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.
The "spooky" thing that happens when I trigger the pool table is that the view zooms in through one of the holes, under the surface of the table, and then somehow through the oven into the kitchen. Another weird shortcut. Sadly, there's no way to return, so all that does is force me to slowly make my way back through the house up to the game room again. (I'm mildly hoping there's some kind of meta puzzle involving all these secret passages, but I doubt it.)
This isn’t the right start, but it illustrates the knight's move offset.
The chessboard is the actual puzzle, and this one is the old classic of arranging eight queens onto a standard 8x8 chessboard. No queen can attack any other, of course. Stauff likes queens because they are "lethal in every direction." I don't remember the arrangement immediately, but it only takes me a few minutes to fiddle around and place them. One goes in a corner, several go at knight's move offsets on the other end, and the last few fit along the intersections of unused rows and diagonals.
The 7th guest is the only non-adult in the group.
In the next scene, Tad shows up again, but this time Temple seems not to know who he is. In fact, he thinks Tad is the 7th guest, and urges him to get out of there. He thinks Stauf wants the boy. Tad runs out of the scene and disappears.
I can also trigger one more thing where someone dressed as a clown holding a red balloon creepily mumbles about the balloon. I have no idea what that's about or who that's supposed to be. Looking back through my screenshots, I realize that the two people I had seen in the second floor hallway near the beginning of the game were Tad and Temple, but the graphics were just so bad that I thought Tad was a woman originally. Something about that puffy dressing gown thing he's wearing looks very feminine.
I walk along the whole second floor and check all the doors again, but nothing else is accessible, so I go back downstairs. I realize that somewhere in the midst of starting and restarting the game in order to get the screenshots I wanted and compare versions, I didn't trigger the scene with Dutton's letter again before I actually started solving puzzles, so I did that again.
The points of the mosaic star are missing… bugs?
Now the mosaic appears to be a puzzle. It didn't do anything the first time, so probably solving one of the other puzzles activated the mosaic, after the scene is played.
The points of the star around the mosaic are now hotspots, and when I click on one, a large insect appears at that spot, and I can choose which connected star point to send it to. If I click a second one that only has one available connected spot, the insect will automatically move to the available spot, but if I click another place with both connected points open, I can continue to choose. In order to fill as many spots as possible, I always choose the next spot that has both connections open and one of those connections is itself connected to the most recent spot where an insect went. That's probably an unclear way of saying that I chain the filled spots so that I don't leave gaps. Once I fill all but one spot, the puzzle is solved.
Of course the door is locked. Nobody’s getting out of this alive, right?
The short scene that appears next is of Tad frantically pulling at the door, trying to get out, while someone screams in the background. I don't know if this is before or after the scenes I saw before, but I would guess afterward.
At this point, I think I only have the pantry puzzle with the cans in the kitchen left. I can't find anything else to do. If “accessible” areas always have puzzles, then it’s possible there’s some kind of puzzle in the second floor hallway, but I can’t find anything there. So I go back to the kitchen and stare at the letters for a little while and think about it some more. We have a whole bunch of Y's (eleven) followed by a bunch of consonants.
RS SS SSTTT
If we were to form words with these letters, the only vowel we get to work with is Y. How on earth do you make some kind of meaningful phrase out of words with only Y's for vowels? I start looking up words that have only Y's and find a couple of useful lists to refer to while I try to puzzle out what I'm meant to be doing here. (Either I find a list, or I spend hours reading through the dictionary finding the possible words, and nobody wants to read about me doing that. Or I write a script to search the dictionary, which is probably also a waste of time since it's already been done.)
Progress on the lower level
Progress on the upper level
Then I notice something interesting. On any list I find, the only Y-vowel words that are two letters long are BY and MY. And the arrangement of cans has exactly two groups of two cans, in the bottom row. Could I be looking for a phrase that contains the sequence "by my [something]"? That seems quite reasonable!
I start carefully assembling a list of all the possible reasonable words, because there really aren't very many, especially when I remove words that can't be made with only the letters I have available, like nymph (no N) or rhythm (only one H). (I also check all the proper names in the game, just to be sure, but none even have a Y, so I conclude that I'm probably meant to only look at ordinary words.) I reduce the list to only twenty-five unique words, not including plurals and such. Then I notice that one of them is CRYPT. I make the leap that maybe a place like that makes sense for that last word, so then it would be saying that something happens "by my crypt". It's a bit of a guess, but it seems like a good place to start, especially because that also uses up the one C that's available. I cull my list further by removing all other words with B, M, or C (like MYRRH and PSYCH) and get down to only sixteen unique words of length 3 to 6, only five of which are five letters: GLYPH, GYPSY, SLYLY, SYLPH, TRYST. The sequence needs one six-letter word and four five-letter words, one of which I think is CRYPT.
BY MY CRYPT
That means I have to use three of the five remaining words, but there's only one G and only one H, so I could use GLYPH or GYPSY but not both, and GLYPH or SYLPH but not both. What if I use GYPSY and SYLPH? Well, the six-letter word probably has to be SPRYLY because the only other options are plurals of the five letter words, which would duplicate too many letters. But SPRYLY uses a P, and so does CRYPT, and I only have three P's, so I can't use both GYPSY and SYLPH either. That means I have to use both SLYLY and TRYST plus one of the other three. Wait, SPRYLY and SLYLY both? That's weird. But we have so many Y's that we have to use as many words with two Y's as possible. In fact, the last three words only have one Y each, and the first word, three letters, almost certainly has only one Y as well, which means the middle four words have a total of seven Y's. Three of them must have two Y's each, and TRYST only has one Y, so the last one probably has to be GYPSY, as it's the only remaining option with two Y's.
Now what happens if I put in all the words I've decided on? I have about eight possibilities for the three-letter word. Some kind of GYPSY SLYLY SPRYLY TRYST BY MY CRYPT would fit the pattern (mostly grammatically), and it leaves only SHY as the last word to fill in to use up the letters. SHY GYPSY SLYLY SPRYLY TRYST BY MY CRYPT is what that comes out to, then. It's a bit odd, as I would expect the subject (gypsy) should really be plural (but that would use other vowels) or the verb (tryst) should be singular to match (just need another S, but then you get two six-letter words and the logic isn't as clear). Or maybe it's a command? "Shy gypsy, slyly spryly tryst by my crypt!" Ha. For a phrase with only Y's for vowels, it makes as much sense as anything, I suppose. But is it right? Who's the gypsy supposed to be, anyway? Temple?
Let’s play spot the spelling error.
After working all this out, I go back to the actual cans and swap them around until I have the phrase put in. ...Nothing happens. I stare at it for a moment, then realize I have two of the letters of CRYPT swapped the wrong way around. These letter graphics are also rather muddy and hard to see clearly. (They actually look better in the smaller screenshot image than they do full-screen when I’m playing.) I correct it and am gratified to find the puzzle solved and Stauf complaining at me again. Wow, I would have been so confused if that hadn't been right, but I'm very relieved to have solved it correctly. That was not easy at all. In fact, it's probably the hardest puzzle so far. The bishop puzzle was difficult to actually complete, but it wasn't very hard to figure out what needed to be done and make some progress. This one was much harder to even start.
There's also a brief scene where we again see Heine working on the puzzle, but this time she places one and then announces she's solved it. Burden seemed to be confident of having solved some things and was willing to share her victories with Edward, but clearly Heine's going to be stiff competition for them as well. Anyway, we now have another path that's available. The one adjacent door seems to lead out of the house and is still locked, but the other door, to the right of the pantry, now opens. It's magic.
Maybe he's dead already?
The door leads into a narrow stone passageway, at the end of which is a tiny low grate with a single opening. It's almost like we get to turn into a mouse to approach and deal with this grate. But first I have to deal with it as a puzzle: it acts like a small sliding tile puzzle in a 3x2 grid, and I have to get two specific curved pieces into position to form a round opening. Oddly enough, when I slide the tiles such that the open space is in the bottom of the opening on the right, bloodstained spikes appear out of the floor there, and then retract again when I slide a piece into the space. This is an easy puzzle though; I've done 4x4 sliding tile puzzles with pictures (Castle of Dr. Brain had a classic "fifteen puzzle"), so a 3x2 puzzle where only the positions of two pieces even matter is pretty trivial.
Past the grate, the passageway leads into a large dungeon maze. When I first step in, I again see the apparition of the woman in white that I saw on the second floor near the beginning of the game; it's even the same animation of her gesturing for me to follow her. I can't actually move around at will; when I move forward, I'm automatically moved along the passageway to the next intersection or dead-end, even around corners. This would make it quite hard to map, but fortunately I don't need to and I don't try. I remember again that there was a rug in one of the bedrooms that had a maze on it and seemed to act like a puzzle even though I couldn't do anything with it there. (Sadly I hadn't actually taken a screenshot of it at the time, so I have to go out of the dungeon and back up the stairs and find it again, and then I have to redo the grate puzzle to get back into the dungeon.)
It’s a rug that also happens to be a map.
I study the rug maze and decide to treat it like a map to the dungeon. It looks like we’re entering from the right side and exiting again just above the entrance. If the map is correct, I have to first proceed straight down the first corridor to the tenth intersection before turning right and following the path through several more twists and turns to get to the exit. In a couple of places, I have to be careful because when I turn, I'm facing a wall and I have to immediately turn again the correct way in order to keep following the path. This works perfectly, though, and soon I have threaded my way through the maze.
At least once, Stauf tries to tell me I'm going the wrong way, but I ignore him and keep following the rug map. (Where is he, anyway? Is he a ghost following me around? He seems to be able to talk to me anywhere but never appears except in the library.) You’d never get anywhere without the map, though; this is a very complex maze with plenty of irrelevant corridors, and you can’t even move just one step at a time.
Stauf really doesn’t want these dead disturbed if they’re guarded by such a complex maze.
I emerge onto a ledge overlooking what looks like an actual crypt (so maybe the message in the cans did mean something after all?) with several coffins in a 3x3 grid arrangement. It's the next puzzle, of course. This part of the game is interesting because through the can puzzle, it's given me exactly one puzzle per room, and I was to some extent able to move from room to room and solve the puzzles in whatever order I wanted. From the grate, through the maze, and now into the crypt has been a sequence of three puzzles in a specific order, not accessible until after solving the pantry.
There's something going on with the coffins being open and closed. I try closing one, and some others open. Have you ever played one of those Lights Out games where pressing a button toggles all the adjacent buttons? It's a lot like that, except that closing a coffin doesn't always toggle all of the adjacent coffins; sometimes it's just the orthogonal ones, and sometimes it's all of the adjacent ones, and sometimes it's all of the adjacent ones except the center one. The flamingo puzzle in Island of Dr. Brain was like this too, although even less consistent. So I fiddle around with the coffins and after a few minutes manage to get all of them closed at once.
Temple’s fears for Tad are justified, apparently.
The path forward becomes available, and I proceed down some steps and into the crypt itself. There I get another scene: Burden (with her hair still down, like when she was in the bedroom with Edward) and Edward holding onto Tad, looking like they're trying to drag him away. Then Temple appears and attacks Edward, snapping his neck. Burden's face starts distorting and eventually what looks like a snake extends out of her mouth like a grotesque tongue, while Temple tries to soothe Tad by telling him it's all an illusion. I have no idea what is going on here, but clearly Burden is dangerous. Edward seems to be out of the picture, at least.
After the scene ends, I click around a bit, but I can't seem to do anything else here. I manage to trigger another passageway that ends up leading back up into the kitchen again. When I check the map, the whole back stairway bit is now marked as solved, although nothing else seems to have become accessible. I discover that there's actually a third level to the map; I can click on that back stairway, and I get another layout with the rooms I went through and the maze all shown on it, but it's all marked as solved now. There's nothing else down there, apparently, so I'm going to have to walk through the house again and see if I can find something else to do.
Completed progress in the basement.
Puzzles solved: 6 (total: 11)
On-screen deaths: 2
Edward: his neck snapped by Temple
Temple: strangled by Burden
Session Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 0 minutes
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!