Hog Jowl Mansion (1981/1982)   9 comments

Oddly, despite its association with point-and-click games, humor has been very sparse in our journey so far. We’ve experienced some satire (“Hunter Thompson is here with eyeshade, cigarette holder, and intensity”) but I don’t think any games we’ve seen yet just tried to embrace being outright silly, or as the article that presents today’s game emphasizes, “zany”.

From 80-US Magazine, January 1982. Jon J. Waples is yet another one of those folks who wrote one and only one adventure game.

Hog Jowl Mansion brings back the type of game we got swarmed with in 80-81 and still hasn’t died out, the TRS-80 type in. However, this time the memory is doubled from 16K to 32K, so the game can be a little freer with the text (it is possible to squish everything into 16K by cutting all the spaces out of the source, but it is still interesting this is our first designed-for-32K TRS-80 game).

Our job is to gather 13 treasures and put them in a special place; so far, so typical. The catch here is that we’re actually a “repossessor”, come to collect on the debt of the defaulting Lord Hog Jowl, and treasures including a Ginsu Knife and a plastic flamingo.

The “special place” the treasures go is zany, indeed, although the game does the gimmick of not giving you access or even giving a hint as to where it might be at first.

The streetcar has been downgraded.

You can take the DAISY SADDLEPAL BB GUN and shoot the BUSDRIVER with it, getting a DEAD BUSDRIVER, but there’s otherwise no way to interact with them. The gun is more specifically useful in front of the mansion, where there’s a ravenous dog guarding it.

This happens with any item you happen to throw at the dog.

Sorry, dog lovers: the right move is just to shoot it dead with the gun. You can also poke in Lord Jowl’s mailbox and a “postage due” of 42 cents attached via paperclip to a postcard.

DEAR LORD,
HAVING A GREAT TIME, WISH YOU WERE HERE.

This is one of those open-treasure style hunts, where at least half of the 13 treasures are out in the wide open and you can gobble them up like Pac-Man (except, again, where to put them isn’t immediately obvious!)

The structure has three floors, at least initially all available via dumbwaiter. The problem is that the dumbwaiter does not let you carry any items up or down.

Richard Nixon’s watch, as seen in the basement. You can’t take this back up the dumbwaiter.

What’s interesting is that the dumbwaiter is essentially a “preview vehicle” for seeing parts of the map early, because there are alternate ways to get both above and below.

For the upper floor, there’s a secret hatch that lets you find yourself at the top of a christmas tree on the ground floor. It turns out all along you could CLIMB TREE to get to the upper level, but that isn’t obvious at all before entering the other way.

For the lower floor, there’s a locked door you can find with the dumbwaiter, and it’s pretty clear the paper clip might help pick it, but even the paper clip is too large to take along with you on the trip down.

There’s a double-secret (first, move a bookcase, then, move a desk in the secret room you’ve found) that leads down to the door on the other side, and then lock-picking is possible.

Just to be clear about all this, here’s a meta-map:

This configuration allows most of the map to be open, while still requiring some puzzle-solving to fully travel the geography.

I’m reminded a little of the “map preview” you could take with Burglar’s Adventure by setting off an alarm and exploring anyway, but in this case it’s not a game over.

Speaking of game overs, this game has unlimited resurrection as long as you don’t go the wrong direction in New Jersey. I put the umbrella death at the top of this post; going North goes to safety. Going down, you find … Carl Sagan?

Did Mr. Waples find the series Cosmos upsetting?

You can also die in a refrigerator or blow yourself up with dynamite. I did the latter trying to get rid of a “elderly cow with morning breath”.

You can’t get through the door, this bit is a red herring, although I wonder if it’s more along the lines of “the author decided to stop” as opposed to an intentional move.

There’s a piggy bank with a dime that is not a treasure, but if you go all the way back to the bus terminal with a locked water closet, you can INSERT DIME and get inside. The toilet is where all the treasures go.

“Zany”. But also “grisly”. The gold fillings you get using pliers on a dead IRS agent that had been trapped behind a locked door upstairs.

In a historical sense — despite Jon J. Waples vanishing from adventure history as quickly as he came — this does indicate a wider familiarity with the treasure hunt genre, and a willingness to deconstruct to the point of absurdity as opposed to just copying the Crowther/Woods formula directly. A second-order copy, so to speak. This sort of humor eventually will get tiresome — by IFComp this sort of thing would deservedly land an entry in the bottom 5 — but this was relatively fresh and interesting by 1982 standards, even if a bit harsh on dogs, Richard Nixon, and New Jersey.

Posted April 12, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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9 responses to “Hog Jowl Mansion (1981/1982)

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  1. Couldn’t resist — here’s a Beeb port of Hog Jowl Mansion: https://github.com/ahope1/hog-jowl-mansion

  2. What a big labyrinth!!

    • It’s clearly meant as a gag. One of the branches has a special description of having a “light ahead” and then at the end you reach the “light at the end of the tunnel” which is a Donald Duck Nightlight.

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