Sunday, June 30, 2019

Game 28: Devil's Dungeon (1978)

When the question is asked "What was the first commercial CRPG", most of the knowledgeable folks around will tell you that it was Beneath Apple Manor. It's a fair answer: although there were plenty of CRPGs created before 1978, none of them were available in stores.  Of the other commercial CRPGs from 1978 that I've played, Dungeon Campaign was created in December at the earliest, and Space is believed by Matt Barton to be a 1979 game (and I ain't about to argue with Matt Barton on these matters).  There's one more game that just might qualify though: Devil's Dungeon.

An appropriately used apostrophe in a game from the 1970s is a rarity to be cherished.

Devil's Dungeon was created by Dr. Charles William Engel, a maths professor from Florida, and was shown to be available in an ad dating from February 1978. At this point it was simply sold as a 15 page booklet with the BASIC code for the user to enter themselves, but it was available for sale. Whether a booklet of code counts as a commercially available game is up to the reader, I suppose, but as far as I'm concerned it was commercial, which strikes one requirement off the list. Whether it qualifies as a CRPG is another matter entirely.

(For a deeper exploration of this topic, head over to The Golden Age Arcade Historian, who really goes in hard on it.)

I tried to find an Apple II version with no luck, and have settled instead for playing it on a TSR-80 emulator. I'm actually not sure what platform it was originally intended for, or if Engel's code was even intended for a specific platform. Apple II and TRS-80 would be the most likely options in 1978, so I'm happy with either.

The game itself gives no backstory, but a preamble before the code in Simulating Simulations 2nd edition (a 1979 book featuring the code for a number of Engel's games) reads as follows: "For many years you have heard rumors of large quantities of gold hidden in a maze of caves whose connecting passageways lead deep beneath the earth of an occasionally active volcano. The stories tell of monsters and demons who roam through the caves, poisonous gas, tremors from the volcano, and one man who returned from these perils alive and named the caves The Devil's Dungeon. After much searching, you have located the wealthy, solitary man who survived a journey through the dungeon; and he has agreed to see you. Although now very old and in poor health, he tells you everything he can remember about the dungeon."  That's a classic 1970s Dungeons & Dragons setup right there: a big hole in the ground full of monsters and treasure. My goal is to get in, survive, and get out with as much loot as possible. It doesn't get much more basic than that.

The gameplay itself is also pretty basic. It's entirely text-based, and bears quite a few similarities to Treasure Hunt, which I covered not that long ago. If Treasure Hunt was the adventure game boiled down to its barest essentials, Devil's Dungeon is the same thing for the CRPG. Each move displays your current status, how deep you are underground, which room you are in, and which rooms the exits lead to. The bulk of the game is simply typing the number of the room you want to explore next, and trying to avoid or fight the various dangers of the caves. All of the command inputs are numbers, as shown on the screenshot below.

A starting character in Level 1, Room 1.

The dungeon is split into levels, and everything I've read indicates that you can keep descending infinitely. Every level has 16 rooms. You can explore them using the regular exits, or one-way slides that don't allow you to return the way you came. Mapping the levels is of limited utility, because there are tremors that happen periodically that rearrange the rooms. These tremors are frequent enough that I gave up on mapping very quickly, and if you can get me to stop mapping a game then it must be a truly futile effort. You can enter '88' to bring up a list of the caves you've visited and their exits, which is pretty handy.

Some rooms feature "drop-offs", which can be used to descend to the next level down. Once you go down you can't get back up again, but you can always escape the dungeon from Room 1 on any level (assuming you can find it). As in most games of this type, it gets more dangerous the deeper you descend, but also more rewarding.

There are monsters lurking around, and you can't claim the treasure in a room until the monster has been dealt with. Every monster is simply listed as "Monster", which is disappointing. The player and the monsters have Speed and Strength scores which dictate how effective they are in combat. Battle is not involved at all; you simply hit "0" to fight, and the game tells you if you killed the monster, if it lived, or if you died. The monsters scores are right there in the open, so it's usually pretty easy to tell if you're going to win or not. You can flee from any monster, but it has a chance based on your Speed to hit you as you escape.

