Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Great Scott Project - Adventure #7

Back on earth, the Great Scott Project continues apace. We find ourselves in a mysterious amusement park for Adventure #7: Mystery Fun House.

The catalog copy:

Can you find your way completely through the strangest Fun House in existence, or will you always be kicked out when the park closes?…

There was a tourist attraction by the same name in the Orlando, Florida area, not far from Adventure International headquarters. The real-life Mystery Fun House is now defunct, but it operated from 1976 to 2001 and would have been fairly new when the game was released. From what I can discover, Scott Adams' game does not appear to be based directly on the attraction -- the magic mirror and rotating barrel rooms could have been based on its namesake, but these are very standard fun house elements.

I played this one on realeasterbunny's Adventure PDA -- I don't have a Windows Mobile device, so I used the PC version. It's very cool, with some nice efficiency features -- even on the PC where a full-sized keyboard is available, it's handy to have the clickable hyperlinks on directions and inventory items. The text window is too small for some games, forcing frequent manual scrolling to read lengthier game responses, but this wasn't a problem for Adventure #7. I also discovered that an inventory limit not enforced by the ScottFree version I'm using is properly handled by this interpreter, so it may provide a more authentic experience.

Another cool feature of the Adventure PDA is that the front end features the original box artwork and copy -- some of the entries use the later cover paintings, but for Mystery Fun House we get the original Peppy artwork:

This is a mission-style Adventure, with a specific objective and no treasures to find. The player is equipped with a watch, and turns count down from 599 to midnight, when presumably the game ends in defeat (being kicked out of the park, presumably). I didn't actually run into the time limit -- death was a bigger risk than time.
I didn't find this to be an easy game at all, although it's not as tricky as The Count. I had to hit the hint book once when I got stuck near the end of the game. Solving this one is mostly a matter of learning one's way around the game, experimenting with objects, and doing things in the right order. The solutions are intertwined, and there are definitely puzzles that should not be attempted (or solved) too early. I had to draw a map for this one -- it's a fun house, after all, and connections aren't always logical. But it's internally consistent -- signs make sense, and rules are enforced. There's also an interesting unlicensed plot development that the promo copy doesn't hint at, though the cover art certainly does.
Once again, I suggest that you read no further until you at least consider playing the game yourself before listening to me ramble on. An interactive art form only truly exists when a player is involved; everything else is just commentary.
*********** SPOIILER ZONE *************
The in-game ads appear to have ceased with this release -- at least I didn't find any promo for #8 within the game. By this time, Adventure International was running full-color magazine ads, so perhaps these had outlived their kitschy usefulness. It's also unlikely that many players really tackled the whole series in order, so perhaps the "next game" wasn't necessarily what any given person would actually be buying next.
Adams' sense of humor resurfaces when the player is led to believe he/she has discovered a 5 dollar bill early in the game. Turns out it's somebody's five dollar GROCERY bill. Har de har har. :)
The fun house has a bouncer -- I got myself thrown out for vandalism, lack of ticket, and improper footwear.
Understood and understated:
OK - Wheeee
Unlike some of the earlier Adventures, this title enforces use of the spectacles with the magic mirror to discover something new -- a priori knowledge of the door embedded in it does not allow opening it up. The player actually has to fetch and wear the spectacles to discover the door, no shortcuts allowed.
The game has a lot of red-herring locked doors -- only one of them can be opened with the game's available key. It creates a sense of mystery, but does make the ending seem rather abrupt when one is still anticipating opening all those doors!
For some implemetation reason, the POP explosion timing seems to play out at the proper speed in both ScottFree and Adventure PDA -- the pause is at least noticeable, I didn't see the same issue I saw in The Count.
The player's chewing gum proves incredibly versatile -- courtesy of "Q" via an unlicensed James Bond reference. It's consistent with real world gum -- it sticks, and it blows. Up. I had a bit of old-school difficulty getting the fuse and gum together to blow the grate. The gum has to be stuck on the fuse, then stuck on the grate; there's no way to stick the fuse in the gum, or to attach the gum to the fuse after it's already been stuck to the grate.
I never did understand why sometimes in one room I feel a gentle blast of air, but occasionally I receive a hard blast of air that actually "rips my body apart". That's some pneumatic force!
I also never understood why one hears space opera music after pulling the yellow knob.
There's a neat puzzle involving a sign that has to be moved -- the first time I've seen a Scott Adams puzzle dependent on someone ELSE's reaction to a posted sign. We're used to this kind of thing in modern, dialogue-driven comedy adventures, but I was completely on the wrong track with this one. Once again, the official hint book gently nudged me in the right direction.

Once that puzzle was solved, the ending arrived in short order. Despite the box copy, there's actually no need to find a way through the fun house -- getting past the rolling barrel room near the exit is not actually the goal. The true objective is revealed when the player finally gets around to dealing with that annoying loose heel and finds a note from a certain M. And when the player gets to the right room, the villain's secret plans are just there for the taking:

Ta-dahhhh! That was Fun, and mysterious, and, er, housey, as promised. Our next installment takes us to Egypt for Adventure #8: Pyramid of Doom!


  1. My first wife Alexis wanted another go at writing an Adventure game. This time around it was more the case of me asking what she wanted in the rooms and then I built a game around that. The funhouse who had the same name as the game actually sued us! Sad thing was it was near the days of AI's close and when they "won" their lawsuit they were left holding nothing. I have no idea what they thought they were accomplishing. Unlike Mission Impossible where we got a cease and desist request (the game got relabled secret mission) they never contacted us in advance and just sued us. Must have though the company had deep pockets, which of course it did not!

  2. Thanks very much again for reading and commenting, Scott. These kinds of questions never seem to get asked in formal interviews about your work -- I greatly appreciate you responding to my idle speculations about AI trivia!

    Sorry to hear about the pointless lawsuit -- sounds like they didn't really know how to approach the situation. And the whole legal question's REALLY moot now, as the Mystery Fun House attraction closed its doors in 2001!

  3. Cool write up. I'm only half way through this quest as I'm doing uni currently so I skipped the spoilers (for now ;), but its nice to see your quest is going OK.

    I did a lot of bug testing with my AdvPDA engine and also came across the lighting bug in adv#9 as my code is loosely based on Scott Free and ASFD but with bugfixes (also I think the same action routine is used in Golden Voyage when on the boat, sailing by direction). Some nice routines by Scott there. My "Whats New" text file may point out bugs found and rectified which may still exist in the latest versions of Scott Free / ASFD - just in case you use those engines for future quests and think something is not right - my bug fixes may shed light (literally in the #9 case ;). Happy adventuring!

  4. Thanks for the quality assurance on your code -- I really like your PDA interpreter and if I had a suitable device I would probably have played more of the games on it. Glad to know the old ScottFree bugs are visible from a pure interpreter standpoint and that you've been able to address some of them. Most didn't get in the way of playing, but those lighting puzzles in a couple of games really showed off ScottFree's imperfections!

  5. FYI if I remember correctly there's a button you push that turns the gentle air into a blast of air. So don't push it!

  6. It's the red knob in the storage room above the merry-go-round that changes the air pressure.