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."

Okay, I guess I'll need the external information for this one.

The bookshelf holds Dr. Brain's Bookshelf Puzzle (they seem to be running out of interesting names for puzzles here). It gives me three author names and several book names on each shelf, which I have to match to the correct author. This seems more like trivia than an actual puzzle. Without knowing a lot about these authors (of the three in this particular example of the puzzle, I'm only mildly familiar with one, and not at all with the other two), there's not much of a way to "solve" this, and the game again suggests I should consult the reference material.


Reference material on the Tower of Hanoi.

I actually should have looked at this somewhat earlier, because there's a lot of interesting information in it. This really is an educational game in a way that Castle wasn't as much (which doesn't necessarily mean it's a better game, mind you). As far as I could tell from glancing through it, every puzzle has some background information and additional challenges provided. For instance, for the Tower of Hanoi, the reference material discusses the old myth that the universe will last as long as it takes for a group of monks to complete a Tower of Hanoi with 64 disks (which, even given just one second per move, is an insane number, over half a trillion years). It also suggests woodworking a physical Tower of Hanoi set.


Why is this so redundant?

Anyway, solving the bookshelf yields a gold "Subject Category" plaque and also causes the bookshelf to slide aside, revealing another room. This turns out to be Dr. Brain's "weight and freight" elevator. We're going to have to do some weights and measures. There are scales and references to measurements all over the place, but the elevator won't do anything when I press the button.


I'm sure the elevator wouldn't go up if there's no counterweight, but wouldn't
you think it ought to go down as long as gravity is still in effect? Not safely, perhaps...

The counterweight is empty, so I'm going to have to fill it properly in order to get the elevator working. The catch? It's divided into three sections, and I have three liquids of different weights to use to fill it: water (8 oz per cup), mercury (7 lb 1 oz per cup), and alcohol (6 oz per cup). I also have to be careful not to fill one side up all the way before filling the other, or it will tip and I'll have to start over. Plus I only get a certain number of times I can dispense each liquid. Okay, I am tempted to make a spreadsheet to calculate this out. Hmm.

Yep, that's how I'm going to have to solve this thing, by converting all the weights to ounces and working out which combination will get me to the total weight. It's likely that on the lower difficulties I could probably work it out in my head, but Expert level is too complicated for that.


My final solution for the counterweight problem.

In this particular version, I notice that for the targets, one side is only 8 oz (1 cup of water!) more than the other side, so I can compensate and then just work out the one value for both sides and double it. The center weight is only 118 oz, which can be reached using 1 gallon of alcohol (96 oz), 1 cup of alcohol (6 oz), and 2 cups of water (16 oz). The side weights (minus the compensation) are 887 oz. Only one quart of mercury (452 oz) will fit in that, and then 3 more cups (339 oz) - cups of mercury are the only odd-numbered measure, so I need an odd number of them to fill an odd number of ounces. As it turns out, that leaves exactly enough for 1 more gallon of alcohol (96 oz). It took a bit of trial and error to work that out, but using a spreadsheet meant I could instantly calculate what I was trying to do and see if it worked.

Then it's just a matter of applying the amounts correctly without spilling the bucket. I fill the center section first, then put the compensating cup of water into the heavier side. Then I work back and forth, filling both sides with the same amounts, one step at a time, until I've added each amount that I worked out previously. The bucket can tilt slightly (and will, if you add a quart of mercury all at once, for instance), but as long as I work one step at a time and rebalance it each time, it won't tilt any further and spill. When I fill the bucket properly, I get a "Fluid Weights" plaque and can now try to run the elevator.

I have to comment here that this was a needlessly complicated puzzle for a counterweight. Weight is weight: it shouldn't matter what liquids form the weight or how they're arranged in a multi-section bucket to balance the weight of the elevator. Naturally, Dr. Brain can't do anything the simple way, though.


Explicit instructions for the gear puzzle.

