Murdac: See No Evil   14 comments

So I’ve made good progress since last time, resolving three puzzles, via the shocking method of

a.) thinking about the situation and what I had accessible

b.) trying out what seemed logical and having it work.

Satisfying! Also, I got through a fourth puzzle via what was more or less a guess, but based on my prior experience with the author’s work.

Title screen from the Acorn Archimedes version of Murdac, via JASPP. This was a two-pack with Avon, and interestingly enough, Avon (set in Stratford) has a postcard screen for Jonathan, so both games are united in the same “universe”.

The most straightforward problem to resolve was the Old Man of the Sea.

You are at the edge of an estuary. The only way out is past some trees to your south.
There is a priceless (and almost certainly unique) stuffed dodo here!
> s
As you pass under one of the trees the Old Man of the Sea leaps out, landing on your back, and clutching your neck extremely tightly with his long skinny arms.
The old man of the sea is on your back, his grip on your neck gradually tightening.
You are at the north end of the beach.

The important thing here is the man doesn’t kill you instantly. You have time to walk around and attempt to do actions. The time span is long enough I realized the game intended to have me move to another location. I studied my map and tried to think of somewhere that would — due to either the natural conditions of the environment, or some monster hanging there — would take care of the problem.

The old man of the sea is on your back, his grip on your neck gradually tightening.
You are on a north-south path which widens at its northern end. There is a damp passageway leading down at this point from which you can hear the sound of running water.
> d
The old man of the sea is on your back, his grip on your neck gradually tightening.
You are in a deep hollow full of steam. A geyser here periodically shoots out boiling water in various directions. This then collects in a pool in the ground and soaks away. There is a damp passageway leading up and out.
> wait
Suddenly a jet of boiling water strikes you from the rear. The old geezer yelps like a scalded cat (literally!) and runs off on all fours. In curiosity you follow him out of the room but he has vanished.
You are on a north-south path by the damp passage.

I do like that, despite being just an “apply X thing to Y” type puzzle, the location-based nature and the need to intentionally wait a turn add just enough to keep it from feeling simplistic.

Moving on from there: Frankenstein’s monster The Monster of Murdac. I had previously ignored the corpse on the table and walked through some wires, frying myself. I poked through my inventory items (which I was now storing at the foot of the hill next to the wizard, because it was central and outside, meaning no loss of lamp power)…

There is a large iron key here.
There is a long plank here.
There is an antique shawm here!
There is a dull brass lamp here, which is off.
There is a long thin metal rod here.
There is a crust of bread here.
There is an ornately fashioned bowl of solid gold here!
There is a quantity of precious myrrh here!
There is a pile of millet on the ground here.
There is a priceless (and almost certainly unique) stuffed dodo here!
There is a small wax dummy here.
There is a string of shiny glass beads here.
There is a large blonde wig here.
There is a scroll here.

…and decided the most promising one was the “long thin metal rod”.

ASIDE: If you are just holding it, the inventory command just describes it as a “metal rod”. This game technically doesn’t have an EXAMINE command, but it does: it reprints the description of an item as if it was sitting on the ground. This, despite the author’s philosophy about not using EXAMINE as a command, ends up being fairly helpful for a case like this.

Taking the rod over to the wires, and throwing it:

> w
You are in the mad scientist’s laboratory, which is a large room with exits to the east and west. Most of the apparatus is safely stored where you can’t get at it, but there is a bed in the centre on which is lying a huge inanimate human body (or a mixture of several) with electrodes fastened to various parts of its anatomy. There seems to be no way of activating the corpse.
> w
You are in a high tunnel to the west of the laboratory. Further west the floor is covered with a complicated tangle of wires.
> throw rod
There is a loud crackling sound as the rod comes into contact with the live wires and completes an electrical circuit. At the same time you hear sounds from the laboratory as though something might be stirring.

In the gloom you collide with the corpse, which is now very much alive. This is more than I can say for you, since it wrenches your head off your shoulders.

Progress! One thing to recall is that the rod actually originally had a long plank sitting on top of it and covering it, so I knew they were the same length — maybe try the plank instead?

> throw plank
You throw the plank so as to lie across the wiring.
> w
You are standing on a wooden plank which is resting on some wires in an east-west tunnel.

This leads to a dead end at the tunnel but also a mysterious alcove going to the north with nothing in it. I was able to take the plank away from the west side, toss the wire, and then rather than the creature killing me it fried itself on the electrical. This left a pillow at the bed where the creature originally was.