Killing a "monster", type unknown.

The final dangers, and the most irritating, are Demons and Poisonous Gas. Each one has a chance to affect you in some way as you leave the room: Gas can drain you of half your Strength, while Demons can drain half your Speed, or steal some of your Gold. There's no way to avoid these dangers, and little you can do to stop them affecting you once you've encountered them. The majority of dungeon rooms feature one or both, so no matter how high your stats get there's always some chance they'll get drained back down very quickly.

The only option the player has against the game's hazards is the Magic Wand. In any room you can use it, and it will destroy every danger in the room as well as creating a drop-off to the next level. It works 60% of the time, but otherwise it backfires and drains both Speed and Strength by 50%. I tend only to use it when I absolutely have to. You can sometimes get into rooms with no exits, and that's when the wand is essential.

I escaped from a monster, got gassed, and walked right into a room with 
more gas and some Demons.

The majority of the game consists of moving from room to room, killing monsters for experience points, scooping up gold (which also gives you experience points), and hoping that the gas and the Demons don't get you too many times. The goal is to amass plenty of experience and gold, then find Room 1 on any level. Room 1 is where you can exchange experience for Speed and Strength. The game is a war of attrition, with monsters and hazards constantly draining you as you try to get enough loot to stay ahead. Even just moving around drains both stats, with each move taking an amount equal to your depth underground.

The best I managed (playing fairly) was to descend to Level 6, and escape the dungeon with a dozen gold pieces. Even when making maps and trying carefully to avoid the hazards I'd already encountered I found the game incredibly difficult. With no way to know when you're about to stumble into some Demons or gas, and no way to control whether they drain you or not, it's a tough nut to crack, and seems to be based almost entirely on luck.

See that note in parentheses above? The one that says "playing fairly"? I put it there because I completely broke this game. Whenever you're about to leave a room, you can enter the number of a room that's not adjacent to the one you're in. This takes you to a screen that displays the amount of gold you found in the room, and asks you to enter a valid exit. If you just keep hitting enter on that screen your character keeps on finding gold, over and over again for as long as you like. I used this to amass over 100,000 gold pieces, and jack my character's stats up to around 20,000 each.

I could have cranked those scores even higher, except that after a while I found myself unable to locate Room 1 on any level. Demon and gas encounters took their toll, as did simple movement, and I died on Level 22 when my Speed was reduced to zero.

Loaded down with "spondooly" as some of my older relatives might say.

In another game I used the above technique to garner a decent amount of gold on Level 1 (enough to raise my stats to about 3,000), then I dropped down a few levels until I found a room that would net me a decent amount of gold. (Rooms will tell you the maximum amount of gold you can earn from them, so it's easy to know whether a room is worth farming or not.) I quickly amassed over 100,000gp, but once again I found it really hard to find Room 1. I ended up descending to level 12, bouncing from one hazard to the next as my stats got lower and lower, until I eventually lucked onto an exit to Room 1 and escaped with my fortune.

I left the question of whether this game qualifies as a CRPG open at the start of this post, with the intention of returning to it later. It's certainly an attempt to recreate the play of Dungeons & Dragons, which was the goal of the vast majority of CRPGs of this era. Your character has statistics that determine your success, and can increase those statistics over time by earning experience points. There's a rudimentary magic system, and very basic combat. As far as I'm concerned it covers most of the bases that other early CRPGS cover, albeit in an extremely simplistic form. So yes, it's a CRPG. And yes, if Dr, Engel was selling those booklets it was definitely commercial. Unless another, earlier game is unearthed, it looks like Devil's Dungeon really was the first ever commercial CRPG.


