Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Cottage: Victory

As of my last post, I had obtained seven of the treasures required to complete the game: the diamond, the cucumber, the coins, the shoe, the trilogy, the laurel wreath and the contract.  That left me with six to obtain: the silver ingot  (not "silver stick" as Google had translated for me), the halberd, the skull, the alarm clock, the painting, and the pearl necklace.  Some of those I obtained fairly, and others not so much, as you'll see below.

The Silver Ingot: You may recall from earlier posts that there's a safe I haven't been able to open.  The only clue I had was a sign in a nearby room: "CORKSCREW HELPS WITH THE SA..."  I had figured that the last word there referred to the safe, and I was right.  So I kept playing, looking out for a corkscrew, but I never found one.  It's not an item, though, it's a password.  You just need to type CORKSCREW in front of the safe and opens, revealing a silver ingot.

The Jewelled Halberd:  I already knew that the halberd was in the possession of a guard, but nothing I did was enough to get him to relinquish it.  The solution to this was fairly circuitous.  First, I needed to cut open a glass window using a diamond, and take the crowbar hidden behind it.  Then, I needed to use the crowbar to open the chest in Tharvald's Room.  (I'm not sure why this took me so long to figure out, it's pretty obvious.)  Inside the chest was a bike pump, which I used to inflate the ball I had found in the Entrance Hall.  There's another window elsewhere, too high to reach, but I was able to break it by kicking the ball.  Behind that window I found some vodka, and with the vodka I was able to get the guard drunk and take his halberd.

Pretty involved for just one item, isn't it?  The only part of this I didn't figure out by myself was kicking the ball into the high window.  I had to use the game's HELP command, which sometimes gives you a clue at the cost of some points from your score.  Using it in the room with the window gave me the solution outright.  I don't quite consider this one cheating, because the HELP clues were programmed into the original game.  (By the way, whatever you do, don't use the KICK command unless you're kicking the ball.  You'll injure your ankle, and suffer a delay of a few second between every move.  It's infuriating, and I'm not sure it goes away.)

Claiming the halberd.

The Alarm Clock: Not far from the guard is an ornate gate that is locked.  I had found the keys earlier, but apparently only the guard is strong enough to turn them in the lock.  Giving him the keys wasn't a problem, as he accepts anything you try to give him with a wry smile.  The problem is that he's in the room adjacent to the gate, so he can't interact with it.  I had to figure out how to get him to move.

The first thing you need to do is get him drunk, which I'd already done.  I tried MOVE GUARD, PUSH GUARD and DRAG GUARD, and all sorts of other things.  The solution ended up being TAKE GUARD, which took me so damned long to figure out.  I should have remembered this after the bear in Colossal Cave Adventure.  So you give the keys to the guard, TAKE him, walk to the gate, and unlock it.  Job done.  Just remember that you need the guard in your possession, and he needs the keys in his possession.  If you drop him before you try to unlock the gate it won't work.

The room beyond the gate is an interesting one, and the closest that the game gets to actually providing a story.  When you enter, the as-yet-unmentioned Cottage Council are having a meeting, where the chairman Thorvald wants to discuss the deterioration in quality of recent "cottage researchers".  Another member, Kimmo, sees you enter and proposes that they finish the meeting in the Treasury, and the lot of them leave.  It's not much to go on, but at least it provides some foreshadowing for the end of the game, such as it is.

Oh yeah, the alarm clock.  It's in this room.  Another treasure down!

Lads, the quality of the Cottage Council ain't so hot either.

