RETURN TO ZORK

    The adventure game genre has all but faded away, thanks to all the gamers who grew tired of finding items and finding places to use said items, and instead began playing games where you find items, and then find places to use said items, while blasting a dozen zombies with a shotgun en route. A text-based adventure series by the name of Zork was apparently a popular series back in the day. I say apparently because it must have experienced enough success to merit the three sequels and numerous spinoffs that spawned from it. Hell, I never even played any of them. So, what happens when an adventure series stops being text-based and starts being real? Awkwardness!

You picked a bad day to swipe the contents of someone else's mailbox.


    This transition to a graphical interface has been brutally made tangible through an intro movie. You are standing by a white house, according to the movie. Suddenly, there's a white house. You become disappointed that it isn't THE white house. This one is all boarded up and suicidally depressed after failing a fire inspection. Apparently, it's not your house. But that doesn't stop the intro from making your decisions for you, so you go southwest, then northwest, and then you open someone else's mailbox. And what's inside the mailbox, you ask? Why, there's one of those "Have you seen me?" cards, a used mail bomb, and a crystal ball. And who is in this crystal ball? Someone. And as you open the mailbox, he says, "Ah, the sweepstakes winner! I've been looking forward to- (around this time he has noticably increased the pace of his speech, and has already looked to the side in preparation to say...) no! NO! HEEELLLLLLLLLL!!!" And suddenly you are flung through a PhotoMorph animation and now you find yourself flying over a VistaPro landscape. You are knee deep in the opening credits, and in the game's grasp. That's all the intro you're going to get, and it doesn't quite give you enough background to work with. The manual is the same, with no story page, just a page that, in summary, says "Congratulations! You've won the sweepstakes! Come enjoy our mediocre tourism establishment."

    After that's all over with, an annoying vulture perches itself on a sign in front of you and your crystal ball, which turns out to be a conveniently one-way communication device, is now filled with someone. This time, it's a wizard. He says, "Hey! I've been talking a long time! I sense movement! I need a new battery! Can you hear me? A new battery!" It is a particularly odd and confusing way to start the game, especially when you can't tell whether the wizard is talking to you through the ball, or if he actually is the ball. Well, now that is all over with, we can attempt to learn more about the interface.You control a floating disembodied hand with your mouse. If you hold it over a location you can go to, it becomes an arrow. If you hold it over something you can manipulate, its name will be displayed. Right-clicking the mouse will bring up your inventory, which holds all the items you've collected. There are a lot of items in this game, and the inventory window expands to accommodate them. This means that you can hold a large shield, a walking stick, a box of rats, a sword, a mining helmet, a bow and arrows, and two dozen other unique units of junk without being encumbered by your lust for more posessions. It's all in how you pack. Whenever you manipulate anything, it gives you choices of how you want to use it. These usually involve examining the object and/or a series of context-sensitive actions. However, it just doesn't seem context-sensitive enough. For instance, you can throw any item at anything. It's absolutely pointless to throw a box of matches at the Mayor, so why give us the option? In most cases where you throw anything, it just drops to the ground with a funny noise. When anything is dropped, it sort of collects in the corner. There are also some cases in which several options appear for a single item-to-object interaction. While this appears to give the game more depth by giving you more freedom of choice, it may A) Frustrate the player indefinitely underneath a mountain of actions, B) Kill the player instantaneously, or far worse, C) Put the game into a situation where it is impossible to win. I'll elaborate. There are three laws that apparently only this game followed at this time. 1) Don't kill anyone. 2) Don't open other people's mail. 3) Don't take stuff without the permission of their owners. This game fails to properly tell you about these laws and if you break one, a cowboy comes by and takes all your items, leaving you to load in your shame. Of particular frustration is the third law. This game makes that one law completely ambiguous by both ignoring it at points of the game where you're obviously taking things from people who own them, and focusing on objects that aren't very clear that they are owned by anyone. There is a box of bras sitting on the lawn of the ranch. Pick it up and it's cowboy time. How the hell are you supposed to know that it's not trash? This game also features some dead-end puzzles which I will get into later.

    There are also five items that are different from the rest. These items are stapled to your inventory, and are basically information-gathering tools.

Map- It's one of those magical things where you get a blank map and you go places and these locations suddenly pop up on the map. You can also teleport to places on the map after you've fulfilled the goofy teleportation requirement that will be discussed later.

Camera- This game allows you to make snapshots of locations and things in all their black and white glory, so you can show them to people and that will make them say stuff. A picture is worth 10,000 words, but none of them are really required to finish the game. The only picture you may end up taking is one of a cow.

