This colorful title screen is accompanied by an odd assortment of white noise; I think it's supposed to be the sound of a bubbling cauldron. There's an introductory text screen which indicates that we must once again rescue a princess from a castle:
The actual game's intro (following these title screens) also suggests that we have to do all of this before it gets dark -- which isn't actually true -- and beware of the witch, naturally.
As always, I encourage interested readers to sample the Witches' Brew (Adventure) before continuing with my commentary below. This isn't an easy adventure -- I had to walk away from it and return after giving it considerable thought, not always productive. But I did manage to fight my way through, and I will provide all the gory details and a full walkthrough below. In other words, there are bound to be...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
As the game starts out, we find ourselves standing in the Enchanted Forest, near a cottage, with nothing in inventory. To the east is a high mountain, and to the west we find a tree and an AXEMAN (wood-cutting, not guitar-playing.) If we try to KILL AXEMAN -- since we can't TALK to him or do anything else of a more positive nature -- he swings his axe and cleanly cuts you in half. YOU'RE DEAD.
There's more to do inside the cottage -- the kitchen has a cupboard, fireplace, table, large kettle and a sleeping cat. If we try to LOOK CAT, it wakes up and becomes an ENRAGED CAT. We can try to ignore it, but after a turn or two, CAT LEAPS AND ATTACKS! IT RIPS YOUR THROAT APART! YOU'RE DEAD! This fairytale neighborhood is proving to be extremely dangerous.
We can explore the cottage's garden to the north, but there doesn't seem to be anything there. The cottage has a bedroom, containing a bed and a sleeping witch. She's no Elizabeth Montgomery, though -- if we so much as LOOK WITCH, or even LOOK BED, she wakes up and turns us into a frog. (This ends the game, but still seems a milder punishment than those doled out by the Axeman and the witch's cat.)
The game's map seems very small initially, with six rooms and no obvious pathways, and though we will find our way into more areas as the game progresses, it's not a very large game. So we're going to spend most of our time interacting with the many objects crammed into the limited space. The witch's kitchen cupboard is locked; there's a book on the table, but if we try to GET BOOK we are misinformed that There's no "BOOK" here. We can, however, READ BOOK to find an invisibility spell requiring Snake Venom, Human Blood, Nail Clippings and Cat Whisker; we must PUT IN KETTLE, HEAT, WAVE WAND to complete the recipe. So presumably we will need to be invisible at some point, and should start to round up the ingredients.
We can't GET WHISKER from the cat -- There's no "WHISKER" here -- but at least the attempt doesn't wake the cat. The fireplace contains wood and what the game cryptically refers to as a dirty stained piece of metal. I tried to use it to CUT NAILS or CUT FINGERNAILS, but neither one is here; we are apparently some sort of gecko-like freak, at least according to the parser's limited understanding.
We can't GO MOUNTAIN outside -- Too steep -- but closer examination of the mountain reveals a cave at the bottom and a castle on the top. And, in a break from tradition, we can see perfectly well inside the cave without any sort of light source. Here we find a bat and a shovel. Taking the shovel should allow us to dig in the garden, and can we use the bat to obtain human blood somehow? We can carry him anyway -- it, actually; once
At this point, after exploring a bit, I was informed that we should be taking the game's constant reminder HURRY...it's getting dark! a little more seriously, as we now have only 10 turns left. At first I thought, aha -- clearly we're going to need to figure this all out and then execute with few wasted moves! But the time limit is way too tight to finish the game, and as it turned out I had misunderstood the nature of the actual deadline we're fighting against. At least the game does not count commands it fails to understand, unlike some games of this era, and this timer only applies to the arrival of sunset. We just have to obtain a light source before it's too dark to see.
Digging in the garden yields a MAGIC CHARM BRACELET, which bears an inscription: "With this charm the witch will sleep. Wear it in health, it's yours to keep." (I wish everything came with rhyming instructions: "Do not pump gas near open flame. If everyone dies, you'll be to blame!") This does raise one question -- why did the witch bury this in her own garden? Did she get tired of sleeping? Does she just not want to be disturbed by any shovel-bearing thieves in the night?
Anyway, wearing the bracelet (which doubles a light source), we can LOOK BED to spot a large, soft pillow. And the witch is a very sound sleeper -- we can GET PILLOW to reveal, and take, some matches; the witch apparently subscribes to the "How about a little fire, scarecrow?" school of home security. And LOOK WITCH reveals her wand, which we can also appropriate. The bracelet does nothing to keep the witch's cat asleep, however; if we leave the house after enraging it, though, it goes back to sleep.
