Kidnapped: The Parallel Universes Problem   5 comments

I got past my dilemma from last time and finished the game; I had run into something I (now) call The Parallel Universes Problem.

Suppose you are a happy adventurer going from point X to point Z and manage to do so without any obstacles. However, you later restore a previous game (because you got eaten by a bear, say).

After restoring, you try going from point X to point Z, but get stopped in the middle at point Y this time. Something different happened! What changed? Perhaps you had picked up an item in universe #1 but didn’t realize it; perhaps there was some secret timing element that you lucked out on the first time. Either way, you ran across the frustrating situation of being in an alternate universe without being aware something had changed.

With Kidnapped, I was stalled trying to get by the kidnapper, who was in a vault counting money. I needed a dollar to get a string from a vending machine.

I had tried:

A. shooting a gun at the kidnapper; the gun turns out to be full of blanks and doesn’t work.

B. stealing the money; the kidnapper spotted and killed me.

However, I didn’t realize with action B that I wasn’t holding the gun at the time. If you are, then you automatically threaten the kidnapper with the gun (but don’t shoot it!) the same time you GET DOLLAR.

I’ll come back to the implicit action embedded in GET DOLLAR, but the important point is I didn’t realize the scenario of universe A was different from universe B. In contrast to my abstract X-to-Z scenario, at no point was the puzzle solved; I had done the correct action for solving the puzzle but only if the conditions that I thought held (that I was living in universe A, holding the gun) were true.

I’ve been stuck on games with this sort of issue multiple times without having a name for the problem, but I figured now is good a time as any to bestow some nomenclature.

The above wouldn’t have been a problem had the game let me WAVE GUN or POINT GUN or THREATEN KIDNAPPER or some such, but this is a typical BASIC 16K parser here; I eventually gave up and tried GET DOLLAR for the alternate result, even though I was sure I had tried it already.

The game also does implicit actions with keys and doors; UNLOCK is not understood. You just have to go straight to typing OPEN DOOR if you have the right key, and the game assumes it gets applied in the process of opening.

Having the implicit actions done for me tricked into a false sense of complacency when later jumping between floors while holding MARY POPPIN’S UMBRELLA:


I assumed OPEN UMBRELLA wasn’t needed since keys and guns are both used automatically. Oops. Back to level 9 for me.

(I incidentally never got save states working, but on the “upside” it means I experienced the game as originally intended. It did lead to a slightly longer game and some tension where I was worried I would wreck my game on floor 2 and have to repeat everything. Fortunately, the difficulty overall stayed low.)

Things only got wackier from there. You have to put out a fire with sprinklers but subsequently, your clothes get wet and you have to discard them. You then use KNITTING NEEDLES and a BALL OF YARN and end up with a FINE SUIT, which suggests to me the main character really IS Mary Poppins.

The reason you can’t just keep going naked is you need go in an office with a key and — I am quoting directly here — SEXY, YOUNG GIRL OFFICE WORKERS.


This is also the sort of game where you don’t know how to swim, but there’s a nearby BOOK you can READ on how to swim and immediately after you’re backstroking like an expert.

Near the end, you find out the fate of the kidnapper.

For the very last obstacle, the front door is locked, but no key is in sight. However, a piano is nearby, and if you make the leap and TAKE KEY while in the room…


…you can make it to victory. I admit to being very surprised here, since we’ve only seen wordplay shenanigans in one other game, Quondam, which is one the hardest games I’ve played, while Kidnapped (even without a save game feature) is one of the easiest.

Posted September 13, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Kidnapped: The Parallel Universes Problem

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  1. I guess maybe the hint that you need to explicitly open the umbrella is that “OPEN” is a verb anyway.

    Also it seems kind of mysterious how the kidnapper got down from the vault, since he doesn’t have a balloon and there don’t seem to be any stairs. Or are the stairs in the vault? But why would you put stairs up into a vault?

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