Sunday, 30 August 2020

Missed Classic 88: Labyrinth (1986) - Introduction

Written by Joe Pranevich

In 1984, Infocom struck gold with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The game rocketed up the sales charts and within months was their second best-selling game ever, surpassed only by the original Zork. Best of all, their deal with Douglas Adams promised five sequels. If they performed even a fraction as well as the first, this yearly infusion of British comedy might be just what was needed to keep the company afloat. But only a short time later, Adams completed the fourth book in the series and was burned out. He needed to work on something else, anything else. Infocom put the Hitchhiker’s Guide sequels on hold, but that was okay because Adams pitched a fresh idea: a game based on a poor experience he once had with a change of address form, Bureaucracy. At least, having the name “Douglas Adams” on the box would help the game fly off the shelf, right? Development was slow and difficult, blamed in large part on Adams’s procrastination and residual stress. Despite pushing for this project, his interest waned quickly. If only Infocom could pin him down for a few days to finish the game, maybe they could strike gold again.

It was in this spirit that Douglas Adams found himself sitting at a conference table in January 1986. Next to him were a cohort of developers and writers that would take his ideas and transform them into the next hit computer adventure. Unfortunately for Infocom, it wasn’t their conference table. Instead, Adams had signed on to consult for Lucasfilm’s Labyrinth game, a tie-in to the 1986 film starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and the imagination of Jim Henson. After a productive week, the Lucasfilm team left with notebooks filled with ideas and jokes. As Bureaucracy slipped further, Labyrinth wrapped up and released in time for the film. Adams’s second game had become his third.

It might have seemed to Adams and the others at that table that Labyrinth was “just” a movie tie-in, barely more than an overgrown advertisement for the film. And yet, unknown to everyone around that conference table, a torch was passed. Infocom was no longer the innovator. Lucasfilm Games, soon to become LucasArts, would soon become one of the behemoths of our genre. Without Labyrinth, there may have been no Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island. Labyrinth is the beginning of the LucasArts story.

Jim Henson was a man of many faces.

There could be no Labyrinth without Jim Henson. For a person my age, Jim Henson is almost a mythical figure. My preschool was Sesame Street (started in 1969 and still going), while Fraggle Rock (1984) was a staple of my elementary school years. I was too young to catch episodes when they first came out, but The Muppet Show (1976) characters were also an integral part of my upbringing. Jim Henson’s death in 1990 is one of the first celebrity deaths that I really knew and cared about. Can you imagine a twelve-year old boy crying about a puppeteer? That was the impact that he had on me.

It’s difficult to summarize Jim Henson’s life and career because he is a study in contrasts. Almost at every point where he found success doing one thing, he was pushing at the envelope to do another. Henson’s career in puppetry started in high school with work on the Junior Morning Show (1954), a short-lived children’s variety show for the DC area. It was canceled after three weeks for violating child labor laws, but Henson was liked well enough (and was old enough) to be given a chance to work on other projects for the station. Before long, a rival station picked him up as one of the headline acts on Afternoons with Inga, another regional children’s show and the first to explicitly advertise “The Muppets”. Before long, Henson was given the opportunity at the station to create a show of his own, Sam and Friends (1955). Consisting of short episodes (running either five or fifteen-minutes long), Henson gained experience with puppet-based sketch comedy and developed his first breakout character, Kermit. Little remains of Sam and Friends or any of Henson’s earliest productions as they were usually broadcast live and not recorded. Sam and Friends lasted for six years, during which time Henson graduated college (with a degree in “home economics” thanks to his extensive research in textiles) and sought out more mature outlets. Henson’s comedic and puppeting talents landed him guest spots on daytime and late night talk shows for Steve Allen, Will Rogers, Jack Paar, Ed Sullivan, and Jimmy Dean. His new studio paid the bills by producing hundreds of television commercials.

After Sam and Friends ended, Henson produced a pilot for a new series starring Kermit, the Tales of the Tinkerdee. It was not picked up, but some of its ideas were adapted into a 1969 TV special. At a time when he was most known for his comedy, Henson pushed himself into surrealism by directing two non-Muppet features, a short film Time Piece (1965) that was nominated for an Academy Award and The Cube (1969), a one-hour telefilm that aired on NBC. 

