Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Adventure of the Week: The Vial of Doom (1980/2012)

The almost-lost Roger M. Wilcox adventure game archives provide us with another vintage text adventure this week, with The Vial of Doom, Mr. Wilcox's seventh game and the one he considers his first "good" adventure game.  Like the others, it was written for the TRS-80 and recently converted to Windows -- it was based on a short story written by Wilcox, which he adapted to game form after Greg Hassett's World's Edge established that the scope of the story might not be an issue after all.

All of Mr. Wilcox's adventures are freely available at his website, so interested readers are encouraged to experience The Vial of Doom before proceeding here.  It's not an easy game and there's some parser wrestling involved -- I had to peek at the source code to figure a few specific things out -- but it's not too difficult to be fun.  My comments will cover my entire playthrough, including dead ends and fatal errors, so there are certain to be...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

We begin on a sand dune near a mysterious-looking lake, where the parser helpfully suggests that some verbs specific to this game are STICK, SWING and PLUCK (this message's earlier, irrelevant appearance in Space Traveller was an error left over from this code, corrected by the author since I played through the game.)

EXAMINE LAKE indicates that There is something big at the bottom of it.  But we can't just GO LAKE -- You would drown! What do you think you are, a god?  The sand dune naturally suggests we might want to DIG, but we have nothing to dig with yet -- fortunately there's a shovel stashed in the desert just to the west.

DIGging at the starting location drops us to the bottom of a sandy hole, where we see a pyramid with a stone portal.  We can't climb back out, though, so we need to restart and explore a bit before we do this.

We pass by a mountain top on the way to a city to the east.  There's a jewelry store here, with a Guard with a Thermos of coffee, most likely a telling detail.  There's a closed gate in front of the zoo to the south, and an airport with an empty liquid sucker and a gate attendant, who won't let us proceed into the airport without a ticket.

A pawn shop offers some solution possibilities -- the clerk offers a dagger, a turquoise gem, and a sleeping pill.  We can't BUY anything here but we can try to TAKE things -- The clerk says you'll have to pay cash.  We can't PAWN anything to raise cash, as the parser doesn't recognize that specific verb.

Can we USE SUCKER at the lake?  No, Nothing happensSUCK LIQUIDI don't know what "liquid" isSUCK LAKEThere is nothing here to suckRUN SUCKERNot YET!!!  Hmmmmm.

Well, let's go back to the pyramid -- the pyramid's portal bears a golden inscription, which our character handily translates to "Touch and go."  We TOUCH PORTAL and we are whisked away to a tomb chamber.  There's a tiny plastic container here, and a lead box.  And also an Animated mummy who appears when we take the lead box -- this must be the mummy who turns up unexpectedly in Interstellar War, another Wilcox game converted after this one.  The mummy isn't immediately threatening, but he/she won't let us leave the tomb chamber.  EXAMINE BOX reveals that it contains a Twinkling vial with thin chain attached.

At this moment, the spirit of "Law" appears to inform us that the vial is controlled by "Chaos," the bad guy.  You'd think this major evil villain could come up with a more intimidating name, but in short we must round up a turquoise gem, fire opal, cobra venom, basilisk eye, and octopus ink, mix them in an alabaster bowl, then put the vial in and *RUN* (hence the Not YET!!! message.)  So while this isn't quite a treasure hunt, it's going to be an ingredient hunt.

The Spirit of Law also mentions that the vial may give you a little strength to escape, but it seems we can't KICK or PUSH or HIT the mummy to any effect.  But if we WEAR VIAL, then we can HIT MUMMY and Baam! You made it fly apart! -- leaving some Unwound Ace bandages in its wake for comic relief.  The text suggests that wearing the vial is risky, so it might be wise to REMOVE VIAL; it was stored in a lead box, after all.

Now we can leave the tomb chamber to find ourselves back in the bottom of the sandy hole.  DIG still won't get us back out.  We can't CLIMB.  Oh, okay -- we need to WEAR VIAL again, then we can DIG and With a surge of great strength, you get back to the sand dune!

While experimenting back in the city, I discovered that if we WEAR VIAL a third time, we are taken over by Chaos.  This also happens if we DROP BOX, it appears.  So it is risky!  I was curious about this, so I checked the code -- it's not the number of times we wear the vial, but where we wear it -- near the pyramid, where Chaos' influence is strong, it is not dangerous, but we are more vulnerable elsewhere.

Trial and error establishes that we can somehow OPEN GATE -- With what? -- WITH VIAL.  The zoo is small, just one location featuring a Cobra's cage.  We need cobra venom, so the liquid sucker may be handy here.  We can GO CAGE, but the cobra is asleep.  We need one of those special verbs here -- after trying to USE SUCKER and SUCK VENOM and SUCK COBRA and ATTACH CONTAINER and MILK COBRA I finally thought to STICK COBRA -- Into where? (1 word) -- CONTAINER, and now we have a container filled with cobra venom.  This wakes the cobra, of course, and the cobra won't let us out the way we came in.

HELP suggests that we use the power of Law  -- and we can USE LAW to do so, but that doesn't seem to help here.  We seem to be stuck, so let's restore and try again.

We can SWING VIAL in the pawn shop to hypnotize the clerk and avail ourselves freely of his goods.  With the dagger, and the USE of LAW, we can KILL COBRA -- oddly, the creature vanishes in a sparking cloud of electrical smoke? -- and escape the cage after taking our venom sample.

