Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Mysterious Adventure #10 - Ten Little Indians (1983)

This week, we're returning to Brian Howarth's adventure series using the Scott Adams engine, with Mysterious Adventure #10: Ten Little Indians, inspired by the Agatha Christie mystery novel and play.  I played the Inform conversion of the original game to solve it, then replayed the illustrated Commodore 64 version to capture some screenshots.  The illustrations (which originated on the Sinclair Spectrum) are static -- they're essentially visual equivalents of the room titles -- and while the slow drawing fill speed slows the gameplay down considerably, and the player often has to toggle back to text mode to see critical details, they do make these posts more visually interesting.


This title is a change of pace for Howarth, whose previous games were usually fantasy or science-fiction related; as such, the puzzles here are fairly mundane, but it takes some time and effort to round up the titular Indians.  As always, if you haven't played this one yourself, I urge interested adventurers to set this post aside and do so.  Because there are certain to be...

**** SPOILERS AHEAD! ****

The game opens in the traditional Agatha Christie style, aboard a railway carriage with no obvious exits.  We can see the countryside going by if we LOOK WINDOW, but can't otherwise do anything but indulge Mr. Howarth's annoying fondness for the WAIT command, at which point Train stops! and an exit to the west opens.  We are empty-handed, and apparently rather ill-prepared for travel of any sort.

The sign on the platform informs us that we are in LOWER MASSINGTON, which may or may not prove useful to know; the time-honored tradition of adventure game hero's amnesia is in full force here.  To the north of the platform is a Waiting Room, with a door that cannot be OPENed, KNOCKed upon, GOne into, or otherwise made use of (USE DOOR yields door is useless here, and this proves accurate.)

We actually have to re-board the train and WAIT again to find ourselves on a different platform in UPPER MASSINGTON, at which point the train vanishes.  We can pick up a spanner (a wrench for us Yanks) on the railway lines below, and go east to a Waiting Room with more possibilities to offer.  LOOK TABLE reveals some matches.  There's a ticket office to the south with a safe bearing a combination lock, and a country road to the north leading in all directions (yes, this is a maze.)

The neighborhood includes the traditional waterfront accoutrements -- a Derelict Warehouse filled with rotting crates, a Rickety Wharf, and a Muddy Riverbank.  There don't seem to be any people about, so this is apparently not a direct adaptation of Ms. Christie's famous story; no murderous cardboard stereotypes are lurking around here with contrived and transparent motives, just a series of puzzles.

The rotting crates conveniently contain a perfectly usable candle and a coil of rope.  We can't GO RIVER, as I don't know what a "river" is.  There's a brass key buried in the mud, but we can't linger long on the muddy riverbank before we sink fatally into the soft ground; we can be more efficient with our execution if we know that we have to GET BRASS, rather than GET KEY.

With these additional items in hand we can map out the Country Road maze to find our way to a Gate House to the west.  The Gate House has an upper tower, where we can see a bar jutting out of the wall outside the window.  If we travel east from the Gate House's High Wall, we find ourselves in the least accessible part of the Country Road maze.

At least there's a human being around near the High Wall, though the Irate Gamekeeper seems unlikely to be a pleasant companion.  In fact, if we loiter too much, Gamekeeper shoots me!! and ends our game.  We can't unlock the iron gates with the brass key.  We can't LOOK or TALK to the gamekeeper either; he's just an obstacle best avoided.

What we can do is tie the rope to the iron bar outside the tower window, and climb down to a Gravel Drive.  To the west is a Mansion with a number of interesting rooms; we can unlock the oaken front door with the brass key. 

Upstairs (GO STAIRS works, CLIMB STAIRS does not) is a green bedroom and bath, a blue bedroom and bath (containing a Blue Figurine), and a master bedroom with a bathroom and a dressing room containing a wardrobe that can't initially be opened.  The bed in the master bedroom contains a slip of paper, but READ PAPER only reveals an ad: "It's 1983. Get Mysterious Adventures from your dealer NOW !!"  Or is this just an ad?  It turns out that DIAL 1983 opens the safe in the railway station's ticket office, yielding the Yellow Figurine; we can do this even if we haven't found the paper in our current play session.

