Sunday, 27 October 2019

Ween : The Prophecy - Vampires and Strawberries

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Note to my fellow adventure gamers : Due to a monstrous amount of work in my real life, I’m very late on my writing. So sorry about the long delay and the short post. I’ll be more efficient in the weeks to come. Cheers. Alfred

So far so good! After what we’ll call the “Curse of Enchantia incident”, I was thinking my days as an adventure gamer were coming to an end and that I would be unable to enjoy another game one day that wasn’t done by Sierra or Lucasarts (and especially not one coming from Coktel Vision), but it seems I was wrong. So far, Ween has been a pleasure to play, even if it’s definitely a weird game. I’m not sure how long it will keep this up because all the reviews I’ve seen weren’t particularly positive but I’ll cross my fingers. I don’t know if the game will be very long though, because in only 1 hour of playtime, I was already able to snatch the first grain of sand I needed (over 3).

But first things first, let’s have a look at the interface. It’s streamlined enough with the left-click interacting with things on the screen while the right-click brings up the inventory. Putting the mouse cursor up the screen makes a series of icons appear. From left to right, you have the ability to manage your saves, jokers to help you solve a puzzle (apparently only three for the whole game, so to use wisely… not that I intend to use any), a notepad which allows you to write things down in case you don’t have one in real life (or a very short-term memory), the inventory, a “friends” menu that only contains my name for now, some kind of movement icon which is supposed to allow you to revisit places without walking back (according to the manual, I haven’t had the opportunity to try it for now) and a weird icon panel which allows you to change the font the game is using, to turn on/off the music and to tell you the date and time.

Just in case you’ve been playing for so long you just forgot which day it is…

The music is as soft and mysterious as I remember, and the sound effects add to this ambiance. It uses a lot of magical swishes and swooshes that I would call reminiscent of Myst if it actually came first. Maybe the Miller Brothers were secretly Coktel Vision fans? It might be, but considering both games were released in the same year, it’s probably a coincidence. The only bother on the first screen is the constant sound of gushing water pouring from the gargoyle on the right. My first action is to click on the crystal ball… which turns into a gnome introducing himself as PETROY. At least it sets the tone for the game : you’re in for a weird ride.

Neat crystal ball disguise, buddy. 

PETROY tells me he’ll join me in my quest. He gives me my grandfather copper ball which can turn into different things if I use magic jewels on it. He also tells me about URM, a tamed vampire bat that loves fruits and can be called with a flute. I pocket the copper ball, as well as a pair of pliers and a wad of lard in the cupboard.

Which looks suspiciously like Enchantia’s blu-tak all over again.

That’s all I can find in this room for now, so I exit by the door on my left. This is where I meet UKI and ORBI, two weird twins complete with a theme song and a merry dance. Despite the fact their faces look like they come from your nightmares, they seem nice enough and propose to carry your stuff.

Which one cares?

I get some straw from the guard rail and use my tongs to get the reed and wood from the guard rail itself (the tongs break though). There is also some kind of bolt partly hidden behind the wall but I can’t seem to do anything with it, nor can I take it with me. Weird. Getting back in the main room, I do what any adventure game protagonist worth his salt would do in this situation and put the straw and the wood in the fireplace. I don’t have anything to light the fire for now so I go through the right door this time.

Lots of new stuff to pick up! Score!

I pick up a tablet bearing strange writings to reveal a padlock on the trap door. The big key doesn’t seem to be used there, though, and I can’t seem to take it with me either. The book tells me about vampires that have different magic powers depending on what they eat, so I guess we’re still talking about this URM character. I pocket digitalis (whatever that is) and seeds. Shaking the skull produces some noise so I try to smash it with my copper ball and it works! I find a ring inside, which seems to show the same kind of markings than the tablet. Finally, touching the portrait produces some strange visions of a trapped woman, and the bad guy laughing. I’m guessing that these are some clues regarding my main quest but it doesn’t give my any new information. Putting the portrait on the other hook reveals some kind of cavity inhabited by a very frightening rat.

And it has a very off putting shriek. I turned down the volume a bit after this interaction.

I give him some seeds but to no avail. I try something and it works : I select the digitalis in my inventory and bring it to the inventory on the upper panel and click on the seeds. Yay, I can use stuff on other stuff! The ability to mix inventory items usually announces some nice (or hard) inventory puzzles. The digitalis sounds like some kind of poison so I now have something to get rid of the rodent.

Turns out the digitalis is actually a sleeping drug, so no critter killing for now...

Sure enough, the digitalis sends the rodent to sleep and I manage to get a wooden mold out of the hideaway. It appears to be a mold for a key so I now know I need something to light some fire in the other room, some metal to melt, and use this mold to make the key for the padlock. Nothing original so far but pretty straightforward. The only problem is: what did I miss? I don’t see what to do with my actual inventory so it’s time to ask good old PETROY about some of the stuff in my possession. I can actually ask PETROY about whatever is in my inventory. He has nothing to say about the lard, but tells me that the copper ball can change with the jewels, and that the ring is actually one of the jewels. Putting the ring on the ball changes the latter into a cauldron!

About the use of magic in the creation of household appliances.

I then proceed to search once again the three rooms to see what I had missed. It took me a bit longer than I’d like to admit to find that there was also a knife in the cupboard. I’m not a big fan of games that make you search several times the same place in order to find every object hidden in it, but when you only have three rooms to search, I guess it’s okay. I knew exactly what to do with the knife, which was to carve a flute in the reed. I knew I needed a flute to call the vampire URM.

Yeah, sure, go ahead. Who needs a knife in an adventure game?

I then spent way too many minutes figuring out how to blow the flute. You need to select the object, then go to the “characters” submenu and use the flute on WEEN. I know it seems obvious in retrospect and I’m beginning to guess I might be a little rusty. But now that I’m getting the logic behind the interface, everything should go much smoother… (right?) Blowing the flute calls URM, who looks suspiciously like our rat friend from the other room.

Yay! Another friendly-looking ally!

Thankfully, URM looks much nicer in close-up (and way stupider)

Knowing that URM is a fruit-eating vampire, I give him the strawberry I have in my inventory since the beginning of the game (for some reason). He gives me a gold ingot in exchange and flies joyfully around the room, breaking some vases and revealing a jar of strawberry jam… Calling URM once again and giving him the jam offers me the possibility to use his powers on something. I select the fireplace and URM goes on to light it by spewing fire… Pretty nice powers, stupid-looking vampire bat!

Using my experience as a seasoned adventure gamer, I proceed to do what I’ve done probably a million times in other video games : Put the cauldron on the fire, put the gold in the cauldron, pour molten gold in mold, and there you are! A new shiny golden key!

Anyone has any idea if a key made of gold would really
be useful or would it just bend into the lock?

Going into the other room, the key fits the padlock and turns it into one half of a golden fish statue because magic. I open the trapdoor and get down the stairs into some kind of catacombs.

OHKRAM has to call someone to sanitize his basement.

In front of me is a very obvious obstacle in the form of a huge precipice. I grab the torch on the wall and use it to light the hearth (take that, URM!), get the planks on the left wall (revealing a door) and the tibia near the skeleton. Clicking on the skeleton itself shows me a little animation of maggots exiting its skull while the other skeleton on the right wall laughs at me… Nice welcome. I can put my cauldron on the fire, but with no more gold to melt it seems useless for now.

Through the left door I find another cave in which I find a length of rope, some kind of bowl I can’t take with me and a big skull in the wall missing an eye that looks suspiciously like a copper ball.

No maggots and no rats inside… the service is deteriorating.

Touching the cauldron with the ring turns it again into a copper ball, which I put inside the empty orbit. The mouth opens, revealing a stone with a moon etched in it (called a moon stone), as well as a lever that is too rusty to budge. The lard doesn’t seem to work on it at first, but after a bit of work it does: you have to get the copper ball back, turn it back into a cauldron, put it on the fire and melt the lard in it. I’m wondering if melting the lard in the fireplace upstairs would have worked and if not, why? I’ll have to start again one of these days to try that. Now that I have oil from my melted lard, I go back to the room on the left. My joy is temporarily put on hold because no matter how hard I try to use the oil on the rusty lever or on the skull, it doesn’t seem to work. Then I realize that there is a little hotspot near the lever labelled “opening”. But no, it doesn’t work because “the oil is running out of the sides of the opening”... Damn.

Pictured: adventure gamer enlightenment then frustration.

I then put the oil in the bowl that I couldn’t take earlier and it works! But using the bowl directly on the opening doesn’t work either… Grrrrr. Finally, I manage to stick the tibia in the opening and pour the oil in it. Score! The lever slides with a very satisfying “click”.

“Use oil on tibia” sounds like a command you could use in Osteopath Simulator 2019.

