Monday, January 1, 2018

Game 275: SpurguX (1987)

I played version 2, but like version 1, it had a 1987 release date.
Independently developed and published
Released in 1987 for DOS and Unix
Date Started: 28 December 2017
Date Ended: 29 December 2017
Total hours: 4
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 15
Ranking at Time of Posting: 34/276 (12%)
A friend once sent me a copy of a first-person role-playing game set on the streets of Detroit. You played a homeless person, and the goal was just to find some food and a warm place to sleep for the night. You could explore buildings, walk realistic streets, talk to NPCs, and the like, all while trying to avoid gang members and security guards. It was a great idea, but it was written by social workers to make a point, not game developers, and gameplay suffered accordingly. You couldn't grab a stiletto and level up by killing those gang members, then solve your homelessness problem by looting their corpses and pawning their guns. There might have been some other issues, too.

SpurguX attempts a similar plotline, though more comically. You play a drunkard (my understanding is that spurgu is a slang term meaning the equivalent of "wino") on a quest for a special bottle of cognac, "accompanied only by a great thirst." The "levels" are neighborhoods of the city, and the "anti-hero" must contend with policemen, pickpockets, bouncers, proselytizing priests, dogs, and yuppies with a variety of realistic weapons like chains, batons, and switchblades. He has to keep himself fed during this process, and more important has to keep his blood alcohol concentration high lest he die from a hangover. I didn't plan it this way, but how great is it that a hangover is the central foe in a game for which I'm publishing the review on January 1?
Arriving in the game. What does the iin suffix attached to the game's name signify?
This is all done with roguelike conventions, including permadeath. The author, Petri Niska, was clearly familiar with Hack (link to my review) and kept many of the former roguelike's commands even when they didn't make sense in translation. The "e" key is used for "eat," for instance, and not "s" for sÿo.

(Aside: A Finnish commenter recently offered that he had learned English so well from entertainment media, including RPGs, that he prefers it to his native language. This shamed me a bit, because before launching SpurguX, I honestly couldn't have offered a single Finnish word. It occurred to me that I've probably never heard anyone speak it. I watched a YouTube video of a native speaker and it never would have occurred to me that this was a language spoken in Europe. If anything, it sounded Asian to my (admittedly untrained) ears. This led me down a rabbit hole of research into languages and language trees. I now know that Finnish is one of a small number of non-Indo-European languages spoken in Europe, belonging instead to the Uralic family. Cousins are Hungarian and Estonian. I wondered why a language with such a non-Latin root would be written with a Latin alphabet, and it turns out that nobody really bothered to write down the language until about the 16th century, so there was never a "Uralic" alphabet.)

Character creation consists only of a name. Every character starts clad only in overalls, at Level 1, with no money (markka), 10 strength/hit points, and a 0.2 BAC in promille (per thousand), which would translated to 0.02% as we do in the U.S. If that's enough to stave off a Finnish hangover, I should have gone to college there.

Every screen in SpurguX looks basically the same: a wide-open city block with two buildings in the north and three to the south. You arrive on the west side and find a stairway down on the east side. In between are any number of people and objects.

Some of those objects are points, represented by periods. There are a number equal to the level number you're on, and you have to collect them all before hitting the stairs. That's usually not a problem except that you're trying to conserve movement (to keep the BAC from going down too much) at the same time.
I purchase alcohol at a liquor store on a screen that also has a restaurant and a subway station. Numerous characters and 10 points stand between me and my goal in the opposite corner.
The people are the most interesting part of the game. Many of them are clearly meant as a social commentary on, I guess, Finnish cities of the 1980s, although they could really apply to just about any city. Some of them are offensive today; some would have been offensive even in 1987. I suppose that was the point. Among the characters you encounter are:

  • Kake, a fellow drunk who asks you for beer. If you say no, he kicks you in the groin, causing the loss of a hit point, and then immediately asks again your next move. You can stave him off by just drinking all your available beer. I'm guessing the name comes from the muscled, leather-clad comic character created by Tom of Finland, known for his homoerotic art. I don't know if he has a particular fondness for beer in the comics.
If this guy walks up and wants a bottle of beer, I grant that perhaps you should just give him the bottle of beer.

