Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beyond Zork: Reverse Metamorphosis & Time Travel

Yes, last night I said my next posting would be on Dungeon Master, but I had a two and a half hour car ride this morning, and I used some of that time to think about Beyond Zork. Zink chided me last night, saying the caterpillar/butterfly riddle was "SIMPLE!" Yes, naturally a caterpillar is an earlier version of a butterfly. So what? How do I make a butterfly regress to the caterpillar stage? I messed around with the hourglass for what seemed like hours to no avail.

During the drive, though, I remembered that the hurdy-gurdy had a clock setting. What I had never noticed is that it also has a "lid," meaning I can open it and put something in it. I stuck the butterfly in it, turned the dial to the clock setting, cranked the handle to the left, and sure enough, the butterfly, regressed into a caterpillar. Wow. I'm glad I solved the puzzle and everything, but wouldn't it have been a lot easier just to head into the forest and find a freaking caterpillar?!

With the caterpillar, newly dubbed, firmly in my possession, the Christmas Tree Monsters hustled out of my way and a new area opened up to me.

The Christmas Tree Monsters sing grotesque versions of Christmas carols. The game is really quite clever with this.

My biggest revelation in the car, however, concerned the truffle. I reflected that I had:

  1. A minx capable of sniffing out and digging up truffles
  2. A truffle which, thanks to the magic of the Pool of Eternal Youth, would last forever
  3. A spade
  4. An hourglass that probably has something to do with turning back time

It seemed rather obvious to me that there would be something whose location I would want to mark in a visit to the past so that my minx could find it in the present. And the only place I could imagine this happening was in the ruins of Pheebor. So I messed around there for a while and while examining an arch in the ruins, found that "the opening beneath is shaped like an hourglass." Well, hell. Entering the arch, I turned the hourglass and found myself in a corridor that allowed me to go backward and forwards in time. Suddenly realizing I'd forgotten to bring my minx, who was presumably required for my idea, and I had to go back and get him.

Long story short: I came across the site of a battle between the nations of Pheebor and Borphee (the war was apparently over the right to name the river). The prince of Pheebor had his head lopped off by a black knight. The game kept emphasizing the prince's helmet. I couldn't take the helmet in the past, so I tossed the truffle into the trench where it lay, returned to the present--actually, I think I ultimately went to the future, where more of the topsoil had been eroded away--and Skavenhorde found the helmet, which increased my intelligence and armor class. This took a long time of messing about.

Afterwards, I took a chance that I was done with the hourglass, sold it, and had enough cash for some decent armor, on which I could use a scroll of protection. My armor class went from 0% to 99% in just a few moves. I hope there are still things to fight.

All right, back to the Christmas Tree Monsters. Past them, I found a cabin in which I found a "burin" (an engraving tool; chalk another one up to "What Have You Learned?"), some wizard's black book, a black "hemisphere," and a snow wight that, when killed, dropped a diamond. Beyond them is an "iridescent dome of light," and I'm not sure what to do there.

[Edit, hours after the original posting: "Snow wight." Just got it. Good one.]

So: several puzzles solved, but I remain stumped at how to get by the corbies in the fields, what I'm supposed to do at the dome, how to permanently solve the Christmas Tree Monster menace, and how to get to the castle I keep seeing from a distance (every time I try to fly there, the game tells me I encounter crosswinds).

A couple of "bad" and "meh" votes from last night's entry makes me think people are sick of Beyond Zork--or maybe I'm going into too much detail--so I'll try to get out a Dungeon Master entry this evening, although it might not be all that comprehensible: I've promised myself that if I can stave off my CRPG addiction long enough to get some actual work done this Veteran's Day, I'll allow myself to liberally indulge my vodka gimlet addiction tonight.


  1. Just wanted to say thanks for the great blog. Been reading it for a while now and enjoying it very much.

    I miss games that made you think like the ones you have been playing - can't think of a single modern game that would require nearly as much thinking as Beyond Zork does (not gonna touch on the quality).

    Looking forward to more Dungeon Master posts - I have that in a DOSBox install but haven't gone back to it in months.

  2. You're not ready for the castle yet.

    You're doing quite well so you might not need any help otherwise, but some vague hints just in case:

    Corbies: Jngpu gur oveq orunivbe pybfryl. (Lbh jba'g or noyr gb fbyir evtug njnl -- lbh fbyir n chmmyr juvpu yrgf lbh qb fbzrguvat ryfrjurer naq gura pbzr onpx.)

    Dome: Guvax nobhg gur checbfr bs gur qbzr.

    Christmas tree monsters: Gurer'f fbzrguvat vzcbegnag va gur znahny bgure guna whfg gur pngrecvyyne.

  3. OK, I think it's time for the story of How I Got The Pheehelm. I had figured out the time corridor thing, but unlike you, I had problems making the intuitive leap from "minx digs up truffles" to "minx can be used to locate a spot marked with a truffle in the past". So I was stuck there. Eventually you reach a point where you need a very high Intelligence to make an progress, and the game is pretty clear about this. I surmised that the helm, a magic item worn on the head would provide this boost, but knowing what it was good for didn't help me to get it.

    So I tried an experiment: I started a new game, this time putting all my points into Intelligence at the beginning. It was difficult to survive the first few combats, but it paid off. My character was smart enough to skip the helm and finish the game anyway.

