Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Shadow of the Comet – Won!

Written by limbeck

And so we arrive at the final showdown. The town itself is cleansed from the four families that were working to bring their evil plans to fruition, but all is not yet clear in the skies over Illsmouth. NARACKAMUS is still alive and the comet's passing is tonight. I have a lot of work still ahead of me and not enough time.

In the end of the previous post, Dr COBBLE gave me a message and a warning. The message was from Mr UNDERHOUSE, who was requesting my help. The warning was about Sgt. BRAGGS, who considered me responsible for last night's carnage (and with good reasons I will add). So, I need to go to the post office without running into BRAGGS.


Or Miss PICOTT, but that seems impossible.
Outside of Dr COBBLE's house is Miss PICOTT, who is seriously distressed about previous night's events and is also looking for her niece. She also tries to play matchmaker once again, but I avoid the commitment. Still, it won't hurt to pay a visit to her niece. I know where she lives after all.

It seems that BRAGGS is indeed after me. I have to go directly to the post office. If I go to the Mayor's barn for example, he follows me and arrests me. I cannot completely get rid of him myself. When I enter the post office I speak to a distressed Ms GUILDCHRIST at the counter and Sgt BRAGGS arrives. I take him upstairs to meet Mr UNDERHOUSE, who jumps to my rescue when I fumble for a response on my whereabouts. UNDERGOUSE even places suspicion on the bartender, ZEKE, who apparently ratted me out. BRAGGS leaves in anger to find him.

After that, UNDERHOUSE gives me a note speaking about a sacred bow, with an arrow and feather that I need to find. NATAWANGA, a local Native American can help me, but his location in the forest is unknown, but the feather and stick will find him. The note from him says that the bow is where the fire lives at the accursed family's youngest member. The accursed family is probably the HAMBLETONS and I think CURTIS is the youngest. In that case, I have to go to his place again. Before I leave, UNDERHOUSE hands me the feather and wishes me luck.


And reminds me of my biggest enemy

On my way to CURTIS's place, I note that JUGG's house is again open for visitors, so I go in. One of the butterflies is missing from the case. The label says it is the one mentioned in the book of rituals. I will need to find it. Naturally, it is not in the house.

I meet BISHOP outside CURTIS's house. He informs me that HAMBLETON is not inside and he is probably with GREENWOOD. I saw them together the previous day, but when I go to GREENWOOD's house, nobody is there. I come back to CURTIS's place.

The door to his house is locked, but there is a stick lying outside. I pick it up and I manage to remove the bar that was from the INSIDE. How on earth did CURTIS get out and then lock his door? Or lock his door and then get out? I will think about that later. For the time, I just use the pin from the locket to pick the lock and get inside.


I suppose this answers my previous questions

Yes, CURTIS is definitely dead. He was killed brutally and left hanging from his legs to dry. As I inspect the crime scene, I notice some moccasin tracks on the dusty floor and, in good detecting practice, I add my footprints as well. Maybe I should get going, but first I need the bow and arrow. As predicted, the bow is under the fireplace. The arrow was under a loose floorboard I had noticed in my first visit. Feeling really sorry for CURTIS, who really did not deserve any of this, I leave quietly to find NATAWANGA.

The note NATAWANGA gave to UNDERHOUSE said that the feather will fly to him. I don't know how or where to use it, so I start wondering around the forest trying to use the feather and even the arrow and the bow. I wasted some time here, also partly to my carelessness. I had understood that I needed the feather for the arrow, but I had misread the instructions. I just needed to use the feather. It was a bit frustrating anyway, as I had to be in a specific spot in the forest, without any other clue, where I could put the feather on a stump. Then, a crow came and picked it up and I turned into a white crow and flew to NATAWANGA's hut.


Clearly, turning into a white crow and back messed up my perceptive abilities

NATAWANGA asks me a number of questions to which I answer correctly. NARACKAMUS's tribe: Mic Macs, He Who Howls in the Night: Yog Sothoth, Year BOLESKINE observed the comet: 1834, Sign of the four families: Star, Name of undersea monstrosity: Dagon.

Once I pass the quiz, he gives me some advice on how to kill NARACKAMUS. He hides in “the eye that is set deep in the earth” and I need fire born of the earth to defeat him with my bow and arrow. My Journal agrees that these are indeed too many riddles. He also gave me a pot of red paint and his ring. I am turning into a well sought out bachelor. The ring has no stone, so I must find one.

The eye set deep in the earth seems a lot like the well. Let's see if the well is anything more than a changing screen.


Quite spacious

As expected, I can climb down in the well and arrive at an underground river. Now, if I may say, a well so close to the sea would not need to be so deep to reach water and the water would be brackish at best, but I'll play along.

When I reach the bottom, if I try to walk on the bank, I reach a place where the wild water carries me away and I drown. If, however, I throw the pail with paint that NATAWANGA gave me, the water calms and I can cross. In the next cavern is a set of cans. One is empty, but the others hold acid, tar and nitroglycerin. I assume that this is what “fire from earth” comes about. And I also think it will be a brute force puzzle, because all these are associated with fire, or at least a burning sensation. Acid can cause chemical burns, tar can burn if set on fire and nitroglycerin, well, it just needs a good shake!