Story & Setting: The story is the same old search for treasure in a monster-filled hole, and that hole is described in the most perfunctory way possible. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: There are no characters in this game, only Demons and other monsters. None of those monsters are individualised with names or types; the only variety here comes from their statistics. I guess that's all these games do when you get under the hood, but it's still disappointing. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: It's a text-based game with not even the barest attempt made to give the writing some character or atmosphere. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: It's a simple game that does everything it was designed to do, but there's nothing all that interesting going on. Throw in the game-breaking bug I discovered and I have to knock it down. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Challenge: Playing this game fairly I would have described it as too arbitrary and difficult. After discovering the money-making bug it's much easier, and far too easy if you have the patience for farming gold on Level 1. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: In terms of influence, I would have to say that Devil's Dungeon is negligible. It's barely mentioned on the internet, and these kinds of text-based CRPGs petered out pretty quickly. It's also not all that innovative, being mostly a slightly more complex variant on Hunt the Wumpus (imagine playing Wumpus without any warnings about where the dangers are, and you have an idea what Devil's Dungeon is like). It should get some points for being the earliest known commercial CRPG, though. Rating: 5 out of 7.

Fun: I'm sorry to say, but I derived very little enjoyment out of the couple of hours I put into this game. There's just not enough that the player can do to control their fate, and that's always a frustrating game experience. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Bonus point? Are you kidding me? The above scores total 13, which doubled gives a Final Rating of 26. Overall, that puts it even with a couple of Greg Hassett's adventure games, and above King Tut's Tomb, Treasure Hunt and Library. King Tut and Library were broken, and earned their place at the bottom. Treasure Hunt is a better game than Devil's Dungeon, but it's not as significant. (I'm starting to regret that Innovation and Influence category.) As for the CRPG chart, Devil's Dungeon is at the bottom, and that's where it belongs despite it's significance.


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.  For CRPGs I'm using a Combat category.  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.

Combat: There are no tactics in combat, beyond deciding whether to run away.  Once combat begins the game tells you whether you won or lost, and there's nothing you can do to influence the result.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 1.  There's an argument to be made that this is the first commercial CRPG, or at least the first one available for home computers. I wavered on this, but it probably deserves the point.

Devil's Dungeon gets a RADNESS Index of 19. That puts it dead last on the list, and it's probably primitive enough to deserve that rating.

NEXT: The next game on my list is something called The Dragon for the Commodore PET. I was notified about this by regular commenter Brian way back in 2017, but Google isn't showing any signs of its existence. The same goes for Quest, which is another one that he told me about. I'll table those for now, unless Brian can tell me if his leads on those games bore any fruit. That leaves me with Lords of Karma as my next game, a text adventure whose sole aim seems to be the doing of good deeds. I'll bet you anything that it involves killing things and collecting treasure.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mystery Mansion: Capitulation.

Alas, I am giving up on Mystery Mansion. I'm sure I could persevere with it, and eventually get a 999 point game, but to be honest I just want to move on. It stings a little, especially coming off of MUD1 which I also gave up on, but I need to keep moving. Persisting with games I'm not enjoying will be a sure-fire way to kill the blog dead.

When I left off last time, I had accomplished most of what I was capable of in the game.  Now my goal was to put it all together into a single run. Doing that took some planning, as there are certain tasks that need to be done before others. Below I've outlined the order that I tackled things.

Gathering Items: The first essential item is the lantern, which hangs from the mansion's front gate where the game begins. Second is the compass; dealing with relative directions is a real pain so I like to get this early. The third item I go for is the gauntlet to increase my carrying capacity, and then the door keys.

Killing the Vampire: Before going to release the Vampire, it's important to grab the cross from the chapel for protection. After opening the Vampire's coffin, it's a simple matter to lure him upstairs and open a curtain to let in the sunlight. I also tried killing him with a wooden wedge, but the game told me "you have not figured out how to do that yet".

Solving the Murder: To do this, you need to find and carry the murder weapon, then lure the murderer to the location of the dead body. I like to do this fairly early, because once the sun has set you can't access the garden, and if anything you need is in there you'll never solve the murder. The first thing I do here is listen to the radio in the Game Room; a news bulletin plays that tells you that the police are looking for the murderer, which reveals the murderer's identity. If I know where the corpse is, the next thing I do is examine it, which can give clues to the murder weapon. In my last game, the body was doubled over as though clutching its stomach, which indicates that the poison was the murder weapon. If I don't know the corpse's location, I'll just question people until they tell me. It doesn't usually take too long to get all three requirements in the same location, unless one of them happens to be in the garden (which I only go into as a last resort).

Once the murder has been solved, you just have to call the police using the phone in the Entrance Hall. They show up immediately and arrest the murderer.

