Archive for the ‘the-haunted-palace’ Tag

The Haunted Palace (1982)   23 comments

John Bell in his 30s, from The Gilroy Dispatch.

In 2018, John Bell wrote a Facebook post for his group Crystalware Defense and Nanotechnology, giving an introduction to his forthcoming game Clonus 2049 A.D. as well as a six minute narrated introduction. He had just survived a heart attack and had renewed purpose:

Crystalware survives and I,some have said one of the grandfathers of the creation of the modern graphic adventure games and a pioneer in the future working on World of Twine – a quantum leap in Augmented and Virtual reality. Will I survive to finish.. I hope so. I am posting an audio we made for Clonus, a game I made and the mythos was revised after 9/11 and done by a Hollywood actress who wishes to remain anonymous. It is my vision of the future – which still haunts me and has since I worked at Lockheed in 1966 with Nuclear Missiles and the Navy. I cannot ever tell what I know but this is the effect that knowledge had on me.
John Bell – a dream in 1966.

Clonus 2049 A.D. had been in progress since the 1990s. Regarding World of Twine, John Bell posted in 2019 about a dream he had of looking at an expensive haunted house that he was able to purchase because the World of Twine Virtual Reality game and novel now made him rich.

I woke up, now inspired to get out my new book and maybe soon to marry the woman of my dreams who would be my last wife. My son, of course, would inherit, the mansion as would my young wife. We would do the concert for the Give Me Shelter Concert for the poor, and also set up Homeless United in Los Angeles, and leave a mark on cyber history as well as set up shelters for the homeless from coast to coast in America, with our new modular design. Yet WOT would be the most amazing computer simulation and massively multiplayer online role-playing game – MMORPG – of 2020.

He died in 2020, never able to fulfill this dream.

I bring this up not to disparage the efforts of the man, but demonstrate his fundamental ambitiousness, pushing many projects all at once, even 35+ years after the game we’ll be discussing today.

A 2019 post from the World of Twine page.

The difference between John Bell in the early 1980s and the John Bell before he died is that he managed to accomplish at least some of his goals, and with his company Crystal Computer (or Crystalware, or U.F.O.) he (and his wife Patty Bell) managed to put out over 20 games in the span between 1980-1982. This might not be that unusual for this time — Adventure International lists over 70 in that same time period — but Scott Adams only wrote a smattering of those, while John and Patty seem to have produced more than half of their catalog themselves. Additionally, all the games are “premium”; most cheeky might be Galactic Expedition, which had a “base game” which cost $39.95 and six expansions that cost $29.95 each. (This also doesn’t include all their other projects as mentioned in their newsletter, like three movies, a “videodisk fantasy” laserdisc, and a series of educational software using the Crystal Theory of Alternative Education.)

Byte Magazine, December 1980.

According to his newspaper profile clipped earlier (which might be exaggerated a bit, but let’s go along with it for now), John went from high school to the army in 1972, getting a medical degree from Fort Sam Houston and practicing at a base in Germany for two years before returning to the States and landing in software development.

I don’t feel like the head of a big corporation. I wrote a few programs then I ended up with a big distribution network. We (he and the other programmers) want to stay creative so we have other people to do the busy work.

The first Crystalware game, House of Usher, is a sort of top-down action adventure, kind of a proto-version of a survival horror game. It doesn’t not count as an adventure game for this blog as the stamina value changes dynamically and there’s heavy structural reliance on action combat.

A fair number of the Crystalware games follow this model, presumably using the same source code to an extent. The CRPG Addict played quite a few before bailing and discarding them as not-CRPGs. He started getting very tired of the games indeed.

Quest for Power is another insulting game from Crystalware, a company that was either knowingly scamming its customers or so clueless about what made a good game that they must have never played one.

Ow. I am here to tell you that The Haunted Palace is a very different game than all of the ones experienced by the Addict. I can’t guarantee it is a good game, but at least it breaks the pattern.

There has been a murder. It all started with the grisly discovery of a charred body in the furnace. The corpse was so badly burned that the mortician couldn’t even tell what sex it was. You can choose to become any of of the six characters in the game. Your role is to find out who is responsible for the murder.

This is a first-person perspective game with directional movement allowing turning. It’s something in feel between Asylum (with “dungeon crawler” style movement) and the Japanese version of Mystery House (also with directional movement but made up of 1 by 1 and 2 by 1-sized rooms).

The manual is fairly extensive, extensive enough that I’m going to save a thorough look for next time. However, the starting choice of character is essential. Unlike many games of this sort, you are not playing an “outside” character coming in — you’re part of the Stuart household, whomever you pick. It’s a bit like a LARP in that sense.

LORD STUART – An Oxford grad in his 50s with a heart condition. His first wife (Lady Alice) committed suicide and he fell in love with a Lady Elizabeth and has been living with her in the Palace for 10 years.

(You cannot play as the Lady — when the charred body is discoved she is away in Boston.)

CHARLES (THE BUTLER) – With the Stuarts for 40 years.

MARY (THE MAID) – Young, carries a knife, “knows a lot of the town gossip”.

MICHAEL (HEAD STEWARD) – Manages the Stuart fortune.

SYBIL (STEWARD’S WIFE) – Doesn’t like the Palace, has ESP ability.

FREDERICK (THE GARDENER) – Former war hero, doesn’t know much about inside the Palace, only has one arm.

Other characters, but non-playable: Herman, the Cat. Virginia, the first wife. Elizabeth, Edward’s current wife. Jonathan Stuart. The Guest.

The characters come pre-built with stats: strength, courage, wisdom, intuition, dexterity, luck, riches, armor, and weapon. So someone like Sybil will have higher intuition while someone like Frederick will have higher weapons ability. I don’t believe there is a way to “build stats” like an RPG (although I will keep an eye on this); this suggests a setup akin to Maniac Mansion where certain actions only can be done by certain characters.

The manual is unclear but you press “C” to enter “command mode” where you can enter a regular parser command. “L” will look. Otherwise, N/S/E/W turn in that particular direction, M moves forward, and D opens doors. There’s no “relative direction” turning, that is, no equivalent to the left or right arrow keys in a dungeon crawler.

You start locked to facing north. There’s a rock you can move to find a key and unlock the front door.

Upon entering, you flip the disk to side 2, and the “freeform” 3D portion of the game starts. Below I have all four views from the first location, north/east/south/west. (I can’t say “room” — again, seems to have large open portions, so the same room may contain multiple nodes.)

I haven’t explored much yet, but I can already tell from my minor wanderings it might be confusing to be able to tell when it is possible to advance forward and when you are “blocked” by the scenery.

I haven’t played much more partially because: I want you (the one reading this right now, and assuming you aren’t going through my backlog) to pick which character I should use. Feel free to make an argument which you think is better. I can’t guarantee I will stick with it for the whole game if something is wonky (some door that I can’t open without a strong character and there doesn’t seem to be any other way through) but I’m going to try my best. The manual includes pictures for all six so I’ve made a collage.

Lord of the Palace, Butler, Maid, Steward, Steward’s Wife, Gardener.

Vote in the comments!

Posted May 16, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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The Haunted Palace: We Shall Leave This Evil House Together   11 comments

Cover to the manual.

The manual kicks off with Lord Stuart’s diaries.

Curiously, this game gives no year. Based on other factors I’m guessing early 19th century, and it does give the date the body is first found: Wednesday, November 27. I will hence assume 1839 (where that date fell on a Wednesday) which also happen to be when Edgar Allan Poe was publishing.

In the morning, the butler Charles had found the a body charred in the furnace; Elizabeth had already (allegedly) left for Boston when all this occurred.

A search of the house reveals a mysterious “blue scarf” that is beneath Lord Stuart’s night clothes; the body is never identified. By December Lord Stuart starts to hear footsteps and scratching. The family cat, Herman, goes missing.

On December 13, Lord Stuart writes:

1:00 P.M. Today, in the old library, I made quite a find. In the old house plan there are quite a few rooms in the palace that were apparently sealed up when it went through reconstruction 60 years ago after the fire. I remember Edgar, my grandfather, was quite a miser. Perhaps, there is some of the old family wealth hidden in one of the old rooms. After the servants are asleep, I think I will do a little treasure hunting myself tonight.

There’s some other fragments of interest; he knows that his steward Michael has been skimming off his cash; Sybil (the steward’s wife and another playable character) never liked Elizabeth and seemed pleased when she left. The Lordship’s inheritence is going to Elizabeth and his butler (for his long servce); nothing is going to Michael or Sybil.

There’s literal fragments mentioned later in the manual, as “scraps of paper found in the trash bin by the furnace”.

