Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Simon the Sorcerer – WON!

Written by Will Moczarski

Last time I took a break having solved all of the puzzles and finished all of the fetch quests in the game's rather large overworld. I thought I might be ready for the endgame but didn’t think it would be that straightforward. Actually I thought I’d just try to enter the tower and get the lay of the land without taking screenshots or completing my map – and then it was all over in about 80 minutes. Thus I had to replay the whole section for this post but as it’s quite short that was not a problem.

First I had to figure out how to enter the tower. As you can see above there’s a fiery pit separating me from the entrance. I had just obtained the witch’s broom so it wasn’t much of a puzzle. Simon mounted it, winked at me and flew straight into the stone doors. But I had still made it in one piece. Now that I was closer Simon was able to discern that the doors were big, heavy, magically enchanted, and wouldn’t budge. I remembered that somebody in the game had told me how to enter the tower in the very beginning so I went over my notes and found one that said the druid might be able to help. I went back to the druid but he just said hello and offered no dialogue options, behaving as if I had no further business with him. I also stopped by the Drunken Druid (this game’s SCUMM bar) but the wizards wouldn’t talk to me anymore either. Finally the valkyries confirmed (although I’m quite sure that I had first heard it from the wizards) that the druid might be able to help if somebody wanted to enter the tower. I then realised how stupid I had been.

A few hours ago I picked up some frogsbane on Skull Island because the druid had asked me to. When I brought it back to him he gave me a green potion labelled “DRINK ME” in return. Now I understood I had to consume this if I wanted to enter the tower. The Alice reference didn’t end there. Simon shrank to the size of a mouse, lost all of his belongings in the process and entered the tower through a small crack. Inside I was reunited with my dog who just carried me to the next room which turned out to be...a giant garden. 

Saturday, 1 October 2022

Missed Classic 113 - Last Half of Darkness (1989)

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

You ever get a sign that you should do something? Its not something I frequently see or even think of, but sometimes it feels like these things just...happen. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. In the lead-up to this month's Halloween a game name kept cropping up. The Last Half of Darkness, well, there's no the, is there? I was randomly seeing the game crop up. Sometimes even, that image. If you don't know what I mean you will soon enough. Considering that 3 out of the last 4 professional adventure games I've tried were crap, we might as well see what the more amateur side of adventure gaming.

Back when I was a small, impressive child with access to a shareware CD I played a lot of shareware adventure games, with mixed results. The Hugo series was...the Hugo series. Elves '87 I wasn't terribly interested in actually playing and instead tried to play it as a beat 'em up. Uh, Dare to Dream and Weird Island were later. Come to think of it this disc didn't even have Hugo 2. Not really sure why in retrospect. Standards didn't apply because there was crap worse than Hugo 2. Then there was this.

Oh, certainly, there were other adventure games on the disc I had, and indeed more still on other discs, but this was the one I played the most at the time. I'm not really sure why in retrospect. It's not very special. Though I guess that really just describes shareware adventure games outside of Dare to Dream and maybe Plague of the Moon. Well, in Plague's case I haven't played it, but I hope to be able to blog about it some day. I guess there was Isle of the Dead there too, but I never mustered up the courage to play it. It wouldn't have been much fun anyway.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Simon the Sorcerer – Get Rich or Die Tryin’

Written by Will Moczarski

Three hours. Three...hours. Yes, you got that right. Three hours of walking all over the game world, trying to find a new hotspot or anything that relates to any of the fetch quests I still had to solve. That was when I noticed that I had revisited most of the screens but not all of them. I never thought about going back to Rapunzel’s tower because that puzzle felt all but solved. But there it was, a massive hotspot called “floorboards” taking up about a fifth of the screen. When I examined it Simon told me they were “solid looking wooden floorboards”. The rest was kind of easy. I did the obvious by dropping the woodworm and they chewed their way through the floor, causing me to land one floor below, then leaving behind another hole in front of me. Luckily I was carrying a ladder and thus the hole was not an obstacle. I emerged in a cave-like room with a tomb propped up against the left wall. When I opened it Simon remarked that the tomb was full of bandages but then he came face to face with a mummy carrying some sort of wand. I had some fairly humourous dialogue options but all of them just came out as “Aaargh!” (you know, like that time Guybrush first met Elaine on Monkey Island).

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Interview: A Few Words With Kevin Pope

Edited by Joe Pranevich

Last time, we began our coverage of Nord and Bert by looking at the first of eight included scenarios. I’ve already played the next two scenarios (I am stuck on the third) and a new gameplay post will be coming in a few days. Before we get there, I want first to share with you a conversation with one of the men most responsible for the distinctive look of the game: Kevin Pope. While it may seem strange to consider the “look” of a 1987 text adventure, Pope’s images– starting with the game’s cover art– seems an almost inseparable part of the experience today. Players pored over Pope’s included illustrations to reveal hints about each chapter’s distinctive style of puzzles. Although the illustrations are spartan, I have become a fan of Pope’s work. 

Kevin was an invaluable resource during the development of our introductory post. He was gracious enough to answer most of my questions, piling on stories and anecdotes beyond what could fit in our brief narrative. With his permission, I have edited our correspondence and assembled them into this mini-interview. Please enjoy, in his own words, a brief discussion with Infocom’s most famous illustrator. 

Saturday, 17 September 2022

7th Guest - Cards and Tiles

Written by Reiko

Welcome back to the creepy puzzle-fest that is The 7th Guest. Apologies for the delay in getting through this. It's been a busy summer, but we're now back into the routine of the new school year and back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Last time I had solved every puzzle available at the time, culminating in the basement scene, which surely must allow more puzzles to be unlocked. In trying to find what's new, I look around the first floor a bit, and when I step back into the library, I get a new lengthy scene with all six of the main guests together again, Elinor sitting on the couch and Burden and Edward already standing together behind her. They talk about the creepy things they've heard and seen.
Temple seems like the most sensible one here, except we already saw him kill Edward...
When Heine suggests they should get some dinner, Edward suggests they should have had the soup. Temple suggests they all team up and play by some rules. But Edward insists that Stauf is watching them, and only Stauf knows the rules. This seems like a significant scene, enough that something else should have changed. Sure enough, when I check the map again, the rest of the second floor is all accessible now. I slip through the secret door in the fireplace and start with the room on the bottom right.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Veil of Darkness - Unspoken Curses (Request for Assistance)

 By Zenic Reverie

Discussing the current events with Deirdre
Last we left, Engatz had returned a bloody hammer to Kirill, completing the first task in a prophecy. He responded to the name Kairn with disdain, informing me that was the name of the ancient vampire that lords over the valley. Deirdre offered a token, her scarf, to Engatz in hopes that he would continue to fulfil the prophecy, freeing the land of Kairn's shadowy influence. They exchnaged further pleasantries, hoping for a continued relationship far away once these events were far behind them both (potential foreshadowing detected). On the topic of celebrating, she mentioned how we could break open a rare vintage wine locked away in her father's cellar. Before I headed out, I asked Kirill about wine, but he made no mention of his stock, only pointing me to the local tavern.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

What's your story? - Michael

Intro: Ilmari
The rest: Michael

It has been quite a long since we've received answers to our What's your story? -questions, but we were just contacted by a longtime commenter of the blog. He goes by the name Michael, but judging from his profile picture, I suspect this might just be another alias.

I knew I'd seen him somewhere!

Without further ado, Michael, the stage is yours!

Friday, 9 September 2022

Missed Classic: Lurking Horror - Amputated Content

Written by Joe Pranevich

It has become something of a tradition for me to dig into the “what ifs” of each Infocom game as I finish it. Unlike most of what we play, we are fortunate that so much Infocom material has been saved (in some cases “leaked”) to allow us to study their work in a way that would not otherwise be possible. With Lurking Horror, we find a game that struggled against too much content, almost from the very beginning. Dave Lebling had big ideas, and the game’s code is sprinkled with comments lamenting the size restrictions of the original ZIP engine. 

Lebling spoke about his wish for more space in an interview with Brass Lantern in 2002:

Stephen Granade: If you had the chance to redo any of your Infocom games, which one would you change? What would you do differently, or would you avoid the game entirely?

Dave Lebling: [...] I'd have loved to have done "The Lurking Horror" as a larger-size game (it was almost the last of the "small" games which had to fit in 84k bytes of disk space). Some good scary stuff got cut out of it or never implemented due to the size restrictions.

So what is this “good scary stuff” do we still know about? Let’s dig in.

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Simon the Sorcerer: No Money Mo' Problems

By Will Moczarski

Obviously it has been some time since I last played Simon the Sorcerer so I decided to start over and make a proper map. I enjoy mapping a lot so it hasn’t been a big hassle and when I started mapping I wondered why I hadn’t done it before. The world seemed so much more coherent now. Also I had always been confused by the close proximity of the dwarf mine and the goblin jail so only then did I discover that they were completely separate environments at all, sharing but one common feature: they’re both situated underground. 

The 2 hours I spent retracing my previous steps were also well spent because I discovered a couple more items and things to do. First of all there’s a small rock on the screen called the “centre of the forest”. It’s not that small but it’s the same colour as its surroundings which is why I have missed it. This time I accidentally hovered above its hotspot with the cursor and thus was able to pick it up and discover the secret message underneath: “beer”. This didn’t help me at first but then I noticed – as mentioned above – that the dwarf mine is not the goblin jail. To be fair it would totally make sense geographically but I must have read the dialogue inside the dwarf mine in passing only because the guard clearly tells me that I’m not a dwarf. Reading my previous post (and some of my older notes) I actually wrote down that I should find a way to dress like a dwarf to enter the mine but somehow I still must have confused dwarves and goblins somehow. Amateur hour at the adventurers guild, right?

When you do read the dialogue more carefully the guard gives you another hint: dwarves have beards. I need to get (or grow) a beard somehow. It’s a good thing that I was already carrying a beard at this point. Why? Because I examined the “Drunken Druid” more closely, too, and figured out that there was a dwarf who was so drunk that he’d fallen asleep so I could cut off his beard with the scissors. Now I don’t mean to harp on it but...well, maybe I do. This is one more puzzle that reminds me a lot of another one from Monkey Island 2 (sawing off the wooden leg when one of the three pirates is asleep). When I cut off the beard I had no clue what I might need it for but after the conversation with the guard it all became clear. 

Saturday, 3 September 2022

Missed Classic: Personal Nightmare - Won! (and Final Rating)

By Morpheus Kitami

Ah, metahumor is always great in a serious horror game...

You know, this all turned out a lot easier than I thought it would be. In the sense that this was some unfathomable tanglement of impossibility.

I can talk to Peter in his house, fat lot of good that'll do, and no, he isn't pointing a gun at me

Guess it's time to stake out people's houses. Susan stays at home until about 11:00, then heads over to the right. At midnight she enters/walks past Peter's house. Walking past is a glitch, because she won't appear on the next screen. Well, better go back to the Inn. I keep forgetting it's name of The Dog & the Duck, so much so that I'm not even sure that's right.

This is a pretty cool effect, though the death isn't terribly impressive

As I walk towards the inn, suddenly the scene changes and I can see two headlights. Clearly, whoever ran over Jimmy is now after me. The first time I just get run over, but pretty quickly it's clear that I can move around, with north and south dodging, west and east just resulting in him chasing me. For what purpose? I try to think about how I could possibly solve this.

Thursday, 25 August 2022

Missed Classic 112: Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Head or Tail of It - Introduction (1987)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Let’s state the obvious: Infocom wasn’t doing well. To offset declining sales, their new parent demanded twice as many games. This was working, in a way. The previous two games, Stationfall and Lurking Horror, taken together would just about made for decent sales… of a single game. Infocom needed to innovate, to open new markets, and to bring their brand of sophisticated (even literary) gaming to new audiences. They just weren’t very good at that kind of innovation.

That brings us to Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Head or Tail of It, their 27th adventure. After failing at business products (Cornerstone) and graphical games (Fooblitzky), Infocom reached a period where they embraced diversity through genre. We have already seen The Lurking Horror, their first “horror” game, and we will shortly be looking at their first romance (Plundered Hearts) and RPG (Beyond Zork). Nord and Bert went in a different direction: a comedy game of wordplay and idioms, designed by Jeff O’Neill. Instead of a single narrative adventure, Nord and Bert would also be broken up into connected “Interactive Short Stories”. With a low barrier to entry and a completely new take on what an “adventure” game could be, Infocom hoped that they could “hit it out of the park”. 

Who doesn’t enjoy cliches, right?

Monday, 22 August 2022

Missed Classic: Personal Nightmare - Mail Quest

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Once again I apologize for the delay between entries. There is a lot of tedium in this game. One might say this is the flaw in playing old games, but often whenever I end up playing modern games I'm not working past tedium to get to the good parts, the game itself is just tedious. So I often put a bit of breaks between...well, you can figure out why pretty quickly.

There was nothing special about the month, I just happened to accidentally start it the same month that it mentions.

So I decided to stake out some places, figure out when and where people arrive and leave their locations. With one house with an unknown occupant, I decided that would be where I began. As I walked out onto the street, I noticed a car driving by and had a better thought. Stake out the mechanic!

You can't really interact with people moving around,

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Missed Classic: Lurking Horror - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

One of the tenets of the Cthulhu mythos (as I understand it) is that prolonged exposure causes insanity. It is perhaps for the best then that we have reached the end of our playthrough of The Lurking Horror. We here at “The Adventurers Guild” cannot be responsible for bouts of madness among our readers... although we’re all spending our evenings playing adventure games from thirty years ago, so how sane can we be? Please write your answers in the space below in the form of a limerick.

Last time out, I accomplished a lot: fought a bat-monster on the roof of a campus building, scared away a street urchin, and defeated an evil professor by accidentally letting him sacrifice himself to a dark nether god. As I have now found the (broken) computer that houses my lost term paper, I am not sure what I am supposed to be doing in this game. I assume that I’m supposed to be finding and defeating the evil that has invaded campus, but with the Professor of Alchemy gone, surely that is accomplished?