Going back to the room on the right, I see that a huge rock has risen in the middle of the previously impassable precipice. I can’t seem to go through it with only the rock, though, but using a combination of rope and planks does the trick. I’m then treated to an animation of WEEN, UKI and ORBI crossing the bridge.

Oh yeah I forgot about those two.

I arrive in the next room of the catacombs which holds two gigantic statues, a dark alcove and a locked door. As usual, I start by taking anything that isn’t nailed down, this time a spear, a sun stone and (another!) tibia. There is also a lot of text written on a tomb that PETROY translates for me. It contains two riddles:

In the dark alcove I spot a torch holder which is quite obviously a nice place where to put my torch to lighten up the mood and the place. The alcove hides an altar of sorts which obviously needs to be completed with different shapes. I’m guessing the poems have something to do with it (after all, I have a sun stone and a moon stone) but I don’t have anything resembling a crown (or a lizard-shaped thingy). The altar is also covered with some kind of moss, so I can’t read the text on it.

Yes I see now it looks more like a man with raised arms
but I stick to my initial impression - it’s a lizard-shaped thingy.

I can put the sun stone or the moon stone in the rectangle hole but it doesn’t seem to do anything so I focus on the rest of the room. I try to reach the curtain that seems to hide something on the top left of the screen using the spear but “I seem to be missing a few inches” (which is a sentence I’ll try to refrain doing puns with). Putting the always useful tibia on top of the spear, I manage to use the now named “tibia spear” to remove the curtain and find… blackberries! Time to call the fruit-eating vampire again!

Note the majesty of the tibia spear held by the warrior on the right.

Apparently, the blackberries are not to the taste to our winged friend, who says it’s not enough to make him use his magic, but that he can help anyway. I send him to the room on the right through the opening over the door and he brings me the key back! I can now go through the door and I find yet another room, this time holding a mysterious sword-in-a-rock and a fuming statue. I try taking the sword but I don’t seem to be worthy...

In a funny move, URM comes back and tells me I have to look behind the sword to find the strength to remove it from the rock…

I always knew that Arthur was full of it!

I use the sword as a lever to move the heavy fuming statue and discover that the fumes are actually coming from a hole under it. Opening the trapdoor reveals a bath of acid! Always believing in the power of the magic cauldron, I scoop some acid with it, lowering the level by half and revealing strange tiles on the side wall of the bath.

Yay, a sword, a sun and a crown! Sounds familiar...

I try to push the buttons around for a bit but to no avail. I especially want to try something with the acid now in my possession : removing some moss from the altar in the other room. When I come back in the left room, apparently a BORGOL sent by OPAL, shows me the future in a vision (which is just a peek on another room I’ll probably encounter later) . I think the whole thing is an acid fumes induced hallucination.

Yep. Definitely something one could see while completely stoned
on acid. “The Borgol made me do it! The Borgol made me do it!”

Once the Borgol is gone (but was it really here in the first place? Mystery, mystery…), I pour the acid on the runes hidden by the moss and learn that “the eclipse of the sun and the effigy will open the passage to the daring…” I put my sun stone in the left alcove and cover it with the moon stone, effectively creating an “eclipse” of sorts, but don’t have any effigy with me. Time to go back to the acid bath for more hallucinations. Scooping the rest of the acid with my now-empty cauldron, I reveal the rest of the tile mechanism and start working on it.

Good thing I have screenshots of the poems earlier.

The first one is pretty obvious: lay down your arms (press the sword button down), call upon the light (press the sun button up) and gently touch the crown (pretty self-explanatory) to get the effigy. A niche opens and reveals the effigy I gladly take. I could probably have solved this puzzle without scooping the rest of the acid in the first place. The other poem is not that complicated either: “Arms will be visible day and night and at that time, the crown will give you the elixir”. I press all the buttons up (visible) and press the crown. I get an elixir! To what end? We’ll see soon enough I guess. I go back to the left room and plant the effigy in the alcove. The whole stele disappears and that really seems to get the ugly twins excited.

Yeah, yeah, guys. Now back to the nursing home.

This was indeed the wall I was supposed to open in order to gain access to the temple, so I accomplished my first task! OHKRAM appears out of nowhere and tells me I’ve gained my first grain of sand. Victory! Next step: vanquish the dragon!

You mean you had it on you the whole time and just waited to see if I managed to open a door?

Wow that was a long post for a short period of gaming but a lot is happening in this game! For now I’m really enjoying myself and the combination of nice graphics, great music and really nice (even if a bit on the classic side) puzzle design makes for a great experience so far! Let’s hope it’ll manage to keep this pace through the whole game!

