Sunday, 17 March 2019

Gobliiins - Into the Fire

By Ilmari

Statue of Serenity - made by Joss Whedon?

Or maybe it is a statue OF him?

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - Romancing the Stone

Written by Joe Pranevich

A few years back, I spent some time studying Shakespeare. I’m not going to claim some amazing insight into the bard, but as I read each play I was always struck by a moment of realization when I saw what he was up to. It’s not fair to compare Infocom with one of the seminal writers of the English language, but most of their games has similarly featured a moment of realization when you discover exactly what kind of game you are playing. For Spellbreaker, I think I hit that point in the last post. Here’s my prediction: we’re going to spend the game visiting largely disconnected regions and solving puzzles. In each area or so, we’ll find a white cube which will propel the narrative forward to another area. I don’t quite see the endgame yet, but some magic will allow us to access the blocked exits in each of the cubes to solve a final puzzle which will end the series. Let’s see how off the mark I am.

Honestly, I’ve already been off the mark once in this game. I expected it to be more of a chase as we constantly nipped at the heels of the orange-smoke assailant, exploring regions and solving puzzles as a means to get closer and closer to him. That hasn’t turned out to be the case, but I suppose there is still plenty of time to catch up to him.

Last week, we ended as I snagged a second white cube off of a hermit who lived on top of an avalanche. I climbed the rockfall by pausing time at just the right moment and scaling the boulders in flight. I magically fixed his hut and was rewarded with the cube. That led me to a “Soft Room” which is where I will start today. Let’s go!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Gobliiins: Underneath a Carrot Patch

By Ilmari

I had managed to get in wizard’s house, but then I had no idea what I was expected to achieve. Time for plan B, that is, random clicking around. What I soon found out was that the big skeleton was very ticklish and dropped a skeleton key, if I used a feather on him. I couldn’t take the key right away, because the skeleton was guarding it.

And he was mightily pissed

Monday, 11 March 2019

Rex Nebular - Final Rating

Written by TBD

It seems weird to make a big deal about your manual being written by an award winning game designer when he had nothing to do with the game itself.

So let's get to rating Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. I'll start with some general thoughts. I was really surprised (and rather pleased) that the game didn't contain a whole heap of sex-based jokes. That type of humour can very quickly become repetitive and boring so well done.

Having said that, I enjoyed the game a lot more at the beginning. I was wondering if it was just that the humour got stale after a while, but I really think it's more because much more effort was put into the beginning of the game than the late game. More items seem to have unique and detailed descriptions earlier whereas later in the game there are a lot more generic or shorter responses.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Missed Classic: Spellbreaker - Avalanche!

Written by Joe Pranevich

Wow! It’s been a while. How have you been? Family good? Any of you have children who grew up, went to college, started a family, and then had children of their own still waiting for a Spellbreaker update? I am sorry about that, but life has been a bit extra challenging these last few weeks and writing needed to take a back seat. The other issue is that this game isn’t really “singing” to me. It’s good and all, but I’m not really getting drawn to the story or the puzzles in the usual way for Infocom. I’ll discuss that more in a bit and in upcoming posts, but the end result is that not having enough time, plus having to force myself to play and write when I did have the time, made for a longer than usual time between posts. I’ll try to do better with the remainder of the series now that real life has settled a bit. I apologize for my tardiness.

Where we left off last time, I had just survived (somehow) an attack where all of the elders of all of the magical guilds in the world were all turned into frogs. Why was I not affected? That remains a core mystery. I chased after the assailant, but he teleported away in a cloud of orange smoke, leaving me only with a white cube left in the middle of the street and a new spell in my spellbook. When I cast that new spell on the cube, I was transported away into a dark room. That’s all we’ve done so far, so let’s see what happens next!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Gobliiins - Collecting Reagents

By Ilmari

Happened last time: the goblins were asked to collect three magical reagents - Airain’s Mushroom, Arachnide’s Elixir and Bald Plant - which the wizard needed for curing the goblin king.

I hope his ears are waxless

In this level the obvious goal was to get past the Igor wannabe. The basic solution was pretty simple.

No, it did not involve the monster mask lying on the path

Friday, 1 March 2019

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Rex Nebular - Won!

Written by TBD.

Rex Nebular's Log: Stardate – Ides of March, 44 BC: I was just sitting down in the Senate before work when all the senators came in. After my good friend Brutus hugged me I felt a sharp pain in my bac... ... Sorry, wrong log... ... I won. I've completed my mission and escaped the evil women with help from an inexplicably homeless person. Let me tell you how I did it...

Well, I left off last time having gotten a bad ending and being stuck and asking for help. I received help from gboukensha, Charles and Leo Velles. Thank you all.

I looked at gboukensha's hints first.
1. You need to distract the dog
Well, I already knew that and if I wasn't somewhat impatient I would have tried a few more things before looking at the second clue. But that clue could easily mean I needed an item I didn't yet have and I was already impatient, so...
2. You should use the bones to do that
Okay. I had the bones and I'd tried throwing the bones to the dog one at a time and he just ate them up until I ran out.

So I go back to the auto shop and start throwing bones around willy-nilly. After a few aborted attempts to throw (There's really no need to throw the bones at the manhole...) the action line changes from Throw bones at item to...

Aha. When I point at the fence AT gets replaced with OVER

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Game 106: Gobliiins (1992) - Introduction

By Ilmari

Best thing about democracies is that you won't have to worry too long about raving rulers

You probably expected another Rome-post from Reiko, but unfortunately she has had to take a break from playing the game. Rome is now on hiatus, and we'll return to it later, when we've found a new reviewer for it. In the meantime, let's check on Gobliiins!

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Rex Nebular - LOST! (Request for Assistance)

Written by TBD.

Rex Nebular's Log: Stardate - 13th b'ak'tun.1: I finally found my way off this planet, but it quickly became clear that it wasn't exactly how I wanted to go out - can I try again?...

I'm hopelessly stuck. Last time I reported in, I'd done some exploring in the underground men's section of the planet, and had a few things I could try, one of which I was quite proud of and planned to do immediately.

My number one plan was to flood the city by blowing up the underground sea window. But that didn't work.

Aw, I was really proud of that idea too...

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Rex Nebular - It's A Man's World

Written by TBD

Rex Nebular's Log: Stardate - 27th of Last Seed.7: I've explored the abandoned underground land of men. I have a few more items, but none of them are getting me closer to getting the vase that I'd almost forgotten about or escaping the planet. I've found some locked doors so I know I'll at least need a few more keys. And I've just had a crazy idea that I'll try soon...

When we'd last left our hero, he'd just come out of the gender bender with his original gender back in order to explore the subterranean land of men by way of gender-locked vehicle.

The vehicle gives us nine possible locations. So let's explore them in the order of... well, in the order I explored them. At each location I'll finish with a short list of what I think needs to be done there. I have no illusions that all of my suppositions will be correct, but it's what I was thinking when I left the location.

The driving requires no input from me beyond selecting my destination. On choosing the location, the car drives there for a few seconds while Rex casually taps his fingers on the console.

Driving in Rex Nebular – much less tedious than Mean Streets or Police Quest

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Missed Classic 65: Spellbreaker (1985) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

From the earliest days of the company, Infocom had one tradition: a new Zork title released every fall. After Zork III, the baton was passed to the Enchanter series which, as patient and dedicated readers know was just the second Zork trilogy. October of 1985 was no exception with the launch of Spellbreaker, the conclusion to the second Zork trilogy. But 1985 wasn’t like previous years at Infocom. Layoffs had begun to stem the bleeding from Cornerstone’s commercial flop. A Mind Forever Voyaging wasn’t a commercial success and Fooblitzky had sold only five hundred copies by mail-order. I cannot imagine what the feelings were around the Infocom offices. Could this be the end?

Of course, we know it wasn’t, but Spellbreaker does mark the end of one era. It is the last of the original six Zork games. Other than a 1997 marketing tie-in, it’s the last Zork to be written by the original collaborators, Marc Blank or Dave Lebling. It’s nearly (but not quite) the last game to be released by an independent Infocom. It’s also one of the games that I have most looked forward to playing in this marathon.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Rome: Pathway to Power - Out of the Fire

Written by Reiko

Hector’s Journal #1: "Someone's going to want to know eventually how a simple slave managed to get so far. I am hardly a simple slave, at least now, but I'd like to think that I was never ordinary. Yet you could say that I just got lucky, at least at first. It all started on the worst and best day of my life up to that point. It was certainly the worst day of the lives of a lot of other people."

First, I'm probably going to want to complain about the controls a lot, so let's just get that out of the way first, and then we can concentrate on the plot. Hector wanders around, often even when I haven't told him where to go, and when I do, the pathfinding is very inconsistent. For a game with time limits, this is not helpful. One time I clicked on a square to have Hector walk in one direction along a wall, and instead he started going the other way, as if he was trying to go around the wall instead. The one mitigating factor is that the map is interactive: it's basically like a very zoomed-out version of the whole level, with the current locations of all the people (unlabeled, but you can see in general where people are) displayed in real time, and clicking zooms back in and starts Hector moving to the selected location. It's actually far easier to navigate using the map screen than the regular screen, just because the view is so narrow.

Also, I discovered that if I click on an NPC, Hector yells "Excuse me" or some such, and the person stops moving for a minute, which gives me a chance to do a "greet" or "inquire" action on them. Better than trying to talk to moving people when the people are so tiny. However, when there are multiple people in close proximity to each other, it's still difficult to click on a specific one.

Those little sprites are hardly distinguishable, so I hope this is the right guy.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Rex Nebular - To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

Written by TBD.

Rex Nebular's Log: Stardate - The Day The Music Died.3: I'd sometimes dreamed about what I'd do if I was a woman for a day. But in none of those dreams did I just wander around picking stuff up and solving puzzles. At least I feel a lot more welcome on this planet now. Now, let's find out where these teleporters go...

When we'd last left our hero, she'd just come out of the gender bender with a brand new gender. I'd found the gender scanner to the south, but first I continue following the carnage my friend had made on his way to the teleporter.

I find another dead guard, and her arm half a screen away. I also find a tape player. Having gotten a tape from a dead body back in the hospital, I do the obvious.

My attempts to put my tape in the tape player showed me one of the quirks with the game's interface.

Both of these are generic descriptions I get by clicking on random things.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Game 105: Rome: Pathway to Power - Introduction (1992)

Written by Reiko

Rome: Pathway to Power is a bit of an odd duck. It's a historical adventure set in Rome, of course, in AD 92, which was also its other sub-title. But its main screen uses an isometric perspective, and at least one level involves controlling whole armies rather than just one character. This quirkiness reminds me a bit of the Dune adventure game that I reviewed a year and a half ago, which was a hybrid adventure-strategy game. I hope Rome has as good a blend between the adventure and strategy aspects.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Interview with Brian Cody, Co-Creator of Fooblitzky

By Joe Pranevich

From time to time, it has been our pleasure to not only play and explore the classic games, but to discuss them with their creators. We’ve spoken to game designers and game illustrators, but I am pleased to have been able to spend some virtual time with someone who was both: Brian Cody, the co-creator of Fooblitzky, Infocom’s first and last computer board game. If you missed our coverage of that game, you can find it here. Brian was not only responsible for much of the game design, he also developed the game’s unique graphical style.

The following interview has been assembled from a series of emails in January 2019 and edited together for your reading enjoyment.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Rex Nebular - Meet Mr. Chainsaw

Rex Nebular's Log: Stardate - Later That Afternoon.3: I've been captured by a group of women. One of the woman keeps referring to me as scum - which is strange because usually people spend at least a few minutes with me before realising I'm scum. It seems the women want to use me as breeding stock. I'm in great peril and need to escape as soon as possible. Or maybe I should stay and have just a little bit of peril first.

When I last checked in, I'd just teleported to a facility and been met by two women, one of whom had a gun pointed at me.

The women take me on a small tour through their complex, or not so much a tour as a direct line to the prison.

My fellow prisoners.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Infocom Marathon: Fooblitzky (1985)

Written by Joe Pranevich

When it came to text adventures, Infocom appeared to have the golden touch. And yet, there were dark clouds looming if you knew where to look. The earliest “Zork” games still sold like hotcakes, regularly appearing on top sales charts, while newer releases packed a punch but faded just as quickly. From the beginning, the executives at Infocom wanted to diversify in order to have a robust business, one responsive to changing industry trends. Fads come and go, but Infocom was to be a company for the long term. That diversification reached a fever pitch in 1985 as the company failed to launch a new business products division. We already looked at the catastrophe that was Cornerstone. Less well-known is Infocom’s initial foray into graphical non-adventure games. That experiment also led only to a single launch, the computer board game Fooblitzky.

