Archive for the ‘curse-of-crowley-manor’ Tag

The Curse of Crowley Manor (1981)   5 comments

This is our fourth game for 1981 with the word “Manor” in it (see: The Secret of Flagstone Manor, Stoneville Manor, The Cranston Manor Adventure) but all of those had some element of treasure-hunting plot; Crowley is instead set up as a mystery. From the packaging:

The scene is London, in 1913. Scotland Yard is buzzing with the news — there’s been a murder at the Crowley Estate! What starts out as a simple homicide investigation turns into a trip into the depths of the occult as you try to solve The Curse of Crowley Manor.

This is our first appearance of the author Jyym Pearson, who was quite active from 1981 to 1983, producing eight adventure games. Besides Crowley, and roughly in chronological order, he wrote Escape From Traam (1981), Earthquake – San Francisco 1906 (1981), Saigon: The Final Days (1981), The Institute (1981), Lucifer’s Realm (1982), Paradise Threat (1982), and The Farvar Legacy (1983). (Three of the games were co-authored with Robyn Pearson.)

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games. The “Other-Venture” label was a way to distinguish these games from the Scott Adams ones, also published by Adventure International. Other-Venture #1 is just a port of Adventure.

Will Moczarski already tackled this game over at The Adventure Gamer, but he played the TRS-80 version, so I’m going with the Apple II edition instead (which adds Norm Sailer to the credits).

You start in a room with a desk that has a calendar and nameplate. The nameplate reads “Inspector Black … Scotland Yard” and the calendar reads April 2, 1913, but you are otherwise given no details on the main character. This makes a nice reminder there are gradations between a generic anybody and defining the main character entirely. Going by history, the main character would technically have to be male (the first female police officer in England with arrest powers was appointed in 1915) although given the story has extra-historical “supernatural elements”, I say roll with it however you want.

As soon as you try to leave (or wait enough turns) the phone rings, and duty calls. Murder most foul.

Also, fussy parser most foul. I was stuck for a while until I tried TALK DRIVER (and got the message above) and did the exact command of CLIMB IN. Then I had to type GO CROWLEY followed by WAIT for a few turns.

This is a very nice cinematic moment where you WAIT several times and Trafalgar Square and Big Ben before reaching your destination. I have no idea if that’s realistic for London geography.

I met Police Inspector Harbour on arrival who informed me of a body in the kitchen.

Except … there isn’t one? Just blood.

Blood that you can inspect closely, if you like.

I’ll return next time with more details of my investigation. One last comment, though — this is not quite like Sierra’s Hi-Res games where all the text is on the bottom, objects appear on the screen, and flipping between all-text and text-on-the-bottom is optional. This is more like (but not completely like) a regular text adventure with added illustrations. For each location, you need to flip back and forth between a Scott-Adams-ish style screen and the picture to get a full idea of what’s going on.

In one case (meeting Inspector Harbour) there was no indication in the text there was a person; I had to LOOK MAN before I got any information. In the screenshot above, notice there’s no mention of the nailed-shut door (although oddly, the door is mentioned in text on the image page if you LOOK). So the images still serve a story function; I need to remember to be thorough and try to interact with both things only in text and things only in the image.

I think the TRS-80 version of this game would likely to be easier to play, but the meta-question of “what do the illustrations in an game really do?” is still a fuzzy one at this point in adventure history so I’m willing to suffer for the sake of experiment.

Posted August 27, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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The Curse of Crowley Manor, in story form   4 comments

To D—- Who I Shall Always Remember in Fondness

I had swore never to return to America, yet tomorrow I leave by boat. I write this and trust you will not believe me what occurred, but I must tell someone to rest my disquiet mind.

Perhaps you will keep this. Perhaps my words will be burned on arrival. Do what you want.

Cover from the 1983 NEC PC-6000 Series version, via Diego Rispoli. The NEC computers were mostly sold in Japan, although there was a 1981 US version called the NEC TREK. Also, you should be seeing this as a picture caption; if whatever reader you’re using removes this, you may want to go to the original post, as all gameplay commentary will be in the picture captions.

As you well know, I managed to obtain a position at Scotland Yard. I’ve now been here for 10 years, and have a plaque reading Inspector Black on my desk.

I received a phone call on April 2, 1913. Officer Strade informed me there was a murder at the Crowley Estate. I had known it by reputation but never set foot inside.

I boarded a hansom cab who struck off a brisk pace for Crowley. I noticed beside him a vial and by some strange intuition took it.

In gameplay, I had passed this moment and been stuck for a long time. I needed a hint. I had already done LOOK DRIVER — the Apple II version requires that in order to get the exact phrasing CLIMB IN for boarding the cab — but doing LOOK DRIVER a second time is necessary after boarding to see the vial. Just LOOK while riding doesn’t work.

I found Police Inspector Harbour — good chap — at the front waiting for me. He let me know Inspector Strade was inside and the body Strade had called me about was in the kitchen. I went inside and quickly found the kitchen, but the Inspector was nowhere. The kitchen had blood but no corpse.

This reminds me of in Secret Mission being told about a briefcase and map that don’t exist, and you have to infer they were stolen.

One door was boarded up. In further searching, I found a kitchen with an untouched plate, a pantry, and past the pantry, the opposite side of that boarded door. There was a suspicious-looking wall but I was still on the hunt for Strade.


I searched other rooms and found a man, Davonn, lurking in a corner. He warned me, ambiguously, that ‘IT’ was loose.

Stepping in past him, I found a diary and crystal ball. I have the words memorized. People do not often write about generations being infested.


I went back to Devonn and found … a corpse! … but not the corpse I was looking for. The poor man had been killed while I was in the next room.

This is a direct example of the type of adventure plot where things don’t happen until the player is ready for them to happen; that is, a “drama timer” rather than one based on the number of turns passed.

He died without a noise, without a scream. What was going on? Who was ‘it’? Where was the Inspector?

Further alarmed, I tried to leave by the front door only to find it jammed behind me. The only other room I could find was a room with a piano and a victrola; the victrola crank seemed to be stuck, and I found a gold key.

The gold key reminded me there was a cabinet in the entrance hall I recall being locked — by this point I was considering any action at all to be well within police mandate — so I toted the key over, and within…

I love how straightforwardly dramatic this managed to be while still falling in the framework of standard adventure gameplay.

…within, I found the Inspector, his body lurching forward into the light. I imagined thumping in the walls, everything dizzy, ceilings closing in, floors swirling upward. I was in a battle not to solve a mystery, but to save my life.

Returning to the kitchen for more clues, I found a brown splotchy creature. With some unknown intuition, I picked it up and carted it to the kitchen, dropping it off to see what would happen.

I figured out how to do this on my own because if you go in the pantry with the growth, it jumps at the food and gets too large and it’s game over. I did not know how to convey knowledge about a death-route in the “story” description other than using intuition. Our hero remembered branches of life not taken, I suppose. 1981 games didn’t care too much about if a “continuous narrative” was truly possible; learning by death was often a feature, not a bug.

It was alive! It went for the plate, and grew to the size of a dog, and fled, knocking over a cabinet in the process. I found a letter opener and an axe.

The letter opener I was able to use to pry open a chest and get at a crucifix and a note — containing just the digits 5271. My thoughts went back to the vial. Was this holy water? Was the cab driver somehow prescient of what would happen? Gazing back at the crystal ball I still had from the desk, I wondered if fortune-telling was real.

My eyes glazed back to the axe in my other hand, and remembered the thin wall. There were only dead ends otherwise. Now was the time.

Indeed!… within was contained a secret laboratory, where I found an old tome mentioning GAFALA ALONE MAY HELP. Further past, a door with a combination lock, in which I entered 5271. Inside—

A monster — different than this one — appears at the combination door and kills you if you don’t have the holy water vial. The game tries hard to indicate you don’t have enough to win, but it’s hard to tell if the demon’s taunting is “in universe” acting in typical demon fashion or meta-referencing your lack of an inventory item.

–inside, is when true terror started to seep into my bones. I felt myself being pushed to the wall; something invisible was here. Out of frantic desperation, I threw the holy water, and found an apparition before me that shrunk away when I waved my crucifix. I ran away. I ran away as far as I could, which was not far, as I was in a dead-end. My intuition returned: I spoke aloud GAFALA.

Not as absurd as the other intuitions; you (and the main character) are out of options and inventory items.

A white wizard appeared before me, informing me that the evil I looked for was his brother, and I would need to prepare to kill him.

A battle against a demon! My dreams have always been pleasant, so I never once thought I was in some shard of unreality, but here was the most unreal moment of all.

I found, searching, a gold shield, and a place with a hole, close to the size of the crystal ball. I put the crystal ball within the hole and saw a vision of a sword and a fountain.

There were numerous points where I struggled with the parser, but this was the worst. You need to DROP CRYSTAL BALL and then LOOK, but DROP doesn’t give any indication the ball went in the hole, so I kept trying PUT CRYSTAL BALL and PLACE CRYSTAL BALL and the like. Also, I needed the walkthrough to realize you can LOOK after the vision is done (and the crystal ball is gone) to have the sword mystically appear.

I paused and looked around some more, and a magic sword appeared before me!

Backtracking to where I first met the wizard and going a different direction, I ran across an ill-tempered giant rat and made use of my revolver. I registered no emotion, nor fear at this — it was nearly the most normal moment of the night, despite the creature’s size.

If you try to enter this room without the sword and shield first, you are torn apart and informed your death is too awful to describe. This is true even though neither object seems to have any effect here since the revolver does the work. This seems to be intended to keep the player from getting too far afield the main plot; I suppose I could see the demon showing up early if you don’t have proper defense.

Further on, I found the fountain in my vision! I dipped the sword in, trying my hardest to believe in prophecy.

I think only CLEANSE SWORD works. The game really did feel fast-paced despite grinding to a halt a few times from the parser.

I also was met by a vision of Gafala, who told me I would only have one moment to strike.

Sword, shield. Into the darkness I went, and before long, I encountered the demon.

The eyes! The eyes were horrible. I could do nothing but defend myself for a time, as the demon rattled off taunts

Upon contact with the sword, there was a sizzle. There was a weakness! There was hope!

This is where having the sword cleansed is important. The scene otherwise involves WAITing, although it honestly was nicely cinematic, especially given the forewarning there was only one moment to strike.

I waited a little longer, then struck, struck hard as my passion could take me, and the demon fell.

I made things seem smoother than they actually played — there were more parser issues than the ones I pointed out, and the way LOOK worked was often painful — but this was still a promising start to the Jyym Pearson library.

I do not even remember how I left the house. But I still had the sword and the shield, and was awash with blood. I spoke to no one. The Yard thinks I am gone with the rest. I have no desire to stay in this country. I must be as far away as I can make it. I intend to strike for California as soon as I can; farther if I must.

It is probably for the best if you do not believe me.

but still—

Always Yours,

Posted August 31, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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