Wednesday 29 July 2020

Missed Classic 87: Hollywood Hijinx (1987) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

At the dawn of 1987, Infocom wasn’t the company that it once was. A scrappy gaggle of cutting-edge game developers had grown too large, made some bad choices, and was struggling to survive. The new bosses at Activision wanted to profit off their investment and since Infocom games weren’t selling like in the good old days, they just asked Infocom to make more of them-- with the same resources-- to make up for it. Simple, right? The result was a year that was their most prolific as well as the nadir of their commercial success. Even as commercialism failed them, 1987 will see innovations such as the first romance game (Plundered Hearts), the first horror game (Lurking Horror), the first weird wordplay game (Nord and Bert), plus reinventing what a Zork game could be. None of those were commercially successful, but I haven’t played more than a few minutes of any to say how good they really were. At least Infocom was still out there doing interesting things.

That brings us to Hollywood Hijinx, the first of this mad rush of games. Developed by a new pair of Implementors, Dave Anderson and Liz Cyr-Jones, the game appears to be a throwback to the Zork games of yesteryear, with a “puzzle house” to explore and treasures to collect. For reasons that may (or may not) become apparent later, this is Anderson and Cyr-Jones’s only released game. How will it work out? I’ll have to play it to see.

Monday 20 July 2020

Missed Classic: Moonmist - Unfinished Business

Written by Joe Pranevich

Moonmist is an almost-unique experiment in the Infocom canon, a “replayable” game that featured four different mysteries to solve in one convenient package. As we have seen, the end result didn’t quite live up to the promise and it is presently the lowest-rated game so far in this marathon. We could compare Moonmist’s approach with Cutthroats, for example-- the former placed more puzzles in the same space, while the latter provided separate areas to explore in its variants-- but neither approach was completely satisfying.

Although we played through the four cases, I have since discovered that Moonmist aspired to much more. In 2019, the source code for most of the Infocom adventures was leaked online. That has been a treasure trove of information for the last few entries in this series, especially Trinity where I was able to look at original design documents and trace the development of the game from concept to execution. In Moonmist’s case, these sources reveal that not only were two additional cases nearly completed (“violet” and “orange” variants), but also that the game was to feature gendered variations in all six scavenger hunts. Moonmist was intended to be twelve games in one, not just four!

I’d like to wrap up Moonmist (and 1986) by looking at the game that might have been, if Lawrence and Galley just had a bit more time-- or a bit more RAM. I’ll look at the two new cases first before taking a look at the changes planned for the four that we already played. Who else was a murderer?

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Missed Classic: Moonmist - Second Verse, Same as the First (with Final Rating)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Moonmist is an oddity. Instead of telling a single story from beginning to end, we have seen two very different mysteries play out with the same cast of characters and setting. In both cases, we try to save our friend Tamara from a vengeful ghost, the “White Lady”. Also in both, we are sent on a scavenger hunt by the late Lord Lionel to search for a hidden treasure somewhere on the castle grounds. The details however are quite different. In the “red” variant, Lord Jack attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend Deirdre but she survived a fall down a well and came back to “haunt” him (and prove his guilt) by masquerading as the White Lady. The goal of the scavenger hunt was to locate a Zulu royal war club disguised as a walking stick. In the “blue” variant, Deirdre may have committed suicide due to her torn loyalties between Lord Jack and Vivien, her lesbian lover. Vivien haunted the castle to seek revenge for her lost love. In that case, the scavenger hunt revealed a fossil skull hidden inside of a bell.

This week, we will wrap up the final two variations, “green” and “yellow”. Will the final two cases be fun? Or is the game starting to show its seams now that we have beaten it twice? There is only one way to find out.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Eric the Unready – Like A Virgin

Written by TBD

Eric the Unready Journal Entry #5: I've finally defeated the Stygian Dragon, and all it needed was the right clothes. And now I'm hanging out with various Gods at their Mountain - and they're not exactly filling me with awe.

Day 5: Stygian Dragon – To Cover My Arse Continued

When we last checked in with Eric the Unready, all the way back on 18th May, I'd been helplessly stuck and asked for assistance in covering my butt to protect me from dragon fire. I'd surmised that I'd need the chamberpot from the Pavilion of Tomorrow, but hadn't been able to get it due to a hungry spitting snake.

Vetinari came to my rescue by mentioning that I needed to use the rubber band.
1. You are right, it's a babelfish puzzle.
2. The first step is closing the shade (which you did), the second involves blocking the snake from swallowing the marble.
3. You need an item that you have, but it's not one of those you mentioned at the end of your post.
4. It's the rubber band.

With that information the obvious answer seemed to be to close the viper's mouth by wrapping the rubber band over it. A check of previous screenshots showed me that I had fleetingly had the idea, but when “tie rubber band on viper” hadn't worked I had quickly moved on to other things. Knowing the rubber band was the correct solution I persevered and quickly found one of the correct commands.

Mmphmftk to you too, snake who kept me stuck by trying to eat my marble.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist: Welcome to Coarsegold!

By Alex

In any good Western, the setting is more than just a place where stuff happens—it becomes a character in and of itself. Whether it’s the sun-blasted landscapes of a Spaghetti Western, a shining frontier hamlet menaced by bandits, or a run-down dump that the new sheriff needs to clean up, the rugged landscape, colorful characters, and ever-present danger of the Wild West provides ample storytelling opportunities.

It also provides ample opportunities for fart jokes.