Photo book- This lets you look at the picture of the cow you took. There's also a pair of negatives here, which don't help much.

Tape Recorder- This is the reason why you don't use the camera much. Every time you listen to someone talk, it gets recorded into the tape recorder. You can play recordings to people and they react just like you showed them a picture of that person. Sometimes, strangely, the recording is different from the actual speech. Used primarily for information gathering, but only important for collecting bad jokes and a barking dog.

Notebook- As you progress through the game, you'll recieve messages from people that may go into the notebook. When combined, these notes will give the illusion that the game has some sort of plot. You have to get this from the teacher, who will give you a pop quiz in exchange for it. There's only one question in the quiz, and it's "What is the nth day of the week?". Bear in mind that it refers to the crappy pun week. Copy protection. Preventing piracy by putting vital information in the manual that can be easily reproduced on a cocktail napkin.

  
 Now that the interface is explained, we can start doing things to stuff. For starters, let's pick up that rock, being extremely careful not to kick it. Now, let's do something about that vulture. If we go after that plant at the foot of the sign it's perched on, it will wound us, but apparently not serious enough to end the game. So, let's chuck a rock at it. Whoo. Now it flew above us, which is not really the direction of choice for an animal to go in after being nailed with a rock. Time to get that plant. You have to take out the knife and dig it up, not cut or pull it, when removing it from the earth. Otherwise, it will die. Why you need the plant alive is never truly explained very well, nor was there a reason why we specificallly needed a knife to dig it up. However, if you do pick it up dead, you get to lug around a dead plant throughout the game. About 1/2 to 3/4 through the game, you find a place that won't let you in unless you have a live plant. Crap. Now you have to start the whole game over again. If this were your second pass through the game, you would probably know that there is way to get a new plant, but that would require eating your dead plant (yes, eating it) and warping back to the starting point. Yes, you can teleport to places you've been to, but the method to do this is hopelessly obscure and you wouldn't think about it in your first pass through the game. I admit that I have fallen into this trap the game had set, and I definitely know that I am not alone. So, now you have a plant. Now this place has outlived its usefulness and we can move on.


    A single click from the mountain pass takes us straight to... yes... you guessed it... a lighthouse. By a river. Apparently, freighters coming down the river depend on the lighthouse to prevent them from running aground or to help them avoid hazardous shoals or reefs that may damage their hulls. When you get closer to the lighthouse, the wizard pops up again and tells you to "Ask that old fool how the road to the south is," as if it were his job to make house calls for the landscape. Nothing prevents you from going in the lighthouse, except for the short cutscene with the nutty lonely lighthouse keeper at the door. Note that, in this game, the acting is predominantly awful. However, for some reason, I can believe the keeper. Imagine being stuck in this game, trapped in the middle of nowhere, away from any social contact with the other characters, and running really short on provisions. Of course you'd become a little screwy. But now you get to experience the game's awkward conversation system. Instead of asking questions and things like that, the other guy will just talk away, and there are buttons with different faces on them. When you click on one, he will continue talking after he finishes saying what he is saying now. However, what he says next doesn't seem to match the kind of face you make. If you make a "bored" face to the keeper, he will just keep on talking about stuff that does not have anything to do with your boredom or boredom in general. The end result is an awkward and lengthy speech in which he changes the subject several times. However, you can show him your inventory, map, and photos, as well as play stuff from your recorder, which is a hell of a lot more efficient than the strange conversation system that starts automatically when you talk to him. And talking is pretty much everything you can do here, so now we leave. On exiting the lighthouse, the wizard begins to tell a bad joke as his battery benevolently martyrs itself for the good of all, successfully cutting his joke short. The funny thing is, if you don't go in the lighthouse at all, his battery will never die out.

    Near the lighthouse is the road to the south. The keeper, in one form and another, said "The road to the south is impassible. Absolutely impossible to pass. Impassible." Let's test that theory. We now go to the road south, then through it, and then we promptly die without any good explanation. You will know when you die because the screen dissolves to black from the bottom up and then you hear someone go, "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" and suddenly you're at your own wake. So, what to do? Screw the road. Let's go around the lighthouse and see how thin the river is. Here are some boards and vines, which we can manipulate because their names that pop up tell us so. Now, think. What would MacGuyver do? Make some big-ass nunchakus! Now we get to take out the knife again and cut out the vines (you can't do anything with them any other way) and tie them to the boards. Dammit, the game thought we were going to make a raft. Oh, well. Getting on your crappy raft shows a movie of the ride down the raft and the jumping onto a bridge over the river. Perhaps 'jumping' isn't the best term for it. It's more like leaning back like a limbo champion, then hovering upward, and then rotating onto the bridge. Now you're in town. Hooray? No.

