Philosopher’s Quest: Finished!   3 comments

(Click the image below for the complete map, except for mazes.)


(Click here if you’d like to read the whole sequence of posts leading up to this point.)

I actually rattled this game around a few times in the interim period since I made my last post, but got enough nowhere that I finally consulted a walkthrough. Fortunately it turned out to be one of those chains-of-causality situations where a single hint led me through nearly the entire game (except for two bits at the end which I will share soon). The game is one of those where items and things don’t necessarily exist until they are ready to, and I had simply never quite got through the first part of the “quest chain.”

The chain starts with the Victorian lady wanting her dog. I am certain you don’t remember what I’m talking about, so here’s a clip:

> make tea
You drop the teabag in the cup, add boiling water, and brew up a fine cup of tea.
> n
An old lady in a wheelchair glares at you as you enter a living room. Her gaze softens as it alights on the cup of tea you’re carrying. “At last!” she exclaims. “How I’ve waited for a decent cup of tea – even if it doesn’t have a saucer,” she adds. She grabs the cup from you greedily and drains it. “Aaah, that’s better. And now I wonder if you could be so kind to little old me and find my little lost dog for me? He ran out a while before you came in. I’m very worried because he hasn’t had his din-dins yet. I do hope he hasn’t gone to play up the cliffs again. Do find him – I would be SO grateful.” She shoos you gently back into the kitchen again.

After a convoluted set piece involving a large plank, I had gotten to the point where I had the dog but the Victorian lady’s house was now blocked off. I had been carrying a dog biscuit to keep the dog from running off, but that turned out to be wrong; I needed to plant the biscuit near the house, so the dog would run off and forge a path through the undergrowth that I could then follow as an alternate route back to the Victorian lady. Whereupon …

The old lady beams as you enter. “What a delightful little doggy,” she smiles, taking it from you. “But my dog was shaggier than that. Could you try again, please?”
As you leave the room, you see the dog running into the dark passage to the north. He yelps once, and is then silent.

… the dog search continues. I discovered fairly quickly the next dog in the danger room sequence of riddles (I had suspected given the empty rooms I was waiting for a quest trigger there) which led to a much more straightforward delivery …

“Another dog!” says the old lady. “But that’s not mine either, I’m afraid. I’ll look after it, though.” She takes it from you. “My dog was much shaggier than that one,” she tells you, as she pushes you back towards the kitchen.
As you leave the room, you see the dog running into the dark passage to the north. He yelps once, and is then silent.

… and yet more dog hunting. Again I found the next dog in short order; it was near the Tower of Babel area in a “Gloomy Cave” that smelled of dog. Surely this is the one?

“Wrong again,” declares the old lady, “but you’re doing well. Give him to me. My dog was extremely shaggy and answers to the name Spot. Off you go!”
As you leave the room, you see the dog running into the dark passage to the north. He yelps once, and is then silent.

This time there happened to be dog footprints leading back to the danger room, so a literal hop, skip, and jump later …

“Oh dear, this is difficult,” says the old lady, ” but this dog still isn’t shaggy enough. Could you try again, just for little old me?”
She takes the dog from you and pushes you firmly towards the kitchen. As you leave the room, you see the dog running into the dark passage to the north. He yelps once, and is then silent.

… and I really started to wonder how far the game is pushing this. In any case, the only dog-related item I hadn’t used yet was a kennel that was empty … and was still empty. However, I could hear happy barking. >GET ALL yielded an invisible dog in my inventory (I swear I am not making this up). Fortunately there was a nearby brown paint trap I had long been dying to know the purpose of, and a few steps later, finally, finally:

“Oh hooray!” shrieks the old lady, grabbing the dog, “My darling little Spotty-wotty! I should have told you he was invisible – no wonder you were having trouble finding him. I’ll make you a beneficiary in my will,” she declares, and writes something on a document. “I’ll just go and blot it,” she says, and starts to wheel her chair toward the passageway to the north. “It’s a pity the lights are so unreliable here – gas lights were so much better,” she mutters as she disappears into the murky passage.
There is a sudden cry of “AAGH!” from the passageway, and an equally sudden thump. Everything goes still.
You are in the living room of the bungalow. The windows are boarded up
in here, too. The only exits are north, through a dark passageway,
and south to the kitchen.
> n
You are in the hall of the bungalow. To the north there has been a small earthquake recently, and a big pit has opened up. The old lady and some dogs are lying at the bottom. She must have stumbled onto the pit in the dark, fallen in, and broken every bone in her body, poor dear! The only safe exit is back south.
There is a will here, naming you as beneficiary.

I’ve heard of amoral adventuring, but this tops anything I can remember, even though the adventurer is actually just trying to be helpful the whole time. In any case, the will can be turned (at a nearby solicitor’s office, of course it can) into a cheque which counts as a treasure.

There is a large, stuffed albatross here!
There is an ancient treatise by Socrates here!
There is a fine silver chain here!
There is a valuable cheque, made out to you, here!
There is a treasure chest here!
There is an erratic but valuable antique clock here!
There is a stuffed platypus here, encrusted with jewels!
There is a valuable platinum-edged portrait of
Maurits Escher, who is portrayed holding
a valuable platinum-edged portrait of
Maurits Escher, who is portrayed holding
…… here, here, here!
A piece of sausage is curled up here.
There is an inlaid slipper wrought with the finest filigree here!
There is a gold tooth the size of an egg here!
There is a bronze trophy, marked “Riddle Champion of
Brand X”, here!
There is an exquisite ivory tusk here!
> score
If you were to stop now, you would score 289 points out of
a maximum of 300.

After multiple checks, I did indeed have all the treasures; I just somehow lost 10 points. Deciphering the mystery required a complete replay and reference to the walkthrough.

I found out I went through a particular section called the Garden of Eden wrong. There’s a snake with a tempting fruit you can eat, and eating the fruit causes you to “fall from grace” so to speak and land in the North of Eden – East of Eden area I wrote about once.

I assumed eating the fruit was a necessary part of the script, but it turns out doing reduced my score. After harassing the snake enough times by trying to take it (!) the snake gets mad and leaves and there’s a route to leave the garden of Eden without eating the fruit.

Oif. Replay was fortunately fairly fast (this is not Acheton length) so I corrected my loss of points, returned all the treasures to the correct place, and …

> score
If you were to stop now, you would score 299 points out of
a maximum of 300.

… still didn’t have a CONGRATULATIONS YOU ARE WINNER screen. Huh. At this point I confess to weariness; I went straight for the walkthrough. There’s a magic word “BLACH” from one of the very first rooms that’s been useless the entire game.

> blach

You have scored 300 points out of a maximum of 300.

Mission accomplished?


One, and most importantly, this is a rotten hard and randomly unfair game. In fact, it has the reputation of being one of the nastiest of the Phoenix/ Topologika games, and it thoroughly deserves it. The other games of this origin want you dead; this one wants you dead _now_, and if at all possible, for you to suffer in the process. You can die at the game’s slightest whim.
— Richard Bos

I think you can probably guess I am not going to recommend this game to play. The main quest line is a terrible shaggy dog joke, death is rampant, and the puzzles are filled to the brim with unfair.

Yet —

As a whole experience, to sum up, I enjoyed myself. The world is truly random, but somehow I started to grasp a logic to it where of course a puzzle could be solved with a literary allusion and why yes of course I’m hearing an invisible dog that I need to drop a bucket of paint on. This may simply be a sign I was on this game too long, and while I enjoyed myself, I’m also very glad to move on.

(That includes, by the way, the imaginary worlds gamejam, which has not been forgotten and is at this very moment the subject of a much-edited draft. Soon!)

Posted July 29, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Philosopher’s Quest: Finished!

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  1. Not having interacted with it myself, the main quest seems kind of like a great shaggy dog joke. What better in-game–well, kind of–justification for a repeated quest structure like that?

    (Although that creates the massive map-linear quest problem that makes things really unenjoyable for me.)

    • It would be better if it wasn’t combined with the dogs not even existing yet until the game deems it necessary for them to appear.

      • I was going to say that it’s hard to see how to accomplish this without allowing the dog to short-circuit the shaggy dogness, but it’s actually not at all hard–just rig the sequence so that the last dog you discover is the right one. (“This is just an invisible dog covered in brown paint!”) The danger room seems particularly annoying.

        Perhaps it’s all there to make you feel less guilty about the broken bodies in the pit.

        This seems like a pretty strong argument for having puzzles that you solve coincidentally open up new areas of the map (or even for the lady to gradually give you keys of some sort to new areas as you return dogs to her). Better to gate the map than to have it sitting around waiting for it to be populated by totally unrelated event triggers. (As my last parenthetical hints this is something I really struggle with–I’ve had a terrible time getting into Hadean Lands because my understanding of what I can solve when didn’t keep up with the speed at which the map opened up.)

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