… and my lord I mean to inquire about your maids daily purchase of 30 lbs of raw entrails. It is beyond my comprehension how you … the Butcher

… your Butler Charles has been seen boasting in the pubs that he has newly come into a great sum of money … paying in gold coins and raising quite a riot in the city …

… would like your help and cooperation in this matter. Seven of the townspeople have disappeared in the last month and were last seen in the vicinity …

… saw your wife Elizabeth just recently in the company of …

There’s a letter from Lord Stuart to Elizabeth, which seems to be written close to the start of the game; he mentions how most of the staff has left, how “at night the house seems alive”, that the family cat somehow still is crying at “the North Wing upstairs”, and that

When it is all over I shall send for you and we shall leave this evil house together to start a new life somewhere near London. I count the days until we shall be together again and the curse that seems to have fallen on this house is lifted.

There’s a schedule of the maid, Mary, showing when candles are lit, when breakfast is prepared, when things are cleaned, when candles are snuffed. Curiously, “Search for Herman” (the cat) is explicitly listed at 8 AM.

Courtesy of the head steward, there’s a complete (?) listing of rooms at Stuart Palace. There are a full 12 floors, all the way from a torture chamber at the bottom and “Guard Dining” at top. There’s also a listing of “objects” immediately after.

Based on the voting, Frederick the gardener narrowly won over the butler. People seemed to think the butler did the killing. Given the supernatural elements, it is faintly possible that the player could be unawares that they committed some horrible crime. If you’re actually thinking the butler is the full instigator, when he’s a playable character, that would be unique indeed. I’m not sure how that’d even work game-design wise, since every character starts the same way (outside the Palace, then you go in and start investigating, with no more info than what was given above) and with the same goal (solving the mystery).

In his youth, Frederick was distinguished as a war hero. His knowledge of weapons and arms is extraordinary. He is of moderate physical strength and intelligence. His [sic] of the Palace is fairly limited. He is 44 years old and is missing his left arm.

The stats are

LUCK: 25

RICHES, ARMOR, and WEAPONS all start at zero. If the manual isn’t lying, then our character will have some skill multiplier when they get a weapon.

Dexterity is moderate, not terrible (maybe it would have been higher but, well, left arm; our hero is still clearly athletic). The wisdom and intuition are trash compared to Sybil’s (she gets 101 and 102). The manual hints at hidden passages and the like and I’m guessing we’ll just have to find them ourselves rather than have our character pipe up for us.

We start with a HAMMER. This works as a weapon (if we USE WEAPON it gets wielded, and you’ll see a combat a little bit later). The Lord of the House incidentally starts with a KEY, the Butler has some MATCHES, Michael starts with a BOOK, the Maid has a KNIFE and Sybil has … TUPPERWARE. (Given she has the power of divination, perhaps it’s the best start of all; you need to carry some holy water you find, maybe?)

Let’s concentrate on the first floor. Unfortunately the map is confusing enough I haven’t quite gone through everything yet.

This is designed sort of a hybrid between a typical 3D-map dungeon crawler game and a regular adventure game. Sometimes objects and rooms are repeated, but there are enough unique elements you have to map everything carefully. The only way to proceed is for each spot on the map to look all four directions; that is, press N L E L S L W L (turn and look) as sometimes things are only visible from certain angles. Additionally, you can’t fully trust the graphics you see. This is especially true of the passages and hallways; for whatever curious reason the game has many ways to render a “wall”.

I had to simply shut off the Wizardry portion of my brain which reflexively wanted to map using the distance to walls on-screen. It just isn’t dependable enough to figure out. Rooms are a little more consistent; here’s three views of a leather-working room (notice how all the views show different items).

Sometimes the objects are just scenery (like the table), sometimes they can be interacted with (like the chest).

Some rooms have a “clue”. In one case this was clearly a “note”; in other cases I’m not sure where the clue comes from at all. Hearing things in your head? The Palace whispering its secrets?







Virginia is Lord Stuart’s first wife, who allegedly committed suicide 10 years ago. I’m wondering if we’re playing a higher-attenuated character if we’ll get more clues, or maybe some of the clues on different levels will be harder to hear without a higher intuition.

One last thing to mention, although I implied it last time: the game has combat.

The ghoul is text-only. I also ran into some maggots in a hall that did actually display, so it seems to vary based on the enemy.