The funny thing is, there's nothing really destructive in this game. You've got vultures and things that eat you in dark rooms, and evil magic takes a really subtle presence. So, what blew this place up? Plastique?


    The keeper said that half the town had vanished, as well as half the bridge. Therefore, if you turn around and try to cross the bridge, you will die, because the game assumes that you never look where you are going. So, what's in this depressing town? There's a town hall, a gift shop, a hardware store, a school, and a mill. Whoo. Inside the town hall is a mayor that is way too excited for the depressing and barren locale that he's stewing in. The only thing of any use here is a filing cabinet full of information. These provide subtle clues for some of the puzzles but don't help to explain why you're here and what exactly you're supposed to do. On to the gift shop. Oh, wait, that's locked. Moving on to the hardware store, or what's left of it. Nothing in the game explains it, but it looks like the hardware store took an RPG to the rear and now you have a nice view of the mountains as a result. So, what have we here? A box (yoink!), a crank (yoink!), and some mice (yoink!). That's about it for here. Upon leaving the ruined store, the message, "Rodent Warning: Danger ahead" will grace the screen. A very ambiguous message, which to most people, will translate to "Oh, cool, the mice I just picked up can see into the future! Sweet." So, next is the school. The door is locked, and knocking is futile. There is a bell here, and if you hit it with the knife (It's better than knocking, I guess), you can go in. Upon entering the school, you will see a teacher right in front of you. Then everything will dissolve to black from the bottom up. Then the teacher will pop back in the darkness for a brief instant. Then someone goes, "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" OH MY GOD THE MICE WERE RIGHT THE TEACHER IS EVIL AND SHE KILLED ME WITH HER TEACHING STICK AAAHHHH!!! Turns out the mice are all diseased and everything so they killed you as you went in the school. However, you can put the mice into that giant box and they won't kill you because a box is in the way. Now, with no mice involved, the teacher will give you a pop quiz for no reason. As mentioned earlier, she asks what day of the week it is. Don't copy that floppy. After that, you immediately graduate and she gives you a notebook to fill with useless information. Now, time for the mill. Inside the mill is everyone's favorite spacewastrel, Boos! He questions not your presence, and gives you free booze as you enter the mill. One drink and the screen will pan right into itself, then down into darkness, which, apparently, simulates inebriation. You'll also be teleported outside where there is a key to the gift shop and you can also get the mill's water wheel started, for seemingly no reason. Now you can get into the gift shop, where you can get a battery and swipe the contents of the cash register, all of which are rightfully yours according to the manual. Now back to the mill. Boos gives you some more rye. You can pour it out in the plant, and it won't register at all within his uninterrupted vigil. You need to toast with him a few times, and each time you get a new glass of rye, and toss it in the plant, before drinking from the empty glass. Then he drinks. This is a secret plot to get him to drink more booze. Before the fourth one, and only before the fourth one, you need to ask for his keys. Then you toast a fourth time, and he collapses on the floor. Yay, we harmed him! Incidentally, the removal of his fat ass from the chair plus the activation of the water wheel somehow make a trap door open in the floor. Down the ladder you go, where you find a door. Using the keys you just got, you open the door and find another mill, identical to the one you were in. When you leave the mill, you find that you're in a large and exteremely well-lit underground supercavern, as well as the other half of the town.

For a game that is supposed to maintain fair ethics, it seems weird that the goal of one puzzle is to make someone fall into a booze coma.


    This raises several questions that are never answered: why was Boos hiding all of this under his mill? How come the people living in the lost half of the town have built a new mill around a ladder leading to the surface and they didn't bother to investigate its presence? How come you can't see any structure containing the ladder from the outside? Where is all that light coming from? Why the hell are you here?

    You may also be wondering why I have jumped straight into walking you through the game. I'm not giving you a complete walkthrough of this thing, simply because it would take way too long and you wouldn't want to read it. I have simply written down in detail everything that occurs in the game up to this point, all to illustrate a point. I wanted you to see, without playing the game itself, that the game is filled with ambiguity and illogical puzzles. By illogical, I mean that the authors of this game were apparently stoned off their asses while they were making this game, and so instead of solving something logical, we're forced to work with whatever the hell they were thinking of at the time, leaving no clear method of how to achieve progress. By ambiguity, I mean that they forget to completely fill you in on what they were thinking about, giving you an even smaller sense of what you're supposed to do. What it all boils down to is that you run around randomly using items on other items that you find because you can't find any logical connection between what you pick up and what blocks your path. Now that you're in a huge underground cavern, you have one huge area to run around blindfolded in. Call me a conspiracy nut if you will, but I figure that they made and left the game in such a sorry state just to sell hint books. Before the days where you could waste $30, consult gamefaqs.com, and beat a game in an hour, adventure games like this had their own hint books sold at software retail stores. Inside a hint book is basically the solution to every puzzle. I am embarrassed to say it, but I myself was forced to buy one of those hint books for this game. The pain of recieving no stimuli whatsoever from this game was simply too much to bear. Instead of feeling any sort of relief from reading the hint book, however, the solutions to the puzzles simply disgusted me.

    For instance, in the other half of the town, there is an inn, an armory, a general store, a blacksmith, and, get this: a large, building-sized outdoor incinerator. The incinerator has two levers that open the disposal orifice and the refuse drawer. Having both of them open will make the incinerator explode and kill you. However, you can have hours of fun chucking items into the incinerator, then opening the drawer and staring into the ashes. Of course, doing this would make the game impossible to win. Therefore, you are discouraged from performing trial and error to see what would happen if you chuck different items in the incinerator. There is something specific you need to chuck into the furnace, and if you're a man guy dude, odds are you'd never think of it. Remember the box of bras mentioned earlier? The one where if you pick it up without getting permission to take them (by going to the ranch owner and apologizing for talking to him), you'd have all your items confiscated by a cowboy? Chuck that into the fire, and when you look at the remains, you'll see a wire had survived. You can then dump water on it and put it to immediate use as a lockpick to get into the general store. Of course, you won't get cowboy'd when you take anything from the store because they put up a notice on the door that says, "If you can get in you can have it!" which doesn't seem like a rational thing for a shopkeeper to announce.

    In the armory lives a man named Moodock who speaks in an accent that defies classification. I honestly can't tell where exactly he's supposed to be from, but I believe that it is in proximity to Europe. Because there is absolutely nothing else in there (Moodock is completely dry in the field of information gathering), he forces you to play a game of Survivor. Survivor is a pointless board game played on a 4x4 grid board that you can play with an equally terminally bored friend. Players control tiny stone versions of Trembyle, the old wizard person who keeps chiming in on your ball, and Canuk, who is some other magician person. The person who controls Canuk gets to move anywhere he wants on the board, while the person with Trembyle moves around like a chess knight, leaving a gaping hole in the spaces that he leaves. The object is to prevent the other person from being able to move in the next turn. However, there is a serious flaw in the game design here. Say there was no Canuk piece, and Trembyle had to move around the board by himself. He would eventually get to several points in which he had one possible move, and those moves would naturally be blocked if Canuk was present. For Trembyle to win, you would need to have it so that both players are occupying the only two spaces left, and there is no chance in hell that will happen when Trembyle has so few choices. When you play against Moodock, he plays with the Trembyle piece. To prove my point, I never blocked him with my Canuk piece, and he lost anyway. When you inevitably beat him, he gives you the-rusty-but-nonetheless-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe, and a coin. Whoo.

Beating Moodock is easy. Just keep moving to random pieces until he traps himself.


    Now, Moodock tells you to take the-rusty-but-nonetheless-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe to the blacksmith to de-rustify it, so most people don't bother to look at it before giving it to the blacksmith. "Come back later," the blacksmith says. So you do. And he gives you a sword. But it's not the same sword as the-rusty-but-nonetheless-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe you dropped off earlier. If you looked at the sword before you turned it in, you would notice a jewel was missing. You could also notice that something is amiss when it breaks when you hit something with it, although you may not know exactly what it is at first. Then you go back and show it to the blacksmith, then make the "threaten" face, and, depending on how sadistic the game is feeling today, will either give you the greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe or he will give you a letter that you must give to the person he sold the-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe to so you can get back the-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe. Now you can hit things with it. Later in the game, you will come across a temple. Inside is some woman who you can chuck the-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe at. When you do so, she will bless it. Now it's the-blessed-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe. Since you've had it blessed, the-blessed-greatest-sword-in-this-fictional-universe will glow blue in the presence of trolls. You know what? Let's just call the damn thing "Sting" from now on.

