Hezarin: The End   11 comments

I’ve finished the game, so the usual extreme spoiler warnings apply (also, I refer to previous events quite a bit, so if you landed here from elsewhere you are better off reading my entries about Hezarin in order).

And before I really dive in, a word about this page in the manual. It spells Alex Shipp as “Alex Ship”, twice. I was going with the Ship spelling when I first started but it appears Shipp everywhere else; the manual writer was just confused. Also note they spell the sorcerer’s name as Arijith. It’s supposed to be Anjith! I got the original spelling locked in my head and even though the game itself constantly spells it as Anjith, I kept reading it the wrong way.

One thing Hezarin has been strong at — and somewhat uniquely, up to 1980, although I’m guessing we may see more of this in 1981 — is elaborate action set-pieces where puzzles stretch over multiple turns. The ivory temple segment I mentioned in my previous posts qualifies, where there are three types of enemies and the type of response you need to use changes based on what disguise you’re using.

There’s also a mostly-excellent section near Gilgamesh’s tomb I haven’t mentioned yet where you outrun a tiger. I’ll quote the segment in its entirety.


As you open the door you catch sight of a sudden movement from one corner of the room, and on looking round you see a large tiger which takes a few paces towards you and snarls angrily.


The tiger pads closer, and growls again, baring his yellowed fangs.
You run down the corridor to the crossroads and the tiger starts to chase after you, anxious not to let a good meal escape.
You’re at a crossroads with doors to the north, east, and south, and a corridor west.


Persued hotly by the tiger, you go straight on south.
You are at the south door. The door is open.


Through the southern door into the straw-floored chamber, the tiger hurtling after you.
You are in the straw chamber.
There is a metal ring about 6″ diameter attached to the wall here.


As you dive desperately into the secret passage, the tiger pauses fractionally with instinctive suspicion of this dark hole.
You’re in a secret passage which turns sharply so the entrance door is to the west, and it then runs north. On the wall is a metal ring about 6″ in diameter.
The secret door is open.


You dash to the ring on the wall, and almost rip it from its socket, so desperate are you to escape. The heavy door begins to close agonisingly slowly, and as the tiger overcomes his initial wariness, he moves in for the kill. But he’s too late. The door gathers pace and swings smartly shut, leaving the tiger snarling with disappointment. You escaped the tiger. Well done!
You are in the secret passage. The secret door is closed.


You’re in a small room with a three foot square hole in the middle, which presumably connects to another room. IF you were to go down I don’t think you’d get up again.


You jump down into the tiger’s lair.
You’re in the large dank chamber which is the tiger’s lair. The door is open.
There is a finely crafted eight-pointed star here, set with a gem large enough to pick it up by.


Star taken


When I said you had escaped the tiger I wasn’t actually telling the whole truth. As you step through the door of the tiger’s lair you find that he is waiting for you at the crossroads.
You are at the north door. The door is open.


You hurl the star at the tiger with all your might, and it glitters and spins as it flies down the corridor, striking the tiger right between the eyes and felling it before it has a chance to move.

With one absurdly hard to find verb stopping the action in the middle, the endgame of Hezarin is essentially an extended action sequence. I can say it came near to being good, but it undermined itself by trying too hard to be Endgame Hard™.

Last I left off right below Anjith’s castle.

You are standing on a narrow road which winds its way before you up and around a steep mountain. To the left the cliff rises sheer, to the right it drops away just as steeply. Miles below you to the south you can see a tiny ramshackle village nestling in a patchwork of fields, hemmed in by wild forest, a vast plain, and a deep ravine. You know that now your work lies not down there, but high above in the foreboding castle that dominates the mountain top. The castle which houses the power which it is now your duty to fight…the castle of the sorcerer Anjith.
The full moon casts eerie shadows over the land.

Climbing up leads to an extended scene of danger.

You continue up the path – it can really no longer be described as a road – and as you do so you are showered with small bits of rubble.
You are on the path halfway up the wizard’s mountain. The cliff is sheer above you, and only slightly less sheer below.

Anjith, rather than zapping us with lightning bolts (that will come later) has gone the traditional “rockslide avalanche” method. The only method of survival is to JUMP (which lands you on a tree branch), SWING (which sets you swinging back and forth, gymnast-style) followed by another JUMP.

At the peak of your swing, you let go of the tree, and launch yourself at the ledge. As you do so, the tree roots finally give up their hold on the mountain side, and you catch a fleeting glimpse of the tree falling away into oblivion as you scramble to safety.
You are on a narrow ledge high on the cliffs on Anjith’s mountain. The only possible continuation of the ledge lies to the east.

So far, so good, but…

You are in a low cave. At one end the mouth is blocked, at the other a narrow shaft rises vertically up into the heart of the mountain. The rock in here is very smooth, and offers no handholds.

…Hezarin being its own worst enemy decides to stop things here for a screeching halt.


You try to climb one wall of the shaft, but are immediately defeated by the aforementioned lack of handholds.


OK. You jumped. Hope you enjoyed that.


I can’t see any walls here.

I flailed about for half an hour before deciding to peek at the hints.

A little mountaineering expertise is required here.
Do you want another hint from this set?

Ahem. YES, I WANT ANOTHER HINT. (I don’t have anything against mountains, just out of the 4000 different hobbies I could be doing I haven’t tried that one.)


The hazy memories of your beginners’ Adventuring classes flood back as you brace yourself between the walls of the shaft and worm your way up it. After an ascent of some distance you find yourself at the entrance to a low passage which, glad of the rest, you dive into without further ado. The passage is so low that you have to stoop to get through it, but this does not stop you.


The next section is on the small map above. There’s one lever in each of the “Laboratory” rooms, and if you pull a lever, a staircase appears north of the Great Hall. Trying to go up the staircase sets off an alarm

Even as you set foot on the stairs a claxon wails soulfully in the distance, and there is a loud crackling from one corner of the room. Moments later the auto-defence looses off a lightning bolt which there is no escaping.

Pulling a second lever (or the same lever) seems to cause the staircase to close. You can attempt to run upstairs but you don’t have enough time.

Though you dash at the closing stairs and try as best you can to scramble up them, you manage no more than half a dozen before they close completely, throwing you back to the floor.

I say “seems to” because of the events that happen in a moment. I’m still not quite sure what’s going on. The right action here is to summon Anjith. This was apparently doable at any point in the entire game just by speaking his name. (Really!)


Even as the first syllable passes your lips there is a violent shaking (of the space-time continuum) and the wizard Anjith appears before you.
“So,” he cries, “you have the box, then!” You know you do not have the power to use it, though, so give it to me…come, do not resist…”
His eyes seem suddenly brighter, and it is only with difficulty that you can resist his command. However, you manage to start to back away from him…

The game at least makes it clear you need to run away. If you take the semi-circle path along the laboratories (W. SE. E. NE. from the Great Hall) you get a moment where you can do something…


No time to lose, you dash through here too, and are out before Anjith has even reached the room.
You are in part of one of Anjith’s disused laboratory complexes. Swing doors lead southwest, in the angled southwest wall; and west in the curved west wall. There is a wooden lever attached to the wall.

…but otherwise I was very stumped, because the staircase behavior worked just like before. I was clearly missing some gimmick.

Apparently, the key is to BREAK three out of the four levers, but leave the last one to break while fleeing Anjith. And … look, I’m still honestly not sure what happened, so let me just quote first:

You break the lever off. It vanishes in a puff of smoke.
There is a click and a quiet grinding sound from not far off.


Now you take flight again, dashing out of the lab just as Anjith enters it.
You are in the great hall. The northern end of the room is taken up by a rapidly closing staircase of stone blocks.


You hammer across the hall and scramble frantically at the closing stairs. A claxon wails soulfully in the distance, and there is a loud crackling from the corner of the room but fear, it is said, lends wings to the hunted and you are no exception. You fairly fly upwards through the ever-diminishing gap in the ceiling, narrowly avoiding even the auto-defence lightning bolt which spends itself against the hard stonework that has now closed beneath your feet.
You are at the top of a huge flight of stairs, at the southern end of a dimly lit corridor. There is a wooden lever attached to the wall here.

I *think* the implication is that breaking a lever also pulls it (once). But why did the security system not get set off this time? And why does breaking a lever and trying to enter the staircase directly without Anjith being summoned at all work? I’m fairly sure there is some logic to the sequence here, I’m just not seeing it. I really like the idea of setting things up beforehand for the chase, and having the path itself you take give you a little room in running away from the wizard, but the actual mechanism of the levers wasn’t explained well enough to make the sequence satisfying.

Afterwards: more running.

Some way off down the passage you become aware of a disturbance in the air, which becomes in turn a bright blue light, and then a cloud of smoke. A low whistling sound becomes an unearthly shrieking, and before your eyes Anjith appears. You are only barely able to avoid being completely mesmerized by the sight.
You are at the north end of a long corridor. To the north the corridor opens out into a brightly lit hall.


