Archive for the ‘murdac’ Tag

Murdac: The Land of Heroes   4 comments

I have finished the game. If you’ve arrived here from elsewhere you should read my posts about Murdac in order.

Title screen from the Amstrad version of the game.

Continued directly from last time, I was on an island with “cannibals” in the process of preparing fresh missionary.

There were three problems

a.) getting captured by the people

b.) finding a secret spot on the island with treasure (I didn’t know about this at the time)

c.) getting back from the island

For c.), while the ribbon works for parting the seas while done from the beach, it does not work for the way back. I tried various ways to “increase the power” of the ribbon or stall, even trying to pin it to a pigeon and have it walk around wearing the ribbon, having it wave in the breeze. I wasn’t having any luck so I figured I needed to be solving elsewhere first.

It was around this time the author of game, Dr. Partington, asked if I had solved the tombstone puzzle yet, hinting it was self-contained. This is a bit like if you were playing Robotron: 2084 and Eugene Jarvis starts giving you advice; you have to try, right?

I did have the tombstone on my list as a thing to check, because it is one of the items with random generation. It isn’t even generated on a fresh game; it gets generated on reading the tombstone! So you can save, READ, restore one step before reading, READ again, and find completely different text. After the text is read it stays fixed in state. Schrödinger’s tombstone.

I kept restarting a bunch of time and read the tombstone each time. The pattern is: first a name, either GURON, SCAPHIO, PHANTIS, GAMA, or ARAC. Then a “biography” from four choices:

“… PIONEER … SIGN LANGUAGE …”
“… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …”
“… FAMOUS BARITONE …”
“… NOISE ABATEMENT CAMPAIGNER …”

Some samples:

You are at an old, untended grave. The tombstone is worn but you can make out some of the writing on it. There are paths to the east and north.
> read
The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “GURON”
and the words “… PIONEER … SIGN LANGUAGE …”
or
The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “GURON”
and the words “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …”
or
The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “SCAPHIO”
and the words “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …”

The save game I was using for my main story had “GAMA” and “WEREWOLF”.

The fact the names and “professions” were mixed and matched meant they couldn’t be linked with some sort of tight wordplay. This is genuinely one of the hardest puzzles in the game, and I didn’t solve it myself; rather, the insightful Matt W. mentioned HOWL being an understood verb in the game, which is so wildly unusual it can’t be a coincidence. He had tried HOWL GAMA but to no effect. (SING and WHISPER and SIGN all also work as verbs for the other professions.)

The HOWL GAMA is right, but it needs to be done at the lake close by. I didn’t find this my random testing; rather, I was fully aware the number of places remaining that were “unused” was starting to get rather short, and the lake was close by to test.

O.K. “gama!”
The waters in the centre of the lake part and a hand and arm appear, grasping a gleaming sword (surprisingly, not at all rusty!) The Lady of the Lake, if that is who it is, flings the sword towards you so that it lands at your feet. The hand then disappears, and the waters regain their calm.
There is a gleaming sword here, whose mighty blade bears the proud name of Greydeath!

Sword in hand, I tried figuring out where to use it. You can’t use it to kill monsters. In fact, all the monsters are protected by guardian angels and so forth:

> kill centaur
A humanoid character with large white wings appears in the room, claiming to be the Guardian Angel of the centaur. Whether he is or not, he strikes you dead with a single blow.

(Another data point for my History of Nonviolence post. Puzzle gameplay just doesn’t lend itself to straight combat like CRPGs do.)

I still had the island open, so I tested it over there. Wandering the perimeter, I found a treasure:

Suddenly the sword Greydeath twitches violently in your hands.
You are at the western tip of Cannibal Island.
> dig
You dig in the sand and unearth a scorpion. Just as it is about to sting you, you slice it into pieces with Greydeath. The fragments vanish into thin air.
Digging further, you discover a large hoard of pieces of Eight!
You are at the western tip of Cannibal Island.
There is a hoard of pieces of Eight here!

Well, that solves a problem, just one that was hidden, not either of the two I knew I had. However, I was inspired to keep testing things out with the missionary in the cauldron, and figured maybe an item use doubled-up elsewhere. The beads worked to calm the lion, maybe they’ll have a good effect here?

> wave beads
The cannibals are so attracted by the beads that they leave off their culinary activities, take the beads from you, and begin to play with them. The missionary takes the opportunity to leap from the cauldron, and with a breathless “Thank you, my son!” thrusts a book into your hand, and runs off.
Examining his gift you see that it is in fact a Gutenburg bible!

This incidentally does mean if you solve this before the lion puzzle the game is now softlocked.

I tried a number of stunts to get back on land, but no dice. I was running short on puzzles to solve, but I went back to my issues: a magic word on the floor hidden under some millet (that didn’t work), a centaur guarding a tunnel, a pigeon that I could carry but didn’t seem to be helpful anywhere, and a goblin chained in a dungeon.

I worked out the centaur first, going by “let’s try double-use of an item again”. In this case, taking the shawm which had busted a wall and trying it on the centaur.

The north-south passage comes to what appears to be a sentry-post to your north.
There is a large centaur here on guard duty.
> blow shawm
WHAAAAAAHHHHEEE!!!
The hideous sound is too much for the sensitive ears of the centaur.
It runs (gallops?) away without further ado.
> n
You are at Centaur Point, a small area looking something like a cross between a stable and an office.
There is a flask of expensive French perfume here!

Is “sensitive ears on a centaur” from some sort of particular mythology, or just this game?

Now, the pigeon and the millet. You might be reading it wondering why I hadn’t put them together. Well, I had.

> drop pigeon
OK.
> drop millet
OK.
> look
You are in a north-south passage, with side passages to the southeast and west.
There is a pigeon waddling about here.
There is a pile of millet on the ground here.
> get millet
OK.
> feed pigeon
The pigeon doesn’t seem to want anything you’ve got.

No, this is something more like Phoenix-game logic but not real-life logic. It is a sort of logic and the result occurred to me before testing out the action.

You are in the Astrologer’s Sanctum – a well-made chamber whose walls are decorated with numerous cabalistic symbols. The only exit is by an archway to the north.
There is a pile of millet on the ground here.
> get millet
As you gather the millet together you uncover a word inscribed
on the floor.
> read
On the floor the word A K Y G G A N E G V R I S H W is inscribed.

Namely, the realization struck me that maybe picking up the millet softlocks the game. You can’t drop it to cover the letters again; maybe the fact the letters are separated and covered is a very important condition of having the pigeon do something important, even though the pigeon ignores the millet in all other circumstances.

> drop pigeon
The pigeon pecks at some of the millet, exposing a word on the floor. OK.
> read
The letters K N E V I S H are exposed where the millet has been pecked away.
> knevish
There is a sudden CRACK in the fabric of space-time as an object appears in the room from thin air.

There is a finely carved ivory statuette here!

Again: there is a sort of logic here. The pigeon serves not so much as a real pigeon but a magical vessel, so the inexplicable lack of attention to the food in other circumstances is just because it is not fulfilling the magic.

I enjoyed solving it and felt satisfied but I’ve also played every Phoenix game up to Murdac in chronological order. I can see why someone in normal circumstances would get very frustrated.

Mental standpoint might also help a little. I usually play adventure games as if I am a storyteller trying to arrange the right pieces together to cause things to happen, like the recent game Storyteller. I rarely feel like the avatar is “me”, as in an embodiment of my consciousness, nor do I have an immersive sense where I feel jarred because of having to restore a saved game for the umpteenth time. I am, at closest, like an actor playing a part. Who was the protagonist of Myst? I don’t know, but I never thought it was “me”.

Returning to the puzzles in progress, I still had a goblin to deal with, but I was also very low on items I hadn’t used yet. They included a wax dummy, and I had already discovered (via STAB being a verb on my list) that I could poke with a diamond pin (that had been in the lion’s paw). Since I was out of places to use it:

You are in the deepest and dankest dungeon. Steps lead up.
There is a nasty little goblin chained to the wall here.
> stab dummy
The goblin gives a yelp of pain. “Don’t torment me! I’ll tell you how to get back from the far west! The word is EXODUS.”

Again random: AARON is possible, but I haven’t run through all the choices.

> say exodus
O.K. “exodus!”
The waves part again, revealing a path back to the beach.
> e
You are on an east-west causeway, the waters towering high above you.
> e
You are in the cove at the head of the causeway.
> n

This was nearly the last piece I needed for victory. I was able to leave the island with the treasures (Piece of Eight, Bible) and gather all of them at once:

There is a pile of amethysts here!
There is an antique shawm here!
There is a gleaming sword here, whose mighty blade bears the proud name of Greydeath!
There is an ornately fashioned bowl of solid gold here!
There is a quantity of precious myrrh here!
There is a priceless (and almost certainly unique) stuffed dodo here!
There is a flask of expensive French perfume here!
There is a finely carved ivory statuette here!
There is a gleaming toadstone here!
There is an ingot of Erbium here!
There is a baboon here, made of solid silver!
There is a pile of sparkling peridots here!
There is a diamond tiepin here!
There is a hoard of pieces of Eight here!
There is a Gutenburg bible here!

Then I took them over in a few loads over to the Keeper of Murdac:

The passage widens into a vast chamber which is full of soldiers some armed with long bows, others with halberds, maces or swords. Their lord is a venerable man who is sitting in a very expensively upholstered armchair.

“Greetings!” says the old man. “I am the Keeper of Murdac. Leave your possessions here with me and they will be safe until you return in triumph. You may take the lamp if it is needed on your quest.”
You are in the keep.
> drop all
You dropped 7 objects.

Etc. repeat, until all treasures were deposited.

“Congratulations” says the Keeper. “You are now ready to join the companionship of Murdac. But there is still one thing you must now do.” He hesitates, then asks:
“What object will you take with you on your journey?”

This is the final puzzle. You pick one object and get teleported somewhere where you use it appropriately. Try it yourself, and use your intuition: out of all the objects in the game, which would be the best?