  • Old Women, who you can kill in one hit for easy money, but doing so draws the attention of the screen's . . .
  • Policemen. You can fight them (usually a losing proposition) or flee. If there's a police station on the screen, it generates more. If you want to avoid them and still kill innocents, you have to do it near the exit.
  • Point-Eaters, which jump around the screen and steal your points. You have to chase them down and hit them to get them to drop them. They're not unlike leprechauns in NetHack.
  • Gay Men (although I think the term, hinttari, might be more pejorative). They follow you around the screen hugging you. Killing them (which it's easy to do accidentally) draws no ire from the police.
  • Black Men (again, I wonder if the term, neekeriä, isn't a bit more offensive before translation). I'm happy to say that they do not perfunctorily attack you. If you attack them (at least some of the time), it turns out he's a jiu-jitsu-neekeri and you're in trouble. Policemen do react if you kill them, but they have money.
  • Recruits. They just run up and attack. When they do, the game says something that Google translates as "the swollen recruit rocks in the dirt" (hyytynyt alokas mätkii sinua turpaan). (And all the people who keep e-mailing me about DeepL being "better" than Google translate: it doesn't let you manually select your source language, and most of the time its automatic detection is wrong.) I'm curious what the historical context is here for overly-aggressive military recruits. 
A yokel attacks me while a gay man hugs me.
  • Escapees. They appear on any screen that has a jail and immediately run up and attack. You can loot stilettos from them.
  • Skinheads (which are called that--no Finnish term), who run up and attack with an "simian rage." (But why?) If you kill them, they generally drop "hints" which are read when you step on them. Things like "cash is king," "a hangover is the disease of the disease," and "if you drink, do not drive." See, the developer had some social conscience.
  • Punks. They attack in packs of four with a leader. Fortunately, although there are 5 symbols for the gang, you only need to worry about the leader. When killed, he drops a chain.
  • Yokels (that's what Google gives for juntti, anyway), who run up and attack you with hoes.
  • Teekkari, which I gather is a technology student at a university. He runs up and sells you a copy of Äpy magazine, which you can't refuse and takes a decent chunk of your cash. I gather that Äpy is like The Onion of Finland, but I otherwise don't know the context of this joke.
  • Pickpockets, who steal your money and disappear.
  • Yuppies. They run up to you and "bluster" (uhota), but this is harmless. Police don't seem to care if you kill them.
  • Sven-Olaf, a guy who runs up and, like gay men, hugs you. Unlike other gay men, he automatically gives you HIV. If you have the money, you can buy a cure in the pharmacy. I have no idea what the cultural or historical context is with that one. Googling "Sven-Olaf" didn't help.
I feel compelled to emphasize that you cannot catch HIV from a hug. Maybe that wasn't clear in 1987.
  • Hippies. They attack you with drug needles that cause you to hallucinate. I'm not sure the author really understands drugs.
  • Priests. They run up and lecture you on the evils of alcohol. Like yuppies, they do no harm except the annoyance of acknowledging their proselytizing every turn. 
  • Social Workers. They attack you for some reason, but if you kill them, you get chased by the cops. It's no-win. I hated them the most.
Something about the social worker "shaking me into shame"? I don't know.
  • Prostitutes. They run up to you and try to sell you sex for $50. If you refuse, they just ask you again the next round, continuing to follow and pester you until you leave the level. If you say yes, you're out of commission for several rounds, and any nearby enemies get free attacks.

Other straight enemies include dogs, gorillas, and snakes. They typically die in one or two blows and aren't much of a concern unless you have low health. The help file lists gypsies, politicians, and bootleggers among the other encounters that I never experienced. There are object-based threats, too, including rotten apples and piles of feces that you can slip on.
The game's various enemies and objects.
Successfully negotiating these encounters gives you experience points (1 per kill, generally, though sometimes you don't get any). Your hit point maximum increases during this process, quite rapidly, though it appears to be more of a function of dungeon level than experience. I couldn't quite work out the formula. I think maybe the dungeon level affects the maximum and the experience level affects the rate of recharge. Either way, that's all the game offers as "character development."

There is a small selection of inventory items, each slotted to a different inventory space, so you can only have one of each. You need food to restore hit points and alcohol to keep your BAC up. The only weapons seem to be stilettos, batons, and chains, though you can throw a bunch of other items. You find "Camel-Boots" (this is in English), often on soldiers, but I don't know what the context is.
The "I" key brings up the in-game inventory list on the left.
The buildings include markets, liquor stores, restaurants, pawn shops, police stations and jails, metro stations, graveyards, and pharmacies. The market is called "Isku," after a Finnish chain, but it's always closed; I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a joke. One thing that I think is a joke is the word "PECTOPAH" representing restaurants. There's no such word, but the Russian word for "restaurant," which would be rendered as restoran in the Latin alphabet, looks like it says "pectopah" when seen in Cyrillic. Then again, maybe the confusion is so ubiquitous that they're actually called that in Finland.