The mansion's dining room table contains a small key.  The library contains an ebony stand with spaces for our collected figurines, and there's a large safe in the study.  The conservatory contains dead plants, concealing the Green Figurine.  A Suit of Armour in the hallway has an arm pointing backwards; TURN ARM doesn't seem to do anything interesting, however.  We can PULL ARM though, and now LOOK SUIT yields I can see it's bolted togetherUNBOLT SUIT (with the spanner) produces a heap of metal, and the Grey Figurine.

Near the mansion is a Circular Drive, another maze of sorts that leads to a Lawn and a Soft Flowerbed, though it's not immediately clear what we can do here.

At some point a Dark Opening appears in the Green Bathroom upstairs in the mansion; I couldn't tell what caused that to happen on my first go, but later noticed that Something happened! when I moved from the Dressing Room to the Master Bathroom.

The opening leads (with the lit candle in hand) to the Butler's Pantry, where we can acquire a trowel and visit the Utensils Store to pick up the Silver Figurine.  The trowel appears to be useless for digging in the Soft Flowerbed, though, which seems odd as it appears to be tailor-made for such a purpose.  Ah -- thanks to the venerable jgunness walkthrough, I learn that we can DIG MUD along the riverbank... no, scratch that, have to USE TROWEL quickly before sinking.  And the game's sinking counter appears to be cumulative, so we shouldn't visit the riverbank too often -- we have to visit it twice, but returning to this room can be fatal in and of itself, so a restart may be necessary once we figure the timing out.  Once we are able to survive the move, we find the Black Figurine in the mud.

So are there actually ten figurines to find?  Yes, the backstory provided with the original game indicates that a wealthy Major cast these ten figurines as a complex key to finding a highly valuable single figurine.  Presumably that discovery will end our adventure on a successful note.  Stopping to take stock, I found that I had collected six of the ten with the obvious puzzles solved.  Let's see... what can we do with the hammer?  We can try to BREAK TILE in the kitchen, but we learn that Hammer isn't enough here! 

The small key from the dining room is no help with the large safe, but can open the wardrobe in the Master Bedroom's dressing room area.  GO WARDROBE proves fatal as we fall through the floor (and not into, say, Narnia); LOOK WARDROBE reveals only that I can see darkness, and bringing the Flickering Candle to bear doesn't seem to pierce the improbably impenetrable gloom.  This is actually just a trap, it seems -- we don't need to deal with the wardrobe to finish the game.

Oh, and thanks to the walkthrough, we also learn that we have to STAMP FOOT on the Rickety Wharf to plunge into the water and find the Violet Figurine, again crossing through the dangerous mud and forcing a restart if we haven't been efficient.  We can't SWIM DOWN -- we drown -- but we can DIVE to find it.  Also, if we foolishly carried the matches through this maneuever, they are now Wet Matches and useless.  Never let it be said that old school adventure designers failed to get the maximum challenge out of limited resources!

There's a balcony visible outside the blue bedroom -- we can visit a walled garden with a dry fountain and find a chisel in the greenhouse.  We can also CLIMB FOUNTAIN to find the Pink Figurine, and CLIMB BALUSTRADE to find... nothing of interest, apparently.

With the hammer and chisel, we can now BREAK TILE in the kitchen, revealing a dark hole leading to the Boiler Room, where the Red Figurine is secreted.

So now we have nine of the figurines... hmmmm.  Time to consult the walkthrough and learn that we can JUMP from the balustrade to reach a Roof, leading to a Ruined Arbour where the White Figurine resides.  Escape requires navigation of a tricky maze; it takes trial and error (i.e. saves and restores) to figure out where it's safe to JUMP down, landing in the Soft Flowerbed near the Circular Path.

With all ten figurines in place on the ebony stand, the large wall safe opens, revealing the Golden Figurine and achieving victory!  (Unfortunately, the illustrated version doesn't actually show us the open safe, nor the Golden Figurine, so we actually have to toggle back to text mode to read the textual room description and find out what I see something! really means.)



We still have a few of Brian Howarth's Mysterious Adventures to tackle in the future, and I look forward to doing so.  They're a fun counterpart to the classic Scott Adams adventures, applying the same engine to a considerably different design sensibility.

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