The Mole Maze: Before you can hit up the Treasure Trek maze, you need the amulet from the Mole Maze. As mentioned in a previous post the mole changes the maze occasionally, but ever since I switched to Bob Sorem's port I've had no trouble navigating it using the map found here. Perhaps the changes aren't implemented properly in Sorem's port, or perhaps I've just been able to get through before the mole starts digging new tunnels.

Getting the Transmitter: If you enter the Bathroom and drop everything - including your clothes - you can go up into a secret lab where you'll find a matter transmitter and receiver. These are very handy for navigating the mansion, and as far as I can tell essential to escaping the Treasure Trek maze. While leaving the lab through the Large Bedroom, you can fix a crooked mirror, where some jewelry is hidden.

The Treasure Trek Maze: To get through this maze you need the compass, gauntlet, keys, and transmitter. First you have to unlock the door and get through before being crushed by a moving wall. After heading down to the Treasure Room, you need to quickly move through the maze to the two Troll Traps and the Den of Death. Doing this run nets you some pearls, an emerald, some pirate treasure, a ruby necklace, some diamonds and a silver goblet. With that done, it's a simple task to BEAM UP to the lab, then BEAM DOWN to wherever you stashed the matter receiver.

Finishing Up: With those tasks done, I collected the Vampire's Ring then went to the Front Entrance to phone for a taxi. As far as I can tell you can't do this until after 10pm. The mansion explodes at midnight, so I waited out front with my treasures. While I was waiting I killed the Warrior, because he's an irritating NPC who will attack you on a whim. After the mansion blew up, I simply headed south and got the following "victory" screen:

All through this you need to monitor your lantern power, and head to the twisty maze to get some batteries when it starts to wear off. I spent a good portion of the game with my lantern turned off, and it was still running out of power near the end.

There are also the various noises that happen once every hour, for which you need to type SCORE POINTS in order to get the full 999. I tried to remember them when they came up, but I'm sure I missed a good number.

In the end, I got 781, which I'm going to have to consider good enough. I scored 90 points for the items I was carrying, most of which were treasures. My inventory was full, so I don't think I could have earned much more here. Perhaps killing the werewolf would have done it; I can see in some walkthroughs that there is one, but I never did find it aside from getting killed in the dark by it one time. You can also kill the wolf in the garden, which I just figured out, by distracting it with food and shooting it. If those two don't account for the 200+ points I missed, I'm stumped. Perhaps there's something to do in the attic, which I accessed by standing on a chair in the closet and climbing through a door in the ceiling. I got up there and got down via the fire escape (which has to be oiled to use safely) but there didn't seem to be any point to doing so.

I also confirmed that you can sleep with the male characters, which gives you the same message as the female ones (so the game isn't assuming your gender or sexuality). You can't do it with the Vampire though, because you have to drop everything, and without the cross he drains your blood real quick. The Elf can't be lured inside, so he's not an option either.

And so, on 781 points, I bid farewell to Mystery Mansion. I could keep trying, but with such an obtuse game as this one I might end up banging my head against it for months with no progress to show for it. It's even worse with games of this vintage, because walkthroughs can be harder to come by. I found some, but none of them gave away everything.

Mostly though, my capitulation is the result of the fact that I just wasn't enjoying the game very much. I was intrigued by it at first, but after solving the mystery portion of it I just couldn't make any more progress. As I've said before, I just think the game is too obtuse for its own good. It's also very disjointed, with a mystery plot grafted onto a treasure hunt. Not that you'd know it, because Mystery Mansion does very little to let you know that the game even has treasures to collect. With just a little more guidance it could have been enjoyable.