Of the game's challenges, staying drunk is probably the hardest. You lose 0.1 BAC every 100 moves, and if it reaches 0.0, you only have about 30 moves before you die. You sometimes get lucky by finding liquor on the ground, but most of the time you have to save up money and buy it at an Alco. Regular beer restores 0.1 or 0.2 and what I'm guessing are "hip flasks" (lonkkaa) restore 0.3. Keeping your cash reserves high can be difficult with pickpockets, technology students, and bouncers (who sometimes guard the stairways down) constantly relieving you of funds. I frequently had to pawn stuff at the divari, which I'm still not sure how to directly translate, to pay for booze.
Arriving on Level 33. I've got to pick up 33 points and contend with a snake (S), Sven-Olaf (A), a hippie (I), and a yuppie (J). The jail will periodically release escapees. I can't attack that old lady (M) if I don't want to have to fight four policemen (C), plus the police station will generate more.
Levels get harder as you go down, spawning more encounters and requiring you to pick up more points, which can be insanely impossible if a "point-eater" is bouncing around. The coveted bottle of cognac is found on random level after 50. Dear reader, did I brave permadeath through multiple games and legitimately make my way to that 'nyak? Of course not. SpurguX is an amusing romp but not interesting enough to sustain dozens of hours of gameplay. It lacks the extensive, detailed equipment lists, magic systems, and combat tactics of other roguelikes. I wasn't about to treat it with the same intensity as Nethack.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the objectionable content. It's not like I feel that it's okay for a game to feature overly-affectionate homosexuals who transmit AIDS with a hug, or to encourage murdering wandering "Negroes" or old women for their money. But it's hard to get too upset when the whole thing is abstracted at the ASCII level, the author was a juvenile, the game wasn't commercially released, and there might be layers of commentary that I don't understand given the location and the era. I certainly don't mind hearing about such things in the comments.

When you finally find the bottle, the game tells you Korkkaat konjakkipullon! Aave hakkaa sinua!, which Google Translate renders as "Uncork the bottle of cognac! The ghost will blow you!," which I suspect means something closer to "the spirit will blow you away!" Other than that, you don't get a special winning screen or anything. You just get another bottle of cognac on every level after that.

I grab the bottle of cognac

If you really want to see the GIMLET on this, check the spreadsheet. I would have been loathe to leave a blank line in there. Trying to rate the game fundamentally misses its point, which is to make fun of society 30 years ago in a country that I'll probably never get to visit. Onneksi olkoon to Hr. Niska: I probably learned more from SpurguX than any game so far.


  1. Here's to another year of wonderful CRPG posts.

    I knew Google Translate is still fairly inept at translating Finnish to English vice versa, but it's always amusing to see the mangled nonsense it spews out regardless.

    You're right about "hinttari" and "neekeri" being pejorative terms, to where I'd rather not spell out their English equivalents. I'd also like to hazard a guess "Sven-Olaf" is simply meant to be a stereotypical Swedish name, following the classic juvenile Finnish stereotype according to which all Swedish men are gay.

    The screencap with the social worker translates roughly to: "the embittered social worker punches you in the mug."

    PECTOPAH is deinitely a joke, and though "lonkka" does mean hip, here it's more likely short for "long drink" (though the more common slang term for that would be "lonkero"). "Divari" is a second-hand shop, especially a second-hand bookshop.

    Finally, the final sentences translate roughly to: "you uncork the bottle of cognac! The ghost beats at you." Perhaps the cognac was haunted? ("aave" does mean "spirit", but generally in the ghost/phantom sense.)

    1. "The classic juvenile Finnish stereotype according to which all Swedish men are gay." That's a new one to me. The only American stereotype about Swedish men is "bork bork bork." Thanks for all the other cultural clarifications.

    2. "I'm curious what the historical context is here for overly-aggressive military recruits."

      Almost all of the Finnish male population goes through armed services, slightly after turning eighteen. A recruit wondering around city is probably on a leave, spending his time drinking huge amounts of alcohol and letting off the steam that has been venting in him under the pressure of the military discipline. I am not sure whether young drunk Finnish men are more prone to violence than young drunk men in other countries, but some studies suggest it's in our genes:

    3. "I gather that Äpy is like The Onion of Finland, but I otherwise don't know the context of this joke."

      Äpy is a humor magazine, written by the Finnish technology students once every other year and sold by them around First of May. I'd say it isn't nearly as sophisticated as The Onion.

    4. The use of N-word:

      It's definitely recognised as a pejorative term in Finland nowadays, but it has been used in many forms of media shockingly long. Even around the end of 1980s its status was still a bit murky and you might still hear it used in even more sophisticated media. Of course, there weren't that much people with African heritage living in Finland at that time. The first more noticeable wave of African immigrants (refugees from Somali civil war) arrived on our shores at the beginning of 1990s, and around this time, the n-word was finally understood to be as insulting as it is.

