Time Zone: The Breakthrough   20 comments

I mean “breakthrough” both figuratively (as in I got through some blockers and made good progress in the game) and literally (one major help was by use of the verb BREAK).

From an old eBay auction. “Combines the talents of master adventure authoress ROBERTA WILLIAMS, the artistic abilities of Terry Pierce, Michelle Pritchard and Barry Blasser, and the programming knowledge of Rorke Weigandt, Eric Griswold and Bob Davis. The project was directed by Ken Williams, the original designer of the Hi-Res Adventure Series. We at On-Line Systems have put our best into TIME ZONE and we are confident that this will be the best adventure that you will ever play!” I do like how they took care to give the people working on the game credit, since this is one of the first computer games with a “team” working on production.

Before digging in, I will have to confess I consulted a hint page … kind of. I looked at the map page of Sierra Chest, mainly because a couple maps were bugging me (although mainly the South America one with the cannibals and the one with the sniper) and I wanted a confirmation on my suspicion that they were red herrings. They were indeed — they don’t have to be visited, ever — and along the way I also confirmed I had Pre-historical and Stone Age finished (by this point, I’d been so thorough in both I knew I would need a hint if any more progress was possible).

Other than that, I’m still solving everything on my own. My first solve was on my list but I really should have had it placed earlier on my queue; I had found a second piece of jade digging in 50BC Asia and I wanted to loop back and give it to the same peasant that I gave jade to before to see if I could get more rice.

I could not get more rice. But I could get the rope he was wearing. D’oh!

It then struck me, most obviously, that the whole sequence in 2082AD Europe I had a little off. With that area I had been getting robbed by a thief, who left a rope, and I could tie the rope to a police dog, and then I assumed the dog would track the thief somehow but I just had the wrong verb. No, my default assumption for this game should be: if someone takes all your stuff, you’ve lost.

The rope from 50BC is identical to the one you can get in the future, so that one can be tied to a dog before seeing the thief. Then you can free the dog upon meeting the thief and it will prevent the thief from ever robbing you, leaving behind a gun.

I did some tests (including zapping locked doors I was still stuck on), but as is common for guns in adventure games, it hasn’t been of use yet. I suspect it may be intended for Far Future.

Speaking of having sequences off, I also realized the 1700AD scene with the Declaration of Independence I had a wrong premise on. The way that part worked my first time through is I visited a courthouse, saw a group signing the Declaration (including Benjamin Franklin) and Benjamin Franklin later opened his print shop. There was also a reference about how since you aren’t working for him you can’t go in the back room. I assumed either I a.) somehow would get a job or b.) somehow would get something printed. It occurred to me — mainly because of the thief-softlock — perhaps this was simply a softlock-timing issue, and your goal is to break in the print shop while he’s distracted with the whole signing-thing. I was right, and discovered in the process the game processed BREAK WINDOW.

This let me raid the back room which had a kite and a skeleton key (I needed the saw from Australia to break in a chest for the key).

After the raid, it starts to storm (the only time in the game there’s been a “dynamic change” like weather). You can then, if you like, tie the key to the kite and try flying it outside, which kills you.

I do want to emphasize this wasn’t really a cruel moment: I clearly visualized what was up before I did this, so saved my gave first in order to experience the joy of another novel Sierra death.

I tried the skeleton key a bunch of places — there were still locked doors in 2082 AD North America, Asia, and Australia — and found it worked on the padlocked warehouse in Future Asia Tokyo.

Whether you find the presence of only one yen in the warehouse to be irritating or totally hilarious might depend on your mood, but I was on a rush and experienced the latter. This was a meta-adventure moment, the amount of effort put into stealing Benjamin Franklin’s stuff only to get a single yen from the future being a sort of participatory comedy.

The yen allows you to go in a restraraunt and order some food. The menu has three items, the first being 1 yen; you can go through the scene, get served your food by a waiter, and leave.

This is the wrong move, though. You want to pick one of the options that is too expensive, so the waiter gets mad and sends you into the back room to wash dishes (has this ever happened in real life before?)

While in the back you can open one of the drawers and steal some matches, which is the whole point for the scene. It might seem (from a distance reading perspective) rather easy to miss the drawer in the image and also realize it is openable, but note that it is clear that there had to be some purpose to the whole process of reaching the back room; if it was a random drawer in a sea of un-openable ones this moment would have been dubious, but as it was it took me about 30 seconds to assess what was going on.

The matches work on lighting the torch! That means my whole side-process with a separate save file in order to light the torch with the sticks from the Stone Age can now be bypassed. I can merge the progress with 50BC Rome and so forth with everything else.

