Mystery House: Finished!   11 comments

Despite the lure of the walkthrough, I managed to finish this one all on my own. Be warned: spoilers on absolutely everything.

Where last I left off, I was searching for a secret door of some sort. I ended up finding it in the study.

I had previously done LOOK PICTURE to get the helpful response:


Since there’s no “SEARCH” command and LOOK by default seems to cover that verb, I thought the picture was adequately accounted for, but apparently I was supposed to GET PICTURE:


Oho! While there is no screwdriver object, a butterknife was sufficient to reach a secret button:

This led to the basement, where I found a key and a body (poor Tom!) holding a daisy. Given Daisy was my last blonde-haired subject left, the killer’s identity was clear. (Not like there is actually any need at all to worry about names or the identity of the killer — more on that in a moment.)

While I couldn’t go back the way I came, I did manage to escape via a whole to a large tree with a telescope, which led me to discover a previously unseen trapdoor on the roof of the house. Dropping down from the tree led me to a “forest” which is, huzzah, a maze. (Sigh.) Navigating the maze led me back to the house where I was able to get back to the trapdoor and make The Final Confrontation:


As you may be able to tell from the screenshot, it’s just her; there’s no need to worry about fingering the right person as the murderer. In any case, I tried defending myself with a handy dagger and sledgehammer but both of those options resulted in my being stabbed. Fortunately the game let me retreat and consider my options.

At this point I went back to peruse the instructions, and I noticed WATER ON as a possible command and made some sad growling noises. I had been trying quite a while to work any of the sinks in the game, since there’s a pitcher that seems like it ought to hold water but any possible permutation of ACTIVATE SINK failed me. WATER ON did indeed work, and now I had a full pitcher of water. Where should I use it?

Assuming Daisy was not the Wicked Witch of the West, I needed something a little stronger than water to take her on. I remembered the death-by-candle (I wrote about it in my last post) actually gave me a turn before dying, so I decided to try it out on the fire that got set on the rug. This resulted in a hole in the carpet, which coincidentally revealed a key.

This may be the dumbest luck in any videogame ever, and that includes Jinxster.

Remembering the locked chest upstairs, I tried the key and found a gun. Invoking another Colonel’s Bequest trope, I went back up the trapdoor and did away with Daisy once and for all.

At this point I could theoretically leave, but the game didn’t consider me done yet. I apparently needed to find some “jewels” hidden in the house. A note by Daisy mentioned they were in the basement. Returning there and messing with way too many unrecognized verbs, I finally hit about RUB ALGAE (not CLEAN even though it seems to be recognized!) which revealed a brick hiding the jewels. Grabbing the jewels and leaving the house, I finally registered victory!

Alas, not so satisfying. I don’t know if my posts have made this clear, but the game was very bad. It has:

  • Easily the worst parser out of any game I have played. (Yes, I mean all of them, not just the ones I’ve written about on this blog.)
  • Way too many circumstances where I was struggling to know what a particular item in the graphics was and what noun to use.
  • A nonsensical plot where immediately upon leaving the initial room all the participants are murdered instantly, except for Joe (who I guess made it to freedom now, I don’t recall seeing his body).
  • A maze even more pointless than normal; it only serves to make it slightly harder to make it back to the house. I forgot to mention that the way back to the house is UP — one of the rooms has a door leading to the house, but of course you would logically see that, except it’s the same forest graphic as all the other rooms. This is only mitigated by the fact I had found and mapped the maze beforehand.

I think perhaps the game is more known by the concept and historical value rather than any actual playability. I hope I’ve proven so far that it’s possible to have both. Still, I do like quite a few of the later Sierra games (infamous insta-deaths and all) so I can’t feel like I’ve wasted my time.


Posted August 30, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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11 responses to “Mystery House: Finished!

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  1. Well, now that you’ve finished it, you might enjoy this hilarious play through of the game:

  2. I’m currently writing on Mystery House and I’m going to quote this post — don’t fret, not to be perversely contrary this time like I was the last — that it has “easily the worst parser out of any game [you] have played.” That was three years ago, though, and I’m curious: Have you since played worse?

    • I think Alien Adventure (Chou) which I played recently was a bit worse; there was enough hand-done bespoke responses you had things like a BEER CAN you could pick up while referring to it as a BEER but when opening it you had to use CAN otherwise it got confused. It was from a high school sophomore and not a commercial project.

      Deathship was definitely worse, and commerical.

      Funnily enough, my current game (Demon’s Forge, the 1981 edition) is close. I’ll be writing about that in my finishing post.

  3. Pingback: Mystery House [1980] – Arcade Idea

  4. “Alas, not so satisfying. I don’t know if my posts have made this clear, but the game was very bad.”

    I agree with you on all of your points. It is really refreshing to finally see someone differentiating between the game’s historical value and its actual merit for the player. I never understood the reputation of “Mystery House” and boy have I defended a lot of bad games in my time.

    • Doing the “historical immersion” method helps; I can easily say it has a worse parser than many of the other games at the time, whereas someone who only tried Mystery House might figure they’re all like that.

      Do you happen to remember any particularly egregious “defense” posts / essays / whatnot? I know it’s gotten a lot of scholarly attention but I never got around to looking for details.

  5. I just coded this game in my thing and I let a friend play it. He used the phrase “This game can die in a fire”. Before finding the playthrough he considered it unplayable. The thing is, as buggy and unfinished as it feels, it put Sierra Games on the map and it has some side options (very few), too. The version I played is in 4 colors (green, white, magenta and black), but I notice your screenshots are in green and black. Where did you get that version to play?

    • I think I was using ScummVM for this game (but it has been long enough I’m not quite sure). Usually I use AppleWin and if there is no color going on I turn the settings to black-and-white TV so it doesn’t do the odd extra coloring the Apple II was known for. (That’s how I’m playing The Tarturian at the moment.)

  6. Hey Jason, you said “In any case, Mystery House also holds the distinction of being one of the two candidates for First Graphical Adventure Ever. (I’ll get to the second candidate after I wrap up this one.)”

    What’s the other contender? I think Oldorf’s Revenge came out around the same time (and has the similar vector line aesthetic as many of the easily graphical adventures did), but of course much fewer people remember Oldorf.

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