Thursday 30 April 2020

Eric the Unready – Secret of the Snooze

Written by TBD

Eric the Unready Journal Entry #3: My nightmares are filled with turtles – small turtles, tall turtles, elderly turtles, teenage turtles, ninja turtles. Hopefully Lorealle can stay safe while I collect a seemingly random collection of objects...

Day 4: Blicester Castle – It's Only a Model

While the previous mission spent a lot of time referencing Zork, this mission was full of references to one of my favourite comedy movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I start the day on a road next to a tavern. As always, I can't go back where I came from because the way back has been blocked, this time from a barricade.

Did you get the number of that donkey cart?

I enter the tavern, which is run by a man named Howard Johnston. This is likely a reference to the Howard Johnson brand, which I'd never heard of until reading the comments on the previous post, but is an almost defunct restaurant/hotel chain.

On the counter is a newspaper, which I dutifully read.

After selling the lantern, “You” was promptly eaten by a Grue.

The tavern has a few occupants: Howard, the key merchant; Bruce, the waiter who keeps being distracted when I ask for service; and customers, who also ignore me if I try to talk to them.

A little searching tells me that this is a play on the catchphrase of Miller Light commercials. That brand isn't popular here so I haven't seen the commercials.

I talk to Howard Johnston the keyseller, who's convinced that eventually there'll be a Howard Johnston's on every turnpike on Torus, and that he's started serving drinks as a sideline until the core business takes off. As the real-world Howard Johnson noticed his soda fountain made more money than the main pharmacy business he'd opened and turned his company into a restaurant/motel, this is a clear reference to his business in case the name didn't give it away.

As I can't get a drink menu from the easily distracted Bruce, I try offering him the coupon from my inventory. He loves the free bard lessons I gave him and gives me a menu to hold while he reads my gift. Bruce is very much into the arts in a very 1980s stereotypical way.

Now that I have a menu, I can order lots of different drinks.

One grog, please!

I order the grog, and in true Scumm Bar fashion, the mug dissolves before I can drink it. When I try to order a few other drinks I just drink the beverage immediately – I had been hoping to have some mead in my inventory but it seems it was not to be. I do get a little tipsy if I order a few drinks so keep that in mind in case I wish to get drunk later.

Leaving the tavern, I go in the only other direction available and arrive at Blicester Castle with it's fake French accented guards and a Trojan Rabbit outside.

I have no idea how effective this game would be if you weren't familiar with the pop culture it was referencing.

When I try to pick up the battering ram the game tells me that I'd have to drop everything I was carrying to even THINK about lifting it. So I drop everything I have and lift the ram.

I should have also tried 'ram ram' here, but didn't think of it.

The bush outside the castle is a roddenberry bush. I thought it might be a Star Trek reference, but according to a newspaper classified from a previous day, roddenberries help improve your sense of direction. I can get some berries, and if I taste them I feel my sense of direction improve. I can also try to hide in the rabbit. That doesn't go well.

I can also get in the catapult, which results in me slamming into the castle wall at a hundred miles an hour. Like Wile E Coyote, I scrape myself off the wall unharmed. I also try climbing the rungs below the pot of flaming pitch. This also goes as well as expected, with some guards pushing the pot over - again, I survive, but the burning of the bush reveals a new hidden exit to the northwest.

Going northwest, I've avoided the castle's defenders and am now in the castle keep because the castle is only a three-walled facade.

As I said last time, in this game the fourth wall never existed in the first place.

The killer attack turtles slowly but menacingly march towards me while I look at the items on the screen. There's a proclamation with a wax seal and a key secured with a chain.

The key is held too tightly. I know what to do with that.

I'm starting the think the tort-ease will have no use in the game but will keep going back into my inventory at the start of each new mission.

Now, those who've either played the game or are more intuitive than me will see that I made a mistake here, but let's ignore that for now and move on, shall we.

As I don't seem to be able to loosen the key from its chain, I go east and visit the stables, where the oaf who nearly ran me over at the start of the mission is sitting in his cart of branches. I talk to him, and he gives me a few jokes about his two heads, but nothing he says helps me get into the tower.

Does he sit on his cart all day, even when parked?

I try taking the actionable branch from his cart, but the oaf won't let me, even after I poke him with my pitchfork.

When I go back to the keep door the turtles have regrouped near the door, even though when I last left them they'd gotten closer to me - so no danger there. I climb some stairs and end up at the pot of boiling pitch. I'd be a fool to see pitch without attempting to use my pitchfork, so I have at it.

You fail at pitchforking, Pitchfork of Damocles.

I go back to the turtles to see if they can ever get to me if I wait there long enough or if the text just keeps telling me they're getting closer but they never arrive.

I don't know - I can imagine quite a bit.

And, at this point I was stuck. I tried lots of things – nothing helped, but some were amusing.

Not what I had hoped for, but it still made me happy.

Out of ideas, I went to the old tactic of going to every screen and trying other things.

This is such an old joke I'm amazed I hadn't expected it.

At one point I had the great idea of dropping all my items, then putting the battering ram in my magic backpack so I can take it to places I couldn't earlier. It worked, and I tried dropping my battering ram on everything (I'm still upset the game didn't let me crush the turtles), I tried burning everything with the pitch – I also tried ordering every single item from the menu at the tavern.

Mead Lite must have a different bottle cap than all the other meads – I suppose there is a hint to this in that a customer randomly orders Mead Lite and chews off the top of the bottle, and that's the only time anybody orders any drink but that clue was a bit too subtle for me.

Anyway, now that I had a bottle, I try catapulting it at the castle, hoping it would put out the burning pitch (or make it burn brighter, as it's alcohol) but it just bounced off the castle wall and fell to the ground.

I can't remove the cap from my mead, or melt it with the pitch, but I can give it to the two-headed oaf.

The oaf heads argue with each other over whether Mead Lite is good because it has less taste or more filling, which allows me to take the branch from his cart. I take my branch up to the pitch and turn it into a torch.

Using my new torch, I melt the wax seal on the proclamation, then make an impression of the door key with my new blob of hot wax.

I'm sorry, I don't do impressions. My training is in psychiatry.

Pleased with myself, I get Howard the tavern owner to make me a key based on my wax impression and go back to the door. But I'm disappointed when I still can't get to the door because of the damn turtles. I try to burn them, but apparently turtles don't burn. Having not tried to use everything on everything else since I got a torch I walk around and try to burn everything I see. With Eric's history, this should be easy, but it's harder than I thought.


Upsetting the narrator so much that the player has to slap him to calm him down – only in Eric the Unready, ladies and gentlemen.

I was totally stuck here. And unlike last time, going everywhere and doing everything with everything didn't seem to solve my problem.

Continuing to try things, I found a new death – probably by just failing to complete the mission quickly enough.

At least it's something different, I guess.

If you're curious, it seemed my death happens after 1119 turns, or 537 turns in the current mission.

Now, I stopped playing for a while as I was totally out of ideas. It was a day later that I suddenly had a new idea. It was the situation I'm sure all of us adventure game players have had. You aren't even thinking about the game you're playing, doing something different and suddenly an idea hits your brain. In this case, my subconscious had an obvious idea that I had missed. When I got back to my computer and started the game, I reloaded to near the start of the section, when I still had my tort-ease, and used it on the turtles.

Would I have thought of this sooner if the animals were called tortoises instead of turtles?

Doesn't the game know that turtles and tortoises are totally different animals? How could I be expected to solve this puzzle when they're incorrectly classifying creatures!
Tortoises are a reptile species and are part of the Turtle family
Shut up Wikipedia. Nobody asked you!

Having finally found the solution I'd been missing for days, I stepped over the sleeping eased tortoises, and used my wax-made key in the door. I ended up...

... on a game show set.

One of the possible prizes for winning Wheel of Torture is the Crescent Wrench of Armageddon. Are these items I'm collecting going to be used randomly like the items I collected in Leather Goddesses of Phobos? Or are they going to be used for their expected purpose as tools? I guess I'll find out once I've collected them all. Now let's go about winning this game show.

Looks more Jeopardy than Wheel of Fortune to me.

The way to win is to answer in the way that the developers thought was funniest.

Each question does have a correct answer, and, like the game of memory in the Enchanted Forest the person I'm playing against is pretty good but not perfect. Usually all possible answers are valid and funny and there is at least one category that actually has real factual answers rather than jokes (More Weapons Beginning with "B")

It takes me a few goes, and, as many of the questions are the same and I seem to have infinite chances of competing, the more I play the more I can remember some of the right and wrong answers from before.

Aw, I thought 2 was the funniest option. As the scoreboard suggests, I didn't win the game on this occasion.

When I lose, I get tortured for five minutes, which isn't described by the game so is not at all interesting, then I'm sent back to the sleeping turtles to try again. After a few attempts, I win!

Because the game hasn't referenced Monty Python and the Holy Grail for almost five minutes.

After the explosion of the world's largest barrel of gunpowder (another potential prize), which is really all Don's fault this time, I fly through the air to my next quest location. My fall is broken by the trampoline-like tent of a fairground that I'm guessing is somewhere near the Stygian Dragon and the Raw Steak of Eternity which I'll face next time.

And of course, we get our next end of mission cutscene. In this cutscene, the evil witch introduces Princess Lorealle to her future husband.

Help! I'm being forced to marry the bad guy from my least favourite Spider-Man movie!

That stance really can't be good for your posture.