Before I do a Final Rating, I present to you the Wall of Shame. These are all of the puzzles for which I sought outside help:

  1. Navigating the Mole Maze
  2. Finding the gauntlet
  3. Opening the Treasure Trek Maze with the amulet
  4. Finding the pearls
  5. Getting into the Laboratory
  6. Calling the taxi on the phone

Story & Setting: The setting of a mysterious old mansion is a classic one, but this game doesn't do anything new with it, and doesn't do anything to tie any of its disparate tropes together. Why is there a matter transporter upstairs? Why is Dracula in the basement? I don't know, and Mystery Mansion isn't about to tell me. As for the story it's one part murder mystery and one part Adventure-style treasure hunt. The mystery part, at least, is novel, so I'll mark it up slightly for that. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: There are a lot of characters roaming around in this game, all of whom can be interacted with. You can question them, you can shoot them dead, and you can even have sex with some of them. Unfortunately, most of these characters are interchangeable, and their main purpose is mostly to act as murder suspects. It's a step up from most of the adventure games of the era, though, where most of the characters are simply obstacles. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Aesthetics: It's a text adventure with pretty simple writing. The Bob Sorem port has some sound effects that play through the PC speaker occasionally, but those are more startling than pleasant. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: For all the frustrations I had with this game, it does things reasonably well. The parser is simple, but I didn't find myself searching for the right verb too often. The relative directions when inside are annoying, but I was impressed that the room descriptions change depending on which way you're facing. Rating: 4 out of 7.

Challenge: For the mystery portion of the game, I think the difficulty was pitched pretty well. It took me a little while to figure out, but with various hints and clues I was able to solve it within a reasonable time. The treasure hunt is absurdly hard though. There are so many actions that could only be figured out through trial and error, or very lucky guesses, and the game gives you no help. And then there's the changing mole maze, which is just cruel. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Innovation and Influence: I don't believe that this game was particularly influential; I've never heard of it, or seen it brought up by early game developers. But as possibly the first ever murder mystery adventure game I have to give it some props. Rating: 5 out of 7.

Fun: I briefly enjoyed this game during the mystery portion, and the mapping phase, but after that it very quickly lost its shine. I think the Mole Maze drained my enthusiasm, and it never came back. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Obviously, no bonus point for this game because I really don't want to play it again. The above scores total 18, which doubles for a Final Rating of 36. That places it 13th out of 27 games overall, and 8th out of 17 adventure games. That seems a little high, but it does earn some extra points for doing some things that I've yet to see before during the course of this blog. It has more ambition than most of the games below it, which has to count for something.


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.  For CRPGs I'm using a Combat category.  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: Obtuseness is a frequent quality of adventure games around this time, and Mystery Mansion has plenty of it.  Solving the murder is enjoyable, but the treasure hunt aspects of the game are far too obscure for my liking. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 1. This is the first adventure game in the blog in which you have to solve a murder mystery, which is a level of sophistication above the treasure hunts that have dominated the rest of the genre.

Mystery Mansion gets a RADNESS Index of 31. This puts it equal 12th, along with The Game of Dungeons v8 and Colossal Cave Adventure II, both games with a solid base and glaring problems.  For adventure games it's equal 7th out of seventeen.

NEXT: My next game is Devil's Dungeon, a text-based Apple II RPG that promises an infinitely deep dungeon. Whoopee, just what I was asking for!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Mystery Mansion: Getting Some Booty

Before I get started, I should note that I've given up on Terry Newton's "practically exact" port of Mystery Mansion. The lack of a save feature became much too frustrating, so I switched over to a C port made by Bob Sorem (which can be found here). It's not exactly authentic, but I was never going to get anywhere in this game without saves. Plus, both ports look and feel the same in play, which I feel says something for the authenticity of both.

My plan at the end of the last post was to explore the tunnels underneath the Front Porch, where I had been previously savaged by a werewolf. This turned out to be a bust; after falling through the Porch (with a light on this time) I found that I was in the basement's Furnace Room, which I had previously explored. There were no werewolves in sight, and now I'm wondering if I might have imagined getting killed by one in the first place.

Since I was down there, I decided to have a closer look at the Cold Corridor, which is accessed through a Secret Room. When you enter the Cold Corridor, a wall move towards you and will crush you if you hang around too long. I hadn't had a proper look here yet, but closer inspection revealed a door to the north. I was able to unlock it and get through, but the closing wall left me trapped in the room beyond. The trick to getting in lay in the fact that the crushing wall retreats when you go back into the Secret Room. I jumped into the Cold Corridor, unlocked and opened the door, and went back to the Secret Room. After the wall retreated, I was able to zip back through the door and down a ladder, where I found the Tricky Treasury.