The Skull: This is where I seriously needed help.  First of all, there's no indication that you would even need a skull.  I only knew because I'd looked it up in the source code.  I'm all for obscure puzzles, but give me something to go on.  Anyway, there's one obvious skull in the game, and that's the one belonging to the guard.  You can't kill him, even when he's drunk: the only weapon in the game is the halberd, and when you throw it at him he will catch it.  You need to put him to sleep, which involves giving him a second drink before he sobers up.  He's already drained the vodka bottle dry, though.  You can find more in a room with a chess motif, which I had previously been unable to enter due to a faun stepping on my toes.  If you go there with the empty vodka bottle, Fozzie Bear shows up and gives you a refill.  I'm not sure that Fozzie is the Muppet I'd choose to be handing out alcohol, but whatever.  (Rowlf, maybe?  He looks like he enjoys a good drink.)  Right after opening the gate, you need to grab the guard and take him all the way to get the refill, then get him drunk again.  After that he falls asleep, and you can murder the poor bloke.  That's not the end of it, though, because you then need to bury him in the cemetery.  Then you need to wait for about 50 moves while his body decomposes, and then you can take his skull.

So yeah, this one I needed help with all the way through.  I couldn't use the HELP clues though, because none of them mentioned anything about the skull.  And as I said in my last post, I couldn't find a walkthrough for this game on the internet.  What I should have found is the HINT file included with the game, because it's mentioned at the very beginning.  It's not a part of the original game; I think it was added in 2007 when the game was first ported.  It provides hints on various objects, characters and areas in the game, in a sort of tiered system that starts with vague clues and gets more specific as you go deeper.  If you've ever used the Ultimate Hint System it's similar to that.  I used those hints to get me through this whole process, which is so obtuse that I never would have solved it otherwise.

The Pearl Necklace: This was easily the most frustrating puzzle in the game.  Even with the solution in front of me, it took forever to get right.  The old man is found in a dark room, and he's clutching a bottle of water and a pearl necklace that he refuses to let go of.  You can give him the laurel wreath, and he'll give you the bottle.  But then he disappears, muttering about being disturbed, and you have to find the bastard.  He could be anywhere in the game, so good luck.  Then, when you find him, he wanders off again.  And so on, until you get the puzzle exactly right.  I made liberal use of saved games here, let me tell you, and I was also pretty free with the HINT file.  This is another one where the solution would have been beyond me.

The bottle he gives you is empty, but it's marked as a water bottle, so I went and filled it up at the waterfall.  When you find the old man again, you need to give him some water.  Then, while he's drinking, you need to blind him with the lamp, causing him to drop the necklace.  Say what?  First of all, there's zero indication that you need to blind this guy, unless you count the fact that he begins in a dark room.  He doesn't show an aversion to light otherwise.  And you can't blind him while he has the bottle, because he'll use it to deflect the light.  Secondly, you need to use the command GIVE WATER.  If you use GIVE BOTTLE, he just takes the bottle away from you, and you're back to square one.  All of this while he's wandering off to a new random location every time you try something.  It was annoying to me playing on a modern laptop, and it must have been far worse for anyone trying to do this on a mainframe terminal.

Oh yeah, you need to get the laurel wreath back from him as well, but that's easy.  It was found in a room with a sign saying ALEA JACTA EST, and typing that phrase returns the wreath to its starting location.

Getting the pearl necklace.

The Shoe and the Painting: The faun shoe and the painting are both listed as items you get points for from the Automated Machine, but they're both red herrings.  You need the shoe to get the coins, which are worth more points.  You can't take the painting at all.

With all of the treasures in hand, I was able to take them to the Automated Machine and insert them one by one in exchange for points.  When I was done I had 330 points.  I was expecting a victory message at that point, but I got nothing.  It turns out that there are other things that grant points aside from the treasures: entering the cottage, debating the Muppets, kicking the ball through the window, getting into the animal room past the curtain, getting a phone directory, cutting the window with a diamond, finding where the pirate hides his treasure, opening the ornate gate, and burying the guard in the cemetery.  I'd done all of these except finding the phone directory, which I'd already done in a previous game.  So I went and grabbed it again and got the following victory message.

Even the cucumber is a better prize than this.

Accepted into the cottage council.  Yippee.  Would it not have been better to just bugger off with the treasure?