    5. On Äpy, do the students have a reputation for being particularly aggressive or annoying in pushing it?

    6. I am not sure. Many of the Äpy sellers can be quite drunk (First of May is one of those holidays, when Finnish in general and especially students like to get wasted), so that might make them more aggressive than your average salesman.

    7. "You find "Camel-Boots" (this is in English), often on soldiers, but I don't know what the context is."

      Camel Boots was a really big thing in Finland of 1980s. They were probably first high quality imported boots, which used very visible TV ads, aimed particularly at "men who walk their own paths":

    8. The classic juvenile Finnish stereotype according to which all Swedish men are gay." That's a new one to me. The only American stereotype about Swedish men is "bork bork bork." Thanks for all the other cultural clarifications.

      There are quite a lot of these between Sweden and Finland - mostly in quite good humour. We are good neighbours and a lot of swedes were volunteers in Finland during WW2. If you ask me (a Swede) about the Finns I would probably say - with a smile - that they are all drunks who fight with knives all the time. But there are real issues between the swedish-speaking minority in Finland and the majority that speak finnish. Finland was once a part of Sweden and most of the aristocracy in Finland spoke swedish and had swedish names (a name like Sven-Olof Andersson while a finnish would be Jarri Nurkkala). To this day some 10% of the population speak swedish and the minority has had more political influence than they strictly should have had, given that they are only 10%.

      -Swedeis Lurker

    9. I think Ilmari is right here. The Finnish way of selling things to other people is very discreet whereas students during Vappu (1st of May) are very lively in their selling of magazines. Even when sober.

    10. Neekeri was not a bad word during the 50s to 80s. It just meant a black person. When american entertainment started to arrive on our shores, the word was slowly turned into a slur. The word being a slur now has more to do with american tv than finnish history.

      Finns have had no slaves, but we have been slaves. We also had very few black people before the 90s, so there was really no reason or ground for racism.

    11. About the swedish "gayness": The swedish language sounds "girly" in finnish ears. That combined with the happy-go-lucky -attitude that the swedes have compared to the finns has given swedish men a soft reputation. That's partly where the "swedes are gay" comes from.

      Ps. Finland isn't scandinavian, it's nordic.

    12. Just out of curiosity, is the "Scandinavian Peninsula" the entire business that comes jutting out of Russia around Lakes Onega and Ladoga, or just the part on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia?

    13. Just the part on the other side.

      The peninsula is basically just Sweden and Norway. The term Scandinavia is usually used to refer to Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Denmark is included because of cultural, genetic and historic close ties.

      Finland was part of Sweden for a long time, Iceland is an old colony and all the Nordic countries have a fair amount in common, so the conflation is understandable. However, the Scandinavians (and Icelanders) are descended for Norsemen (i.e. vikings) and we Finns are of Finnic descent.

      There's a relatively funny web comic about the stereotypes between the nationalities:

    14. SatW is sometimes pretty funny.

      I don't know anyone in Finland who thinks finns are scandinavian. It's the foreigners that view us as scandinavians. And then many of them say we sound japanese..?

      Is that why japanese people like to visit Finland so much? Or the same kind of attitude towards other people (i.e. PLEASE KEEP YOUR DISTANCE, THANK YOU. NO, WE DO NOT NEED TO TALK. OK, THX BAI.)

      We are nordics, and pretty proud not to be part of the scandi-society. No parties for us! :D

    15. "'ve read that when Germans go to America they often get yelled at and called Nazis." I'm sure this has happened somewhere to someone, but I'd be surprised if it really happened "often."

      "It's the foreigners that view us as Scandinavians." To the extent that they do, I suspect they're just applying a geographic shorthand rather than making cultural assumptions.

    16. "About the swedish "gayness": The swedish language sounds "girly" in finnish ears. That combined with the happy-go-lucky -attitude that the swedes have compared to the finns has given swedish men a soft reputation. That's partly where the "swedes are gay" comes from."

      Yeah, and then there's the Winter War thing, where Sweden as a nation was not interested in helping Finland fight the Russian attackers. Instead, they made money from selling war materials to both sides of the WW2. It gave Sweden (as a country) a weak and soft reputation in Finland.

      It was kinda funny/sad because of 3 reasons:

      1. Had Russia invaded Finland (which was Stalins plan, as released documents from Russian archives clearly show), It would have surely invaded Sweden too. With ease.
      2. Thousands of swedes were so pissed at their leadership, that they joined finnish war effort themselves, with or without their nations consent.
      3. Since Sweden was not helping, and no country from the "allied" forces was interested in helping Finland fight the russians (and England even declared war against it) neither, they later drove the country to join forces with germany against the russians.

