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.