The Curse of Crowley Manor (1981)   5 comments

This is our fourth game for 1981 with the word “Manor” in it (see: The Secret of Flagstone Manor, Stoneville Manor, The Cranston Manor Adventure) but all of those had some element of treasure-hunting plot; Crowley is instead set up as a mystery. From the packaging:

The scene is London, in 1913. Scotland Yard is buzzing with the news — there’s been a murder at the Crowley Estate! What starts out as a simple homicide investigation turns into a trip into the depths of the occult as you try to solve The Curse of Crowley Manor.

This is our first appearance of the author Jyym Pearson, who was quite active from 1981 to 1983, producing eight adventure games. Besides Crowley, and roughly in chronological order, he wrote Escape From Traam (1981), Earthquake – San Francisco 1906 (1981), Saigon: The Final Days (1981), The Institute (1981), Lucifer’s Realm (1982), Paradise Threat (1982), and The Farvar Legacy (1983). (Three of the games were co-authored with Robyn Pearson.)

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games. The “Other-Venture” label was a way to distinguish these games from the Scott Adams ones, also published by Adventure International. Other-Venture #1 is just a port of Adventure.

Will Moczarski already tackled this game over at The Adventure Gamer, but he played the TRS-80 version, so I’m going with the Apple II edition instead (which adds Norm Sailer to the credits).

You start in a room with a desk that has a calendar and nameplate. The nameplate reads “Inspector Black … Scotland Yard” and the calendar reads April 2, 1913, but you are otherwise given no details on the main character. This makes a nice reminder there are gradations between a generic anybody and defining the main character entirely. Going by history, the main character would technically have to be male (the first female police officer in England with arrest powers was appointed in 1915) although given the story has extra-historical “supernatural elements”, I say roll with it however you want.

As soon as you try to leave (or wait enough turns) the phone rings, and duty calls. Murder most foul.

Also, fussy parser most foul. I was stuck for a while until I tried TALK DRIVER (and got the message above) and did the exact command of CLIMB IN. Then I had to type GO CROWLEY followed by WAIT for a few turns.

This is a very nice cinematic moment where you WAIT several times and Trafalgar Square and Big Ben before reaching your destination. I have no idea if that’s realistic for London geography.

I met Police Inspector Harbour on arrival who informed me of a body in the kitchen.

Except … there isn’t one? Just blood.

Blood that you can inspect closely, if you like.

I’ll return next time with more details of my investigation. One last comment, though — this is not quite like Sierra’s Hi-Res games where all the text is on the bottom, objects appear on the screen, and flipping between all-text and text-on-the-bottom is optional. This is more like (but not completely like) a regular text adventure with added illustrations. For each location, you need to flip back and forth between a Scott-Adams-ish style screen and the picture to get a full idea of what’s going on.

In one case (meeting Inspector Harbour) there was no indication in the text there was a person; I had to LOOK MAN before I got any information. In the screenshot above, notice there’s no mention of the nailed-shut door (although oddly, the door is mentioned in text on the image page if you LOOK). So the images still serve a story function; I need to remember to be thorough and try to interact with both things only in text and things only in the image.

I think the TRS-80 version of this game would likely to be easier to play, but the meta-question of “what do the illustrations in an game really do?” is still a fuzzy one at this point in adventure history so I’m willing to suffer for the sake of experiment.

Posted August 27, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “The Curse of Crowley Manor (1981)

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  1. I think this is partly the eternal discussion between text-only adventure (Infocom-style) or text with graphics (also called graphic adventure). Graphic adventures are better to be shown (a screenhsot of a few paragraphs of text is just sad), and to invite playing, while once you have immersed yourself in the story text only is just fine, and graphics probably just a distraction.
    In the middle would be text games like this (the cinematic approach to the manor is one example), which try to create an interaction between text and graphics, like… first Sierra games?

    • For this game (from what I gather poking at the non-graphical versions) it starts all-text where LOOK always conveys important information, so you want to LOOK everywhere.

      The graphics got added later but didn’t change the underlying code. However, in some cases (like the inspector at the front door), the graphics added what the LOOK command conveyed; in other cases it didn’t. So it would normally be “illustrated text adventure, where illustrations are totally secondary” except the nature of the original game led the pictures to having a few more hints.

  2. Thanks for mentioning my playthrough!

    I actually played the Atari and the Apple II ports after having finished the TRS-80 version, so if you want to know anything about version differences: no prob. I wasn’t able to turn up the Japanese (PC-6001?) port, though.

    This is a very neat game, and very innovative considering the year it came out. The same goes for “Earthquake”, “Saigon” and, even more so, “The Institute” which is genuinely great, I think. I have yet to play the others but there is very little time at the moment, especially for blogging. Ah, and I didn’t mention “Escape from Traam” because I think it’s kind of a failure. As “Traam” was most probably Pearson’s first adventure game (and second game after “Zossed in Space”), that’s not a big deal, of course. But just as a heads up, I’m pretty sure that the TRS-80 version of “Traam” is actually unwinnable so you might want to stick with the later Apple II ports altogether.

    • Sure, when I make my next and last post on Crowley (game finished, writing in progress) feel free to chip in what you know on the other ports.

      I am going to stick with Apple II for consistency (avoiding a game-killing bug is a bonus).

  3. If you should get stuck, here’s a few rather generic hints that are useful for every one of the Jyym Pearson games:

    1. Qba’g bayl YBBX rireljurer ohg nyfb YBBX ng yrnfg gjvpr.
    2. Gurer ner fbzr gvzrq riragf fb vg fbzrgvzrf cnlf bss gb unat nebhaq.
    3. Qba’g bayl YBBX ohg YVFGRA naq FZRYY, gbb. Vg znl or urycshy.

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