Ulysses and the Golden Fleece: The Open Ocean   Leave a comment

Remember, logic will not always work because the gods are not always logical.

— From the manual for Ulysses and the Golden Fleece

Just a bit of progress, but I got to the Island of Storms. After GO OCEAN I came across a legion of nearly-indistinguishable rooms.

In some places I was “LOST” and some I was “WANDERING” but essentially the only way to map things out was testing second-order exits (that is, checking exits coming from a unfamiliar room to see if they lead somewhere familiar).

I did have a condor run into the mast…

…and had a bag of gems drop into the ship.

There’s also a what I don’t think is supposed to be a puzzle as much as an obnoxious softlock.

A GIANT SEAGULL SWOOPS DOWN OVER YOUR SHIP AND CARRIES OFF EVERYTHING YOU OWN.

Most importantly, there’s a storm that kills when you try to enter.

So that’s reasonably colorful, but I kept wandering for long enough — and finding what *might* be new locations, but not being sure because I couldn’t drop any items — I figured there had to be a gimmick.

I broke down and looked up a hint. I was very close. There was a guard on the docks:

I had tried to GIVE COIN and the game asks ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO BRIBE A GUARD? and then repeats the room description.

I had read this as a rhetorical question, but this is the game prompting you to say YES, whereupon the guard gives you a map.

Look, Crowther/Woods Adventure had a similar rhetorical question, but it was asking you to do something improbable and cool, and didn’t obfuscate the interface by repeating the room description after the question was asked. I seriously did not have an inkling I was even being prompted. The Adventure puzzle also had the rhetorical question on a clear and direct obstacle where there was no way past. This was on a side obscurity; the guard isn’t even mentioned in the room description!

The map has directions to go from the storm to the island.

I’m feeling like Bob Davis had played Wizard and the Princess and tried to copy the “biome journey” but wanted to make the whole thing meaner. We’ve got the 7-out-of-8 item choice from the store (I suspect I won’t know which item is the right one to leave out until much later in the game), the not-talking-to-guard softlock, and the seagull softlock. Wizard and the Princess had softlocks but they felt… nicer? Like the peddler who only sold you one object, and the place it got used was *immediately* after. Taking the same idea to its extreme, there’s no reason structurally why the gap between choosing item and using it can’t be very long, but in terms of fun and kindness to the player, there’s a clear limit.

The ocean maze felt like the desert from Wizard and the Princess except there was no difference between the pictures whatsoever. (Mind you, I squinted hard just to check.)

And while I’m stopping here, once arriving on the island there’s ANOTHER maze, in a jungle. Look, On-Line Systems, the desert was the BAD part of the game — you had to print a card with a hint just for that puzzle in later editions of the game, remember? Grr.

Posted November 5, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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