Friday, 3 May 2019

Curse of Enchantia - In the Nose of Madness

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Just when I thought this game couldn’t get any weirder, it throws you a curveball and creates the most mindf..king world I’ve seen in a long time. Let’s just say this part of the game would make the island of fairy tales in King’s Quest VI look like a perfectly normal office bullpen. But first things first, I had to reach the next part, which is easier said than done when you’re back in the same town area without any change and no idea on how to progress in the game…

Rejoice citizens! Your savior is back!

The first thing I do is check if the seal is telling me any other clue for my money, but no, it still shows me the fact that I need to get past the guard wearing a pig disguise. I go spend some time in the meat shop, notably trying in some way to interact with anything else, giving more money to the butcher, eating the meat again and again in order, I don’t know… to turn into a pig? It would still not be the most nonsensical thing to do in the game. After running out of options, I decide (with a deep sigh) to try and go back to the cliff in order to give my fire extinguisher to the parrot. Maybe he would give me something else to advance? So I go back to the mage, pay him and… he turns me into a pig.

Insanity : doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

But why? Why would this fraking game do that? Even with the fact that it’s all word-less, surely they could have given me any kind of clue that the wizard dropped the teleport business and went into the pig shapeshifting business? Or they just expect their players to try and go back to the cliff out of boredom like I did. Anyway, counting on player’s boredom doesn’t seem like the cleverest game design idea, but that’s just me.

I guess the pig I’m impersonating must be a big deal among the monsters… probably because of the cool shades.

Passing the beetle guard, I arrive in a new section of the world of Enchantia. The first thing to greet me here is a full rock band of slugs called “The Slugs”.

I prefer the Wolfenstein The New Order pun on the Beatles : Die Kafer

Anyway, despite all the noise the band is trying to make, they still can’t cover the soundtrack of the game, which is a shame. There is some kind of recording device here but I can’t seem to operate it yet. Trying to talk to the band of throwing them some money (or a fire extinguisher) doesn’t work either. On the right of the stage I see a door closed by some kind of card reader, as well as a path going southeast. I finish exploring the screen on the west to find a huge pile of letters, a mailbox, and a huge pile of what appears to be human hair.

Cousin Itt has put on weight...

West of the mailbox, the path seems to be blocked by a constant rain of fireballs so I keep this option for later. I take a letter from the pile as well as a handful of hair (eek). I try to mail the letter but it doesn’t seem to work. Interestingly enough, going back east with the letter in my possession makes it fly back to the pile. Thankfully I can keep the hair. Score! I proceed to explore the path southeast of the Slugs and find a hippie with a boombox next to a dinosaur skeleton, what appears to be a volcano and a crashed plane. The hippie asks me for some music.

Yeah I’m pretty sure you use the same drugs than the guy who designed this screen.

I guess I’ll have to find a tape of some kind and maybe use it to record the Slugs before I can make more progress. I keep going east and find… a giant angry nose, a pile of pens, a pile of socks and different cars piled up in top of each other.

Ok I’m now pretty sure the developers typed random words on a paper and the graphic artists made the best with what they had without asking any questions…

I pick up a pen (which allowed me to understand the pile in question was indeed pens and not used up syringes à la Saw) and a post stamp right next to it. I also pick up a sock (that you can’t pick up unless you go behind the pile of socks… another flawless victory for player-friendly puzzles) and try to give it to the nose or use it on him, but to no avail. I try attacking the nose with everything in my inventory but nothing works so I move on. Going down the stairs on the east brings me to another screen that makes as much sense as the last one.

An aggressive mouth on a pile of cellphones… Dali and Picasso would have loved this game.

I can’t pick up a cell phone probably because the mouth tries to bite me every time I approach it. Once again, I try to attack the mouth with my whole inventory but it doesn’t work. I’ll finish exploring before going back to these random attacking organs. I approach the boat in the back of the screen and see this is the Marie-Céleste, one of the most famous ghost ships in history.

And as in real life, it’s guarded by a robot

Right next to the boat, there is a huge pile of gold coins I can’t seem to take. I try a lot of options on the gold coins and stumble upon a solution a bit by accident. You have to COMBINE the sock with the gold coins in order to take a few coins. You can’t USE the sock on the gold coins, of course, it would be too easy. I will take credit and say I completely did that on purpose because I’m a genius by now and can read through the developers’ twisted logic.

Considering what I was trying to do is combine the sock and the pen, this solution seems more logical in retrospect.

I find a use almost immediately for the sock full of coins because I can attack the robot with it. Interestingly enough, this time the option didn’t work from afar and you really have to be close of the robot for it to work. It’s no big deal but it’s weird a bug from another place in the game is not working here. Maybe every part of the game has been developed by different people not talking to each other? Actually that would explain a lot!