Session time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour

Inventory: Cauldron, Flute, Ring, Tablet, Half-Statue, Elixir, Grain of Sand
Companions: PETROY, UKI, ORBI, URM


  1. I am further along than you are, so no spoilers from me on what is coming. A couple of comments:
    - the movement icon seems to be completely useless from what I've seen so far;
    - the fact that the game relieves you of the items that you don't need anymore after using them (e.g. tongs, knife) makes it a little bit easier than the standard adventuring fare of the day;
    - using Petroy to check on things is absolutely vital since you can't examine inventory items and many times it is not very clear what the
    things that you picked up ARE;
    - Urm is incredibly cute. I think his interactions with Ween are my favourite part of the game (on the contrary, Uki and Orbi are just annoying nuisances).

    Good luck with the next part!

    1. Thanks! I'm starting to agree about Urm. The little fella grows on you.

  2. I'm glad this game made your day. Not to spoil anything but the tone you're describing is more or less constant throughout the game.
    Given that the Millers seem to be avid Macintosh users I don't think they ever heard of Coktel Vision, none of their games were ported to that system, up to and including Ween.
    You can also smash the skull with the giant key. I didn't even know you could do it with the copper ball. Why you would use a priceless magic object as a bludgeon is something I don't understand. It makes sense that you would include it, but not sense that you would actually do it.
    Given how Djel is Ween's father, it sure is strange his reactions to seeing his name everywhere. It is strange how its everywhere too, but not in the way Ween comments on it. I'm guessing they might have been deadbeat parents, except they were probably off doing heroics. You missed one mention of them in the opening area. One of the books mentions them and Ween has nothing to say.
    An apt comparison, I feel is to that of Willow, both are underloved fantasy classics in their respective mediums. I guess I just get the same feeling from both.
    The characters are just so damn expressive in this. You can look at any of them and just know from their body language what's going on. I feel like this game would've been positively amazing with voice acting. On the other hand, chances are it would ruin the greatest bit of silent acting since Metropolis. Not to spoil anything, but I feel the physical acting is pretty great in some of their later games too.
    I noticed one German magazine I found (by luck, I wasn't looking for anything on this specifically) mentioned this as having a '92 release. What's the deal, boys? Too much fettuc cause you to lose track of time again? Did Joe accidentally set the time machine after the Cell Games? Did you just pick a different date, making my humorous attempts at poking fun pointless?
    I was going to try the Amiga version instead of the DOS version this time, but I discovered that the Amiga version got shafted for once. Ah, just think, three/two years earlier this game would have had obnoxious sound performance on DOS and possibly look like trash. Man, the Amiga really got shafted hard. Its hard to believe it lasted 8 more years before completely falling off the face of the earth.
    This doesn't necessarily relate to this game, but remember on Inca when I was talking about protagonists? What I'm trying to relate from it was that female protagonists were a semi-common thing in adventure games at the time, as were female players. The other day I found a "Lara Croft - Style Guide" wherein they proclaim Lara as the first female video game protagonist. Its weird to think that in just a few years, almost all of this is completely forgotten, despite Tomb Raider arguably having a solid hand inside the adventure genre.

    1. "You can also smash the skull with the giant key."
      Yeah, now that you mention it I used the key (which otherwise has no other use) to smash the skull.

      And regarding Djel/Azeulisse, if it wasn't mentioned in the manual you wouldn't have any reason to think they are related to Ween at all (every time they are mentioned he is nonplussed, to say the least).

  3. The quirky french originality but with a sensible interface and engine? Looks like Coktel really upped their game with Ween! The puzzles sound fairly standard for the 90's but the character interactions add a nice layer to the point and click we were used to.

  4. Digitalis is the name of both a plant and the medication derived therefrom. In a healthy person (or rat?), it causes heart failure rather than sleep.

    Grain treated with warfairn (another medication/poison) was historically used to kill rats. High doses cause uncontrolled bleeding.

  5. the vegetarian vampire bat is reminding me both of the bat sidekick from the film Anastasia, and also Count Duckula (for the vegetarian part).

  6. Oh also, your query about gold keys: gold is a perfectly usable metal for such things, it's actually quite solid. You may be thinking of pirates biting metal coins to check if they were gold, or nowadays olympic athletes tend to get pictures biting their gold medals. The reason for this being that forged coins could be made from lead, which is much softer than gold. Although I would not advise biting any lead, it's quite toxic.