    Then I looked at my final inventory and saw that I hadn't used the truffle at all. This was enough of a hint that I could go back to my original character and figure out how to do things properly.

  4. Muckenhoupt, we all reach things our own way, I guess. I haven't reached the part where the need for intelligence becomes important, for instance.

    Jason, your hints are just vague enough to avoid being spoilers, thanks. But now if I don't make any progress on Dungeon Master tonight, everyone needs to blame you.

  5. Oh, and sneakyhobbits, you are absolutely right. This level of puzzle-solving is absent from any modern game. This ALMOST makes me wish I was blogging adventure games rather than CRPGs. On the other hand, I don't know if I could stand going to bed every night thinking, "But what do I do with the SPADE?"

  6. A question, prompted by muckenhoupt's comments (though perhaps it's a topic more appropriate for your final, GIMLET-scoring post): are the "CRPG elements" contributing much to the experience of the game? They seem like somewhat ancillary add-ons to an adventure game--but perhaps that's not how it feels when playing ...

  7. Err, sorry for sounding like an asshole in that last comment.

    Anyway, I'm surprised that you didn't have to use the Fountain of Eternal Youth you mentioned in the last post to turn the butterfly into a caterpillar. That's what I was thinking of.

  8. Zink, I didn't think you sounded like that; I was just messing with you. But now I admit I'm a little peeved. You told me it was "SIMPLE" and you didn't even know what it was?

    The Pool of Eternal Youth just preserves things; it doesn't regress them to an earlier state.

    Next time, YOU'RE the caterpillar and Jason gets to be the club.

    Kevin, you are correct: this is not really a CRPG; it is an adventure game with some quasi-CRPG elements tacked on. I will cover that in the final post. I'm still not sorry I played, though.

  9. I'm interested to hear your overall comments about Beyond Zork and whether you think the crpg elements were a positive addition. I can't think of any other infocom games where they tried this style (possibly the multiple choice game journey?) It sounds like you're fairly far in the game anyway.

    I am looking forward to hearing more about Dungeon Master though as I've never played further than a couple of levels.

    Keep up the great work - I check the blog every day.

  10. Don't be rough on poor Zink -- if I remember correctly there's an alternate solution to get the caterpillar that involves the pool.

  11. I personally love the addition of a good old adventure game. It's a genre that was pretty much perfected back then and is a nice break from hearing about some of the not-so-good crpgs at the time. glad you're enjoying it too =D

  12. I 'meh'd your last Zork post because it felt more like a collection of notes and random thoughts than the usually much higher quality postings. So, it wasn't Zork that was the problem, it was you. :-)

  13. I just looked it up and goddammit you are right, the Pool of Eternal Youth thing doesn't work.

    I'm calling the game out on that because that is some serious bullshit right there. If something does not HAVE youth, WOULD THEY NOT GAIN IT BY HAVING AN ETERNAL AMOUNT OF IT?


  14. No, you don't get out of this one. If I stepped into the Pool of Eternal Youth, would you expect me to become a fetus again? That's the equivalent of expecting a butterfly to regress to its larval stage.

    Though that would be a good "Twilight Zone" episode or something: guy gets a wish, he uses it to be "young forever," the genie turns him into a baby.

  15. Just FYI, for some reason I started reading Wikipedia's entry on caterpillars. Here's something I didn't know: "The most aggressive defenses are bristles associated with venom glands, called urticating hairs; a venom among the most potent defensive chemicals in any animals is produced by the South American silk moth genus Lonomia. It is an anticoagulant powerful enough to cause a human to hemorrhage to death. This chemical is being investigated for potential medical applications." Medical applications...or MILITARY applications?

  16. Alright, I confess - the Eternal Youth + Butterfly = Caterpillar equation was what I had latched onto too.

    Um - unrelated observation and query: Jason often kindly hides his tips behind some sort of gibberish, that you seem to understand the way every Star Wars character instinctively understands Chewie and R2. So I googled "Gurer'f" and found dozens of sites that make use of the same gibberish patois. What the hell is this? How does one decipher it? Why do so many people know of it, when I've never heard of it?

  17. @JS ... look at this ->

  18. My first gibberish post I mentioned it was ROT13, but didn't subsequently because they were all directed at CRPG Addict. I suppose I should mention it every time because someone might Google onto the post looking for help with Beyond Zork.

  19. Incidentally, I had never heard of ROT13 until I Googled it after Jason's first use of it, so there's yet another thing I've learned this week.

  20. Jason, I recognized it as a substitution cipher, without noticing the ROT13 note, but I am too lazy to decode them unless I decide to play one of these classics; and reading about the Zork series makes we want to find them and play them, although I think I might have played these in the mists of the 80s as a teenager. CPRG Addict, I am reading through these, as I just found your blog I'm 2 years behind but staying up too late to try to catch up. If you ever do a "What is your CRPG weakness that you play over & over" I'll post more.

    1. That wouldn't be a bad question. Until I started this blog, I played Might & Magic VI and VIII and Baldur's Gate almost every year. Inevitably, at the end, I would tell myself, "Okay, you've won the game for the 11th time. If you ever play it again, it will be a horrible waste of time," and I'd throw the game away. Then, 6 months later, I'd get an urge to explore Goblinwatch again, and I'd order yet another copy from Amazon.


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