Ferret: Herring, Colour of Red   27 comments

(Prior posts on Ferret here.)

Data General Eclipse 32-bit, from Novas Are Forever.

Last time I had left off in phase 15, on a roof with a “Cradle of the Window Cleaners” which I could, if holding enough items, cause to move downwards.

The ancient, and probably malfunctioning, automatic equipment that controls the cradle grinds into action, transporting the cradle down the building.
Cradle of the Window Cleaners
You are in a window cleaner’s cradle. To the south is a large building, to all other points of the compass nought but a view of terrible devastation.

I inquired from help via the authors who indicated that there was more to be found here; specifically the floor the cradle goes down to is determined by the player’s weight. So finding different floors is a matter of finding different weights.

Eventually I came up with holding the truck and robot from way back in Phase 8 (which I had been toting around not really expecting to use) gave enough weight to land on a floor:

Cradle of the Window Cleaners
You are in a window cleaner’s cradle. To the south is a large building, to all other points of the compass nought but a view of terrible devastation. The building has lost its curtain walls permitting access to the building.
Exits: -S– ——– —
-> s
Apparently a conference room in an office block. The external curtain wall on the north side of the office block is missing allowing egress from the room. There is something written on a Nobo Board attached to one wall. There is a corridor to the east.
Exits: N-E- ——– —
You hear the cradle machinery whirring and receding into the distance.
-> read board
1. AVG
You hear the cradle machinery whirring and receding into the distance.

What follows is a giant office corridor, 10 tall, with rooms to the west and east, each with a letter excerpts as shown above.

Wallace Greenslade
Lobby area giving access to a pair of swing doors in the east wall and a corridor to the west. Painted on each door is a large number 4. There is\ some writing etched on one wall.
Exits: —W ——– —
-> read
20. GX

When listed in order, the excerpts came out to be


which I already knew immediately how to solve. As I observed from a message in the sewer way back in Phase 9, there was a ADFGVX code grid that could be used for decryption as long as I had a message that only used those letters.

A code word is also required, but that turns out to be just FRET. The process of decipherment was then quite easy as I had already found a website to do it for me, so I eagerly awaited to see what new secrets I would learn, and found:


The entire 30-room floor is a red herring, as was the setup message from the Sewers. I’ve never played a cheekier game in my life.

Regarding the sewers, I already asked about a weird poster about someone’s “life’s research” to be passed on

Every story of lore had three protagonists, they say. Let’s call them A, B and C.

but I already inquired of the authors who indicated this bit was a red herring. So the only piece of information from there that might be left was hidden in a cake tin.

-> empty tin
-> break cake
The sponge crumbles to dust revealing a strip of ticker tape.
-> read tape

I’ll get back to this message later, but I will also say (inquiring further) that I have confirmation that the sewers from Phase 9 are a one-way trip. Assuming the information above is useless, that means the entire sewer section also is useless as there is no way to get what might seem like useful items (like the diving suit and the key) out.

But back to the Cradle first: it turns out while that particular floor was a red herring, with a little less weight you can visit the floor right before and get inside as well. There are no doubt many combinations that work; this one in particular does:

-> i
You are carrying:
an indigo pin
a gold key
a beautiful ruby rod
a security casket
a piece of linen
a puce transparency
a lime ticket
a chunky bracelet
a translucent fruit bowl
a silver obol

No messages on the wall, but rather: two interesting rooms I haven’t had much progress on. One involves a projector screen I assume the puce transparency goes on.

Apparently an office in an office block. There is a corridor to the west. Hanging from the ceiling in front of the north wall is a projector screen. Next to the projector screen are two cords, one long and one short.

For the longest time I thought of “cord” as electrical cord; no, they’re just pull cords.

The long cord does nothing. The short cord kills you.

Your yanking behaviour activates the projector screen mechanism which appears to be faulty as its initial movement is to fall rapidly to the floor accompanied by a loud screeching noise. Unfortunately, you are in the drop zone and receive a glancing blow to the head. You feel absolutely nothing of course, but the dull spark that was your life has finally been extinguished.
You’ll be an ideal addition to the nearest wormery (which might eventually turn you into something useful if you don’t poison the worms first).

The other interesting room involves a kitchen with a heating element that can be activated, as well as a bunch of cupboards:

Opening the left cupboard reveals:
an osmium cube
an ebony pebble
a stick of chalk
a stick of charcoal
a driftwood branch
Opening the middle cupboard reveals:
a wire chip basket
Opening the right cupboard reveals:
a vinyl cup
a vinyl beaker
a vinyl spoon

Putting the basket on the heating element causes it to activate, but it overheats and causes the basket to stick.

A strange ethereal humming noise eminates from underneath the plexiglass. The plexiglass starts to glow, first red, then orange then white. You smell the acrid stench of burning from a long uncleaned surface. You appear to have discovered an automatic induction hob. Bang! A faulty one too. The food detection system seems to have inappropriately calculated the cooking temperature required resulting in some overheating, thereby welding the chip basket to the surface of the plexiglass.

If you also have one of the vinyl items inside, it makes a puddle of vinyl. Otherwise (with everything I’ve tried) it just gets vaporized. Voltgloss theorized we could somehow construct a helmet this way, and the fruit bowl mentioned earlier seems like it’d be the right size, but no: the bowl just gets vaporized. The one extra interesting element is you can put things inside of things; that is, you can put a beaker in the wire basket, and then put another item in the beaker. I don’t know if this nested technique helps at all.

I did manage to wheedle a few more hints from the authors other than the ones already mentioned. One involved the explosive in phase 11, and let me just re-quote the room in full.

Asylum from Enmity
A dank crepuscular room made from reinforced concrete as if to survive a blast overhead. There is some form of opening in the ceiling apparantly to permit the ingress of light and ventilation. Against one wall is a safe surmounted by a resin slab.
Exits: —W ——– —
The resin slab contains:
a mobile phone
some Semtex explosive
-> examine slab
The solid resin slab is rectangular and semi-transparent. It appears to contain a number of structures, principally a lump of Semtex explosive, embedded into which is a mobile phone comparable to many a Hollywood big time stylie bomb.
-> get slab
Do you know what happens to old explosives?
They become unstable to the point where any kind of disturbance can cause them to blow – literally. Your fussings appear to have provoked that senario. The bluebottles are swarming.

The hints were:

1. Have you found a scroll by The Honourable Society of the Party for Freedom from Persecution?

2. Have you found a communicator?

I have no idea what scroll is being referred to. The ticker tape (from the cake tin that I quoted earlier) is not a scroll but that’s the closest I’ve found. The communicator (from phase 10, after you go through charging it) does let you try to dial numbers, but I haven’t had anything other than a dial tone. I’m up the point I might make a very hardcore script to try every single number from 1 to 9999999 in the hopes one of them will work, but as always, I’m happy to get assistance from readers. I’m fairly sure I’ve given nearly every scrap of text in the game so far, except for one bit of graffiti I missed at the start of phase 10:

Blap, blap. This is fierce. Y, oh Y, does the posse go mental when I jive some symbols at ’em? All I said was “pi and mash”.

Otherwise no clue. Can anyone help?

(Oh, and I also found I could ring a bell at the lake to summon a ferry as long as I waited long enough — I wasn’t waiting enough before and thought there was no effect. However, this gets you immediately stuck on a rock blocking my way with a suggestive crack, like it can busted open with explosives. No dice prodding around there, either.)

