davidn: (skull)
[personal profile] davidn
So, it's Doom House Act VII. It's late in the game, but things are finally starting to speed up now - brace yourselves, because this is a good one.

First of all, let me remind you of the state of the diagram.

With not too many targets or suspects left, there is finally a real sense of tension beginning to build, and anyone might be next to go. Why did the act switch over when I knocked on the door, anyway?

She's alive! But this is where I really started to feel the tension, nonetheless - Celie, once again, has some sense. Finally, characters other than the dead ones are beginning to react to the actions of the killer and are becoming scared, giving a sense that the game world is changing and that there might actually be some danger here.

Let me in with you! I'm not going up to my room in the murder-house. That sounds like the opposite of safe.

She doesn't answer, though, so it looks like we don't have a lot of options here. Let's plough ahead.

Rudy's got up from the steps and is now walking around...

...I followed him out of interest (the walkthrough didn't mention this), but he just seemed to be walking laps of the left side of the grounds without any real aim. But I understand his reluctance to stay inside the house at this stage.

All right. I suppose we'll have to.

Back in the study, and... oh no.

Now the pistol's gone, too.

Seeing that it was present, I decided to take the elevator up to the top floor to avoid any unstable chandeliers.

And another one bites the disproportionate cigar. I suppose this interferes with the multiple increasingly obvious hints that the game has been giving us up until this point - unless as a genius part of Clarence's gambit, he decided he knew too much and murdered himself. Then again, there's no reason that Clarence couldn't have eliminated the previous six people before someone else got to him. I notice that the close-up for Clarence's body lying on the floor and his actual position crumpled up in the bathtub disagree, possibly suggesting that Clarence's body being found in the bathtub was a fairly late addition to the game? Or maybe the closeup artist just got it wrong.

As far as likely suspects for this one go, there are a few possibilities despite the ever-shrinking list of candidates - Rudy seems quite likely this time for his previous actions, the Colonel trusted him (but maybe the Colonel actually knew about him embezzling his money and wanted to get rid of him?) and Lillian was hanging around that dagger earlier.

Speaking of which, let's take a look at it.

Absolutely bleeding stellar detective work. He was found lying on his study floor, he'd been poisoned, strangled, shot five times through the head and stabbed fifteen times in the back. "And what was the conclusion of the police?" He was dead.

We're still not above looting the body for useful items.

Next, it's time to go back to our own bedroom for the first time in a while - remember that diary we saw Lillian writing in, the one that the game specifically said she kept locked in her suitcase? Inexplicably, we can access it now.

Come on Sierra, give me a break here. Seven people have died and you're worried about which side of the bed I'm on.

Laura notices the diary, leaves it alone and then closes the damn thing again.

How can you be so thick?!

To all of us, at least, Lillian has just rocketed up the suspect list. Quite apart from Laura having witnessed her playing with her Silent Hill dolls (and not reacting at all to her friend's rapidly decaying mental state), and hanging around the repository of various killing implements, this is pretty damning evidence that she wanted to pick them all off. The death of her father and subsequent decay of her mother drove her mad, she knew the others wanted her put away for it, and chose to prove them entirely justified. Yes, this is far from the most progressive or nuanced depiction of mental illness, but remember it was 1989 (and simultaneously 1925).

But there's something else that's nagging at me. It's now just after 1 in the morning - and Laura says that May the 27th is today's date. If that's strictly true, and not an oversight in the story, then Lillian wrote this entry after people had already started disappearing. So my working theory is that some tag team combination of Clarence and the Colonel got to the first six people while Lillian was talking to her imaginary doll friends, Lillian then took the dagger on her way back up through the house, wrote the entry, picked off Clarence as her first victim when she saw him leave the room and she now has the survivors in her sights.

Or something like that. I don't know.

As another minor detail, we're rewarded with another pointless fingerprint. Is it Lillian's? We'll never know. It's like this game believes that people only leave fingerprints when they're in the middle of committing crimes.

But it's time to leave the house again and finish the thread that we started a long time ago. We picked up this sub-quest in the chapel several acts ago by discovering the bible with the clues in it, then found a valve handle in the suit of armour, discovered that it went here, turned on the fountain, and... then the trail went cold.

That's a pretty major feat of engineering for the 1920s. But I'm not surprised I missed this because there's nothing to hint that the statue is movable, or that the state of the fountain has anything to do with its mobility.

I can't see how this message when you try to move the statue with the fountain off gives any clue that it will suddenly become movable. What I'm saying is that you can do everything right here and still miss what your actions have even done because of an undocumented step at the end.

Nevertheless, we are now entering what the walkthrough calls the best part of The Colonel's Bequest, and even advises us not to read further so that the surprise is preserved until we've made two major discoveries. With some trepidation, let's put it down for now and venture downwards.

I have discovered the floor.

The lantern helps. This requirement gates you into only being able to go here if you've followed a couple of inventory threads to get the handle and the lantern, and limits you to visiting here after Clarence's death because he's got the only box of matches on the property. So this time, let's explore this mysterious passage without suddenly dying.

Once again, it took me a moment to realize just how good the graphics are here. There's the great dithering of the rock walls into blue and red shades (compare especially to Hugo's House of Horrors 2) - and on top of that, look at the way the wall is lit up by the lantern! It seems that certain pixels are hotspots that turn to red or yellow when you're nearby with the lantern, giving the impression of lighting up a rough surface. It's great.

The skeleton down here later had a starring role in the sequel where it was probably used as an implement to slaughter someone.

The next screen is terrifying, and I was feeling increasingly out of my depth without the walkthrough to cling to. You have to advance through pitch blackness, with a little set of eyes blinking at you from the other end of the screen...

As you advance, the lantern lights up little struts and details on the cave walls. There's no sprite scaling when Laura goes towards the back of a screen in a normal location - this is a new sprite for this room and it makes the location longer than anywhere else in the game, drawing out the tension...

...until you reach the left hand side and there's nothing there.

Fffffffuck me. If the game was deliberately staying understated and bland until this moment... well done. I don't think it was, but the effect is the same either way - the revelation here, combined with Laura's Ouchface and the chord that resembles the start of Etrian Odyssey's Scatter About, made me jump out of my skin.

The pile of discarded bodies (which all look slightly deflated, like they've been drawn too flat - but that just adds to the uncanny uncomfortable look to me) gradually lights up from the grey outlines as you approach, making you peer closer at the screen to make out what they are just before this happens. Brrrrrrgh. Yet again, a difficult feat in EGA.

There's nothing we can do here - Laura was fine grabbing useful items from these bodies individually, but when they're piled up at the bottom of a laundry chute the situation hits home.

If we can try to forget about that for a second, the other interesting-looking thing in this room is this plate on the wall. (Note also the partially lit bodies as I've moved away from the bottom left corner.) We have another item from the bell episode that we can use here...

Well, that's patently false - this directory/disk can definitely hold more save games, because I have more free disk space on this hard drive than existed in the entire world at the time this game was released. Intrigued, I had a quick look into how SCI handles its save games, and it looks like rather than storing the name of the save in the actual save file, there's a separate CB1SG.DIR file (Colonel's Bequest 1 Save Game?) that holds all the names, and this file is limited to 20 entries - my copy (having since finished the game) currently looks like this:

I've highlighted the data for one save (happily, the length of my save game names coincidentally made a lot of the data fall neatly into place on the grid) - it looks like if you read the individual bytes, you see the index number for the save file (00 to 14 = 20 entries - the later saves have low numbers because I replaced saves that I'd made at the start of the game), followed by a 00, then the bytes that represent the save game name, terminated with the linefeed character 0a.

But to cut a long story short, the SCI engine checks to see if this file already has 20 entries in it, and won't allow you to save any more games in the directory if it does! You have to instead create a new directory for it to start with a new .DIR file there. I'm not sure why the limit of 20 was chosen, other than to prevent filling up your disk - the save games are about 40KB each, a fairly hefty size for 1989.

What was I doing? Oh yes - the murder basement.

The second passage is exactly the same as the first. I was convinced something was going to leap out and get me this time.

Another room that reveals more of itself when you cross a border in it!

Okay, don't get distracted. Here's a reminder of something we found much earlier:

So these, of course, are the final resting places of the people that we saw mentioned in the hidden bible all the way back in Act One. At least, they were the final resting places until today.

Nothing like a bit of grave robbing to lighten the mood.

When I opened this one, Mary Frances Crouton's skull fell off, bounced once on the floor and crumbled into dust. Sorry about that.

Not sure what we expected, really.

That looks more unusual.

Well! Disturbing the dead was worth it after all.

It was only while writing this bit up that I realized you were meant to compare the list of names to the graves as a clue here - there was nobody in the Crouton family called Ruby. This, combined with the obvious "RUBY" text across the vault, was meant to lead us into opening that one and leaving the rest alone. However, there's no penalty for opening them all up and just taking the jewels when you find them, so the puzzle falls a bit flat. Nevertheless, we've got what we came for and we don't need to disturb any more graves.

I did it anyway. You get a wormhole-ridden casket and a skeleton's feet as your reward.

So we'd better go back down. (Laura's animation for this is great, by the way - on both the way in and out, she climbs over the tomb and sets down/picks up the lantern in a very humanlike way, a couple of years before I first saw a game character moving like an actual human in Prince of Persia.)

I trudged all the way back along the scary corridors, but it turns out you're meant to get out of the mausoleum the quick way with the obviously guessable verb of UNBAR DOOR.

Nevertheless, here's where we would have gone to next. Is it seriously only quarter past the hour? I've been writing for pages. But the vast majority of that was a secret area within a secret area, so there's only a tiny bit left to go - I'll just get to the end of the act.

Suddenly, the game has become oppressive! Like I mentioned before, the tension really drives up a cliff here - this should have been building throughout the game instead of everyone being completely indifferent until the very end, but the sudden jump has the advantage of exaggerating the effect.

This is the graveyard to the west of the chapel, which we -


With even the game calling you crazy for seeing ghosts, the spectre (of Sarah?) floats up and away. This isn't a reaction to my disturbing the bones of her relatives - it happens even if you come here very early in the game, as I discovered during my first boring exploration of it years ago.

As I was saying, this is the place we would have come out if we'd unbarred the door of the tomb.

So Sarah's dead as well. I had left her alive on my diagram, because she was born just over 70 years ago by the time this game took place and it would have been a nice touch if she were still alive and possibly one of the characters in the house. But it didn't happen.

Time to go back to Creep House Mini Edition.

Get out

Get out now

Quick, back to the house.

Here, Rudy is walking around the room, looking under beds, behind chairs, and all over. It's not really clear what he's searching for, but he isn't open to discussing it.

Meanwhile, next door...

This is evidence of Clarence's death, which we've already discovered...

...and yet again, performing an action (in this case reading his diary) moves us on to Act 8 before the response even happens. We'll find out what it says in the final part of this - we've really very little ground left to cover!

Date: 2017-05-22 10:28 pm (UTC)
xyzzysqrl: A moogle sqrlhead! (Default)
From: [personal profile] xyzzysqrl
On one hand, Laura in Amon Ra had GREAT reactions and I'm glad to see she's started to get a bit of that ZEST for finding the dead into her discoveries.

On the other I had NOT been spoiled for the Body Heap and -wow- you don't, uh, see a charnel house depicted in EGA every day. Yikes.

[EDIT] Also, man, in the hands of a better writer these two games could REALLY be a thing.

Laura's already seen one dead man with a dagger sticking out of him. She moves to New York, she starts a career, she gets what seems like a plush assignment at a nice upscale museum. A man shows up dead with a dagger jutting out of him, it all starts happening again...

...or we could just have some cultural stereotypes and goofy humor I guess. I tracked down what Bruce Balfour, lead designer on Amon Ra has been up to, actually. He's a novelist now who writes sci-fi novels about a guy named "Tau Wolfsinger", an astronaut/secret agent.

I feel I've said enough.
Edited Date: 2017-05-22 10:50 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-22 10:51 pm (UTC)
kjorteo: Screenshot from Laura Bow 2, of a horrified-looking stuffed porcupine beneath a dead body with blood around its mouth. (Nightmare fuel)
From: [personal profile] kjorteo
Holy... uh... all I can say here is I'm 100% with you, where I was kind of disappointed this game used the "oh you're just imagining things" tactic to make it look like it was going to go through the entire game with you the only character even aware you were in a murder mystery, but NEVER MIND.

And good heavens, those cave graphics. I would call this a legitimately good-looking game anyway, but in EGA! And it takes that to an even further peak in the cave bits, which make me marvel at this game's graphical achievements in ways I never did even for its own sequel. It's almost like this is an outstanding overclocked ZZT game to Amon Ra being a subpar MegaZeux one--yes the latter is in VGA and the graphics are fine, really, and even used to very chilling effect in the corpse discovery close-ups, but the former just impresses the hell out of me for doing so much within its limits that it's easy to forget that it actually has limits.

On the other hand, with the only other suspect they were even trying to feint as a possibility now dead, I think this mystery is... really not much of a mystery anymore. Now it's just a straight up horror game where we will probably end up being chased by Lillian wearing the pelts of all the other victims.

Date: 2017-05-23 11:57 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chalcedony_px4


Now that I'm actually caught up—can't wait for the last act! o..o

Date: 2017-06-13 08:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lizzyloo
It's even creepier if you feed a cracker to the parrot. Poor sweet little Polly says "Sleep tight my pretties in the basement... the basement." I don't mind sharing that I learned to type to play this game as a little kid, and 28 years later, I still can't be alone when I play it, and I try not to at night. The thing about the black cave is... by the time you can access the underground part, you've probably been dragged into shadows, choked to death, stabbed, and (I haven't been able to find this since childhood but I swear it happened) bludgeoned in the shadows of different parts of the house by a mysterious figure. By the time you're walking through that cave, you've been trained to be scared of the dark! UGH, it's still spooky. I agree about Croshaw games... sometimes the understated simplicity of the pixellated violence of old school games can be terrifying. I don't know if any game I've played recently gives me as big a jump as the troll in the cave behind the waterfall in KQ4 or the attic death in LB1.

Date: 2017-06-27 03:43 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lizzyloo
Well, to be fair, it was a combination of this game, KQ4, and QfG2. And it taught me nifty words like "monocle" and "wastepaper basket"! :D
Ok, ugh, thanks for reminding me of William's room... that was horrible. And didn't he rip out his eyes and .... ugh, NOPE. Honestly, I thought that game was the scariest of the series, even though it was also the most unsatisfying, plot-wise. Spaceships are claustrophobic and the chase scene was horrible. And I just wanted to go into spaaace!
That being said, Yahtzee's most impressive disgusting pixel moment was, to me, in 6DaS, when Cabadath disembowels the Trilby clone. It was impressive, but disgusting.

Date: 2017-06-13 08:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lizzyloo
PS, it's a great idea to go into the attic at this point and check out all the things you were looking at before. I know that doesn't help you on this playthrough and I'm just being a know it all.

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