Lucifer’s Realm (1981)   10 comments

You have died. And you’re not on The List:

Down to the basement with you!

After a relatively minor puzzle …

… you find a poster noting Hitler is forming an army to overthrow Satan, and if you can stop him, Satan will let you free.

So, the overarching plot: we’ve deservedly gone to Hell, but find a prime opportunity to team up with Satan to stop Hitler and his minions (including, I have heard, Mussolini) in order to earn a ticket back out.

Welcome to Lucifer’s Realm, another Jymm Pearson jam (last seen with The Institute), as joined by Robyn Pearson, Norm Sailer, and Rick Incrocci, the latter two doing programming and art respectively for the Apple II version.

It’s worth picking over the various releases this time, not only because it’s a little messy and mysterious (and we like messy and mysterious in history circles, or perhaps “like”) but also because I am simul-blogging this with the ever-resourceful Will Moczarski, who is doing this as part of his Med Systems Marathon over with the fine people at The Adventurers Guild. He’s playing the TRS-80 original, which looks a little different from the Apple II versions I’ve shared screenshots of.

To be specific, there’s

  • 1982 releases for TRS-80 and Atari that are text-only, published after Med Systems and Intelligent Statements had merged (*)
  • a 1984 Apple II / Atari / C64 graphical version, published by American Eagle, which is the same thing as Phoenix Software (after it was sold in 1984), which — if you’re caught up on my backlog — you might remember from Adventure in Time
  • a 1985 All American Adventures UK release for Atari and Commodore 64

The split releases are also important in that the credits change. The early text versions only credit Jyym Pearson, not Robyn Pearson. Jyym’s prior game (The Institute) had Robyn Pearson listed in the graphics version but not any of the graphics versions before that, and not in any of the text-only versions. Given the games are very similar except for the addition of graphics, what happened here? Was there a collaboration earlier but not mentioned on the earlier printing? I’m reminded of the Michael and Muffy Berlyn situation with Oo-topos (where Michael is listed on the earlier 1981 release but not the later graphical one) but that game has major textual changes in the later edition and is really a case where Michael’s wife got involved later (he quit Infocom specifically because of their no-hiring-spouses policy). Credits in those days could be unruly in general (why did Scott Adams give himself co-credit on The Golden Voyage but not Pyramid of Doom?) so I don’t want to read too much into it.

All this about the premise is lovely (assuming you include the screaming of thousands of condemned souls in “lovely”), but of course a Jyym Pearson game can’t go without some major stalling points early. The room past the drain has two doors. One leads to John Wilkes Booth, who is loyally guarding Satan.

The other goes to Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal who wasn’t captured until 1960.

Eichmann will let you pass if you tell him you’re going to go see Hitler in order to join his army. This let me get by and find an “iron spike” by a ledge where two armies were fighting below.

There’s a SKULL from the other path which is described as having something rattling inside; I was able to BREAK it here which involved the protaganist just yeeting it off the cliff. I’m guessing we tie a rope to the spike to climb to wherever the skull ended up.

This is followed by a well I haven’t got a reaction out of.

Suspecting this game was like the other Pearson ones with locations needing re-re-visits, I hiked back to the start and found that the original pool of fire I landed next to had a word written into, but the “flames are too bright” to see what it is. Maybe I come back with cool shades.

(*) The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), January 22, 1984:

In late 1981, he [William Denman] merged Med Systems with a company created by David Handel, a radiology resident at Duke University Hospital. They kept the name of David Handel’s Company, Intelligent Statements Inc., and adopted Screenplay as the firm’s “retail” name. Since last summer Screenplay and Intelligent Statements have operated under the umbrella of a parent firm, AGS Computers Inc.

Thanks to S.M. Oliva, with a blog about the Computer Chronicles TV show, for sleuthing out the clip above.

And a brief reminder: while it probably won’t be up at the time of this writing, Will should be posting about this game today as well.

Posted March 15, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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10 responses to “Lucifer’s Realm (1981)

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  1. There’s a decent full-page advert for “The Pearson Adventure Series” for Atari, from Med Systems Software in Analog Computing #8 (November 1982). The quick-loading times of the three games (The Institute, Lucifer’s Realm, and The Paradise Threat) is one of the headline features. :)

    • Similar artwork to the August 1982, 80 Microcomputing Magazine advert for the TRS-80 versions of Institute/Lucifer.

      (There are certainly enough cool, different inlays to keep you supplied for forthcoming blog posts too!)

  2. You can see the graphics in this one (by Rick Incrocci) are far advanced on probably all previous Apple II graphic adventures you’ve covered. I know you’ve done The Institute but I think these are better (well, the Institute needed weird, square looking rooms etc.) probably because the fantastic subject matter gives more licence.

  3. Lucifer’s Realm was yet another one of those games where Incrocci’s gorgeous, cartoony aesthetic really works against the dark theme of the game. (I’m thinking also of The Institute). I didn’t know of Incrocci until reading your blog, but I recall another game (Sherwood Forest) with a similar illustration style that works much better. If I had to guess, I’d say Sherwood Forest was Incrocci’s too, but I haven’t verified this.

    Looking forward to seeing how this goes. I played this have as a child but I cannot remember if I ever completed it.

    • Actually I think the graphics and game are the perfect match. The creepiness of the NPCs you have to deal with in this one takes it to a kind of heightened place with black humour – that is still creepy. I mean you need to be able to embrace it. The graphics help me do that. I think the resulting aesthetic is perfect for this game. A guy playing on a cloud looks cartoonish, but souls in flame in hell look like souls in flames in hell. The baroque mood is further emphasised by the Bach piece that plays over the opening credits.

      • I think the argument here is just a matter of opinion, although an extra point to add: there are some pixel-art games (like Technobabylon and Gods Will Be Watching) that have some very gruesome scenes that manage to not be so stomach-churning just because of the reduction to pixels. There’s sort of that effect here — there are some places with decaying flesh, etc., where the style just hovers in the right spot where it “feels” hell-like but doesn’t actively try to get the player to lose their lunch.

        (preview of what I mean)

    • Hmm, I think the art is working in terms of its lines. It’s the blue and orange color scheme I’m less sure of, although maybe it’s better than plain orange or orange/red or something. It is at least rather surreal.

  4. That plot’s pretty cheesy/campy but at least is kinda creative. (I guess Hitler’s still sore that people took Europe away from him?)

  5. It’s on!! I’m glad we’re doing this (although the game is not very enjoyable yet)! Looking forward to see how it all turns out. I’m sticking to about an hour of gameplay for each post, at least for now. And I will refrain from reading your posts to remain spoiler-free. It’s probably safe to read your first post when I’ve written my third post (and so on) but let’s cross that bridge when we get there :-)

  6. Having read this, it’s probably almost impossible (or at least a lot harder) to solve “Lucifer’s Realm” without having played the earlier Jyym Pearson games. I remember that “Saigon: The Final Days” already required a LOT of knowledge about how to tackle Pearson’s previous games (the re-re-visits you mentioned, looking/feeling/smelling/listening several times if necessary, using “climb” or “open” to proceed etc). When I played “The Institute” I had a paper with “Pearsonisms” handy to not forget any of those strategies that may be necessary to make progress. I should dig it up for “Lucifer’s Realm”, I guess, although so far I did fine (well, “fine”, rather) without it.

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