It is possible to run away, but since I had the hammer with me, I decided to engage.

I managed to score a hit of 126 (I assume 201+ would mean I won) but was slain by a hit back.

Note the “did you learn enough” message here — just like many of the other Crystalware games, this one had a contest with it; $500 for the first to send a correct entry form:

Play the game and explore the mansion until he or she feels they have solved the mystery. It is not necessary to win the game to enter the contest.

The fact it mentions winning the game means there is a way to also win. This matches with Fall of the House of Usher, where you can get information to work out the resolution to the mystery. Incidentally, the House of Usher also has a Virginia and an Elizabeth. I don’t know if this is intended to be sort of a remake, but this does have more characters, so this might have a slightly more complicated plot.

Posted May 19, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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The Haunted Palace: A Game of Hide-and-Seek   3 comments

The much more sedate inside cover of the manual. The Atari title screen states U.F.O. is a subsidiary of Crystalware, so it isn’t really a different company.

I have mapped the ground floor and the floor beneath (“Level II” and “Level I”) fairly thoroughly; I’ve gotten through some of Level III.

My time since last has mostly been occupied by exploration, although I’ve also managed to become deadly. Let me explain the deadliness first.

I need to backtrack on one of my statements: none of the monsters are only text description. If you can’t see one, you need to turn around and you’ll get a picture like the one above. So far I’ve run into ghouls, skeletons, demons, and vampires.

All of them use the same basic mechanics of trying to hit you for X damage while you try to hit them back for Y damage. If you have armor — one of the random plate mail armors scattered about the castle — it might get shattered mid-combat (or even sometimes right at the start before the hitting starts). Otherwise, your weapons skill plus some modifiers including I think strength and dexterity make up however much you hit the monster for. If that isn’t a large enough number, the monster then hits you back.

In my experience, if you have no armor when the monster hits you back, you are dead.

Fortunately, the way the weapons number is determined allows for easy carnage: each weapon you pick up increases your weapons value. There doesn’t seem to be any inventory limit I can find, so you can swipe up spears, magic arrows, crossbows, etc. and all of them will contribute to your weapons value. Once my weapons value passed 250 or so I started to kill pretty much everything in one hit.

Before I was an absolute killing machine, but still pretty dangerous. Having magic arrows with no way to shoot them still increases weapon score.

Incidentally, the “Courage” value I have found to go up as I’ve killed more monsters. Fall of the House of Usher required a particular courage score to win; I don’t know if that is the case here. If it is, I won’t have too much trouble with my current character getting up to snuff. (If I wasn’t playing the former war hero it might have been more difficult. I still need to test if Frederick gets a weapons multiplier compared to the other characters.) The manual, while indicating the mystery should be solved, is somewhat evasive how that gets exhibited by the player.

In order to solve the mystery you must collect a series of clues and find the secret hidden chamber where a demon waits. To get the right answer you must read all of the background material and examine the three exhibited articles in this manual thoroughly. The answer is not a single word or phrase, but consists of piecing together all the clues and recounting the sequence of events that have brought about the curse upon the mansion and how that curse may be lifted.

Speaking of stats, I found out (by studying screenshots of the Atari version of the game) that you can USE WISDOM or USE INTUITION. This doesn’t work on any of the other stats. So far, I’ve always got the message


but keep in mind those are my character’s dump stats. I may just not be able to use them at all. I do have the suspicion they’d help find at least one secret passage. Referring back to the game’s manual:

On going through my dresser this evening, I found a portion of an old mason’s worksheet. Next to one of the rooms I could clearly see a 5 foot space which appeared to be some type of secret passage. It appeared to lead to a small room. With hammer and chisel in hand, which I got from the Sculptor’s Studio, I set off to find the entrance.

Although I have lived here all my life and as a child played many a game of hide-and-seek, I have always found that the Palace seems a different place at night. To conserve candles and Mary’s work load, there are areas where there are no torches and which I hadn’t explored in years. Using my map I managed to locate the room and begin to chisel on the morter between what appeared to be two loose stones. In no time at all I had freed one of the stones and from then on the work became considerably less difficult.

— Lord Edward Stuart’s Diary, Saturday, December 14

There is a Sculptor’s Studio, and there is indeed a hammer and chisel inside. What I don’t know is where they go to; I haven’t gotten to the point of USE HAMMER&CHISEL on every single wall. Part of my reticence is I’m not sure how broken the game really is.