There are only a few things in the game that remain a mystery now that I've finished it.  I never found a use for the phone, despite how complicated it is to set up.  It must have used a lot of code for not much of a result.  I never reached the hole under the jetty, and I'm not sure it's anything more than a bit of description.  The "animal room" is simply a place you go to get points.  I never figured out the half-rotten tomato, or the kitchen.  I suspect they're all irrelevant, and I'm not about to translate some Swedish source code just to find out.

So that's The Cottage, and good riddance to it.  It's not the worst adventure game I've played, but it is one of the most frustrating.  I suspect that foreign language games will continue to baffle me in many areas, and I need to keep it in mind that I'm playing a translation.  It's possible that some of the transitions and events that I found confusing made perfect sense in the original game.  That said, I can only rate the game in front of me, but I'll try to be as fair as possible.


Story & Setting: There's potential to be had in a game set in a mysterious cottage in a Swedish province, but The Cottage doesn't provide much of interest on that front.  It has some interesting areas, but no cohesion at all.  Pirates?  Fauns?  The Muppets?!  As for the story, it's yet another treasure hunt, with some stuff about a Cottage Council tacked on.  There's nothing there.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: A bunch of character show up throughout the game: Thorvald, Osvald, Kimmo, the telephone repairman, the lift repairman, the fauns, the guard, the old man.  Hardly any of them do anything though, and only a couple of them can be interacted with.  They're obstacles and events rather than characters.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: A primitive text adventure is always going to score low in this category, and it's not helped by a fairly ugly translation.  The writing was apparently quite informal to begin with, and I wonder if any jokes got lost in the move to English?  Regardless, it's all quite terse and occasionally confusing, with little in the way of atmosphere.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: It's a simple, unsophisticated parser that does a decent enough job.  I'm going to dock it a point for using compass direction outside, and FORWARD, BACK, LEFT and RIGHT inside.  It wasn't as confusing as I thought it would be, but it still annoyed me.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Challenge: I would rate this game as slightly too hard to be enjoyable.  Getting the skull and the pearl necklace were particularly frustrating, and chasing around after the old man was a nightmare.  I used save games to help with that, but I'm not even sure they would have been available to those playing it on a mainframe.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: At face value, it's yet another treasure hunt in a whimsical fantasy setting.  It's only 1978 and I'm already sick of those.  It does at least try something new with the two different sets of movement commands, though, and I'm tempted to give it points just for not featuring a lightsource-based time limit, or a large labyrinth.  I should also consider that it's the first ever Swedish adventure game, and quite influential in that country.  Rating: 5 out of 7.

Fun: I didn't outright hate the game, but I didn't find much to enjoy either.  The Muppet sequence was probably the most enjoyable, functioning almost like a mini-game where you make a series of multiple choices to get to the end.  It had some memorably absurd situations, but that one sequence isn't enough to drag up the score.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

I'll never be playing this game again, so there's no bonus point.  The above scores total 16, which doubled equals a Final Rating of 32.  That puts it 14th on the main list, and 8th on the adventure game list.  It's sitting just above Voyage to Atlantis and Colossal Cave Adventure II, and just below Pirate Adventure. 


Somewhat later in this blog I made the decision to overhaul my Final Rating system, so I'm going back through and fixing all of the games I've already played as of March 2020.  I've ditched the Innovation and Influence category, and replaced it for adventure games with a category for Puzzles.  I've also changed the purpose of the bonus points, saving them for games that are important, innovative, influential, or have features that are otherwise not covered by my other categories.

Also, the Final Rating is a boring name.  The CRPG Addict has his GIMLET.  The Adventure Gamers have their PISSED rating.  Data Driven Gamer has his harpoons.  So I'm ditching the generic name and calling my new system the RADNESS Index: the Righteous Admirability Designation, Numerically Estimating Seven Scores. It's a pretentious mouthful, but I'm going with it.

Puzzles: I found a lot of the puzzles in this game to be irritating and not at all well signposted, but enough of them were clever that I can't give it the minimum rating. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Bonus: 1. The Cottage is the earliest known adventure game written in a language other than English, so it gets a bonus point.

The Cottage gets a RADNESS Index of 27 out of 100. That places it 16th overall, and 10th out of thirteen adventure games.  It has a lot of really good ideas, but so much of it is jarring or actively irritating.

NEXT: With The Cottage over and done with, I'm moving on to Library, the third and final adventure for the Wander system.  Let's see if those games can go three for three in requiring me to fix the code so that I can win.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Cottage: Laying It Out

My progress in The Cottage has been slow and painstaking.  A part of that is because it's not exactly setting my world on fire.  There are many, many things I could be doing that I'd enjoy more than playing this game.  Mostly, though, it's that the puzzles are somewhat obtuse, and there are a number of things going on in the game that I can't quite explain.

After a lengthy session last night where I didn't feel like I was making much progress, I pulled up the source code and had a bit of a look.  Unfortunately for me, the code I found was in Swedish, so I wasn't able to glean a great deal from it.  I found what I was looking for, though: a list of the treasures I need to complete the game.  It's somewhat of a cheat, but I wanted to know roughly how far I had progressed, and what items are important.  There are thirteen treasures in all: a diamond, a silver stick, a smelly cucumber, a jewelled halberd, a skull, an alarm clock, some gold coins, a "trilogy", a contract, a pearl necklace, a laurel wreath, and a faun shoe.  I know where ten of these are already, which is quite heartening.  I'll detail their whereabouts below.

  • The diamond is out in the open in Thorvald's Room, which is not that hard to get to.  Carrying it around presents a problem, though: certain doors and exits from the house become barred when you are carrying it around.  It's still possible to get back outside with the diamond, via some more circuitous routes, or by getting lucky in those rooms that send you to random locations.
  • The smelly cucumber is also in Thorvald's Room, in a hatch in the roof.  You need a ladder to reach it, but that can be found in a cupboard in Osvald's Room, right next door.
  • The jewelled halberd is in the possession of a guard, who is situated in an area beyond the lift's engine room.  I'm yet to find any meaningful way to interact with the guard.
  • The gold coins can be won from a gambling machine that's found in a cave in the wilderness.
  • The shoe is found in a cave south of the gambling machine, where it falls from the foot of a faun who runs by.  The shoe is needed as a stake to operate the gambling machine.  If you lose at the gambling machine, it's easy enough to come back and get another shoe.  But once you win the coins, the shoes stop spawning.  I need to see if I can get the points for the shoe, then get another shoe for the machine.
  • The "trilogy" is actually a copy of Lord of the Rings, and it's found in a maze of twisty passages.

Speaking of things I'd enjoy more than this game...

  • The pearl necklace is in the possession of an old man, who won't surrender it for anything.  He did show some interest in the laurel wreath when I had it in my possession, but giving it to him didn't help.
  • The laurel wreath is found in the Studio, sitting out in the open under a sign that reads "Alea Jacta Est" ("The die is cast").
  • The picture is found in the same maze of passages where I found the trilogy, but it doesn't seem to have an actual location.  Rather, it appears as I move from one location to another.  I'm really not sure how to interact with it at all, because it never appears as an object in a room where I'm standing.
  • The contract is a strange one to get a hold of.  Remember when I mentioned that there's a lengthy, surreal section where you have to participate in a performance of The Muppet Show?  No, it wasn't a fever dream.  You have to navigate your way through the choices, Choose Your Own Adventure style, and if you make the right ones Kermit the Frog will reward you with a contract.  It's frankly bizarre, but also quite a bit of fun.  It might be my favourite thing in the game.  I understand that it was left out of the commercial release for legal reasons, which is a shame.

Maybe the weirdest thing I've encountered in the blog so far.

So as it stands, I can easily get the diamond, the cucumber, the coins, the shoe, the trilogy, the laurel wreath, and the contract.  I need to work out how to get the halberd away from the guard, how to get the necklace away from the old man, how to interact with the picture, and how to get the coins without losing the shoe.  That's a refreshingly short to-do list, and it's somewhat refreshed my enthusiasm for the game.