And even more faces.

To the extent that a man working successfully in show business for more than a decade can have a “big break”, Henson’s came in 1969 with the launch of Sesame Street. By this point, Henson had mastered the now-classical “muppet” look with characters such as Kermit and Rowlf, even if many of the other supporting figures had not yet appeared. In 1968, Children’s Television Workshop approached Henson to develop for their upcoming preschool show. Henson agreed, but only if he retained ownership of the characters. Sesame Street’s impact was immediate and explosive. In just a few years, it became an institution in the US and abroad. Generations of kids came to the muppets (and counting, letters, and rubber duckies) through Sesame Street. Unlike the “all ages” humor of Sam and Friends and his late-night work, Henson found himself boxed in as a children’s entertainer. Specials produced during this period, such as The Frog Prince (1971) and The Muppet Musicians of Bremen (1972), were also targeted towards children. Henson looked for ways to push the envelope again. In 1974, Henson produced The Muppets Valentine Show, the first pilot for what would eventually become The Muppet Show. It was not picked up as a series. A second attempt, The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, was no more successful. Henson’s insistence on the unsavory title (a deliberate push against his child-friendly image) turned away some of his allies at ABC and he would need to chart a different course if he wanted to prove that his muppets could be loved by adults.

Six years after launching one cultural institution, Henson was privileged to witness the birth of a second: Saturday Night Live (then just called NBC’s Saturday Night). Henson already had experience with both late-night television and live broadcasting. When NBC asked him to participate in their new live late-night comedy show, he agreed. Henson made a conscious decision to move away from the puppet designs that had become so synonymous with Sesame Street, instead creating a set of muppets that could at best be called “grotesque”. This series of sketches, collectively called the “Land of Gorch” aired during SNL’s inaugural season. Henson and the SNL writers pushed the envelope; these puppets joked about drug use, adultery, and sex acts. The format never gelled and, in my opinion, only became funny towards the end of the season when the characters joked openly about how unpopular their sketches were. I may be the only person in the world to have purchased the first season SNL boxed set to see these long-derided muppets in action. The nicest thing that I can say about this experiment is that the Gorch designs would later influence those developed for Labyrinth.

Even more faces. These ones aren’t as famous.

With Gorch stumbling, Henson received some welcome news: although ABC had passed on his Muppet Show pilots, UK-based ITV picked up the show for UK and US syndication. (Yes, The Muppet Show is a British import. This fact is almost certain to impress anyone you ever need to impress, so please use it sparingly.) The final version switched to Kermit as the host and featured the muppets that would become synonymous with the brand today. From this point, success for Mr. Henson seemed to snowball. He transitioned the property to film three years later (in the aptly titled, The Muppet Movie) and two sequels followed soon after. Even more properties spun off his media empire including Fraggle Rock (1983) and Muppet Babies (1984), both shows that I have fond memories of. It was time to do something different again.

At this point, you may be forgiven if you forgot that this was all supposed to be about a computer game. For our narrative, two important events followed this explosion of Muppet success. In 1978, Jim Henson was approached by George Lucas to assist in creating and performing a puppet creation unlike any other for his upcoming film, The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas already had a substantial creature shop that developed full-body suits (such as Chewbacca and C-3PO) and many smaller puppets, but he was looking to make Yoda something beyond even that. Lucas and Henson were practically neighbors-- both The Muppet Show and Star Wars were filmed at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England-- and Lucas admired his work. Henson agreed, but proposed that his friend Frank Oz should be the one to voice and control the character. Lucas agreed. In exchange, Henson would gain valuable knowledge for a project that he had in the back of his mind. The collaboration was successful and Yoda became one of the iconic figures of the film, as well as one of the best-known puppets in the world. This “project” that Henson was batting around was an all-puppet fantasy epic, something never seen before. I could write at length about Dark Crystal, but I’ll save that for some day when I cover Sierra On-Line’s pair of Dark Crystal games. Suffice it to say that the film was a major success then and has remained a cult classic ever since. A prequel series currently airs on Netflix.

Still more faces. These ones are very technologically sophisticated.

Jim Henson wasted no time after Dark Crystal was released to start the development on Labyrinth: the first brainstorming session was in the limo on the way back from Dark Crystal’s premier! Present in that limo were Jim Henson, Brian Froud, and his wife Wendy Midner Froud. Mr. Froud was an illustrator and Henson’s collaborator on the Dark Crystal creature designs, while his wife was the sculptor best known for creating the Yoda puppet for George Lucas. In just a few minutes from the theater to their hotel, the trio sketched out their next collaboration around three concepts: goblins, a labyrinth, and a baby. In contrast to the all-puppet Dark Crystal, Henson wanted to add human actors into the mix. Very quickly they settled on a compelling image that would serve as the North Star for the film throughout all stages of development: a human baby, relaxed but surrounded by menacing-looking goblins. Even as everything else in Labyrinth changed, Brian Froud’s illustration perfectly encapsulated the feel, the wonder, and the sense of danger that Henson aimed for with his new film.

This time around, Henson would deepen his collaboration with George Lucas to make Labyrinth as a Lucasfilm production, with Lucas himself as executive producer. Henson approached poet Dennis Lee to write a treatment, with the script to be written by Terry Jones in his first film since Monty Python. It ultimately went through twenty-five revisions with the final edits still being hammered out during filming. David Bowie was cast as the villainous Jareth after a previous plan to make the villain a puppet was abandoned. Bowie also contributed original music and dance numbers to the final film, transforming it into a strange musical consisting entirely of villain songs.

Froud’s illustration of a baby and goblins was the guiding light of the film.

Jennifer Connelly plays the lead, a 15-year old small town girl named Sarah. She’s not quite a kid but not quite grown up yet, and she frequently retreats into her books and toys. The movie opens with Sarah at the park, acting out a scene from her favorite fantasy novel, Labyrinth. She struggles to remember the words that the heroine says to the goblin king, only to realize the time and rush home. Her father and step-mother are heading out on a date, leaving her to care for her fussy baby half-brother. Toby doesn’t settle down to sleep and in her anger and frustration, she quotes from her story (after getting the line wrong, again) to ask for the goblins to come and take her brother away. She is shocked when the crying stops and she rushes into his room to discover an empty crib. The goblins had taken him away! She yells out for the goblins to return her brother. Jareth, the Goblin King who looks exactly like David Bowie, appears at her window. He agrees to return her brother, but only if she can defeat him at the center of his labyrinth. Before she can even agree, she is transported to a fantasy universe. She has thirteen hours before both she and her brother are trapped in the goblins’ maze forever.

Sarah’s trip through the labyrinth is difficult as everything, even the bricks themselves, conspire to keep her lost. Along the way, she meets and befriends some of the inhabitants of the maze including the groundskeeper Hoggle, a monster named Ludo who has power over stones, and Sir Didymus, a talking fox with a powerful sense of chivalry and a terrible sense of smell. The foursome meet many interesting creatures, solve a few riddles, and fight a city full of goblins, all while Jim Henson gets to show off as many macabre puppets as possible. Hoggle struggles to balance his friendship with Sarah versus his fear of Jareth; eventually, he betrays Sarah by giving her a poisoned peach, but she survives the trap and forgives her friend. When they arrive at the castle, Sarah insists on facing Jareth alone. She chases the Goblin King through an Escher-inspired maze, all while Toby looks on with interest. Sarah takes a leap of faith through the impossible gravity and reclaims her brother, then says the correct lines from her book to defeat Jareth. The siblings are returned home and Sarah realizes her love for her brother. She spies her friends from the labyrinth looking at her through a mirror and invites them all in. They, and many other secondary characters from the film, celebrate in her bedroom in the real world as Jareth looks on from outside, defeated.

A human face in the mix!

Labyrinth was not a success. Reviews of the film were mixed, or worse. Roger Ebert commented that it was made with “infinite care and pains” and was “good to look at”, but said that there was “something missing” and the film “never came alive”. Other reviewers agreed that the film “failed to gel” or that it was “clever” while not actually being fun. A few threw the blame at Connelly’s Sarah, both as acted and written, but others placed the blame squarely on Henson’s shoulders. Gene Siskel claimed that Henson was “completely at sea… writing mature entertainment”. Siskel also hated that the film revolved around a “cheap gimmick” of putting a baby in danger, ending that it was an “enormous waste of talent and money”. Labyrinth was not completely dismissed by critics: it was nominated for BAFTA, Hugo, and Saturn awards, although it did not win in any category. Despite a good opening weekend, ticket sales declined rapidly and the film was pulled from many first-run theaters after three weeks. It made back only $12 million of its $25 million budget, making it Henson’s first true flop since the Land of Gorch, but far more expensive. Henson was heartbroken and would not direct another feature film before his death.

Labyrinth eventually found a cult following and remained popular enough that new stories are being told in that universe. Return to Labyrinth, a comic serialized from 2006-2010 follows Toby’s adventures in the maze more than a decade later. Labyrinth: Coronation, serialized in 2018 and 2019, is a prequel describing how Jareth became the Goblin King. Several other one-off comics and short stories have also been released to keep the story alive. Although there have been discussions of creating a movie remake or even a musical based on the property, nothing concrete has been announced yet.

David Bowie is not a muppet. 

When the film neared completion, Lucasfilm planned its computer game tie-ins. As we have seen before, it is not uncommon for several unrelated tie-ins to be produced for a single film. Labyrinth received two: a Japanese-only action game (by Altus Co.) and the in-house game by Lucasfilm Games. Development began in late 1985 with an advanced screening of the film. David Fox was selected to lead the project and he and a small team traveled to London for a week of those now-infamous brainstorming meetings with Douglas Adams. This team included Charlie Kellner, Christoper Cerf, and Brenda Laurel but others may have been at the table as well. (The credits also list contributions from Noah Falstein and Steve Arnold.) These meetings did not produce a finished game design, but provided a wellspring of material for the developers to work from and edit down into an adventure game.

While it is not clear that Jim Henson himself contributed to any of the design meetings, he was invited to a party thrown by Douglas Adams during their work on the game. Henson, a fan of Adams, gifted him with a large plate of smoked salmon as he was leaving the party. Adams was flabbergasted, but Henson would not leave the party until the author “said it”. Adams quickly realized what was up and begrudgingly bid Henson “so long, and thanks for all the fish”. If there is one thing about this game that I am grateful for, it is this tremendously geeky meeting of two creative luminaries. That said, neither of Henson’s biographies mention if he was invited back for another party...

The team assembled for Labyrinth was a great one. Christopher Cerf, while best known for his work on Sesame Street, began his career as a humorist for the National Lampoon. David Fox was employee #3 at “Lucasfilm Games”; he and Charlie Kellner were lead designers on many of Lucasfilm’s previous action games. Prior to coming to Lucasfilm, Fox even had a short stint doing contract work for Adventure International! Brenda Laurel was a PhD student working on her thesis, “Toward the Design of a Computer-Based Interactive Fantasy System”. Noah Falstein was hard at work on Habitat, a Lucasfilm MMO that was to be launched as one of the first of its kind. Many members of this team would go on to Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones, and other LucasArts titles. Jim Henson was impressed enough by his brief interaction with Adams to ask him to write for The Muppet Institute of Technology, a one-hour muppet special intended to promote computer literacy, but that project was not greenlit.

The design for the interface was new. The team decided against a traditional text adventure and instead opted for a “spinning wheel” selector for nouns and verbs. The overall look and feel would be adapted from Habitat; although that game would be shelved before exiting beta, much of the look-and-feel of Labyrinth and future LucasArts adventures were derived from Falston’s experiment. Douglas Adams suggested that the game should feature a Wizard of Oz moment where the game transitions from a traditional text adventure to something new and amazing. As we will see, this was used for the game’s opening sequence. 

The game begins!

The game’s manual is nothing special, although it features a brief introduction by Jareth that breaks the fourth wall. This post is quite long enough already, but I like the text enough that I hope you don’t mind if I quote it in full:

You! You there! Yes, you. The one getting dirty fingerprints all over this nice, clean book.

I am Jareth, the Goblin King, and you are mine. From the moment you began reading this, my grip upon your soul has tightened. Test me. Try to stop reading. You can't, can you? You are my subject, and you are destined to bow to my will for the rest of your days. The only way you can escape is to find me in the center of my Labyrinth and destroy me. Ha! Not only will you be unable to navigate the Labyrinth, I doubt if you'll even be able to find your way in!

And if by some chance you do manage to get inside, I will easily defeat you. I have many ways to do this. There are rules in my Labyrinth, and woe to those who do not follow them.

I will give you only thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth. And I can assure you... it isn't enough time.

I will set my army of goblins upon you. Each of my goblins was once in the same position you are in now... and each failed to solve the many puzzles of my Labyrinth. Now they work for me. They will throw you into dark, dank prisons I like to call my oubliettes... and forget about you. You will never find your way out.

I will lead you into untold dangers. The Bog of Stench alone will easily defeat you. And if you should happen to fall in -- if even one drop should touch you -- your smell will warn me of your presence... wherever you may try to hide.

I will recreate the Labyrinth even as you solve portions of it. It will constantly change, twisting around itself like a malevolent serpent.

Learn to love the Labyrinth, for you will be here forever. But take comfort. You will not be here alone. I rule the other poor souls as well. Hoggle might befriend you... if you pay him enough. Maybe you'd like to spend eternity in the forest of the Fireys. They may amuse you as they toss their arms and legs about. Perhaps they can lend you a hand! (Oh, I do love a little joke... especially at your expense.)

Some of the creatures in the Labyrinth are my minions, like Sir Didymus, who guards the bridge over the bog... and always follows my rules. Some of them -- like that accursed Ludo and his accursed friends, the rocks -- have come close to defeating me. But never too close. My faithful goblins take care of that.

They will take care of you, too. And so will I. This is my Labyrinth, and you are mine. Forever.

Ominous! All we have left to do is to play the game.

What is your quest?

Playing the Game

The game opens with a few simple questions (name, gender, and favorite color) before opening as a text adventure. Or rather, almost like a text adventure as the game uses the “scrolling wheel” style of text entry. We first select a verb from a list then are given a list of possible objects. It appears partly contextual, but we’ll see how I feel about that as the game progresses.

We begin the game in a small city area, just outside of a closed cigar store. There’s an owl nearby. Since we cannot go into the store, I explore the city. The room to the north has a beggar who blocks my path. When I give him a dollar he gives me a hint: plastics. I suspect this is more a reference to The Graduate (1967) than an actual in-game hint, but who knows. I explore to discover that the city really only has four rooms. A third one contains a bunch of movie posters (for Labyrinth, naturally, as well as one called The Elephant Movie) and the fourth is the entrance to the theater. Inside, we can buy a ticket (by giving some money), buy some popcorn (by giving some money near the concession stand), and wander into two screening rooms. Naturally, the one for the Elephant Movie is nearly empty, but the one for Labyrinth is packed. Wishful thinking, unfortunately.

As the movie is about to begin, we sit next to an attractive young girl and hit it off. A few moments later, a “geek” stereotype walks by and starts discussing the movie with me. He’s seen it more than 80 times, but if this had been a real movie theater I’d just be pissed that he wanted to spoil the film. I didn’t realize at first, but there are two ways to handle this situation. The first time I played, I “insulted” the boy and he ran off. This ensured that I had a pleasant start to a date with the woman. I ended up starting over again to double check things for this post, but this time I offer the boy popcorn instead. He proceeds to lovingly dissect the film, including complaining that Sarah is was stupid for eating the peach. (Spoilers, dude!) This pisses off the girl and she leaves and I enjoy the movie with the geeky boy. I’m okay with that; this is the 80s so he’ll probably grow up to be a tech billionaire.

Black, black, black, black. (And blue...)

Jareth appears on the movie screen. And I mean literally “appears”, because we’re not in a text adventure anymore. I am “weak” and will become his “thrall”, if I cannot delve into the heart of the labyrinth and defeat him in his castle. I am sucked into the film and the real game begins.

Some tie-in games retell a movie or show that you’ve already seen, such as Batman Returns (1992) or Hook (1992) Sometimes that retelling is quite different from the original, such as was the case for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game. Some provide further adventures of characters that you like, such as Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Edition. This is a strange duck where we, the main character, actively know that Labyrinth is a film. The more I think about this, the more I love it. Within the film, Labyrinth is Sarah’s favorite fantasy novel and then she gets sucked in because of her mean-spirited wish. Making Labyrinth a movie within the game is a beautiful extension of that idea.

My favorite color becomes the color of my shirt!

The graphical adventure portion of the game begins and I have to adjust to the change in input. Unlike Maniac Mansion and later efforts, Labyrinth uses a joystick as its primary input device. By moving the joystick, we move our character around on the screen which goes pretty far in both directions. Far enough that I get bored, although it seems to remember how far you went because the walk back was equally boring. While using the joystick to move, we must move our hands to the keyboard to select text adventure-style commands from the wheel. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, although part of my challenge will be that I am emulating a joystick using the keyboard. If there are complex action scenes later, I may come to regret it.

We found a dwarf!

After heading in, I get a title card that I have entered the labyrinth and find myself next to a nondescript brick wall. There is a bar below the main screen that has some blinking dots so I walk towards one of them. Just to the east, the first dot is Hoggle the dwarf and he informs me that I will never get out without his help. In the film, Sarah has to befriend him and melt his calloused heart. Here, I cannot find anything to do with him at all. Heading further east, I eventually find a log that I can pick up and then a rock. As I go, the graffiti keeps changing with messages like “Have you found the door yet?” Annoyingly, the area is large enough that the “dot” with the log wasn’t on my initial display. How hard will it be to search all of these long, wide screens? Continuing even farther, I am given increasingly explicit hints in the graffiti that I just need to walk through the word “door” to proceed. I guess they make this easy for the newbies? After I walk a long way, I find Hoggle again and assume that I have seen it all.

The hints gradually get more and more explicit.

I pick the first word “door” and find myself in “The Brick Hallway”. Like a text adventure, the game tells you your location each time. Perhaps I will need to map this later? After I head through, I realize that it’s a one-way trip. I cannot return to Hoggle’s room by walking south. What if I missed something? Is this game full of dead-ends? I have no idea what to expect but this is already odd.

Thus far, I am not enjoying the interface at all. The spinning wheel-style of text entry is fairly awful. You have to scroll through every option, although you can type the first letter to jump there if your idea of the term is the same as the game’s. There are plenty of extra verbs in there (“manicure”, for example) so you have more to scroll through than you might think, plus while some of the objects in the lists are contextual (such as things in your inventory), some of them are for things nowhere nearby. At least the objects are context sensitive so you only get objects that make sense with the verb. Even so, picking up the log and rock was simply by selecting “take” with no object, so… who knows. Maybe it will be second nature soon. The game is also incredibly slow to load room transitions; this may be the result of my emulator, but using “warp” mode helped a bit.

Time played: 1 hr 30 min
Inventory: dollar bill, log, nickel, popcorn, 2x quarters, rock, and ticket

I end this session in a nondescript hallway.


As I sat down to research and play Bureaucracy, I stumbled on the note about Douglas Adams’s little “cheating” episode with Lucasfilm. Given that link and the importance of this game in the history of our genre, I could not help but to put it ahead in line. I had half a mind that I needed to play Dark Crystal first, but that would have “required” me to play several “Hi-Res Adventure'' predecessors and those too could have inspired other dependencies. That way leads to madness. I hope to play Dark Crystal (1983) and Gelfling Adventure (1984) at some point in the future. Bureaucracy really will be next; I do not plan to completely ignore the voting that we did last time.

This post required a significant amount of research. I do not normally cite my sources, but perhaps I should do so more often. This week, I am indebted to Hitchhiker, a biography of Douglas Adams by M. J. Simpson, Don’t Panic, another Adams biography by Neil Gaiman, as well as Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History, by Paula Block, and Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Unfortunately, I spoiled myself on one puzzle in the game: at some point we will have to use the verb “adumbrate” (a verb meaning “to foreshadow or symbolize”) to solve a puzzle. I hope that most puzzles are not that obscure.

As for score guessing, I can tell you that LucasArts/Lucasfilm games are currently among the best and most consistent on the site and presently are averaging 71 points. They currently have the top three games in our list! For the pedantic among you, “Lucasfilm Games” was used for the titles up to 1990, with “Lucasfilm Games/LucasArts” dual branding continuing until 1993, when they were officially and finally renamed LucasArts Games. For our purposes, there is no little distinction between those “two” development houses. Good luck trying to guess this one; I have no idea.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introductory post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. Good god, that's a very C64-looking game. Reminds me of that Star Wars Droids game on the very same computers, I suspect they're probably connected.
    I'll guess 38. This is very early for Lucasarts, regardless of the talent. The early space games they did, unrelated to Star Wars are in similar states of interesting, but not the best thing ever.

    1. I am not aware of any direct connections with the Droids game, but I agree with you that it may have been inspired by this and other LucasArts games.

    2. On checking the game, I think I might have been wrong, since this doesn't seem to have any features that game has, not to mention it is a common way of functioning for the era.

  2. This is great, i vote for you covering this game in your poll but Bureaucracy won, so it was a nice surprise to see this post. I remember having this game as a kid and playing it one or two times in my C64, but can't remember why it didn't hooked me. Several months later, i got Maniac Mansion and that's where i got hooked for life. I only remember from this game that image of the Bowie character saying "You, Leo, on the front row", that scared me a lot. Maybe that's why i never played it again. Well, i was eleven or twelve at that time and i played it at night on an old black & white tv.... Let's see how this one hunch is that it will get 45 points

    1. I appreciated your suggestion! It's not exactly the reason why I played this game first-- once I got into writing the intro to Bureaucracy, I realized that I needed to-- but knowing there would be at least one person not angry at the trade was a nice thought. :)

  3. A great intro post! I really enjoyed reading, and I look forward to seeing how you find the game. It does have a certain Maniac Mansion look to it, although not quite the same style, with the large character designs and the side-scrolling areas.

    It has been many years since I watched Labyrinth, so I can only really remember a few bits, but this does make me want to re-watch it!

    I expect it won't be able to challenge the other lucasfilm games for the top spots, so I'll guess 42 points for this one, in honour of Douglas Adams.

    As an aside, Jim Henson bringing a plate full of salmon to a party to get one joke out of it was perhaps not the greatest idea, if I were in Adams position it would probably have soured my opinion of him somewhat!

    1. Well, as I said, I don't think Henson was invited to many more parties...

      Actually, the thing that I most regret is that Adams didn't write for Henson's computer literacy special. Adams's humor on top of the Muppet antics could have been quite a sight to see. Alas, they were both taken from us far too soon.

    2. I have to wonder why Henson thought of it. I always get the feeling that most celebrities are aware that such jokes get on people's nerves, since they usually hear it all the time. Did Henson just not have anybody go up to him and make a stupid joke about something or another constantly?

  4. I was today years old when I learned that Labyrinth was a commercial flop. I loved it, and everyone I know that's about my age (40s) has it in their cultural lexicon in sort of a package with The Last Unicorn, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, and maybe The Secret of NIMH, all of which were around the same time. I have no idea how many times I've watched Labyrinth.

    When I give him a dollar he gives me a hint: plastics. I suspect this is more a reference to The Graduate (1967) than an actual in-game hint, but who knows.

    I would rather suspect it's referring to the scene in the movie where Hoggle is impressed by the plastic bead bracelet Sarah gives him - presumably to him it's an exotic and thus precious material. So could well be meant as an in game hint.

  5. 40

    This is no good adaptation if Bowie's crotch bulge doesn't make an appearance.

  6. Programming Note: Unless someone else volunteers to do it, I will play "The Legacy" after Bureaucracy instead of Space Quest V. It's not my style of game, but I can give it a shot if no one else volunteers.

    1. Could, say, someone who hasn't done a game on the site before volunteer?

    2. Well, everyone of us has had their first time reviewing, so if they are just willing to commit to playing the game, I don't see why not.

    3. Could I give it a shot then? If having a relatively fresh memory of the game isn't allowed, I have played the game a few times, most recently in 2018. Never actually figured out much though.

    4. Send an email to the google groups address in the left hand bar. We can walk you through what is required. We have previously asked that new reviewers do a Missed Classic first before doing a main-line game, but these are interesting times.

  7. I'll guess 44 points then. I loved this game growing up and played it regularly but only ever finished it once or twice. I found the map confusing and irregular, but it's meant to be a labyrinth, so..?

    Does anyone know what else can carry over from the text portion over to the graphic? I only recall you could bring a range of coins over to be used later.

  8. I'll guess 40, it's still early days for the studio and the interface does not bode well.

  9. Life has kept me from the blog, but alas, I am able to make a prediction again... so.. 41.

    Enjoyed this post and the research!