We cannot cover Fooblitzky in the usual way. Instead, we have been inspired by Infocom’s sense of experimentation by launching an experiment of our own. Instead of my playing the game by myself, I was joined by three of our collaborators: TBD, Reiko, and Voltgloss. Even better, we recorded the game as a video which you can watch below. Considering our wide-ranging timezones, this is likely the first ever game of Fooblitzky played around the world. I’ve also embraced the spirit of experimentation by recording and editing (and then paying someone to edit better…) a video introduction to the game. It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this; please let us know in the comments below whether you want to see more such experiments in the future. Let’s have some fun with this!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Island of Dr. Brain - Final Rating

Written by Reiko

Island of Dr. Brain was quite the puzzle-fest, and of course, for a puzzle-lover like me, it was fun to play. However, I suspect that the parts don't add up quite the same way they did for its predecessor. Let's see how the categories compare.

Puzzles and Solvability

Puzzles! Definitely! But, like Castle, they're all individual mental puzzles, several of them classic by this point, like Towers of Hanoi. Others include math puzzles, word searches and other word puzzles, jigsaws, programming, even music and art. They run the gamut of school subjects, in fact, and many of them are quite a bit more intellectual than the puzzles in Castle.

The hardest puzzle in the game.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Rex Nebular - Bouncing Betty

Written by TBD.

Rex Nebular's Log: Stardate - Tuesday morning.4: After being shot out of space I've crash landed on a planet populated only by women. Am I dreaming? Or do the indigenous creatures who keep wanting to rip off my head make it a nightmare?

We join our hero just after the opening cutscene, during which his ship was shot down and sunk into the water near the coast.

After getting up, the first thing I do is look at the viewscreen. On it I see a topless woman coming out of the water before the screen shorts out, upsetting Rex immensely. Is a pixellated topless woman the extent of naughtiness we're going to see in this game? I expect so.

I quickly discover that the descriptions in this game are rather verbose and there's a lot of hotspots I can look at in the first few screens. So much so that before fully exploring the ship I just wanted to go outside despite my usual strategy of looking at absolutely everything.

The descriptions are also amusing, so reading them is fun, but again, after a while, I just wanted to move on.

As I said, verbose but funny

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Game 104: Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender (1992) – Introduction

Written by TBD

Rex is regretting his third wish, which seemed like such a fun idea in theory.

Much like a previous game I've played, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, the title of this game has me forming an opinion on the type of experience I'll be having before I even start. I'm expecting, again like the previously mentioned title, a space comedy game with many jokes and situations somehow related to sex. Will I be right? I feel confident I'll be right.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Putt-Putt Joins the Parade - Won!

By Ilmari

What keeps those eyebrows linked to the car?

Daddy of the Teletubbies Sun?

That yawn is just plain creepy

And there are teeth. He even washes them

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Island of Dr. Brain - Won!

Written by Reiko

Easy if you can read a treble clef.

In the far corner of the room, I find a piano, which launches the music puzzle. This has three stages. "Lesson 1" is Sight Reading: clicking the correct note on the piano that matches each note on the staff. Lesson 2 is Placing Notes: clicking the correct place on the staff that matches each note played on the piano, which is just the inverse of sight reading.

The given melody.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Waxworks - Final Rating

By Deimar

We come to the end of HorrorSoft. And it is a pity that it seems so rushed and a bit unfinished because I really liked both Elviras. The good things in them easily overcome their flaws, at least if you are interested in an horror themed adventure. However, in this game there are simply too many design mistakes, too much repetitiveness, too many dead ends… And even though I ended up the game with the mine, which is the most elaborated level, mostly well designed and interesting, it came after three sections ranging from meh to borderline infuriating. In the end, it didn’t left a good taste, neither as an adventure game nor as an RPG. Let’s check its flavour in our PISSED rating.