For example: I have a CANDLE and some MATCHES now. On the second floor of the Palace, there are some dark areas:

However, my attempts at doing USE CANDLE or USE MATCHES or LIGHT CANDLE or LIGHT MATCHES all get the response NOTHING HAPPENS. (???) I’ve pretty thoroughly scoured the map otherwise and found no torches, although they are recognized as a noun in the game. I still am guessing at the moment the game intends torches to be the light source and they’re just hard to find, but I still have the lingering thought maybe the game is literally broken and light is impossible.

The game still has fairly deranged graphics in the hallways which don’t give me hope. Also not encouraging: the message YOU HAVE PICKED UP A EMPTY upon opening a cabinet with nothing in it.

Weirdly, the graphics in individual rooms aren’t too bad, and sometimes have been genuinely evocative. It feels as if there was a nice concept and core to start with, but the game was shipped out incomplete.

That second screenshot is from the cellar, which has been a smaller map than the other two.

Torture chambers and dungeon cells.

There’s a map feature I haven’t mentioned up to now which is plainly apparent above — sometimes you have multiple exits off the same direction. The way the game handles this is to have multiple doors side-by-side, and when you press D to enter a door, the game prompts which door (left, middle, right) you wish to use. It more or less works, but the game already has a lot of friction so I’d rather have done without this feature.

This will prompt 1.) left or 2.) right upon pressing D.

One last environmental feature which seems to be random but is honestly creepy: sometimes maggots or rats will appear. I tried fighting but had no luck; the best that I can do is run away. Sometimes it takes a couple of attempts, and the rats/maggots don’t leave a particular area after they’ve appeared.

I’ll grant this has the right amount of creepy, and the disjoint with the perspective graphics makes it even more cursed.

I’ve still been finding many “clue” messages but they’re for the most part repeats of ones I’ve already found. The most interesting has been a picture:

This tracks with the “meet me tonite” message, the fact Elizabeth was seen in town, and even the weird fact that the Butler wakes up later (I guess he’s out with Lady Elizabeth shenanigans). I don’t now how this translates to the mystery. If this is just repeating Fall of Usher then Elizabeth was killed by Lord Stuart’s ex-wife (who is still alive, and there already was the clue she didn’t have a death certificate), and that’s that, but that doesn’t quite mesh with the extra information so there might be a twist.

I don’t have a good sense how close I am to the end of the game. I’m going to guess halfway. What I’d really like to do next (assuming I don’t magically resolve my light problem) is find the subcellar. Not only does Lord Stuart’s diary imply the existence of such, but there’s a clue directly in the game:

However, given my character’s lack of visual insight I need to hope USE HAMMER&CHISEL on the right spot will work. (Maybe my MAP #1 or MAP #2 would help, but the game won’t let me read them. Nor will it let me read my SCROLL #1 or SCROLL #2, or read the BOOKW, or any of the various letters. Did I already say this game is janky? This game is janky.)

With a last triumphant whack of the hammer, a major portion of the wall gave way revealing the passageway I had seen on the map. I soon found myself in a musty spider infested passage and proceeded South. After walking just a few feet I found a door. The passage must have been the remnants of an old hallway sealed up long ago. On entering the room I first spotted a large old chest. Surely, this must be where Edgar had hidden his gold. Within a few moments my elation had turned to horror as I turned my gaze to the far corner of the room. There, crouched beneath the sign of a pentagram, was the most loathsome creature I have ever seen. Its yellow eyes gleamed dully in the light of my candle and its 7 foot tall body was covered with a sickly grey matted coat of fur. Around it were strewn various skull and human bones and next to was a stack of fetid rotting entrails. I dropped my candle and was plunged immediately into total darkness.

I flailed about and rushed blindly to escape. In my confusion, I rushed headlong into the thing and reached out to grasp its slimy fur. With a scream I reversed my direction and found the door. In a stumbling flight of terror I crunched into hard stone and banged my head on the low overhang. After what seemed like an eternity I lunged through the entrance to a moonlit room and rushed into the hall.

