Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Missed Classic 115 - The Beyond (1985)

Written by Morpheus Kitami

I feel like the emphasis here should be on WILL, not you

Today I've got a very unusual treat for you, a trifecta of discussion points that have never been combined on this blog, haven't appeared on this blog before, and in all likeliness will never appear again. This is Lucio Fulci and Italian cinema, Dutch language games and text adventures. If you don't know who Fulci is, I'm going to explain in detail, but for now, he's an Italian horror director who's work filled banned and cut films lists throughout the 20th century. Unlike other directors, his films deserved it.

 Actually, I went to the trouble of doing this and then I didn't really need to do this

As such, you better believe this is the kind of entry you don't want to read while eating. I'm not going to show anything, don't worry about that, but I will in place of scenes I don't wish to show you or describe instead show you cursed images taken from games you've never heard of before. Or just some weird images. Gotta get a point across somehow.


First, let's have some music...

The Beyond was originally released in 1985 by an obscure Dutch, possibly Belgian-Dutch company PK Software, so named because the team behind it are called K. Bos and P. Nydam. The only thing I know about them is that they also released a game that nobody cares about called Saturn 3*, which I note shares the same name as a 1980 space opera film released in the wake of Star Wars. Somehow both of these games were on both the MSX and the C64. I'm going to be playing the C64 version, but I checked the MSX version afterwards and it was...slightly better.

*I should note that this isn't considered a game based on a movie on CASA/Solution Archive, either because the cult status of Saturn 3 is considerably smaller than the cult status of The Beyond and nobody cares, or someone actually did play it and found it has nothing to do with the movie. Despite the fact that I brought it up...I really don't care.

Video games made by the Dutch are weird...in the sense that they're a loose grouping of games you'd never think were made by them. When looking up titles, mostly just Wikipedia, the games listed there were things I never even knew were from the country. I thought that Jazz Jackrabbit was American, and didn't know Age of Wonders was Dutch. What about adventures? Well, I only see the Rusty Lake/Cube Escape series, a weird series of nice room escape-esque adventure games. That doesn't mean there isn't some unimportant title between here and there. Hell, even those could hardy be called important. Just that they haven't been completely forgotten by now. Remember, three titles currently on the best games of all time list here are "forgotten" titles.

(for future reference, I'm saying Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes, Conquests of the Longbow and KGB)

It also seems to me that unlike other countries there's not really any international significant Dutch culture. There is Dutch media that's succeeded in gaining an international audience, but there's nothing that I've seen that feels Dutch, so to speak. Like even if I don't care for it, I am aware of German/Austrian/German Swiss sort of sphere of influence. There is a general tone to the media, which I associate as a broadly German cultural identity. A certain humor, a certain style which outs the creator as being from that area. There's something similar with Italian, French, Russian, Eastern European and Northern European locales. But not the Dutch.

Ayreon, one of my favorite bands, outside of being great, doesn't really feel like it has any influences beyond progressive music, and I could cite a dozen rock/metal and jazz bands of the same nature

This doesn't really seem like a case of there being an inability on my part to get Dutch culture as much as a vague desire by the Dutch to perhaps not appear Dutch. Without really attempting to, I've listened to a wide array of music from most European and Southeast Asian countries, and there's generally a good mix of bands that sing in their native language and those that don't. Not the Dutch. And as I said, none of the games described as being made by the Dutch, that I knew of, felt like they had the same cultural roots. I'm curious if this is just a minor blind spot on my part or if this is something other people have noticed.

The image Wikipedia uses for Fulci's article, which has a real "If you have seen this man, call the hotline below, his family loves and misses him" vibe

So The Beyond, the movie, is a 1981 film directed by Italian director Lucio Fulci. Fulci directed a wide variety of films in his career from comedies to westerns. The only genre he didn't indulge in is space opera and cannibal. However, his comedies are all from the '60s and of the sort I suspect only old men will be aware of. His reputation comes from his giallos and horror films. The former consist primarily of extremely pessimistic views on humanity, ranging from a child killer in Don't Torture a Duckling to an extremely misgynoistic woman killer with a Donald Duck like voice in The New York Ripper. The heroes are only better in that they don't run around murdering people.