That said, those are far from the only puzzles I need to solve on my way to winning.  The game has presented me with loads of other mysteries, some of which I've solved and some that remain elusive.  You may have noticed that I love running things down in point form when I'm writing about text adventures, and I'm going to do that again here.  It helps me to get my thoughts together, and figure out exactly what I need to do.

  • In my last post, I noted that there was an area in the forest where it appeared that someone had been recently digging.  Using a spade that I found in the cemetery I dug a hole, only to find that it was empty.  A little later I tried again, and found that it contained some treasures that had been stolen from me by a robber (this game's equivalent of the thief from Zork, or the pirate from Colossal Cave Adventure).  Everything that the robber steals will end up here, which could actually end up helpful in getting things to the surface, as this area's not hard at all to get to.
  • There's a rowing-boat near the beginning area of the game, which can be used to row to every shore of the lake.  Weirdly, at the centre of the lake there's a telephone socket.  When I tried to plug a phone into it, a telephone repairman came along, uninstalled the socket, and gave me a phone directory containing some useful numbers.
  • I'm not sure what the deal is with the phone sockets, though.  Sometimes when I try to use one, the repairman comes along and takes the socket away.  At other times I've been able to plug it in and call some numbers successfully, but none of them have accomplished anything.  You can call a phone repairman and a glazier (both of whom are out), the guard (who just tells you stop distracting him from his guard duty), and a few other rooms that had already been disconnected before I found a socket I could use.  I've also found an extension cable, which will no doubt play into the ultimate solution for this puzzle.
  • There are a number of paths that lead to an area under the jetty where the game begins.  There's a hole down there, but if you remain in that area you'll drown.  I think the solution lies with a deflated ball that I found, but I need a pump of some sort so that I can use it to float.
  • I'd mentioned in my last post that I had found a crowbar behind a window, but breaking the window caught the attention of Osvald, who came along and took the crowbar himself.  The solution to this one was to use the diamond to cut the window.  I haven't found a use for the crowbar yet.
  • In a pitch-dark room, there's a hidden lamp.  The game gives you no indication that it's there, but if you type GET you'll pick it up.  The game then informs you that you can only keep the lamp if you stay put.  Sure enough, if you type STAY PUT you'll eventually - after 30 seconds of actual waiting - be transported to another location.  It doesn't make much logical sense.

Also shown here is me being booted from the room with the animals.

  • There are three rooms that I can't get into: a kitchen where an angry faun tries to kill me, a chess-themed room where a faun steps on my toes, and a room full of animals that is UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  The last one seems like it might be a red herring, but then again it's past a puzzle that involves cutting through a curtain with some scissors.  I'd think a puzzle like that would lead to a useful area, but you never know with a game designed by pre-teens.
  • I still don't know what's with all of the areas where you're just randomly holding a rotten tomato.  It's baffling.
  • There are some ornate gates just past the guard with the halberd, but the keys I found don't open them.
  • There's a safe that I can't open.  Elsewhere there's a sign that says "CORKSCREW HELPS WITH THE SA..", which may or may not be relevant here.
  • The lift is a useful way to get around, but sometimes it crashes and kills me when I try to use it.  I'm not sure what sets this off.  I'm thinking it might be something to do with the number of items in my inventory, or perhaps that the presence of the diamond causes it in the same way that it blocks off the house's exits.  More investigation is required.
  • The Automatic Machine where you deposit treasure can be accessed from outside as well as inside the cottage.  This is good to know, because I got blown up the second time I tried to go there from inside.  The outside access lets you come and go as often as you like.

So that's a pretty comprehensive rundown of where I am in The Cottage.  I said that laying it out like this helps me figure out what I need to do, and I'm really going to need that help here.  The source code I found is in Swedish, and I can't find any walkthroughs.  I'm on my own.  The game itself provides a HELP feature, though, and I've used it a few times.  It helped me with cutting the glass window, and finding the lamp in the dark.  Normally this would feel like cheating to me, but I'm fine with it when it's a function that's built into the game.  And it doesn't give hints for every puzzle, so for most of the game I'll be on my own.