Brad keeps up with the tradition of killing random beings with no reason.

A bit disappointed I can’t take anything in the collapsed robot, I enter the ghost ship. The hull of the ship is crossed by a river I can’t jump across and two boards in the lower corner of the place makes for a straightforward and easy puzzle, which is as mundane as it is relaxing in this game. Pick up the first board / Move near the river / Throw the first board / Pick up the second board / Move on the first board / Throw the second board.

If only it could be only puzzles like this till the end, at least we’d be done quickly.

I am then able to pick up some kind of golden sheet or map or whatever in the back end of the ship.

I mean seriously what is this? A yellow cloth? Baking paper?

I kinda hoped googling the Marie-Céleste wikipedia would maybe give me a clue, considering the Mr Benn reference in the past chapters of the game but turns out the Marie-Céleste was only carrying denatured alcohol when it disappeared so nope… no idea… we’ll call it the gold map for now. Exiting the Marie-Céleste, I find…. A pile of cassette tapes!!! Yay! I’m actually making progress on a puzzle I know about!

With a pile this size, hopefully we’ll finally be able to listen to something good.

I grab a cassette tape and exit left to find myself back to the Nose and cars screen. I now have a tape and a stamp in my possession so hopefully I’ll be able to make some progress in the entrance screen of the area. I go back to the Slugs stage. On my way there I try to give the tape to the hippie but, as foreseen, he doesn’t want it and asks for music on the tape. Once near the Slugs, I eagerly put my cassette in the audio recording device. Neat!

No Stairway to Heaven, guys.

And… and… and nothing happens. I can’t get my tape back and it doesn’t seem to record, or if it is recording, nothing seems to happen for a while. I wait a bit. I try other things, including throwing money at the band again just in case they’re not actually playing but rehearsing and I need to make them start playing somehow but nothing happens. I try using the hair on the console just in case it’s actually wires and not hair (I’ve been confused several times by these icons, I’m not letting that happen again) and the console needs to be wired, but it doesn’t work. I spend some more quality time yelling “Hi” and “Help” at the Slugs then move on to the post box. I pick up the envelope on the ground, put the stamp on it and post it. That’s a job well done!

I kinda hoped it would make something else happen though…

So yeah. I just put my letter in the post box and nothing else seems to have happened. Yay. I then proceeded to go west in order to face the fire storm.

Forecast for today on Enchantia : fire showers are expected through Wednesday morning.

I then encounter a facepalm moment : you can actually cross the fire rain. Brad may receive one fireball or two, resulting in him being burned to a crisp, but nothing he can’t shake off and keep going.

That’s a resilient protagonist, I’ll give him that.

Simply crossing the fire rain for the rest of the screen, I’m able to grab what appears to be a silver tray of some kind and jump down a cliff… to get back to the mouth-protected pile of cellphones.

Okay, so I’ll fast-forward a little bit in order to save you time and I’ll skip to the part I actually found some solutions to the puzzles. Needless to say it involved way too long time and a LOT of cursing and profanity. The first solution I practically stumbled upon is what I needed to do with the nose. I needed to INSERT the hair into his nostril so he’d eject himself out of the screen by sneezing. Pretty obvious and the thing that annoys me is that I’m pretty sure I tried it several times earlier but it didn’t work. The main problem is still with the interface where I randomly need to USE or GIVE or COMBINE or UNLOCK or INSERT two things and only one option works and I often walk away sure I tried everything. Anyway, inserting the hair into the nose works here and is pretty obvious in retrospect.

Watch out! It’s gonna sneeze!

I soon realize that making the nose go away also removed the mouth on the other screen. I’m guessing these random moving organs are connected in some way which makes some kind of sense but not too much (as the rest of the game does) and get myself a nice cellphone. Then I proceed to wander another long time trying to do a lot of things on another lot of things but I can’t seem to do anything with the cellphone. Then it occurs to me it might not be a cellphone but might be related to the recording device and I finally manage to make the recording device works! It seems it was not a cellphone but a remote control of some kind.

Thank you boys, now get out of there, the next band needs the studio.

The thing is : I spent a LOT of time managing to do that. You have to be in a very specific post and then PUSH the remote in your inventory. You can’t use the remote on the machine, combine the two or it doesn’t work if you’re not in the good spot. The worst thing about all of this is that I’m not even sure that’s the reason why I needed several tries to make all of this work. It might also be that you need to do all this in a very specific order. It might explain why every time I successfully do something, I’m sure I tried doing the exact same thing a few hours ago and it didn’t work. Then again, it’s also possible I just missed the exact command to put in when I tried making it work the first time… anyway it leads to more frustration than any feeling of success to complete anything in this game. But moving on. I bring the tape to the hippie and I suddenly realize he now had a letter in his hand, probably the one I sent earlier.

Ok so your postal address is “the hippie with the boombox near the cave west of the dinosaur skeleton?”. Pretty efficient post-office service in Enchantia!

I give him the tape and he gives me the letter before leaving. The letter contains a keycard. I try not to think too much about why I needed to send the letter to some random dude instead of opening it myself in the first place and I’m just pleased I now have two more things to try. I enter the cave and find nothing but a huge pile of rocks covering a hole of some kind. I try several things that don’t work (as usual) and go back to the door with the keycard slot near the Slugs.

Nice hut you got there, dude.

Opening the door, I fall down on some clouds. There is a little bag on the right of the cloud but every time I try and reach it, the wind blows me away.

Can’t… quite… reach… bag… gaaaaaaaaah.

After a few unsuccessful tries, I go through the cloud and land near the Slugs again. I don’t quite get the spatial disposition of the place… is the door a teleporter of some kind? Does it make sense to fall down on what appears to be a very high cloud only to fall back again at the exact same place afterwards? I guess that’s Enchantia’s famous coherent world building at work once again.

Turns out the solution to this puzzle is a pretty simple one. You need to walk to the opposite end of the cloud for the wind to blow you back in the middle and use the momentum to walk as far right as possible before being blown away once again. A few tries and I manage to grab the bag.

It’s one of those famous fabric bags that look yellow from afar but are grey in reality.

And that’s about it. I’m once again back to square one with a new random item in my possession. I was hoping the bag was containing explosive or something equivalent that would allow me to open the stone wall in the cave but it doesn’t seem to. Once again, I find the solution out of sheer luck/persistence because it seems you need to yell “HELP” for the wall to collapse.

Once again, it seems kinda logical after the fact but it’s almost impossible to find if you don’t try everything everywhere.

Oh and behind the wall lies not an exit but some kind of soda bottle. I eagerly pick it up and try to mix it with everything else in my inventory as per tradition. Nothing works so I exit the cave… and find myself in front of a magical appearing door!

You have picked up five random items. You are now allowed to continue the game.

Ok. I’m sorry but I have to ramble a bit there. What is the purpose of all this? I have five random items in my inventory that did find no purpose yet : a pen, a gold map, a silver tray, a bag full of something and a soda bottle. I’m guessing that the door appears only when you have the needed items to continue (Actually I don’t have to guess, I tried reloading a save, do the same things without picking up the silver tray and the door doesn’t appear). On one hand, it avoids dead-ends : you are required to have the needed items to continue, but on the other hand… my, my, what a terrible, terrible puzzle design. I didn’t accomplish anything! I just picked up random items until something happens! It’s probably on page one of the list of cardinal sins of bad adventure game designs! I won’t ramble too long on this. As Michael, Laukku and ATMachine referred to last week, this discussion has already been addressed on the Adventure Gamer, but it’s sooooo infuriating. I hate you so much, game. So much.

So kids, don’t forget : this is the exact combination of reagents you need to make a door appear in Enchantia.

I pass the bloody door and enter one single room with a death trap protecting an electric fan!

Electric fans seem to be very precious in Enchantia.

The whole ordeal from there is pretty easy because you can’t exit the room so you have only your items to try and nowhere else to go. And that’s a good thing because… well I’ll just bullet point the steps to the solution. Needless to say all of this was managed out of sheer brute force. No logic was involved here. Just look at that :
  • You have to THROW the soda bottle (or whatever that is). It creates a stain on the north wall.
  • You have to PUSH the golden map. It creates a switch on the stain.
  • PRESS the switch to open the… wait…

Yeah, no, I can’t go on, I have to stop there : WHAT? Okay, for now a lot of puzzles made some sense at least in retrospect after the fact, but… WHAT? The fact that Brad puts himself in front of you before doing anything on the back wall doesn’t help because you can’t see what he is doing. So I tried very hard to make some sense. I’m guessing the bottle is in fact a solvent of some kind and the gold map is in fact a rag and that I need to clear the wall in order to make a switch appear but… is there ANY way to make this more obscure?

Maybe mixing soda and gold creates a perfectly functioning light switch in Enchantia?

Okay, Alex Romanov or anyone else knowing this game… just please help me make some sense here? I don’t have any other explanation here. Maybe the developers were way past the point of “don’t give a frack anymore” and just put random solutions to the puzzles in order to call it a day, but this is probably one of the most obscure and stupid puzzles I’ve ever seen. Thank Almighty Adventure Gods it all takes place on a single screen with nowhere else to go or it would be completely and utterly unsolvable…

Anyway, moving on, after having opened the portcullis, you throw the content of the cloud bag (which turn out to be marbles) on the electrified floor then throw the silver tray to surf on the marbles.