    17. Regarding that swedish sounds "girly" to finns - an outsider probably don't realize this, but swedish and finnish sound NOTHING like each other. Swedes, norwegians and danes can usually sort of understand each other and read texts written in these languages. Finnish is a completely different language, related to hungarian. To me (a swede) it sounds and reads completely uncomprehensible. French, german, even italian is more undestandable.

      -Swedish Lurker

    18. The ”girliness” is related mostly to the prosodic fact that Swedish has quite a varying intonation, whereas Finnish intonation is quite deadpan and flat, with just a small drop towards the end of a sentence. To Finnish ears Swedish sounds like ”singing”. Finland Swedish has changed to accommodate this, so the language spoken by a Finnish Swedish-speaker is much easier to the ears of a Finn than that of Sweden proper.

      It's to be expected that German is more understandable to you (what with Swedish being a germanic language), I've studied both and often plugged the gaps in my German by thinking what the corresponding word in Swedish would be, sometimes unintentionally. French and Italian are, at least, Indo-European.

      By the way, among the Uralic languages Finnish is probably the closest to Indo-European languages, because of geographic and historical ties to Sweden, with many words and structures lifted from Swedish. Still, the case system remains, making it somewhat hard to tackle for speakers of Indo-European languages.

    19. Also about that ”neekeri” thing, this word used to be the equivalent to ”Negro” and was used in words such as ”neekeriorjuus” (Negro slavery), which were considered neutral. It started picking pejorative meaning during the 90s (when the numbers of Somali refugees started increasing), as much due to the effort of the people opposed to such things as those trying to insult with it. It's not like it was magically ”always offensive”, rather, it was changed to be offensive – there were very few people who could be insulted by it in the 80s! Word meanings are not fixed.

      Considering the era of the game, a prototypical black man in Finland was probably not seen to be a refugee needing special protection, but more likely a jazz musician from the USA or something. The ”jiu-jitsu” thing is probably referring to those kung fu blaxploitation movies from the 70s.

    20. this kinda sums the "swedes are gay" -stereotype humour in finland. Of course it's in good humours, many fins have relatives in sweden and vice versa, and it can be seen kinda like "little brother" syndrome also. Finland kinda sees sweden as it's older sibling, I've heard estonians see finland same way.

    21. Well I do think that us Finns have something of an inferiority complex towards Sweden, on account of having been part of Sweden for so long, and also having quite a similar culture.

  2. "It occurred to me that I've probably never heard anyone speak it."

    Sounds like you and Irene need to curl up in front of some good Scandi noir - which is very popular in Aus.

    I wonder whether the experience would have been different for you if the NPCs had been called f_____ and n_____ instead of their Finnish equivalents.

    The game seems almost like a puzzle roguelike, of which there are some really good examples on mobile.

    1. American remakes of Scandi-noir are very popular in the U.S.

      Undoubted, I would have had a stronger reaction to the English "translations" of those terms. Until Anonymous clarified above, I wasn't 100% sure that the Finnish versions were equally offensive.

    2. Yeah, I knew there was a US version of Forbrydelsen (The Killing), and of course the Stieg Larsson films. The rest of the world views the USA's penchant for remaking things with a mixture of confusion, curiosity and disdain. Remakes often mess up the atmosphere, if not the entire point of the source material. At least 4 Aussie tv shows have been remade for American audiences. Boggles the mind - there isn't even the language excuse.

      I will acknowledge though that the US version of The Office is good in its own right.

    3. I meant that comment to be a little tongue-in-cheek. I agree that we are excessive in the U.S. with our remakes, especially when they occur within a few years of the original and don't even change the setting (e.g., Dragon Tattoo).

      I will admit something embarrassing, though: It's been years since I've been able to sit still and do nothing but watch a movie or TV show. I find it too boring. I need to be simultaneously playing a game, or looking up trivia about the show on IMDB, or browsing Reddit. Thus, I watch a lot fewer subtitled media than when I was younger. It requires too much attention.

    4. Nah I feel ya. I generally only watch tv when I don't have much energy for that very reason. When I'm multi-tasking I can't do subtitled shows.

    5. In Russia, foreign movies and tv series are almost always overdubbed rather than subtitled. Which does mess up the acting sometimes, but still beats remakes.

    6. Roolipelaaja since 1980January 3, 2018 at 1:12 AM

      I'm so happy all movies are subtitled here in Finland (all but movies for children, and even some of them are subtitled). I couldn't watch a single overdubbed movie more than 5 minutes. It's so corny.

      It was hell living in Berlin for a few months and watching all those dubbed films.

      The good thing about subtitles is that the films are intact. I hate it when dubbed movies change the whole scene. It teaches you to understand other cultures from their point of view, not yours.

      It widens your view of the world. According to some studies, it also makes you more intelligent. Believe it, or not.

    7. Haha, I'm with you Roollpelaaja, I'm german but I absolutely hate dubbing. I always try to watch and read english material in english. Of course I don't expect all germans to learn english (though I think it helps a lot), I'm just glad they show OV of the most important movies now in our cinemas, and I'm really glad for things like netflix.

  3. -iin suffix is equivalent for 'to' or 'into' so wellcome to spurguX.

    Pectopah is joke about nobody being able to cyrillic alphabet anyway.

    Isku is company that sells cheap flat packed furnitures but always closed I have no idea.

    Alokas is the lowest possible military rank and specifically a one that hasn't taken the soldiers oath yet and so hasn't complited the basic training of 3 months.

    Hyytynyt alokas mätkii sinua turpaan means sloshed up & tired recruit hits you in the face

    Also heinähanko is not a hoe but a hayfork

    Kake is an old fashioned nick name for kalle, kalevi, kari etc. usually for someone "like realky old, like at least 40 years old" and almost exclusively from a working class and likely a welder, you get the picture.

    1. Thanks. I appreciate the clarifications. It saddens me that the Kake in the game may not have been intended as THAT Kake.

      It's interesting that we don't have quite an American equivalent. We have plenty of stereotypical names by race or ethnicity, but not really that many by social class. That is, you wouldn't be able to say something like, "I don't want my daughter to marry some guy named 'Marty'." You'd have to qualify it: "I don't want my daughter to marry some guy named 'Marty' who works down at the factory."

    2. Billy Ray, Buck, Cletus? Aren't there a ton of names associated with workin' class folk from down south?

    3. Fair enough. None came to mind when I was trying to think of one. But that's still just one socio-economic segment.

    4. "Muffy and Biff" would be stereotypical trust fund kids, or guys with first names that are last names. Hyphenated names would be stereotypical upper class liberals. Ethnic names, like Stash or Manuel or Tyrone. Any name you can lisp.

      Maybe you're just not used to insulting people. :)

    5. A generation ago, there were more American first names associated with working classes. At least in the northeast. Stan, Corky, Smoky, Zeke, etc. Thete was often an ethnic element. And old money names: Thurston, Jamie (guy), Rupert. I think this is all dead now.

  4. I'm wondering what "layers of commentary" you think might exist in a game where all gay people immediately transmit AIDS.

    1. Is it possible that the author was making fun of people who think that?

      There's this Randy Newman song called "Rednecks." The first time you listen to it, all you notice is the repeated use of the "n-word" and you're amazed at how much of a blatant racist the writer must have been. Then you listen to it again and you realize that the song is making fun of southern rednecks who use that term. Then you listen again, and you realize that in fact the song is criticizing northern attitudes ABOUT southerners. Then you think about it some more and you realize that in fact all three of these things are happening--that in trying to construct a criticism about northern stereotypes of southerners, the singer is at the same time validating some of those stereotypes and is, ultimately, too casual with his use of the "n-word."

      Do I really think something as complex is happening here? No. But I figure better err on the side of caution when dealing with text that I've translated myself, before I've head from native Finns.

    2. I think you're right about Newman in your first two points. He was mocking rednecks, and he was pointing out that racism isn't limited to the South, but I don't think his use of the "n-word" was casual. He couldn't have made his point as effectively without using the word.

      Also, how cool is it that your blog has such a diverse, polite and erudite readership in Finland?

    3. It's cool. I was featured in a Finnish gaming magazine a lot of years ago and picked up quite a few readers at that point. (Oddly, magazines only wanted to interview me during my first few years. Now that I'm 8 years old, I guess I'm old news.)

      I agree on Newman, but that's still not a song you can have pop up in your iTunes shuffle when there are other people around. No amount of explanation works.

    4. Pelit has actually changed hands since they interviewed you and likely the journalist who interviewed you no longer works for the magazine as many of the old guard then left the building for retirement or other careers.

      And also I was actually one those lured here by that article and was that really 8 years ago ? Oh my time really does fly by.

    5. Not that it matters, but A. Manzos is still writing for Pelit, the interview seems to have been five years ago (that does feel long), and I wouldn't say the change in publisher really changed the personnel of the magazine that much, but this is probably not much of interest to most of the readers of this blog, apologies..

  5. Thanks for reviewing this game, I played it as a kid in the late 80s. It’s awfully nice of you to get acquinted with Finnish, and I guess I echo most Finns by saying that anyone who bothers to learn at least a world or two gets a warm welcome here. Finnish is not the easiest of languages.
    Here are some points, perhaps clarifying a thing or two: Pectopah is indeed restaurant in Russian as the anonymous commenter avoversiona verified. The world is not used in Finnish at all except in the 80s it was a well-known joke or a somesuch. People would say ”let’s go to a pectopah (mennään pectopahiin)” when they went boozing to restaurant. This is because many Finns went to Leningrad to spend a weekend mainly, well, boozing in a restaurant. And about the only Russian world they remembered was it. We even had a term specific to that: vodka-tourism (vodkaturismi).
    ”Äpy” is a student-magazine from Turku, Tampere has ”Tamppi” and Oulu ”Ööpinen”. These magazines are only sold during First of May -celebrations (a BIG thing in Finland, if you can choose, visit any major city on April 30th and you’ll be surprised) to Raisa money for their respective student organisations.
    A big thanks!

    1. Student magazines: Don't forget "Hässi" from Lappeenranta! I guess you could describe 1st of May (Vappu) party as a Finnish version of Mardi Gras.

  6. Wow! The correctspell really does make a mess of things. *world is ”word”, *avoversiona is ”above” and *Raisa ”raise”. Next time Commenting I guess I’ll be using my trusty old PC.

  7. This was your funniest post for me :D I'm a Finn and used to play SpurguX as a kid.

    This one is very much a joke game with quite juvenile and tasteless humour but the setting kind of made sense in the '80s Finland. I think the NPCs are not really social commentary, but the stereotypical alcoholist/society's outcast setting here does reveal the problematic relationship with alcohol in Finland.

    Based on the comments above and commenters nicknames you do have some Finnish followers!

  8. I've gotta say, as at one of the video gaming niches I've attempted to catalogue is games about the homeless experience - if you have any further details about the game referenced in this article's opening paragraph, I'd be thrilled to learn more.

  9. Some Finnish things from a Finnish fan of your blog! I was born in late 70's, so in 1987 I was still quite young, but...

    - In the 80's the tech students selling Äpy were somewhat notorious. They were not aggressive in a violent sense, but you couldn't get rid of them even by buying the magazine, because they just started to sell you second and third one. (At least this was a common joke at the time.)

    - There was a kind of hysteria surrounding AIDS in Finland in the 80's, and children and teenagers (and some adults too, I guess) had some quite strange beliefs about how you could get AIDS. The thing about Sven-Olof hugging you may have something to do with this.

    - I'm not sure why there are black people in the game, because there weren't many black people in Finland in 1987, but when the first Somalian refugees came in the early 90's, it was said (mostly by racists) that they had a lot of money, either from the wellfare or they were rich to begin with. If the game was made in the 90's, this might explain why you can get money from the black people, but for a 1987 game it is a strange detail.

    - "Markka" was Finland's currency untill early 2000's. After that we started using the euro (€) like most of the European Union.

    - This might be a universal thing, but drunk military recruits causing trouble was and maybe still is some kind of a stereotype, especially in towns which have a military base nearby. Like a previous commenter said, most Finnish young men have to go to the army, and all of them aren't very happy about it. I think many bars have or at least had a rule that you were not allowed to come in wearing army clothes.

  10. I want to play that Homeless Experience RPG. Can you offer any other clues to tracking it down?

    1. I'm not sure it exists anymore. Here's a forum where the developer is talking about it:

      But the domain he mentions is no more.

    2. The page with the game is still available on the Wayback Machine.

      Not sure if the game is playable there, though. It apparently requires the Unity Web Player, which I don't have installed and don't feel like installing just to test this. Although I'll note that even though the date of that archived version is two and a half years later than the forum post, the page still says the game is in "a [sic] alpha version", so it's probably fairly safe to assume it was never finished.

    3. @Addict, thanks. I'll check that out.

      In other news, apparently other devs have made homeless survival games with varying levels of seriousness. I came across this site highlighting a game called Hobo:Tough Life. It looks good and seems to be done by a European dev.
      It's available on steam so others should have no trouble finding it.

    4. I got it on CD from a friend who had worked on the project, but I no longer have the CD. It felt complete enough for the few hours that I played it.

    5. There is an Hobo RPG called "Hobo: Tough Life" available on Steam set in Czech.

  11. Funny how you covered two unpolished, small dev, informal RPGs in a row and got totally different results. This one at least taught you some Finnish, enlightened you to juvenile Finnish 80s culture and has sparked quite a bit of anthropological/linguistic discussion while the other game was utter sh*t.

  12. No reason to not visit Finland. They are actually lovely people, as far as my experience goes. I work in a very touristy area, so every time I hear finnish being spoken i get a warm feeling. It's a very pleasant language to my ears.

    Also, when i was in Finland it was surprisingly easy to get lifts when i hitchhiked. Even sometimes it was young girls giving lifts, not just truckers.

    1. For ages, I've wanted to go to this jazz club in Helsinki called Storyville (after the New Orleans neighborhood where Louis Armstrong was born). I suppose there would be lots of other reasons to visit, too.

    2. It would be much more appealing if you were into Metal and sauna, i'd reckon:)

      And in doubt, say Perkele!

    3. Not for Pori International Jazz Festival in my home town ? :( :P

      These are 52nd festivals this year I don't care about Jazz though (heavy metal on the other hand) so I have no idea if the list is any good or not.

    4. Storyville has nice bands/artists quite often and I do enjoy the place. However, as a location it's nothing special. And the food is sometimes good, sometimes bad.

      Pori Jazz I do like a lot. The atmosphere is very nice. Then again I'm not a purist, so I don't mind their occasionally liberal lineup. It seems like some years they intentionally go quite far afield.

  13. "Cousins are Hungarian"

    Well, a very, very distant cousin. I don't understand a word of Finnish, except maybe loanwords like alcohol or gorilla. Then again, Hungarian might as well be an obscure alien dialect from Phobos for all the similarities it has with European languages.

    1. I meant only in the sense that it's a Uralic language. In the Indo-European family tree, English is a cousin to Frisian, and I don't understand a word of it, either.

    2. Old English is a cousin to Frisian, but we don't understand Old English either. I suspect that English is special because of its blending of Old English and Old Norse with Norman French and later other French dialects.

      I suspect that French speakers can learn Italian much easier than we can learn either French or German because our unique linguistic heritage.

    3. I can vouch for that being true, not that I ever spoke French like a native but I took it every year of high school and college and when I had my ear in I could definitely make sense of some Spanish.

      And yes, given all the linguistic invasions, vowel shifts, dialects, received pronunciations, and colonizations in the last fifteen hundred years, Old English is about as intelligible to a modern English speaker as German. I heard once that English likes to mug other languages and go through their pockets for loose grammar.

    4. This is a little spoof about pronunciation differences between French, English, Spanish, Italian, and German.

    5. English is a bit weird in that almost all is close relatives have died out- the only ones left I know of are Scots and West Friesian. (Scots is appereappa close enough they could be dialects if not for politics)

  14. I admire your dedication to your craft, sir.

  15. Despite the setting, I don't believe AD&D Heroes of the Lance meets your criteria. It has inventory, but there is no character development (experience is a score, and characters don't level up), and combat is action based (it retains D&D stats, but only uses damage values--I'm not sure if they implemented THAC0). It's short though, ~3-4 hours, so maybe worth it for a single post.

    1. It's because it's so short that I'm going to try to play it anyway, just for the heck of it.

    2. Speaking of which I still remember the quote from Pelit "one hero from the party does the fighting while others have a smoke and cheer up from the background". :D

  16. I can comment on "Aave hakkaa sinua", there's actually an invisible ghost enemy that just happened to hit you on the same turn as the game ended. So it's less poetic than it might first appear.

    Not much to add to the other Finnish commenters. This was a very amusing game at the time (being a young and innocent player myself) and it is certainly amusing to read your rather generous write-up on it. It has many more embarrassing details than I remembered, but the game's setting and writing (such as it is) really is a snapshot of a time and place and it's pretty cool that it's coming across.

    1. I swear I got that same pair of messages twice in a row, but I suppose it's not impossible that I got chased by a ghost on two levels. In any event, your explanation makes the most sense. I do now see that "Aave" is one o the creatures listed, with no symbol.

  17. Regarding EOB2 I would strongly suggest to start with a fresh party. It is such a legendary game and part of that unique experience -as someone already commented before- is its rather high difficulty level. Trust me, there will be some very very memorable fights in this game (I don't want to spoil anything...) and taking an EOB1 party would "kill the thrill" making things a little too easy. Think of it like playing Dark Souls with an imported character from Demon's Souls (if that would be possible) and you get the idea...I am looking forward to your coverage of EOB2 and hope you enjoy it as much as I did and still do. In my opinion, one of the best RPG/MS-DOS games ever...

  18. That video wasn't the best example of spoken Finnish, she has a noticeable accent.

    Here's a better example -

    Tolkien based the Elven languages on Finnish, and that's probably close to what he intended it to sound like.

  19. Spurgux is a brilliant time capsule of 1980s Finland. You get all kinds of then-recent stuff like yuppies and skinheads, hippies stab you with their hallucinogenic needles (drug education campaigns back then weren't very accurate), you get AIDS from pretty much everything or everyone, and the whole plot revolves around alcohol addiction. At the time the national ALKO stores were really bureucratic, so getting a bottle of cognac was probably as difficult in real life as in the game.

    You also get the blatant homophobia and racism of the times - homosexuality was legally considered a disease up until 1981, and even the mainstream media used all kinds of slurs freely.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.