Posted December 14, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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27 responses to “Ferret: Herring, Colour of Red

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  1. I can’t help but look at the sewer/building red herring and feel insignificant. This game has spent so much time and effort for a puzzle that’s ultimately a gotcha. As someone who sometimes tries his own hand at creating adventure game puzzles, it feels pointless now in awe of this. Like, wow…

    Guessing the “pi and mash” thing might refer to mathematical concepts? Pi is easy, but mash is a mystery. Wikipedia says that MASH-1 is a cryptographic hash function, but I’m getting that feeling of insignificance again. Uh, maybe like the TV series/movie? The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital? Picking out a random pop culture reference feels way too easy for this game.

    • Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pie_and_mash – but perhaps that is just obvious enough to not need mentioning.

      • It is obviously a pun, but it might be a meaningful pun. “Mash” might be as simple as concatenation or addition? Also good to keep in mind this was at the prior station

        Yo, ya kno’ that Graham geezer and his massive number. Well, like, X is the spot an’ it’s the last free digits, dig it?

        I have tried various permutations of combining 314 with 387 (now that I think of it, though, I didn’t just try adding and doing a three digit number). I would suspect that earlier message on the communicator scanning us gives a clue we’re looking for a five digit number but that’s a very light suspicion (only with 30% confidence).

        None of this refers to the scroll in the hint, though!

      • The thing that grabs my attention about both of these phrases is the inclusion of X and Y (the latter twice – ‘Y, oh Y’, which could translate to YOY or Y0Y).

      • The thing that *concerns* me is where else X and Y get referenced. Which is the end of the sewer A, B, and C screed, that the creators have already confirmed to be yet another a wooden door. So does that leave the X and Y graffiti as just yet more carmine clupeidae? Maybe alongside the similar-to-the-sewer “one way in, no way out” theater basement?

  2. Interesting – up until now I’ve been running the older version of the game. In that version, the left cupboard in the office block kitchen contained only the vinyl cup (while the other cupboards were as they’re described above.) This makes me think that the other items (the osmium cube, pebble, chalk, charcoal, and branch) are all red herrings.

  3. I’ve not been playing the game, so I don’t know if this is relevant, but the names Bluebottle, Wallace Greenslade and Sellers are references to The Goon Show


  4. The verb “mash” can be a synonym for “pound”. I wonder if “pi and mash” might refer to a phone number made up of some combination of early digits of pi, followed by a pound sign from a telephone keyboard?

  5. Quick observation on the strange ASCII book cover:

    Maybe it is actually representing a 3d view? I could see it either being the picture of someone with a projector falling on their head or someone next to a ledge leading out a window. Also, excluding the letters GO, all of the letters could be parsable as directions, if we include IN.

    Also, at some point we should go back to the helicopter a few phases ago and try to work out the ladder — there is a way to get an item, according to Roger Durrant, and you can use that item to get into the plate glass downstairs and get a real map. I have not had any luck there but we should check in case there is a future-clue somehow.

  6. more hints from the hive-mind

    You can lead an automaton to water….
    You got very close before. Once you have taken the automaton to the gate you have to do something.

    We can make a start on one of the harder puzzles in the game:
    The pads in the theatre – have you found anything that may relate to a theatrical production given that the theatre might be on fire?

    You found the Pier at the lake – notice anything about it?

    • RE: the pads – the poster in phase 9 immediately comes to mind. I’ve tried using the pads to produce “911” and “DIAL 911” in Morse code, neither of which have produced any obvious effect, though I may not be doing this quite right (my method has been to wait for one turn between each character). I have a feeling this is slightly more complex than it appears. There must be a reason for the attribution of shapes to short and long tones, which, if understood, could lead to a more specific sequence (maybe one that would work with “911” in Morse.)

      As for the automaton, I’ve been trying to goad it using the toy robot, the truck, and the flash fun, but haven’t found anything significant. Just eliminating possibilities here. Of course, it’s dodgy to make use of heavy items with the automaton at the gate. You have to drop the generator, pick up the other item, and do whatever you need to do with it before the automaton absconds with the generator. It’s just possible with several tries. Maybe something can be done to the generator to make him respond to it differently?

      • 911 continuously doesn’t work either.

