Hezarin: The Crowd Are Delirious, the Judges Can’t Believe It   22 comments

If you ask an adventure fan what the worst gameplay situation is in their favorite genre, you might get a reasonable answer like “moon-logic puzzles” or “pixel hunting”. While it’s a rare scenario, for me the absolute worst is “having the correct solution to a puzzle, but the game refuses to recognize it as such causing hours to be wasted”.

I finally narrowed down my troubles with the pits/jumping puzzle (the one with the vial and magic word “WOZX” at the end).

Just as a reminder, this is a long dark east/west corridor where a map (hidden in a broken lantern) indicates the locations of pits, and you need to JUMP at the right positions. I had trouble getting back because one of the pits then moved, making jumping back impossible. I assumed this aspect was a puzzle.

It appears I was caught by the game’s “we really *really* want to make sure you’re using the map” mechanism which broke my runs. I finally dug into the hints and was mystified when there didn’t seem to be anything I didn’t already know, so I made another go from a fresh start and made it through (the pit isn’t supposed to move at all on the way back, if things work properly you can just retrace your steps).

For the aid of any Future Readers who hit this post via search result, here was my process.

1.) I finished the first section of the game all the up to where you go in the hole and get blasted to the next section, and saved my game before going in.

2.) After getting blasted, I made a beeline for the long dark corridor, stopping at the “fork” right before. Then I opened my broken lantern and only then read the map.

3.) I used the map (note the pit locations randomize for each game) to figure out when to go EAST and when to JUMP. After making it to the end (and scooping up the vial you get as a reward) I did the same steps but backwards with WEST and JUMP. (Paranoid addition: if you try this and mess up, don’t reload your game directly; quit out the program first, then go back in and reload. I cannot say for sure whether this helped, but my experience was bad enough I went nuclear.)

4.) Only after making it out of the dark did I save my game again.

This was obnoxious to the point I can declare it likely the lowest point of the entirety of Hezarin (even though I’m only 1/4 of the way in!) Fortunately, the gameplay got a lot more enjoyable after that, so let’s pretend none of that happened and pick up from there.

Look, let’s be distracted by this weird title screen! Via the RISC OS version. Alex’s name is spelled Ship in the manual and Shipp on this screen.

Now, when I say much more enjoyable I do still mean an old-school mindset is required. Structurally, this game is open world with one-way gates. That’s both helpful and stressful.

A “structural map” of the game. It’s quite possible there are more connections I haven’t found yet, but functionally, the one-way trips currently make it so I can’t use a item in a later area in a previous one. Even if it turns out a loop is possible (I’m fairly certain returning to the opening is needed, because there’s a whole castle I skipped where I think Arijith is) it puts some restrictions on what can be used to solve a particular puzzle.

Most of the puzzles in the “first underground region” are entirely solvable before moving on (this is helpful), but it is quite possible to softlock the game by missing some item or clue (this is stressful). It’s quite easy, for example, to miss wiffinweed (an object in the first outdoor area), which is definitely required for the second outdoor area (I will discuss why a little later).

After finally getting the vial, I might have been stuck again were it not for a comment by solar penguin who observed that the secret word next to the vial (WOZX) spells something upside down (XZOM).

The vial starts to glow faintly, then as if it had won some unseen combat against the laws of nature it suddenly bursts forth with a brilliant light, temporarly dazzling you.

The vial counts as a light source, but it also has a special property that triggers in another area; if you go down in the elevator by the Fountain area, you find a sort-of-maze where dragons roam (“Dragon underground” on the structural map).

Your vial is glowing with a green light!

You are in a large chamber whose walls glow bright ping. Passages lead north, south, northeast, southeast, and southwest.

>NE

Your vial is glowing a sober shade of grey!

You are in a large chamber whose walls glow bright green. Passages lead north, south, northeast, southeast, northwest and southwest.

This involves a set of color-coded rooms; the vial glows the color of the room you’re supposed to go in. If you go in the wrong room a dragon melts you. At the end of the rooms is a rainbow room.

You are in a large chamber whose walls pulsate with multicoloured spots.
Passages lead northwest and southwest.
There is a huge firestone here, pulsating with inner life!
There is a suit of asbestos clothing lying in a crumpled heap on the floor.

Once you get the asbestos clothing you can take on a dragon.

As you enter the cavern you notice a large dragon napping in the centre of the chamber.
The dragon opens a beady eye and snarls “How am I meant to get any beauty sleep with all these Adventurers traipsing around?!”
There then ensues a long and epic battle. The dragon almost manages to burn through your asbestos suit when once again your trusty vorpal blade comes good, and the duel culminates with the beheading of the beast.

The elevator that went down to dragons goes up to some “shifting halls”, random rooms with random exits…

This is the hall of achievement. Inscribed on vast wooden plaques surrounding the room are the names of all the former successful Adventurers. You read for some time, but do not recognise any of the names.

>w

This is the hall of perseverance. All who find this room receive due reward. A small clerk hurries in and hands you a package before hurrying out again.

…a “bear” who I can’t even get a reaction from…

You are in a large bare room with exits northwest, south and east. The eastern exit has ‘ENTRANCE TO THE SHIFTING HALLS’ written above.
There is a large bear here.

>s

The bear seems amiable enough, though you are unable to force a way past him.

…a “Morlock” who kills me…

You are in a darkened room piled high with rusting machinery. The only exit lies to the west.
A coral ornament is lying on the ground!
A shadowy figure flits to and fro between the junk, always keeping well out of reach.

>get ornament

As you move towards the Morlock, it pounces and slits your throat.

…and an Inn with other adventurers, which makes this game 10 times livelier than Acheton, Philosopher’s Quest, and Quondam combined.

You are in the Adventurers’ Bar. The place is a hive of activity, filled almost to capacity with hordes of thirsty Adventurers. Scantily clad serving wenches shuttle back and forth with huge steins of frothing ale, and the room is a hubbub of laughter and merriment. Everybody is far too busy drinking to take any notice of you.
A lone, haggard Adventurer strides in from the moor and says: “Shrik yabba wa remmin da dabas! Heks takking Gremlins yekka do pontwers! Yo skibble-weed da polins kerwirligurls.” I think he is trying to tell you something, but the point goes over your head, and eventually he lopes off to the bar.

There’s also a Vault nearby where you can deposit items, which is curious since I already have the bag which counts for getting points from treasures. I suspect (only 60/40 though) if you deposit enough treasure in the vault you get some special item.

The Inn has a door leading outside.

Exploring just a little leads to some Hezarin Gremlins surrounding you and stealing (some of) your stuff. This is where I needed the “wiffinweed” I promised I would get back to. You might note from the comment at the Inn (if you mumble a bit and say the adventurer’s words out loud) that gremlins dislike wiffinweed. Holding it was everything needed to solve the puzzle.

The ground around you boils with frenzied activity, and hundreds of tiny holes appear. Out streams a veritable horde of Hezarin Gremlins, intent on doing as much mischief as they can! They crowd around you then suddenly one shrieks “EEK! He’s got wiffinweed! He’s got wiffinweed” and they zoom off into the distance at high speed. One of them is in such a state that he leaves all his belongings behind.

From here I found three significant branches:

1.) The Evil Moors of Hezarin.

You are wandering in a bleak and extensive area of moorland. The hillsides are a mixture of thick purple heather and sparse gorse bushes which scratch you at any opportunity. A chill wind howls eerily around the tors and vales and a demoralising drizzle hangs in the air.

If you walk in far enough you see some pillars laid in a curious manner.

You’re in the centre of an ancient circle of huge monoliths, the focal point of which is an arrangement of three stones in the middle of the ring. The three stones consist of two pillars and a flat irregular slab set between them and lying on one of its long edges. The two pillars are oriented along a northeast-southwest axis.