His horror films, on the other hand, are about zombies violently killing people or just people getting violently killed. You don't watch these films for the plot. I feel like appeal for most in the director's works can be described with a scene from trippy sword and sorcery film Conquest (1983). For some reason, a very naked sorceress orders her servants to bring forth women to her. They do so, and then the lady orders them to kill a woman, which they do by drawing and quartering her, after which the sorceress eats her brains to bring forth visions. Its just what he does.

Incidentally, I do actually recommend the film. Its some mystical dreamy bronze age take on Conan the Barbarian. It feels like it captures the inherently alien nature of the myths of bronze age heroes more accurately than any other film I've seen.

The film is the story about a painter in 1920s Louisana, who is suspected to be a warlock. The nearby townsfolk form a mob, and instead of lynching him, they whip him with a chain, which somehow causes big cuts to form instead of breaking things, crucify him and then throw wet concrete in his face. Unnecessarily graphic, as someone who knows Fulci's reputation would describe all of his films. It turns out he was ensuring one of the gates of hell was staying closed and they've done a bad thing.

Leading lady Catriona MacColl had an interesting career, before appearing in some of Fulci's more beloved work, she starred in a very early live-action adaptation of the manga The Rose of Versailles, which due to its failure resulted in her appearance here

Then we cut to the present day, and a woman is restoring the hotel the painter was living in. Accidents happen around the house, quite bizarre ones that don't make any sense if you haven't been put in a Lucio Fulci film, and then someone accidentally opens up the hole the painter is in. He then starts killing people, until the protagonist lady and the lead doctor dude are stuck in a hospital killing zombies, and then they enter hell and you wonder what the hell it was you just watched. Did I leave anything out? A little, but that's the basic plot.

This looks bad

Even if you haven't seen this film, you've seen bits of it. If you've played Resident Evil, there's a scene with a zombie in a bathtub suspiciously similar to that one. I mean here its more Fulci-ish, where instead of a plug the lady removes a giant wad of hair. There's a scene where spiders rip apart a man's face which if you've seen Spider-Man (2002) you've seen that scene. Well, at least a shot of a spider just crawling around anyway. That's not really surprising if you know Sam Raimi's inclinations.

Now, the film is supposedly a surrealistic Lovecraftian horror story, loosely based off the work of Clark Ashton Smith. The movie involves a book of ancient elderitch lore called Eibon and involves fighting a mysterious, incomprehensible force.

This film is generally panned for having a completely non-sensical plot. (further amplified by how the film wasn't really released uncut for years) Fulci describes the film as a film of images, and must be received without any reflection. "Any idiot can understand Molinaro's La Cage aux Folles, or even Carpenter's Escape From New York, while The Beyond or Argento's Inferno are absolute films." Basically, this is a pure film, so to speak, of visual beauty. Is that true? I guess. It does look nice, but I suspect this is some deflection on Fulci's part. Is it a pure film to have a sign on the wall labeled "Do not entry"? Fulci even wanted a different ending sequence, but couldn't afford to film it. Why not for the rest of the film's failures? The film's final zombie sequences contain the same six or so actors repeated a half-dozen times.

If you take other arthouse films known for their stunning visuals, even when they have awful plots, they at least make consistent sense. Stalker, for instance, a similarly weird film with a bizarre entity working against the protagonists doesn't have issues regarding the film's mostly unimportant story. Or go the opposite way, akin to the Japanese film Hausu, which was also a surrealistic horror film, but much more openly so.

There is an appeal to this, beyond the morbid, its just that to get to that you need to deal with it. Even in the best works of his I've seen there's still some key aspects of his film missing. A scene here or there showing why some seemingly bizarre action happened. Something showing us that something mystical in nature is happening, rather than something we have to figure out as the scene is unfolding.