At this point, I find that the elevator is apparently run by a robot rat who somehow lowers it using a pulley and two gears, but I have to determine which two gears. The ratio of gears is determined by the difference between the elevator weight and the counterweight, divided by the rat's pulling power, which is apparently 25. The puzzle explicitly tells you all of this so that you can do the arithmetic and come up with a gear ratio.


The rat runs to lower the elevator, somehow.

If it's an easy ratio, like 2, then it's trivial to find which gear on the bottom is double the gear on top, and choose those. But if it's a harder ratio, like 1.52, it's much trickier to determine which two gears are the correct ones without computing all of the combinations. It's pretty funny to choose a wrong ratio though: there's a crash test dummy in the elevator which gets destroyed. Good thing there was a dummy to test it first!


Dr. Brain's messy lab.

Once I get the right gears, the elevator takes me down to Dr. Brain's lab. There's another alarming earthquake, and then Dr. Brain also pings me again, sounding impatient. I'm on it, Doc, I'm on it! Apparently Dr. Brain hasn't been in his lab for quite some time, as there's a rather congealed cup of coffee sitting on his desk. I also find a programmable robot, and a genetics machine that needs genetic material.

Okay, we'll tackle the robot first. Three cartridges are available in different colors. One cartridge is normal; one has sporadic bugs that reverse the command on that line of the program; and one has a quirk where the robot will get distracted by monitors in the lab. I'm not actually sure what that means for the robot, if it will skip the next command or something. I was able to just use a route that didn't go near any monitors, so it acted exactly like the normal cartridge.


Finishing the program for the second crate.

At any rate, this is very similar to the programming puzzle in Castle: write a program, line by line, to direct the robot to move around a maze, approach a particular object, and deliver it somewhere, in this case just back to the starting location. Each object here is described as a crate. These crates contain useful objects: one contains a silver key, one contains computer components for later, and one contains the genetic material needed for the genetics machine.


The little robot moves around the rather convoluted lab and retrieves the crates.

The actual programming is very straightforward, since the diagram of the lab is grid-based. The only commands are move forward, turn, pick up, and put down. With the buggy cartridge, any line with a bug symbol simply needs to be reversed from what it normally would be: left instead of right, or backward instead of forward. Writing the programs and retrieving all three crates also gets me the gold Programming plaque, naturally.


This backstory makes no sense.

I can then start up the genetics machine by placing the genetic material canister into the slot. For some reason, the game describes the creatures involved as "cyborgs". Maybe that term hadn't been well-defined at this point, but my understanding is that a cyborg is a human with artificial components replacing certain body parts, usually major parts like entire limbs. The human genetics would work exactly like normal genetics, and the artificial components are not inherited, but have to be individually added. These guys look pretty much like aliens, not cyborgs, but whatever.


Standard binary genetic codes.

Anyway, the genetics in this puzzle work exactly like standard Punnett squares with dominant and recessive traits for each of five different areas. There's an "ideal" or target genetic pattern which we have to reach by generating four grandchildren from the crossing of four selected grandparents. The genetic pattern of at least one grandchild has to match exactly to solve the puzzle, which is a little unrealistic given that Bb (mixed dominant) would give exactly the same outcome as bB, but they wouldn't be considered a match.


Child #2 is the winner.

In the particular puzzle I got, I found an easy shortcut solution: two of the areas needed full recessive to match the target, which meant that all four grandparents had to have the recessive trait for those areas. As it happened, only four did, so those were the right choices and the other three areas fell into place automatically.

It was convenient because I was actually playing this section of the game with my four-year-old son. He had fun just selecting combinations at random and seeing what the results were, but he eventually wanted me to solve the puzzle so we could go on to the next one. I think having more than ten choices for four grandparents would have made the puzzle more interesting.


I guess those "cyborgs" in the corner are going to be sent away at some point?

Solving this puzzle gets me the Genetics plaque and also allows me to use the silver key to open the door in the back. The next room is the art and music room.


The style of the back of the painting doesn't seem to matter.

The Art Concentration puzzle requires me to match a randomized set of paintings to their painters, represented by the heads at the bottom. Clicking on each head will give me the painter's name and some brief information about them, while clicking on the button at the bottom will give me some more detailed information about the painter's life and painting style. I'm also given one example of the painter's work.

Some of the painters I'm already familiar with, which helps. For instance, Salvador Dali's work is truly surreal and strange, while Georgia O'Keefe's work is mostly flowers. Van Gogh is famous for the swirly "Starry Night" painting (which doesn't specifically seem to appear in the game), the style of which I would characterize as using bright colors and visible brush-strokes. Picasso is famous for paintings with very defined shapes but not very life-like people. Kandinsky was one I didn't know much about, but his work seemed to be just abstract with bright colors and solid shapes. And Pollock was abstract also, but his work was made up of a lot of small drips and dots.


Guess who? Abstract, but solid shapes, not dots, so it has to be Kandinsky.

I don't tend to pay as much attention to the abstract artists because that style is a bit like the instrumental music of art: really good work can be beautiful and/or interesting to look at, but hard to describe, in the same way a particular numbered classical sonata might sound beautiful but be hard to distinguish from the other two dozen numbered sonatas by that composer (unless you learn to play them all and know them individually, of course). Less good work might just look like paint thrown at the canvas, even if the piece has a name that might ordinarily evoke an actual picture of something; while a less talented composer might string notes together that sound like music but the result just isn't interesting or evocative of anything.

I didn't find it very difficult to match all the paintings to the painters, but I checked later, and the reference material lists all the painting names for each painter. Each painting gives its name, in-game, so that'd be an easy way to get through the puzzle. That's almost cheating, though, so I didn't use the reference material while I was playing through the puzzle. Completing the art puzzle yields the Art Recognition plaque.


The Achievement Board after twenty-three puzzles.

We're nearing the end, but I'm going to stop here. Next time I'll cover the music puzzle and push to the end. I'll also want to talk about what happens on the other difficulty levels and what sort of replay the game encourages.

Session Time: 3 hours 0 minutes
Total Time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

6 comments:

  1. I remember always having a real tough time with the genetics puzzle. I could never figure out how to get the mixed dominant traits to come out correctly and usually ended up dumping the difficulty level down to Novice (which only involves one generation) just to get past it. Everything else I could eventually solve on Expert, but not this one.

    I also remember as a kid screwing up the elevator gear puzzle deliberately over and over because the dummy animation was pretty hilarious.

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    1. Well, like I said, I got kind of lucky with the recessive traits identifying the grandparents, so I didn't have to fiddle with it at all. I've noticed due to the randomization that several of the puzzles have a pretty wide range of difficulties even on Expert, so sometimes it's much harder than other times.

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    2. The genetics one drove me spare as well, I had to drop the difficulty level as well and I was playing it in my late 20's, got SO close every now and then. On m\novice I finally shamed my way through!

      One other thing, do they have an option for metric systems? I cannot remember but know I would have suffered with the confounded imperial system.

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    3. I don't think there's an option for metric, no. I converted everything to ounces to solve the puzzle anyway, but yeah, if you're not so familiar with the usual cup/pound setup, it's bound to be more tricky.

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    4. I think part of the point of the puzzle was to teach how to convert pounds and ounces, being an educational game and all. Making it metric would just be *too* easy!

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  2. For some reason, the game describes the creatures involved as "cyborgs". Maybe that term hadn't been well-defined at this point

    Maybe whoever wrote the script here was unfamiliar with the word, but "cyborg" dates from the early 1960s, from cybernetic organism. ("Cybernetics" itself was coined by Norbert Wiener in 1948.) Perhaps they were thinking anything made of joined parts of different things is a "cyborg"?

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