Hamil: Kept Deep in the Ground   5 comments

Erect and sublime, for one moment of time,
   In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
   While they waited and listened in awe.

From the original printing of The Hunting of the Snark.

To continue directly from last time, I need to do a slight correction, as Paul Ingerson pointed out I missed a hint. I thought the wand’s effect was unclued, but it is described as having “mystic runes”, and you can READ it:

The runes on the wand say:
    “Though bold in name
    They flee in shame!”

Since kobold has the letters “bold” in the name, that is supposed to hint at the wand’s effect being to make kobolds run in fear.

As Hamil is a game without an EXAMINE verb, I wasn’t thinking of getting more information off a particular object. (Also, “mystic runes” I usually don’t think of as English letters!)

Now, let’s rewind to the start, where I had found a slab written with O’GRAM, and dropped into a crypt…

From Stardot, via CMcDougall.

…as Paul (again) surmised, this was meant to hint at CRYPTOGRAM. (This is a puzzle I solved last time but I wanted to see where it was going before I reported in.) Specifically, the crypt looks like this:

You are in a crypt below the chapel, a dank and musty chamber. Sinister passages lead to the east and west, and there is a hole in the south wall. There are some steps up here, but they lead nowhere.

On the wall is scrawled the following legend:


That’s a rather short cryptogram to solve straight out (and I confirmed there was no simple Caesar shift going on) and in fact I ran about the map a bit before coming back to it, but I found that just to the east there was a major hint:

> E
You are in a short passage, which enters from the west and terminates in a large metal door with no obvious means of opening. The door bears the legend


This was a major enough hint I immediately realized the message had to be THE PASSWORD IS … something. Y was D, A was R, M was E, and N was A, so the word was DREAD, and saying it caused the door to open. This word is incidentally randomized on new playthroughs.

This led to a room where, oddly, the only thing I could find was a large tapestry (too big to carry, even) where picking it up opened a window to the sun outside.

You pull down the tapestry from the wall, exposing a small window, far above your reach, through which the sun is shining and a refreshing breeze is blowing.

Where realization struck is that not far off was a coffin with a vampire (the one depicted on the cover above).

You lift the lid of the coffin to reveal an elegantly dressed corpse.
Its eyes snap open and it smiles thirstily at you. The vampire (for such it is) then leaps from the coffin, drops something it was carrying, and moves towards you with fangs bared.

The vampire starts chasing you. The trick is to having the password-room open but have not yet pulled the tapestry; then get the vampire chasing, lead him to the sunlight room, and let him have the full blast.

A ray of light hits the vampire, who emits a ghastly screech and then literally crumbles into dust, which is dispersed by a draught from the window.

Heading back to the vampire’s coffin, I found some documents in a language my avatar couldn’t read, and the documents were notably not a treasure. I stashed them away and merrily did some more mapping / puzzle solving before running across their use more or less by accident. I happened to have them in my inventory when I was exploring an open court next to a “museum”.

You are at the western end of the court. There is a portal leading out at this side,above which are inscribed the words:


A lowered portcullis blocks the exit.
> W
The sentries see at once that you are carrying the deeds to castle Hamil, bow respectfully to you, and raise the portcullis.
You are in the entrance hall to Castle Hamil, which is filled with knights who greet you as their lord. To the north there is a passage into a small vault.

The vault is where the treasures go, although for some curious reason, there’s a garlic stashed there already (not a treasure, and I’ll explain where it’s useful later).

The whole court/museum area is pretty dense with interesting items and puzzles.

Location 1 has a huge egg which hatches into a dragon; there’s a forest area to the south with a cave blocked by “an impenetrable mass of undergrowth” and you can deposit the egg there, and find later the dragon has hatched (and burned away the undergrowth) but won’t let you by. You can alternately be there when the egg hatches and find the dragon wants to be friends with you, except that being friends is also fatal:

Suddenly the egg you are carrying gives a loud CRACK, the shell splits, and a baby dragon emerges. It purrs happily at you, unfortunately giving you third degree burns in the process. In fact the dragon’s attempt to make friends merely results in your demise.