        (Haven’t actually tested with DIAL on the front, though)

        Just feels weird because while the long beeps are clearly one particular button, the short ones could be one of three, and if you push the same button twice for a short you get a long. I’m wondering if the 911 is correct but you just also have a shape sequence to work on out top of it.

      • I also realize I’ve been using the digit morse code, but technically we could spell it out, like NINE-ONE-ONE — I think we have enough time? It’s interesting if you do the 9-1-1 with the spaces between you only have two extra moves before collapse, so it times pretty well.

      • So I tried spelling out NINE-ONE-ONE. Not enough time if you leave spaces, if you don’t then you die right after pushing the last button.

      • If you go in the closet and wait out the explosion, you have unlimited time afterward.

        I think you’re right, re: the shape sequence of the buttons (which is what I was getting at above). I’m half-convinced that the message on the mouldering paper in the sewer holds the key to this. It could be as simple as keeping the sequence in “reverse alphabetical order”, insomuch as this is possible (in other words, always proceeding from triangle to square to round to oval). OTOH, there could be an insanely complex puzzle at play, at worst involving the graffiti on the station walls from phases 9 and 10 and taking into account the insinuated values of X and Y. Given that this has been referred to by one of the creators as “one of the harder puzzles in the game,” I’m learning toward the latter.

      • There aren’t _too_ many possibilities to avoid just testing them all out. For example, the way to get a 9 is only one of three.

        press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press round

        press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press oval

        press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press square

        For the digit 1, there are six possibilities

        press oval; press oval;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle

        press round; press round;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle

        press square; press square;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle

        press oval; press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle

        press round; press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle

        press square; press triangle;press triangle;press triangle;press triangle

        So really that’s only 108 to test, which is doable by hand even (I’d probably write a program though).

      • I’m assuming the lack of explosion is a bug, but I’ll ask to be sure.

        Tried writing the program where 911 was delivered in every possible button-pushing way. Nothing obvious happened, but it is faintly possible you need to hide in closet, then wait a bunch more turns and something will trigger. (If you wait between digits it still actually picks up on the prior press, so “press oval; wait; press oval” actually does a long on the second press. This means it is somewhat less possibilities than I mentioned.)

    • One quality-of-life bit about the automaton and the gate: If you close the door that leads back into the Open Area, the automaton can’t open it or move through it. So if you lead the automaton to the garden and then close that door, it can’t escape very far even if it steals the generator – just between the two locations that make up the garden.

  7. Would you say this game is harder than Quondam or whichever it was that you declared to be the hardest ever?

    • Hmm. Tough call.

      From phases 1-8, I’d say no, although I have to add a little bit of “unfairness” scaling; I’m not sure if searching a 21 by 21 grid in the desert really counts as “hard” as much as “requiring a leap to being willing to undergo some tedium”.

      Phases 9+ feel on par.

  8. Well. I seem to have gotten past the Phase 9 gate.

    The only problem is, I’m not sure what exactly I did that solved the puzzle.

    Further testing required.

    Also after the gate, I found exactly what we need next: [n jbbqra qbbe]

    • cut and paste a transcript I guess?

    • OK, so first off, I was being a bit flippant about what I found past the gate – a wooden door was the first thing I found, but wandering around some more there is an *entire phase’s worth* of intriguing stuff beyond the phase 9 gate. It is definitely where we should all be exploring at this point.