I start with the empty can and the can of acid, as they are the first on the line. In the next cavern, I pick two flints. A bit later, I drown in a pool. Next time, I avoid the pool and move south, into NARACKAMUS's inner chamber. I can do nothing and he explodes me to death. This repeats a few times. Apparently my can of acid or tar or nitroglycerin are not fire from earth enough.


If I carried the nitroglycerin with me, I could blow up the whole town

I am sure the empty can is part of the solution, so I start clicking around. I die many times in the pool until I find the correct spot again and I fill in the can with naphtha.

Would it hurt you Infogrames to add a bit of FEEDBACK when I push L? I can see what is in the room, so tell me what it is! If I drown in a pool of liquid, I can definitely see there is liquid. And if I randomly use my empty can to get naphtha, I should know that this is naphtha. Or at least tell me that “You get a very particular odour in this room. Smells like naphtha / petroleum”. I could figure out the rest. Rant over.

With naphtha in my possession, I use it immediately as I enter the next chamber (N. immediately recognises the smell. See game?). Then I use the flints to set it on fire and then again the bow and arrow to kill NARACKAMUS. Victory?


I know that Lovecraft was not big on dialogues, but this line could do with some more work

We have not won of course. I have yet to see the comet. After I kill NARACKAMUS, Lord BOLESKINE's apparition appears and tells me I have to stop Dagon from being set free. His temple is on an island off the coast of Illsmouth, so I need a boat to get there. Maybe BISHOP has one? Before I leave, I pick up two gems, a turqoise and an aquamarine, and the butterfly stolen from JUGG's house from next to NARACKAMUS's throne. Then I leave. And die a couple more times on the way.

I get to the port and see a boat and BISHOP, so I naturally speak to him. After a few attempts, during which he gets frustrated and refuses to talk to me until I leave and enter again, I persuade him to lend me his boat, which I then use to travel to the island.


Insert Monkey Island music

On the island, there is a fallen head from a statue, which has two gems as eyes, a ruby and an emerald. I naturally pocket both. Then I try to enter the temple and I get stuck because of the obligatory...


Frustrating sliding puzzle!

I wonder if there some secret agreement among mystery adventure game designers that they should include sliding tile puzzles in their games? I understand it is easy to program and implement, but it adds frustration and artificially lengthens the game. It is not fun. I enjoy such puzzles, but in the abstract.

Anyway, inside the temple is a grotesque mound of stone which could well be a statue of Dagon or Jabba the Hutt. On the floor there are several slabs with signs carved on them. There are some gems as well set in the walls and as the statue's eyes. I cannot really look at anything, so, once again, I don't know what I should be interacting with.

I find out that I can interact with the gems and the statue's eyes. I try one gem at random and am electrocuted. I try with a ruby, and this time a beam is emitted from it and is reflected around the cave. It could be trying to form a sing, but, if so, it is incomplete. I suppose I should be doing something about it. As I am thinking, a creature breaks through the belly of the statue and kills me.


Too many deaths to count

I spend some time on this puzzle. I do not have much time once I climb down. I die a few times trying to find the solution. It turns out that I had to hold the aquamarine gem and walk on the slab with the correct sign. The creature then bursts into fire and I run out in slow motion to jump ahead of an explosion, Hollywood style. Again, it is a clever puzzle in retrospect. I think there was a clue in one of the books at JUGG's library, speaking about sitting on the sign, but it again seemed a bit unclear to me.

Moving on, Lord BOLESKINE reappears to give me some half solution again. I need to let the currents lead me to my next stop, in which I have to single-handedly stop Cthulhu himself. And he gave me his ring and said something about our green land (I assume England) in the BOLESKINE family moto.

At Cthulhu's island or sandbank, the cave is too dark. Fortunately, I have been carrying my lantern almost since the beginning. The lantern, which immediately runs out of oil and leaves me in the dark, at the mercy of the creatures that roam the caves.


Actual game footage!

I feel I am in a dead-end, because I cannot refill it. If only I had something that burns. Yes... you guessed it: Napthta. Why would I refill the can after I killed the sorcerer? So I reload from before beating Dagon and head down to the well again to collect that precious liquid.

Now, when I run out of oil in the caves, I can use the can of naphtha to refill. Unfortunately, I find myself in another obstacle course. This time I have to slip past the monsters that roam the two rooms that I must cross. It takes a few tries because there is only so much space between the creatures. I don't know how hard it would be in the CD-ROM version.

When I succeed, I find an altar to Cthulhu and the WEBSTERS, mother and son, tied on a pole and in dire need of help. Cthulhu is sapping their energy and if I do not do something quickly, he will join us. I cannot untie the prisoners so I must stop them. Fumbling around with my stuff, I see that I can put the emerald (green gem) on BOLESKINE's ring. I also use my can of acid on a weird slab on the ground and I reveal a diamond. As soon as I pick this up, Cthulhu starts sucking the life out of the WEBSTERS and tentacles appear. I die a couple of times, as I am too slow thinking what to do. In the end, I use the turquoise (I think) on NATAWANGA's ring and put them on one after another. Cthulhu is banished and I have some free squid for my dinner.


By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet. Or not

I must also say that I like that scene above and give credit where it is due.

I let the WEBSTERS find their own way out and I stay behind to have a chat with Lord BOLESKINE. He says that the way I came in is blocked (I hope after the WEBSTERS got out) and that I need to go to the stone circle quickly and definitely take a photo of the comet. Does he work for my employer? I get out of the caves and I have to look again for the secret passage that takes me out of the collapsed cave and directly at the stone circle.

The last sequence is relatively straightforward and satisfying as far as puzzles go. I can take my time to set up my tripod, put the camera on it, check the butterfly to note the colours on its wings and then place it on my camera. I then put the magnifying glass (my sonic screwdriver) on the camera and add the lantern. Four coloured beams appear and hit 4 stones, leaving a coloured mark, red, green, white and blue. Once I finish, I unwrap the photographic plates and use them on the camera to take photos of the comet. As the comet passes, it leaves a fragment. I am sure astrogeologists would give an arm and a leg to just look at it, but I pick it up and put it on the white spot, which symbolises air. I do the same with diamond (green – earth), flint pieces (red – fire), aquamarine (blue-water). Everything else is technically a cutscene. I say the ritual and Yog Sothoth is banished.


Thank god I didn't have to type the words myself

I am now in the closing cutscene with limited control. In my room I have already packed my stuff and head to port to board the steamer home. Outside Dr COBBLE's house, BAGGS shows me the door not so kindly and lets me know that he had locked ZEKE in just in case. I think he did well, considering the quality of his beer.

At the port, I am greeted by the whole town, or what's left of it, and treated to a warm goodbye. In the last scene, I sit at Mr GRIFFITH's office and get to recount my story once again, looking too sane for it to be true.


Can I go away now?

So, we reach the end of a game, which played almost perfectly like a Lovecraftian short story, though not so much for the main character as for the player. But more on that on our Rating post, which will follow soon.

Session time: 3:00
Total time: 13:10

Sanity lost: 60 from making the acquaintance of the Ancient ones (20 each from Dagon, Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth)
Total sanity lost: 97 (Iäää Iäää FHTAGN!)

12 comments:

  1. played almost perfectly like a Lovecraftian short story, though not so much for the main character as for the player.

    Called it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good grief. That may have been more brutal than Sierra's worst.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having read some reviews on Sierra's worst, I think not.

      Delete
  3. I doubt that's a quote from Lovecraft, but I'm sure you know that.
    You going to take a look at a death reel before your final review? Just curious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think they used a single sentence from Lovecraft, apart from the unpronouncable chants, but they could think of better one-liners.

      And sorry, I am new to this, but what do you mean "death reel"?

      Delete
    2. Probably a death compilation video showcasing (ideally) all possible deaths in an adventure game. Many of these exist on YouTube. Here's one for this game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjdqPWtd36Q

      Delete
  4. It's a shame the "live" elements are so much different than the backgrounds. The backgrounds look great (even the garish over-exposed ones) and seem to set the tone nicely, but the live elements pop out awkwardly. I know a lot of it has to do with the limitations of the tech in those days but there's a feeling they could have been integrate better.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I guess that aside from most of the story and previous dialogue, "Say hello to SATAN for me!" is absolutely inconsistent with Lovecraft's writing style. This fits better as a pre-mortem one liner spoke by an action movie hero from the 80s.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which begs the question, how was the Lovecraft universe on religion in any case? Is there still a Christian religion with a Christian version of Hell and Satan? It would seem unlikely if there are already "Old Gods" and they all seem pretty terrible to start with.

      Delete
    2. As far as I remember, there is absolutely nothing that resembles the Christian God or even angels in his stories. All supernatural beings are simply evil. Bu this is actually a complex issue. I think that his interpretation was that most worshipers of pagan gods and devil worshipers had been actually worshiping one of the Older Ones. Usually it came to worshiping Yog-Sothoth himself. So they were actually worshiping something that is "real" in their universe. But what about the churchgoers? I do not know. In the internet there are several discussions about Lovecraft and Christianity.

      However, the protagonist of SoTC with his cultural background can simply assume that he is fighting against a bunch of guys with some connection to Satan and Hell.

      BTW, here is a marvelous documentary movie about Lovecraft:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg9VCf5einY

      Delete
    3. I'm pretty sure there are our world's religions in Lovecraft's universe, but none of the major ones really interact with things. By the nature of Lovecraft's relative fondness of Egyptian and various Middle-Eastern mythologies the Christian God would probably be around in some form. Buddha is an Outer God, so... I seem to recall there was one Old God opposed to some of the others. Might have been an Ashton Clark Smith or August Derlith story. Although checking, it seems the Outer Gods and Old Ones like Yog-Shoggoth and Cthulhu are the evil ones while the Elder Gods are the good ones.
      Although most of the Bible wouldn't be too out of place there. The Hebrews used Satan as a generic word for a devil they did not want to name. Angels are known for having frightening appearances. One kind, I think the Thrones, are giant wheels with hundreds of eyes.

      Delete