A description of the average American and thus me, the player of this game

But this all brings up an interesting question. How do you take a film described by the director as an "absolute film" to an entirely written medium? You could make a pretty good text adventure with graphics ala Transylvania if you did it right...but a text adventure? Does that mean that this is going to be a "pure text adventure" that idiots like me can't understand?

Unfortunately, while there is an English version, I couldn't find it. So, I will be playing this in Dutch. I did prepare for this eventuality, I have a Dutch-English dictionary. It's basically English with a thousand unnecessary vowels anyway, so just British-English.

An irrelevant observation on Dutch before I continue. It seems like a mix of German and English. Usually the change is extra or similarly sounding vowels, or consonants changing slightly. Where an English word would be bath or problem, Dutch is bad or probleem. It seems to be the same way in German, as you might be aware that the word for dead in German is dod and in Dutch is dood. This creates the charactistic awfulness of the language to the English mind, I don't know about German, my understanding of that is mostly limited.

When I played the game originally, I just assumed this was the instructions, but when I tried the MSX version I found out that there was an actual set of instructions

The game has instructions, which basically just explains the plot. The hotel is built on one of the seven gates of hell, and I have to fasten it closed for the good of mankind. And something about the special symbol. Simple enough.

The game starts off in front of a hotel, on a path. Footsteps are approaching. Its somewhere between actual written prose and the early days of Scott Adams rip-offs. Since someone is approaching, I decide to play it like an idiot and wait. Or "wachten". It doesn't understand. Well, let's try somewhere else. S...opps, that apparently is the restart letter. South is zuid, and I can indeed press Z. How lucky. From now on I'm not going to show much, since its not much more complex than what you see here, and instead show you lovely images from the film. Also, this doesn't follow the plot that closely, not that you could, really.

South of the starting area is a motorway. You can't go anywhere from there, and the failure of it ends with me getting strangled. This is sort of a censored version of what the zombies did in the film, which was...uh, let's say more painful. Whatever, I knew nothing good would come from running. North is a reception desk, with a painting (with boats on it) and a switch board. In the film the switch board showed whenever someone in the hotel rooms needed something, since it was abandoned and haunted, only the one in the room that the painter lived in showed anything.

That's Fulci on the left, and apparently the guy on the right is famous in Italy as some sort of educational TV presenter

While in the library next door, I find out the game's "nothing important" message is "I don't see anything bizarre". More games need things like that. Anyway, I find my first puzzle, a locked door. Also, time is a factor, as in another room I find a clock, which says the time is 10:53, and it gets dark at 6 o'clock this time of year.

I also find a hatch down, along with a bottle. I see we're taking a hefty amount of artistic license with the movie. Good. After finding out how to take items, I try opening the hatch, which works. Unfortunately, now its time to play America's favorite game, guess the verb in another language. Can I go down? No. Can I go hatch? No. What is it? Going north. Bleh. This gets me some matches.

The only staircase they ever show is going down to the basement

There's a staircase up pretty quickly. The place seemingly has three floors, the 1st, which I was just on, the 2nd which has a bunch of numbered rooms, and the 3rd which has a dark room. Joy. I can go to the door, which the game then asks me to pick a number. Ah, now is the time to remember which number was important in the film...wait a god damn minute, I'm going to have to go through all of these rooms, aren't I? ARGH!

Vaguely remembering the film, it was either 26 or 36. I try 26. There's just a vase. Its not important. What about 36? There's a torch there. Now comes the unfortunate question, is the torch on a timer? Uh...how do you light it? I look that up. Forgive me for that, I'm not playing guess the word today. What is revealed? Why, it's an attic...with a map in it. Examine, nothing bizarre, read, no good. Only I check again, and apparently I was using the wrong word. In fact, my dictionary, a pocket dictionary published by Berlitz in 1994, does not mention the correct word, lees, only lezen.