We've got two ingredients down now, and the clerk is still hypnotized, so let's see if we can drug the jewelry store guard with the sleeping pill.  We can't STICK PILL into the thermos -- It didn't stick.  Perhaps we can play on the guard's sympathies with WEAR BANDAGE -- no, You can't wear a bandage.  But we can USE LAW -- and now The guard is off-guard!  We can't KILL the distracted GUARD.  Ack -- we have to THROW PILL -- it conveniently lands in the guard's thermos (what aim we have!), and then he drinks it and falls asleep.

Now we can just GO STORE -- no -- GO JEWELRYENTER STOREGO SHOP?  No.  Hmmmm.  Can we ROB STORE?  Nope.  This whole situation's a little odd from an ethical perspective, especially considering that we're using the power of Law to help us out.  We can EXAMINE GUARD -- Try frisking him -- then FRISK GUARD to obtain a wad of money.  Once we GET MONEY, the guard wakes up and pleads with us not to tell his boss he was sleeping on the job, and to bribe him.  We BRIBE GUARD and he gives us the fire opal from the jewelry store!  This action seems unlikely to help him preserve his job, sleeping or not, and moreover we have just bribed him with his own money.  But dang it, the fate of the world is at stake!

We have three ingredients now -- we still need octopus ink and a basilisk eye, and as we haven't run into either creature yet we have some exploring to do.  We can't KILL ATTENDANT to get into the airport -- I cannot allow you to do that, Frodo --  and we can't USE LAW in the lake area -- Sorry. There seems to be some Chaotic interference in this area.  But we can USE LAW to make the attendant much friendlier, allowing us to enter the airport and GO AIRPLANE in this pre-TSA world.

We fly through the air, and land somewhere else -- apparently the captain is rather close-mouthed about our destination -- and find ourselves at a bus terminal.  We ride for a while, then get off somewhere else, near a forest where we find a flat reflective stone, south of a basilisk residing near another mysterious-looking lake.

We SHOW STONE, and Zap!  The mirror has just transformed the basilisk to stone via its own gaze!  How do these creatures ever manage to make little basilisks?  Now we need an eye... but it's too late, it seems -- PLUCK EYE yields only You can't do that... yet!  We need to pluck the eye before we turn the creature to stone, quickly before it does the same to us.

Now we have four of the required ingredients, but we have to find our way back home.  We can USE LAW to enter the lake here without fear of drowning, unlike back home, and spy a Sleeping giant octopus in a mysterious inky lake.  SUCK INK doesn't work at the moment, as the parser doesn't recognize the noun "ink", nor can we STICK SUCKER or STICK OCTOPUS. But we can... erm... SUCK OCTOPUS -- and now it wakes up in deadly fashion, putting us in a tight bind with its tentacles.  At least we have our coveted liquid sucker full of octopus ink now.

We can't KILL TENTACLE or KILL OCTOPUS -- but the latter returns Be more specific -- a hint?  THROW DAGGER lodges the deadly blade in the octopus and allows us to escape north, finding ourselves back at the sand dune.

Now Law and Chaos materialize as giants and begin to battle it out, with Law conferring great strength upon us in the process.  We seem to be getting close to the story's finale, but we still need the alabaster bowl to put all the ingredients together, and we haven't done anything with the ace bandages.

I tried to THROW the lead BOX at Chaos, which did nothing, but when I picked it up again the re-Animated mummy appeared and would not let me go anywhere else.  Restore and retry time!

We have great strength, eh?  We can't THROW MOUNTAIN -- let's not be silly here -- but we can GET PYRAMID below the sand dune and THROW PYRAMID at Chaos!  It knocks Chaos down, ending the fight, and Law says: "Make the mixture here!" with Mr. Wilcox adding P.S. Why not look at the debris of the pyramid?

Doing so, we find an alabaster bowl atop the mountain now.  We can't MAKE MIXTURE or MIX INGREDIENTS or CAST SPELL... but, ah, we just have to drop all the ingredients in the sand dune area, at which point The mixture has begun to glow deep red

Now we can DROP VIAL -- and The vial vibrates, getting ready to explodeOh, by the way -- **YET**!!  Do we have to SAY YET?  Maybe not, it explodes anyway... ohhhh, right!  Now it's time to RUN.  Even to RUN SUCKER.

And that's not all -- we run to the mountain, where we see a wishing rock and a rapidly approaching fireball from the Chaotic mushroom cloud rapidly expanding on the horizon.  Can we just WISH?  Yes, this transports us to a safe spot on the other side of the mountain, and victory is ours!

The Vial of Doom is definitely a more sophisticated adventure than Wilcox's earlier games, and could easily have passed commercial muster at the time it was written in 1980.  I'm very glad this series hasn't disappeared entirely -- thanks again to Roger M. Wilcox for making his adventure games, and their history, so readily available.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Adventure of the Week: India Palace (1980/2013)

It's Roger M. Wilcox adventure time again, as we tackle the author's sixth game, India Palace, written in 1980 for the TRS-80 and updated to Windows in 2013 following the source code's recent rescue.

Mr. Wilcox warns me of some juvenile not-nicety that takes place in this game, so we'll see what we discover as we go along.  Plotwise it's another treasure hunt, though in a fresh setting -- In a small town in India, you have heard about a nearby palace that is deserted and supposedly haunted.  It has not been cleared of its treasures, however.  That job is yours.

