Saturday, 3 July 2021

Missed Classic: Alice in Wonderland - Time and Place

Written by Morpheus Kitami

I do not often make maps. Most of the time, I am capable of orienting myself in a video game perfectly well. My memory is all that I need. Perhaps years of playing '90s FPS games and classic survival horror titles have given me that talent or it was one I was born with, the world will never know. Usually if I need a map I just hope one is online. Having to make a map is something I don't consider a mark in the game's favor, perhaps that's why I've never committed to playing Dungeon Master or any other map-needed game titles. I've only made one map before, and that was for Isle of the Dead, and I won't spoil the reason for that since it has yet to be played on this blog. 

But I decided to do a map for this game based on one reasoning, the game expects me to write down the times and locations of characters. There's a chart that comes with the game, where you're expected to do just that. Because I don't do this often, I'm not using some fancy software or anything. I'm just using my usual graphical software, adding various marks where something is, and writing down the characters schedules.

I don't have a choice here


Back in the game, the hole down led me to a room with a door and another hole downward. This takes me to the ballroom, where the Royal Musician is. He's high strung, worrying about everything. The door he's guarding leads to the Queen of Hearts' bedroom, where she presumably is, but its locked and only she has the key. He says, in less polite terms, that I should go to the pantry and get marmalade. This is a bit bland, just doing do what the game tells me to, but I guess this is a kids game. Just put down this location in my map and write down the time I met...wait...what's the time? How am I to write down time if I don't know what it is? I'm not going blind in my old age, am I? 

In the meantime, let's talk about the dialog system. You have an ask function, where you can ask a few stock questions. Then you have some other options, which sound like the kind of thing where you can say something wrong to a character, but so far seems like they're just fancy dialog options. So far this all this is just a dance. A metaphorical dance. Wait, that's a pun. Oh, well.

The screwing with the player portion of the game has started early

After going, I come across this scene, which has me worried. Is this happening because I'm taking the easy way out of saving and loading by using save states? This is going to be so very annoying if that's the case. I can go to the next area just fine, and later, when I had to retake a screenshot, the game wouldn't load at all without the right disc in, so...

On the other hand, this would probably be corrupt too...

The path forward being another fall. There's not much point in making a map if all I do is go downward, is there? A sign telling me to go in a certain direction. Well, I'll just go in the other direction, thank you very much. I'm a rebel, I don't obey your filthy Wonderland rules. 

Apparently Wonderland is connected to Lara Croft's mansion

In case you were concerned that platforming wouldn't come up very frequently, well, it is. This feels like a case of making the game you really want to make, rather than the one you can. Lots of jumps that look like precision ones. Come to think of it, those CD-i Zelda games were infamous for bizarre platforming. At least here I know where I'm going. I ignore that door for now, and head west, to another door. 

Another Wonderland statistic, don't let your children fall down the rabbit hole

Oh, god, what is this? I'm trapped, and that door there takes me to that corner. Okay, reload, head east from the ladder and...oh...its the exact same screen. Okay, let's reach that door. Its easier than it looks, you just come in from the west. Jumping isn't that hard, but Alice does have a set jumping distance. Running is accomplished by holding the direction you jumped afterward, but releasing the button. It just helps with cutting down time between areas, it has no effect on jumping. An interesting thing is Alice's jumps arc, so you can climb up a platform that way. All told, it was easy reaching that door. Even jumping between screens is a piece of cake.

I put my name in my study too!

 Inside is...Lewis Carroll's study. Okay. There's a book and the fireplace has an entrance. The book tells me something useless. Can you guess where the entrance goes? That's right, back to that one area. Oh, and that tiny area has another door. This whole thing is confusing, and I'm willing to bet Mr. Disharoon was cackling madly to himself while he was thinking this up. Let's review this, I've spent some 15 minutes here and have found absolutely nothing of value. I guess the study has a clock, but its been long enough that I don't feel like using that as a reference. I am not going to discuss whatever weird logic is going on for Mr. Caroll's study being here, nope.

Is that a window? Where does it show?

Going back and following the sign takes me two doors. The first, a nursery with a message on the wall. Puppies like to play fetch. I suspect this is a clue that will come in handy later. There is nothing else here. Let's just go through this last door and...its the pantry. Wait, what? I didn't realize I was going to have to go through the Queen of Hearts bedroom just to enter Wonderland. Wait, how am I going to get back up? Don't tell me the marmalade is going to help with that. Do I eat it? I mean, I don't have another solution, the only other thing I have is the tin of sweets, which I need to pay the immigration officer.

Eagle-eyed readers will not that it isn't perfectly mirrored

It turns out that, no, I don't have to use an item yet, I have to go to the right now. To cut a long story short, you have to enter the door in the study. That leads you to another path. So...I solved one navigation puzzle...by brute force. I have made a map, that's effectively useless at this point, and the only character I've met I can't write down the time for. I see how this game is going to be.

