The Curse of Crowley Manor, in story form   4 comments

To D—- Who I Shall Always Remember in Fondness

I had swore never to return to America, yet tomorrow I leave by boat. I write this and trust you will not believe me what occurred, but I must tell someone to rest my disquiet mind.

Perhaps you will keep this. Perhaps my words will be burned on arrival. Do what you want.

Cover from the 1983 NEC PC-6000 Series version, via Diego Rispoli. The NEC computers were mostly sold in Japan, although there was a 1981 US version called the NEC TREK. Also, you should be seeing this as a picture caption; if whatever reader you’re using removes this, you may want to go to the original post, as all gameplay commentary will be in the picture captions.

As you well know, I managed to obtain a position at Scotland Yard. I’ve now been here for 10 years, and have a plaque reading Inspector Black on my desk.

I received a phone call on April 2, 1913. Officer Strade informed me there was a murder at the Crowley Estate. I had known it by reputation but never set foot inside.

I boarded a hansom cab who struck off a brisk pace for Crowley. I noticed beside him a vial and by some strange intuition took it.

In gameplay, I had passed this moment and been stuck for a long time. I needed a hint. I had already done LOOK DRIVER — the Apple II version requires that in order to get the exact phrasing CLIMB IN for boarding the cab — but doing LOOK DRIVER a second time is necessary after boarding to see the vial. Just LOOK while riding doesn’t work.

I found Police Inspector Harbour — good chap — at the front waiting for me. He let me know Inspector Strade was inside and the body Strade had called me about was in the kitchen. I went inside and quickly found the kitchen, but the Inspector was nowhere. The kitchen had blood but no corpse.

This reminds me of in Secret Mission being told about a briefcase and map that don’t exist, and you have to infer they were stolen.

One door was boarded up. In further searching, I found a kitchen with an untouched plate, a pantry, and past the pantry, the opposite side of that boarded door. There was a suspicious-looking wall but I was still on the hunt for Strade.

A NAILED SHUT DOOR IS SOUTH, AND A PLYWOOD WALL IS NORTH.

I searched other rooms and found a man, Davonn, lurking in a corner. He warned me, ambiguously, that ‘IT’ was loose.

Stepping in past him, I found a diary and crystal ball. I have the words memorized. People do not often write about generations being infested.

I AM DOOMED TODAY. THE DEMON IS TRAPPED IN THE HOUSE. HE’LL BE HERE LONG AFTER MY DEATH. THE DEMON HAS CORRUPTED MY BLOOD. HE WILL INFEST THE GENERATIONS THAT FOLLOW ME.

I went back to Devonn and found … a corpse! … but not the corpse I was looking for. The poor man had been killed while I was in the next room.

This is a direct example of the type of adventure plot where things don’t happen until the player is ready for them to happen; that is, a “drama timer” rather than one based on the number of turns passed.

He died without a noise, without a scream. What was going on? Who was ‘it’? Where was the Inspector?

Further alarmed, I tried to leave by the front door only to find it jammed behind me. The only other room I could find was a room with a piano and a victrola; the victrola crank seemed to be stuck, and I found a gold key.

The gold key reminded me there was a cabinet in the entrance hall I recall being locked — by this point I was considering any action at all to be well within police mandate — so I toted the key over, and within…

I love how straightforwardly dramatic this managed to be while still falling in the framework of standard adventure gameplay.

…within, I found the Inspector, his body lurching forward into the light. I imagined thumping in the walls, everything dizzy, ceilings closing in, floors swirling upward. I was in a battle not to solve a mystery, but to save my life.

Returning to the kitchen for more clues, I found a brown splotchy creature. With some unknown intuition, I picked it up and carted it to the kitchen, dropping it off to see what would happen.

I figured out how to do this on my own because if you go in the pantry with the growth, it jumps at the food and gets too large and it’s game over. I did not know how to convey knowledge about a death-route in the “story” description other than using intuition. Our hero remembered branches of life not taken, I suppose. 1981 games didn’t care too much about if a “continuous narrative” was truly possible; learning by death was often a feature, not a bug.

It was alive! It went for the plate, and grew to the size of a dog, and fled, knocking over a cabinet in the process. I found a letter opener and an axe.

The letter opener I was able to use to pry open a chest and get at a crucifix and a note — containing just the digits 5271. My thoughts went back to the vial. Was this holy water? Was the cab driver somehow prescient of what would happen? Gazing back at the crystal ball I still had from the desk, I wondered if fortune-telling was real.

My eyes glazed back to the axe in my other hand, and remembered the thin wall. There were only dead ends otherwise. Now was the time.

Indeed!… within was contained a secret laboratory, where I found an old tome mentioning GAFALA ALONE MAY HELP. Further past, a door with a combination lock, in which I entered 5271. Inside—

A monster — different than this one — appears at the combination door and kills you if you don’t have the holy water vial. The game tries hard to indicate you don’t have enough to win, but it’s hard to tell if the demon’s taunting is “in universe” acting in typical demon fashion or meta-referencing your lack of an inventory item.

–inside, is when true terror started to seep into my bones. I felt myself being pushed to the wall; something invisible was here. Out of frantic desperation, I threw the holy water, and found an apparition before me that shrunk away when I waved my crucifix. I ran away. I ran away as far as I could, which was not far, as I was in a dead-end. My intuition returned: I spoke aloud GAFALA.

Not as absurd as the other intuitions; you (and the main character) are out of options and inventory items.

A white wizard appeared before me, informing me that the evil I looked for was his brother, and I would need to prepare to kill him.

A battle against a demon! My dreams have always been pleasant, so I never once thought I was in some shard of unreality, but here was the most unreal moment of all.

I found, searching, a gold shield, and a place with a hole, close to the size of the crystal ball. I put the crystal ball within the hole and saw a vision of a sword and a fountain.

There were numerous points where I struggled with the parser, but this was the worst. You need to DROP CRYSTAL BALL and then LOOK, but DROP doesn’t give any indication the ball went in the hole, so I kept trying PUT CRYSTAL BALL and PLACE CRYSTAL BALL and the like. Also, I needed the walkthrough to realize you can LOOK after the vision is done (and the crystal ball is gone) to have the sword mystically appear.

I paused and looked around some more, and a magic sword appeared before me!

Backtracking to where I first met the wizard and going a different direction, I ran across an ill-tempered giant rat and made use of my revolver. I registered no emotion, nor fear at this — it was nearly the most normal moment of the night, despite the creature’s size.

If you try to enter this room without the sword and shield first, you are torn apart and informed your death is too awful to describe. This is true even though neither object seems to have any effect here since the revolver does the work. This seems to be intended to keep the player from getting too far afield the main plot; I suppose I could see the demon showing up early if you don’t have proper defense.

Further on, I found the fountain in my vision! I dipped the sword in, trying my hardest to believe in prophecy.

I think only CLEANSE SWORD works. The game really did feel fast-paced despite grinding to a halt a few times from the parser.

I also was met by a vision of Gafala, who told me I would only have one moment to strike.

Sword, shield. Into the darkness I went, and before long, I encountered the demon.

The eyes! The eyes were horrible. I could do nothing but defend myself for a time, as the demon rattled off taunts

Upon contact with the sword, there was a sizzle. There was a weakness! There was hope!

This is where having the sword cleansed is important. The scene otherwise involves WAITing, although it honestly was nicely cinematic, especially given the forewarning there was only one moment to strike.

I waited a little longer, then struck, struck hard as my passion could take me, and the demon fell.

I made things seem smoother than they actually played — there were more parser issues than the ones I pointed out, and the way LOOK worked was often painful — but this was still a promising start to the Jyym Pearson library.

I do not even remember how I left the house. But I still had the sword and the shield, and was awash with blood. I spoke to no one. The Yard thinks I am gone with the rest. I have no desire to stay in this country. I must be as far away as I can make it. I intend to strike for California as soon as I can; farther if I must.

It is probably for the best if you do not believe me.

but still—

Always Yours,
—A.

Posted August 31, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

4 responses to “The Curse of Crowley Manor, in story form

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pedantic note: that is not a hansom cab. In a hansom, the driver sits behind and above the passengers and it’s impossible to look at him while travelling.

  2. Catching up a 3-month backlog of posts and I just wanted to say that I enjoyed the storytelling format you employed here. Sometimes you just need to mix things up as a writer to make sure it stays interesting.

    I suppose the ominous eyes in the sky on the NEC Trek box should have clued me in, but I wasn’t expecting things to get quite so fantastical.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: