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.