The Axeman doesn't keep us from climbing the tree he appears to be guarding or waiting to chop down, and there's a branch with glowing writing up there. Actually, no, that's incorrect -- BRANCH and BRACELET are confused by the parser's dictionary, with BRACELET taking precedence most of the time, so we cannot actually LOOK or READ BRANCH; the game assumes we wish to READ BRACELET instead. And after it gets dark, we can't really see any objects in the tree, so it does no good to drop the bracelet for the sake of disambiguation. I wanted to QUIT at this point, as I was starting to feel stuck, but there's no such command, so I resorted to a presumably fatal attempt to KILL AXEMAN -- and discovered that the bit of metal I was carrying could now be used to do so! Examination of his freshly-stabbed corpse reveals in iron glove; removing it causes a vampire bat to appear, slurp his blood, and disappear into the woods. Accidental progress!
With the axeman dead, we can also explore more of the enchanted forest to the west. There's a rattlesnake here, likely a good source of snake venom, but we can't HIT or KILL it. We will also encounter a swarm of flies, and the vampire bat -- which we can kill with the baseball bat. But we can't carry it after doing so... hmmmm. This area gets a little bit confusing because the enchanted forest is not actually a maze -- movement is just random, and when we execute an action we also get teleported randomly from one room to another. So we just have to wander around a bit -- we can always go east from any location to exit the woods, and any object we drop stays with us, but we randomly find the snake, the bat, or the flies. In reality this "maze" is a single room, and navigating just randomizes the local wildlife.
Back to the tree. Without a light source, we can't even see the branch in the tree, and lighting a match lasts too briefly to see it. But with the bracelet on, the parser won't allow us to do anything much with the BRAnch. Still, if we've seen it earlier, we know that we can GO BRANCH -- actually, this specific verb works even if we are wearing the bracelet -- and navigate out to the EDGE OF A BRANCH. Here, the branch breaks, and we fall and die. This happens even if we leave all inventory behind. With the bracelet on, we can catch a glimpse of a ROBIN NEST on the branch just before we die; so how are we to get it? We can't SHAKE BRANCH or JUMP BRANCH or BOUNCE BRANCH. We can't CHOP BRANCH or CUT TREE with the late axeman's axe, either. Hmmm. I had to look at the code to figure out that we can put the pillow on the ground, which somehow transforms a fall heavy enough to break every bone in our body into a safe landing. Now we have an empty robin's nest, and an egg. Hmmmm.
With the matches from the witch's room we can LIGHT WOOD in the fireplace. We can't GET SNAKE in the woods -- she bites, and YOU'RE DEAD, and we can't kill her with the axe or the baseball bat either. We can't seem to obtain the cat's whisker or kill the cat. But aha! Here's something I haven't tried. We can MOVE BED in the witch's bedroom (she is a sound sleeper) to reveal -- in the standard tradition -- a trap door. We can't OPEN TRAP or GO TRAP or OPEN DOOR, thanks to the parser's obstinacy, but we can GO DOOR to find spiderwebs (which we can't seem to do anything with) and an empty bottle, which we can use to GET BLOOD from the dead vampire bat in the forest. We can't PUT BLOOD or EMPTY BOTTLE or ADD BLOOD but we can POUR BLOOD into the kitchen kettle, and oddly the parser will also allow us to GIVE BLOOD.
We can try to GET FLIES, but they are Too quick. Could we take them to the spiderweb, since we can't take the web to them? Maybe, but I wasn't having any luck at this point. If we try to GIVE EGG to the cat, the game presumes we want to put it into the kettle, ruining the recipe in progress and suggesting that lots of random things can be put into the kettle.
I had to look at the code to figure out how to get the venom, after trying to MILK SNAKE or SQUEEZE SNAKE. We have to have an empty bottle, and wear the iron glove -- and then we can simply GET VENOM. But there's really no way to tell what the conflict is until we have everything just right; the parser does not reward incomplete preparation with any sort of message or hint. Worse, if we are not properly prepared, the game just responds There's no "VENOM" here, implying that that's not even the right word, and with several other reasonable-sounding attempts, the snake bites and kills us.
So now I have 2 ingredients and still need nail clippings and a cat whisker. With the axe, we can BREAK CUPBOARD -- not SMASH CUPBOARD, mind, even though the end result is a SMASHED CUPBOARD. This violence liberates some catnip, seeds, and a sugar cube. With the sugar cube in hand, we can GET FLY to end up with a SUGAR CUBE WITH FLY. But we still can't GET FLY -- still Too quick -- or PUT FLY or DROP FLY or PUT CUBE. We have to return to the witch's basement and... annoyingly... GIVE CUBE to attract a spider to its web. I inadvertently jumped ahead a bit here, storywise -- an inadvertent peek at some code unrelated to what I was looking for earlier suggested that we can GET LEG, which we can do, but I had no clue what that was supposed to accomplish.
The catnip is more obvious -- we GET CATNIP and GIVE CATNIP to make the otherwise sleepy or enraged animal a PURRING CAT. Except that now, if we try to GET WHISKER and fail, it becomes enraged and we're dead again, unless we run south immediately. It's purring again upon our return.
The brief rain showers we periodically see happening outdoors are not just for atmosphere -- if we drop the empty bottle and then it rains, we end up with a BOTTLE OF WATER. And now we can WASH METAL to reveal it as a pair of scissors, explaining its stabworthiness. And now we can safely CUT WHISKER, then GIVE WHISKER to put it into the kettle, and do the same with our own NAILS which have magically regrown now that we have a proper trimming implement. LIGHT FIRE with the matches, MOVE KETTLE over the fire to heat it, WAVE WAND and POOF (with nice Atari 400/800 sound effects) -- we have created our Witches' Brew, an invisibility potion which we can carry in the all-purpose bottle.
Now what? We still can't CLIMB MOUNTAIN to reach the castle visible at its summit. We can, however, plant the seeds found in the cupboard in the garden, and eventually a BEANSTALK appears. Climbing twice leads us to the top of the mountain, and the castle.
Of course, we can't just GO CASTLE -- it belongs to a giant, moat too wide! If you were just a little taller. So it's back to the kitchen, where -- I discover far, far too late -- we can TURN PAGE and read another page of the witch's spellbook, revealing a growth formula requiring human saliva, tears, human hair, and an egg. These should be easier to come up with; we can SPIT and CRY, cut our own hair, and put the robin's egg into the kettle. However, while I was doing this, the invisibility potion wore off.
So it seems we will have to make these recipes in a different order -- we can't carry both, as we only have the one bottle, so I probably need to cook up the longer-lasting growth brew before the invisibility brew. We can cross the moat with the growth potion -- which makes us giant but doesn't seem to interfere with our navigational abilities -- but if the invisibility potion wears off too soon, a security camera outside the giant's castle sees us and shoots an arrow through our heart. Ack!
Further investigation reveals that the book contains three spells, for invisibility, growth and shrinking. Some pages are copyright by the Witches' Brewers Union, but page 3 features a SoftSide promotion:
We can turn the spellbook's pages indefinitely, it just wraps around to page 1 after page 3. The shrinking spell requires a spider leg, a bat wing, and some water. Its effect reduces us to one inch tall, but wears off very quickly. The growth spell is the only one that seems to last indefinitely.
So here's the difficult part -- which order do we make the potions in? We only have the one bottle, and it seems likely we will need to have all three potions available when we assay the giant's castle. Hmmmm. We need to use the bottle to gather the venom and the blood and the water, as well, so we can't just stockpile all the ingredients and then make up our potions. So -- after considerable thought and some ill-fated experimental retries -- I decided that growth has to go first; then we have to make and drink the invisibility potion, and THEN quickly put together the shrinking potion so we can carry it with us, getting safely into the giant's castle before the invisibility potion wears off.
This means we have to be careful about where we keep our ingredients -- if we drop them in the
kitchen, the parser assumes we want them to go into the kettle. Even with due care -- dang it! -- the invisibility potion only lasts a few turns, not nearly enough time to make the shrinking potion AND get ourselves up the beanstalk. Are we supposed to go up while invisible and disarm the camera somehow, then go back for the shrinking potion? Yes, actually -- we can push a button to turn off the camera once we have made our way past it.
Now we're confronted with a door with a one-inch gap beneath it -- clearly it's time for the shrinking potion. But we can take our time, now that we don't have to be invisible. For some reason, when we drink this shrinking brew, You drink half instead of guzzling the whole thing down in one slug as we usually do. And we can't GO DOOR, still? Ah, we have to GO CRACK to travel through the one-inch crack below the door, to reach a dungeon where the chained princess is held captive. And then the shrinking brew wears off if we've been too slow. But this is okay -- the princess can be freed from her shackles with the remaining half of the potion -- she shrinks, slips out of the shackles (no word on her clothing) and immediately returns to normal size. And we can just open the door from this side, now that we're normal size again, so all is well. (Though I can't help noting that LOOK PRINCESS yields You see nothing special. Was this really worth the trouble?)
So now we're off to climb down the beanstalk to safety and victory... except it appears the princess has not joined us. And now that we're normal size again, post-shrinking, we can't re-enter the castle, though it seems we had no problem traveling across the moat when we were coming from the other direction. A quick restore and do-over establishes that all we really have to do is GET PRINCESS and take her out of the dungeon and down the hall a bit; we don't even have to escape the castle, and the giant never turns up or presents any other kind of threat. Victory is abruptly ours!
The SoftSide adventures are always unpredictable -- this one was much more difficult than most of them, primarily due to having to figure out the right sequence for the various spells' effects and durations and dealing with the single-bottle conundrum. But I enjoyed the challenge. I'll play something else next week, I expect, as I've now played the first twelve of these games and several beyond that point. But we'll probably revisit this series again soon.
My walkthrough is available at the CASA Solution Archive, and is also provided here, below the fold.
**** WALKTHROUGH ****