Okay, either I read it wrong, or it was supposed to send me to the bathroom. Oh, good. It even has turbid water. What am I supposed to do here? I've seen the movie, I know screwing around with this is like playing with fire. Uh, go bath? Too dirty. Take bath? It is beyond my power to do so. Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk. I don't know what I can do here. Right, let's go through the rest of the rooms.

I find burning letters on the wall. That's very new. Once again this game does the mildly annoying thing of when you examine it saying "It's a message". Reading it tells me that it says "Only by boat will you reach Hell". Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream...anyway, there's nothing else here, all the other doors are closed. How do I advance? Well, what I should have done was check the switchboard panel for a number, which the game has you do by examining the panel, then a lamp. This gets me the real room number, which in this game is 41, but often seems to be 42.

As amused as I am by the Dutch, I'm more amused by help being the same between languages

Once I enter I find a zombie entering the open window. I check what I need to type, I already knew I had to throw the vase, but I didn't know the specific verb. Actually, let's see some carnage. Lame, he grabbed me. Restarting the game, I note that the order of things is funny, you need to read that message on the wall before you get the notice to examine the panel, a little bell, just like in the movie.

10 CAPs to the one Dutch guy who doesn't hate my guts right now and actually solves this

Anyway what does the Eibon have to say? Ah, crap. Looks like there's something I just can't solve. Also, this game is somewhat cruel, in that I need that vase again later, but the game does nothing to imply it hasn't just broken. What do I do? Why, I just put Eibon in the place in the library from earlier. There was an empty place in the library anyway. This reveals a secret room.

Inside the new room is a note, from the authors, telling us that we're almost through with this TERRIFYING ADVENTURE and that their next game, Saturn 3, will be just as good. Hmm, you know, that reminds me, I said you should bring three breeches for this, but it seems like I've oversold it. You didn't need pants at all for this game, sorry. Anyway, this leads to a dark room with a key. Oh. Well let's just go out...

...and oh, zombies again. Let's just get out of here for now. Which works. And the hatch I opened earlier is my escape route. Huzzah! Oh, I have to go back to the library to open the locked door there. This leads me to a piano. I examine it, and it mentions that it has keys. Since its a different word I assume in this case piano keys. Sure enough I check the walkthrough and I'm supposed press the keys and then type in the number from the map. Not sure the logic of 42e, but whatever, I'm sure there's a reason why these guys got their game published and I haven't.

Black or white? What? There are 42 black keys on a keyboard? What does the walkthrough say? Black. Whatever, it sinks into the floor opening a new passageway. This allows me to enter a room with a three-tooth fork and spiders. The spiders are approaching...I take the fork...and I have too much. Right, restart. Gotta do all that over again. What's the problem? The bottle is a red herring.

Okay, what is supposed to happen is I go into the room with the note, having one less item than my limit, pick that up, falling through the floor, then throwing the vase at the zombie in the basement. Now I can place the fork in a hole, and escape from the hotel, having successfully won the game and made the Earth much safer. I have to wonder if I saw the same film as the developers of this game. This game is all "The ZOMBIE hast strangled thou! Wilt thou try again?" whereas the film was more "JESUS CHRIST! HIS EYES!". The successful, very happy ending is in stark contrast to the depressing inevitability of hell the film had.

I show this seemingly random shot of the movie, because if you look close, you'll see someone, the lead actor, putting a bullet into the barrel of his revolver

I feel like you could indeed make something very interesting out of an adventure adaptation of The Beyond. The helplessness the characters in the movie are forced into is the same kind of helplessness that characters in adventure games are forced into. The violent ends of our heroes instead of being played for dark comedy, instead played for the seriousness of its gore and violence. There are two ways you could do this in 1985.

  • The first is you go for absolute broke on how much graphic violence you can show on a computer screen. The film is known for its dark evocative imagery. Evoke it.
  • The second is that you actually write how graphic the imagery is. Evoke the mental image instead. I know its possible. Death Dreadnaught and Leadlight (2015) both showed that period tech could do this. At the very least "He rips out my eye" can fit.