The author has generously made these games freely available at his website, so if you want a quick and entertaining evening's adventuring, I urge you to go grab a copy and play.  Beyond this point I will be documenting my playthrough experience in detail, so if you want to discover the world of India Palace for yourself, I encourage you to stop reading here, go forth and do so before returning.  Because, as always, there will be...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

We begin in a valley near the palace, and can open the big wooden door with a simple KNOCK DOOR.  But before we go in, let's check out the upper area, where a loaded cannon occupies a ledge above the valley.  We FIRE CANNON and It seems to have ruptured part of the palace, though we will not discover the result of the impact until much later (and it's not really obvious even then!)

Entering the palace leads to a foyer with passages leading to other rooms.  To the east, a Room with a rocky inscription reads: "Day-oh!"  A magic word, perhaps?  South of the foyer is a passageway blocked by a stone wall, near the Ancient weapons room where we see a glowing scimitar, which can readily be taken.

West of the foyer, we are at the top of some slippery steps, implying that trying to go down them... yes, You slipped on the steps!  You fell & broke your neck!  You're dead!  So we will need some way to improve our traction.

Or -- after trying this in other areas -- we can SAY DAY-OH at the top of the stairs to be magically transported to Another day-oh room containing a miner's pick.  Now we can PICK through the WALL blocking the southbound passage to squeeze through (one way) into the bottom of a mining shaft.  Now, however, we're left with a pile of rubble and no obvious exits.  KICK RUBBLE and SAY DAY-OH, SEARCH and DIG RUBBLE do us no good.  I tried restarting and not firing the cannon at the castle, but that doesn't make any obvious difference here.

Oh!  SAY DAY-OH in the inscription room leads us to the Rough room, where we can pick up some mining boots and a * Flying carpet * in the Light-headed place nearby.

We don't have to WEAR BOOTS explicitly -- the parser doesn't recognize the verb -- but if we are carrying them we can safely walk down to the *SCORE* Room.  The carpet counts as 16%, so we must need to collect 6 or 7 treasures to win this one.

Now can we use the flying carpet to fly up the shaft?  Hmmmm.  Apparently not?  We can't FLY CARPET or RIDE CARPET or USE CARPET or GO CARPET.  But READ CARPET returns, Clap for up, snap for down.  We have to be carrying the carpet for this to work, of course.

At the top of the shaft we find another treasure, a * Technological phaser * (as opposed to those natural phasers our ancestors had to gather) which is reportedly set on stun.  Can we use it on the wraithlike guard in the guard house next door, who will not let us pass?  On Stun it doesn't do anything, but we can SET PHASER and respond to the Stun/Blast popup with the Blast radio button.  Even then, we can't SHOOT GUARD -- it's not effective against immaterial wraiths, apparently.  But we can KILL GUARD -- Using what? -- SCIMITAR to dispatch it the old-fashioned way.

Past the guard house we encounter an acid vat and a coil of rope.  GO VAT is (as expected) not very productive -- The acid dissolved you!  You're dead!  Hmmm.  We can't see anything to tie the rope to here, either, so let's see if we can BLAST RUBBLE at the bottom of the mine shaft instead -- yep.  The phaser and carpet together get us to 33%, so we must have to round up 6 treasures.

What can we tie the rope to?  We can tie it to the pick, and THROW PICK across the vat of acid to create a rope bridging the vat; we can't CROSS BRIDGE (nor should we expect to, really) but we can CROSS ROPE.  There's a * Gold India crown *  on the other side of the vat, and a passage up to an Old slavery house (we assume the traders haven't been doing much business -- location, people!)

There's still a Slave woman residing here -- and we can't GIVE her anything.  Or KISS her.  Or, thankfully, KILL her -- Aw, c'mon, why would you want to kill a woman?!?  But we can SHOOT WOMAN to do the same thing.  Hmmmm... that was on blast.  What if we set the phaser to stun instead?  Now she is stunned, and we can SEARCH WOMAN... and, erm, You found a passage.  Ahem.  That was a room-level search, apparently, paying no attention to the object of the SEARCH verb.

Do we have to stun her at all?  As it turns out, we can just go through the secret passage without harassing the slave woman.  There's a * Magic lamp * here, and if we RUB LAMP in this location we are taken to a treasure room with an * Uncut ruby * and a * Chest of jewels * at the end of another secret passage down the way.  Now we can take all our treasures back to the score room (we can carry enough in inventory that this doesn't require much juggling at this point) for a flawless victory!

There were a few loose ends I was curious about, so I took a peek at the source code.  The secret passage to the * Chest of jewels * is only available after the cannon is fired, so it was just my random experimentation at the start that made it easy to find.  Also, if we HIT the slave woman after stunning her, she tells us about the secret passage before she slips back into a coma.  Nastiness indeed!  I'm glad this antisocial behavior is optional, as we can just SEARCH and find the passage without forcing the hint... though, of course, we can also blast the slave woman to bits and still finish the game, so we're free to do that if we want also.

India Palace has more options, a larger map and a wider range of possibilities than Wilcox's earlier games, without being too difficult to play through in an evening or two.  I enjoyed this one and will continue to play through this series; my schedule has been busy of late, so these games have been just what I needed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Adventure of the Week: Space Traveller (1980/2013)

This week we're returning to the recently rediscovered works of Roger M. Wilcox, whose Space Traveller was written for the TRS-80 in 1980 and has been converted to Windows in 2013.  This is actually Mr. Wilcox's fourth adventure -- there's some been confusion about which ones were written when, but the order has become clearer as he has recovered and converted more of his old adventure games.

Space Traveller is another basic treasure hunt adventure, with a slightly sci-fi setting and a number of simple puzzles that rely more on thorough searching than anything else.  As with the other Wilcox adventures, they are freely available at his website, so interested adventurers are encouraged to play this one before proceeding with my notes below.  As always, my documented experience is guaranteed to introduce...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

We begin on Planet X with nothing in inventory, standing near a Large cylindrical transport.  The intro hints at some special-case verbs we will probably need and might have a hard time guessing - STICK, SWING and PLUCK -- though in my playthrough I never actually needed these verbs.

The transport itself contains a panel of three buttons and an Airtight space suit (those non-airtight space suits being considerably less useful for space travel.)  The buttons are labeled Q, X and EARTH.  We should probably spend some time on Planet X before we go anywhere else... except the only other location here is the Score Room, so we'll have to do our treasure hunting elsewhere.

We don't have to wear the suit while we travel to Planet Q, but stepping outside without it establishes that The air is unbreatheable [sic]!  You're dead!  Planet Q is described as orbiting a white dwarf, and it's a maze with few discernible landmarks, so we should probably come back here after we acquire some droppable inventory items to assist with mapping.

Planet Earth features a Grassy field, near a Deserted hat store, one of those oddly specific adventure game businesses which, as is often the case, contains a single item, a small hat.  We can WEAR HAT, along with the space suit, for the ultimate in inconspicuous space travelling attire.  There's also an empty field.  We can attempt to DIG in either field, but we need something with which to dig.  Fortunately, we can SHAKE HAT, and Something falls out.  It's a Six-foot shovel!  Okay, then.  Not the strangest solution in the annals of odd adventure game moments, but it's up there.

Digging in the empty field leads to an underground labyrinth.  It contains the Room of the Sacred Door, but we don't have a key for the actual door at the moment.  Fortunately, we can GET RUG in a nearby Very unused room to find the Large key, and now we can visit the Treasury Room, where a * Treasure chest * can't be opened (There's no keyhole in a chest!) but can be carried along as a complete unit.

We can also DIG in the grassy field to find an iron box -- it can't be OPENed unless we're carrying it, but after we pick it up we can find a * Diamond ring * inside it.

Let's stop off on Planet X and drop our two treasures off -- on a scale of 0 to 100 we now rate 40 points, so there must be three more to find.

We can map Planet Q out a bit now.  There still aren't any obvious landmarks, but as it turns out we just need to find all five above-ground locations and do a lot of digging.  We can open a grave in one spot that contains a * Silver coin *.  We can dig in another location to find a * Golden bafoon * -- I don't know what that is, but it's clearly valuable -- buried just under the surface.  And a Dead body turns up in another location -- where it shouldn't be, we are told.  If we drop it in the grave, then The body thanks you, and drops something at your feet! which turns out to be a * Platinum sword *.

We've got five treasures now, and with a quick trip back to the score room, victory is ours!

Space Traveller is a very simple, old-fashioned text adventure -- but there's nothing wrong with that.  I'm enjoying the Wilcox games and will continue to work my way through them as time goes on.  I encourage anyone looking for a quick, pleasant little adventure game to do the same.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Adventure of the Week: Teen Agent (1995)

(UPDATED 03/07/2013:  Corrected a couple of Euro-centric errors!)

This week we're back in point-and-click animated adventure territory with Teen Agent, created circa 1994 by Polish developer Metropolis Software House.  It was originally distributed as shareware, with the first of three sections given away for free, and later sold commercially by an international hodgepodge of small publishers before the developer declared it freeware in recent times.  According to Wikipedia, it was the first CD-ROM game developed in Poland, although I'm not sure why it had to be on CD, as there are no voice-overs and the graphic style is simple; the entire game only takes up about 12 megabytes (I use the word "only" circa 2013, of course.)

This title screen really doesn't do Teen Agent justice -- it looks like it was slapped on at the last minute for the sake of a cool new VGA fire effect:

The Lucasarts-influenced design features plenty of humor, presented with VGA backgrounds and characters rendered in simpler EGA style, perhaps because the Amiga was a key target platform at the time.  We're playing the PC DOS version here, which doesn't have any problem with the color palette but struggles a bit to render the game's sample-based soundtrack -- the Amiga had hardware for such things, while this version has to emulate it for the Soundblaster and occasionally stutters a bit.   The excellent score by Radek Szamrej still comes through nicely -- it has a bouncy 1980's Commodore 64/Amiga demo-scene charm, and while the various music loops tend to be short, they don't wear out their welcome.  Some of the English text, translated from the Polish, is a bit odd, with more than the usual number of typos, but the game is completely playable and the humor still comes through well.  There are no dialogue trees, however, so character interaction is a bit limited.

As always, I encourage readers to sample Teen Agent before proceeding here -- it's one of several animated adventure games available for free at GOG.com.  It's a substantial game, but not too difficult -- at least there aren't any unfair dead ends or sudden deaths, though there are a few visible seams in the storytelling and some of the puzzle solutions are, shall we say, obscure at best.  It's still worth a play, or at least a sample, and the price is certainly right these days.  If you do intend to be a Teen Agent yourself, you should stop reading here and come back later, as the following discussion gives away everything I discovered while playing; in other words, there are...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

The prologue establishes that the (American?) government is trying to stop an apparently supernatural band of thieves, who are causing gold to vanish right out of the world's vaults:

An efficient but addle-brained government agency called the RGB (even the acronym is a secret) is charged with solving extraordinary problems.  They need a hero, so they consult with a psychic to pick a random name out of the phone book -- as it turns out, our hero, a typical teenager named Mark Hopper.  The promise of possibly meeting girls in the line of duty is all Mark needs to go off to training camp.

Standing near the guard shack, Mark can engage the guard in conversation to learn that he can't get into the training camp without "documents" of some kind.  The guard makes no bones about the fact that he will have to shoot if we just try to sneak in, and we can't step back out of the area, so this puzzle has to be solved here.  A butterfly flitting around can't be clicked on, and the guard's magazine is not accessible either.  We don't have a variety of options, either -- no range of icons or text parser, just pointing and clicking.  This isn't even a puzzle, as it turns out -- it just took me a while to find the inventory sub-screen.  If I had glanced at the manual, I would have known that we actually have to move the cursor to the upper edge of the display.  Once we've done that, we just have to select the pass and then use it on the guard to gain entrance.  There's no verb interface here -- we can left-click to examine an item, and right-click to generically use it; at least items of interest are highlighted with text when we mouse over them, so we don't have to waste a lot of time trying to examine undefined items.

Now Mark is inside the RGB facility, where he finds a trash can, the Cantine door, and a couple of other mysterious doors.  Door 001 introduces Mark to a hardcore training officer who assigns him three trials a la The Secret of Monkey Island.  The first is an escape challenge from behind a locked door.  There's a bare bed, from which a spring can be liberated; a hanging bare light bulb, which can be pulled down, freeing the bare end of the wire; and a switch on the wall.  We can talk to some crates outside, which is really just a clickable "outside" stand-in, and yell for help until someone finally brings food.  Now we can connect the live wire to the metal food bowl, using the switch to deliver a charge.  The captain arrives, Mark automatically zaps him, and now... he's welded to the bowl?? ?  We can get the door key from him -- he's not dead, actually, just dazed -- and escape the cell.

The second trial is an interrogation challenge -- we must obtain a secret password from our captive, the captain again.  The room contains some promising items, but blunt swords and model guns aren't going to work on this tough guy.  We can leave the room and pick up some rope from the trash can outside, as well as do a little more exploring of the grounds.

A camouflage tent isn't of much use, but we can see a mysterious object outside the fence.  A bird hangs around near the mud pool that comprises part of an obstacle course.  A brick climbing wall provides for a Pink Floyd joke, but is not good for much else at this point.  The Cantine's bartender indicates there are only three men on the base, and no women, "no cry" (the game is full of random pop culture jokes like this.)  There's also a door at the back of the bar Mark can't currently open.

Some crumbs from one of the bar tables seem like they might have something to do with the bird, but we can't use them with the bird or throw them onto the pole or into the mud pool to attract its attention.  And Mark doesn't have the upper body strength to get all the away across the rope suspended over the mud pool.

We can stick the bedspring in the solid ground in front of the brick wall, and acquire a shovel on the other side of the wall (why we couldn't just walk around behind the wall is never explained.)  We can also take a branch from a plant near the wall.

The branch can be used to tickle the captain, who drops his swiss army knife.  With the knife we can cut the fence near the tent, and discover that the tantalizing mysterious object is... stuck in the ground.  Mark can dig it up with the shovel, to find... a kaleidoscope?  It was apparently confiscated from the guard at the entrance -- we can give it to him to get his Soldier News magazine... and steal his grenade while he's playing with the 'scope.  No wonder the RGB is in trouble!

We can't scare the captain with the grenade, or use it to blow open his desk or locker, but if we offer him the magazine he'll give up the password, COFFEE -- these guys are apparently hard up for entertainment.  Saying the password to the tea-drinking barman gets us to the third task, playing hide-and-seek to find the captain.  We also get to take the empty coffee cup along with us.

It looks like the guard in the shack at the entrance might be the captain, but how can we confirm that suspicion?  If that's not him, and he's hiding in the tent, we can't try to frag him by throwing the grenade in.  We can tie the rope to the grenade, leaving it attached to the pin, and use this unexpected combination to blow open the desk drawer in the captain's office, pocketing a... some medicine.  (One annoying thing about Teen Agent is that the protagonist often picks up revealed items without saying anything at all about what they are, so we have to go into the inventory screen to find out what's just been acquired.)

We can mix the medicine with the bread crumbs, and use the mixture on the post where the bird is perching to drug the poor creature into a more portable form.  We can also get some mud in the mug, after falling into the mud pool yet again.

The mug looks a lot like the barman's tea mug, but we can't just replace it (nor is it clear why we would want to.)  The medicine is used up, so that's not what we want to do.  But we can get the bird to perch on the radio's coat-hanger antenna in the Cantine [sic?], and then swap the mugs out, so apparently we want to do that for some reason.

The bartender drinks the mud and drops off for a moment -- I'm not sure why -- and we can now access the storeroom at the back of the bar.  The boxes and barrels are generally unsearchable, and a locker here is secured, but there's somebody or something blinking through a hole in one of the barrels.  We can't poke the hole with the tickling branch, but we can just click on it to poke the captain in the eye with a finger, revealing his whereabouts and completing the training and the first act of the game.

