The Cranston Manor Adventure: Finished!   4 comments

The puzzles that remained ranged from “not really a puzzle” to “one shot command that almost nobody would find”, so let’s dig in.

Not really a puzzle

Last time I wrote about a pink bull that charged and the game’s … narrator? … froze it in a time stasis field, letting you get by; on a second return it would charge you and kill you. RonReg theorized about waving a red cloth or saying “OLE”, but unfortunately, I simply missed you could go DOWN in one of the rooms and never have to return to the bull. The manual does give an entirely unnecessary hint as to an alternate solution where you just turn off the lantern.

Just for the satisfaction, I went back and tried it out:

Almost not a puzzle

I also mentioned a door requesting an ID. There’s a subway station where you can insert a coin to get a subway card, which apparently doubles as an ID.

Going back to the door and typing INSERT CARD led me to a vault with an impressive enough description I was unable to get it in one screenshot. I’ll type it out instead:

OK. There is a short pause, then a whirring sound. The heavy door slides open.

I’m in a large concrete vault. To the north is a huge steel door. In the center of the vault on a chrome pedestal is a PLATINUM SPHERE which pulsates with an inner light. A sign reads * DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE *. Overhead a large wicked looking laser points directly at the platinum sphere. To one side of the vault is a small computer. Standing in front of the computer is the transluscent figure of an old man. The figure is apparently a hologram. The control panel of the computer looks very old, in fact, I can see small cracks in the housing. Through a thick glass wall on the south side of the room I can see small tin soldiers moving around. They walk into the room, stick the butt end of their rifles into a socket on the wall and freeze. After a short while, they leave. A thick armored cable runs from the chrome pedestal through the glass wall into the other room. There is a large PLATINUM SPHERE here.

Despite this impressiveness, you can just nab the PLATINUM SPHERE and go. The game doesn’t let you interact with the computer and cable and so forth (including logical acts like HIT COMPUTER, which gets interpreted as trying to attack the tin soldier) so I assumed that was that and the scene was for flavor, but I found out post-game (from the hints in the manual, again) that you could throw water and sabotage the whole setup.

The hint indicates that just being able to grab the sphere safely is a bug. Perhaps the graphical version of the game (which I’ve got slated on my roster after a gap of five games or so, don’t want to burn myself out) will patch this up.

Aside from the bug, this would be a moderating satisfying puzzle if it was possible to fuss with the computer in some other way. As is, the only thing that gets a reaction is the right command, and the one that works uses a noun which is not linked to the computer. As an analogy, imagine Diablo where the way to attack enemies is to click on your weapon, *not* on the enemies you are fighting. This sort of indirect setup happens in adventure games all the time and is often pleasing, but it’s atypical — and weirdly alienating — not to allow some interaction with the target of the destruction before it happens.

Still the best moment of the game in a plot sense, even if it never happened during “my” story.

Something that counts as a legit puzzle

I mentioned the suits of armors everywhere that prevented you from taking treasure in the same room as they were. I had found a mouse (captured via cheese + a cage) but originally assumed the mouse was intended for some tiny hole somewhere, but no: it’s meant for the other standard use of mice in adventure games, scaring:

So the many suits of armor never really paid off in an ominous plot sense, but it’s very easy to run into the effect shown above by accident via just experimentation. So I still support how they are placed. I still feel like there should have been a hint that armor + mouse = profit; maybe there was and I missed it.

Also a legit puzzle and I feel sheepish that I had trouble

I got distracted thinking the a fountain (with too much water) and the cistern (with no water) were connected, as in, part of the same pipe system and I needed to cause water to transfer from one to the other (that is sort of what happens with the cistern, but in was water-toted-by-hand way).

There’s a raft in a children’s bedroom of the manor, and you’re just supposed to use it to go in.

There’s a cat statue with rubies for eyes; the rubies are a treasure.

I think I also had a visualization problem here; I don’t think of a typical fountain as even having the room for a raft, but it does make sense.

The aforementioned cistern

Now we get to screamingly unfair. There’s a pot you can fill with water (although only outside the fountain with the specific command GET WATER, FILL POT doesn’t work, getting the water while rafting doesn’t work).

I got the idea to put some water in the cistern, but after numerous failures, including a hard game crash, I decided that wasn’t the way to go.

How wrong I was.

To save you the trouble of trying to read this, the money shot command is PRIME PUMP.

Could someone in the comments make up a word for “verb that has only shown up in one text adventure game, ever”? I’m sure PRIME is a prime candidate.

Even worse

The final sticking point was the gold nugget I got past the bull. While the bull itself wasn’t a problem, the gold nugget just past it was.

As hinted, you can’t just cart it outside; if you try, the game teleports you back to the nugget room.

There is a sudden incredible wrench and everything goes black

What to do? Well, the underground has multiple exits (including a door where a “… triangle” works as a key, but you don’t need it going from underground to aboveground; I suspect this is a bug) but it also has a lift.

The lift is interesting, geographically; there’s torches in the master bedroom and servant bedrooms of the house and you can pull them to sneak into the aboveground lift area.

Despite the explicit text mention, the manual does not mention how to use the lift. Is there an “in-game” manual? (Possibly an item I’m missing?) Maybe it was intended to be put in the real manual but the author forgot? Maybe the game really meant the hints part of the manual with the backward text you’ve been seeing? Otherwise, you judge if this is fair to work out:

What action is even happening here? I assume from the “voice command” clue it is meant to be verbal but what doesn’t SAY LIFT work then? While, oddly, PRIME PUMP didn’t leave me grumpy (I’m always sort of impressed when the unusual verbs come out) but this awkward puzzle made me feel grim (although was fortunately the last one I needed to solve).

Thoughts

The Cranston Manor Adventure is primarily a piece of exploratory geography. In that, it did decently; I liked the feeling of discovering yet another secret niche to poke through. I did also like that the house was a character of sorts, and I could start to theorize about what sort of person would have an observatory and a hunting room and a secret spy tower in the library and a weird magical lift.

I don’t think the multiple entrances to the underground were as effective as, say, Zork; in that game there’s good reason to worry about optimizing for lamp life and avoiding the thief, so I was constantly worrying about which method of entry to use next; with Cranston, the tin soldiers are so overpowered it’s better to ignore their induced deaths like pesky mosquitos (or stop them entirely if you can solve the computer puzzle), and the lantern and sleep cycle recharge so that it’s not worth it to be overly concerned about their respective timers.

In one aspect, the game was a victim of my peronal bad timing: midway through gameplay I started getting tired of treasure hunts. Not in a holistic sense, but just a deep abiding need to recharge. This was my fourth in a row. 1981 was an era where authors were going in other directions, with genuine plots starting to appear. Let’s go and pick one of those games for my next entry, shall we?

Two screenshots of the ending placed side-by-side. It appears that Mariner’s Cove never came out.

Posted August 26, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “The Cranston Manor Adventure: Finished!

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  1. If I recall correctly, the ‘suits of armor’ were actually just one suit of armor that was supposed to be following you throughout the manor, a mechanized object like the toy soldier.

  2. In linguistics, a “hapax legomenon” (or just “hapax” for short) is a word that only ever appears once—it’s Ancient Greek for “a thing that’s said only once”. So you could call >PRIME a hapax, or if you want to be really pretentious maybe a “hapax parangellomenon” (“a command that’s given only once”).

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