Thursday, 13 May 2021
Thursday, 6 May 2021
Written by Morpheus Kitami
Previously, I had almost solved my problems, but was forced to restart the game thanks to an admittedly generous time limit. I do believe it's linked to your actual actions as opposed to in-game time, given the game's speed issues, is a pretty good bit of foresight, all things considered. I mean, someone with foresight would also not force the player through duct work or a crappy action sequence...but I get ahead of myself.
|Does that mean we won't be able to sell it?|
So, the key, this opens a room with another jewel. It's some stupid name, but it's the jewel that opens the scanner. So this means I can take the final jewel, the one I really need. It occurs to me this is just key busywork, but with another name. Upon using the jewel, the door opens really slowly. As can be expected.
|That's awfully blue for a black jewel...|
...and I've found the jewel...and no money. I can take it, but the alarm is tripped. I have no empty soda can to change it with. The only thing I can think of that I'm missing is the guard in the bathroom. Leaving my squad somewhere safe, I return to the bathroom. Nothing. I go back to the furnace, crank it up, and return. Nothing. Maybe he's doing a number 2? I try opening the door. It works. I wasn't expecting that.
|So what happens if someone needs to take a no. 2?|
Aha, the scuba gear. That means the scuba section. I was wondering when that would happen. What wonders await?
Monday, 26 April 2021
Written by Will Moczarski
Here we go again! According to Wikipedia, The Palace of Deceit was “remade for Windows 3.x and subtitled The Dragon’s Plight as a graphical point-and-click adventure game with an entirely new plot and graphics”. Call me old-fashioned but how is this a remake and not a sequel? You actually play a dragon in this one, so it must at least be a spin-off. However, the designer was still Cliff Bleszinski and according to a portrait of the man written by a guy called Joe Funk (seriously!) in Hot Jobs in Video Games (2010) his inspirations were the ICOM games like Déjà Vu and Uninvited. I’ve already pointed out the similarities to Shadowgate when playing the first iteration of the game, so this doesn’t actually come as a shock.
Friday, 23 April 2021
Written by Morpheus Kitami
Secret Agent Katt is a weird game. I don't mean weird in the usual sense. There's nothing I could take out of context and say, what is this crap? Nothing like Inca or Melvin Freebush, or whatever Japanese obscurities there are. Secret Agent Katt is entirely mundane in that regard. Too mundane. In Secret Agent Katt, the most obvious answer is seemingly the right answer. Door's locked? Find a key. Nothing does anything? Well, its already open you fool.
|In the mythical women's bathroom|
|Meanwhile, in a gas station bathroom...|
I had done something, that was certain, but what did I do? The lounge area offered me nothing but a guard. It had two bathrooms, the woman's one was clean and the men's was dirty. Get it? Because women are prim and proper, while men pull a Jackie Chan on the ceiling to take a dump. Nothing here. Not even opening the faucet does anything. I should explain, in Last Half, if you messed with one, they turned on and the sink overflowed. Neat touch. I'm not seeing that here. At some point coming back here, I saw a guard, but I ran away afterward, uneager to waste ammo. We'll find out if that's right later.
Nearby there was a vending machine...which was unplugged for some reason. I didn't do that. I plug it in. There are some names on the wall, but is that for a puzzle or just something clever? I have no money. You'd think unidentified US black ops agency would give their agents a few Lira before dumping them somewhere in Italy.
Wednesday, 21 April 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
Welcome back! Last time out, Roger Wilco had his first adventure at the helm of the garbage scow, SCS Eureka. We met our crew, collected three sets of garbage, and rescued a poor face-hugger with a case of indigestion. Thus far, I am loving the Star Trek pastiche. The whole game has been note-perfect with just the right amount of love for the franchise while still ripping apart its conventions. We’ll see whether we can keep it up. After our third pickup, we were assaulted by an android assassin that wants Roger dead. For most people, having a killer robot try to kill you would be a pretty big deal, For Roger, it’s just Wednesday.
Let’s get on with the game!
Arena of Freedom
Captain’s Log, Stardate: Wednesday morning, after my first cup of coffee but before my second. No sooner than my brave crew and I finish our appointed rounds, but we are assaulted by a mechadroid. My dark past has caught up to me and I’m forced to face an assassin on my own or risk the lives of my crew. Will my mistakes doom us all? I’m beaming down. If I don’t return, bring back my overdue library books.