The second act takes Mark Hopper to a small village where a wealthy local man is acting suspiciously -- he may have something to do with the mysterious thefts.  We have nothing in inventory but a small tube of super glue.  (This was originally the pay-to-play portion of the game, starting from a clean slate after the shareware first act.)

A boy in the village is playing basketball against a wall; we can't determine his name, unless it's literally "Sonny" and he's just having us on.  We can steal a comb from a car nearby.  Sonny is too weak to get the ball high enough to put it through the basket; if he does manage it, we learn, his grandfather will take him to the zoo, so we probably want to make this happen so we can poke around the homestead uninterrupted.  Inside the house, grandpa is smoking and won't let us borrow his fan on such a hot day, or take his shotgun.  But he will let us take a single handkerchief from the mostly empty drawers in a large bureau.

The neighboring house has a large panting dog who looks a bit like Scooby-Doo and blocks access to a valve on the outside of the building. The old lady who owns the house won't let Mark borrow her feather duster or a wax apple.  But with one sight of the young girl of the house, Anne, Mark is completely smitten.

Another path leads to a cave whose entrance is blocked by a thorny bush.  In the other direction lies a field with a scarecrow -- Mark can find a needle in a haystack here, with surprising ease, and pick up a rake and sickle.  There's also time for some animal abuse, as we kick a hen to obtain a feather from its tail, consider catching a mouse, and realize we can't steal the diving fins from the scarecrow's feet because of the large crows perching on his shoulders.  The sickle is too blunt to cut the thorns away from the cave.  The boat at the lake has a broken paddle, and we can't seem to restore it to working order with the superglue and/or the rake; there's an island visible in the middle of the lake, and an old-fashioned well with no bucket or rope.

There's a forest area with another house nearby.  A large nut hangs in a tree, but we can't reach it and the squirrel keeping himself busy nearby seems disinclined to assist.  Inside the house we can acquire some rotten cheese, and a chainsaw with no fuel.  There's also a cupboard with a suspiciously notable heart-shaped hole in its doors, and a sooty fireplace.

The mansion is watched over by a guard; this must be the place we are here to investigate.  Branching paths here also lead to a meadow where bees prevent access to another valve.  At the back of the mansion, a hollow tree looks interesting, if we could climb it -- some sort of creature keeps tickling Mark when he tries to do so.  We can pick a potato from underneath a nearby plant, grab a rock, and attempt to pick up a hedgehog, though it's too spiny for Mark's bare hands; it has a pine cone stuck to its back.

We can't throw the rock at the crows, or grab the mouse using the cheese (at least not just the cheese.)  The mansion guard has dropped a wrapper reading "LOVE CANDY," with a heart design.  The mansion's owner is one John Noty, who has been consulting with a mad scientist, according to the guard, who also gives Mark a chocolate candy.

Now maybe we're getting somewhere -- Mark can trim the candy into a heart shape using the cupboard door in the cottage, then wrap it in the discarded wrapper to produce an impressive-looking gift.  Giving it to Anne yields her ribbon as a gift in return -- she doesn't want to get fat, but Mark insists she take the candy, saying that even Obelix has friends (he's the rotund viking Gaul from the European Asterix comics.)

I needed a walkthrough here -- my sticking point turned out to be a waiting/timing puzzle of the sort that always give me trouble.  If we hang out near the mansion guard for a while, he'll eventually drink and drop a partially full bottle of whiskey.  We have to catch him in the act -- while he's actually taking a swig -- to get him to hastily drop it so that it lands far enough from his post that Mark can grab it.  The walkthrough also indicates that the whiskey can be used as fuel for the chainsaw, which I wouldn't have guessed, necessarily. 

We can talk to the squirrel to get him angry enough to throw the nut down, though it immediately gets lost in the grass and we have to repair the rake -- not by tying or gluing the comb to it, but by using the ribbon to force its ragged teeth into a more useful formation -- to recover the nut.  The chainsaw can't be used on the thorns blocking the cave -- they're too thin for it to be useful, apparently -- but we can use it to saw a branch off the hollow tree in back of the mansion, and then superglue that to the broken paddle to make a useable oar.

Rowing out to the island (which features a very Monkey Island-esque Caribbean musical theme) we can pick a couple of flowers.  Giving one to Anne's grandmother allows us to borrow the feather duster.  We can also give a flower to Anne, though this doesn't accomplish anything new.

The next walkthrough hint I needed was to help me find a lever inside the open car door at Sonny or whatever's house.  We can use this to open the trunk, finding a toolbox containing a car jack and a wrench.  Mark can use the spanner to lower the basketball hoop, getting Sonny's basket and trip to the zoo taken care of.  With grandpa out of the house, we can borrow his fan and shotgun.  Threatening the crows and then firing the shotgun sends them flying off so we can grab the diver's mask and fins from the scarecrow.  Diving near the shore doesn't produce anything interesting though... ?

The carjack can be used to... um... lift up a rock near the cave entrance to recover a bone underneath it.  Giving the bone to the dog per established adventure game tradition lets us access the cellar beneath grandma and Anne's house, though we find it's too dark to see clearly and there's no light switch handy.  Aboveground, we can use the fan to dry the laundry hanging outside the house, and then take the clothesline rope after telling grandma she can collect her dry laundry.

We don't need a lamp -- there is a switch in grandma's cellar, but it's not visible until we have closed and reopened the cellar door; the slamming shut apparently knocks some grime off the walls below, revealing the presence of the switch (and also getting rid of a spiderweb on a shovel -- trying to get the shovel prior to this results in a rather lengthy and funny stretch of Spider-Man fantasy/nightmare text from Mark.)  The axe inspires a Jason Voorhees daydream, but we can't take it with us even though it seems like it could be very handy.

Walkthrough time again -- we can use the handkerchief to block the mouse hole and trap him with the cheese!  I had the right idea but the handkerchief didn't seem like the right tool for the job.

Okay - and this is one I would never have gotten without the walkthrough.  Remember the well with no rope?  We're supposed to turn the handle to sharpen the sickle.  Yep.  Now we can cut the thorns in front of the cave away, and look in a hole with a message above it concerning gold at the end of the road.  This puzzle is also pretty obtuse -- we have to put the mouse in the hole, and then before he comes back out, glue the rock over the hole, forcing him to use an alternate pathway, pushing a gold nugget out in the process.

We can use the feather duster in the cottage fireplace to gather coal dust, then use it on the wild potato to end up with a painted potato that looks a lot like a grenade.  This next bit makes no sense at all -- we can now toss it into the hollow tree, it gets thrown back a few times, and finally an owl emerges from the tree as the painted potato explodes in Mark's face.  Trying to climb the tree now isn't quite successful, but triggers a cutscene as John Noty's guards try to inform him about suspicious activity concerning a young man trying to enter the mansion grounds, which Noty doesn't want to hear about right now.

As the number of unsolved puzzles shrinks, paradoxically it seems I need more and more hints.  We can swap the nut for the wax apple at grandma's house, and then... trade it to the hedgehog for the pine cone stuck on his back, even though in the end he doesn't want the fake fruit.  We can then... combine the pine cone with the needle to produce something of as-yet-undetermined purpose.

The diving equipment is difficult to use -- while we can see some objects worth investigating underwater, Mark can't stay down very long and he can't talk.  This seems like a puzzle, but it's really just an artificial roadblock imposed by the story structure.

We can use the pine cone/needle with the feather to produce a dart -- throwing it at the bee hive summons a bear, who distracts the bees as they chase him offscreen.  Now we can enter an underground passage -- too dark to see -- that leads to a trapdoor just outside the mansion, triggering another cutscene as Noty's staff tries to warn him about the boy trying to get inside the mansion.

Now we can get back to one of those things that I find aggravating in adventure game designs -- we can't grab the anchor while diving until we have triggered that second cutscene.  It has nothing to do with whether we have the proper diving equipment, we don't have to find a way to increase Mark's air supply -- we just aren't allowed to interact with it until the story is at the right point.  So now we can pick it up, and tie the rope to it to create a makeshift grappling hook.

Trying to use this improvised climbing gear to get over the wall triggers a third cutscene -- Mark reportedly "may be dangerously [sic]" - but Noty just tells the guards to keep him out of the mansion.  We also see a giant robot guard/servant of some kind meandering about.

Trying to bribe the guard with a gold nugget is unsuccessful, but triggers yet another scene -- Noty is getting impatient as Mark keeps trying to get in.  We can also try to dig under the wall with the shovel, and now Noty himself steps outside to take Mark on, attempting to bribe him off with a hundred dollar banknote before going back inside the mansion.  It turns out to have "NEVER! ANNE" written on it -- apparently a returned payment for a proposition refused?  Asking Anne about it confirms Mark's suspicions, angering him enough to punch out the guard and break down Noty's front door, gaining access to the inner courtyard and the climax of the game.

Act III takes place inside the mansion's grounds, with a very Axel F.-style theme playing as Mark tries to get inside the main house.  Our inventory has been reset, stripped back down to nothing but the ever-useful tube of super glue.  There's a window that can't be opened, a strange sculpture near the front door, and nothing else... except as it turns out we can just open the unlocked front door.

The kitchen features a rotund chef, and Alex can't mess with anything in here while he's around.

Another room contains the robot we glimpsed earlier -- Mike the Robot speaks bad rap-speak, or a Polish white person's impression thereof, revealing that he is a robotic safe that can be opened only by his owner, identification being based on view, scent and "da voice."

The mansion's luxurious bathroom has a tub, a sink with a hole that's pointed out though we have no immediate use for it, a dusty mirror, and one of Noty's dirty socks, which Mark refuses to touch with his bare hands.

A study/rec room of some kind features a large TV and a bottle of cognac -- Mark considers drinking it, but decides he doesn't want to "deprave the kids."  Reading a newspaper discovers the remote control hidden in it, and examining the fashionably round couch turns up a cork hidden underneath it.  Oddly we can't use the cork with the bottle, or the remote with the TV (it just plays static when we click on it, and using the remote on it seems to make no difference.)  Trying to use the hi-fi system notes that we have nothing to play.  There's a VCR, which has no record function, that the remote does work with -- but it has no tape in it, apparently.

Upstairs is Noty's large study, and his six desk drawers appear to constitute a puzzle.  Each drawer has an interior of a different color, and adjacent drawers can't be opened.  The trash can contains a piece of paper, which has nothing interesting written on it but can be... combined with the cork to make it larger?  Okay.  One drawer has a dictaphone in it, but it has no batteries; another has a polaroid camera, all set to take a picture (probably of something incriminating as the story develops.)

So it appears we have some puzzles to deal with, after exploring a bit.  I missed seeing a pair of pincers in the cognac bucket earlier -- tongs, essentially, which we could use to pick up the sock, except we need something to store it in.  We can stuff the augmented cork in the sink, and fill it up with hot water, so that must be a useful thing to do.  We can steal a bottle of chilli [sic] (this is the European spelling, I have learned!) in the kitchen that looks a lot like the cognac bottle, and try to swap it with the cognac -- but Mark is pretty sure it won't fool anyone.  We need to use the hot water in the bathroom to remove the OLD MEXICAN CHILLI [sic] (wouldn't that be pronounced Chee-Yee in Mexico?) label, dress up the cognac bottle, and switch it.

After we put the cognac in place, Mark suggests that the cook try spicing up the stew -- the poor man puts the cognac in, instantly gets drunk, realizes the stew is ruined, and leaves the room in disgrace.  There's a little Inuit hiding in the refrigerator when we open it, prompting Mark to conclude he's going "slightly mad."  With the cook out of the way, we can grab a rolling pin and beat the batteries out of the radio... though they appear to end up above the kitchen somewhere?  No, that's just suggested by the debris animation -- they're still there in the wreckage of the radio, two 1.5 volt batteries perfect for powering the dictaphone.  There's nothing recorded on it, but it's working now.

I needed to reference the walkthrough again to find out that there's one special book in the study upstairs -- not really visually distinguishable, and only discoverable by hovering the mouse pointer over each of the dozens of books on the shelves.  This particular book can be examined to find the title "Charlie Brown and company."  While we can just luck into the dictaphone discovery by opening all six of the drawers, we have to leave the brown drawer open and tug on the book (it's noted that it's stuck in place earlier) to reveal a secret compartment on the shelf below, containing an unlabeled videocassette.

Playing the video reveals footage of John Noty singing Singin' in the Rain to the camera -- it's incredibly annoying, and we're grateful this is not a "talkie" game, but we can record his voice with the dictaphone and snap his picture with the polaroid camera.  Now we just need the sock to convince Mike the Robot to open his, er, himself, it would seem.

We can get another piece of paper from the study's trash -- I thought at first this might be a reappearance bug after we've used it with the cork, but we actually do need a second piece of paper.  We can ignite it using the hot plate in the kitchen, and... what?  The fridge now contains something normal in place of the phantom Eskimo -- some meat, frozen to the shelf -- which we can free with the burning paper to end up with some veal in a plastic bag.  Now we can put the veal in the stew, for the sole purpose of freeing up the plastic bag so we can get the sock!  (Using the bag on the sock or trying to combine the bag and the tongs does nothing useful -- we still have to use the tongs on the sock, and now Mark can carry it using the bag in inventory, instead of refusing to do so.)

Now we can get Mike's safe open, revealing a jar and a book.  Now a cutscene ensues, in which some kind of mad scientist tries to visit Noty, trying to talk his way past the guard who calls him a "filthy terrorist."  Noty's not happy with his work either, but he says his new invention is tested and can be demonstrated.  It's a shrinking potion -- no, wait, that's just a side effect.  The scientist demonstrates that he can now pick pockets easily, with "THE TIME PILL!"   It speeds someone up to one thousand times normal speed for a few seconds -- but he doesn't quite know how he made these pills; he isn't much of a scientist, apparently.

The story breaks down a bit here, as the jar Mark found in Noty's office seems to contain these same pills already and Noty has apparently been using them.  The scientist still wants Noty to build him a new lab, offering the time pill patent in exchange for his financial support.  It's time for Noty to do a Day of the Tentacle-inspired "TAKE ON THE WORLD!" joke, and then Mark must hide as he comes into the study.  There's a nice surreal visual gag here, as the only safe hiding place turns out to be the "lower left edge of the screen," dangling Mark briefly outside the game's reality.

This next puzzle is odd -- Noty leaves a door handle behind in Mike's room, and while the bathroom door can be opened with its knob as usual, there's a second hole on the far side of the door, causing it to open "backwards" and leading to a completely different room.

There's a huge whirling fan in here, which can be handily bypassed using the jar of time pills we took from the safe earlier, and now we catch the villain and his scientist ally plotting.  Unfortunately, Mark's entrance is none too discreet -- his attempt to attack Noty using the time pills is blocked by an invisible force field.

Fortunately, as Noty is about to kill our Teen Agent hero, the military arrives to save us.  Mark's unknowingly been carrying a hidden camera in his hat, so they knew what was going on (and provided very little help along the way.)  The RGB doesn't really care about capturing Noty, but Mark wants a little revenge before he hands over the time pills to his employers.  We find Noty in the rec room, inside the wardrobe, packing up his ill-gotten money before fleeing.

We have to hit him on the head with the chili chilli bottle to knock him out.  As the ending unfolds, we learn to Mark's dismay that lovely Anne was just another agent, here to keep an eye on Mark's progress and give him motivation.  But Mark gets made an official RGB secret agent, and victory is ours!

There was never a sequel to this 1994/95 game, though it seems we're being set up for one as Mark finds one last time pill that accidentally got left in his pocket:

Teen Agent is a competently executed point-and-click adventure game, and I hadn't heard of it back in the day so it was fun to discover it a few decades after its release.  It's got a good sense of humor, and while many of the puzzles are silly they're not quite aggravating.  Good fun from our friends in Eastern Europe!