Secret Mission: Death of a saboteur   Leave a comment

Well, the z-code version of this game is broken (I neglected to mention I started with that version so I could play on my phone), because while playing the TRS-80 version I got a message I hadn’t seen before.

In the distance you hear a dull thud; as if someone fell or dropped something heavy.

A bit of searching led to a dead saboteur, with quite an inventory.


(Also, I guess the tape recorder didn’t self destruct, he or she took it while I was away from the starting room of the game.)

Note: still no keys, and the map is shredded beyond use. The twist is intact!

In any case, even with my newfound loot, I wasn’t able to get anywhere until I started messing with the buttons in the room above (via hint nudge from Andrew Plotkin, belated thanks). There’s “-red white blue yellow-” buttons in order. My initial notes had these as the button effects:

Red: makes the bomb detector angrily buzz; pushing the button again causes the bomb to detonate.
White: gives a “click”
Blue: is locked
Yellow: is locked

Unfortunately and rather nonsensically, the useful thing to do is push red and then white immediately after.

There’s a Bright flash & I hear something fall to the floor.
I can’t see what it is from here though.

My bomb detector
politely beeps…

Getting off the chair, you find a photo pass marked “visitor”. I’ve been racking my brain on this one and I _think_ the intended button operation is “red: open camera” “white: take picture” but the saboteur rigged the red button to do Bad Stuff, although I have no clue at all why the white button would then cause the bomb to defuse again. If this was a moment of nonsense on a fast-paced TV show, I might let it pass, but being forced to tangle with the setup as a puzzle made me overly grumpy.

The puzzle is made doubly bad by the fact I’m guessing 95% of people who solved it lucked into it by simply pushing all the buttons in order. (I’m a rebel, I like to start in the middle.)

Grump grump. Ok, with the visitor pass it’s possible to get into one extra room (past the white camera on the map from my last post). Unfortunately I’m stuck again.

I am in a large white visitors room. Visible items:

Plate glass window with embeded red wires.
Panel of buttons -white green-. Tv camera mounted over window.

TV camera is powered down.

Somehow I think I need to activate the camera so I can wave the saboteur’s pass at it, but I’ve been so restricted in possibilities I don’t know what to do.

Solving puzzles in Secret Mission is an interesting contrast with Warp. In Warp when I can’t find an approach to a puzzle I can just work on mapping more: checking for exits I missed, swimming in the ocean, and otherwise doing things which while they don’t feel like puzzle solving do feel like productive movement.

The feeling of stalling is a large part of why people turn to hints so often in adventures in the first place. If there’s some productivity going on (if nothing else seeing interesting new failure methods) forward momentum is maintained. With a game as tight and apparently linear as Secret Mission there is so little exploratory leeway that 10 minutes of “nothing happened” messages gives the same mental impression as staring at the screen blankly for the same 10 minutes.

Posted January 13, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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