As I wandered the now-empty halls of G.U.E. Tech, I had no choice but to give up and take a hint to find out what I was missing. The answer: I’m missing something that I was supposed to do with the elevator.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Missed Classic: Lurking Horror - Creepy and Kooky

Written by Joe Pranevich

It’s Halloween in August here at “The Adventurer’s Guild” as we play several horror-themed games in rapid succession: La Crypte des Maudits (1991), A Personal Nightmare (1989), and Lurking Horror (1987). I enjoy the spooky interplay between these titles, seeing how each approach the genre. It’s a coincidence, but it’s delightful. 

Last time out, I died again. Instead of a zombie janitor, this time I was sacrificed by an evil professor to a dark creature of the abyss. It had tentacles. The idea of a dottering old professor with a pentagram in his office is a fun one, but underscores that Lebling walked a fine line between horror and humor in this game and may have hit “funny” more than intended. Even compared to Stationfall, this game is not particularly scary. In that game, we always felt one step away from being killed by an appliance. This game has zombies that explode after slipping on floor wax.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Missed Classic: Personal Nightmare - Shadow Thief

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

I just want to let those of you with a nervous disposition know that this is probably not the entry for you.

Now that I've seen the big opening event of Jimmy Rutherford getting run down, we can take a look at the whole village. Its a small place, really, just a confusing street that's about 10 screens wide with 2 sides of it. Navigation is confusing, since directions don't properly work the way the image is given, which is unfortunate since this is supposed to be a graphic adventure. Actually, this is quite crap as a graphic adventure, and you'll see why pretty quickly.

The most obvious destination is the church, the game really brings your attention to it. Since we need to come here anyway, we'll start here. I say this, but there's not really anything here that I can find yet. There's the pews, the office and a statue. I should note that modern storefronts all spoil what you're supposed to do here, which is say a prayer in here. If there's something else, I don't know. The game makes a point that my father doesn't have any religious books in his office. Curious. The desk in here is locked, of course.

Apparently the house is a ghost

Behind the church is the graveyard. Lots of gravestones, but outside of a large cross, seemingly nothing of note. There's a door to some house here, but the door is locked. So much for people in the countryside leaving their door open. And to complete the area, there's a mausoleum. I wonder what's in there?

Monday, 1 August 2022

Missed Classic: Lurking Horror - The Department of Alchemy

Written by Joe Pranevich

Welcome back to Lurking Horror! I skipped last week to close out on Stationfall, but we’re back now for a second helping of Lovecraftian horror. Last time, I found myself in a computer lab during a snowstorm with only a “hacker” to keep me company. The term paper that I was desperate to finish was somehow swallowed by the “Department of Alchemy” and I must venture through the wintery G.U.E. Tech campus to locate and recover my paper before it is due in the morning. Along the way, I explored some tunnels between buildings and a famously long corridor before stumbling on a tentacled monster on the campus’s famous dome. I survived that, only to be killed by a zombie-janitor when I interrupted him waxing the floors. 

I’m confused by the game’s tone so far. Nothing seems particularly “horror” here, more like the campy horror movies that used to be on at midnight hosted by Elvira. We’ve encountered two monsters, but the mixture of the magical and the mundane makes for an interesting contrast. It’s difficult to be scared by a zombie that just wants to wax floors, even if he does kill you. And why are we hunting for this paper anyway? Is it worth my life to get a good grade in this class? And if the city is blanketed by this much snow, wouldn’t they cancel classes? I’ll try not to ponder those questions as I continue exploring.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Missed Classic: Stationfall - When Scientific Accuracy Attacks (Deleted Scenes & Alternate Puzzles)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Last time, I started into Lurking Horror (don’t forget to post your score guess!), but we still have a bit of business left with Stationfall. Infocom is a company that we have a unique level of understanding about thanks to leaked source code, developer interviews, and a veritable “cabinet” of internal documentation. I do not like digging in too deeply while playing so that I can approach the games as spoiler-free as possible, but now that we’re done I can dig in and report back what I find. Sometimes we find a lot (like all of the half-completed Moonmist variants!) and sometimes we find less. As Steven Meretzky is the source of much of the “leaked” documentation, we have a rare view at his development process all the way down to notes from individual testers. It is not a full view of the design of the game, but it provides a unique insight into how mature he had become in game design at this point and how little effort was wasted. 

Steve Meretzky was famous for keeping notebooks of game and design ideas that he would turn back to for inspiration. Our story starts out with a question: what game should he make next?

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Missed Classic 111: The Lurking Horror - Introduction (1987)

Written by Joe Pranevich

This is going to seem like deja vu: 1987 had not been a great year for Infocom. The deal with Activision concluded, Cornerstone failed, and sales of text adventures were slowing down. Hollywood Hijinx bombed with only 12,000 copies sold. Bureaucracy failed to capitalize on its A-list author, Douglas Adams, and shipped only 28,000 copies. To offset the sales loss, Infocom was forced to produce twice as many games as before. Making games was difficult, but making twice as many games with the same team seemed impossible. Fortunately, Infocom still had a developer or two with recent hits: Steve Meretzky (with Leather Goddesses and Hitchhiker's Guide) and Brian Morarity (with Wishbringer). While these two would reach back to produce easily marketed sequels, other implementers sought fresh ideas. One of those was none other than Dave Lebling, one of Infocom’s founders and most prolific authors. 

At that point, Lebling wasn’t bringing in the numbers Meretzky and Moriarty had been. Spellbreaker actually sold negative copies in 1986 as Infocom wrote off unsold inventory from the previous Christmas. Starcross and Suspect were long enough ago that their market performance could hardly be predictive. But Lebling had a plan to enter a market that Infocom hadn’t entered before: horror. Horror was then (and now) a popular genre. In October 1986, when Lurking Horror was just getting started, Steven King’s It was the bestselling book on the New York Times list. Through 1987, King would have three more of his books on the Top 10 list, including the #1 selling hardcover of the year, The Tommyknockers. Lebling may also have been inspired by the growing popularity of The Call of Cthulhu tabletop game. Whatever the reason, Lebling and Infocom were excited to try their luck at a new category of game.

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Missed Classic 110: ...A Personal Nightmare (1989) - Introduction

By Morpheus Kitami 

As an aside before I get to the main event, I would like to engage in a little self-promotion. For a while now I've had my own blog, about FPS and other shooters. Stuff like Doom, Wing Commander, Jazz Jackrabbit and the ilk. Currently, I divide games by FPS and everything else, and I'm near the end of 1989 and 1982 respectively. It is interesting, if you can stand most games from 1982 not being good.


 Box Office was apparently K-Mart's bargain software label, box art taken from Mobygames

Adventure International, as I'm sure you are aware, was Scott Adams's company, responsible for some of the first major home computer text adventures. Known for simple prose and later, simple graphics, these games were sold entirely on the merit of their puzzles, and for a time this went well. So well that eventually people in other lands started importing them, making the dreams of one very American company come true. In the UK, another company also calling itself Adventure International, imported Adams's titles and put them on such platforms as the BBC Micro and ZX Spectrum.

And for a time this too went well, even after the death of their "parent" company they went along, first with games from other American companies, then with originals. Previously, Alex played Robin of Sherwood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon, which was based on a TV series. This was done with a modified version of the SAGA engine, or Scott Adams Graphical Adventure engine. Quite a few obscure licenses, which I'm sure appear on some clickbait Youtube video about 23 obscure licensed video games (Number 16 will cause you to lose control of your legs for the next six years).

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Missed Classic: Stationfall - When Best Friends Attack (Won! And Final Rating)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Last time out on Stationfall, my attempt at Fourth of July fireworks ended up a dud: the bomb that I spent so much time working on failed to go off. All roads in the game so far have led to finding or securing bomb-making parts and so while I am sure that I am on the right path, I need to figure out what I might have missed. Meanwhile, the evil Pyramid of Doom that has taken over the stations’s systems is gradually making the station less and less livable for carbon-based life forms as literally everything (even the doors!) is trying to kill me. I’m glad we don’t need to use the bathroom in this game because I can only imagine the horrors of an Evil Toilet. It’s only a matter of time before this scourge escapes the station and takes over the universe, so we’d better solve it quickly.

We’re finally reaching the end of Stationfall. I am sorry that it took me far longer than planned to get here and I am grateful that you stayed around for the ride.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Missed Classic 109: La Crypte des Maudits (1991) - Introduction

By Ilmari
The crypt of cursed
The sequel to Lankhor’s Le Secte Noire doesn’t have a very original framing story. At the end of the first game I had found a protective spell book stolen by a fiendish cult. Apparently this had not been enough, since the cult still held its meetings somewhere within an abandoned castle. The task of this game is to get rid of the cult for good.

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Missed Classic: Stationfall - When Ostriches Attack

Written by Joe Pranevich

Last time out on Stationfall, I died. After ages exploring the space station with my pals Floyd and Plato, circumstances got away from us. The computer virus that plagues the station took over Plato, the kindly librarian robot, and he killed me as Floyd looked on in horror. Although evil and murderous, Plato’s inclinations as an educator remained intact and he helpfully monologued the full plot of the game. This means that I now know what is going on and I have the start of an inkling how to fix it. Of course, I must restore back to an earlier point and replay a ton, but that’s what Infocom games are like.