To the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

After another fork, with a path down again, I find the music room. Here, at 6, I think, since those clock dials seem awfully samey to me, I meet a mouse. Another unpleasant character. He's hungry and he's missing his jar of marmalade. Is the jar I have his? I wouldn't put it past the Royal Musician to have me, an outsider, advance one of his petty grudges. Well, I can always reload if I need the marmalade. This turns out to be the one thing I've done so far that actually advances what constitutes an overarching plot. I can sing a song now, which functions as a sort of reusable inventory item, according to the manual. This should be helpful, though the mouse yawns when I sing it back to him. Uh...now what? Down another hole, I guess. 

Is this my goal?

Hoho, the Cheshire Cat! Or at least, I assume its the Cheshire Cat. He's not very helpful when it comes to telling me what I actually can ask him, but he is telling me that I need something to reach high up, or get into small doors. Yes, but I knew that already, and the clue about the Dormouse's party is similarly pointless, because I was presumably going to find that sooner or later. Is this game actually for small children who don't already know what Alice in Wonderland is, and all my whining is about the same as whining that Barney the Dinosaur has gunfights and tasteful nudity?

What's even more confusing is that some of the conversation I have with the cat implies that I haven't met the mouse yet, but the mouse said I had cat hair on me and that I smelled of cat. What? Was there a cat last session? I'm confused. I'm very, very confused. Anyway, the yawning comment is just generic for whenever I sing a song I shouldn't be singing there. 

Alice needs to work on her platforming skills

Continuing our journey into the center of the Earth, there's some viewfinder of a little girl looking at a seashell, which is just adding to my confusion. Alice can crouch through these crawlspaces to reach...more weird areas. At least this time I know for certain its supposed to be this way. Some of these are doors are really too small for me to enter, even crouched. And that key is inaccessible. Alice can't jump onto a rope. What a nerd. On the plus side, all those things in the upper right? Those are cakes with Eat Me on it, so at least Alice won't die of starvation here. What could possibly go wrong? 

This Session: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes 

Inventory: Tin of sweets, parasol
Song: Crinkle, Crinkle

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 points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks! 


4 comments:

  1. I never had a C64 and was planning to play this game assuming it was more Prince of Persia-esque, but I realize is more Pyjamarama-ish... Which is a nightmare (pun intended). So I guess I will pass.

    By the way, I'm not sure if the Missed Classic series plans to spoil-review all games in this genre, but there are literally dozens of games like this, with some platforming mixed with simple inventory puzzles. Spanish magazines used to call them "video-adventures".

    Examples are the Wally series and the Magic Knight series for the ZX Spectrum and other computers.

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    1. It does sound like Pyjamarama, but with less things getting in your way. So far its been something of a non-entity here, just being a side-scrolling platformer because they previously made a side-scrolling platformer. I briefly played Below the Root before this and it was a much more cohesive experience than this was.

      I can't speak for anyone else, but I have no intention on playing any of these. If my reading of things are correct, these games were mostly, at least in British produced titles, shovelware.

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  2. I absolutely loved this game as a kid-to-teenager, but could not solve the game for years because I could not solve a certain, rather confusing riddle, which has been logged in my permanent memory for several decades, now:

    “Jung vf cyrnfrq naq abg cyrnfrq? Jung pbagnvaf vg nyy, naq lrg pbagnvaf abguvat?”

    I solved it, eventually, before the Internet era, so I didn’t look it up.

    Also, the elements in the game that are just there for flavor. The stereopticon you mentioned; there is a model of a ship (I think) made out of marzipan. Things that are described but with which Alice cannot interact. It gives a very, very eerie vibe. There were once people living normal lives here; these places have creature comforts like embroideries hanging on the nursery walls and little models made of candy, and little baked goods carefully placed on decorative tables, but no one is about. Where are these people, now? How long ago did they leave? That’s fantastic. I once read a commentary on the book that argued “Alice in Wonderland” was very much in the Gothic Horror genre.

    By the way, the “cat hairs” that the mouse sees on Alice are likely from her own cat, which is perhaps mentioned but not shown in this game. In the book, of course, Alice keeps talking about her cat to the mouse with the long tale/tail.

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  3. Kind of sorry I picked on this game so much, but to be fair I'm sure someone else would pick on the games I liked during my youth.
    I never actually solved that riddle. Perhaps its because my brain was naturally filling in the gaps in my knowledge, or perhaps because I'm just older than the target audience I'm assuming this game was made for.

    Admittedly, I didn't think of it in that way. Whenever I play something from this period, I generally assume that places being eerie, desolate places is a limitation of the computer's ability to show things. Its only something noticeable when graphics get to around 1993 with Myst where an area being nearly completely abandoned starts looking creepy too me.

    That makes sense, its been a while since I read the book.

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