The Treasury contained some pirate's treasure, and there was also a cavity in the wall. I wasn't able to figure this out yet (but more on it later). I had one more avenue to explore: the Mole Maze.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in my previous posts, but if you head down from the Storage Room in the basement there is a maze of tunnels that's been dug out by a mole. I had an absolute bastard of a time trying to map this thing out, using the tried-and-true method of leaving inventory items scattered about in each area. It didn't help here, because while I was about halfway through the maze changed. Not only did a mole dig out these tunnels, but he's still around, and will happily dig out new ones just to mess with you. I killed him with a sword, just to see if I could, but I'm not sure if this murder solved the problem or not. In the end I caved, and copied the map made by Jason Dyer of Using this I was able to penetrate the maze to the Mole's Vault, where I found an amulet. I was also able to find my way back before the mole changed everything, and I chose that as a very good time to save my game. Hopefully I can start all of my games from this point from now on, and never have to deal with this maze again.

Jason Dyer's Mole Maze Map

Having broken the seal, I read a few more spoilers from Jason's page in an attempt to speed up my completion of the game. The first thing I discovered was the purpose of the cavity in the Treasure Room: if you put the amulet in it and turn it, it opens a secret stairwell. As far as I can tell, there is basically nothing in the game that would signal this as a possibility, so I feel okay about this cheat.

The stairwell led down into another maze, the Treasure Trek. I had a lot more success mapping this one out by dropping items, except for one problem: the maze is slowly filling with water, and it's a race against time to get through to all of the treasures. I was able to map it out through trial and error, and I'm pretty sure that I found everything.

There were two tunnels that were flooded no matter how quickly I raced through the maze. The Troll Traps both featured a sleeping troll, and numerous items scattered around. I've marked those on the map that can be taken safely. If you try to take anything else, the troll wakes up and bludgeons you to death.

As for the Den of Death, I wasn't able to find the pearls on my own. The room is filled with nothing but boulders and skeletons, and the first time I entered I couldn't find anything to do here. I didn't even register that the boulders could be interacted with. Looking at a walkthrough on, I discovered that you could try to move the boulders multiple times, with a bag of pearls eventually being revealed.

Before the boulders could be moved, though, I needed the Gauntlet of Gargantuan Girth. This could apparently be found in the kitchen, by moving a wooden figure of a king. When I went back to the kitchen, there was no chess board mentioned. There were some tables though, and to see the king you need to LOOK AT TABLES. Move it, and the gauntlet will be revealed. (There's also a queen figure, but moving that gets you shot by a row of wooden indians.) Not only does the gauntlet let you move boulders, but it also increases your carrying capacity, so it's real handy.

I guess those wooden indians were distracting me?

It's become very apparent that success at this game requires a very careful study of the room descriptions. I'm all for this in general, but if something is just sitting on a table I feel like it should be mentioned. I guess there's a case to be made that the gauntlet is an optional item, and doesn't need to be located to beat the game, but I don't think it's playing fair to obscure things that should be readily observable by the protagonist.

So I had located all of the treasures of the maze, but I had one small problem: how would I get back out? I was able to navigate back to the Tricky Treasury, but every time I tried to leave I found the path back to the basement blocked by the crushing wall. So, once again with shame, I consulted a walkthrough for the answer.

It turns out that there's a door leading up from the Batty Bathroom. I'd noticed it before, but every time I tried to enter I was told that I "could not quite get through the small door". At first I figured that I needed a stepladder or something, or perhaps a means of making myself smaller. Later on I tried dropping all of my stuff, but that didn't work either. Well, this game has yet another surprise: you can drop your clothes, even though they're not mentioned in your inventory. With that done I was able to squeeze through the door into a mad scientist's laboratory. There I found a matter transmitter and a matter receiver, which could be used to teleport.

What was I wearing, an inflatable fat suit?

Of course, I had no idea how, and none of the commands I tried worked. Perhaps I would have had more success if I'd put myself into the mindset of a late-1970s college student, because the commands BEAM UP and BEAM DOWN were the magic words. BEAM UP serves to teleport you to the lab, and BEAM DOWN will take you to wherever the receiver is set down. Again, I doubt I ever would have tried these.

Armed with the above items, I feel like I can make a run at finishing the game with a good score, but before trying that there's one more thing you can do in this game that I noticed while skimming the walkthrough.

Bad grammar in that first sentence makes it sound like I'm pulling myself into bed.

This one takes some doing. First, you have to take a shower. Then you have to get the maid into a locked room where there are no other characters, and you also have to drop all of your gear and get undressed. She doesn't like doing it with the lights on either, so you have to close the curtains before the above raunchy sequence can occur.  You can also sleep with the Lady, using the same tactics. None of this is hinted at in the game, but since it doesn't score you any points I guess that doesn't matter. I'm not sure what other characters you can sleep with, because I'm a whitebread hetero dude and I only tried it on with the ladies. I might at least have a crack at the vampire to see what happens though.

Also, while we're on the topic of sex...

No word on whether it's pining for the fjords.

It's funny with pretty much every other inventory item in the game as well.

That's enough for this week. As you might have gathered by my frequent resorting to walkthroughs, I've kind of had a gut-full of this game. I suppose that it's not so difficult to figure out how to solve the main plot - the murder mystery - but everything else you can do is ridiculously obtuse. My current plan is to cheat like mad, and knock this game off in one more post. I'll be happy to see the back of it.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Mystery Mansion: A Quick Bit of Gardening

I haven't played much Mystery Mansion in the last fortnight, but in the interests of keeping a regular schedule I just did a quick bit of exploring so that I can at least post something. It's not going to be all that substantial, but it's all I got.

The area that I explored was the Gargoyle Garden, which can be found at the back of the mansion, and accessed either through the Back Gate, or by going out the back door of the mansion from the Library.

A map of the Gargoyle Garden

I mapped the place out, and it is pleasantly skull-shaped. I didn't find anything of particular use here, but what I did find were a number of ways to die.

The most prominent of these is the wolf. There are two areas in the garden which are described as "meadows", and it will always be noted that you can see something moving about in the grass. Enter either of those meadows, and you'll be eaten instantly. Perhaps there's a way to kill these wolves, but I haven't tried anything yet. I suspect it's not necessary.

There are also three Witching Wells, and you can climb down them. Two of them are too slippery to climb back out of, and I never figured out how to escape once I was down there. The other one has hand-holds and can be climbed out of, but all I found down there was a note that had the same message I've seen elsewhere (a reminder that you can type the first letter of a direction instead of typing GO NORTH). I tried to make a wish, but the game doesn't recognise WISH, so alas that idea was a bust.

There are two ponds that you can enter, but the sides are too steep to get back out again. Luckily, each of the bridges has a magic word written on it, something along the lines of WOMIX or WIMOH (they change with every game). If you type in these words you'll be teleported to the Dense Woods, which is the only way of escaping.

There are two Foul Fountains, but they've both dried up. It's possible that something can be done here, but the parser doesn't recognise FOUNTAIN, so I think these are just for decoration.

There are two characters wandering around the garden, a Gardener and an Elf. The Gardener is much like the other NPCs in the game, and you can question him for clues about the murder. The Elf is more irritating. He sneers at your questions, and has a habit of kicking you in the shins or stealing something from your inventory. I haven't tried to kill him yet, but it's very tempting. (Actually, I'm not sure if you can kill the NPCs. I've been attacked and wounded by the Warrior, and I've fought the Dwarf in the maze a few times, but all I was ever able to do was drive him away. The combat system remains a mystery to me.)

There's a note near the Veranda that says that the Garden closes at sunset, so I'm pretty sure there's a time limit for getting things done here. I honestly don't know if its necessary to explore the garden, unless the murder victim and/or the murder weapon are placed there.

Next time around I'll explore the area under the front porch, and try to get rid of the werewolf that's under there. After that, it'll be time to start figuring out some puzzles and putting together a run where I can get all of the points (if possible).


I just killed the Vampire! I was right in my last post, all you need to do is lure him from the Crypt in the basement up to a room on the ground floor, then open the curtains.