Archive for November 2019

Warp: I Think You’re Just Getting in Deeper   26 comments

You can assume, from this point, any post on Warp is potentially my last. Not only is the game trying to tear the player apart, the game is trying to tear itself apart.



Before I really get started, a brief aside on the Mainframe Endgame. There is a type of endgame descended from Crowther/Woods adventure after a Treasure Hunt style plot where the player is brought into a special area separate from the main game and any puzzle-solving is intentionally very hard.

I should qualify “very hard” as “harder than normal hard, meant almost explicitly to be played collaboratively”. I think this is most blatant in Adventure 550, which in the original port required collecting information from at least 5 different playthroughs for the endgame.

Zork mainframe went extra-long in its endgame, but also mercifully filled it with puzzles that were technically solvable. Warp took Zork’s size and restored a general sense of unfairness. Warp even quite explicitly mentions this in an in-game newspaper which has various game version notes; this one is from April 20, 1982:


And, hopefully, free of bugs. Send your complaints and tales of woe to the authors as you see fit. But be warned: clues in the endgame are next to non-existant, and the puzzles are designed to be at times misleading and extremely frustrating. Patience and perseverence are more necessities than virtues.

Philosophically, it’s kind of interesting to have this kind of collaboration-nearly-required puzzle; another use of the idea is the original arcade game Tower of Druaga, which had obscurely hard to find items and essentially an underground info-network amongst Japanese arcade players was needed to beat the game.

From Floor 1 of The Tower of Druaga. There are 60 floors.

For example, Floor 45 has two special items; the box for one item appears right at the start but if you open it the box is empty. You have to first kill enemies in a very specific order (“Lizard Man, High Power Knight, Mirror Knight, Black Knight, Blue Knight”), which then allows you to open a different box and get an Antidote, and only then can you open the first box and get a Hyper Sword (which is necessary for beating the game!)

Keep in mind, this is in an arcade game that required depositing coins to play. Hopefully, I’ve gotten across why an information network was a necessary feature.

These days, having to ask for a hint is considered a “game failure” (or at least player failure), so to speak, but is the “failure” a real thing, or just cultural inertia?

Various objects from the main game make a cameo appearance. This silver cross (originally a treasure) was suspiciously easy to get in the main game.

To continue from last time, I was falling in a pit, and I really felt like I could use a rope, but the rope was locked outside the endgame where it could not be brought in. This turned out to be not *exactly* correct. While it never was useful during the main game, it’s possible to >CUT ROPE and get two pieces, a longer and a shorter. While the regular rope vaporizes upon entering the endgame portal, the shorter one does not.


I suppose there might have been a slight bit of logic involving the *size* of the item that goes in the portal being limited, but there was no message conveying that. In the context of a mass-solving effort, I could see someone who had cut the rope on a whim test it out and convey this fact to their fellow players.

Compounding this difficulty is that, normally, the items you are carrying disappear anyway after answering the Oracle’s trivia quiz. There is this cryptic comment

He quickly searches about for unregistered items, and then, with another wave, disappears.

which is supposed to be a hint that >REGISTER is a verb.

An authoritative voice echos: One [1] Short Rope … Check!

It’s baffling what sort of action is even happening here. You aren’t stating something aloud (that’s covered by the SAY verb). There’s no physical movement; you don’t even have to be holding an item to register it. The command only makes sense at a meta-level. (As an aside, you may remember I got a password to jump to the endgame. It would be impossible to win by starting the endgame with the password since you don’t get the needed short rope item when using it. This is egregious enough I think it’s just a programming oversight.)

Moving on! I was able to successfully tie the short rope to overhang the place I knew the pit would be, went through the stone idol / tile section I mentioned last time, and outran a giant boulder to find a maze, or perhaps “maze”.

Globe Room.
Additional passageways have opened.

Montazuma’s Revenge.
The room about you is one of many constructed hundreds of years ago by the Great Ancients of Praw. The walls are unmarked rock, with exits leading in all directions. There is also a large hole in the ceiling (out of reach), and another in the floor.

If you wander, you eventually find various old items from the main game lying around. In case it’s important, here’s the complete list.

Battery, Brick, Expensive Camera, Chalice, Silver Cross, Silver Flute, Golden Matador, Large Pearl, Shiny Quarter, Glass Sphere, Crystal Sphere, Devil’s Trident, Ivory Tusk, Egyptian Urn, Patgonian Vase, Banana, Green Stamp, Package, Black Opal, Wetsuit, Ruby Lense, Treasure Map, Computer Printout, Railroad Bond, Golden Bullion, Framastat, Bag, Fins, Glass Bottle, Painting, Digital Watch, Silver Coins, Leeverite, Absolutely Nothing

In addition to the items, the game gives a few messages meant to be either hints or discouragement: “This looks pretty vast.”, “I think you’re just getting in deeper …”, “You’re going to get yourself even more lost.”, “Come on, you haven’t a prayer of escape!”, “You’re being awfully persistant.”, “This doesn’t look solvable to me.” and finally “In fact … it isn’t. Give up and save us both some time!”

I’ve checked thoroughly enough to say the items shift around randomly as do the maze exits, so I’m 95% certain you aren’t supposed to or even able to “map” the maze. That leaves odd, obscure actions like registering every single item (which I’ve tried), praying, being ludicrously persistent (I went EAST so many times the game crashed, as shown on the top of this post) or just saying the right random catchphrase (like “GIVE UP”). I even tried quitting the game (taking giving up literal) with the hopes that a restart would magically continue the game in the next section, but no luck.

A quick reminder to those interested in the 25th Interactive Fiction Competition — the deadline for voting is tonight. I’m hoping to put reviews up this weekend but it may not be until next week.

Posted November 15, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: Endgame (part 2)   29 comments

Continuing from last time, I had missed a very reasonable puzzle followed by a very unreasonable one.

I can see the following:
Short Cable attached to a Power Unit
Long Cable attached to a Control Unit
Power Unit, which contains:
a Framastat
a Rocker Switch
Control Unit, which contains:
a Round Depression
a Knurled Knob
a Lever

>look sphere

The glass sphere is made of pure neodium, an extremely fine industrial crystal found in abundance in Warpian territory. It is about four inches in diameter.

>look depression

The depression is about four inches in diameter and hemispherical in shape. It has been carefully machined into the control panel, just to the left of the knob and lever.

The sphere simply goes in the depression and the whole thing can activate when plugged in. Both the depression and sphere mention 4 inches specifically. I had simply forgotten I had left the glass sphere hanging out in the desert (it was a bit of a pain to get because it was easy to die of thirst — I had to fly the magic carpet in to have enough time to take it away).

However, activating the machine caused this to happen:

>push switch

An unexpected backsurge in voltage suddenly vaporizes the cables!

I assumed this meant I had some kind of setting wrong, and I valiantly tried to fiddle with the “knob” and “lever” of the control unit to get something to happen, but no verb seemed to have an effect.

They were apparently entirely red herrings; by complete random chance, usually turning on the switch causes the frying to happen, but sometimes it works:

There is a loud >SNAAAAP!< as the units come to life!
A large electric arc surges quickly down the two cables, striking the doorframe with a sizzling shower of sparks! An unstable image begins to form where once there was a wall. The snowy image slowly stabilizes to reveal a north wall portal into a rectangle of bleak whiteness.

This is even worse than many other instance where I’ve had to repeat an action hoping for random luck (like being told 13 times in a row a particular exit was sealed off before it worked) because the frying cables means the game is lost. The only reason I solved this was I was testing a save game where I didn’t remember the exact setup so I tested “pull switch” and lucked out into the portal opening.

As you cross the threshold, you feel momentarily disoriented.
Plain White Room.
You are in a plain, white room. It is of medium size, has four barren walls, four equally barren corners, a bland floor and a rather boring ceiling.

I can see the following:
Square Peg

The disorientation means any items you are carrying vanish (except the Round Peg, an item from the very first room of the game; however, that will vanish when entering the next room, and seems to be yet another red herring). Not only that, but the score resets to a new special “endgame” score, just like mainframe Zork.

Your endgame score after 2 commands (2 hours and 47 minutes of playing) would be 0 out of a possible 100.
If you get any points, I won’t bother you with insults anymore.

After some fiddling around with the pegs and no progress, I thought maybe this game was going the Adventure 550 route by requiring some magic words. I tested all of them I had seen so far.


You hear a pin drop.
Spinning around, you see the Oracle. He speaks:

“Sorry I’m late. Tonight’s the Warpmaster’s bowling night. He wanted me to ask you a few questions, though, to see if you have reached true enlightenment, as have I. Heh heh. Now, uh, let’s see … I have some notes here …”

The Oracle figets around a bit, then continues:

“First question. Where was the dent in the Chevy made? You should respond by typing ANSWER “”.”

Again, just like mainframe Zork: the endgame there had a trivia quiz with the Dungeonmaster. I had a little trouble with the second question (“In what kind of tree does the koala bear make its home?”) simply because the tree is described as a Redwood Tree but somehow the room on top is a Eucalyptus View, so it’s a eucalyptus tree on top of a redwood tree, I guess?

After answering the last question:

“What is the airspeed of a coconut-laden … oops, wrong script. Snoitalutargnoc! Well done! You seem to have correctly answered everything! Before I leave, a hint of advice: To get here in the future, simply incant “fohmnqhmpc” and you will avoid the pitfalls of the mortal world!”

The Oracle waves his arms once, and a hole appears in the center of the floor. He quickly searches about for unregistered items, and then, with another wave, disappears.

The special incant command lets you just straight to the endgame from anywhere in the game, without a saved game file. This turns out to be a very bad idea (I’ll explain why shortly).

Jumping into the hole reveals yet another Zork tribute/ripoff:

This is the “Royal Puzzle” which also made its way into Zork III; if you move in the direction of a sandstone “block” you can push it around. This is essentially Sokoban rules where you can push a block but can’t pull it.

“H” is where you start and has a hole in the ceiling. The yellow “S” has a Card item (a credit card) under it. The orange “S” has a ladder attached to the east and the blue “S” has a ladder attached to the west. To get out you need to bring the blue “S” block all the way to the spot immediately to the east of the hole.

This results in a *very long* sequence of moves, and it was here that I discovered that saving is disabled in the endgame.

This is why the secret incantation word is a bad idea. It’s possible to mitigate the saving problem by creating macros (it’s been ages since I mentioned it, but this game lets you create macros). So I was able to enter a macro like


and set things up to the point where I could type END1 through END10 to quickly zip all the way through the trivia section and the Sokoban. As long as I made these macros immediately before entering the endgame, I was able to save my game and keep the macros.

The section after the maze is quite deadly and I still don’t know how to get through it.

Globe Room.
You find yourself in a round, cup-shaped room. In the center of the room you see a man-sized hole in the floor, while to the east there is a cylindrical corridor leading slightly upward through the rock. On the floor, at roughly 45 degree intervals around the perimeter of the room, you note what appear to be small arrows chiseled into the rock, pointing outward from the center of the room.

I can see the following:
Square Peg

The Square Peg for some reason vanishes after the Oracle’s trivia quiz but returns again here. There’s some extra rooms leading through a Corridor of Vines which all have a Tiny Hook I have not been able to apply any verb to; at the end there’s a section with tiles:

Corridor of Vines.
The corridor walls here are built of expertly cut stones, fitted together. Many jungle vines have twisted and twined their way along the length of the corridor and found their way into the cracks and crevices of the walls. A small hook is recessed into the ceiling, perhaps once a hanger for a trellis. The corridor here splits into five openings that lead between pillars cut from stone. The center opening is circular and the same size as the corridor you are in, it leads east. The other passages are to the north, northeast, southeast, and south.

I can see the following:
Tiny Hook


Hall of Idols.
You are in an expansive room with an elaborately tiled floor. The north and south walls are lined with hundreds of small, stone indian idols, their eyes menacingly turned toward the center of the room. The tiles are very carefully placed in five east-west rows, with each row containing six tiles. The east end of the room opens through six large pillars into yet another chamber. The west end opens through similar pillars into a forboding corridor.

I can see the following:
The tile below your feet reads II.

The text description is slightly clunky, but here’s a map.

Stepping on the wrong tile is absolutely deadly. There’s not really a great way to work out the pattern other than trial and error (and remember, no saving in the endgame!) Specifically, when going to the east only the even tiles are safe…

…and when going back west (after getting a scepter) only the prime number tiles are safe.

There’s a rolling ball that appears, Indiana Jones style, but since you can either move fast enough that it stays behind you or wait for it to pass I’m not worried about it; what I can’t figure out is that after making the trek mentioned above, there’s a newly-formed pit in the Corridor of Vines:

You move ahead and find that the floor has opened to reveal a gaping pit that devours the entire floor from wall to wall. As you fall you can’t help but wonder where the bottom is …

You sense yourself leaving your physical body —

If I still had the rope from the main game I might be able to set something up with the hook in that room, but the inventory from the main game really does seem to be closed off. I’ve tried various permutations of RUN and JUMP without luck. I’ve tried different tile-stepping routes in the hopes of avoiding a particular number or always stepping on all the numbers will work. I’ve tried all sorts of silly things with the scepter

The scepter is so strikingly awesome in its splender that it really defies description. Suffice it to say that it is key-shaped.

but I’m guessing it just doesn’t get used until later.

Oh, and I’m only at 20 out of 100 endgame points. This game is going for broke.

Posted November 12, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Warp: The Endgame   34 comments

After an extremely long comment thread on one of my prior posts on Warp, I managed to get all the points (1216 out of 1216) and then properly stuck on the final puzzle.

I’m going to explain everything that I believe to be relevant so you can be stuck on the final puzzle, too.

Another piece of ASCII art from the game; not relevant to the final puzzle but here for spoiler space.

The way to the endgame essentially involved fussing about what is most likely a bug, and none of us playing the game (myself, Russell, and Roger) quite understand what triggers it, so I’m not going to put details here. The final result was getting a “power unit”

>look power unit

The power unit is a large, heavy metal box, roughly three feet on each side. Through a perforated metal back panel, you can glimpse large vacuum tubes and transformers inside. It has a small, square receptacle in the top, with a small, hexagonal metal stub rising slightly from the bottom of the receptacle. On the front there is a small access panel, and on the back, near the bottom, there is a large cable connector.

>look in power unit

The Power Unit contains the following:
Rocker Switch

>look at switch

It is a small rocker switch with two positions: ON and OFF.

and a “control unit”:

>look control unit

The control unit is a small, rectangular metal box, perhaps 12 inches wide and 6 inches high. Its face consists of a small hinged metal access panel. A cable connector is located on the back side of the unit. Otherwise, it is featureless.

>look in control unit

The Control Unit contains the following:
Round Depression
Knurled Knob

look at depression

The depression is about four inches in diameter and hemispherical in shape. It has been carefully machined into the control panel, just to the left of the knob and lever.

>look at knob

The knob is small and knurled for a better grip. It can be turned to several positions, clearly labeled 1 through 5.

>look at lever

The lever is short and stubby, more like a switch of some sort. It can be moved to three positions, clearly marked 0, 1/2, and 1.

Also relevant is a “printout”; you have to use up one of the treasures (a Shiny Quarter) to get it, so it’s not an item in my current save file, but the information seems important for the endgame.

This is all referring to a “Warp Room” which has been a longstanding mystery in the game.

Warp Room.
In this otherwise vacant room, you see before you a doorframe, roughly centered against a solid brick wall. Two large cables snake their way from the frame into the center of the room. The other walls of the room are completely blank, and the only apparent exit is the way you entered, back to the east.

I can see the following:
Short Cable attached to a Power Unit
Long Cable attached to a Control Unit
Power Unit
Control Unit

I do have a “framastat” and am able to attach it to the power unit as marked in Step Three of the instructions. What’s missing is Step Four (right before Step Five: Profit!)

Here’s my complete list of items:

I can see the following:
Name Badge
Bag, which contains:
a Scalpel
Glass Bottle, which contains:
a quantity of Water
Treasure Chest
Short Ladder
Absolutely Nothing
Round Peg
Digital Scale
Rusty Shovel
Yellow Wrapper

While I can technically get back a treasure from the display case, Russell already indicated the treasures don’t get used here.

I can “push switch” to get a “Click. Nothing Happens.” but I have not been able to operate either the lever or the knob in the control box. >PUSH on either gives me “Doesn’t seem to work” but I don’t know if that means I have a parser issue or I need to activate something else first. I don’t know what would go in the depression; the round peg doesn’t seem to help.

Feel free to suggest actions in the comments, up to and including for setting the game on fire for having such a tough final puzzle.

Posted November 7, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Curse of the Sasquatch: If It Weren’t for You Meddling Kids   Leave a comment

I have finished the game, and there is a genuine Plot Twist™, so spoilers ahoy.

Image from the 1975 movie Curse of Bigfoot. It may be where Greg Hassett got the title for this game. As of this writing it is ranked 1.9 out of 10 stars on IMDB.

I managed to unstick myself from last time by using the old “well, this object LOOKS like it ought to be useful, and so I will try it on every spot on the map” trick.

Specifically, dropping at a ladder just outside the maze from last time let me get to a new area.

Yes, it’s spelled “Padio” in the game.

I had an AXE and was in a FOREST, so CHOP TREES yielded some firewood … and a warning.

Past this was a building filled with pools of oil (the kind you drill for, not the kind you put in cooking). This was the moment it hit me this was not a hunt for Bigfoot at all, but a Scooby-Doo plot.

For those unfamiliar with Scooby-Doo, it is a TV show that has various iterations and reboots for 50 years. According to the Scoobypedia:

The show follows the iconic mystery solving detectives, know as Mystery Inc., as they set out to solve crime and unmask criminals, bent on revenge or committing criminal acts for their own personal gain.

Titular character, Scooby, is followed by his best pal Shaggy as both vie for Scooby Snacks on their adventures! Velma brings her extra intellect and initiative to them, setting out plans to catch criminals. Fred is the team’s leader while Daphne is bold and takes risks all to keep society safe.

More importantly, the prototypical Scooby-Doo plot has the gang discover some mysterious goings-on that appear to be monsters or ghosts or whatnot, but by the end discover it was Old Mr. Crumpet the whole time and somehow he managed to get a hold of both holograms and teleportation technology. He meant to drive people away from the old amusement park so he could buy up the land when it went bankrupt and he would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids. (Why he didn’t bypass illegality altogether and just profit off his obviously hyper-advanced hologram technology is unknown.)

Turning a knob in the building led to an underground area. This seemed to be a one-way trip.

The underground area included a “wine bottle” (which actually had oil in it) and an oil barrel, just to emphasize the point made earlier: there’s a lot of oil here. There was also an elevator which led down to a “closet” and eventually to a “control room”.

Here I was very, very, stuck. I maybe shouldn’t have been, but as a partial excuse, the game a.) doesn’t have a save game feature b.) has a brutally stringent inventory limit and c.) locks the player into the closet-control room area once arriving. So it was very annoying to test out different possibilities and I eventually resorted to checking Dale Dobson’s playthrough at Gaming After 40. (He got stuck in the same place, and had to check source code.)

I had missed that I could take the firewood I chopped in the forest back to the fireplace in the shack at the very beginning of the game, then type MAKE FIRE followed by LIGHT FIRE. (It sounds logical enough, and there’s even a hint near the beginning about lighting a fire, but at the time I processed it just as a reference to things being cold and didn’t have making a fire on my mental “to do” list. Oops.)

As the screenshot indicates, this opened a secret area on top of the shack, where I found a TRAP and a note to “DROP THIS TRAP AND YOUR BAIT (NOT INCLUDED) WHERE YOU SUSPECT THE SASQUATCH FREQUENTS.”

