Thursday 28 November 2019

Missed Classic: The Institute – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski

Last time I explored the first of four dreams that make up the bulk of The Institute. I presented it as a streamlined narrative for your convenience, rather than describe all of my errancies. On my first run, for example, I examined the bronze statue from the inside as well. The bronze key let me unlock its door, and I was able to enter. I found myself in an empty chamber but looking up revealed a rope I could climb. At the top of the statue, there was a platform but the air was unreasonably thin. I suffocated and found myself back in the closet.

This is one of the core mechanics of The Institute. You need to die in every dream in order to wake up. Later ports redeemed this by enabling you to simply type “wake up” but in the original version, if you were stuck, you had to find a way to die. There are only a couple of dead ends I know of, and my first playthrough prompted me to plunge right into one of them. By not picking up the umbrella but rather suffocating inside the bronze statue with my father’s face (don’t you just love those sentences that only make a certain amount of sense in the context of game descriptions?), I didn’t have a key item for the second dream. Now you don’t get to choose: If you eat the powder for the first time, you’ll enter the first dream, and then you always enter them in the same order which means that you need to hold on to some key items like the red bottle with the powder, the cup of water to wash it down and – the umbrella. If you enter the second dream without the umbrella you can neither escape nor die but remain floating and eventually have to restart the game. Also, if you leave the red bottle or the cup of water anywhere outside the institute proper, you can’t enter another dream. I withheld all of this from you in order to provide a more readable account of my playthrough. It is in the same spirit that I will not relate all of my frantic dream-hopping in the second part but rather smooth it all over in order to provide some orientation.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Hint Book Review & Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

The time has come to put another game into the cabinet and officially close out 1992! We played a staggering 38 adventure games this year. I’ll leave the year-end commentary to Ilmari, but we are moving on quickly to 1993 which somehow has even more games. It’s an exciting era in video game history and I am thrilled that we are able to document so much of it.

Before we move onto the final rating, I have one last piece of business: the “unauthorized strategy guide” for this game. I purchased it while I was stuck on the second case but did not end up using it. Long time readers may know that I have an interest in old strategy guides and this one was quite a find! Not only is it surprisingly detailed, it was also written by one of the industry’s great game designers: Bruce C. Shelley. We haven’t seen Shelley in our corner of the gaming world (in fact, he has only one adventure game credit to his name, a 1993 children’s adventure which didn’t make the cut), but he was a former Avalon Hill nut who became Sid Meyer’s “assistant” and later co-designer on a number of games. Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Covert Action, Age of Empires, and their spin-offs and sequels would not be the way that they are today without Shelley’s influence. That makes this hint book one of the best pedigreed in the industry. Let’s get to it!

Sunday 24 November 2019

Ween : The Prophecy - Dragons and Cherries

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Once again, I apologize to our fellow readers for the very (very) long time between my posts and the short lengths of my gaming sessions but I was drowning in a huge quantity of work these last months. Hopefully, it should get better soon and I should be able to play and write more about adventure games… fingers crossed and thank you for your patience.

Last post I was saying that if this game managed to keep its momentum, it could be a very good one. Unfortunately, the next portion of the game was not as good as its introduction. The second grain of sand was quite easy to obtain, but confronted me to a tedious boss battle that took me way too much time to beat.

But first things first. Last time I managed to put my greedy hands on the first grain of sand (out of three) needed to complete my quest. Now it was time to confront the dragon in order to obtain the second one. Right after receiving OHKRAM’s congratulations on the first part of my quest, I find myself in front of a subterranean lake.

With that just beneath his house and with a little bit of money, OHKRAM could easily be a chiroptera-shaped vigilante.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Missed Classic 77: The Institute (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski

The Institute is the first game in my Med Systems marathon that I will actually replay as I’ve played (and solved) it before. It has been decades, however, and my memories of the game are pretty unreliable. Also, I only know the later port for the Commodore 64 which features nice graphics – I have never played the original TRS-80 version. What I remember most distinctly about this game is that it feels like a compilation because you have to solve puzzles in four or five different dreams in order to bring the background story to a close (i.e., escape from a mental health facility). I also remember that I really liked this game, maybe I even finished it two or three times just for the sake of it.

Because The Institute used to be very renowned, much has been written about it. I will thus unusually start with an introduction of contemporary and retrospective quotes as a framework to set the stage for this unusual game.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Sleuth Solves Spy Special! Satisfactory Send-off to Second Saga (Won!)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back to the final gameplay installment in Consulting Detective Vol II! I know this one has dragged on a bit, especially as we have had some slowdowns in Ween as well, but we arrived at the finish line with the best case of the set. I am getting ahead of myself, but suffice it to say that I’m ending this one with higher spirits than when I started.

Last week, I ended with a bold prediction: Lord Ragland was the killer! I didn’t know his motive, but I decided that it had to be him based entirely on his smug face and choice in cigarettes. I mean, look at him! Don’t you just want to punch him in the face? Maybe I am a bit overboard, but we’ll see whether my investigations lead to the same conclusion or make me look like an idiot.

Before we begin, let's recap the key points:
Once upon a time, about two weeks ago, a “munitions magnate” named Courtney Allen was shot in the alleyway outside his office. It appeared to be a robbery, but while the thief lifted his gold watch, he (or she) left his wedding ring. Also missing were files marked “SP10” taken from Allen’s briefcase. Holmes and Watson (with some help from me) traced Allen’s day based on the planner left in his briefcase. We discovered an appointment with Lord Ragland in the morning, Captain Egan from the British Navy in the evening, and a mysterious evening rendezvous at a Spanish restaurant with someone named “A.M.” Allen believed that foreign powers were trying to spy on his “Special Project 10” and he may have feared for his safety; he even went to Lord Ragland for help. We eventually learned that the killer waited for Allen in the alley while smoking a rare brand of “Burns & Hills” cigarettes. These are the same smokes that Lord Ragland smoked. He must be the killer!
In addition to the above, there were two other side-stories that may connect yet. The first is Richard Camp, a member of Special Project #10 that may have been secreting out documents to the French embassy. Ragland investigated and found him to be innocent, but if he’s the killer then he likely cannot be trusted. Additionally, we learned that Allen was having an affair with one (or more!) women at the time of his death. Could that connect somehow? I do not know, but thus far I have not been digging into his personal life.

With no motive for Ragland to be the killer, I’m going to start today by trying to work out who he was working with. Let’s see if my theory is correct!

Thursday 14 November 2019

Missed Classic: Saigon: The Final Days – WON! and Final Rating

by Will Moczarski

Last time I was severely stuck. Not even the first room in Asylum had given me such a headache. I was unable to venture past the Viet Cong gun nest and unable to open the dead soldier’s snap pocket on the starting screen. I must have tried almost everything – I even tried to do something in the one round before the hut is blown to pieces in case you need to manipulate the initial timed explosion (it occurs after one move no matter what you do) somehow. At least, I thought, my introduction was as spoiler-free as possible. All of that will change now – it’s time to leave Saigon.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Consulting Detective Vol. II - Murdered Mechanic Made Military Mighty

Written by Joe Pranevich

Two cases down and one to go! Thus far in Consulting Detective Vol. II, we’ve solved a pair of murders and it appears that we are going three-for-three. Admittedly, the first case was murder-with-theft and the second was murder-as-a-cover-up, but both involved murder. Some commenters have suggested that this is the best case of the bunch and so I am looking forward to it. The last case wasn’t the best, but this one could easily sweep me off my feet and we’ll enter the PISSED rating with the wind at our backs. I can dream, right?

This case starts with a nice video introduction. Richard Allen arrives at Baker St. having been let in by the housekeeper. He apologizes for the intrusion but wants to discuss the murder of his brother, Courtney Allen. Holmes read about the case a few weeks prior in the Times and knows all about it. Courtney was the President of the Grant Arms Company and was shot to death on March 9 (almost two weeks ago) outside his office. Scotland Yard believes that he was just robbed, but Richard believes otherwise and needs Holmes’s help. This sounds like a good start!

Thursday 7 November 2019

Missed Classic 76: Saigon: The Final Days (1981) – Introduction

by Will Moczarski

The fourth and final game by Jyym and Robyn Pearson that was – albeit only sometimes – marketed as an “OtherVenture” by Adventure International, is Saigon: The Final Days. It was first released for the TRS-80 in 1981 and ported to the TRS-80 CoCo as well as the Atari 400 one year later. As usual, there are some problems to come up with precise dates: while the CoCo version was programmed in 1982, it was apparently released in 1983. Also, somewhat authoritative sources like MobyGames don’t list an Apple ][ release but clearly there existed a version for Jobs & Wozniak’s miracle machine as well. As usual, we’ll get to that later in my WON post.

Saturday 2 November 2019