In case you forgot, let me recap what I learned. Somewhere very far from here, the Zeenaks and Hunji were locked into an epic war. The Zeenaks developed a weapon to finally turn the war in their favor, a computer virus of a sort (in the form of a pyramid) that would turn not only Hunji devices against their owners, but also convert factory equipment to create more such pyramids and spread throughout the galaxy. How the Zeenaks intended to survive their own weapon is not clear. The weapon was launched but never made it to its destination. Somehow, it was picked up and diverted by a lone Hunji ship, the same ship that the station picked up a few days ago. In a matter of days, the station has been corrupted and all humans on board have been eliminated. (I’m still not convinced this is true; I found evidence of survivors on my first day on the station, but not since then.) The pyramid device is now adapting the factory levels at the bottom of the station to create copies of itself to send out across the universe. My job will be to get down there and try to find a way to stop them. I’m only missing two things: a way to get down there and a way to stop them.

Friday, 24 June 2022

Simon the Sorcerer - Quest for Whimsy

Written by Will Moczarski

We’re back with our clumsy protagonist in the charming fantasy world of… does it even have a name? Whatever the case, we explored the eastern half of the map last time around and this time I’ll take a scrutinous look at the southern part. First I come across a scantily dressed barbarian who is crying bitterly because he has a thorn stuck in his right foot. I pull it out for him and he is actually very thankful, handing me a whistle I can use whenever I might be in trouble – he will then return the favour. “What a nice guy”, Simon remarks, and rightly so. So far I haven’t been in trouble. I have not even run across a single puzzle. But I’m sure it will come in handy. 

Next I find a tree stump, and this jogs some serious memories. When I pass the stump it starts talking to me, pestering me for some spare wood. Turns out I can talk to the woodworm who live inside the stump. I remember that I found this very funny and clever way back when but now...eh. It’s okay, I guess. The main joke is that Simon thinks that he’s talking to a tree stump while he is actually talking to the woodworm and they subsequently make fun of him because he thought he was talking to a tree stump. Ah, you had to be there, I guess. The woodworm want some wood from us so we’re left with yet another fetch quest. Simon won’t hand the ladder to the woodworm and since I don’t have any other wooden items yet we’ll just have to wait.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Return of the Phantom - Won and Final Summary

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

With the switches Will came to my rescue. I checked the first two hints, and it seems like it's the alphabet puzzle I was told to expect. So, that means I need to find a four letter word to type in...er...one that might actually open the door. Daae is the right length, but I don't think I can press the same letter twice...? No. My next guess was Erik, which is a crappy password, but requires one parse what this door actually is. I don't think I would ever guess that, but my normal patience has long since been depleted.

A real man would take this spider web and use it to solve a puzzle, 5 CAPs if you get that reference

Next puzzle...a spider-web. I assume this is just a test to make sure you picked up that sword in the last room. After the fact anyway, I assumed Raoul was going to break the sword on it knowing his track record. Suddenly, in a blinding flash, the phantom jumps out and Raoul impales him with his sword. Triumph!

No, I'm screwing with you, there's just more maze. I feel like I can encapsulate this game's puzzle design exclusively with the word maze. Its a curious design choice.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Missed Classic: La Abadía del Crimen (1987) - Won! and Final Rating

Written by Mariano Falzone

Sir Sean Connery analyzing the final rating.

My days wandering (running for the most part) around the abbey are at an end. Will Guillermo and Adso solve the horrid murders? Will I keep my sanity? Will the final PISSED rating be ordained by God or the Antichrist? Let us find out…

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

7th Guest - Verbal Logic and Another Maze

Written by Reiko

Last time I solved the first few puzzles and got some disjointed bits of story. I'm still not really sure what's going on, but it seems to have something to do with the mysterious boy, Tad. I'm starting to run out of available puzzles, though. At the moment, there's one more room on the top floor that I can access. This one isn't a bedroom; it looks more like a game room, with a pool table in the middle and a chessboard set up near one wall.

Here the fireplace isn’t a secret passage, but the pool table is.

When I walk in, Temple appears (so clearly these are out of order and I should have come here first before the previous bedroom). He calls this "the mad man's play room" and challenges Stauf to show him some real magic. Maybe Temple is some kind of stage magician but he wants the real thing?

This passage was a half-baked idea.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Return of the Phantom - Knowing the Future (Request for Assistance)

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Yes, up and down all those flights of stairs

Before I returned to Madame Giry, I thought it best to check out the dressing rooms, since I haven't been there yet in this time period. Unfortunately nobody's there yet. I'm almost glad there haven't been many real puzzles yet, because having to navigate across this game is tedious.

I don't feel like this is the kind of game that should be giving sly 
nods towards the conventions of the genre

After returning to Giry, she tells me to refer to the colored frames as "good luck charms", before opening box no. 5 with a flourish. Inside, there's a note from the Opera Ghost, telling me to leave Miss Daae alone or I will suffer a great malady. What's next isn't a mystery, I already found the secret door; In the left column, which I thought was a clue. No, I just got lucky, there's a right column too. All I need is a key.