It just feels like such a stark contrast that it makes me wonder why they even bothered. There's not enough text for the tone of the film, no graphic imagery. This is just a generic haunted hotel with zombies that vaguely shares characteristics with the film. I don't ask that it be a 1-to-1 copy. Zombi showed the foolhardyness of that with a film with a completely comprehensible and understandable plot. Just...give me a reason to care about your game 40 years later. Its not even like the film where the morbidity of it is its appeal.

Also, I didn't notice it until putting all the images together, but the boat message and the words inside the tome have absolutely no bearing on anything whatsoever.

Total Time: 1 h 20 m

Puzzles and Solvability

Every puzzle is at least fairly plausible, even if through blind guesses. I question how I'm so skilled with a vase I can kill multiple zombies with it, but that's neither here or there. There are several methods of obtuseness in the game, however. You have to follow the precise order of events the game wants you to follow, even if it doesn't really make any sense. It is, however, nice that there are multiple paths to the area below the hotel, something I think ensured that it would be possible for most people to win.

2

Interface and Inventory

It's hard to say which parts of this are a failure. I have a small Dutch-English dictionary, showcasing my somewhat intentional ignorance of the language. I got every verb straight off except one, owing to that issue. There is a delay between every action and the resulting lines. In addition, every line contains a space at the start before you type anything, which if you remove, will cause the word to create an error. It's a two-word parser, with a reasonable amount of variations. There is nothing special about inventory items outside of their use in puzzles. Also, you have to type look or "kijk" to see what's in a room after performing any actions.

2

Story and Setting

The whole gate of hell under a hotel feels more like vague window dressing. Even for an unlicensed adaptation of a film with a non-sensical plot, this feels like a pointless story. Anything it has feels like cheating, owing to the movie connections. And why did I figure out that there was a gate to hell here? Why am I just putting Eibon in a library? Whatever.

1

Sound and Graphics

None.

0

Environment and Atmosphere

Vaguely Scott Adams-ish, perhaps a bit more text than him. The thing is, while Adams wasn't exactly great, he at least had a reason to be as terse as he was. This is a REALLY small game, and I guess that makes sense since it was on a tape, but for a horror game based off a very infamous horror film, this is unacceptable.

0

Dialogue and Acting

HELP! ZOMBIE!

0

2+2+1=5/0.6=8.333 or 8.



In conclusion, I would just like to say that Jesus Christ is the answer. What's the question? I don't know. Clearly, this is just like the film, and you and I are too idiotic to understand an absolute text adventure like this. In seriousness, I suspect the game was probably sold in very limited quantities or through a magazine and the game isn't so much horrible as not really feeling like much, that's okay. As long as they weren't charging more than 5 Dutchmarks or whatever. Its too short and small to truly hate.

That was Halloween 2022, it's still October, right? Right? Its the 26th as I write this, so I am wholly innocent of any wrong-doing. A note about next year's Halloween and a couple of explanations.

I think I'm going to keep this format of ending the season with the movie licensed game, and I'm going to do that at the very least as long as I can find titles. Next year, I'm not going to tell you what it is, but you probably know the film it's based off of, and the game is in Japanese.

I think a reasonable question someone might have about this is why this, the esoteric splatter film and a bizarre adaptation? The film is basically what I said it is, interesting, but disappointing and disgusting, but it wasn't really torture, for the most part. The game is bad but it wasn't even a hour long. Even if its like 8 points its still just something I played for a couple of hours and probably won't remember a year from now. I would take ten of these if it meant I didn't have to play The Dark Half. That's basically the only graphic adventure horror license that qualifies as a missed classic. Well, maybe Plan 9 From Outer Space, but I also don't really want to play that either. I'd much rather watch a really unpleasant movie than play a boring 10+ hour game.

7 comments:

  1. The post may say Nov 1, but for those of us in most of the rest of the world it's Oct 31... Happy Halloween! Thanks to Morpheus for some great Halloween-related posts.

    (As Trickster is in Australia, the blog has always been on Australia time, if anyone is wondering...)

