Philosopher’s Quest: Unreasonably Reasonable   4 comments

Against what appears to be all odds I am making progress in Philosopher’s Quest. I am coming across puzzles that are in analytic terms outrageous but I’m managing to solve them anyway.

Let me first mention the unfairest twist. Perhaps you recall the game starts with a shop that you can get three items from. The choices are a piece of sausage, a cushion, a teabag, an aqualung, and a bunch of keys. I determined (via actual use) I needed the aqualung, keys, and teabag (the latter you need to make a cup of tea for a “Victorian woman”).

What I did not anticipate is that if you don’t take the teabag, it appears later anyway. I need to emphasize here: if you do take the teabag, it will not appear in a later room, but if you don’t, then it will. There is absolutely no logical reason this would happen; the intent appears merely to be cruel.

I worked this out because I found a spot (making a safe landing from a cliff) where I realized the cushion would be useful, so I decided to experiment with grabbing the cushion from the shop (I was assuming at this time maybe there would be an alternative to the keys, like a way to pick locks). By random luck I left the teabag behind in the process, and found out about the magical appearing second teabag.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of solving a puzzle like this. It’s not satisfying, exactly, because there was a simultaneous and even greater sense of frustration that the game would do such a trick. Yet, the net result is I wanted to keep playing.

. . .

Then there’s external references:

> sw
You are standing west of the garden of Eden. A dark passage leads off westwards into a cave, while a path exits northeastwards. Above the westwards passage hangs a prim sign which reads “Those uncertain as to the meaning of existence are advised not to proceed further in this direction.”
> on
Your lamp is now on and burning brightly.
> w
As you enter the room doubts begin to grow in your mind. At first you worry about minor things, such as what you had for breakfast, but gradually you find yourself questioning the way you spend your time and wondering about the value of your life. This takes on a frightening new aspect, but after a while you cease to be bothered by it. In fact you cease to be. That which may once have been you does not exist.

You’re stuck here in a philosophical malaise. Take a moment to think of how you’d get out of this.


> think
The powers that be find themselves in a logical cleft stick. Your case is sent to the Descartes appeal court who after a brief consultation rule in your favour.
There is a sudden flash of light during which you see….
You are in the philosopher’s laboratory, where experiments on the meaning of concepts are performed. There is an exit east, and another northwest.

I think therefore I am.

This room is near an area outside of “Eden” and you need a magic word to teleport and get out (note the game does not explicitly say this, but I’m trying to make the puzzle a little more solvable).

> n
As you move through the garden you blink quite normally and are amazed to find that the garden suddenly moves a considerable distance southwards, leaving you behind. You feel disturbed, as though you have somehow fallen from Grace. You are standing north of the garden of Eden, which is surrounded by three sheer cliffs. Gravel paths lead off to the southeast and southwest, while a dark passage leads north into a cliff-face.
> se
You are standing east of the garden of Eden, from which the smell of a protruding grape-vine makes you strangely wrathful. A dark passage leads off eastwards into a cave, while a path exits northwestwards, past what reminds you of a row of canneries, for some reason. Outside the cave is an ancient drawing, depicting gatherings of men communing with mice.

Take a stab at this one in the comments.

. . .

Of course, no late-70s sadistic game would complete without mazes.

As you slide, one of your possessions tumbles away from you. You can hear it falling into the distance.
You’re in the M.E. passages. There is a slide in from the roof which you can’t reach, and four slides lead down from exits to the north, east, south and west.

The quote above is part of a maze where every step taken causes one of your inventory items to float away to the exit. Unfortunately, other than the opening room there is no easy way to the exit, so mapping via object-dropping is very difficult, and eventually your lamp will disappear meaning you can’t see anything at all.

There is a single treasure hidden in the maze. It took excessive persistence to get there, and I never did find a way to avoid doing the last few turns in the dark. Since traveling in the dark can randomly cause death via falling in a pit, I had to make liberal use of the SAVE/RESTORE cycle to get to the end (for the curious, the route is: N, E, E, N, E, N, get all, N, E, E, E).

There’s also a part underwater where you get swallowed by a whale.


It was never intended that players map this monstrosity. While within the whale items dropped can be randomly carried to other places, and can be randomly transported as well. It took … let’s say “ludicrous” amounts of saving and restoring to figure the map out, and by the end I still had two rooms I had to work out by brute force.

The game’s intended solution is to light a match while inside the whale (which requires wrapping a box of matches in oilskin beforehand so they don’t get wet). The smoke from the match will travel in the opposite direction of the mouth of the whale, so if smoke is blowing west you go east. To work this out I used what I call the Chekov’s gun puzzle solving method; there was an oilskin I knew I could wrap things in to keep dry, but I had nothing to go in it that made sense except the matches. Hence I knew the matches were likely useful. Unfortunately, I figured this out after already mapping the maze.

At the mouth of the whale there’s a gold tooth that when taken will cause the room to fill with digestive fluids that will eventually dissolve you. I haven’t figured out how to get through yet.

. . .

The most elaborate set-piece is the plank. There’s a long plank above a beach that spans for multiple rooms. On the westmost side there is a large bucket in which you can drop in items. In particular if you drop in four heavy items the east side of the plank will tilt up such that you can reach a ledge. Unfortunately, reaching the ledge causes the plank to break. To get down you need to have placed the cushion (that I mentioned earlier) on the beach below the ledge. If you try to drop the cushion while on the ledge it will just blow away on the wind.

Inside the ledge area there is a n/s corridor with a mouse. Going north too far will get you squashed by an elephant. The mouse will scare the elephant, but the mouse it too skittish to be picked up. In order to attract the mouse, you need to bring some cheese. Unfortunately the only cheese available is so stinky you will die if you carry it without a gas mask, and even then you have to drop it every few turns and step away to avoid death by stink. After laboriously making it up the plank, grabbing the mouse, and scaring away the elephant, there’s a dog in a back alcove you need to rescue. If you just bring the dog out, the dog will fall victim to the stinky cheese. Just throwing the cheese off the ledge will not get rid of it far enough. The only solution is the BURY CHEESE in the same room as the elephant, at which point the stink will be reduced to safety.

After saving the dog, you need to return it to its owner which is in a house northwest of the large bucket from earlier. Unfortunately, breaking the plank caused the bucket to fall over and block the way northwest. Here I am stuck and have no way to deliver the dog.

. . .

The last puzzle I just described was built up a little at a time. Solve a portion, die to another portion, repeat. I don’t know why I’m enjoying this, but I really am.

There is one curious attribute that I think might be unique to the era: nearly every single item so far used in a puzzle has been out in the open right away. Solving puzzles tends to reveal rooms with treasures but not items used to solve other puzzles. There’s nothing hidden via an EXAMINE verb (that verb is not even recognized). Everything is laid out like a dare: here’s all the pieces to win the game, but I bet you’ll lose anyway.

Posted February 19, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “Philosopher’s Quest: Unreasonably Reasonable

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  1. Steinbeck? It’s certainly a bunch of allusions to his work.

  2. Pingback: Philosopher’s Quest: Finished! | Renga in Blue

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