A picture to pause with while you think. Disk for Murdac, from Acorn Electron World. I find it interesting the copyright is 1983 (when Hamil got published) even though it didn’t go commercial until later.

I started with the lamp, thinking perhaps I’d get dropped into a dark maze of some sort. If anything, it was the old reliable.

You are on a tiny island, far to the west of Cannibal Island.

OK, maybe not a lamp. Perhaps the ribbon? (By the way, I found reading a walkthrough later — huzzah, I got to check a walkthrough after beating a Phoenix game — that the scroll and staff are both possible for parting the sea, it is just random based on the vision you see.)

You are on the banks of the river of Death. Invisible forces prevent you from leaving.

Hmm, random location drops. Interesting! Given that angle, I decided to think: “which item feels like it has the most heft, the most importance?” Surely the sword, which has a name? Rather than editing things down I’ll give the rest of the transcript after typing SWORD, including some flailing, even though I immediately suspected what was needed:

Darkness descends on the keep. There are sounds the like of which no other man could hear and still retain his sanity.
Suddenly light returns and you see that…
You are by the lake once more. Dense foliage blocks you in all other directions.
> wave sword
Nothing useful happens.
> look
You are by the lake once more. Dense foliage blocks you in all other directions.
> n
You can’t go in that direction!
> e
You can’t go in that direction!
> s
You can’t go in that direction!
> w
You can’t go in that direction!
> nw
You can’t go in that direction!
> inv
You are holding:
The sword Greydeath.
> look
You are by the lake once more. Dense foliage blocks you in all other directions.
> throw sword
You throw the sword back into the lake. The Lady of the Lake stretches her hand out of the deep and catches it once more.

A barge draws up, drawn by two white hippopotami. You enter, and are taken off in triumph to the land of Heroes of Murdac.

You have scored 250 points out of a maximum of 250. Well done!

I enjoyed this the most so far of the Phoenix games. The entire system “clicked” for me in a way where I never felt cheated. This is despite some heavy built-in softlock points; moreso than Hamil. However, the story was short enough I didn’t feel crushing weight from repeating a section. and it does keep you on your toes to keep in mind not only the objects in front of you as you are puzzle-solving, but objects that have already been used up in the past.

Jonathan R. Partington will return later during my 1982 sequence with Avon.

Posted May 12, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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Murdac: Perplexed and Gratified   14 comments

Murdac has been relatively brisk for a Phoenix game. I remember with Philosopher’s Quest sometimes taking a week to get one smidge of progress, but all the dominoes have been falling here.

From the manual, a “letter” version of the game’s blurb. We haven’t met the “cannibals” yet but we will in this post.

I left off entering the haunted house without death by furniture but otherwise still being killed by flying sofas.

> e
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, slightly bruising your right arm.
You are in a large bedroom in the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.

Most directions of movement here will kill you.

My solution came not too long after, and I think the act of writing about the puzzle may have helped. I speculated about it being a “gimmick maze” and that there is no room to slow down and check an item without getting clobbered. This suggests that the text itself has a clue, and so I checked over my transcripts of randomly successful steps. It turns out that the line about “bruising your right arm” varies; it can bruise your left arm, or the item of furniture can “narrowly” miss “your face.”

I realized this is indicating the direction the poltergeist was at that moment, and that I needed to move away from it, accounting for relative direction of travel. That is, if you go east, and get hit on the left, then for your next step you need to go south. If you go south, and get hit in the face, then you need to u-turn and go north.

Illustrated: moving east, being attacked from the left (that is, from the north) requiring you to move south to stay alive.

Enough turns of this — eight, which I suppose is enough the author decided you weren’t just getting lucky but actually solved the puzzle — and you escape the house altogether:

> e
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, slightly bruising your left arm.
You are in the living-room (!) of the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.
> s
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, slightly bruising your left arm.
You are in a large bedroom in the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.
> w
You are on a deserted railway platform. The haunted house is to your south and the platform extends east and west. You can hear the sounds of passengers although you can see nobody.
There is a pile of sparkling peridots here!

You’ll get squished if you try to go back in the house, but with peridots in hand, you can walk to the north even though the game does not mention an exit.

> w
The platform seems to move with you, and you make no progress.
> e
The platform seems to move with you, and you make no progress.
> n
You step out into space, and find that you are on an invisible train which was waiting at the platform. This Ghost Train gives a piercing HOOT and then acclerates rapidly. As your eyes accustom themselves to your surroundings, you catch sight of various spectral commuters reading The Phantasmal Times and other ethereal papers. There is no sign of the ticket in-spectre. After a while the train halts and you dismount to discover that…

You are in an extremely long dark east-west tunnel. The ground is stony, almost as if it had been designed to carry railway tracks.

The “railway tunnel” is back on the main map, a tunnel that looks like a railway but prior to this moment didn’t take the designation literally.