Monday, 19 April 2021
|Thou shalt not pass.|
Let’s resume our story, and go back to the armoury where I found a shield with my family crest on it. When I try to take the shield, I hear a deep rumbling from within the suit of armour next to it. The suit comes to life and proceeds to attack me with a sharp sword. If I try to kill the knight, the game informs me that I left the knife (you know, the cutz-o-matic one) with the carcass – however, there’s still a sleeping lion next door, right? I open the door and...the lion springs at the knight and knocks him over. He proceeds to tear him to pieces, and then turns to me. There appear to be multiple solutions for what happens next: holding up the shield either results in the lion shredding it to pieces of metal but then blacking out because there “must have been something in the meat”, or the lion’s head “clangs off the shield, and he drops to the ground, knocked out, several of his teeth scattered around the room. […] There are now 19 knights here, a knocked out lion, shreds of metal, lion's teeth, and a frustrated adventurer (you).” A frustrated adventurer? You can say that again. It’s strangely meta to read this parser output after THE CRASH.
Friday, 16 April 2021
Written by Morpheus Kitami
What do you do when everyone is wrong about a game? I don't mean in a subjective sense, like you think Citizen Kane is worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space; I mean objectively, like Citizen Kane is a space opera/nunsploitation film starring Jackie Chan, Vincent Price, and Gloria Swanson. Today, that's what I bring you, the game the internet calls a RPG, The Nine Lives of Secret Agent Katt, hereafter referred to as Secret Agent Katt; Until I need to inflate my word count that is. If you submit to the collective wisdom of the internet, its a RPG. Even one Russian site, who are usually good about this, and shall remain nameless, mention RPG elements in the description. I know the CRPG Addict briefly played this game before rejecting it. Why wouldn't he? After all, everyone says it is a RPG, and everyone is wrong. But first, a little backstory...
|Mobygames lists this as 1991? Another lie?|
Secret Agent Katt is the second or third game by American developer Softlab Laboratories, later WRF Studios, and consists of William R. Fisher III and whoever he works with at the time. He is known for two things, a series of horror adventure games known as The Last Half of Darkness, six sequels, three remakes, and a series of vampire RPG games called Bloodlust. The Last Half of Darkness was little Morpheus's first horror experience, something that haunted him for years. I guess they're second fiddle to the Hugo series, in the sense that anything is second fiddle to the Hugo series, shareware adventure games never hit it big like action games.
Monday, 12 April 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
Welcome back! Where we last left Space Quest V, I had just passed our Starcon exam and was granted my first ship: the SCS Eureka, a garbage scow. Still, everyone has to start somewhere and I’m sure that I will be working my way up the command ladder to be commanding a mighty starship in no time. Even if it’s small, we have a ship and a crew!
Now, how should I begin? I know! We’ll have some jaunty theme music followed by one of those “Captain’s Log” things that provide exposition without forcing characters to tell each other things that they already know. Since this isn’t 1990s web design, you’ll have to click here for the soundtrack. The score is credited to Timothy Clarke and Christopher Stevens. We listened to the latter’s work in our previous Dynamix adventures including Willy Beamish, Rise of the Dragon, and Heart of China. It’s a fun score that riffs nicely both the earlier Space Quest games as well as Star Trek. I am completely unqualified to talk about music, so let’s jump straight into:
Encounter at Gangularis
Captain’s Log, Stardate: Tuesday afternoon, just after lunch. Having been granted my first command, I am eager to explore strange new worlds and collect trash where no one has gone before. Not everyone is up for such an important task, but I have the soul of a janitor. Litterbugs beware! My first task will be to get my ship out of spacedock and out into open space. After that, it’ll be the second star to the right and straight on until morning.
Saturday, 10 April 2021
Missed Classic: The Palace of Deceit: The Secret of Castle Lockemoer – Half-WON! with REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE
Request for (software) assistance
Basically I am looking for someone who can explain and (ideally) fix this error message:
Illegal function call in module PALOFDEC at address 01A2:1470
I assume that either the code is broken here OR this is as far as the shareware version takes us. However, I haven’t found any registered versions on the internet, so if the latter assumption turns out to be true, I will be unable to finish the game. Ironically, I have done what this situation would have required back in 1991, and tried to contact the author of the game, Cliff Bleszinski. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful as of yet.
If nobody is able to help me, I will post an as-if walkthrough of the remainder of the game because all of the text is right there in the open when you open the main executable file, and attach it to the PISSED rating. That would be somewhat unsatisfactory but I’d be out of other ideas, as it is.
Friday, 2 April 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
I didn’t like Bureaucracy. As we saw last time out, it scored the lowest of the Infocom games so far. I expect this disappointed some of you-- if Jimmy Maher ever reads this blog, that post may have been his last-- but it’s my honest assessment. Bureaucracy was developed over several years and rotated designers more frequently than some people change pants. This led to a disjointed product that didn’t quite live up to its premise or its pedigree. We have no idea which designers came up with each of the game’s elements, but thanks to the Infocom source code leak we have an amazing view into some of what was cut or retained, as well-- possibly for the first time-- to see the founding vision for the game.
Unlike some of the other games I looked at, we can glean a veritable treasure trove of information from the code leak. Not only do we have several puzzle design documents and a circa-1985 game pitch, but also semi-complete alternate versions of three of the sections: “airport”, “jet”, and “maze”. The airplane portion alone went through five versions that we know of before the developers found a set of scenarios and they liked. Covering all of that may be tricky. My plan will be to first look at the original design document then iterate through each area in sequence, paying special attention to alternate versions and commented-out code to identify as many discarded sequences as I can.
Will we discover that I like the cut content more than the real thing? Only one way to find out!
Saturday, 27 March 2021
I am more ambivalent about Lost Secrets of the Rainforest than any other game I've written about on the blog here. Most of the games I asked to write about were ones that I knew something about before I started, and this one is no exception, since it is the sequel to the cheerful Ecoquest. You might think that making a sequel would be easier, since some ideas or characters or settings get carried over from the original game. Yet I find that a sequel nearly always struggles to live up to the bar set by its original. What carries over tends to constrain the sequel rather than letting it be its own thing.
I could expand that into a thesis with examples, but we're here to look at Lost Secrets, so I'll focus on why translating Ecoquest into a rainforest setting didn't result in a similarly charming experience as the original underwater game. I wanted to like it, and some things I did like, but others I didn't.
Puzzles and Solvability
Most of the puzzles were reasonably straightforward; like Ecoquest, the story is pitched around middle-school age, so nothing is deliberately tricky, and there are no dead ends as far as I know. However, I really struggled with several puzzles that felt arbitrary. There was nothing in the first game that was tightly timed, so the sequence in the camp where the goon would catch you if you were in the wrong place too long was rather jarring. I spent the most time on that sequence, having to restart over and over to test where I could go and when in order to get things done. It was tedious at best.
|I saw this screen way too much.|
Thursday, 18 March 2021
Saturday, 13 March 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
Welcome back to Space Quest V where Roger Wilco is just getting started down his road to Star Trek-style heroism. The previous post closed out the game’s introductory movie where Roger fantasized that he was the captain of a starship exploring the galaxy, only to be revealed as nothing more than a simulator. Star Trek geeks might wonder if this is the Space Quest version of the “Kobayashi Maru”, the test that all young cadets must go on to learn if they have the capacity to lose in a no-win situation. Roger doesn’t need that kind of training; he’s perfectly good at being a loser even in winnable situations!
I hope you placed your score bets. I am excited to get into this game, if for no other reason than to find out if it can match up to the previous games in the series despite having only a single “Guy From Andromeda”. Will the new blood help or hinder creativity? There is only one way to find out.
Thursday, 11 March 2021
Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
I would love to tell you that Bureaucracy is a beautiful throwback to a bygone era of games where one screwup at the beginning would, hours later, make it impossible to win. That would be a lie. Playing as we are in gaming history, this was still considered (somehow) good game design. Add to it that Bureaucracy is essentially gamified frustration and it’s inevitable that we’d have some walking dead scenarios. Regretfully, I hit one.
At the start of the game, we have a Boysenberry computer in our house. This is 1987 when laptops might fit in a backpack if you are lucky and tablet computers were a trope of science fiction. This is two years before the Gameboy! My assumption is that this is a standard desktop computer for the era. At one point, I noticed that I could pick it up, carry it around, and even use it without it being plugged in. This felt like a bug where the developers (who can be forgiven for not knowing what computers were like) forgot that they needed to be plugged in and so didn’t code in that logic. Perhaps because of that, or because I simply made an error, I left my Boysenberry computer at my house when I headed off to the airport. Big mistake.
I fought my way through the airport crowds, defeated the evil llama stew, and jumped into a cannibal-infested jungle before discovering that I lose immediately if I parachute in without the computer. While the game hints that the natives we are captured by like computers, it doesn’t explicitly say that we needed to bring one with us; a player would be left with a dead end and no obvious way to advance if it had not been for the hint book. I wasn’t pleased. I am committed to solving this game and so played through the previous sections again. It’s not that they were tremendously difficult or time-consuming, but when I am struggling to enjoy a game, playing it again doesn’t make it more endearing. On the bright side, I’m wrapping up the game today. Let’s get this over with.
Friday, 19 February 2021
Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
Five years ago (can you believe that?), I wanted to blog about Space Quest IV. While it wasn’t the first game that I played here, it was the first that I really wanted to play and the game that got me excited to write about adventure games. 65 main-line games later and we’ve finally made it to the sequel: Roger Wilco: The Next Mutation. But while this might look like a straight sequel, behind the scenes drama ensured that this would be a very different game from its predecessors. Instead of “Two Guys from Andromeda”, we were left with only one. Can one guy recapture the lighting and create a great sequel all on his own? That’s what I am looking forward to finding out.
I say “finding out” although I played this game and its sequel when they first came out. I remember very little about either of them and there is a good chance that plot elements I half-recall could be from the other game. If I had to stretch my brain, I’d say that I think I remember that Roger Wilco became a captain at the end of this game and I was annoyed that he was demoted back to janitor again at the beginning of the next, but I could be off-base. Let’s find out together!
Saturday, 6 February 2021
Written by Joe Pranevich
I really want to like Bureaucracy. It’s partly written by one of my favorite authors, it is one of Infocom’s few truly collaborative efforts, and it has some great ideas. But, I don’t like it. At least at first, I assumed it was because of the moment that we are all living through-- the COVID epidemic, the fight for racial justice in the United States, and a contested election. Playing a game designed to annoy you isn’t fun when the world is already more stressful than it’s ever been. And yet, here we are in 2021 with vaccines coming (my wife gets her first dose next week!), the election behind us, and the sun just starting to peek out from behind the clouds. I thought that if I took a break and came back to the game now, I would feel better… but no, not really. Bureaucracy still pisses me off.
To hopefully ensure a bit more consistent posting as we wrap this up, I have now beaten the game. I’m expecting to close this series out in three posts before moving on to Space Quest V, a game that I hope to enjoy playing a bit more. I will finish the airplane section this week, claim victory next time, and finally close out with a look at how the game changed from early design notes to the finished product.
Before jumping into this session’s misadventures, I need to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and talk about the elephant that will very shortly be in the room: the Zalagasans. Roughly the next third of the game features them in ways that meet somewhere at the intersection of humorous, troubling, and racist. I am positive that Douglas Adams, Michael Bywater, and the Infocom crew did not mean any offense, but playing the game in 2021 feels different somehow than playing it in 1987. As ill-equipped as I am to write in detail about the systematic stereotyping of non-white peoples in American and European media, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on it.
Saturday, 23 January 2021
Adam’s Journal #8: "What a ride! I’ve finally made it to the City of Gold, but I never dreamed I would be flown there by a giant eagle! At first I thought I was going to be the eagle’s dinner, but then she turned out to be really nice. Now we’re so close to finding Forest Heart’s seedling. I can’t wait!"
We've made it to the heart of the City of Gold, a small stone room at the top of the maze. Inside, the far wall displays a curious grid of nine squares carved with some shapes that look rather jumbled. Another panel on the wall nearby crudely depicts a king and a serpent, guarding the way. On the grid, I can press any of the squares to change which of three choices is displayed. One choice is blank with a solid red border, another has part of an image with a double orange border, and the third has part of a different image with a red zigzag border. The center square doesn't have a border, but one choice is clearly blank, so it's easy to match the other two in the same order to complete each image.
|The orange image, complete. A king playing the flute?|
|The red zigzag image, complete. A king wearing gold dust?|
Sunday, 17 January 2021
Adam’s Journal #7: "I knew a lot of kinds of bats existed, but before recently, I had never seen so many different kinds in one place before! I’m glad I could help them a little, but now I have to help Paquita too. The Fountain of Youth is the only thing that can heal her. Good thing it’s supposed to be in the City of Gold where I was going anyway."
Last time I was all set to board another boat to take us down the polluted river to travel toward the City of Gold. There we can find the seedling for Forest Heart and the Fountain of Youth to cure Paquita. Of course, it's not going to be quite that simple.
Tuesday, 5 January 2021
After last time, I slowly but surely uncovered more of the game with each playthrough. With each playthrough it became clear why nobody brings this up these days. Zombi just doesn't respect your time, and to be honest this was the wrong month to play a game that doesn't respect my time. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Sunday, 3 January 2021
When I reviewed Putt Putt Joins the Parade, I was a bit anxious whether I could rate a children’s game fairly. With one Humongous game already under my belt, I think I have a better grasp on what works and what doesn’t in these games. Let’s see if teddy power beats an automobile!
|It had to make a cameo|