My suspicion is that being at the cave with egg hatching is correct, but you need to survive friendship (at which point the dragon will let you by into the cave), but that’s only 60% confidence or so.

Location 2 has a talisman which says OBLIVION. OBLIVION is an understood verb but I haven’t gotten it to do anything (with or without the talisman). The talisman also has the odd effect of randomly being “left behind” when you go a particular direction, meaning you need to backtrack and pick it back up if you want to keep it. I’ve found two uses for it I’ll get into later.

Location 3 has a hard-to-pick-up treasure

There is a huge marble statue by Michaelangelo here!

where getting the statue indicates “You can’t take that!” I assume the hugeness is the issue here. Perhaps some magic will allow transport into the vault, or perhaps it can be shrunk down? I don’t think this is a puzzle I’m ready to solve yet.

Location 4 has a easy-to-pick-up treasure

There is a large curved object here, elegantly carved by skilled craftsmen from the wood of the sacred tree of Hamil!

and it may just be there for stuffing into the vault, but it feels mystical enough I get the intuition this doubles as a useful object somewhere. (It does not seem to be secretly a boomerang, or at least, THROW WOOD doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary.)

Location 5 has a jackdaw flying around with a shiny object. I haven’t been able to grab its attention. (Also, in my current playthrough it is in the east court rather than center, indicating either I made a mapping mistake or there’s something random about the positioning.)

Location 6 leads down to the Snarks.

You are in an east-west passage. There is a sign reading “TO THE SNARKS” and an arrow pointing east.
> E
The passage comes to a dead end here, but there is a hole in the floor.
> D
You are in a curiously constructed room. There are steep passages leading down from here in all eight horizontal directions, each labelled “TO THE SNARK”. There is also a hole in the roof, through which you will have no trouble returning.

The directions all lead to downward stairs, where a message is revealed slowly, Burma-Shave style.

You are in a steep twisting passage. On the wall is daubed the word “UNFORTUNATELY”.
> D
You are in a steep twisting passage. On the wall is daubed the word “SNARKS”.

etc., leading to UNFORTUNATELY SNARKS HAVE TO BE KEPT DEEP IN THE GROUND. Going down one more time is then death.

> D
In the room there is a Snark burbling frumiously to itself. As you approach, it roars like a Bandersnatch. “Oh no, it’s a Boojum!” you gasp, as you softly and suddenly vanish away.

(I like how my spellcheck understands Boojum but not frumiously.)

The only major observation I’ve made is that all eight directions seem to lead to the same set of downwards stairs. Normally I would have trouble being sure of that, because dropping items cause them softly and suddenly vanish away, but the talisman from earlier is an exception: if it drops on its own, it doesn’t count as regular dropping, and then you can confirm by hopping into other directions that you’re going down the same set of stairs to reach it. (That doesn’t mean there isn’t some weird flag set by doing some trick with the eight directions, but resolving whatever is happening doesn’t get fixed by just being in a specific set of rooms.)

Speaking of the talisman, let’s get down to the other use I spoke of, which is at the same forest area as the baby dragon that can burn the entrance to a cave.

To the south is a sleepy-time grove. I don’t know what it’s useful for.

You enter a luxurious grove in which the atmosphere is so heady that you fall asleep almost at once. You awake shortly afterwards with no (apparent) after-effects.
You are in a luxurious grove which contains an abundance of beautiful plants. The sun is shining, birds twitter, bees hum… in fact the whole atmosphere is soporific in the extreme. Now awake, you find it difficult to remain so. The only exit is back to the north.

To the east is the previously mentioned cave, and to the west is the nastiest maze of the game I’ve yet encountered.

Three spirits appear in front of you. They claim to be the servants of the Maize Goddess, Mecohuatl, and promptly bear you away as a sacrifice to their deity.

It’s a maize maze, and for a long time I kept getting attacked by spirits as shown seemingly at random. After a lot of experimentation I finally realized the oblivion talisman gave protection, as long as you either carried it or it was in the current room. That means if you’ve dropped the talisman, you’re safe as long as you can go right back to where the talisman was. The maze, unfortunately, is the irregular kind where directions back are not obvious, and you can’t even use the in-game command BACK (“I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how you got here!”).