I took the LIFE-SIZED BIGFOOT DOLL I had and the TRAP over to the control room (crossing my fingers I had this right, since again, no saved game), and…

…victory! I don’t know if any Scooby-Doo villains worked with the Russians, but trying to frighten people off land in order to claim valuable oil is definitely their speed.

I did appreciate the minor twist, and especially that it was heavily signaled early on yet I missed the first signals due to the vague standard way objects in adventure games often are delivered on a convenient platter. For example, I had found a GROWLING TAPE RECORDER which I assumed was needed to be used to attract an actual Bigfoot; it did not occur to me “wait, this is the device the villain used to scare people” even though that’s a more logical conclusion. Essentially, I was tricked by the form of the text adventure itself. (See, comparably, the puzzle that stumped me on The Great Pyramid.)

So, kind of a fun plot finesse, but why would a “life-sized bigfoot doll” (which I assume the villain earlier used as part of the con) be the right bait? Wouldn’t that bait only make sense for an actual Bigfoot?

Also, why were the trap and note on top of the shack in the first place? My best guess it was left by the mysterious person who rescued us and brought us to the shack in the first place. (We never learn who that person is.) Were they trying to conceal the trap from the villain, maybe? I probably am trying a little too hard to find the logic here.

I never worked out the deal with this statue while playing, but I found out later from the Gaming After 40 post that the statue is supposed to be the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz saying “OIL ME”. If you manage to do so he gives a hint about getting into the control room, but I didn’t need the hint to finish the game.

Posted November 5, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Curse of the Sasquatch (1980)   6 comments

My first post on Greg Hassett was 4 years ago so there’s a definite feeling of tension/bittersweetness to be on his last two games. (I’ll be playing game #10 — Devil’s Palace — immediately after this one.)

In a previous news article Mr. Hassett explains he comes up with the titles of his games first, which explains some of his quirks like House of the Seven Gables having no real gables. With this game, I’m not sure where the “curse” comes in, but at least there’s Bigfoot.


Regarding the “RISK YOUR (AND MY) LIFE” part: is the computer literally a character in the game, part of a collaboration with the player? Is it really a symbiosis where the computer embodies the player but is still the same entity, somehow? Or is the computer more of a gamemaster intermediary, intended for the player themselves to be in the world (in which case, how does the computer narrator die)? We’ve seen exotic variants of this, like in CIA Adventure which gives the player a “partner” who is not exactly the same as the computer narrator, or the inclusion of an actual extra player intended as a gamemaster of sorts in Spelunker.

The occasional theorist has hacked at the player-narrator-avatar triad before but it never seems like every permutation gets covered. So any aspiring PhDs with a yen for dodgy TRS-80 games and who are on the hunt for a thesis: here you go.

“Obviously carried to this shack by someone or something” gives the game the same mysterious in media res vibe as The Count. My guess would be Bigfoot Himself is responsible.

After some minor puzzle shenanigans, I was able to get in the fireplace and use a key to enter a secret area.

Most of the puzzles so far have been the Greg Hassett standard; find an item, apply it in the right location (no complex timing, and very little in the way of objects used in combination). Play a flute for a cobra, then use the tranquilizer gun from that room and use it on a tiger.

However, I have mapped what seems to be everything and don’t know where to go!

I’ve found a “lifesize bigfoot doll” (that is described as female) suggesting I might want to make a mock-Bigfoot to attract the shaggy behemoth. In addition, to the flute and tranquilizer gun I already mentioned, I have a “growling tape recorder”, a lighter, a candle, an axe, and a ladder.

There’s also this room, which I think is intended as a joke but I’m not certain; if you try to take any of the items a wizard says you can’t take anything and zaps you dead.

There’s different kinds of Stuck; this is the Not Even Sure What The Obstacle Is kind of Stuck, which is pretty unusual both for games of this era and Greg Hassett games in particular. (Unable to Get By An Obstacle is the most popular, followed by Unable to Get an Item to Do Anything and the occasionally related Unable to Collect the Last Missing Treasures.) Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

Posted November 1, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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