I made one more bit of progress, and that was by following the break-and-enter theme some more. I tried smashing a window in North America but it wasn’t useful…

This is where the key under the mat was. I suspect the whole future North America area is a complete red herring although I haven’t tossed it off my list as complete yet.

…but I could smash a window in future Australia, and steal a coat. Just a coat. (I might now turn back to the absurd object sourcing problem, but to be honest, I’m surfing on the game in enough a meta-sense I wasn’t bothered and just treated it like a scene from Time Bandits.)

Spend too long in the house and you get caught by police.

I already had two locations (50BC Alaska and 1700AD Asia) which needed coats on my list. I haven’t tried Alaska again yet (I’m still getting stopped by a polar bear) and I should mention Antarctica is still too cold with the coat, but I had a good time in Russia.


Two guards are in front of the palace at St. Petersburg and they murder you if you try to attack, so I’m stuck getting in.

I would say I’m not Stuck, though, and I’m just taking a break because I wanted to finish a write-up. Game’s fun, weirdly enough? Especially now that I know I don’t have to mess with the cannibals. I’ve trimmed down my list of ages I think are finished, and it looks gratifyingly smaller to deal with (with the “hide row” feature, not the delete button).


Posted February 16, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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20 responses to “Time Zone: The Breakthrough

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  1. You’re in Russia and “The Baltic Sea is to the East”???

  2. Jason, I’m delighted that you figured out the breaking and entering aspect of the game which I was alluding to in my previous comments. But I didn’t give the game enough credit for providing a rationale for breaking into the print shop. And as you discovered, it does follow that once you realize breaking and entering is an option you would start applying it to other windows in the game so perhaps it’s not quite the absurd moon logic leap that I anticipated it was.

    Good work! Only 14 hours in and you’re making excellent progress :-)

  3. Future Asia sure has experienced some currency deflation. 1 yen is what, like, a fraction of a penny?

  4. Did Ms. Williams not know how to spell Sydney, or was she supposing that in the future it might have its spelling changed? And did she think it had only one suburb?

  5. The bit with the rope is strangely fair! The game knows you’re going to be restarting a bunch of times, so after you (perhaps unknowingly) soft-lock yourself it gives you an object to experiment with, and the proximity to the dog makes it natural to experiment in that way, so when you eventually get the rope from a distant location you have enough information to figure out how it’s used.

    • I think the fascinating thing about the setup is that the rope is clearly visible on the peasant, which is part of what made the whole thing click for me.

      The bit that’s most unfair — or at least most likely to be overlooked — is digging twice and getting a second jade. I did it in a repeat run just because having to DIG twice to find something else in the same place is a very common staple amongst adventure games of this time.

      • I recall in many of these old graphic adventures that gettable objects were often drawn onto the screen AFTER the background was drawn, and this could often be an unintentional clue. Was the rope drawn after? How did you know otherwise that it wasn’t a decorative part part of the character?

        I’ve read pretty valid criticisms (maybe from your blog?) about how inferior graphic adventures were when they did not define which graphic elements in a room were objects that could be manipulated or taken and Sierra was a huge perpetrator of this frustrating design.

      • The text (which I don’t have offhand) actually pretty strongly hints at it, it says something like “you can trade the jade to the peasant with the rope”, and it asks what to trade for, and you can specify the rope.

  6. Well, all of this sounds absolutely horrifying. I am delighted that you’re enjoying it, but honestly just reading about the ludicrous puzzles is enraging.

    And let me get this straight: the reason you need to steal Ben Franklin’s stuff from the past to get into a warehouse and obtain a single yen in the future is: so that you can UNDERpay in a restaurant in order to get sent to the kitchen. But you can’t just order, eat and not pay at all to get sent to the kitchen? You have to obtain an insufficient amount of money first?

    • Right, the whole money thing is automatic. Honestly, the weirder bit isn’t you can’t get inside without yen being in your possession. I mean, sure, there could be some future “money in wallet” detected system, but you think that would prevent the menu under-order.

      I was willing to skate by in a meta-sense — it was pretty clear from the fact there was a back room I couldn’t get to and the only real choice was the menu that I needed to try one of the other options. I certainly wouldn’t defend the design, though!

  7. might be a little while before I have time to post again, but I made significant progress on (likely finished)

    1700 AD Asia (this was really quick, I was almost done)
    1700 AD Europe
    50 BC Africa
    50 BC Europe

    This means I finally got to see Caesar’s Ladder. (To be fair, it is in a different room where it is logical there’d be a ladder, it isn’t just hanging around.)

  8. Pingback: Time Zone: An Ultimate Adventurer | Renga in Blue

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