It’s hard to convey how distressing the whole experience was. Some exits jump back in the “path” by two or more rooms, so you really want to be dropping extra objects in rooms so you can keep track of Room 1, Room 2, etc. Also, the only way to save is to backtrack out of the maze entirely.

Let’s just say an “enormous” number of clone bodies were sacrificed before I reached the end, which was just a treasure (a Van Gogh painting). Once you actually have it settled, the procedure is to try to walk through with the talisman, and every time you drop it, go back to the previous room and pick it up.

There’s still also a few other scattered puzzles through the map, either addressed or unaddressed. In one room an enchanter seduces (?) you, Odysseus style, but kills you in the process. The proper procedure is to eat garlic beforehand (remember from the vault?) so she is repulsed, and then you can grab the emeralds she leaves behind.

Other random bits and bobs include: a six-legged creature who is crying for their mother, and who you can pick up; a “fish room” with “pictures of fish of every description… turbot, halibut, you name it”; a wall of fire; a bottle with a “djinn” that offers to help “if it be in my power” when set free, but I’ve yet to see an effect; a pit with a “furry arm” that comes out and kills you if you try to jump over; a rocky plain that is “heavily cratered” and trying to walk in any direction results in the earth opening up and swallowing you.

Then there’s this bit, which quite irregularly has a bicycle wheel, and more ominously, has randomization:

> SE
You are in a small room with exits to the southeast and northwest. The whole of one wall is taken up with a large painted mural, which shows the explorations of Columbus and Peary.
There is a bicycle wheel here.
> SE
As you leave the room, a disembodied voice whispers ‘Do not pause!’
You are in the large orbicular chamber.

The mural in particular is randomized. It changes the explorers upon entering the room, or even just has one explorer; it could be, for example, Captain Scott and Marco Polo. In a 90s game I might think this was just a way to add flavor, but in a Phoenix game, this is most definitely some kind of hint, probably connected with “do not pause”. I’ve tried to connect this even with the snark but still haven’t had any luck.

Another Hunting of the Snark picture for good measure.

One last piece of irritation before I close out; it’s something I’ve run across since the beginning of the game, and have finally decided has no logic to it at all other than to kill me personally. If you stay in the same room too long you die.

While you are wondering what to do next, a giant centipede scuttles in and gives you a poisonous bite in the leg.

There are various other deaths, including via anteater. I thought things couldn’t be that simple and perhaps there were “safe zones” or the like, but no, this seems (as far as I can tell) to be a consistent effect found everywhere in the game. I guess the idea is to encourage moving forward, but usually when this was originally hitting I was just organizing my inventory or trying to test out room exits. I have learned now when checking exits (that is, double-checking going, say, northwest is really is blocked off, even though it’s not in the room description) to leave and come back to the room I’m testing every so often in order to stave off death by anteater.

In most normal play the death doesn’t come up, but my pattern of hanging out in a room and fiddling with each of my inventory objects in turn or just trying random verbs is usually what I do when I’m stuck, so the main effect of the feature is to throw me off my groove. Still, I’m managing to hang on without hints so far, but I suspect the latter half of the game will have at least a few demons as puzzle somewhere.

Posted April 17, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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5 responses to “Hamil: Kept Deep in the Ground

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  1. Definitely a clue. ;)

  2. I like the way the game contains a vampire and some garlic, but the game structure means you can’t use one against the other.

    Some further comments: the six-legged creature will turn out to be a Dr Who reference (going back to the Jon Pertwee era). This won’t count as a spoiler, as even knowing it doesn’t help work out what to do with the hexapod. And don’t be too hasty in your assumptions about the piece of wood.

    • I managed to figure out the wood puzzle yesterday, more or less by luck (I thought it would do something different but might attract the attention of the bird anyway).

  3. The Snark problem was one where my history training came in handy; think which direction each explorer travelled in. If there is more than one explorer……

    • I did manage to get that one yesterday as well (although it was mostly helped along by the logic of looking at the list of all the possible permutations, realizing there were 8 of them, and thinking about how the names could encode things other than just using the letters).

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