Before pressing forward, I’d like to linger on the moment of solution a little longer, in a “theory of puzzles” way. I had the “trick maze” idea long in my head before putting it down, and had scanned the text for possible tells. I think I still wasn’t fully invested in scanning the text because I had in the back of my head related puzzles, like the ice one from Acheton which revolved around an item that pointed in the right direction, or the Hamil one where you follow a creature that you intentionally let go. While I also previously thought “you have an inability to do any actions other than move without dying” it didn’t quite click that the two facts together meant that the Acheton and Hamil puzzles I just mentioned are impossible. So the act of writing the two facts down together made me recognize the logic and made me more convinced I just needed to find a textual change, and then spotted the difference only about 5 minutes after I pressed the “Publish” button on WordPress.

…right, enough side-trek. Next I decided to finally break down and go through my “standard verb list”, checking which verbs are recognized by the game.

Not a long list, which can be awkward for game-play (sorry, you can’t PUT the iron rod on the wires, only THROW it) but good for puzzle-solving. I thought backwards from each verb, assuming they have a purpose (in 80s games, this is often true). I realized I hadn’t tried to WAVE anything so I went through my object list and decided the only item it made sense to do that was a string of beads. I then checked each of my remaining monsters (centaur, goblin, manticore, lion) to see if I could get a reaction, and hit gold (or rather, diamond) with the lion.

> 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.

Incidentally, the diamond tiepin is not just a treasure. I was toting around a “small wax dummy” which suggested to me a voodoo-doll type scenario, and I noticed STAB was an unusual verb off the verb-list, so found I could STAB DUMMY while holding the diamond pin. The game just says “OK” with no apparent effect, so unfortunately, I don’t know where this is useful yet.

One other solve came from a tag-team between my readers: Lisa H. pointed out that a toadstone is from real folklore and has “protective or curative properties”, Matt suggested because of this to try it with the manticore that inflicts poison (I noodled with it but couldn’t find any effect), and finally K thought to ask if I had eaten it. EAT TOADSTONE? Maybe:

> inv
You are holding:
A string of beads.
A dull toadstone.
A lamp (which is off).
> look
You are in a disused mineshaft. Light enters from high above but the walls are unclimbable. A passage leads south.
There is a small ingot here which, as you can see at a glance, is composed of the rare metal Erbium!
> eat toadstone
You attempt to eat the toadstone and in fact manage to lick off its outer crust, which has the taste of a boiled sweet. You discover that there is a hard centre which, when you remove it from your mouth, is really a gleaming jewel of great value!
> s
As you enter the manticore’s lair the creature’s tail whips into action, stinging you across the face.
The medicinal effects of the toadstone counteract the venom and you soon recover.

I was thinking of cooking the toadstone in something and drinking an elixir, but sure, that’ll do. Not only does this let you grab the Erbium, but the toadstone starts “gleaming” and becomes a treasure itself.

Speaking of cooking with liquids: another stopping point I had was with the various bodies of water. I found the outdoor lake has a special effect for thrown items:

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.
> throw key
You throw the key into the water. It sinks like a stone.

I went through a list of my items and didn’t get extra message, but the author is not a red-herring type, so I suspect a future item may be useful. (A sword that gets tossed to a Lady in the Lake, perhaps?)

For the pool of sparkling water, I realized there was a special message for typing LOOK while in the room: a strange vision.

As you gaze into the pool you fancy that you see some strange vision, but unfortunately you are unable to discern any detail.
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.

How to clarify? I originally though lenses, but before I could (futilely) try to make a lens in earnest, I hopped back to the verb list which has FILL. I knew I hadn’t used FILL yet. What could fill work on? How about the golden bowl I found after dealing with the Monster of Murdac?

> examine bowl
You have already had that object fully described to you.
The object’s full description currently reads:
There is an ornately fashioned bowl of solid gold here!
> fill bowl
OK.
> look
As you look into the bowl the sparkling water begins to bubble and boil away into a cloud of steam. Before this disperses you catch sight of a strange vision. A man in flowing robes is standing by the side of a large expanse of water. As the vision fades, you see him wave a ribbon.
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.

I’ll grant this was total luck; I was going to noodle around with the bowl of water elsewhere. (You can’t drink it; there’s “strong salty taste” and you die from stomach pains. This applies to the lake as well.)

This gave the bad news that my current save file was softlocked, as I had already done the ribbon sequence.

Ah, the ribbon sequence. Let me return back to that, and eventually I’ll return to the vision.

So we had a wizard who gave us a staff and told us to find his daughter. I found the daughter past a troll who insisted only “only one visit” and gave the staff over, and she gave me a ribbon to prove where she was. I returned the ribbon to the wizard and he gave me a scroll, and then, well, perhaps my reading skills failed me:

The wizard appears once more. “That’s her ribbon!” he says. “You have found her.” You explain the nature of his daughter’s plight, and he takes the ribbon from you, handing you a scroll, saying “May this aid you on your quest.” He then vanishes again.

Or maybe not? The way I parse this is the end of the quest-line for the daughter; that is, now that he knows, he can rescue her himself. But no, the scroll is intended to aid you in the daughter-rescue which isn’t done yet. Oops.

So the idea is to take the scroll back to the daughter, but the troll is still doing the one-visit-only deal. So you take a “large blonde wig” from elsewhere and wear it (well, just holding it automatically wears it) and that’s enough to trick the troll.

You are in the ante-room to the dungeons.
A twenty-three stone troll is standing guard over the southern exit.
> s
“Funny!” says the troll. “Someone like you was here a while ago, only the hair was different. I suppose I’d better let you pass.”
You re-enter the cell bearing the scroll, which you hand to the wizard’s daughter. She reads the document and promptly disappears in a puff of mauve smoke. Perplexed and gratified, you wander back into the ante-room, to be met by an “Are you sure we haven’t met before somewhere?” from the troll.
You are in the ante-room to the dungeons.

(Back at the wizard, he leaves you amethysts as a parting gift.)

The scroll (which previously turned you into an egg, and I thought you needed to trick someone else into reading) turned out to be helpful for the daughter; either it was specially designed by the wizard or (honestly more likely) the protagonist is just lousy at magic.

Regarding being lousy with magic, I also figured out the room with monkeys:

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.
> 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.

With the lamp stowed away, the chimera room revealed a secret word, GNOEVAL. I tried it everywhere, including, I swear, the room itself, with no luck. On a repeat-play while testing something, I had this happen by impulse:

As you pass through the secret portal you hear the word GNOEVAL resonate from something in front of you.
It is pitch dark.
> say gnoeval
O.K. “gnoeval!”
You hear a metallic CLANG! as something falls on the ground by your feet.

This drops a treasure (a silver baboon). Maybe I made a typoed by accident when testing? Maybe under odd conditions the spell won’t work?

I’ve still got the funky GAMA message and AKYGGANEGVRISHW to use, both which I know the game at least interprets as magic words, even if they’re not correct ones. (If you SAY NONSENSE, the game just repeats: O.K. “nonsense!” If is one of those words, the game adds a “Nothing useful happens.”)

Phew, that was quite a bit of solving already, but I’m not quite done yet, because I promised to return to the vision. The vision implied that waving the pink ribbon from the wizard’s daughter + being next to water = profit. Even an incomplete version of the wizard sequence loses the ribbon, so I had to go back and redo some steps and when I had the ribbon in hand, I put the wizard quest temporarily on ice. It was time to go to the ocean.

You are at the south end of the beach, which ends in a small cove.
To the west there is a small offshore island.
> wave ribbon
There is a mighty roaring sound as the waters part, revealing a path across the causeway to the island.
> w
You are on an east-west causeway, the waters towering high above you.
> w
You are at the eastern tip of a small oval-shaped island. There are paths to the west, northwest and southwest.
A causeway leads back to the mainland.
> w
You are at the centre of Cannibal Island.
There are some cannibals here, who are boiling a missionary in a cauldron.
> say hello
O.K. “hello!”
The cannibals rush for you and overpower you. It looks as though you will be taking an early bath once they’ve finished with the poor old missionary!

I’m not going to comment on the 1980s-pop-culture-jungle-island vibe since I have yet to make any progress on the puzzle. With this much forward momentum, though, maybe victory for next time?

Eh. I suspect we’ll get a nasty endgame puzzle that stops me short.

Posted May 11, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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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
OK.
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
OK.
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

Murdac: Underground   8 comments

Ad for the CPC version of Murdac, via cpcrulez.

I have fended off the ogres from last time, and it turned out to be more straightforward yet also more clever than I expected.

Just as a reminder, you pass a wall two ogres are building, smash it via musical instrument, then try to go down into the main area of Murdac when:

Your lamp has just switched itself on.
A furious ogre enters. “Take that for wrecking our wall!” he says, and bashes you with his trowel. He then storms out. You are rather injured.

The fact a second ogre eventually comes to finish you off is not intended to “give you time” or the like — if you’re here, you’ve already lost. (As you’ll see, there seems to be a running theme in the game of traps that trigger later than expected.) The question I asked was — how did the ogre arrive in the first place? I was assuming they had a secret passage or some such in order to even make it to the bottom in time, but what if they really were just coming right behind me?

> close door
OK.
Your lamp has just switched itself on.
> lock door
OK.
> d
You are in a large quadrangular cellar. There is a flight of stairs up in the centre and passages in various directions.

Keys are used so often as methods of getting through gated areas that it sometimes can be easy to forget they work as tools even after they’ve been used.

Safely in the clear, I set to work exploring the underground. It is fairly wide open and I expect that (like early stages of Hamil) I’ve already seen roughly 65% of the map. Unlike Hamil, I don’t think this has a strong emphasis on self-contained puzzles; I get the structural vibe that we’re going to have a more traditional “puzzle X is dependent on Y and Z being solved” setup, although I’m too early to be sure.

For ease of discussion I have subdivided the main map into Central, Beach (west), Manticore (south), Dungeons (east) and Maze (northeast). These are vague designations and the elements of each region don’t necessarily go together.

Starting with Central:

This includes the room you start out in, but also, nearby, a Cobwebbed Passage with a blonde wig, and access to a hill where a wizard awaits.

> u
Your lamp has just switched itself off.
You are at the foot of a steep hill on a twisting path.
There is a tunnel down into darkness at this point.
> u
At the top of the hill there is an aged man, whom, from his dress, you observe to be a wizard. “My daughter!” he says. “Where is she? Find her and I will richly reward you.” He then vanishes into thin air leaving just his staff.
Looking round you, you see that…

You are at the top of the hill, which falls away steeply on three sides. In the distance you can see various curious scenes, including a bridge over a chasm, a garden from which giant rocs are taking off, a large cornfield, a giant spider’s web and a distant bungalow by the seaside. The path leads back downwards from these awe-inspiring sights.
There is a wooden staff here.

Incidentally, trying to just leave and come back is deadly; I don’t think I’ve seen a quest-giver so violent before:

“You have failed in your quest?” moans the wizard, who is waiting for you at the top of the hill. He then casts a strange spell, whereby lightning flashes from his nostrils, striking you and causing you to suspend breathing.

The daughter isn’t hard to find (she’s in the Dungeon region) which I’ll be getting to.

A bit farther north there’s a hollow with a geyser that shoots out wet steam — no puzzle here yet, but I could see it being used for something — and a bit farther north still is a “keep” where the Keeper of Murdac awaits and asks you to leave your posessions.

> n
The passage widens into a vast chamber which is full of soldiers some armed with long bows, others with halberds, maces or swords. Their lord is a venerable man who is sitting in a very expensively upholstered armchair.

“Greetings!” says the old man. “I am the Keeper of Murdac. Leave your possessions here with me and they will be safe until you return in triumph. You may take the lamp if it is needed on your quest.”
You are in the keep.

This normally would be the treasure dropping spot, and it does indeed seem to increase your score to bring treasures (like the shawm from the ogres) to this room, but I should add you need to drop all your possessions, otherwise the old man gets very grumpy:

“You defy ME, the Keeper of Murdac!” roars the old man. “Kill him!” The soldiers assail you with their various weapons and do indeed manage to kill you in lots of painful ways.

This gives me the impression that something fishy is going on, at least compared to Hamil (where we were proving our royal birth via treasure collection). Perhaps there will be a “twist ending” where after finding all the treasures we’ll need to defeat the Keeper in a showdown.

(Also marked in white for the Central, but not shown on the zoomed map, is the Mad Scientist I excerpted last time. I haven’t discovered anything new there yet.)

Going east to the Dungeon area:

Lots going on here; first off, there’s a grumpy lion who does not kill you on sight, by waiting, or by revisiting the room. Shockingly peaceful, really.

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, limping about and roaring with fury!

There’s an entrance to a haunted house where trying to go in gets you killed via furniture.

A huge dresser flies across the room and strikes you a glancing blow, sufficient to kill you however.

The region’s Dungeon has a goblin chained in the lowest level, and on the middle level, a troll who says you can only visit the room he is guarding once. Therein is a “damsel in distress”, that is, the wizard’s daughter.

You are in the ante-room to the dungeons. There are steps up and down from here and a passage to the south over which there is a notice, reading ‘ONLY ONE VISIT ALLOWED’.
A twenty-three stone troll is standing guard over the southern exit.
> s
“One visit only, mind!” says the troll as you pass. You enter the cell to discover a fair maiden chained to the wall. “My father’s staff!” says she, as you enter. You hand it over to her and explain that you are here to rescue her. “Take this token to my father and he will know what to do.” she replies, handing you a ribbon from her hair.

Returning to the wizard with ribbon in hand makes for a better reception than dying instantly. But it’s still a trap:

The wizard appears once more. “That’s her ribbon!” he says. “You have found her.” You explain the nature of his daughter’s plight, and he takes the ribbon from you, handing you a scroll, saying “May this aid you on your quest.” He then vanishes again.

You are at the top of the hill.
> read scroll
“PROMBO VAPITACEOUS MOOZLE,
WURBOTURBO SPLATOMULE:
PROPHALUDGEOUS HAGMINE POOZLE,
GNODULATIOUS PROPODULE.”
you declaim. There is a yellow flash and you find that you have turned into a boiled egg. Since this game was really intended for humans, I’m afraid that’s your lot.

I assume the scroll goes to someone else, someone who will try to cast the spell if they get a hold of it.

Manticore area next:

The sparkling pool has nothing special, other than if you try to SWIM the game specifies you don’t remember how and die. There’s some beads (not sure where they go yet) and a bit with the “see no evil / hear no evil / say no evil” monkeys:

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.

Finally there’s a manticore, who will be perfectly peaceful if you enter, and even if you go past to get the treasure (an ingot) behind it, but when going back you get murdered. Delayed trap again:

> e
You are in the manticore’s lair – a large cave with an unpleasant smell of carrion. The floor is littered with the remains of creatures human and inhuman. A strange being is prowling here. Its face is like a man’s, in size it is like a lion, in colour it is red. It has three rows of teeth and a long tail armed with stings. The escape routes are to the west and north.
> n
Your lamp has just switched itself off. You are in a disused mineshaft. Light enters from high above but the walls are unclimbable. A passage leads south.
There is a small ingot here which, as you can see at a glance, is composed of the rare metal Erbium!
> get ingot
OK.
> s
As you enter the manticore’s lair the creature’s tail whips into action, stinging you across the face.
You have no time to seek an antidote and die an agonizing death.

This might be simply a matter of having an antidote in-inventory first before trying to get through.

Beach side!

A centaur guards a corridor and, rather boringly, does not kill you if you try to get by, just stops you. There’s a pile of millet over a secret word…

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

…and the previously mentioned beach. There’s an island visible in the distance but (as already mentioned with the pool) our character dies if they try to swim. Maybe building a boat is in order?

The north side of the beach has a “stuffed dodo” treasure, and it seems to be out in the open, and we can take it just fine, but if we try to leave (trap pattern again!)…

> 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.

…we eventually die.

Last comes the maze, because all Phoenix games need a maze.

This has the gimmick that all the rooms are dark, with the light sucked in by a “black hole”.

> d
It is pitch dark. The very air itself seems to absorb the light of your lamp: you can feel its warmth but cannot see it.
> n
It is pitch dark.
> u
It is pitch dark.

So to make progress you need to test exits, and if (for example) a particular room lets you go northwest and no prior room allowed northwest travel, you know that room has to be a new room. This is structured more or less all-or-nothing — you either follow the correct path, or you get penalized by going back to a prior room. You can find some myrrh (a treasure) and some bread (feedable to a pigeon back in the Center area). I did make it out with both items, so that’s at least one area (probably) finished with.

One last thing to note, and this is perhaps more for my own memory more than anything in the narrative since I have yet to connect it to any clue. Aboveground there is a graveyard with a tombstone:

> read tombstone
The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “GAMA” and the words “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …”

The tombstone text is random; I’ve seen different variants upon restarting the game. This indicates the exact text is definitely a clue for a puzzle, I just don’t know which one yet.

I still haven’t quite worked out the difficulty level of the game yet; I’m hoping I can make a progression happen with one item that makes another puzzle easy across the map and then another puzzle easy after that and so on. Phoenix games tend not to give up their secrets so quickly, though. I will say the trap-structure does give some potential; since the player tends to have access to the room where they get killed before it happens, there might be a “preparation puzzle” where the player can set a trap of their own. I’ve gone on the record before about preparation puzzles often being high quality, including two of the best puzzles in the megagame Ferret.

Posted May 7, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

Tagged with

Murdac (1982)   9 comments

The forests of Murdac are some of the oldest, as well as the wildest and most isolated, in the whole land. Also they don’t take kindly to intruders — although living on the outermost fringes of the great forest, you have never been able to penetrate it: every time that you followed a track into the dark woods, you found that it somehow turned and took you away from the secret heartlands of Murdac.

It became almost an obsession with you. ‘What is the secret of Murdac?’ you wondered, frustrated at every turn. In the land where nobody ever set foot, there was surely some dread mystery to be revealed.

The mathematicians of Cambridge strike again!

Previously:

Acheton (1978)
Brand X / Philosopher’s Quest (1979)
Quondam (1980)
Hezarin (1981)
Hamil (1982)

More specifically, Johnathan R. Partington, who wrote an entire trio of games for 1982, returns with Murdac. Hamil’s move from the mainframe to the home computer was in 1983, but Murdac had to wait until 1986.

Jimmy Maher has a thorough run-down of how the release sequence happened, but to give a short version, when Acornsoft (which published Hamil but hadn’t gotten to Murdac) started floundering financially, the rights to the Cambridge games got sold to a company called Superior Software, where things bounced around a bit more before Murdac got packaged as Monsters of Murdac by Global Software for the Amstrad.

The Global Software deal didn’t work out well, so the games bounced around again to a new publisher, Topologika Software, resulting in a “double-pack” release of Avon (previously unreleased) with Murdac in 1987.

From the Topologika manual portion devoted to Murdac.

Having said all that, the z-code “re-releases” seem to be the closest to the mainframe originals, so I’ll be playing in that format instead. z-code is the same format as old Infocom games, allowing mainframe Murdac to be playable in many different ways; for instance, online with this link.

Welcome to Adventure!

Murdac
An adventure game by Jonathan R. Partington (Cambridge University, 1982)
[This translation: version 1.111115 / Phoenix v1.04 / Inform v6.32
Please type “inform” for further details.]

Welcome to the Land of Murdac. This is version 1.07.

Type HELP for basic information, and BLURB for the full story.
All comments to JRP1 please. New commands BRIEF/TERSE, NORMAL/STANDARD, VERBOSE and EXAMINE have now been added.
You are standing outside the door of a small flint hut.
There are paths off to the east, west and south.
The door is locked.

Despite the terse opening, there’s a fairly involved backstory behind the BLURB command, or at least more involved than original mainframe Hamil; I am in fact concerned there’s a hint buried in there so I need to keep track of it. You’ve already seen the first paragraphs; continuing:

In your village there lived a wise woman, Duessa by name. Some folk said that she was a sorceress, and could cause the milk to go sour just by scratching her nose. Others said that the reason old Uncle George had only lived to be 91 (when his father had reached 102) was because he had tripped over Duessa’s cat when drunk. Obviously a woman to be wary of, especially if you wanted to make sure that you came home without growing an extra ear on the way. She certainly knew a few secrets that nobody else in the village did — like what it meant if you saw a rabbit hiccuping on the night of the full moon — and if anyone could tell you about Murdac, it was Duessa.

Our would-be hero comes to visit Duessa, who comments “this one looks brighter than the last” (thanks!) and mumbles something about a wizard needing help and a manticore. She then pours a teapot in a fireplace to look for omens, mumbles some more things about ogres (the blokes depicted in the manual picture) and an ominous “Old Man of the Sea” before giving instructions.

Following Duessa’s instructions, you went down a certain path at midnight on Hallowe’en, until you came to a clearing. There you drew a pentacle, stood within it, and shouted “PANGORY PANTHRODULAM” – words of power that she had given you. Was the intonation right? If not you might find yourself rotting in a gloomy dungeon for ten thousand aeons, tormented by creatures from the lower planes. But nothing like that happened.

This reveals a long path which leads to a garden with a small stone hut.

Now is the time for you to explore further, but do be VERY careful — it’s not every adventurer who is going to survive in this totally alien world!

This is still (from what I gather) a “find the treasures and put them in a spot” plot, but it gives the wide open feel of “you’re curious about this mystery place and you go explore it” as a setup, what I’ve referred to before as a “pastoral opening”.

However, it turns out this is not a “relaxed exploration opening”. There is a timed event right away that is easy to miss. From the Flint Hut at the start you need to get to the Brick Wall right away (S. N. S. N.)

You are standing outside the door of a small flint hut.
There are paths off to the east, west and south.
The door is locked.
> s
You are in a garden of luxurious flowers. There are paths to the north, east and south.
> n
You are in a rock garden. There are paths to the east, southeast and south.
> s
You are in a garden of exotic vegetables. There are paths to the north, east and south.
> n
The south-north path ends at a nearly-completed brick wall.
There is a still a gap through which you can pass.
Two ogres here are busily engaged in building activities.
They take no notice of you.
> n
The ogres finish the wall behind you, cutting off your retreat.
You are in a long north-south alley that runs between two extremely high sheer walls.
The way south is blocked by a newly-completed brick wall.

If you miss the timing here, the wall is already built, and you’ve already softlocked the game. Yes, this is definitely in Phoenix Cruel™. I don’t mind, exactly, as long as I’m forewarned I need to think heavily about timing as part of the puzzles.

The south-north path ends at a newly-built brick wall which blocks your way.
There are two ogres here, dressed as bricklayers, resting from their labours.

Once past you can find an “antique shawm” which counts as one of the treasures, but your way back is sealed off. The shawm, however, is a music instrument…

…so you can PLAY SHAWM. (You start with no items and of course you had to rush here, so there’s no other real possibility.)

> PLAY SHAWM
WHAAAAAAHHHHEEE!!!
The wall falls down on top of you, crushing you somewhat severely.

The odd thing is, the wall-crushing happens if you are farther away from the wall; the key is to get closer and play it then. I think the idea is that if you are far away, the wall gets unstable and tumbles towards you; if you are close, the blast is severe enough to make the direction of the wall be away from you.

WHAAAAAAHHHHEEE!!!
There is a sudden gust of wind and the wall to your south comes tumbling down with a mighty crash.

This appears to be the end of the puzzle but not really. After the wall is complete you can scoop up some items outside (a wooden plank, a metal rod, a key, a lamp). The key lets you unlock the hut, which only has a passage down. The lamp will turn on automatically in darkness…

Your lamp has just switched itself on.
A furious ogre enters. “Take that for wrecking our wall!” he says, and bashes you with his trowel. He then storms out. You are rather injured.
You are in a large quadrangular cellar. There is a flight of stairs up in the centre and passages in various directions.

… annnnnnd, there’s the ogre puzzle still going. You can explore underground more although the game keeps repeating you are seriously injured, and after enough turns, your misery is ended:

The second ogre enters. “Wreck our wall, would you!” he says, and pummels you with a heavy brick. This time you do not survive.

My guess is the first smacking is inevitable, and we’re supposed to find a “safe spot” underground to avoid the killing blow. This will require exploring underground in detail, which means skipping the shawm treasure for now; intentionally soft-locking in order to get information that can be used on the “real” run later.

I have explored the underground some but I’d like to report back on it later when I can give a more comprehensive picture. Let me share one more death section to finish things off:

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.
> w
As you step onto the wires there is a mighty flash and you are instantly electrocuted. Was that my imagination, or did I hear the chuckling of the mad scientist as he came in to exploit this new source of spare parts (you)?

Posted May 6, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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