With Loralle's desperate plea for me to hurry, I'll need to be quick - though I've only gotten 2 of the 5 required items so she'll have to wait at least 3 more cutscenes for my heroic rescue.

Interesting that I'd been thinking about how easy this game has been and then got stuck for a decent amount of time on this one - I don't think it's that the game's gotten much harder - I think my brainpower was just not quite up to it this time. I'm still enjoying the jokes and wasn't stuck in a way that was frustrating, so good work game.

Session time:2:20
Total time:5:15
Score: 290 out of 1000, in 648 turns
Inventory: backpack, Crescent Wrench of Armageddon, Pitchfork of Damocles, berries, book, bungee cord, no tort-ease


  1. "I have no idea how effective this game would be if you weren't familiar with the pop culture it was referencing."

    It's a popular and easy school of jokes to make, but if you're not part of the jokewriter's cultural clique, you're not going to "get it" because it isn't actually funny. References in place of humour age terribly. We can still laugh at jokes that Ancient Greeks put in plays thousands of years ago, but this game is just a couple of decades old and many of its big gags seem to leave you scratching your head in puzzlement. Humour is hard even under the best of circumstances!

    1. I absolutely agree that references aren't the most complicated or lasting form of humour, but I'm not going to poo-poo on them too much while 80% of my titles and captions are simple pop-culture references.

  2. Nice "Discworld" reference there...

  3. The next part has been my favourite in the game: decent puzzles with a lot of freedom in the order with which to approach them.

    Also, dragons.

    1. Thanks. I'm sure I'm going to be embarrassed when I find out why I'm stuck on one of the puzzles, which I am!

  4. You may in fact be thinking too hard for a game that's designed for more amateur adventurers, I never even thought of trying to climb in the rabbit.

    Nice bit of background about the Howard Johnson, not being from America means it was totally lost on me and I think most of the other readers too

    1. I'm not American either so The Howard Johnson references were totally lost on me too until I read the comment on the last post and looked them up.

      For my part I didn't even know it was a reference as I played so it wasn't distracting if you don't get it, which is a good thing.

  5. Really enjoyed the game so far, though it is true that for all of us, non American players, cannot be enjoyed fully. At least the puzzles are solvable and do not depend on any cultural related knowledge.

    1. An interesting thought -- should it be important in game design to accommodate for game play overseas? As an American, for example, I know that some people have trouble with the "monkey wrench" puzzle in Monkey Island 2. But for me, I find in a hilarious puzzle because I get the joke. Is this considered a flaw in an otherwise excellent game to some? Should the puzzles be modified to be as ethnically irrelevant as possible?
      Just thinking out loud.

    2. I'd heard of a monkey wrench but still didn't understand that puzzle until I read about it on the internet years later.

      I don't think you should keep overseas players in mind when writing puzzles or jokes because that would distract you from writing at your best, but translators should do or suggest some kind of adjustments - then again you'd probably need higher-paid translators in that case so it might not be feasible. Hmmm. Also thinking out loud :)

  6. I go back to the turtles to see if they can ever get to me if I wait there long enough or if the text just keeps telling me they're getting closer but they never arrive.

    I wondered for a moment if they were going to do a Zeno's dichotomy paradox thing.

    1. You made me look something up (damn you for forcing me to be more educated!) and yeah, a nice thought experiment that would have been more interesting than what they went with!

  7. When you examine the Tort-ease, it says it's a "testudinal muscle relaxant".

    Not sure if you was familiar with that word (I looked it up), and to be fair Wiktionary says related to tortoises, but for me it was enough of a connection to instantly solve the killer turtle puzzle.

    1. My fault for guessing testudinal was somehow related to the human body. Well done!

  8. We’re not dead! I hope we will have new content soon, but we hit a storm of challenges in writers’ schedules and haven’t had anything to post.

    For my part, I am nearly done with the Leather Goddesses post, but it turned into a 8000 word monstrosity and I am trimming it down for publication.

    I hope everyone remains well.

    1. Did Legacy just not get played or did Voltigloss get his butt kicked. I kinda want to see you guys beat it before the Addict gets to it.

    2. I was getting worried for a minute there... Take your time guys!

    3. MorpheusKitami: All our reviewers are alive, it's just, as Joe said, that it has been difficult to follow schedules in the corona-infested world.

  9. Well, after almost two years reading every single post and comment (boy, those Canageek's announcements of every single game on sale were tough) I finally catch up and there are no new posts :(
    Jokes aside, from now on I expect to be a more often commentator on this great community.

    1. Well done! And we'll finally have a new post any minute now.

    2. Yup, those "on sale now" posts were tiresome (but I loved the enthusiasm though).

      Happy to get a new post, amazed you found the time, I've done none of the things I thought I'd do in lockdown myself.

      Strange times.

  10. TBD, I see you also appreciate the fine entertainment that is Airplane II.