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  2. I am getting:
    "ACHTER DE PIANO K*N* U DE SLEUTEL VAN DE POORT NAAR DE HEL VINDEN"

    The K**T is censored due to the obvious unsavoury English word that is closely spelled, but in Dutch it means "Can". I have not seen it much but it is apparently a legit replacement for "Kan", it is possible they avoid the other form due to it's proximity to said unsavoury word (Dutch is a 3rd language for me).

    So we have "Behind the Piano you can find the key of the port to hell" which makes sense.

    It should also be noted that in my limited search English appears to be an evolution of a Western German dialect, a fair bit of French and Latin got sprinkled in later. Dutch is also derived from the same dialect but they discovered vowels and unlike the Germans decided to use them, hence a lot of closely related words.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that's probably for the best. Considering that I heard today that the Dutch generally play games in English I'm inclined to think that's an intentional choice on their part. Rest assured you will get your CAPs!

      Seems like it was an interesting inclusion even if it wasn't necessarily important to the overall game. Even if the execution was...lacking, they had some idea of how a puzzle should go and tried to be helpful to those players who couldn't intuit it out.

      Don't forget that English had a little Greek sprinkled in later, ala things like phobias...and...okay I forget what else, but you get the point. Its really an unfortunately bloated language, having had multiple sources changing over the centuries, not always for the better.

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    2. Oh boy! An excuse to spout an unnecessary amount of information on the development of the English language! (Sorry, I'm a language nerd. You might have noticed by now.)

      English is indeed a German dialect, most closely related to modern Frisian and "Low German". It is closer to Dutch than German, but of course English took a mad dash away from German hundreds of years ago. There isn't any consensus as to why English became such a sponge for foreign vocabulary, but the origin may have been well before the French invasion-- the Norse one. As an American, I didn't learn nearly as much UK history as you might think in school. In the 800s, much of England was conquered by the Danes and they brought with them Old Norse. That language was not that far from Old English, but the Germanic suffixes and grammatical gender was just different enough that it was confusing. Old Norse was used in the Danelaw (the Danish-controlled territory) and there was an intermingling of languages. This is one of the theories for why English already started to be simplified: when confronted by almost mutually-intelligible Germanic languages with just different suffixes, it seems that the language shifted to drop the suffixes over time. English became more word-order centric to account for the reduced use of suffixes. The differences in Norse/English words can still be found in pairs like "skirt" and "shirt" today, originally two almost identical Old Norse and Old English words that had drifted apart.

      The Norse period was hardly over when the Normans arrived and turned the language on its head again. They spoke Norman French. The separation of an upper class speaking French with a lower class speaking English led to the strange bifurcation of the English language where we now generally use fundamentals of English grammar and common words, but a lot of French-derived words on top. The French words tend to sound more sophisticated to our ears: a graveyard isn't as classy as a cemetery, a mansion is a lot nicer than a house, and why we eat pork but raise pigs. Of course, on top of this were also Latin and other influences.

      English, without its grammatical gender and suffixes, was just easy to add words to. You could hear a new word and immediately use it in a sentence, without having to know if it was regular or irregular, what its gender is, etc. This certainly leads to a lot of bloat, but also a language that is a tad forgiving in other ways and tended over time to be very permissive of loan words.

      And you wanted to know precisely none of that!

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    3. I did! (Although I already knew a fair amount of it.)

      "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." (James Nicoll)

      "English, I know you. You are German with a license to kill." (Leonard Cohen)

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    4. The norse/old-english dichotomy is also presumably why animals tend to have germanic names (cow/kuh, sheep/schaf, swine/schwein) while meats tend to have french ones (beef/boeuf, mutton/mouton, pork/porc) - the english-speaking peasants dealt with the animals; the francophone lords mostly interacted with them only after they'd been disassembled.

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    5. Joe, you are a language nerd? I can't say I noticed, but that could just be because I missed it.
      That said I do find this all fascinating even if I knew a bit of it beforehand, the French bit, which I suspect just about everyone knows.

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