I now sit in my room. The rain still beats upon my window and the image of that horror is still etched forever on my feeble mind. I can feel myself tottering on the edge of sanity. There are footsteps coming down the hall. I can hear the sound of Virginia’s voice calling me … the knob is slowly turning and my door swings ajar … for a moment I can see nothing but a dark shadow in the door. There is a brilliant flash and poised in the doorway I can see it … as I scream I can feel my sanity leave me as thunder shakes the helpless house …

Posted May 21, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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The Haunted Palace: Secrets and Darkness   8 comments

(Prior Haunted Palace posts here.)

Well: I found a secret in the cellar. Then I got trapped.

Fortunately, the cellar isn’t terribly big, so my technique of using HAMMER&CHISEL everywhere worked. I also discovered my character’s WISDOM and INTUITION were both large enough to spot secret doors, although I can’t guarantee I’ll find all of them with that. The game has gaping enough bugs that it may simply be a feature that never got implemented correctly, and Sibyl doesn’t have any particular advantage. (For example, sometimes when using the chisel the game locks into a “checking your baggage” message; you can USE HAMMER&CHISEL again and it will break out of that and work correctly.) It is hard to say without both knowing what is really going on and some serious testing.

For example: going north from the Catacombs gets the situation on the top of the post. But wisdom also indicates a secret passage to the south, and one from the Lab also going to the south. I haven’t been able to open either one as the chisel doesn’t work in either.

The secret passage that I was able to open leads to a wine cellar. Good enough, except that while a secret passage is detected on the way back to the south, there seems to be no way to open it.

We can move on to another room, more catacombs, and some stairs. Trying to CLIMB STAIRS just warns the player YOU CANNOT CLIMB THE STAIRS HERE! I don’t know if the game is literally broken (not unlikely) or if there’s some undisclosed reason for getting stopped (also not unlikely).

I honestly thought perhaps this would break me into the endgame and I’d be done, but no. I puzzled for a while longer and decided to tackle the dark area upstairs. I still had no luck with MATCHES or a CANDLE, but the game specifically mentions a TORCH so I assume that’s the only thing that will really work. Despite many, many, duplicates of other items, I have not found any torches scouring the available levels. It is possible the torches are through the darkness; that is, the game has intended for you to wander in the dark for a bit.

This is unusual for an adventure game. People copying Crowther/Woods Adventure often did something akin to a pit you’d eventually fall into (Zork started with pits, but then the Attic was upstairs and also dark, hence the grue was born). Otherwise, the games of this era at least generally prohibit certain actions in the dark, like picking up items (our recent game Murdac was really loose and only disallowed reading, but it also had an unlimited light source found early).

As far as I can tell, the only thing wandering in darkness does is make it so while screens will appear, they will only do so quite briefly before the room is plunged into black. I could theoretically record video and get screenshots that way, but I decided to roll with what the game was giving me.

At the very least, it really is an impairment not to see the visuals, because there are enough passages that loop back it is very easy to get a mangled map where portions clearly repeat but there isn’t enough information to know exactly where.

Still, I was able to find a SKELETON KEY and a MAGIC CLOAK, and by now I really seem to be immune from most enemies. (There’s also been MAGIC BALM I’ve been finding where using it gives your strength a considerable boost.)

I did also find one lit area, a kitchen complex. A few screens:

There were a series of food lockers, including two meat lockers, where, confusingly, typing OPEN MEAT LOCKER gave me an “ERCORP” in each one. I only found out later (through the heavily damaged and confused inventory screen, where some of the entries are invisible) what I was holding.

Yes, that’s two corpses I’ve been toting around. No detail on what kind of corpses they are.

I’ve never played a game before that felt so ruined and cursed. I don’t know if I’ll make it to the end; I don’t have confidence it is even possible. But I still have more dark parts of to map to get to, and I’m still holding out hope there’s a torch out there somewhere.

Posted May 22, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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The Haunted Palace: Secret of the Safe   10 comments

From the Haunted Palace manual.

I think my experience of The Haunted Palace is best exemplified by a safe that I found fairly early but had trouble opening. It’s on the west side of the ground floor, as shown here on the map:

I had actually seen mention of the “safe” in the manual already, by the long list of objects catalogued by the steward (including, improbably for the 19th century, Tupperware). There was one and only one safe. Surely the safe would be interesting!

I was unable to get the safe and trying to OPEN SAFE results in WHAT WILL USE TO GET IN OR UNDER THE SAFE ? where the game is technically prompting for a single object. (I’m not sure if I fully understood it was doing that when I first saw the message; some games say a prompt to this effect because they want you to USE the object directly that you want to try out.)

I had to pass by, but in my most recent session I did figure out the safe. I’ll return to it later.

One other big discovery from my last session is I was using secret passages wrong. Specifically, i had the “reveal message” that happened using the hammer and chisel (and clued in the manual!) to open a passage, but got stuck in a wine cellar. It turns out you can just USE WISDOM to spot the secret door, and even though no graphic displays with the message you can move forward anyway and a choice will trigger. This gives the impression the author had a grand mechanic in mind but threw in the towel implementing it more than once.

If you leave and come back, or do something else first, you’ll need to USE WISDOM again.

This particular secret door, incidentally, just leads to a dungeon cell with nothing. Oh well. However, this does mean you can escape the wine cellar area now with this mechanic, but it doesn’t do anything about the non-working stairs. I now suspect the game is incomplete and the stairs may literally never have been implemented.

I suspect this because I made it to the last floor.

Now, I admit to being rather confused getting up to floor 12, being I only went up two flights of stairs from the ground floor to get there, but the way “floors” is divided up in the game seems to get vague and approximate.

I still was in the dark getting up there, but I was getting used to just reading the text anyway.

The chapel to the west seemed kind of important, given one of the “room clues” a message about a casket hidden there, but I tried searching multiple times in every direction and found nothing.

There was another important room I managed to overlook my first time around because a USE WISDOM was needed. You’ll notice a dotted line to the east of the Tower Dungeon. That lets you sneak into a Lavoratory, and then past some spiders…

…into a torch room! The long awaited torches, in basically the last room of the game. Finally some light.

Except … no light. Using the torch didn’t work, even with matches in my inventory. If you’re curious how I got the spider shot, there’s a glitch where if you ATTACK a monster in the dark the room will get lit up. This can admittedly be unnerving in some cases.

I eventually — after some fussing and disbelief — turned to the source code. It’s in straight-up BASIC which I was able to pull up as plaintext. The issue seemed to be here:

2305 IF U(1) = 1 THEN : GOTO 2390
2306 IF U(1) = 3 OR U(1) = 12 THEN : GOTO 2420
2308 IF U(1) = 17 THEN : GOTO 2600
2310 IF U(1) = 17 THEN : GOTO 2600
2312 IF U(1) = 11 THEN : GOTO 2500

This is code that triggers after trying to USE an item. Specifically it checks what types of item it is. 2390 is code for eating. 2500 is the hammer and chisel (or alternately a pick axe). You’ll notice that 2308 and 2310 are duplicates. Since there’s unused code for light sources after, I’m guessing one of them meant to jump to 2700, not 2600, probably with a different number than “17” with the equal sign.

2702 W$ = “NOW YOU CAN SEE AGAIN”: POKE – 16304,0: GOSUB 1002: RETURN

However, I’m not quite motivated enough to go through the fix, because — well, I’ve seen all the rooms of the game (or “seen” in some cases), the wine cellar stair was clearly a fake out (there’s not even data for a floor beneath the cellar) and I’ve found all the clues while poking through the source code. I’ve seen in-game all the clues except two, but I’m just going to cut and paste them anyway. Assume, somehow, whatever broke the game is unbroken, and I discovered the incinerated body. (Remember the body that kicked it off, where the gender couldn’t be identified?)


I’ve seen all of these except “DIAMOND RING IN THE HEAP OF ASHES” (I assume the casket) and the “BOAT TICKET TO BOSTON” which seems like redundant information.

I scoured the source and there doesn’t seem to be a “winning condition” where you leave in “victory”. This seems to be all about the mystery contest, where we need to now identify whodunnit.

I’m going to put my speculation in the comments, and all y’all reading this are welcome to join in. I’ll then make a final summary post sometime next week (unfortunately, unlike Krakit, I haven’t found a published “solution” to confirm ours against).

One last thing, though. The safe. I did open it. There was GUNPOWDER in one of the barrels which I hadn’t tried, and it worked.

I thought maybe it’d have some secret item to unveil the missing casket, but alas: it’s the same key we found outside, under the rock, the one we’ve been toting around the entire game. This feels like a metaphor for the act of playing The Haunted Palace.

In all seriousness, I enjoyed myself in a bizarre way, but more akin to an archaeologist unearthing secrets rather than “playing a game”. But I’ll save talking about that for my conclusion post.

Posted May 25, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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