There is a loud crackling sound as the rod comes into contact with the live wires and completes an electrical circuit. At the same time you hear sounds from the laboratory as though something might be stirring.
> wait
The corpse, now reanimated, charges onto the live wires, currently a potentially unwise thing to do. There is a flash and it staggers back and falls down, apparently dead once again.

However, I was extremely suspicious of the alcove, given the game seems to be the kind to not have much in the way of extra rooms. Since the plank does fit right on top of the rod, what if we toss the plank on and let the monster walk through, hiding in the alcove after?

You are in the east-west tunnel by the alcove, with the wiring to your east.
There is a plank lying across the wires.
> get plank
You succeed (with a certain amount of difficulty) in pulling the plank across and picking it up.
> throw rod
There is a loud crackling sound as the rod comes into contact with the live wires and completes an electrical circuit. At the same time you hear sounds from the laboratory as though something might be stirring.
> throw plank
You throw the plank so as to lie across the wiring.
The corpse, now reanimated, lurches out onto the plank a second or two later.
> n
You see the Monster of Murdac as it strides along the corridor past the alcove. You then hear a mighty crash as it walks straight through the western wall.
You are in a small alcove to the north of the high tunnel.

The busted-open wall reveals a secret area with a solid gold bowl (a treasure) and a toad (who gives you a “toadstone” which “will save you from many torments” if you agree to let it free when you try to take it; you could, theoretically, get a dead toad instead, so I’ll keep that in mind if any witches need a brew). The Monster of Murdac keeps busting through and goes all the way to the beach, so the western part of the map is now unified.

The connection on top at the “Sentry-Post” still leads nowhere, because I haven’t gotten past the centaur yet.

I enjoyed this puzzle greatly, as it hit both my complex-preparation (albeit this time in real time while events are moving) and unite-the-map patterns. The curious thing is that it is still by most modern standards quite Cruel. In particular, the method of corpse-disposal that only yields a pillow still seems like a “right answer”, and only the sense of empty space is what made me realize quite quickly there was more to the puzzle. Yet, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t change it; even if we just make the corpse avoid the electric wires (so you can’t get tricked into thinking you are done with the puzzle yet) that damages one of the key central insights that made the puzzle so satisfying.

Just: sometimes you need Nintendo Hard, and any other design choice is a trade-off that results in a very different game. Typically a more modern game, but the upshot is there’s just some aspects that modern games can’t capture. Design choices are sometimes tradeoffs, not just Good or Bad.

With pillow in hand, I was able to make a start at one of the other puzzles: the haunted house.

You are in the entrance hall to what appears to be a haunted house. The air is filled with sounds of wailing, screeching and bumping. There are archways to the east and west.
> e
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, and it narrowly misses your face.
You are in a large bedroom in the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.

The pillow always protects you on entering, but only sometimes protects you on moving around.

> n
You are struck with great force by a flying sofa, which sends you into oblivion.

I’ve been able to make a maximum of three steps without dying, and it seems to be both random chance and freshly-generated upon entering the house. You can’t save because that counts as a turn, and any stopped movement also results in death.

> save
Standing still, you are an easy target for a poltergeist. A large filing cabinet crushes you very effectively.

The rooms of the house also have randomly generated names; I’ve gone south and found a Scullery on one save and a Living-Room on another. This indicates to me this is a “gimmick maze” where there is some sort of indicator which way is the best to go. I don’t think this is the kind of puzzle involving a map from elsewhere because you can’t read anything upon entering (unless there are directions from elsewhere that lock the map in place once read).

Now, I did say I made one solve by luck. I was noodling around with the “monkey puzzle” room and had gone back and forth a few times, typed “look”, and found a secret passage.

In this room your eyes are naturally drawn to a painting of three monkeys, one with its eyes shielded, a second with its ears covered, and the third with its mouth gagged.
There is a flight of stairs upwards and a secret exit to the south, which you had originally overlooked.

I don’t know if this is a puzzle or just a delayed discovery. It is possible the LOOK command itself has pertinence. I thought maybe I should try the opposite of the monkey’s actions (see, hear, speak) but LISTEN in not even recognized as a verb, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. It may all be related to the secret exit, though:

> s
In this room there is the most hideously wicked-looking picture you ever saw. It portrays a chimera – a beast so unnatural that I refuse to describe its nine misshapen heads individually.
You can avoid this loathsome sight by going north.

One thing I had on my radar is the fact Phoenix games were inclined to have puzzles that require being in the dark. I’ve found that Murdac has no pit-deaths or grues — you can wander around the dark to your heart’s content, and even pick up items and solve puzzles (the only thing that I’ve been stopped with so far is trying to read in the dark, which, well, fair enough). Since the lamp lights automatically when held, I guessed I needed to leave the lamp behind at some juncture just to see a special thing, like the glow-in-the-dark fish room of Hamil. Given the emphasis on sight or lack thereof, I decided to try it here:

As you pass through the secret portal you hear the word GNOEVAL resonate from something in front of you.
It is pitch dark.

I don’t know where GNOEVAL is useful. I’m also holding onto “GAMA” + “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF…” from the outside tombstone (this text changes randomly each game) and this bit from the Astrologer’s Sanctum near the centaur:

On the floor the word A K Y G G A N E G V R I S H W is inscribed.

I certainly don’t feel like I’m stuck yet, but feel free to “play along” if you have a suggestion. (Unless you’ve won before or looked at a solution; not ready for that … yet? My faith the game is playing “fairly” for an off-center meaning of “fair” is still holding up.)

Just for the record, the puzzles still open are: the manticore (poisoned sting), the centaur (just won’t let me by), the lion (angry about something), the haunted house (deadly sofas) and a goblin in the deep dungeon that I have no way to free and is protected by either a fairy godmother or a Guarding Spirit, depending on what roll the RNG makes:

You are in the deepest and dankest dungeon. Steps lead up. There is a nasty little goblin chained to the wall here.
> kill goblin
A hideous form with no head materialises before you. It grunts that is the Guarding Spirit of the goblin, and promptly devours your soul.

Oh, and there’s water. Outside (before entering the underground) there’s a lake…

You are at the edge of a large, perfectly calm lake. No breeze ruffles its untroubled waters. There is a path back to the west.

…inside there’s a pool of sparkly water…

The passage ends in a pool of sparkling water, in which wondrously flickering patterns can be seen. The only way out is to the northeast.

…and there’s the ocean by the beach, with an island visible in the distance. In all cases swimming is death.

You are at the south end of the beach, which ends in a small cove. To the west there is a small offshore island.
> swim
You plunge into the water but find, to your surprise, that you have forgotten how to swim. This leaves you only one alternative: you drown.

Posted May 10, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

Tagged with

14 responses to “Murdac: See No Evil

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. a toad (who gives you a “toadstone” which “will save you from many torments” if you agree to let it free when you try to take it; you could, theoretically, get a dead toad instead, so I’ll keep that in mind if any witches need a brew).
    A toadstone in folklore is a stone with protective or curative properties supposedly formed inside the head of a toad, so it seems to me you should have a dead toad either way!

  2. It may seem a strange observation to anyone following this, but Murdac is probably (with perhaps Quest for the Sangraal) the easiest of the entire canon. I realise that is a bit like saying hammering nails into your fingers is preferable to being burnt alive…

  3. “GNOEVAL” is probably pronounced “no evil,” don’t know if that means it might be useful in the monkey puzzle room?

    In light of Lisa’s comment about the toadstone, maybe it helps with the manticore?

    Also the wizard’s daughter isn’t on your list of open puzzles, that didn’t get solved did it?

    • Daughter is open question. The scroll might be all that is for. If not then that is open too.

      Wig has had no effect at any stage.

    • btw, update: figured out the wizard-daughter thing

      the wig is for fooling the _troll_ so you can go in twice, you go in once with wig and once without

      so you can deliver the scroll, but the scroll has a different effect on the daughter than you, presumably because wizard’s daughter knows more about magic than you do

  4. Is there a thorn in the lion’s paw or something like that?

    • I mean, maybe, but there’s no way to use that directly; you can’t refer to a PAW, and remember EXAMINE doesn’t really work to get more information. My guess is it might be a two-phase thing where you calm the lion down first and only then can take care of the secondary problem, but I haven’t found any lion-calming procedure yet.

    • Guess was right, except you cause it to sleep entirely first:

      > WAVE BEADS
      As you wave the beads at the lion, it seems to be mesmerised, and in fact quickly falls into a deep sleep.
      Examining the sleeping animal, you see that it has a thorn in its paw.
      > GET THORN
      You extract the thorn from the lion’s paw with great care, to discover that it is in fact a diamond tiepin! The lion awakes, feeling much more amicable towards you.
      > LOOK
      You are in the lion’s den, a rectangular room with solid stone walls. The exit is to the southwest.
      There is a lion here, purring docilely.

  5. Toadstones are supposed to be poison antidote, like a bezoar. I bet it will help with the chimera. I would try some fitting verbs with it just before or after (was that possible?) being poisoned. If it is not enough just carrying it? Tried touching it, holding it, eating it?

  6. What a waste of reanimated corpse. I would buy it for extra kidneys.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: