Monday, 25 September 2017

Zork Marathon: 1983 Books & Yearly Wrap-Up

Written by Joe Pranevich



It’s been twelve months since we started this increasingly misnamed “Zork Marathon” and I thought it was worth a few minutes to pause and look back on the games we played and look forward on the games ahead. This year, we’ve more or less taken the story of Infocom from the exploration phase at MIT with Dungeon/mainframe Zork, through the formation of the company, up through the first ten games-- five years worth of history. Behind the scenes, the cancer that would eventually destroy Infocom was already growing: Cornerstone, the business product that some hoped would bring them respectability was well underway. We have plenty of time and a few more games before we get to that grim milestone.

Before we can look back, we have one more detail in 1983 to close out on: the first three Zork books. Since almost the beginning, Infocom had been creative with its marketing and its packaging. Most of the games had “feelies” and custom boxes-- Starcross literally rolled off the shelves due to its flying saucer-shaped boxes. But as Enchanter was launching, someone on the team thought that doing a gamebook tie-in would be a good idea. This would allow them to market the new game while also indirectly promoting the still-hot previous Zork titles. They could have gone to an established writer (as they would later), but instead they reached out to jack-of-all-traces Steve Meretzky, fresh from launching Planetfall. The results are somewhat surprising...

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Missed Classic: Infidel - Won! (Lost!?) and Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich



A few days ago, I took my first deep dive into Infidel’s hidden pyramid. Powered by a flaming torch and a sense of narcissistic optimism, I discovered a long-buried burial barge, a hidden underground temple containing two chalices, a cube maze with a hidden door, and an Indiana Jones-style weight puzzle to recover four gem clusters. Thus far, after a disappointing start, I am coming to enjoy the game. Mike Berlyn has a good handle on puzzles and has managed to keep the game grounded in a sense of realism. The hieroglyphics have been fun to puzzle through, though a bit inscrutable. More importantly, they have been just understandable enough, with effort, that I could advance through a puzzle or two.

I am reluctant to admit this, but the solution to my “plaster wall” problem was embarrassingly simple: I just had to destroy the wall with my axe. I had avoided this solution in large part because no real archeologist would deliberately destroy priceless artifacts like that, but it appears to be the only way to advance. At least in my mind, I could imagine myself cataloging each of the rooms as I came to them, carefully labeling where I found this treasure or that. But take an ace to a wall? Not really how I’d approach it. It was bad enough that we broke the statue last time, but at least that was an accident...

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Missed Classic: Infidel - Walk Like an Egyptian

Written by Joe Pranevich



It’s our special Zork Marathon Anniversary Week! We’re giving the regular reviewers the week off so that we can quickly sprint to the end of Infocom’s 1983. I had a dim hope that I might be able to start Sorcerer too, but that will likely be a bit much. With luck, we’ll get Infidel defeated before doing a special 1983 wrap-up and then a bonus post. It should be fun and I’ll just hope there are no unexpected distractions that blow-up the schedule.

Last week, I started Infidel and crossed the first major hurdle by discovering the location of a long lost pyramid. This was after my character pissed off his work crew so much that they left him for dead in the desert heat, but let’s put that in the past. Immediately after entering the pyramid, I fell to my death down a set of particularly steep stairs. We’re just getting started and I am looking forward to seeing how the game progresses. Since I died last time going north, I start this week by igniting my torch and heading east.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Dagger of Amon Ra - Night at the Museum

By Deimar

Laura’s Journal Entry #2: "So my boss has asked me to investigate the burglary of the dagger of Amon Ra from the Leyendecker museum by attending to a fundraising party there tonight, masquerading as a social events reporter. To be honest, I think I would have gotten a really good article about the upper class shenanigans with plenty of shady deals, femme fatales, impersonators and more. However, this whole thing about a murder has focused me again in the problem at hand, discovering where is the dagger of Amon Ra.”

Act 2 begins with Laura at night in front of the museum, which is now open and guarded by a German who is one svastika away of ending this walkthrough by means of Godwin’s law. He is apparently the chief of security but right now there is not much that can be extracted from him. We just have to give him our press pass (which he keeps for some strange reason) and he lets us in. This makes a clock appear in the upper left corner of the screen signaling that it is 7PM. Oh my god, I just got shivers from thinking about Colonel’s Bequest. I really hope I won’t miss key information due to simply walking into a room and making the clock advance.

I am going to be very sad if after so many stereotypes there is not a bullfighter somewhere in the game...

The real party starts inside the museum. As we enter we can see a big bust of Rameses II and several tables with refreshments. There is a group of men surrounding a blonde woman which seem interesting. Specially because our friend Ziggy is there. What is a crook doing in an upper class party? And who is all these people? Time to socialize!! The woman introduces herself as Yvette Delacroix.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Missed Classic 45: Infidel - Introduction (1983)

Written by Joe Pranevich



Although I had originally planned to play only the Zork games, I somehow find myself eleven games into playing the entire Infocom canon. I still doubt I’ll be able to finish all of them before we get to Return to Zork, but I hope I will have at least hit the high points. And that’s why I’m sitting down to play Infidel, the first game on the list that I was completely unaware of. Every other game so far I’ve at least started and abandoned twenty or more years ago. This one, and many of the games that are coming up, are completely unknown to me. That is exciting but also a bit intimidating as I do not know what to expect or whether Infocom will continue to retain a high level of quality as we get closer to their inevitable decline and shut down.

I also want to take this time to announce that next week (the week of the 19th) will be a special “Zork Marathon Anniversary” week! Time flies but I’ve been playing Infocom (and pre-Infocom) games for an entire year now. To celebrate, we’ll try to finish Infidel and end with a 1983 wrap-up, including the first three Zork books, plus a special non-Zork bonus post. It’ll be fun and hopefully put me in the right mindset for Sorcerer and Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes.

Infidel is Mike Berlyn’s fourth adventure game overall and his second with Infocom after Suspended. This is also Mr. Berlyn’s first game created entirely while at Infocom; according to some design notes that were shared with me by Jason Scott (of Get Lamp fame), he had sketched out much of that game prior to joining the crew from Wheeler St. I do not have to much more to add about this part of Mr. Berlyn’s career at Infocom, but we will continue to track him through Cutthroats (1984) and potentially a brief look at non-adventure Fooblitzky (1985). I am excited to see how Mike’s science fiction / dystopian writing chops will translate to a game that seems quite far from his strengths.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Missed Classic: Oo-Topos - Won! (And Final Rating)

Written by Voltgloss

When we left off last time in our attempt to escape Oo-Topos, we still needed to find 3 missing ship parts; the special seeds to save Earth; and 56.9 frod worth of treasure for lunch, gas, and tolls. Sounds like a lot, right?

Turns out we were only two puzzles away from accomplishing all of that.
Of course, they were the two puzzles that took me the longest to figure out.

My sentiments exactly.

The first puzzle: how to deal with the “collector robot” that was blocking access to the shield unit. Not only do we need that for our ship, but it also promises to be the answer to get us through the forcefield at the pyramid and catwalk areas. But the robot won’t let us take it - or anything else we try to offer to or throw at it; it just snatches whatever it is up and adds to its stash. Lasers do nothing. What’s the answer here? It’s… actually one of the more satisfying solutions in the whole game, in my opinion.

The second puzzle: turns out there’s a treasure item in one of the locations I’d visited (and screenshotted in one of my previous posts). How’d I miss it? Because the game pulls a trick here that it pulls nowhere else in the game: finding that treasure involves investigating a room element that is only in the picture - it is NOT in the room’s textual description. Making this my least favorite conundrum in the game.

Everything needed to solve these puzzles has been shown in my second post. In case you, the reader, want to pause and consider what those solutions might be before I reveal them, here’s some spoiler space.


Friday, 8 September 2017

Lure of the Temptress: Talking To People: The Game

by Alex



Whew, lads.

Lure of the Temptress is one of those games, those kind of games that makes mapping fun by using all sorts of tricks to distort the laws of physics and good game design.

See that screenshot up top? In a game like, say Quest for Glory, walking off screen to the right would move the player to another screen, approaching from the left. This would not only make mental navigation easier, but would also help the player make a paper map that makes sense.

Not so in Lure of the Temptress.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Dagger of Amon Ra - Thoroughly Modern Millie

By Deimar

Laura’s Journal Entry #1: "I just haven’t started off on my right foot in the Big Apple. I have been mugged, robbed and almost killed by a car. But I am not going to let that stop the daughter of John Bow. No, sir. This New Orleans girl is going to crack an important case, the theft of the dagger of Amon Ra from the Leyendecker museum, and impress Mr. Augustini, my new boss at the New York Tribune."

The introduction video shows us a murder taking place in a ship. An unknown man is sleeping in his room when a shadowy figure emerges, strangles him and proceeds to store his corpse in a trunk. Next we are presented with the arrival of a ship, presumably the same, to the docks of New York and see some of the passengers get off the ship.


Sweet dreams, my beautiful prince

First, we attend to a discussion between a fez-wearing Egyptian-looking guy and another fellow. If I had to tell from the voice acting I would say it is a conversation between Apu, the Quickie-Mart owner in The Simpsons and Snooby McSnob, the most pompous Englishman this side of the Atlantic. Really, you should play this game just to hear these two discuss about the dagger of Amon Ra. Because you see, the English prick (honorary title) just came back from discovering the dagger and taking it from its home land to his pocket. That doesn’t suit the Egyptian guy who insists the dagger should be in Egypt. The conversation gets heated to the point where the Englishman threatens the life of the Egyptian so he drops the subject.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2: Final Rating

Written by TBD

I was going to ask Madame Chavez what the final rating should be, but got distracted by a hand that she somehow raised without moving her shoulder

Time to rate the game. Before we get started, I'd like to mention why I think this game went down the path it did.

Since point-and-click interfaces became a thing a few years earlier, the companies that made parser-based games had to make an adjustment when they moved to this new type of adventure game. From what I recall of the time, there was a perception that all the challenge would be taken away if you could just click on everything instead of having to write exactly what you wanted to do.

Sierra tried a few strategies to attempt to cope with this – from King's Quest V's dead-ends galore and nonsensical solutions to Leisure Suit Larry 5's tactic of just taking out most of the puzzles and telling a funny (and sexy) story. Infocom clearly went the same way as Leisure Suite Larry 5 with this game. The only puzzle I had a problem with was Barth's 'get the iron' puzzle, which was only hard because the game gave me the wrong information.

Let's get to the ratings!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Lure of the Temptress: Tonight There’s Going to Be a Jailbreak

by Alex



Lure of the Temptress opens with a very good looking cinematic, expanding a bit upon the story from the manual—as explained by Ratpouch—that we talked about last post. This time, though, we get a view of events from Diermot’s perspective: