone in the Dark - Final Rating

By Andy Panthro

As I said in the introduction, this game not only brought 3D elements into game design in a new and interesting way, but also paved the way for what we now consider an entire genre. How well did it succeed? And how well does it perform as an “Adventure Game”? And most importantly, how will it score on a PISSED rating?

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Spellcasting 301 - Sand Castles in the Sand

By Deimar

Ernie Eaglebeak's Journal #3: Beating the GLYs is proving to be harder than we anticipated. Of course, we had already beat them at weight lifting and partying, but now we have to build a sand castle, belly flop and a drinking contest. And that’s not even the end of it. But we can’t stand down now. Afterall, we are fighting for our right to PAAAaaaaaaaaaartyyyyyyyy.

Will I find some of these chapter’s photos in Shutterstock?

Friday 21 September 2018

Game 100: Amazon: Guardians of Eden (1992) - Introduction

Written by TBD

If not for the title, I wouldn't be sure if it was a jungle adventure game or a pirate game?

Continuing my self-appointed position as official “Access Software” player, despite the previous three Access Software games all being played by different reviewers, I’m playing through a game I hadn’t heard of until it came up in our Year Ahead post - Amazon: Guardians of Eden.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Alone in the Dark - Tree’s A Crowd (Won!)

By Andy Panthro

We left off as I had guided the private detective Edward Carnby underneath Derceto, and into the tunnels and chambers beneath. This area was ancient and surely constructed long ago, perhaps by the pirate Eliah Pickford or perhaps some of these were here before he took up residence.

Ahead of me are a series of stone pillars, and newly in my action menu is the “jump” command. A flying bug is somewhat in the way, but a couple of shots from the rifle is enough to remove that obstacle. Now the only problem is a 3D jumping puzzle on a 2D background with a very fiddly control system and an unreliable camera positioning.

The jumping isn’t actually that hard, but gauging the distance is the tricky part. I actually fell more often due to jumping a little too far, but the fall doesn’t actually harm you. The water breaks your fall I suppose, although it ruins your rifle cartridges and extinguishes your lantern. There’s a shortcut back to the start from here (and to the rooms ahead), but I intend to finish this game fair and square.