Saturday, 22 May 2021

Missed Classic 95 (1992) - Weird Island

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Weird, as following the I before E rule

There are some games, that you can tell what they're going to be about just by looking at the title. Weird Island or Wierd Island. Maybe it takes place on a plane, that'd be weird. The readme, before talking about the story, mentions an original 'point and click' interface, eradicating the need for typing complex sentences. Perhaps I'm showing my age, but I can't remember typing any complex sentences into a game, and I have the benefit of living in an age where you could easily program a response to this entire paragraph, in a game. 

Anyway, story: 
[Leafing through the newspaper one morning you come across a notice requesting your presence at 'HUGH, PUGH and BARNEY-MAGREW Solicitors to Elizabeth Taylor.' Puzzled (and who wouldn't be), the next day you visit the solicitors where you are told that you have come into possession of a remote island paradise. The island was apparently claimed by five galley slaves many, many years ago; one of whom was your ancestor (its nice to know who your descended from). 

Ownership of the island passes between the families of the founders every 100 years and your family is next in line to do with the island what you wish. You were supposed to be told this by the previous owner of the island but he seems to have conveniently disappeared. Anyway, the solicitors suggest you go out to the island to see for yourself. Strangely, you feel happy to oblige...] 

I see several problems with this. Firstly, while I can believe this agreement can withstand modern times, I'm not clear on how a bunch of slaves were able to keep hold of an island during Roman times, or the Dark Ages. They were galley slaves, you want to tell me that all the Edmunds that were kings in those times were okay with that? Could have just written that I won a contest, dude. I'm American, for one, I'm not going over to jolly old England without being told why without a paid-for ticket. Secondly, I am not an orphan descended from orphans, why do I specifically get this island? Thirdly, what if I don't browse the personal ads?

Weird Island is the sole game of developer Kevin A. Lee, a British man who at one point lived in Coventry. A university student, judging by how he knew he was going to be changing his e-mail in July 1993. If you bothered, for 10£ and above, you could get a registered version, another game called Downtown that is supposedly bigger and better than "Wierd Island", and effectively random crap he made. A good sign, I think. In-game the title seems to be misspelled almost universally, but in the document file its not, the files aren't. This is version 1.1. Does that mean its...intentional...? 

For the record, that shareware fee with inflation is like 21£, or some 30$. 

I wasn't aware I was that ugly

This newspaper appears for just a flash. I don't really know why it exists, but okay. There is an opening song...in PC speaker. 

What a beautiful sky

Beautiful realistic VGA graphics. Reminds me of how big the real is brown trend was two console generations ago. So, the controls. You can't interact with the picture at all, the only thing you do with the mouse is click on actions and the characters/objects listed below. Doesn't stop there either. In order to actually do something, you need to press enter. That's right, in this point and click interface, you have to keep your hand on the keyboard at all times. Its not bad otherwise, but that's such a bizarre thing to advertise when it doesn't work right. 

The boat I presumably just left is leaky and full of holes...interesting. The sign just says this harbour has been closed, violators will be killed, signed Hemorroides. And there's nothing else I can do here. So much for weird, this is more mundane corruption. Gotta say the arrows could have slightly more obvious colors. Like red or maybe black for places I can't go. White and yellow don't tell me much.

Score one for juvenilism

 More harbor, with a fisherman and a wooden box. He doesn't look like he should be in that position without several broken bones. Examining the fisherman tells me he's talking in his sleep, something about bloody foreigners and Hemorroides. Talking to him, he tells me to avoid Hemmoroides, the new boss around here, and not to tell anyone I'm the new owner. Everyone's afraid of Hemmoroides. Is it "Hemorroides" or "Hemmoroides", game? Questionable grasp of the English language, but at least I understand the central concept and themes of this game. Toilet humor and getting rid of some ass with an unfortunate name. 

