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. And...in 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 TRS-80.org: 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).