Monday, 16 May 2022

7th Guest - Ghosts and Mazes

Written by Reiko

In the introduction to the game, we saw Stauf’s origins, met his guests at the front door, and experienced some of the ambiance of the creepy house. Now I’m ready to start solving some puzzles.
What garish wallpaper. And those chair backs look like spiderwebs.
As I face the stairs on the first floor, I decide to start on the left and examine the left-most room, which appears to be unconnected to anything else. When I go through the door, I find myself in an ugly dining room with a large cake on a raised cake platter in the middle of the table.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Return of the Phantom - Traveller in Time

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

This session in a nutshell

Oh, so close to a title drop!

I didn't save last time, because I didn't need to, so I talk to M. Brie again. Imagine my shock when he tells me this is a copycat crime. This is one of those games where information that should be important is only revealed if you select the proper dialog options. Sure, the back of the box and the manual makes no secret that we're here to stop the Phantom, who has returned, but this is fairly important information for us to be told, and it's entirely optional. I hate having to savescum my way through the dialog.

There are a surprising number of people in the music world back then who have such a vague death date

Hang on, there's a ton of info being said here! I thought I was only missing where to find the damn stage manager! (It's an adventure game, not Morrowind, I don't need directions...I shouldn't need directions) A lot of the stage staff was sent home, and if I were here to do an actual investigation, I would check all of them out first before deciding to look for ghosts. But I've seen the phantom in a cutscene and the game isn't going to have an actual twist like that. Also, minor dialog quibble, I question a Frenchman describing a famous opera house being built as a thing. Feels like something I would say, not someone who is presumably a bit snooty.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Simon the Sorcerer - Rules of Enchantment

 Written by Will Moczarski

And so it's on. Simon the Sorcerer begins with a very long opening sequence which is reminiscent of the one in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. First, there’s the opening credits. They’re accompanied by Simon pulling things – and the actual credits – out of his hat, accompanied by his wry comments. The animations look a lot like those in Monkey Island 2 as well.

The second part of the opening sequence begins in Simon’s attic where his dog opens a mysterious chest and gets trapped in it. Simon leaves his bedroom and climbs up into the attic, frees his dog and finds a strange book inside the chest. When he drops it he accidentally opens up a portal to another world. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Missed Classic: La Abadía del Crimen (1987) - Adventures in Speedrunning

Written by Mariano Falzone

Sir Sean Connery judging my poor murder-solving skills

And So I Go Again

You could say that last time I didn’t make much progress. I barely got to the morning of Day 3, and didn’t do most of what was supposed to be done by that point. But, in any case, I got used to the layout of the abbey, learned a bit how to play this thing. This is one of those games that has to be played repeatedly from the beginning just to understand what you’re doing, let alone beat it. Or, like me, you can save early and save often, and end up with dozens of save states.

I’ve read that the Big Bad Bug the game has is that you need to have the scroll, the one in the Scriptorium, by Day 4 or the game won’t progress anymore. Somewhere else I read that, more specifically, you need to get it by the night of Day 3. Some clarification here: as the days are divided in canonical hours, night is the first of those hours, so the night of Day 3 comes at the end of Day 2 and before the rest of Day 3.

So I decided to try something. I would get the scroll when everyone is either called to eat or to church, hoping Berengario, the monk at the Scriptorium that threatens to tell the Abbot if I pick up the scroll, would follow suit and rush off too. First time I try, we’re called to church, but Berengario just decides to stay put in his place, still not letting me take the scroll. Some double standards, hey, Abbot? Why is Berengario not scolded?

Anyway, I let this day end and decide to try again during Day 3. After all, maybe I still can get the scroll during that day? But after being called to church in the morning, the game just stops progressing. The Abbot is at the altar, Adso is there, and another monk too. But my guess is one monk is missing, and several minutes pass by and he never comes. He must have gotten stuck somewhere. I still use the opportunity to rush off to the Scriptorium, but when I get there, the scroll and the book are nowhere to be seen. And the Abbot eventually shows up and tells me I haven’t obeyed his rules, game over, all that jazz.

So I load back to Day 2, and this time wait to be called to lunch just in front of the scroll, under the vigilant watch of Berengario. And sure enough, we’re called, and Berengario rushes off to eat. I get the scroll and he doesn’t say anything. Yay!

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Game 127: The 7th Guest - Introduction (1993)

Written by Reiko
PC front cover
Many of you will undoubtedly be familiar with The 7th Guest. From what I can tell, when it was released, it was an unprecedentedly huge multimedia-rich adventure puzzle game, doing for horror adventure what Myst did for mechanical puzzle adventure. Or at least, that's my general impression, knowing almost nothing about the game. Yes, you are getting as a reviewer someone who is going in almost completely blind to this classic game. I certainly played Myst back in the day, but I wasn't interested in horror, so I skipped over 7th Guest and never played it despite being very interested in puzzle games (for instance, you can see my definitely not-blind coverage of the first two Dr. Brain games here and here. I'm hopeful that as an adult, the horror aspects of the game won't bother me too much, and I'll be able to enjoy it more for its puzzle aspects.

