It's snowing heavily in Michigan as I write this, so it seemed like a good day to tackle Scott Denyer's 1991 adventure Snow Joke, a Delbert the Hamster Software title distributed by Zenobi for the Sinclair Spectrum ZX computers:
It's written using P.A.W.S., and the setup has us stuck in the snow -- and trapped in the car, with the doors frozen shut, in the middle of nowhere. So it appears that this will be an escape-the-room adventure.
Interested readers are always advised to tackle these games before proceeding here -- the Balrog himself, Zenobi founder John Wilson, is making all of his company's games freely available on his blog as I write this, so these are becoming much easier to get hold of (his compilation CDs have been out of print for a while.) Snow Joke is brief and fairly simple, though occasionally irritating -- most of the issues I ran into were parser conflicts between how I thought something should be done and how the designer thought it should be done. There's not a lot to spoil, but there will definitely be...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
After this brief and entertaining intro, we find ourselves locked in the car with nothing in inventory, and the only visible item is a box of matches. The glove compartment is locked. And we can die in a scant ten turns while we're trying to get our bearings, as The cold finally catches up on you, and you tragically freeze to death!
Ice has formed on the keys, so they are now immovable. MATCH and MATCHES are treated as the same word in the dictionary, and I failed in my attempts to STRIKE MATCH ON BOX or LIGHT MATCH or THAW KEYS.
EXAMINE CAR establishes that the car contains a passenger seat, a back seat, a driving seat and a dashboard. SEARCH PASSENGER SEAT -- to my aggravation -- does not turn up anything, as the parser doesn't really recognize the word, but EXAMINE PASSENGER SEAT discovers a coat. It seems wise to TAKE COAT and WEAR COAT.
We can see a panel behind the back seat, screwed into place providing access to the boot. EXAMINE FLOOR yields a small metal cup (LOOK FLOOR and SEARCH FLOOR do not.) I tried to WARM KEYS WITH HANDS and BLOW ON KEYS and PULL KEYS, to no avail. I tried to LOOK UNDER PASSENGER SEAT and SEARCH UNDER PASSENGER SEAT, but we have to EXAMINE UNDER PASSENGER SEAT to find a screwdriver. (This is doubly hard to come up with as the player, because EXAMINE UNDER DRIVING SEAT yields the same response as EXAMINE DRIVING SEAT, and the same goes for the back seat. Only the passenger seat behaves differently.)
With the screwdriver, we can readily UNSCREW PANEL and see into the boot, where we find a blowtorch and a lot of ice. We can't MELT ICE WITH BLOWTORCH, of course, but we can LIGHT BLOWTORCH with the matches to pursue other alternatives -- and yes, we can now just MELT ICE. Except this melts the ice in the boot and ignores the ice on the keys on the steering wheel. MELT KEYS, THAW KEYS, and HEAT WHEEL don't produce any interesting results either.
Instead of melting the ice, and allowing it to vanish into a puddle of water that apparently never refreezes, can we backtrack and TAKE ICE IN CUP? No, It's too cold. But we can FILL CUP WITH ICE. And then HEAT CUP, twice, to melt the ice and get the resulting water to the boiling point. And then we can DIP KEYS IN CUP... no... THAW KEYS WITH WATER... no... POUR WATER ON KEYS... Over what? Aha! We have to POUR WATER OVER KEYS.
The game now tells us, if we try to UNLOCK GLOVE BOX, that it will be more user-friendly and allow us simply to EXAMINE GLOVE COMPARTMENT. We can find a small ice pick, but of course the ice is outside the car.
We can't ROLL DOWN WINDOW -- You can't travel anywhere -- or OPEN WINDOW, or BREAK WINDOW WITH PICK. EXAMINE DOOR shows it is still Frozen shut from the outside. POUR WATER OVER DOOR yields only Over what? We can't OPEN DOOR or PICK DOOR or PRY DOOR or INSERT PICK or KICK DOOR, or POP BOOT or kick/pry/et cetera it. But we seem to be out of puzzles.
AH! We can LEVER DOOR WITH PICK to open it. Thanks, CASA walkthrough! And now we just have to EXIT CAR... no... LEAVE CAR, no, GO DOOR, no... aargh... GET OUT does it!
The biggest issue I had with Snow Joke, as I have reported with some other PAWS games, is that LOOK, SEARCH and EXAMINE are not synonyms, nor are they consistently used from game to game, and in this case the parser tends to respond with You can't do that when what it really means is, "That's not the word the designer has in mind." The puzzles are not difficult at all, but the parser wrestling is a pain. If this were a longer game, I'd have more to complain about, but the time passed quickly enough given the simple objective at hand. It was a pleasant enough way to spend a snowy evening.