Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Game 9: Uninvited - Arachnophobic Phantoms

Journal Entry 2: “This detestable house is sucking the life out of me. I fear for my brother as I have been unable to find him, or to see any sign that he is held captive within these walls. As time goes on I discover more and more rooms, all of which contain numerous items that may or may not assist my cause, but the answers seem to lie mostly within the parchments that are hidden around the mansion. They speak of a man called Dracan, who seems to be the one behind the darkness I find all around me. One such parchment directed me to a skeleton key, which allowed me to open some of the cabinets around here, but many of the items held within are of questionable use. I did however discover the box that contained Dracan’s star, and have successfully retrieved it by putting the box in the fire as another parchment cryptically suggested. If only I knew what all these items were for! I’m certain the amulet and the stars I have hold the key to finding my brother, but their purpose evades me. I have still not, despite many attempts, been able to catch the detestable little creature that mocks me constantly, but I know I must soon, as time is running out. Time…is…running…out!”

I’m going to put it out there. Uninvited is a crushingly hard game! I can’t recall another game that has made me fight so hard to achieve anything at all, only to find myself with no idea how to progress again immediately. At the end of my last post, I’d just removed (i.e. melted) the mysterious woman that was blocking my access to the rest of the house. As it turned out, the rest of the house is massive, meaning I’ve now got stacks more questions with very few answers, not to mention endless items that may or may not be useful. It’s daunting to say the least, and while any small successes I have are celebrated with fist pumps and outbursts of elation, the lengthy periods of failure and confusion that separate them are beginning to break my spirit. Am I giving up? No, not yet! But I am beginning to wonder what I’m going to do when I simply can’t complete a game, even if Uninvited is not the game that breaks me. Hopefully you guys will help me out! For now, let me describe to you my recent experiences and attempt to give you an idea as to why Uninvited is so brutally difficult.


Even fluffy, soft towels are deadly in this house

After Zenic made me aware that I’d missed a vital item (a gold amulet) on the first screen of the game (which you can never go back to), I started Uninvited again and set off more determined than ever to figure out its mysteries. It didn’t take me long to get back to where I was previously, since I’d already mapped every location I’d visited and hadn’t actually achieved very much. I then set about mapping the rest of the house and checking out all the items in each room, guessing as to which ones might have a role to play later on. One thing I did come across that I figured I could do something with was a spider on the veranda. I just so happened to have some spider spray in my inventory, which paralysed the arachnid, allowing me to carry it with me in a live state. Once I’d mapped every room I had access to, I set about re-reading the various books and parchments I’d collected to see if I could find some sort of hint about what I needed to do next. At this stage there were three rooms I couldn’t get access to (the Magisterium, the Chapel and a room off the study) and two locked cabinets (one in the rec room, another in the master bedroom), but everything else was accessible.


I did something! I actually did something!!! :) :)

Other than the book in the library that contains magic related definitions, the rest of the notes I had talked about an apprentice called Dracan, who had obviously gained too much power and become dangerous. One particular note mentioned that the house servant had stolen Dracan’s star, which I assume he required to do something with magic, and hidden it in a box that cannot be opened. Since this was the only note that seemed to contain a hint, I decided to follow it up. I looked through every room trying to find a “box that cannot be opened”, but couldn’t find anything other than the locked cabinets, which I couldn’t do anything with. I eventually figured that the small bedroom off the kitchen could belong to a servant and directed my attention there. After finding absolutely nothing of worth, I just happened to turn the light on. Now before I continue, I should mention that I’d already tried to turn the lights on in numerous rooms throughout the game, only to be informed that there doesn’t appear to be any power, so turning the lights on in the servant’s bedroom was done with no belief that anything would come of it. Well it turns out that turning the lights on makes an apparition of the servant appear in the room (don’t ask me why!), demanding to know who let me in there.


There's no power in the house except for the servants room. That makes sense!

This is one of those moments where the game gives you a glimmer of hope that you’re on the right path, and that things will start to become a bit more obvious soon. However, no matter what I tried to do with the servant, he would kill me instantly. I could see that a panel had moved behind him and that there was something in the wall behind where it used to be situated, but if I tried to move it to my inventory or even just examine it, the servant would kill me. Over the next period of time, I tried to figure out what it was that I could give to or use on the servant that might get him to allow me to get whatever the object was, but there was nothing obvious I could think of. I was then forced to use trial and error, otherwise known as click and hope, “operating” all sorts of items on him ranging from knives to axes and even matches, to no avail. Getting desperate, I used the paralysed spider on the servant, and he screamed and dissolved from view, apparently “flustered and frightened”. The game didn’t give me any information to make me think the servant might have arachnophobia, nor does this solution seem any more logical than using any other item in the mansion. It was just luck!


You know he's just as scared of you as you are of him

I’m not going to continue describing the game in this detail, but I hope the above has given you an idea as to why the game is so difficult. It’s hard enough that there are hundreds of items spread out over multitudes of rooms, and that most of these items play no part in solving the game, but it’s made stupendously challenging because the hints given to the player are simply not sufficient. You can’t really apply logic or clever thinking to these puzzles and instead have to rely on luck and an almost inhuman amount of patience. Remember how I mentioned in my last post that one of the notes hints that a chair knows where the missing key is located? Well, I’ve spent a lot of time with all the chairs in the house over the last few days, getting to know them, showering them with gifts and trying to loosen them up with alcohol, in the hope of getting this information out of one of them. The solution was to cut one of them open with a knife, as the key was hidden inside. Now that hardly follows on from the hint and as you can imagine, was figured out through frustration rather than any sort of brilliant intellectual thought. If the rest of the game is filled with these sorts of puzzles and solutions, then at some point my luck is likely to run out and I’m just going to get plain stuck.


"The chair knows where". Does it still know?

On top of all this (yes, I still have more things to whinge about!), just as in Déjà Vu, there is a time limit in which you are required to finish the game. Thankfully it’s much more generous than in Déjà Vu, but given how difficult Uninvited is, and how much time needs to be spent simply exploring, looking for clues, and trying out different possibilities, it seems an unnecessarily cruel element. My most recent save games have my character clinging to his sanity, trying to keep the demons out. I’m pretty much going to have to start again and rush through everything I’ve done to create a save game that will give me a chance of finishing the game, and will likely need to do this again at some point. Once I’ve done that, I just need to figure out how to get past the dogs at the chapel, where the diamond is that will give me access to the Magisterium, what gold and silver items are required to mix with the mercury to create a key (this is one of the hints I’ve found), what these stars actually do, and how to catch the annoying creature that constantly waves a key at me. Oh, and I haven’t found a use for the amulet that Zenic told me about either, or where and when I’m supposed to recite the magic words, if indeed that’s what they are.


You feel frustration. You feel discouraged. You feel a restart approaching.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably getting the impression that I hate Uninvited. The truth is that it’s an intriguing game with a haunting atmosphere, and I really do want to finish it. I was looking forward to the horror themes prior to commencing and I guess it hasn’t really let me down on that front, apart from some inappropriate use of comedy killing the tone on occasion. The illogical solutions to barely perceptible puzzles are just making the whole experience unreasonably challenging. I’ve racked up five hours in total so far and since I committed to playing at least six hours on every game, Uninvited has at least one more hour to prove to me that it’s worth the effort, which brings me back to my earlier comment about what to do if and when I’m unable to get through a game on the list. I have a couple of ideas about how to deal with it, but would be interested to see what the readers think. For now, I’m going back in...


Here we go again...

11 comments:

  1. Hi there, thanks a lot for your very entertaining articles.

    If I may suggest, you might want to play this game on a Mac emulator, it just looks a lot nicer (well, I don't know whether it goes against your rules, but the game is exactly the same).

    Uninvited is really hard and frustrating, but if I remember well, Shadowgate is even harder...
    Still great games in my opinion!

    Cheers,

    Boul

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  2. Thanks for the compliment, although your comment regarding Shadowgate being even harder is a bit depressing right now. It should be entertaining watching me flounder around uselessly though. ;)

    I've actually made some decent progress on Uninvited tonight, so who knows?! I might actually get through this game. If I can find my way through this damn maze...

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  3. I don't know if you could call Shadowgate harder. I guess you could, but I wouldn't; Shadowgate is a game I was actually able to get through. :D

    My experience is grounded in the NES versions though, so maybe it is easier there. You'll be happy to know they removed the hard time limit in Shadowgate and instead give you torches to find that act as mini-timers.

    I wouldn't worry about being stuck unless it's for more than a week. You're making such quick progress that you'll probably be done with this project in 2 years. ;) If you're truly stuck though, I'd say describe your situation and see if anyone has any hints.

    Yes, the amulet isn't needed until a good way into the game, but if you get there without it, it would mean starting all over again.

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  4. Well... there's an item that the key-waving goblin likes. It's in the Magisterium. You do need to do something in the greenhouse first though, so ignore the goblin for the time being. You'll need to use a spell to get past the dogs. Somewhere past there is the item that you need to get into the Magisterium. Hint: You'll need to use another spell along the way. If I missed/forgot part of an entry of yours, my apologies, but you really need the spells in this game. I think about 1/4 of the obstacles you come across are defeated by spells. I hope I didn't reveal too much. In any case, good luck!

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  5. I like to know how puzzles are supposedly solvable without resorting to chucking every item at the problem. I did a little looking around, and so far everyone complains that it's never hinted at that the servant is afraid of spiders. I'm not sure how someone is supposed to figure that out.

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  6. I suppose if you get too stuck and don't want to continue, you could abandon the game (if your six hours are up). You have the option of the 1991 windows remake, if you wanted to return to it later (since it will take you a while to get through the next four years of games!).

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  7. I like Andy_Panthro's suggestion: Play until it becomes no fun, then move on and play the remake. Also: I'd suggest asking us for hints as a bunch of us appear to have played it. Well, not me, the only adventure games I've gotten anywhere in were the Submachine games (Online flash games) and Beneath a Steel Sky, which I never finished.

    Also: yay! I'm caught up on your blog, and it took less time then the CRPG Addicts blog (Probably because you only have two months of posts vs over a year)

    If you don't mind requests I'd like a bit more detail on some of the puzzles you are solving as you go, and more detail on the plots. You talk about Tass Times in Tonetown not making sense, but we don't really know why as you don't document the plot at all. Anyway, just my $0.02CDN.

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  8. Another idea is you might want to try playing the games on ScummVM: It emulates the engine, not the hardware, so you can freely switch between versions of the game from what I understand, though I don't know if save files move around. That would let you do comparison screenshots and such more easily. Not all games are supported, but it might bypass dosbox issues in some games.

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  9. I hope you haven't succumbed to the horrors that live in the haunted mansion and lost your mind. I just had a disappointing evening when I found the save file for the game I'm playing was corrupted and had me starting at the beginning of the game again. I played right up to where I left off, and didn't feel like playing anymore. I look forward to better news from you, even if it is one room or puzzle worth of progress.

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  10. To be fair to the game, the descriptions do carry subtle -sometimes too subtle- hints. When you Operate the chair that holds the key, it tells you that as you sit down you feel a sharp pain in your derriere. I took it as an indication that something was hidden below the upholstery, so I ripped it apart. Meanwhile, the servant's fear of spiders is hinted at by his room being the only room in the house "free of dust and cobwebs", though I agree it's still too obscure :-)

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  11. Awesome blogg, love it! And those short texts in the beginning of every post are wonderfull! Keep the faith;)!

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