The wizard screams and takes off in pursuit after you.
You are in a great laboratory. In the middle of the room some arcane looking apparatus is bubbling merrily to itself, producing little puffs of thin purple smoke. There is a doorway to the south, and to the west is a narrow, steep staircase.


You break the bubbling apparatus into thousands of pieces, and within moments a thick purple smoke is issuing forth from the wreckage.
Outside you can hear the chasing footsteps of the wizard Anjith.


You dash up the narrow staircase, hearing Anjith’s gasps below you as he enters the smoke-filled laboratory.
You are in the centre of an octagonal library lined with shelves on all sides.

I predicted (correctly, woot!) last time there was a parchment from underneath Mashu that might come in handy in the endgame. Just to briefly quote the previous find:

The parchment bears the word ‘tar’ on the obverse.

Scrutinising the parchment, you turn it over and over and eventually catch sight of the faintest scrawlings on the reverse. Squinting hard at it you just make out the word ‘APERIR’.

Now is when APERIR is useful. I really do wish there was some sort of feedback when you try it earlier; something like “not yet”? This is a scenario where even though I correctly guessed how things would work out, it was unsatisfying anyway. (Referring back to my post a year ago about deduction vs. abduction; I was using abductive reasoning with what I ballparked as only a 10% likelihood of truth, so it still felt like a lotto win rather than reasoned thought when I turned out to be right. From the author’s perspective, this is the very end of the game so APERIR has to work by process of elimination, but as a player I didn’t know that.)

APERIR gives you a rustling sound in a particular direction (randomized). You go in that direction, and then:

You rummage frantically around amidst the shelves full of scrolls and ancient tomes but it seems impossible to find the source of the rustling. Then, just as you have given up hope a small, tattered fragment of an ancient manuscript practically forces itself into your hands. When you take a closer look at it you find that there is barely room even for the little word which is written on it: the word reads ‘nis’.
“At last!”
You wheel round to find Anjith leaning on the rail at the top of the stairs, breathing hard, but by no means out of control. His face is twisted with hatred, and when he continues his voice is cold and quiet.
“Give me the box. You will never know how to use it!” He begins to advance towards you in his confidence…

Here’s where the “tar” part of the fragment comes in. You’re supposed to put “tar” and “nis” together, but…

Nothing happens.
Your dallying gets you nowhere: Anjith simply appears in the room, raises his arm, and fries you.

…the game has one last cheap trick. The word is five letters and the middle letter is torn through (never mind the game didn’t think to describe that). The “r” and “n” get mashed together to form:


Though you mean to speak the word only once, you repeat it again and again until you feel you are chanting it in a dream. Dimly you see Anjith shrink back, and feel violent shuddering as the box melts flares and transmutes before your unbelieving eyes. No longer in control of yourself you are nevertheless aware that the object in your hands in now a flaming sword whose hilt is crafted with ebony, ivory and great jewels which flare with an energy all of their own. Anjith turns to flee and now you pursue him through the corridors and halls of the castle – stairways, laboratories and libraries are all part of your hazy memories of those few minutes, and then Anjith falling, the sword raised high above your head and the wizard’s last desperate screams before sword and tyrant are immolated together in the final cleaving blow. Exhausted and dazed, you turn away and walk slowly down the winding path of the mountain into the green fields to the thronging welcome of the village’s now liberated folk.

You have scored 1073 out of a maximum possible of 1100.

I could see the very last puzzle working out with some more feedback. “Tar”, “nis”, “nistar” and “tarnis” could all get their own unique failure messages. This is what might be called second-order solving — you need to do one puzzle leap followed by another without feedback in the middle that you’re on the right track, so the combinatorics of possible directions to go becomes too overwhelming.

Let me approach my conclusion laterally, by quoting this review via Home of the Underdogs written by Sarinee Achavanuntaku:

In the spirit of Colossal Cave, there is plenty of treasures you can uncover and pocket along the way, accounting for many optional points you can win out of the whopping 1100 total score.

“Optional” is a thin margin here — I squeaked through missing (I think) two treasures only. Acheton gives more of a margin (at least ten?) to the extent entire sections can be skipped; here it’s more a courtesy if you missed something small.

Unfortunately, most of the puzzles feel like they have been borrowed liberally from other games, e.g. the Zork trilogy, and lacks any exciting new twist to keep adventurers interested.

I admit this sentence baffles me. Other than, hmmm, having a maze, I can’t think of any duplicates with Zork. It’s also not like the authors had much they could steal from; they clearly reference Adventure and Acheton, and they probably played mainframe Zork, but in all likelihood that’s all the models they had to work from.