      Second, the following seems to work to get past the gate, but I really am not following the logic as to why. The missing link appears to be [gur puhaxl oenpryrg]. Specifically, the following seems to work:

      1. Oevat gur puhaxl oenpryrg gb gur abegu raq bs gur Fznyy Xvgpura Tneqra
      2. Tb trg gur trarengbe, ghea vg ba, naq yrnq gur nhgbzngba gb gur Fznyy Xvgpura Tneqra
      3. Pybfr gur qbbe gung pbaarpgf gur Tneqra gb gur Bcra Nernf
      4. Tb gb gur fbhgu cneg bs gur Tneqra (jvgu gur tngr), jvgu nhgbzngba sbyybjvat, naq qebc gur trarengbe
      5. Xrrc zbivat onpx naq sbegu orgjrra gur gjb Tneqra ebbzf
      6. Riraghnyyl, bar bs gur gvzrf lbh erragre gur fbhgu cneg, gur nhgbzngvba jvyy unir fbzrubj (juvyr lbh jrera’g va gurer) bcrarq gur tngr naq fgebyyrq shegure fbhgu
      7. Nccneragyl gur oenpryrg *zhfg* or va gur ivpvavgl gb znxr guvf jbex

      And I thought figuring out the Phase 8 black cylinder was obtuse!

  9. OK, I got the magic to happen while on-location. Partial ROT13’d transcript below:

    -> a
    Fznyy Xvgpura Tneqra
    Lbh ner va n jnyyrq nern gung jnf cebonoyl hfrq gb tebj sehvg naq irtrgnoyrf
    va cnfg gvzrf ohg nyy rivqrapr bs tneqravat unf ybat qvfnccrnerq. Gb gur jrfg
    vf n ohvyqvat jvgu n qbbe va gur arnerfg jnyy. Gurer vf zber tneqra gb gur
    Rkvgf: -F– ——– —
    Gurer vf n puhaxl oenpryrg urer
    -> f
    Fznyy Xvgpura Tneqra
    Rkvgf: A— ——– —
    Gurer ner fbzr vagrerfgvat bowrpgf urer:
    n zbovyr trarengbe
    na nhgbzngba
    Gur nhgbzngba unf yvorengrq gur trarengbe naq gura qrpvqrq gb yrnir
    gur nern. Orvat na nhgbzngba vg unf ab erny pbaprcgvba bs oneevref
    nf lbh be V zvtug. Nppbeqvatyl, vg gnxrf gur bar ninvynoyr ebhgr bhg
    naq gehaqyrf freraryl vagb gur tngr, ohefgvat vg bcra va gur cebprff.
    Gur nhgbzngba unf yrsg gur fprar.

    • I’m guessing the internal algorithm considered the bracelet an “obstacle” so avoided it? I’m not sure why that’d be the case based on the description of it.

      Also, do we have another riddle-computer in our future:

      There is a whispering of fans and a hum of mains flow.
      After a brief delay you hear a computer generated voice intone:

  10. Looking at the new discoveries, there’s a house to the east and one to the south.

    Regarding the one to the east:

    V sbhaq ol nppvqrag lbh pbhyq “zbir” va n aba-geniryyvat qverpgvba juvyr va gur Ynhaqel Ebbz. Gur tubfg zbirf jura lbh gel gb zbir fb lbh pna trg vg gb znarhire nebhaq guvf jnl naq or noyr gb teno n wnqr tybor naq n frphevgl pncfhyr. V qba’g guvax gurer’f nalguvat ryfr fb gung zvtug or qbar?

    Regarding the one to the south:

    Bayl aba-boivbhf guvat V sbhaq vf lbh pna chfu gur gnoyr gb gur rnfg naq trg gur eht gb erirny n gencqbbe. Gur gencqbbe vf wnzzrq ol n erpgnatyr bs zvpn.

    I might update tonight but probably won’t be until tomorrow. I still want to mess with the [pbzchgre] a bit more, though.

  11. Shot in the dark, but by name alone, “The Honourable Society of the Party for Freedom from Persecution” sounds like it could be the group responsible for the “capitalist pigdog” message. Maybe it’s a “scroll” in the sense that ticker tape “scrolls by” as it prints? Or in the way that every piece of actual ticker tape I’ve interacted with has wanted to roll back up.

    That message just seems odd to me. Aside from the omission of vowels, the plus symbols as separators are interesting. Are we supposed to “add” up the parts of the message numerically somehow?

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