Time Zone: You Are Different From Everyone Else   4 comments

Good progress! Again, I’m not stuck, just at a stopping point where I wanted to write things down.

HOURS PLAYED: 21

From the October 1982 issue of Jeux et Stratégie, via @Christ_Thibault on Twitter. The other games the article mentioned they expect the reader to be familiar with? Mystery House, which had a French translation, and Softporn Adventure, which did not, but apparently everyone played Softporn Adventure, even in other countries.

Speaking of the ending, I’ve been vaguely handwaving about an evil Ramadu who wants to do something evil, but that’s mainly because the game itself handwaves in the intro text. Fortunately, the manual is fairly explicit:

The evil Neburite ruler Ramadu fears that the Earth will very soon become the superior race in the galaxy. This must not happen. His plan is to strike now, before the Earth is advanced enough to defend itself against an attack. So Ramadu has built an awesome ray gun, and aimed it directly at the distant Earth.

It seems that unless something is done, if Ramadu is not stopped and his weapons destroyed, Earth will never see the year 4082.

Unlike that TI-99/4A game I played last, the ray gun is at least on another planet. I’m not sure what the point of the bad guy who wanted to destroy the Earth while they were on the Earth was.

I’m going to give my narrative a little out of order. I made slight progress, then got stuck, and this turned out to be fortunate as I went back and re-checked one place I was still suspicious about, North America 2082 AD. It turns out I was missing one item, and this item was entirely useless for the thing I was stuck on, but still, I might have plowed ahead much deeper before realizing my mistake if it weren’t for the early stuckness.

This was back where I found a key under a mat that mysteriously didn’t go in the door it was at. It didn’t seem to go into the house or the car the room adjacent, either. The useless key was so thoroughly bizarre I stared hard at the picture until I realized the trunk was drawn in as a separate part of the car.

Yes, you can UNLOCK TRUNK, as opposed to UNLOCK CAR where it just says it doesn’t fit.

I still have yet to use the dynamite.

4082 AD starts pretty rough with a bit of parser noodling.

At least my start. I was never able to get the grate too high to reach and I think it is either a red herring or it requires an item deeper in the map.

Any attempt to BREAK GRATE gets

YOU CAN’T BREAK THE GRATE. IT IS TOO STRONG.

The trick here is to refer directly to the RUST, not the GRATE itself. You can SCRAPE RUST and the game asks what with; if you scrape with the wrong item, the game tells you

IT WOULDN’T WORK. YOU NEED SOMETHING TO POUND THE RUST OFF WITH.

You need to explicitly specify WITH HAMMER (yes, the stone hammer from 10000 BC, thanks, cavemen!) and get it open, or you can USE HAMMER.

USING THE STONE HAMMER, YOU POUND AT THE GRATE UNTIL MOST OF THE RUST HAS FALLEN OFF. YOU CAN PROBABLY OPEN IT NOW.

This puzzle was in the weird scenario of trying to be fair (it certain gets explicit about the hammer being the tool of choice) and technically being logical (yes, I can see why scratching the rust surrounding the grate is different from the grate) but still not terrific game design. I certainly walked away for a long time — a good chunk of the game, in fact, since I saw the grate early, all you need is the torch — thinking I would need some heavy-duty smasher. It’s almost a problem of the limited perspective of text environment vs. graphics. The whole rust thing isn’t visual at all; at least the trunk, once I spotted it, was distinct visually, and the game even zoomed in on the final solve. I suppose a zoom-in here would have been optimal, so you could see brown material around the grate crusting it in as opposed to just lining the grate itself.

Surprisingly enough, this is not the bit I had gotten super-stuck on and took the side-trip to find the dynamite. That will be just a little later.

Past the grate, I found another set of rooms leading to a manhole. Continuing the theme

THE MANHOLE COVER HAS RUSTED TO THE EDGE OF THE MANHOLE.

Trying to SCRAPE RUST here with the HAMMER just gives the response IT DOESN’T WORK. Trying to use the sword says

THE SWORD IS WAY TOO BIG TO SCRAPE THE RUST AWAY.

Again, interesting the game is being almost explicit in hinting an item. Keep in mind lots of players would be missing items at this juncture (…I still might be missing one, to be honest…) I could also see a player chipping away at 4082 AD as they go along, revisiting when they get new items to see if they work on the next obstacle. That strategy wouldn’t have worked for me because the manhole requires one of the last items I found, the KNIFE.

Above, there is a dead end with a wallet containing an ID card. The air is breathable but trying to open the door says THERE’S NOTHING OF INTEREST IN IT.

I wasted an enormous amount of time here, even though the “nothing of interest” is a clear signal to stop poking, because I thought there wasn’t any other place to go. I tried climbing the wall, making lots of noise, doing USE on every object in the game. No dice. This was my super-stuck moment, and when I looped back and found the dynamite, I thought “ah-ha! I have to blast a hole to get to the next area”. Alas no: nothing still happens.

If you are astute, you might be laughing right now, because on one of my earlier screenshots there’s a big hole. I read the hole as being just from the grate I entered, but the picture is pretty clear it’s a different hole.

As shown, you can tie a rope to make further progress. If it wasn’t for my lack of observation skills, I wouldn’t have found the dynamite, which of course itself required observation skills to find. That’s not “irony” but I’m not sure a better phrase, “sheer luck”?

Moving on, the rope led to a stream which lead to another vent, this time with no obstacle to opening it. Inside the vent was breathable air so I was able to drop the gas mask. (If you keep the mask on you get blasted later by startling a guard who isn’t expecting it. Incidentally, there is a time limit to the air, but it’s pretty generous. However, I can see someone who noodled around a bunch, especially someone who tried to make progress on 4082 AD early, softlocking their game without realizing it until much later. 1982 GameDesign™ strikes again.)

The vent leads to a corridor where you hear footsteps, but can go hide in a closet. Finally a dynamic event! This was honestly neat as the first encounter with a Nebruon native (not so neat is they blast you with a ray gun if you don’t hide).

After this encounter you spot (another? the same?) guard moving forward, but this guard gives you time to blast it with your gun (from the thief in 2082 London) and steal his uniform.

If you don’t steal the uniform, you’ll quickly get mowed down by ray gun fire later. Specifically, once stepping outside the military compound you’re in to the city, you get arrested for suspected murder (that part’s ok) but then the police

NOTICE YOU ARE DIFFERENT FROM EVERYONE ELSE, AND KILL YOU

Assuming you don’t seem too much like a funny-alien to the residents of the glass-dome-town you’re in, you’ll still invariably get yourself arrested on suspicion of murder (the body disappears, much like The Colonel’s Bequest) but fortunately they don’t take your stuff so you can just saw through the window bars.

After you’ve sawed through, the police stop caring about you unless you shoot someone else. Maybe there’s some unspoken cultural rule about escape is equivalent to a get-out-of-jail-free card.

One step out of prison reveals a (different) thief. At least I would assume different, unless they time-traveled too.

The thief is accepting of the GOLD stolen from the secret cave back in Baghdad, and for a while I assumed that was the correct move, but you can keep the gold by going with the “YOUR LIFE” pick. The thief shoots you but a nearby hospital rescues you, and as long as you have the ID card swiped from the wallet, they’ll swipe that at point of service.

I haven’t tested yet but I’m guessing lack of ID card here leads to another funny Sierra death.

From here, the game is relatively open. You can explore the town you’re in, which has multiple gardens, two of them with man-eating plants that chomp you.

I do want to emphasize for essentially any player who has gotten this far, this is just another funny background death, kind of like white noise, not a terrible game design moment. I’m at maybe 100 save files by now. The major sin is more technical in that the game doesn’t have the kind of rewinding features that modern games do; nobody except maybe Hezarin has even chanced upon a one-move UNDO option yet.

There’s a shop that will let you buy a flashlight and charge it on your ID card, two secretaries that need to see your ID otherwise you get blasted, and a menacing government building.

The building has a third secretary who not only needs an ID but also a military ID to get farther inside, which I don’t have. The only other item I have to noodle with is a nearby concrete block.

However, as I said already, I’m really just stopped rather than stuck, there’s plenty of map to poke back through and I feel confident something will wiggle loose. I was aiming for a win by end of February and I don’t think that’ll quite happen, but maybe the luck of the adventure gods will grace me again.

The future city portion of the map. Marked rooms are places where I’ve tested the dynamite.

Posted February 26, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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4 responses to “Time Zone: You Are Different From Everyone Else

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  1. Wow. The interesting fact is that time travel is only useful to get objects you need un another era.

  2. I’m not sure how long it will take my post to write, but just so y’all know, I finished Time Zone.

  3. If you use the knife on the grate instead of the hammer, what happens? Will only the hammer work?

    • It gets the “you need something to pound the rust off with” message (which honestly is fair — I thnk you’re supposed to visualize the rust on the first grate as chunks that built up and the second as sort of a connective circle on the outside).

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