Also here is a box. Its a Russian nesting doll puzzle. Open the box, there's another box, until I get a note. "Keep these boxes tidy". To which the fisherman laughs. This does bring up something that makes keyboard only controls a bit troublesome. If there are more than 4 items in your inventory or a scene you have to scroll through them. With the inventory, there's allegedly a limit. Without the mouse, you press either the left or right shift key and up or down. I doubt you could figure that out on your own, but you'd probably be reading the readme file in that case.

Bear communication not working, requires further research

The island opens up after that. There's scenic jungle, which leads to scenic jungle, the exact same background and everything. A tomb/temple entrance, both locked. One with a bell puzzle, the kind where you hit them in a sequence, I imagine. They're numbered 1 to 5. And a mountain I just walk up. There's a bear here, he's hungry. How do I know that? He's rubbing his stomach like he's in a silent movie. I can walk around just fine, leading to another room with a locked door. Its weird, there sure are a lot of locked doors here. Couldn't we have say, jungle that's too thick so I need a machete or a bizarre maze puzzle? I find some random items just lying around, herbs, a vine, a soda can. Can't beat the feeling...somehow. 

That's not creepy at all

My exploration, further south, leads me to a village. Which of course there is, because why would an island game not have a tribe there? I don't understand the legality of this weird ownership of the island, combined with a native tribe. I don't own these people, do I? I'll give the author credit, this is weird. It seems like one of the natives is in pain and the medicine man isn't doing anything. Except saying I shouldn't be here. Can you guess what we do here, ladies and gentlemen? If you guess we force this random man to eat herbs we just found, you are correct. He's the chief, he gives me a key to the village and tells me to explore freely. Practically begs me to. 

I suspect this is another puzzle

The key opens a door, leading to "breathing equipment". I'm loading up a lot of stuff, hopefully that inventory limit isn't going to hit anytime soon. Of other interest in the village is a statue, one of its feet is painted a dazzling array of colors. Oh, good, a color pressing puzzle, haven't seen that one before...but this is the solution, not the place I press it. Okay. If it sounds like I'm skipping out on important details, I'm not, the village is really just five rooms copy/pasted with three interesting rooms and one with fruit in it.

That's a joke? Okay, whatever

I discover a glitch while walking through the island again. Pressing an action (outside of use) without an object and then enter takes you south. There's a beach, but it doesn't have much going on there, just some items I can pick up. A fish, some seaweed, and a shell. The shell whenever I use it, blows out an annoying two note melody. I don't know what this game is going for and I don't like it. Apparently the fish I have tastes like boiled intestines, or at least how I imagine they taste. I'm pretty sure they taste like nothing, but I admit to not having personal experience with the matter. There's a sandcastle guarded by a sand soldier, who I can't just knock over apparently. Guess I have to find something to put water in.

Game design

So, I figure the fruit must do something with the bear. He isn't interested in eating me, so clearly this is the option. He eats it, leaves something and leaves. He's dropped something...the game refers to it as droppings. It says yuck when I pick it up. This isn't the kind of game where there's enough interactivity for you to make fun of me for doing that. The cave the bear was guarding contains flint, or more correctly, a sharp rock. That's right, I just gave away an item to get two items. I'm just so happy about that. 
Yippee

That's about it for the island. There's a lot of dead areas where they're just there to make the game larger. I hope there's a reason for that, but something tells me there isn't. My next task wasn't so obvious. The fish has some colors on it, but the game doesn't bother telling me what those colors are. But with the breathing equipment, I can go into a lake. Here there are weeds. And naively assuming I use the flint to cut the weeds and get a different item...it opened another passage...which lead to some boulders. At that point, something hit me...Am I going to have to use the bear droppings to make explosives? I mean...originally they made gunpowder using waste products. 

I AM A PUZZLE-SOLVING GOD!

I think a distinct flaw this game has is that the puzzles are just there, and if you don't realize there are puzzles in a room, you'll probably never get past it. Unless you randomly use items. Or use a vine on a tree assuming you'd get a coconut. Using the vine on the tree opens a path. Which leads to a treehouse. Which has a coconut. If you could see me right now, you'd see me smiling a smile of utter frustration. 