Friday, 22 April 2022

Game 125: Return of the Phantom (1993) - Introduction

 Written by Morpheus Kitami

Unfortunately, it does not look like TBD will be able to play this game as promised. I hope that I will be an acceptable substitute. I hope you will all join me in wishing a swift and beneficial resolution to whatever problems ail him.

American cover, from Mobygames

Return of the Phantom is the third adventure game developed and published by Microprose, though the second developed through internal team MPS Labs*. Microprose, if you don't know, was founded by Air Force Reserves member Bill Stealey and some unimportant programmer named Sid Meier. That the developer of some mediocre racing game would somehow turn making the same flight sim three times** into making landmark games and slapping his name on titles he wasn't even primarily responsible for is something impressive.

*However, they also distributed the first three Legend games, no doubt why the manual for Rex Nebular was written by Steve Meretsky.

**Hellcat Ace, Spitfire Ace, and Mig Alley Ace, okay, one is actually written by someone else, but they're practically the same game anyway.

Indeed, some of my fondest early memories of games are playing, or even wishing to play Microprose titles. If not the main man himself, it was one of his friends. For every Pirates! or Covert Action, you had Sword of the Samurai or Darklands. Sometimes they would make a sequel to a game Sid worked on, because they had a great idea on how to improve it, and they usually worked. It's perhaps a romanticism of a time and place I would never be in, the truth probably less impressive. Nevertheless, it remains that Microprose was one of the greatest computer companies of the '80s.

Return of the Phantom comes at the end of the company's great period. Not too long after the company had tried and failed to enter the arcade market, but it was not yet in dire enough straits for their purchase by Spectrum Holobyte. I wonder if this, rather than the direct sales of Legacy - Realm of Terror, was responsible for the lack of any sequels or follow-ups.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Game 129: Simon the Sorcerer (1993) – Introduction

 Written by Will Moczarski

Things were simpler in 1993. LucasArts was still churning out amazing adventure games and no-one saw the death of the genre coming. Granted, FMV games and Myst were slowly chipping away at the genre's reputation but the core of the point & click experience was largely intact. Now some games used a simplified interface while others still followed the model that had been established with the SCUMM engine in 1987 – an interface that could be understood as a graphical representation of the parser that had fueled so many text adventures. Simon the Sorcerer was one of the many games that copied the LucasArts formula using a very similar verb list but games like this would soon feel like roadblocks on the way to the casual adventure game of the mid-1990’s. However, in 1993 this was all fair game. 

Another common wisdom that remained true from the mid-1990’s until 2002 was that there were two Simon the Sorcerer games (and two only) and people would tell you “eh...they’re good”. Some people loved them, some people didn’t quite feel they were the bee’s knees but on the whole they were regarded as quality point & click adventure games. Then the series shared the fate of so many others and got some rather unfortunate late sequels. The less said about them the better.

One of the most interesting tidbits about Simon the Sorcerer – albeit with relatively little effect on the actual gameplay experience, I reckon – is that it unites two of the most important early adventure game brands: Adventure Soft and Infocom. Infocom? That’s right, Activision used the brand of the now-defunct company they’d bought and (at least helped to) run into the ground to market this British game in the United States. And Adventure Soft? Well, that’s a hell of a story.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Missed Classic - Twin Kingdom Valley - WON! and Final Rating

Written by Morpheus Kitami

Me and the boys about to fire up a text adventure

Last time, I had explored half of the map in my noble quest to rob everyone and everything I could of their treasure. It wasn't going well, primarily because everyone else was on a distasteful quest to kill me and take everything not nailed down. Those monsters, those evil, evil gorillas, elves and trolls. I must use my wits to prevent them from stopping me.

This is one psychotic gorilla

Last time, I did not quite save at the proper time, and now somehow the small dagger is not where it once was. I have no idea where it went. It just disappeared. This seems to be a sign that things have gotten mixed around since last time. I encounter a gorilla south of the path to the north, and he's got two clubs and an axe. How the hell did he even get that? Anyway, I can't kill him, the axe is just too powerful.

I feel like someone was trying to cheat me

I decide to just ignore him and head to that cave. It doesn't actually connect the two parts of the map, it's just a small sideplace. You know, a surprising number of descriptions you could give underground passages sound rather strange out of context. Not that there's much here, just another dagger and some locked doors. This better not be one long chain of keys.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Eric the Unready - Final Rating

By Ilmari

I am in a difficult position of having officially played only the last few scenes of the game, while the majority of posts have been written by the Brown Dragon. Although it will be difficult to integrate my playing experience with what TBD thought about it, I’ll try to take his statements into account at least in some measure. Let’s begin!