Yay! Marble surfing! Look at how much fun Brad is having!

Then I get the fraking fan, open the fraking door by once again unlocking it with the paperclip and we’re back near the village!

What were the chances this big metal door would lead here?

And that’s where I’ll stop. 79% complete, at least we’re getting near the end… I seriously think every wannabe adventure game developer must play Curse of Enchantia at least once in order to learn all that needs to be avoided. This game is crazy! I’m now very eager to see where it ends but still frightened about roadblocks. But after all I managed to get this far, I don’t think any more nonsensical puzzle can stop me now… From where I stand, next post will be either a WON status or a I BROKE MY COMPUTER WITH A HATCHET AND GOT COMMITTED status. Let’s find out together next week!

Session time : 2 hours
Total time : 8 hours 30 minutes
Inventory : Bag of money, Match, Fire Extinguisher, Pen, Electric Fan
Score : 381
Percentage complete : 79%

14 comments:

  1. well, I always assumed you had to clean the wall because the dirt or the camouflage was hiding the button. The issue here is not the items (which can perfectly be a rag and some alcohol or something), but the verbs you have to use.

    It's still mesmerizing. My theory is that the developers said "hey, this is late in the game, we can't have a one locked room with 4 puzzles in, that's too easy. Just switch some verbs around to make it more difficult, people is paying money for each puzzle, we can't let them win the game so easily"

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    1. Yes, probably. The whole game feels like padding anyway!

      Concerning the cloth and the dirt, I actually made that theory when I was writing for the blog. The first time I stumbled upon the solution, I was completely taken by surprise and couldn't make sense with it. It really felt like I created a switch with some kind of liquid and a piece of gold paper...

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  2. This whole section reminded me of type 6 in Scott McCloud's categorisation of comic panel transitions, type 6 being the non-sequitur: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zBOssLC-hOI/VlYAfm0eUNI/AAAAAAAAAOo/o583ueaw66I/s1600/SMcC%2B%255B1-6%2Bcollection.jpg

    What are the chances of being able to create a coherent narrative by only using that type of transition?

    That windy cloud puzzle is actually a rather good puzzle. It involves interactions different from those typically used in puzzles (such as use X on Y), forcing more creative thinking, and is entirely logical. It's just a shame the rest of the game isn't up to par.

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  3. I like this categorisation, I didn't know about this guy.

    Yep, non sequitur progression is spot on. I'm also thinking about exquisite corpse because every section is completely different than the last one but I wasted this comparison on Bargon Attack so I didn't want to overuse it!

    You know it's actually pretty good. I didn't really realise it simply because my brain is now dead at this point in the game but credit is due. Another example of that was with the orc in the ice cave in my last post. Having to hide behind the pillar for it to fall asleep is rather clever too.

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    1. >I like this categorisation, I didn't know about this guy.

      It's from his book "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art", a non-fiction comic about comics. It explores comics as a narrative medium and is pretty great.

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  4. Ah, an edutainment game - It's a tutorial on bad adventure game design! Seems like the sort of game that might be fun to play with a tutorial in front of you, so you don't have to guess at the interface. That would make it more of a psychedelic story experience.

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    1. I agree that playing directly with a walkthrough on the side (and the music muted off) might make for at least a pleasant time looking at the pretty graphics and laughing at the madness of the solutions. Without help though, it makes for a terribly frustrating experience!

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    2. I think the absence of text labels or descriptions for inventory items is one of the biggest factors why the game is so frustrating. Alfred has multiple times been confused by what an item actually is.

      In MT-32 mode the game has multiple tracks BTW.

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  5. I keep trying to think of why in the world this game got made, production-wise. Currently my theory is that it's some sort of investment scam a la "The Producers", where the company got a bunch of people to invest in their game, paid some artists so that they'd have some pretty screenshots and maybe a tech demo to show off, then programmed it in a weekend (with no text or dialogue to do it faster) and kept the rest of the cash that would've gone to more programmers, writers, QA testing, etc.

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    1. This game would have been much improved by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder.

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    2. Maybe they did buy random screenshots to a guy and then tried to make sense of it all?

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    3. Well the game seems fairly well programmed and tested, in that it doesn't crash or show a lot of bugs or something like that. It's simply designed by someone who has no idea what makes adventure games "tick".

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  6. Alfred, if you ever feel discouraged about continuing to play I recommend listening to this song to relax and get back into the mood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fn36l_z3WY

    You might also want to look into these films/scenes listed by Nostalgia Critic: https://youtu.be/870OhSp4ai0

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    1. Thanks for your support. I just finally won the game! Now I need to go back there and write about it. This will help me gather the courage for it...

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