    There are several parts of this game where you enter a dark area, like a cave, or maybe you just turned off the lights in the inn. Whenever you're in a dark place, it says, "Just the way grues like it." and then five seconds later, you die. Nowhere is it explained what the hell a grue is, why they kill you so quickly in a dark room, or even why they allow hotels to sell you rooms that are home to possibly thousands of these things that wait for the chance to be in the same room as you without any pesky photons in the way, and when you flip off the switch they're all over you like ants on a donut, and when room service comes in the following afternoon, they find your bleached skeleton sitting on the bed in an embarrassing panicked position. There's even one section of the forest maze that is absolutely no different from the others, except that it is somehow pitch black when you step into it, and unless you light a match in 5 seconds, you become a meal for the unexplained. I think they should have taken 5 minutes out of their lives to explain what the hell is going on and how we're supposed to prevent it.

    In the game, there is a farm with a house next to it. You can go to the house but the front door is unlocked. However, you can jump through the window. Go ahead, the cowboy doesn't seem to care for some reason. You can rummage around, yoinking objects into your inventory at will, and then you go into the bathroom to look at the lady inside (brushing her teeth, unfortunately). The lady will proceed to knock you unconscious with pure fisticuffs. When you come to, you will find yourself held at gunpoint by the lady and her shotgun, which appears to have been crafted by Little Debbie. She will then threaten you to, yes, you guessed it, name a day of the week as outlined in the manual's copy protection portion. Once you have proven that you own the game, you immediately earn her trust and are granted the privilege to swipe everything of value from the house and leave.

That's quite a delicious piece you're pointing at me, ma'am.


    Lateish in the game, you can get the ability to teleport to anyhwere you've been before. The method of doing so is rather obscure. What you do is you take the whistle from the general store, and pry the magnet off of the knocker to the door of the island hut. You need to take the magnet in your inventory, and use it on the whistle. The actions window will pop up, and you select the one to blow the whistle. Mind you, the blow whistle action pops up regardless of the magnet's existence. When you blow on the whistle, a vulture will fly right over your scalp. Then your magnet will attach to the vulture. Suddenly, you have the ability to teleport anywhere you want. Apparently, what happens is that in the moment the vulture's magnet-hungry talons grip onto your magnet, mind-control spores spring forth from the magnet and into the vulture's brain. This will allow you to control the vulture's movements, making him haul your heavy substance wherever you please. He'll even fly through solid ground if you want to go somewhere on the surface while you're underground, and vice versa.

    Now, nobody tells you what you're supposed to be doing, but all that you will know is that you're supposed to collect 6 shards of a giant frisbee, and put them back together. In fact, you can ask several people about what you do in this game and they'll tell you that you assemble a giant frisbee. The major puzzle chunks of this game all end in getting a piece, and these chunks will be summarized here:

1) Underneath the half-a-bridge of the above-ground half-a-town, there is a homeless kid. If you give him the tickets to the amusement park that probably does not exist given your environment, he will reward you with a giant something wad. The name of it is "Waif's gift" and it could be anything. It looks more like his collection of tinfoil than anything else. Turns out, it's an incredibly dirty shard of the frisbee. After you wash it (there must be like a 2-inch layer of dust on it because it in no way resembles the shard), you'll get the piece added to your collection.

2) Somewhere in the forest maze is a statue of a wild boar. Now, the wild boar is the subject of a joke that is apparently so hilarious beyond all opinion, that they refuse to let you hear it so you won't have an opinion. Now, if for some reason, you decide to hit the statue, it will fracture. You can keep hitting it, and the crack will enlarge. You will need to hit it with Sting, however, the cut it open wide enough that you can reach in and pull out a chunk of the frisbee. Evidently, no clues are given as to what you had to do to the statue or even if there was anything in it.

3) Just lying on the ground somewhere is a bunch of tiles. Turn around, and you find a frame. Put the tiles in the frame and you get a sliding puzzle. Each tile on the puzzle has two words in different fonts. The premise is simple. You arrange the 11 tiles to form two sentences, and when completed, the 12th tile will appear. However, they fail to tell you that 1) The 12th tile contains words that are part of the sentence, 2) The sentence in the small font is written in broken english, and 3) In the sentence in large font, there is no word on the first panel and two words on the 12th. I've seen lots of sliding tile puzzles, and they are challenging enough without the ambiguity of the solution. Suffice it to say, I used the hint book on this one. If you manage to figure out the combination of words that they want you to use in a sentence, two glowing rocks and a frisbee shard will appear where you picked up the puzzle stuff.

Here is the solution to the engrish/I didn't know the last tile had two words on it puzzle.


4) Near the farm is a large cliff, called the Cliffs of Depression. You take the rope that protects you from falling down the cliff and tie it to a tree so you can go down the cliff. At the base of the cliff, just above the ocean, there's a cave in the wall. Now, guess what's in the cave. Go on, guess. I dare you. Those who played the game, don't give it away. Do you think you got it? Give up? It's a comedy club. I'm serious. They built a comedy club in a location that requires you to rappel down a large rock wall and jump into a cave so you can watch the man with the crappy camel jokes open for the other three comics, who similarly suck. However, they just won't let anyone wearing cleats and a harness into their seedy establishment. To get in, you need, you guessed it, a live plant. There's a reason for this, and it's not a good one: if you stay here too long, your plant dies, and that evidently means something. As stated before, you may arrive with a dead plant and then feel the need to restart the game from scratch. Anyways, inside the club is a microphone and an audience. It is suddenly your job to make them laugh. What you need to have done by now is show a book to everyone you meet so that the ones who can read it can tap into its arsenal of decidedly the lamest jokes ever concieved. You automatically record them onto your recorder, and you can play them into the microphone. Since the creators of this game are easily wowed by their own material, the bad jokes will make the audience laugh. If you play four of them, the owner of the club gives you a chunk of the frisbee. Now you get to climb back up the cliff.

What, did you think I was kidding? Here's the textbook definition of "goofy", 'splayed here for all to see.


5) This one's a long one. Inside the general store is a bunch of rats. Because we're collecting rodents, we put the rats in the box. Whoops, the psychic mice killed the rats. OK, pretend we never picked up the mice. Now we have a box of rats. Let's go to the boat rental place, which is hidden just south of the bridge. Show the person there a picture of a woman and he will give you a letter. Now, pay for a boat and you get to stare at the motor. It looks vaguely like a hamster wheel. So, we put the rats in it. Hooray, now we get to go all the way to a swamp treehouse. And the rats turned to stone. In the treehouse is a witch. Give the witch the letter and she will leave you alone in her house with nothing but permission to take her walking stick. There's also a cage of bats that you can't take because the whole permission deal applies here. To get back to town, you need to traverse a maze of septic matter. You use the stick on the sewage mound in front of you to test how sturdy it is, and if it goes through, then you can tell that you will die immediately if you go forward. This maze is randomized every time you enter it, the music is depressing, and you can't see the "walls" of the maze unless you stab the feces in front of you with a stick. In short, this maze is painful and there is no quick way to end it. However, you can bypass it entirely if you knew how to warp, but much of the point of coming here is to gather elements of the puzzle needed to get to elements of figuring out how to warp. You don't really need these elements from the swamp to get there, but they have other uses, so you have to come here anyways. That just makes the bog that much more annoying. If you get through it all, you have to get in a boat and go back there. Now, if you show the witch a picture of a cow, for some odd reason, she will give you permission to take the bats. And then you have to go back through another random bog. Now for those bats. Agh, the bats. There is no clear indication of how and where you use them. There is a second forest maze called the Whispering Woods. If you wander around inside the woods, you begin losing your sight and then you eventually go blind and then you get eaten by grues. However, if you drink milk, you won't go blind. You could easily find your way through the maze if you drink milk, but what you're supposed to do is release the bats at the beginning of the maze, and they'll find their way through the woods, leaving behind a trail of phosphorescent diahrrea. If you stand still in the woods, you'll hear someone say "Three rings begin, two rings return" which refers the bell at the lake at the end of the maze. If you ring the bell three times, a skeletal ferryman will come by to give you a ride if you show him the coin Moodock gave you. The ferry will drop you off at an island in the lake. If you want to go back, you can instinctively hit the bell repeatedly, making the whispering of the woods rather useless. On the island is a hut. This is the hut with the magnet for a knocker. You go inside and you find a duck. It keeps quacking at you. You can pick up a nearby scroll and read it to the duck, and suddenly the duck turns into Canuk, that guy you moved around in that crappy Survivor game. Canuk is fun to talk to because he is suffering from Tourette's syndrome. Canuk can shrink you down and put you inside a bottle, where you get to swim around in suffocating spring water and search a ship for a frisbee shard. It's in a safe, and the combination is written on the bottle. After you retrieve it, you can leave, and then Canuk will turn you into a duck. The end. You can avoid the duckening by holding a mirror or the conveniently placed metal square that you find in the bottle. Magic is evidently a form of light. Also, nowhere does it suggest you can do things just by having items out as your mouse pointer.

6) If you show a frisbee chunk to the lighthouse keeper, he'll give you another. That's it.



For the miners, things just haven't been the same since the great scaling.

    Now that we have a large fractured frisbee, we're supposed to have it repaired. We do this by first going to the dwarven camp near the temple. Here lives a bunch of perfectly normal people who have been slightly vertically squished by the power of technology. You take one step into the camp and one of them chucks a helmet at you. Then he sees your sword and a corny dialogue with another makeshift midget commences. In this dialogue, the words "left", "right", and "straight" have been forcibly inserted into the easy-access portion of their vocabulary. These are blatant directions for the mine cart ride you're about to take. I'm not sure why exact directions could simply surface and interweave itself into a casual conversation, but I am willing to buy it because I don't want to stay here any longer. Following the short big people's directions through the mines leads to a bunch of statues. In the center is a bowl where you put your frisbee shards. Then, you adhere several different objects from your inventory to the statues. Finally, you push a button. What occurs next is the statues begin moving in repeated patterns, moving around the inventory items in what can only be described as someone's rube goldberg fever dream. It ends up shining the light from the miner's helmet onto your crystal ball thingy which somehow fixes the frisbee. Why you couldn't simply shine the light on the ball yourself, I don't know. But now, you got a frisbee.


This is the goofy locale where you unbreak your frisbee. Note the goofiness.

    So, what do you do with the frisbee? Well, somewhere in the game, there's a valley you can't get into because "the path is blocked". Also, the photo negatives you start the game with somehow develop themselves and become processed into photo form, showing two pictures of this place. Turns out there is a giant mirror here. And you're a vampire. Anyways, this mirror is the big "Wall of Illusion" everyone won't shut up about, and the frisbee was made to destroy such things. Naturally, we throw the frisbee, breaking the wall and bringing 7 years of bad luck. Also it reveals a dark valley that can only be described as Mordor. Inside Mordor is a large Citadel. To get in, you have to hit a large hand with an arrow. Inside, there is a man they dressed up and propped in front of a camera. He's supposed to be an orc. Using a mixture of dam water and bat crap, you can make yourself invisible in order to fool him, but that's not all you need to do. You also need to play a recorded growling noise from the poodle on the farm. This will make the orc person emit a grunt of indifference and walk off camera. Then the game will say that you have successfully scared him off. In the next area, there is a bridge over a pit of lava. If you try to cross the bridge, you will immediately die without a good explanation as to what part of crossing the bridge made you die. You could try to think of several rational conclusions as to how to get across, but the correct method is goofy beyond words: you take every item in your inventory and chuck it at the bridge. As you do this, the bridge will fall down, and a second bridge will rise up, which is apparently so much better than the first one for some reason. Also, the game expects you to have every item in the game at this point. Guess what happens if you're missing one.

    Finally, we come to the villain. Yes, there is a villain. A lot of people talk about him, although not much information is divulged as to why you should care. You really have no incentive to confront him. However, if you go to sleep at the inn (remember to sleep next to the glowing rocks or else unknowable creatures will somehow kill you), you will get to see him. His name is Morphius[sic]. And just like all the other bad puns in this game, Morphius is simply a shapeless white blob, accompanied by an occasional face that stretches in and out of view. He is the magnum opus of some guy fiddling around with Photomorph. On the third time you go to sleep, he will invite you over to play. Now, this doesn't seem like a climactic final battle, and by all means it isn't. You simply play against him at a game of... you guessed it... Survivor. And this time, you play as the unwinnable Trembyle piece that can't win. So, how are you supposed to beat an amorphous splotch at a game that you can't possibly win? Well, if for some odd reason you were to go back to the evil teacher and show her a picture of Moodock, for another odd reason, she will tell you that the wizard is allowed to pass his turn. Aha! Now, instead of the game being monumentally one-sided, it's now monumentally one-sided! Now that you know that you can pass at any given turn, everything that the other guy does is absolutely useless because all that he is supposed to do is block your piece with his own piece, and whenever you pass, he has to move somewhere else. It's like your opponent is no longer a factor. All you need to do is memorize a path around the board in which you move like a chess knight across the grid, touching each space only once, and leaving another space open for the useless player to occupy when you inevitably own him. That's it. You've beaten the boss. And what form does this beating take? Well, he shouts, "You cheated! I never lose! I never lose! I never... BLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGG! ahhhhhhhhhh." and basically gets his ego crushed. And it's a load-bearing ego. For some reason, the citadel begins falling apart, and the ending begins. The ending is just as goofy and confusing as the rest of the game. It turns out that he was turning people into statues and collecting them, and his ego was maintaining their stoney composition. Therefore, beating Morphius turned everyone back into fleshy people. Among the fleshy people were a bunch of wizards, who promptly stretched their arms toward the camera with fingers outstretched, as if ready to snare an airborne taco or something, and "disperse" Morphius (you never get to see it). Then that mirror your broke with your frisbee glues itself back together through the magic of film reversal. Then, as it shows boring FMV clips from the game, it says how evil magic has vanished, you feel this place is your home (DEAR GOD NO), and everyone will always remember you, blah blah blah. And then you meet that guy who was in the ball in the intro. He sounds exactly like Morphius. He says, "Ah, the master strategist. You'll have to teach me the finer points of Survivor." Then he emits a perverted laugh. Then you get credits shoved into your face.