(The orientation of the pillars is randomized, so I’m sure that’s some sort of hint.) Unfortunately, hanging out in the moors eventually brings death via either evil wolf or banshee. I don’t know if it’s due to too much time elapsing, me not having the right magic item, me not taking the right geographic movements, or a combination of all three.

While struggling up a particularly steep hillside you stumble across the grisly remains of some poor unfortunates. Even as you ask yourself the question “What did this?”, a howling Banshee confronts you, first scaring you out of your wits and then sucking out your soul.

2.) The Wild Wood.

If you are not carrying a torch, the trees to the southwest will let you in the Wild Wood.

You are in the wild wood: a dark and mysterious forest seemingly with a will all of its own. Branches pluck at your clothing and scratch your face, and the roots appear to grab at your feet trying to trip you up. Although you never see them move, the trees appear to shift position constantly, so that it is impossible ever to retrace your exact steps.

You can CLIMB TREE and SNIFF (not SMELL, only SNIFF [*]) to get oriented and eventually find some witches.

You are on the edge of a small clearing. In the centre is a large cauldron smelling of various nasty and unpleasant ingredients. AA group of witches are squabbling round the cooking fire:
“It was your turn to bring the maggots!”
“I brought them last week! Anyway we can do without the maggots! What about the dead rats?”
“They’re not decayed enough. We’ll have to use spinach instead. Pass me the dragon’s head.”
“I haven’t got a dragon’s head!
“Could have fooled me dearie, hee, hee, hee!”
“Fishcakes! It won’t work properly without a dragon’s head. We’ll just have to use lots of spinach.”

You may recall from my dragon escapades I did manage to behead a dragon, and the witches were willing to trade the dragon head for teleportation “somewhere which could be in your interests” which turned out to be a small extra underground area.

A boulder blocks passage to the west, taking the “topaz bracelet” to the east results in a slab blocking the way out, and leaving deposits the player back in the Inn area. I haven’t tried talking to the witches and getting teleportation again, so it may be a one-trip-only deal.

3.) River Surfing

I am so astonished I figured this one out on my own. There’s a river that you can go in for exactly one turn before a wave wipes you out.

Some way up the river you may see what you think is a wave starting to form…but is it?

While doing an unrelated part of the game the thought popped up “what if I could surf the wave?” I noticed the “plank” in my inventory. Previously I had visualized it as rather small and thin (it came from a treehouse) but if it was a little larger than my visualization it would work as a surfboard (failure to visualize as the author intended has been long one of my nemeses).

However, going out with the plank and typing SURF kills you.

Good idea: badly executed. Too bad.
Oh dear, you seem to have terminated your existence.

I had to rely on outside knowledge a little; what does surfing look like? Well, sometimes you KNEEL on the board.

OK.
Yes, it is! Rearing up its great green bulk and bearing down on you like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

>WAIT

OK.
Now you’ve virtually overshadowed by this, arguably the best breaker of the millennium. What about it?

>SURF

You hold the plank out in front of you and throw yourself flat out on it.
Perfect timing! The wave curls and breaks around you, and before long you’re out there standing up, sitting down, hanging ten and doing handstands… the crowd are delirious, the judges can’t believe it, who is this man? Now he’s sure to win the Hezarin Surf Festival. Even the Death-Defying Dwarf who’s been practising all year for this event at his home camp near Poohsticks bridge must be out of it now.. but wait.. Oh no! This can’t be true.. Yes, he’s gone – WIPE OUT.. We can only hope that he’s washed up somewhere safe….

Holy hijinks that worked. Doing all this lands the player (sans all inventory except anything being worn) in a new area, with a temple.

You are standing before a huge building which flares white in the brilliant sunlight. When you look closer, you realise that its walls, stairs, columns, turrets, steeply pointed domes and finely carved flying buttresses are covered entirely in highly polished ivory.

Within the temple you can randomly run across a.) acolytes wearing white robes b.) an acolyte wearing a red robe and c.) two guardians. There’s also a way to wander around the back and grab a white robe as a disguise.

