Cyborg: A Beautiful Planet, Definitely Not Earth   1 comment

After a couple stumbling blocks mainly having to do with the game not adequately conveying what was going on (and one admittedly good puzzle) I managed to break into a wide-open area and get quite a lot done. Fairly sure I’m close to the finale.

From an eBay auction.

Last time I left off I had acquired sneakers (with strings made into shoelaces), some matches, an “ultrafiche” with words too tiny to read, and a black plastic cube. I also had found a stepladder which was currently underneath a ramp but since I needed it to get up to the ramp I wasn’t able to pick it back up again.

I wasn’t sure what to tackle yet. I had a number of narrow slots I still couldn’t make work, and two points where I was scanned and rejected from entering. Just on a whim, I tried one of them, not expecting to make it through.

This was a new area. Still confused, I stepped back, took off the sneakers, and tried again — the sneakers were what let me enter! Very strange (although there’s something decently clever I was missing at the time).

The gymnasium I had entered was small, and in addition to the cabinet I was unable to interact with there was a trapdoor I found on the ceiling.

Given both KICK and HIT also did not work (“OW! THAT HURT!”), so you would normally assume brute force doesn’t work here, right? I found out (straight from a walkthrough) that SMASH is parsed as an entirely different verb. (I already ranted about a similar situation in Asylum so I’ll just link to there.) This led up to a room where a female lizard was hiding (of the same kind that started the game) but was “quaking with fear”. Some failed attempts and frustration led me to just check the walkthrough again while I had it open and find out that you can PET LIZARD.

I … what? I admit they are described as “tiny lizards” so I guess it makes some sense, but given they are sentient and talking, I would not have thought to treat them like cats. Going through this gives the same conversation choices as before:

The only other advice is to “stay away from Smada” who turns out to be a berserk cleaning robot.

I think this whole exchange is optional and is just for more plot color. After a bit more thrashing in frustration I found out back at the cabinet of steam that I could climb it. (I visualized it as something smaller — it says MASSIVE cabinet so I guess that’s my fault, been even exceedingly large cabinets I’ve come across in real life don’t seem to be the sorts of things you can climb.)

This led me to a mini-droid and some lenses. The lenses allowed seeing in the dark (no more concern about matches for a light source, although they get used for fire later) and the mini-droid becomes our protaganist’s buddy, nestling itself on a “shoulder harness” and making comments as you go through rooms. I’m reminded quite a bit of Floyd from Planetfall.

I was still left with some places I couldn’t get into. The mysterious black cube I had been carrying along I had tried to OPEN at one point and I should have known (since it didn’t give a generic failure message) I should think about it more carefully; the game said it didn’t have any obvious way of opening it. The trick is to CUT CUBE (with the laser) and then an id card falls out. The somewhat canny thing here is that I’m fairly sure we had been using it all along to get into the gymnasium, but since we’re just scanned, it didn’t matter we didn’t know it was in the cube! What the ID card does now allow is operating the various “narrow slots” I had been having to skip.

One in particular linked the top of the ramp to the area where I got the stepladder, so I was able to retrieve the stepladder. (Even if I didn’t know the stepladder was going to be needed again, the “structural solving” of having the mechanism to return made it essentially guaranteed the ladder was going to be necessary.)

I also then was able to get into the “detox” area mentioned in my previous screenshot, which break opens the game to a somewhat vast section.

A “zoomed out” view of the new areas.

You end up in a shaft that you can climb down to multiple levels. One level just has a dead end (not quite sure if it is meaningful or just a read herring). The second level links to a medical area, an airlock, and a bridge; the third level goes to some dorms, an engineering bay with “sleepers”, and a crashed alien ship in rubble. I gave away a little bit of the secrets just from that description, so let me just jump straight to the

ULTRAFICHE READER

which is near the bridge. I put the ultrafiche I had been toting around and the ID card in, and got what was more or less a complete explanation as to what happened.

So our semi-amnesiac protagonist has been — using their cyborg skills — captaining a space vessel. They were orbiting a planet when their vessel ran into an alien ship (the one with the lizards). Our objective (??) is to fix and land the ship.

I did say the bridge was nearby, so let’s visit there next, using the ladder toted from all the way across the map.

THE BRIDGE

There’s lots of dials and viewscreens.

I assume the cleaning robot and hole in the ship need to be resolved before winning (I’ve done both, I’ll get to them in a moment). There’s also a dial that says something about waking the sleepers that is broken and is currently my nemesis (I’ll get that last).

To resolve the hole in the ship requires going to

THE AIRLOCK

I fortunately discovered this section after the bridge, otherwise I would be mightily confused. I’m still a bit confused.

Nearby the airlock.

After having our droid friend get a space suit for us, we can go to the airlock and push a button to go outside and play an action sequence. It isn’t the first one ever in an adventure game (that’d be Battlestar) but I believe it is the first in a game intended for home computers.

I get the feeling it isn’t meant to be hyper-action-y as much as “decipher what’s going on”, like The Prisoner. You’re given commands as shown in the screenshot. What took me a while to realize is that your display (when not on this overall map screen) is the entire screen filled with some color, either black (if you’re looking at space) white (if you’re looking at hull or purple (if you’re looking at what turns out to be the damaged spot).

This means what is actually moving in the game is the numbers on the bottom, since for the most part the screen stays the same color as you’re spacewalking along the outside of the ship. It feels a little bit like playing the old Lunar Lander game in that way. On the computer model I was emulating the numbers moved rather fast (even at “realistic speed”) so it took a couple tries before I hit placing the patch at the right moment (as the spacesuit passes by the “purple” spot). Still, the main problem was deciphering what all this meant, so I guess it sort of counts as a puzzle, in a meta way, more than a twitch-fingers sequence.

I was still quite glad to get the sequence over with. You’re then informed the ship has been safely patched and the image on the bridge changes. I don’t know what the consequence of not patching is (was there a hidden timer? will the ship get torn apart trying to land?)

With that done, I turned my attention to

THE ENGINEERING BAY

The droid has a unique piece of chatter for each room.

This is where the killer robot, which I had been hearing long about (both lizards mention it) and I had seen on the bridge monitors. I was looking forward to some sort of tricky puzzle confrontation … and I was able to blast it immediately with my micro-laser. I have no idea what the big deal was, except for the fact I’m guessing I may have softlocked the game here (maybe bait the cleaning robot into following me somewhere that it ends up cleaning accidentally…?) The iguana just past was honestly a bit trickier.

It was playing with something but bored. Using cat-logic, you take the strings off the sneakers (you don’t need them any more, I hope) and hand them over as a toy, letting you take the item it was playing with a (a sleeper dial auto-repair manual). I like the puzzle finesse here in that the string does not feel like the sort of item that should be re-used, as it was combined with another object. This led to a GIVE ITEM TO NPC puzzle being actually clever.

The last bit of major progress I made was with

THE CRASHED ALIEN SHIP

This is relatively straightforward: there’s some rubble you can’t pass and a crashed alien ship (the one mentioned in the microfiche message). Back in the medical area you can fill a beaker with liquid oxygen, then pour the oxygen, light a match, and BOOM.

The clever finesse is letting you play — and kill yourself — with the liquid oxygen earlier. There’s a “grill” where the droid asks about “barbeque?” so I took the oxygen over to the grill and (without setting the oxygen down first) tried LIGHT MATCH to reach an ignominious death. But the death was helpful! This made it easy to realize I needed to make an explosion when it was needed.

Fortunately, the ship is unscathed, and I was able to pick up a small CPU.

Other than that, I’m fairly stuck — I’ve been collecting items that feel like they fix something (some wire in the open, a “power crystal”, the manual the iguana had) but I don’t have an obvious hole or outlet to put things in. READ MANUAL just says I can’t. Trying to FIX DIAL back on the bridge while holding the items says I can’t. (Am I missing items, or am I doing the procedure wrong?)

There’s also a locker I haven’t been able to open and a “cylinder” in the medical area with a lever that doesn’t work (it is supposed to heal people who are inside). I suspect I’m semi-stuck on just parser issues, but there’s likely a few tricky puzzles to sew things up. The end of 1981 approaches!

Posted December 14, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “Cyborg: A Beautiful Planet, Definitely Not Earth

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  1. Interesting mix between lunar lander and adventure.

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