In contrast to other Topologika games (especially those written by Peter Killworth and Jonathan Partington), many puzzles are not just difficult– they are illogical.

We tend to use the word “illogical” lightly with adventure games, and I don’t think that applies here; every puzzle had some sort of clue. There are some definite frustrations but describing them requires a more exact brush.

Take the rod that both turned you into a frog and shrunk the minotaur; there was a poem that directly referenced this, so not “illogical” exactly, but I do think the text was far too cryptic and was only able to be connected after the puzzle was already solved.

Another instance of this would be using the obsidian bar to open the barrow; the hunting scenes on the bar do seem like a clue after the fact, but beforehand the indication is just too muted a clue to suffice.

Essentially, it’s the deduction vs. abduction issue again; rather than saying the puzzles were illogical one might say the abductive reasoning didn’t have enough evidence to lead to satisfying solutions.

(I incidentally do think the levers puzzle in the endgame might be full-on illogical, but I might be missing something and that’s only one puzzle.)

Fortunately, many puzzles are optional, so if you can stand the thought of finishing the game with less than a perfect score, playing the game is tolerable. Hezarin is definitely one of the weaker Topologika games, and is best avoided unless you simply must play every IF on the market.

Again, the “optional” window is pretty thin, but let’s skim over that and discuss: is Hezarin “stronger” or “weaker” compared to the other Topologika games (or in general, games from the Phoenix mainframe)?

As a piece of plotting, it’s far, far, better. There’s a little bit of randomness in a holistic sense, but each area leads to a kind of story (the ivory temple, the passage through Mashu and the rainbow, the dread Evil Moors, the witches in the forest). Despite the unfair aspects, the endgame was far more satisfying as a story conclusion than any Toplogika game I’ve tried so far.

As a game as a whole, Hezarin is wobblier. At least Quondam (which still came out harder, by the way) had a consistent evilness to every puzzle; Hezarin could have an entirely smooth and intuitive section be kicked in the teeth by another guess-the-verb segment, and the game almost goes out of its way to make sure the player ends up in a softlock (the “tune” at the Music Room that only appears once being a good exemplar of this).

In summation: no, I can’t necessarily recommend it for pleasure, although it does represent quite an achievement in the history-of-Adventures sense. It really tries — much harder than anything else in the era — to tie the treasure hunt together as a continuous narrative, where satisfaction is derived not just from the solving of puzzles but from more standard narrative devices, like climax and denouement.

The Flood Tale from the Epic of Gilgamesh, Harvard Semitic Museum. (Public Domain)

I finished Hezarin ahead of my “schedule”, so I might take a breather, but fairly soon I’ll be diving into two Apple II works which explore the fringes of adventure gameplay, and a mystery that has remained unsolved for 39 years.

Posted January 31, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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11 responses to “Hezarin: The End

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  1. Well done sir.

    The levers puzzle makes sense in my mind when I think of it as *two different puzzles*. The first: “How do I get up the stairs fast enough to avoid the security system?” The answer is to make yourself run faster. How do you make yourself run faster? By engineering a situation where your own body provides the adrenaline needed: you must be literally **running for your life**. (Or as the game says, “fear, it is said, lends wings to the hunted.”) That means two things: (i) the staircase must be closing (so you gotta go fast!), which means opening it ahead of time and pulling a lever to close it just before you make your attempt; AND (ii) you need to be pursued by a threat of imminent death (so you gotta go even faster!). That threat is Anjith. And he needs to be BEHIND you, which means after you summon him you need to lead him on a chase through the lab rooms first before dashing up the stairs. (If you summon him IN a lab room, you die immediately because, the game says, you don’t have enough room to evade him.)

    What’s that all have to do with breaking levers? Nothing. You can get up the stairs successfully WITHOUT breaking any levers…

    …but if you don’t break the levers, then even after you get up the stairs, you are walking dead – because **Anjith will open the staircase using a lever and catch up with you.**

    Specifically, if ANY of the four levers remain intact when you make your escape, Anjith WILL catch up with you before you can make it to the room with the “apparatus,” and fry you as a result. But with all the levers broken, Anjith needs to magic himself up there instead; and that takes more time (and/or maybe Anjith is wasting time hunting for an intact lever), giving you just the bit of extra head start you need.

    So, breaking three of the levers ahead of time (each of which DOES count as “pulling” them simultaneously), and then breaking the very last one just when you need to use it, means you’ve solved the second puzzle of “how do I stop Anjith from catching up with me via the stairs.” The answer is to *prevent Anjith from using the stairs*.

    This sequence was my favorite part of the game.

    Postscript: I never knew before this that CHIMNEY was a verb. It literally means exactly the kind of bracing-your-limbs-on-both-sides-of-a-narrow-shaft-and-worming-upwards process that is required at that puzzle. I knew I wanted to express this concept to the game, but I struggled – not really because I didn’t know what verb the game wanted, but more because *I myself didn’t know* what was the correct verb for the process I wanted to undertake.

    Postpostscript: I felt slightly vindicated that two intransitive verbs I’d discovered early and been trying throughout the game with no success, SWING and SEARCH, finally got their due in the endgame.

    • They were pretty scrupulous about making the other puzzles have some sort of logic (if only logic that could be figured out after the fact) so I figured it more likely I missed something on the levers.

  2. Perhaps the bad ligaturing that turned Anjith into Arijith was meant to be a hint for the Tamis puzzle?

  3. I wonder if the “celebration” scene after beating the game is any different if you have less than a full 1100 points.

    • I had less than a full 1100. Assuming you got 1100, just compare?

      • Oh, wait, was the last thing you saw the “1073 points out of a maximum possible of 1100?” Ah.

        Completing with a full score adds the following scene after the game reports on your score:

        “1100 out of 1100! Well, what can I say. Eager workmen have already prepared your plaque for the hall of fame – there remains only the formality of notification of the proper authorities for its official unveiling.
        Meanwhile the drunken revels continue far into the night. The fourth orc turns out to be a beautiful princess under a spell. The bear turns out to be a handsome prince. Only one offers their hand in marriage, but that ought to be enough for any normal Adventurer anyway. They can always marry each other if you don’t like the idea.
        All the dragons turn up, unable to sleep because of the noise. However, the Death Defying Dwarf manages to calm them down, and they are soon hobnobbing merrily with a group of Acolytes who have sneaked out for a night on the town. The Witch-Scorpo combination Disco-Dancing team provide the cabaret and floorshow, to the great amusement of the old salt in the bar, who boogies on down with the best of them. The bridge players are nowhere to be found – perhaps they have gone to visit some old friends in Acheton – who knows? The success of the party is ensured anyway – the Gremlins turn out to be temporarily detained by a large Dynamic Range Error in the Garden of Shamash and won’t be able to make it.
        To achieve the next highest rating you must be Steve Tinney, Alex Shipp or Jon Thackray!”

  4. Well I finally nailed this thing after two and a half decades and a thermos of Morphine freshly prepared on Mondays. I managed 1075 points so I’m not sure which bit I missed – I certainly don’t have the willpower to go back and try to find out.

    In terms of sheer sadism, I think the music room instruments puzzle, the smoke filled corridor, the wooden panel cum inn sign and that well worn verb “chimney” plus the soft lock if you save between collecting the wooden panel and buying drinks in the bar (the old salt won’t tell you about the full moon if you save before meeting him) this game is right up there with others from the Phoenix stable.

    I think there was a slight dilution of difficulty with these games after the first four (that is, Acheton, Brand X, Quondam and Hezarin) although Fyleet and Xeno are nasty too.

    • Congrats!

      I think the save game issue after the wooden panel might be a bug? It doesn’t sound like from the same ballpark as the pit situation.

      I’m not too far from my next Phoenix game (of my “major” games coming up, not counting the one-shots I’m tossing in, there’s an Apple II game, then an Infocom game, and then it’s a little open but I’m probably doing Phoenix, haven’t decided which one yet since I haven’t found a clear chronology).

  5. You could be right about the bug Jason. If I save after getting the panel but before I speak to the old man in the bar he only discusses his etchings or his adventures in the Wild Wood. I did find another bug where the location of the sleeping orc did not match the direction of the snoring sound but this was probably a corrupted save file.

    In terms of their chronology, Adam Atkinson’s timeline for the next three Phoenix mainframe creations would be Hamil, Murdac then Avon. The fact that they all had the same author (Jonathan Partington) would certainly suggest that there was no overlapping between their start and their finish dates. Although some don’t agree with me I found Avon to be the nastiest of the three and the maize maze in Hamil could turn a pacifist into a psychotic.

  6. I see that, having completed it finally, Hezarin has a total of 402 locations including mazes (the latest version of Trizbort lets you work that out simply.) Acheton has 403. I wonder if this was a coincidence or an homage not to outdo its predecessor? Rmember there is an Acheton database as one of the treasures in Hezarin too.

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