The Queen of Phobos: They Must Not Drink Beer Where He Comes From   Leave a comment

Softline, May, 1982.

I think I’m converging on a solution. The game can’t be too huge just on the basis of it only taking one disk side and some of the space occupied by animations. I already showed some of the zombie, here’s a selection of frames from when you jump off into space (and die):

Again, just a selection: it looks startlingly like a cutscene jumped into the game, 1990s-style. I think it’s easy to see the resemblance to, say, The Tartarian and discard the graphics as crude, but there’s some genuine craft and art design put into them.

They’re not museum-frameable, but there’s a ragged 50s-movie vibe to them. Sure, the creators were probably forced into it due to technical circumstance, but they made the most of it.

The frisbee-shaped ship has a game schema like this:

The corridor is the central travel area. To the “south” of each junction of the corridor are the main rooms (navigation, bridge, armory, etc.) To the “north” is a maze of state mazes leading to the center of the ship (and the aforementioned zombie). So unless I’m fundamentally misunderstanding something, the majority of the action plays out on the corridor. I’ve mapped it as a line, but note the two ends wrap around.

Green represents a section where you can teleport down to the planet the Phobos is orbiting. The corridor lets you go north into the “maze”-ish section but that’s where the circular aspect becomes hard to map. Fortunately mapping the maze seems to be unnecessary to winning.

Despite the ad materials mention of “randomly placed” weapons, some of the items seem to be consistent. For example, you’ll always find a SURGICAL-CHAINSAW in the surgery area. It’s possible for the thieves to filch items, but they also will sometimes drop them again; for example, Thomas S. Hunter picked up a bazooka from the planet (he hitched a ride with me through a teleporter) and dropped it off again randomly in the ship’s corridor. That’s a pity, because the bazooka doesn’t work and will blow up whoever tries to use it. Maybe I need to get him to swipe it and then provoke him so he tries to use it.

Thomas S. Hunter posing with Yuggoth.

As implied by the screenshot above, you can have two thieves in a room at once, although I’ve never seen three, which is kind of a pity, because the one item that seems to work on all the thieves — but only works once — is the gas grenade. (You need to be wearing a gasmask, but otherwise you can just throw it.) This means that it may be that all four thieves have a custom defeating-method but the grenade will work in a pinch if you can’t find a certain item or just happen to be stumped.

One of the items that defeats a thief is a case of beer. Normally it isn’t helpful…


…but the Beetle can’t resist the beer, which was apparently too much to handle.

I’m also not 100% sure you actually need to defeat all or even any of the thieves. While they sometimes follow you around they don’t attack (yet) unless you make a move first. There is some secondary havoc they must have caused behind the scenes, because there’s a thermonuclear device in an armory that is set to explode and needs disposing of. You can get a cable from near the engine of the ship, then find a gaping hole with some ship damage; attach the cable to yourself, walk out near to the hole, and toss the device.

If you don’t attach the cable before throwing the nuke, Newton kicks in and you fly into space and die.

In the department of other puzzles: there’s also a machine with a metal claw; you can put in a token, and the claw moves over and picks up a deck of cards. I suspect I need the key right next to it in the machine, but I don’t know how to fix things yet.

This is animated. It doesn’t seem to be a mini-game, but rather the cards get picked up automatically.

I’ve otherwise not got much left to fiddle with. A “spout” in a machine room needs a handle to turn; I’ve found a shovel which dug up a grave on the planet…

…which has a map that leads from the captain’s quarters to the center of the ship, which is why I indicated earlier figuring out the maze was unnecessary.

Each thief is a puzzle of sorts, and it’s fun just to see what kind of combinations can happen on a fresh game, so I’m not bored of things yet. As long as things resolve fairly soon this won’t have outworn its welcome.

I can’t guarantee yet that the random aspect is solid, but the alternate method of thief-killing and the fact they are willing to drop their loot both suggest it shouldn’t be possible to get into an unsolvable situation. I did want to mention one more novelty of this game, which happens if the disk thinks you’ve copied it (that is, this is an anti-piracy measure). As observed by 4am, Apple II preservationist extraordinaire:

The melting is just what happens if the nuclear bomb goes off, so whatever time limit the bomb has (200 moves?) gets set to 1.

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

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