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.
|Such a cute kitty!|
So, how far back should I restore? I was tempted to start all over again from scratch. I know there’s a starfish that I didn’t save in the beginning of the game, plus I didn’t snag the seashell before the tide came in. I’m sure there are other elements that I missed because so much of the beginning of the game was a rush, even with how many times I started over to explore all of it. Even so, starting all the way from the beginning wasn’t appealing. It’s fun, but not that fun. So instead I rewound to a bit later than that: I had just snagged the bronze token out of the fountain by distracting a piranha with an earthworm. From there, I had originally gone to the wharf to use the teleportation machine and land in the tower. Instead, I head to the theater instead. Once there, I have no problem buying the ticket and once again Miss Voss reports me to the police for using a counterfeit coin. I grab the 3D-glasses from under the seat and sit down to watch the sequence play out, as the witch (whom I now suspect to be the Evil One) sees that I’m in the theater and cuts the power.
Now with the glasses, I go to the wharf next and teleport back in front of the Evil One’s tower. I replay the whole sequence with Mr. Crisp as a torturer, including watching his demeanor melt when I hand him the note from the Fersteron version of Miss Voss. I save the platypus from the torture machine and this time put on the 3D-glasses while scaling the tower. When I get to the top, I can see!
|And another one! I have kitties on the brain!|
With my glasses on, the top of the tower looks like it did in the movie theatre, with one cute exception: there’s another little black kitty running around! It’s not Chaos because it doesn’t have the white spot above her nose, but she is cute and I pet her even if she doesn’t let me pick her up. More importantly (perhaps!), there’s a telescope from which I can look out at the town, several control levers, and a discarded broom. I immediately pick up the broom since I know I’ll need it for the “flight” wish, but the rest takes some consideration. (In the process, I have to drop my lab coat and squashed can of mixed nuts; inventory pressure is ever-present in this game. I hope I don’t need either of those again.) Although I don’t see anything interesting through the telescope, the control levers look more interesting. The first, for the theater, is already turned off. The second, labeled “security”, is still on. I turn that off as well. Before leaving, I try one last time to pick up the kitty and she just scampers off. I hope I won’t need her for anything.
After that, I play the rest of the game as before: I escape the tower using the hidden lever behind the painting, I ask Hellhound Alexis to “heel” so that I can get into the Librarian’s house and get the library key, and then I head in there. Just as before, the door closes and locks behind me. I still do not have a key to the circulation desk, but this time I go boldly into the museum room and break open the glass display case using my horseshoe. Who needs to wish for “luck” when you can just smash glass! No alarms go off this time and I am not arrested immediately. Now that I have the cat statue, what am I supposed to do with it? Examining it carefully, it is all black but with an indentation on its forehead. Knowing that Chaos supposedly had a white spot there, is there something white that I am supposed to put inside? Just to be cheeky, I ask the game to “examine chaos” and it tells me the description of the statue so I know I’m on the right path. What do I have that’s about the right size and white? The Wishbringer!
I start to put the stone in the statue’s forehead, but am interrupted. A woman who looks just like the shopkeeper from the beginning of the game arrives and tells me not to do it. Am I going to believe randomly appearing old women? No! I put the stone in anyway and the room melts away in a burst of violet magic. That wasn’t the shopkeeper, that was the Evil One, and I just foiled her plans! Lots of swirly things and magic happen and I am transported back to the outside of the magick shoppe with the town restored. Chaos, now a fully alive black cat with a white dot on its forehead, plays at my feet.
Entering the magic shop one more time triggers the end of the game. The shopkeeper, perhaps the “Good One?”, is overcome with joy at the rescue of her companion. Naturally, she cannot really give me the Wishbringer as a reward because it is tied up with her familiar. I’ll just have to be satisfied that I rescued the town from her sister. The puppy-like mailbox bounds in and nuzzles up to me; I guess it survived the trip from Witchville as well. Before I leave, the Good One even gives me back Miss Voss’s note so that I can return it to the correct version of Mr. Crisp. I’m sure he will be so happy to receive it! Everything has fallen into place nicely and I didn’t even use a single wish!
|Plugging the stone into the kitty’s forehead.|
|All of these plot threads, resolved so nicely...|
|I rescued a cat!|
Time played: 45 min
Total time: 5 hr 05 min
Score: 100 points
This one will be tough to rate. As an “Introductory” work, it doesn’t have the depth or complexity of some other Infocom adventures, but it makes up for it in charm. I respect that you might not enjoy this game as much as I did, but frankly a light romp was (literally) just what the doctor ordered. Before rating, I read the walkthrough to see what I might have missed. I solved the game (more or less) in the most difficult way, by not using any of the wishes. There are quite a few alternate solutions that I missed such as being able to sneak past the ticket-taker in the theater using the “darkness” spell, or I could have sought “advice” at different times, or used “luck” to fool the troll. A commenter even pointed out that there were three ways out of the police station and I only found one! I’ll try to consider all of that in my review.
Puzzles and Solvability - Let’s start by saying that the puzzles in this game weren’t perfect and some of them weren’t completely fair. The early game time limits prevented you from really exploring the “light” world without multiple reloads and yet there were some objects there that were (nearly?) requirements to win. Would it have been possible to win without fishing out the gold coin, for example? I never figured out how to get the candy in the beginning from the Sergeant, nor did I rescue the seahorse or pick up the conch shell. There were also too many cases where you had to interact with objects that were not clearly laid out in the room descriptions, such as when we had to search under the seats for the 3D glasses. Although I might have given it a pass in a different work, the number of dead-ends here felt wrong for an Introductory game. My score: 3.
Interface and Inventory - We have the standard Infocom interface which hasn’t changed much in this iteration, except for it popping in at key points to remind you to save your game or map. My score: 4.
Story and Setting - This is where the game really shines. The towns of Festeron and Witchville are well-done. The story isn’t devoid of stakes, but having the focus be on rescuing a cat (and from there, the entire town) is a great way to keep it interesting. There’s a kingdom of platypuses! We tucked in a baby grue! Exploring the contrast between light and dark aspects of the game is very memorable. This may be one of my favorite self-contained settings of the entire Infocom catalog. My score: 7.
|Could have used more cat pictures.|
Sound and Graphics - No ASCII art and nothing really even to validate a pity point, so it has to be: My score: 0.
Environment and Atmosphere - Witchville is creepy and engaging, a fairy-tale come to life. I loved exploring and little details such as the puppy-like mailboxes and the literal “boot” patrols that scoop you up if you are out past curfew just really nailed it for me. Sure, they could have done more with the graveyard or church, but what they had was enough. And what was up with the Zork I scene? My score: 7.
Dialog and Acting - After playing Adventure in the 5th Dimension, I never would have guessed that Brian Moriarty was able to write this well. The prose is top-notch, perhaps on par or better than what we’ve come to expect from Steve Meretzky. The characters are only as complicated as you might expect from a children’s story, but several of them had nice beats. Seeing Mr. Crisp’s dark exterior fade away when he saw the love note from Miss Voss melted my heart. Love can conquer dark magic, after all. My score: 6.
Do I want to add a bonus point? Yes! There should be at least one bonus for the fact that the game is winnable without any wishes, but that using wishes offered alternate solutions to the game’s puzzles. Credit where credit is due; I might have wished for a different magic mechanic, but I can’t be too displeased by the one we got.
Add up the score: (3+4+7+0+7+6)/.6 + 1 = 46 points!
That’s… impressively high, in the top rung of all Infocom games so far. (Only surpassed by Planetfall, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and Ilmari’s playthrough of The Witness.) Am I being too generous? Or is this game a real diamond-in-the-rough? I’m going to stand behind my judgement: this is a great game by a great developer who managed to charm the living daylights out of me. Give me a dozen more games like this and I could be happy. Whomever thought this game deserved to go with the “B-Sides” on the second Lost Treasures set was crazy.
With an average score guess of 40, I expect that I liked this game more than some of you did. Even so, Laukku is our winner with a very close guess of 45 points! Congratulations! CAPs will be allocated with the next mainline game. Next up for me is A Mind Forever Voyaging. I’ve just read the manual so far and it seems depressing. Extremely, extremely depressing. I hope I find the game itself more enjoyable than its backstory, but could Steve Meretzky lead us wrong?