Saturday, 1 January 2022

Missed Classic: La Secte Noire - Won! (With Final Rating)

By Ilmari
Happy new year everyone! We are back with La Secte Noire. Last time, I had just managed to infiltrate the base of the sect that had stolen the spell book defending my village. Checking the chest in front of me, I found a knife. It was time to go mapping.The titular black sect was hiding in some type of castle, with armours and shields in every corner. There were not that many cultists around, only someone guarding a door - and then this guy...
This can’t be sanitary
There were also some locked doors, but I managed to open one by tilting a chandelier. Through the door, I found a gaol, with a dead body. Searching the body, I discovered a paper with some illegible writing. After a bit of fruitless wandering, I decided to turn to the walkthrough. I learned two things. Firstly, I should have shaken curtains in one room, to find a key.
How many of you would have even noticed the curtains here?
Secondly, I was supposed to hide in one of the armours. While there, a cultist came into the room and dropped a medallion. I nominate this the silliest puzzle of the game.
 Just the sound of putting this on would attract attention
Showing the medallion to a guard got me through one door. Behind it, I found yet another cultist guarding another doorway, and a bedroom. The second guard wasn’t letting me past, so I decided to check the bedroom. After trying to interact with many objects in the picture below, I finally noticed I could examine a pillow and find a flask hidden in it.
So much decoration that the pillow won’t stand out
I tried using the flask for reading the paper and it worked! I could see this:
“Aide : cuis : formule = parole : seize”
Or in English:
“Help : cook : formula = speaking/words : sixteen”
This suggested that I should try to enlist the help of the hairy cook to my cause. With no luck on that front I continued my investigation. I still had that key that opened up a door to a library. Trying to take a book, the game asked what number I wanted. I chose sixteen. I wondered for a while what to do with the book, until I tried to shake it. Out came a formula.

After giving the formula to the cook, he thanked me and told that it would help to save his daughter, who was under the influence of the cult. He also asked me to get him a powder and gave me a secret code. I knew at once where I could use it.
 In this cellar
The game told me I had found some sleeping powder, which I took to the cook. He made some dish and added the powder in it. When I showed the food to a guard, I was let into a sacrificial chamber full of cultists. After they had eaten, they fell asleep.
There was a small indentation on the wall, but what to put there? I searched the cultists and found an amulet that fit. Through a secret door, I found myself in a room with the spellbook I was after
Getting the book was easy, but I had no idea how to open the door out. With nothing else to do, I checked the walkthrough. Turns out I had forgotten the time factor: at 8 AM the door was inexplicably openable. Well, at least I had completed the game.

Puzzles and Solvability

When I first started playing this game and found myself completely unable to solve any puzzles, I was convinced I’d give this one 1 or possibly 2 in this category. In retrospect, that would have been way too harsh, since the language gap probably made the beginning more difficult than it should have been. After completing the game, I’d say that the game mostly has decent enough, if a bit unimaginative puzzles and a couple of not so well thought out ones (sieving the water and hiding in armour being prime examples). In addition, many of the puzzles were too difficult, because the game doesn’t indicate properly what is important and what is just decoration in the graphics (a common failing in early text adventures with static pictures).

Score: 3.

Interface and Inventory

I probably don’t have full competency to estimate how good the parser of this game is, but at least it feels particularly unresponsive. Furthermore, using two-word parser interfaces at the beginning of the nineties was really like taking a horse cart to a motorway. The developers have tried to ease the player’s life by showing the possible exits and providing a hint system, but a) they fail to indicate any “in” and “out” -directions and b) the few times I tried to use the hint system it just insulted my intelligence. Inventory is a mere list of items

Score: 2.

Story and Setting

It’s a short game, so you’d expect there would be not much of a plot beyond the framing narrative. Still, we are at least introduced to a one piece of side plot (the cook and his daughter). Setting of the second part of the game (the cultist base) is good enough, but the setting of the first part is not thought through (why would the cult hide a key to their secret wardrobe at the bottom of a well?).

Score: 3.

Sounds and graphics

Considering that this is a game for 8-bit computers, the pictures are quite nice and detailed. Some bonus points are in order for the changing colour scheme at different times of the day. The little musical vignettes are a nice addition, even if there are not that many of them.

Score: 4.

Environment and Atmosphere

As I implied already at the section on Story and Setting, the first part feels weaker on this front: the framing narrative had a sense of urgency, but the protagonist just rambles around the countryside with no idea where or why to go. The second part at least ups the tension by locking the protagonist in the same rooms with potentially murderous cultists.

Score: 3.

Dialogue and Acting

A text adventure with barely any text leaves a lot to be desired.

Score: 1.

(3 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 1)/0.6 = 27.

It doesn't sound very impressive, but this is understandable from a couple of first timer developers. We’ll see in the future if the second game in the series shows any improvement.


  1. "How many of you would have even noticed the curtains here?"
    Are those lines that look like pan pipes supposed to be curtains or are the curtains supposed to be the trim against the wall? Kind of tells you how well they did in this case.

  2. Well done, and happy new year!

  3. Nothing better than starting a new year with a new TAG post