If you have the white robe on you can sneak by a.) and b.) Later you can get a red robe and sneak by a.) and c.) There is some randomness here in who you meet and I think the gameplay really is meant to have a little luck thrown in, but eventually, I managed to get a ceremonial dagger and close to an inner sanctum.

You are in the antechamber to the main sanctum. Identical doors are opposite each other in the east and west walls, and in the north and south ends of the room are stone water troughs set into the floor.

>E

As you pass through the doorway the ground apparently starts to burn beneath your feet, and as you cry out in agony two Guardians appear and despatch you instantly.

I’m not sure how to get past the “fire floor”, but since I don’t have any method for escaping the temple area yet, there likely is a way.

[*] How did I know to SNIFF? The parser is unique in that rather than “it only understand the first three letters of a word” (common in 1980s games) or “it only understand the first six letters” (an Infocom standard) it will interpret a word correctly as long as the initial letters map to a unique part of the game’s vocabulary. In my comments, Voltgloss discovered “Z” alone led to the game asking about zirconium. Early in my gameplay I went through every two-letter combination from “AA” to “ZZ” (I was kind of stuck, ok?) and managed to ferret out some odd nouns and verbs in the process, including SNIFF and KNEEL. Not SURF, alas; I just had to summon thinking of that one from the void.

Posted January 22, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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22 responses to “Hezarin: The Crowd Are Delirious, the Judges Can’t Believe It

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  1. I don’t really understand the way you got snootered by the pits puzzle. Was it that the location of the pit changed when you saved and reloaded? The location changed if you didn’t read the map again after reaching the far side?

    • The pits only move together if the game thinks you are cheating. The “cheating” flag hits before the pit movement actually happens. So you go to the east like normal, but you are already doomed as the game decides only when you make it to the other side to give the impossible scenario.

      As far as I can tell it intentionally corrupts the save file to cause this so reloading can set this flag. It appears you can corrupt A PREVIOUS SAVE FILE WHICH WAS PREVIOUSLY OK by doing this.

      It also doesn’t really seem to work right, as in, I’m fairly sure there’s some bugginess involved. One time I got caught in a scenario where any time I jumped it only went to the west, making the initial traversal impossible.

      • …so this has to do with the nasty meta-game business, where if you save in the wrong place the game thinks you’re trying to die-and-retry through it and moves the pit? And it can make this happen after you go to the other side, and also in other save files? Jeez. Seems especially harsh in a game (and group of games) that is full of learning by dying. (Speaking of which, how do you know what colors the adjacent rooms are in the rainbow maze? And do you think it’s likely that you’re going to die of asbestosis at the end of the game? Also I think it’s clear from the original text that the vorpal blade was primarily about stabbing, and that the beamish boy then removed the head of the Jabberwock as a trophy, but clearly it has come through tradition as a blade that is particularly good at beheading. I suppose the text here is also compatible with the duel ending with the beheading of the dead dragon.)

        Anyway, I think there’s a moral or two here–one of which is that if a game is going to take a suspicious attitude toward its players with anti-cheating measures, it ought to be very certain of its infallibility. I had some bitter experiences with a crashy version of nethack–nethack deletes its save files when you restart instead of when you quit, in order to prevent you from getting out of a bad situation by force-quitting the game, but that meant when it crashed my whole game was gone (there’s a facility for recovering games but it wasn’t working either). This ironically led me to start copying my save files, which ordinarily is a form of cheating.

        Seems like the best approach would be the Infocom one of preventing you from saving in the circumstances where they think saving is cheating.

      • Rainbow maze seemed to be “tending to red goes ne, tending to violet goes se” but I really just kept throwing bodies at it until I had a sufficient map to realize the pattern.

        You can’t actually STAB with the vorpal blade, it says something along the lines of you don’t have an item that can do that. The dagger works with it, though.

      • As it happens, this game *also* prevents you from saving in certain circumstances. This is what was happening to me when I got “it’s far too exciting to save now” messages. I eventually realized this began when I started killing orcs and getting pieces of the crystal key; once I’d started that process, the game would not let me save until I had killed *all four* orcs and fully assembled the key.

      • I was able to save after three orcs (which is good since it was a while longer after I defeated the first three before I found the cloak).

      • I stand corrected (I had not tried after three; I’d only tried after one and four)! Thanks.

        I also discovered that the game prevents saving within the rainbow maze. The correct path changes with each attempt, so you can’t map out a route purely by trial-and-error; you need to have the vial with you (and notice that the vial’s colors are showing the correct path).

      • Voltgloss–are you saying that the map layout is constant but the correct path through it is randomized? (Otherwise I don’t see how it would work for Jason to throw bodies at the maze for a map.)

      • Yes, that’s exactly it.

      • Anyway, I think there’s a moral or two here–one of which is that if a game is going to take a suspicious attitude toward its players with anti-cheating measures, it ought to be very certain of its infallibility.

        Or to quote Scalzi, the failure mode of “clever” is “asshole”.

  2. The SURF thing actually seems pretty fun. Would it have been fair(er) if the size and shape of the plank had been described in more detail?

    • “CROSS” is a verb, and “CROSS PLANK” gives the message “You consider putting down the plank and walking across it, but realise it will achieve nothing and so give up.” From that response I concluded that the plank was fairly large, so the SURF escapade made sense to me. (I’m not quite that far yet myself – need to catch up. I know nothing about surfing and don’t know I’d ever have picked up KNEEL without resorting to hints.)

      • https://newquayactivitycentre.co.uk/how-to-stand-up-on-a-surfboard/

        the “kneel” bit technically comes after being prone usually, maybe it understands LIE DOWN or something like that too?

        KNEEL still makes sense to indicate the start-up of the process though.

      • There is a certain game with a surfboard in it, which has a series of hints about how to use the surfboard, and one of them is the question “How does a surfer steer a surfboard?” I clicked right through to the next hint. (Admittedly, this is the game of which it was said “I am starting to suspect [the author] only writes games to showcase his marvellous hint systems”–I don’t think you were expected not to use the hints.)

    • It was pretty fun. I’m not complaining so much as explaining my thought process. Yes, describing the size in EXAMINE would have made life easier, but I think the command was only included reluctantly (so far it’s only “worked” on the broken lantern — it’s still gratifying that it doesn’t just throw up a complaint or error if you try to examine things).

      • Another thing I noticed re: EXAMINE: its “stock” response describes “turning” the object over in your hands to look at it. I did get one unique response, to EXAMINE MAP (and also TURN MAP) – the map in the lantern – which isn’t the same as READing it. Instead, the game comments that you look at the *back* of the map but are disappointed to find nothing there. Maybe this will be relevant later with a different object, where you need to look at its back. I don’t know.

  3. I discovered just now that depositing valuables in the vault scores *more* points than just having them in your bag. Depositing everything made my score jump from 195 to 272.

    I also suspect your score – or, more accurately, your rating – may be relevant to accessing areas. In particular, the Adventurer’s Inn itself has a sign “Experienced Adventurers Only” outside – and by the time I got there (with a bunch of valuables in tow) my rating was “Experienced Adventurer.” I suspect, though have not tested, that getting there with significantly fewer valuables found means you’d be denied access.

  4. The parser isn’t unique in the way it maps the opening letters of words. IIRC some Level 9 adventures did the same thing, and so did all games written with GAC.

  5. With the mindset “things that are randomized are probably important,” I’ve put in ROT13 below the *second* thing (first thing being the map of pits) that I noticed as different between my playthrough and what’s been blogged so far. And which, I’ve since determined, is indeed randomized. (I don’t know the significance, if any, yet.)

    Gur yvfg bs zhfvpny vafgehzragf gung cynl jura lbh svefg ragre gur ebbz jvgu gur “obatre.”

    • Yes, you’re definitely on the right track with that, I’ve solved the relevant puzzle. (The evil aspect is the message only happens once and it gets used much later. I kept notes but on a different save-file track than the one that survived. I had to restart my game. Again.)

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