This is the final battle. And, yes, that is the bad guy. When you think about it, it's really, really sad.

    So, what did we learn from this game? Well, we learned a lot about bad practice. If you're making an adventure game, please put some friggin' logic into your puzzles. While you're at it, make everything else less goofy, so we can have some sense as to what the hell is going on. Also, if you manage to get the player into a situation where he can't possibly finish the game, tell him about what he did and offer a chance to undo it. We also learned that killing and taking things without permission is wrong and will make a cowboy confiscate every material posession you own. Wait, no, there were points in the game where you just nab whatever isn't nailed down and the guy who owns it is looking the other way, and it is very possible to kill everyone in the game before you beat it. It's simple. All you have to do is drop everything but your killing implement, and then kill everyone, dropping your sword immediately after each kill. You will be holding nothing, and then the cowboy will pop up and confiscate your nothing. Then you just pick up your sword and continue killing. Now, I mentioned how bad the acting was in this game earlier, but seriously, these people couldn't act out a death to save their own lives. Just lookit.

I don't know how you can manage to die standing up, but this guy managed to do it. Maybe it's because I sliced open his crotch and jugular simultaneously.

"Oh, I do declare! You're giving me the vapors!"

As for this one, his death only had one frame of animation. So, why the neck? I thought that I made it quite obvious when I specified to wound him in the knee.


It's a tribble. I wonder what would cause someone to die, bend over 90 degrees, and stay like that. She's clearly well behind the counter.

    The funny part of killing everyone in the game is that they still wave at you in the ending. In any case, it's about time to wrap up this huge textolith. Return the Zork. Cost me about $50 for the game and $20 for a hint book. Damn you, Infocom! Damn you and your economic shenanigans!

MWAHAHAHAHA! WE HAVE YOUR MONEY NOW! AND THERE'S NOT A GODDAMN THING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!


[stinger]

Here's the half-a-bridge, as seen from the neck-cracking angle at which you leap onto it.

Arguably the most popular aspect of this game is getting free booze from an anthropomorphic pizza joint table.

The armory. Contents: armless guy and pointless board game. Not a single gun rack.

This game pioneered into advancements in 3D rendering technology, in which textured polygons were fused together to form really boring things.

You should never put a place that's supposed to be cheerful and energetic but is instead dull and depressing in your dull and depressing game..

Is that what a grue is? A pair of eyes? We need more clues, dammit!

You spend most of the game building up to the point where you chuck a frisbee at a mirror. Whoo.

What the hell is this thing doing in someone's fantasy world? Supplying hydroelectric power to the incinerator? I don't buy it.

Somewhere in the game is a duck that hovers around like a harrier jet when you look at it.

Presenting... the strange cowboy person! Whenever the game thinks what you're doing is wrong, he'll swing on by and swipe your stuff. And then he'll vanish before the dogs come by to chew on his bacon cloak.




Graphics Obviously the major selling point of the game. The graphics were cutting edge at its time, in which boring and depressing buildings, marshes, and forests were displayed in colorful glory.
Gameplay
Depressing locations, a vapor-like plot, and vague puzzles turn what was supposed to be a thrilling adventure into a long period of mindless trial-and-error.
Clarity
Instead of making us think out the puzzles logically like everyone else, this game wants you to think like the people who made it. Nobody would ever want to do that.
Caveat Emptor factor
I want my $70 back.
Overall
It's a colorful, goofy, vague, depressing, time-consuming, illogical, boring adventure. Of course it sucks.
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