Forbidden Planet: Finished!   6 comments

I’m not sure the ! mark is appropriate there, but neither is a period mark. Maybe an interrobang (‽).

Fairly shortly after I made my last post, I got by another puzzle, and then the game crashed with an “unhandled exception error”. I tried a different Mac emulator; I tried a different sequence of events; I tried downloading a fresh version of the game. At the moment, the Mac version of Forbidden Planet (Utopia) is busted, so I had to switch to TRS-80.

From the manual, via Macintosh Garden. I guess I’m never making it to Utopia.

I went back to where I was before and did find two small differences 1.) the location with a pair of creatures next to one of the ogres is entirely absent and 2.) a “hole” as described as being on top of the mountain is missing.

I think the hole at the top of the mountain is intended as an extra hint for a puzzle I’ll explain later, although it sidetracked me quite a while as I attempted to work out ways to survive going in or typing a rope to something that would let me climb in. (No addition to a game world is neutral; something may be intended to help, but can serve to distract to enough of an extent that it actually makes things worse.)

The puzzle I solved was at the location above. I decided to SWIM RIVER. I had done so before, apparently, but forgot. Normally you get dragged to the bottom of the river (making me assume at the time it was a dead end) but if you happen to be carrying the log, it lets you cross safely. (It took me multiple iterations before I realized that’s really what happened.)

In the TRS-80 version, here’s what’s on the other side:

Long anticipation for … advertising! At least that’s not the only thing. There’s a paper that says

ross the lake. Price for this service is 9 gold coins.

Combining this with the incomplete message from a book I mentioned last time:

Summon the Guardian of This Land and He Will Transport You Across the lake. Price for this service is 9 gold coins.

You might notice from the Macintosh screenshot I blew a gold coin already giving it to a centaur so it would go away. Whoops. The right action was to note that since the centaur drinks from the well sometimes, and the river is poisoned, you can transfer some water over:

Past the information on the paper is a swamp with an alligator who needs a highly specific verb.

I know WRESTLE was required in Haunt. I think there was one other game I’ve played that needed it but I’m not remembering which.

Then there’s an extremely messy scene involving a pedestal with an amphora on it. A spear trap nails you if you’re not careful, and an asp nails you if you’re not careful after that. Even if you are careful you can just die.

To explain, the bat from last time and the asp here are set to attack and kill at random. By “at random” that can mean “the first moment you see them”, meaning it is impossible to react and you have no choice but to die.

I found this the most baffling part of the game, and ended up just letting Dale Dobson’s walkthrough guide me through it. Let me just quote this one:

Dealing with the asp stumped me for quite a while. Removing the amulet and working in the dark seemed to inhibit its attack for a few moves, buying some time, but I was still dying on a regular basis. I tried to use the bowl to pour some of the poisonous river water into the amphora before shattering it, but that didn’t work. I thought perhaps the alligator would take out the snake, but they’re both more interested in attacking the player than each other. I tried to shoot the asp with the Disruptor and the crossbow, multiple times, missing on every attempt. I tried to THROW STICK, hoping it would take the asp with it, but it always just dropped the asp on the floor or ground, where it promptly attacked. What I finally worked out was that we can leave the Shrine quickly and THROW ASP / IN SWAMP. Whew!

Your services are most appreciated.

This gets you a stash of 7 coins. Combined with the one gold coin (that you have to not give to the centaur) this makes for 8 coins. The 9th one as required by the instructions isn’t hard to find but it requires escaping the cave first.

I originally assumed escape would be “through”, but no, it’s way back at the start. Remember what I said about the small hole at the top of the mountain being a hint? If you LOOK UP in the starting room you can see a hole in the ceiling.

I really ought to not be getting tripped up by that any more. LOOK UP has been a thing; it showed up in Nuclear Sub for instance. It’s still very much an anti-pattern against normal gameplay but I should still toss it somewhere in my How to Beat Moderately Unfair Text Adventures toolbox.

Anyway, knowing there was a hole up and remembering my fussing about with a crossbow bolt attached to a rope, I finally knew where that was meant to be used, but I still had to start the whole section over again. You see, the inventory limit is *very* tight and I had the crossbow outside of the collapsed cave. Time for another restart!

The logistics here are cruel. You have to heavily leverage the fact the cave only collapses when you walk farther in the entrance. You can bring a crossbow, bolt, and rope inside, and drop them at that entrance, and then go back and retrieve any other materials you need. Also, once you’ve finally used the crossbow appropriately and climbed out of the cave, you find out the rope has broken and so it was a one-way trip. That means you also can’t take any unessential materials on the cave expedition, like the conch shell. The upshot is you can only bring in exactly the objects needed for solving puzzles, because there are enough items you find that need to be retrieved (including a pickaxe) that you otherwise won’t have the space to take everything back out of the cave.

(In practical essence, I get the impression the author was thinking from their perspective rather than the player, here. The player doesn’t know which items are essential and has to carry multiple loads if they’re taking everything. Once you know exactly which items get used where the logistics aren’t as bad.)

Whew. After getting out, the rest is pretty straightforward as long as you understand the “summon the guardian” message. There’s one uninvestigated boulder — the pickaxe works — and it yields the 9th gold coin. Then you can go back to the river where you crash landed and blow the conch horn safely.

The no-win situations where an enemy reacts before you can even solve a puzzle were clearly a misstep. I found the inventory logistics to be the second-biggest pain. Looming over everything, though, was the parser. It just wasn’t quite adequate for the task. We had USE RAG to mean “break the glass tube that is already slotted in with this rag”. We had the trick where the game breaks a command into two parts

FIRE DISRUPTOR

At what? Like: “AT TREE”

AT OGRE

but that counts as two commands, and at least twice I died to the bat because I got the first command in but not the second. (I later discovered that just typing AT BAT works to zap it.) We needed to convey actions like scooping water from a river and transferring it to a well; of taking an asp and tossing it specifically directed into a nearby swamp. The parser made conveying them incredibly awkward. I got the strong sense Demas was working with good ideas and a nicely dynamic sense of puzzle design, but the actual implementation reduced the strength of the experience.

There’s still one more Demas game to go, as advertised: entering the city across the river. I’ll be saving it for closer to the end of 1981; it does seem to have squeaked into the year but only at the very end, plus that gives me time to diagnose my Mac woes and see if I can at least go back to nice graphics for the sequel.

Had to give up on this one after reaching the bat-infested cave. Was never granted the opportunity to defend myself as no amount of random attempts allowed me to move South of the main entrance without being instantaneously smitten by a blood-thirsty bat (and I did attempt this a good 20 times or so to no avail).

— From an anonymous commenter to the Gaming after 40 post

Posted April 28, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “Forbidden Planet: Finished!

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  1. The trick where you can float if the log is in your inventory was also in Savage Island Part I. It seemed fairer there than it sounds here, perhaps because the Scott Adams games are so sparse that you don’t expect more feedback, perhaps because other Adams games had already had an item that had an effect just by being in your inventory (the shield in Voodoo Castle). By “fair” I mean “I managed to figure it out.”

    • The weirdness here is I entered my pattern I sometimes do where I just start testing things at random that probably overlap what I’ve done before, but I only realized “oh, I actually tried to go in the river and failed” when I saw a drowning message on a different iteration.

      Sometimes if you’re forgetful enough it’s like playing with a friend with different perspective, just you’ve cloned your brain to a future point in time.

  2. What a pain in the butt of a game!!!

    Maybe it would be interesting to have a ranking if the most painful adventures per year.

  3. What software are you using to emulate the Macintosh and TRS-80?

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