It's okay, I own the island
The coconut is useless for now, although I open it on a rock because I can. I wonder if the key opens one of the many locked doors on this island. It opens the tomb. There's nothing much interesting about the tomb. It has a shroud, which is a flag of some kind. I take it. Nothing interesting here. I can also use the fish on the fisherman, he tells me its a red herring. I don't care for humor in adventure games in general, but this seems awful despite my handicap. I don't know if this is the developer being smug or him honestly telling me to dump it.

You'd think a king would have better grammar

Okay, maybe the coconut wasn't entirely useless. I can use it to pick up seawater. Naturally, I can use this on the sand soldier, he turns hard and he dies. Score another for adventure games with violence. Inside the castle, the first thing I see is a bucket. Hahaha, that's so funny. It actually is funny, because I've run out of inventory space. Not that it seems to be useful, since it has a hole in it. So the castle has two rooms, one with the bucket and one with a sand king. I have a funny feeling the king wants the shroud...which he does and in return he gives me a strange rock. Which is heavy for its size. Is it gold? Do I even care?
 
Water Magic level 100

At this point the game's difficulty is ramping up, not because its suddenly difficult, but because there are less things for me to stumble over. So I start randomly doing things. Eventually I return to the underwater tunnel, where I cause a cave-in on the rocks with the shell. By blowing it underwater. This opens up a room containing a jewel, that's the key to one of the locked doors above. How did it get here? How did anything that happen, happen? Do I even care? 

If someone as broad as you can't do it, how can I?

This opens up a room containing the previous owner and a weapon. At first I assumed this was a trick, but no, this is the previous owner of the island and he's giving me a sword to take out Hemorroides. Cool...cool...At this point, the game stonewalls me. The only things left untouched by me are the statue and the temple door. Nothing I do to the statue does anything and the bell puzzle doesn't seem to have a solution. The statue's nails were painted (from first to fifth) blue orange red green (heh) yellow. Using them in the order of the rainbow, assuming both blue and red as the first, does nothing and I don't see any other way it could logically be solved. And naturally I did the simple 1 to 5 or 5 to 1. The bells don't have any distinct sound, so there's no melody to be had. I could brute force this, but that's a lot of effort for a game I know isn't going to offer me any reward. I don't even know if its going to even work at all. If someone noticed something I didn't, I'll try it and if it works, I'll update this. I consider this a fool's errand, and I'm not holding my breath. 

Also, I didn't realize it until I started putting screenshots together, but the previous owner seems to be the guy on the magazine. I'm pretty sure that's another plothole, but I admit, I don't care at this point.

UPDATE:

For some strange reason, I felt the desire to return to Weird Island. Starting a fresh game gave me a new perspective. I knew the fish was a red herring, but could it have been a subtle clue? I wrote down colors when they were mentioned or seen through a quick jaunt of the island.
  • Blue, start screen
  • Red, starting newspaper
  • Rusty, boat
  • Bloody, fisherman
  • Yellow, flower
  • Red, fish
  • Green, seaweed
I wonder how many people have seen this before?
Its unclear where any orange is. Sand, maybe? Now, as the above mentioned color list goes, that means I use the bells in the order of first, ???, second/fourth, fifth, fourth/third. Except the intro screens are red herrings, and the first bell is the last. I guess that was the sea. I don't know what the real code is, I just happened into it. Twice, because I was screwing around with it the first time, but chanced doing the bells over the entire game.

I'm not so keen on this. 
Unsurprisingly, this is not a difficult puzzle
The tower is not really worth the pain I had to take to get here. Its just a set of scales. I use the strange rock on it, and a door opens to the west. If it sounds like I'm witholding information again, I'm not. There are two rooms between the scales and here, but there's nothing in them. They're just filler. Not even interesting filler.
I swear your honor, he was trying to kill me
I'm face to face with Hemmoroides. Or something. For a game that screwed unsuspecting players out of a bell code, its awfully generous here by not stabbing me in the face if I wait. I can even talk to him and he does nothing. I think this is a poor show for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there's no reason for this guy to be a threat if it's just him dancing in a tower. That's not the villain of an epic journey, that's a character in a Poe tale. Secondly, like I mentioned before I knew what was going to happen, this guy isn't a threat. Its 1992, people are going to have issues with me stabbing someone on my private island. The UN will probably try to sanction me and Bush Sr. will certainly agree to that, its an election year and we can't have tinpot dictators who think themselves above the law.

Hopefully they send someone in an A-10 or a F-15. There's something special about getting hit with a multi-ton bomb vs. some CIA agent poisoning me.


So I win and apparently my island becomes famous for some reason. Well, I say some reason, but I'm willing to be its people looking to be on an island owned by a murderer. Not many islands where you can say that, can you? Something tells me the novelty of that is going to wear off real quick.

The game quits there, with the message:
On the other square, to the left, was elegantly engraved in capital letters this sentence: ALL THINGS MOVE TO THEIR END...
With that, let's get on to the rating. 

Puzzles and Solvability: 
Puzzles are supposed to involve some thought, right? More thoughts than, well, obviously I have to use this here. Some of these puzzles are so obvious I hit upon the solution without even realizing I solved a puzzle. How else would one interpet me randomly throwing a vine up at a tree? Certainly not satisfying for that matter. 

 But then we have the parts that are difficult. If I hadn't been randomly using items I would have never thought to blow a musical shell underwater. In a game where I'm a normal human, I have no reason to think that's possible anymore than I think its possible to imagine a new color. Then the bell puzzle, which I'm sure has some obtuse solution I missed. I think of all the adventure games I've played this has to be the worst. Zombi wasted your time, but this just ticks all the bad adventure game puzzle boxes. 


Interface and Inventory: 
The keyboard controls for this were actually really well-done. Pressing a letter, then two numbers is a really intuitive system. Moving through your inventory items or the scene's items are awkward, but rarely comes up in a troublesome way. Really, only the bell puzzle again, but I'm harping on that now. The inventory limit was effectively meaningless, because every item was used only once, no repeats or anything. I suspect several items were useless, but its of so little consequence that its hardly worth counting against or for it. 


Story and Setting: 
Like I said at the beginning, the plot of this seems stupid even for a game that isn't focusing on the plot. Did nobody think to be concerned about the previous owner not showing up? Presumably it ends when I murder Hemorroides, which I have no real reason to do so. Sure, he kidnapped a dude, but last I checked the cops aren't okay with people stabbing people for that. Maybe they are in Britain, I'm not sure.

The island had too much dead space in it, presumably meant to show in-game space, but there are like 30 rooms here, some of which have no reason to exist. There are three beach areas for instance, each with the ability to use the sea. Some rooms exist only so you don't find even more items on the regular path. I did find the sandcastle and the underwater area interesting, but not enough to make up for everything else. 


Sound and Graphics: 
It is rare for PC Speaker to be good. It is rarer still for it to be good after the '80s. By this time, its not really a concern for anyone and I doubt there's much point in trying. 

I feel like this guy, if he tried a little more, could do something decent graphically. There's the start of something solid underneathe the awful shading and questionable human anatomy. Perhaps that's intentional. The sepia-tone graphics seem to indicate that was the case. While I like that in theory, the end result is not appealing. I will say it made for some pretty light in size screenshots. 


Environment and Atmosphere: 
This island feels distinctly like something I'd find in the Pacific Ocean, interesting how some Roman slaves got there. I also get a little Mayan influence from the tomb and temple, what I could reach anyway. Its the sort of thing that should be greatly appealing, but doesn't really feel like that. Its more like seeing Hawaii through the eyes of someone with crippling depression. Its novel, its interesting for a second, its just not something I ever wanted or plan on playing again. 

For a game banking on being weird, Weird Island sure feels...not exactly weird. It feels like its trying too hard. Picking up bear droppings feels like something someone pulled out of a hat. It is weird, but at the same time, I spent the entire game holding bear droppings. Its like a practical joke the author is playing on the player. The thing about that is I have to look back on the joke at some point and say, that's actually pretty funny, good job. Bad job. 

3

Dialog and Acting
One of these days, I'm going to play a game with good dialog. Today is not that day.


Final Rating
That's 6+2+1+3/0.6=20. That puts it in basically the same range as the rest of the shareware adventure games. Bad. That's harsh, because this just doesn't feel like a game to begin with, more like something you gawk at briefly before doing something else. But I have to admit this game is going to give me one lasting impression, I'm never going to spell hemmoroids right again. I don't even know if that was right. 


Next time, I'm going to tackle a game that befits both the missed and classic part of a missed classic. What did I mean by this? 

Total Time: 2 hours

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting, if sometimes strange, game. I would assume that you need to plug the hole of the bucket so you can use it (although what you're supposed to put in it, and why, I don't know). The order of colours on the statue sounds like it could be a solution for a sequence elsewhere? and I suppose the order to ring the bells must be mentioned somewhere else also (I realise none of this is helpful at all, it really feels like you're stuck in a walking dead situation).

    Also of note with regard to the humour/references of this game: "HUGH, PUGH and BARNEY-MAGREW Solicitors" perhaps dates this game a bit as it is a reference to Trumpton, a childrens animation from the 60s. https://youtu.be/s6YE4PCRNwc

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    1. I figured it out. Turns out the statue was a code for the bell puzzle, its just not something you'd even think was the solution. Its also the only walking dead situation in the entire game, for some reason.

      I swear, every time I see some old British childrens animation I feel like I'm seeing something man was not meant to see.

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  2. Leo Vell├ęs23 May 2021 at 21:44

    Are you a masochist? Why inflict upon yourself the punishment of playing this games?

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    1. He's making a noble sacrifice to warn others from experience!

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    2. Its honestly not that bad here, its just boring. As to the choice of this and previous entries, so far I've generally been keeping to games people have put on the Missed Classic spreadsheet. Except the horror games. I could probably play those non-stop, but I can see how some people might not want every entry to be like Halloween.

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  3. Thanks to the recuperative power of "the weekend", I managed to finish the draft of the next Space Quest post. With luck, it should be out next in the rotation. I am so glad that our friendly and diligent bloggers have been picking up the slack and providing interesting games to read about...

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  4. Can you plug the bucket and then catch the fish in it to see what colors are on it? And maybe that corresponds to the statue's nails?

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    1. The fish was always something I had picked up, and the fisherman told me it was a red herring. Either way, the bucket eventually proven useless.

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  5. Is it at all possible that the colors are wrong? The look kinda reminds me of a VGA monitor where one of the pins is bent. Obviously that's not what's happeneing here ut possibly a video driver / emulation issue?

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    1. I think that's unlikely, all the other pictures I can find of it are the same. It has three graphical modes and each one looks the same. They all say its 16-color, which fits how the game looks.

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  6. "Here, hold still while I pour a bucket of liquid over you that will certainly harden and kill you"

    "No problem sir I await death patiently"

    ...Later, in the castle...

    "Are you the man that needlessly killed my guard outside?"

    "That's me sire. Would you like a banner I robbed from some poor soul's crypt?"

    "A tattered old banner? Of course, here, have this stone that somehow unlocks the door to the main antagonist which has so far appeared in about 2 sentences."

    The writing is childish at best.

    The setting tries very hard to emulate Victorian novels. The island reminds me of Jules Verne (though very faintly) and the opening feels very much like something out of the same period. I guess they tried to add to that with the Sepia tone but it does all fall flat very quickly.

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