Sunday, October 2, 2022

Tygus Horx: Summary and Rating

 
The final dungeon I was able to explore.
      
Tygus Horx
Germany
Independently developed; Markt & Technik Verlag (publisher, via 64'er magazine)
Released in 1990 for Commodore 64
Date Started: 19 August 2022  
Date Ended: 30 September 2022
Total Hours: 19 (unfinished)
Difficulty: Moderate (3.0/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
    
Summary:
A German diskmag game (a game that came on disk with a Commodore magazine) written in English, Tygus Horx tries to replicate the gameplay of The Bard's Tale (1985) but simplifies too much of the mechanics. Even the quest is similar: save the city (here inexplicably called "Tygus Horx") from a vague but apocalyptic threat. The story, such as it is, takes your party of six characters through several dungeons, each offering a key to the next one. Combat, equipment, and character development are reasonably well-done, but ultimately the tactics and mechanics are too limited for the size of the game world, and character advancement requires far too much grinding. I was unable to win because of what is possibly a bug, but see below and draw your own conclusions.
    
*****
    
Unfortunately, I think I've reached the end with Tygus Horx. When I blogged last time, I was on the threshold of a new dungeon, the lair of Xe-Tje. The first level was a long maze. It started in the southwest corner, and various branches led to rooms in the other three corners.
    
Xe-Tje's lair, Level 1.
     
The level has a "band" of dark squares, four squares wide, on the right half of the map. You're constantly weaving in and out of this area, meaning you have to waste a lot of spell points on "Magic Torch." The other two levels have similar bands. It's very annoying.
 
Just before the doors to each of the three rooms, you find a message telling you the occupant of one of the other rooms. For instance, the message in the southwest says: "Northeast is Sukaro." Each of the rooms has a stairway leading down to a different section of Level 2. Two of the areas on Level 2 have encounters with people who say, "Who am I?," prompting you to give the name you've learned. These two encounters open the way to sections of a third level, where you explore to find a single square on which you learn one part to a three part code phrase needed back on Level 1. The two parts I got are "REST" and "IN." It doesn't take a lot to guess the third.
       
Level 2. What ought to be an explorable area in the southeast ends in a dead end.
       
The problem is the room in the southeast corner of Level 1. It leads to a 3 x 1 corridor on Level 2, but there's no way out of it to explore the rest of this section, find the wizard, go down, and presumably get the word PEACE. I've tried kicking every wall. There really isn't anything else you can do.

But fine, clearly the third word is PEACE. Back on Level 1, I gave the code phrase to a "guardian," opening the way to another section of Level 2. There, I had to wander around in darkness through a bunch of single-square rooms until I found the stairway down in the lower-left corner.
       
Passing the guardian.
       
The stairway led to an unmapped section of Level 3, also consisting of single-square rooms. There was an outer ring of them, then an inner ring, and finally a single square. I entered, and . . . nothing. There's nothing in the room. I tried ensuring that I fought at least one random combat. I tried using every item I had. I tried kicking every wall. Nothing happens.
  
I don't know if I've missed anything, but I ran around checking everything twice. I searched for maps and spoilers, but I only found one German site (linked by commenters in my first entry) that has any hints, and they stop after REST IN PEACE.
       
Level 3. The yellow square ought to have something, but it doesn't.
     
Readers often find things I don't, so if anyone turns up something that gets me out of this, I'll give it a try and post an addendum, but just in case, I'll offer a quick GIMLET:
    
  • 2 points for the game world. It offers a basic, relatively derivative framing story.
  • 3 points for character creation and development. Horx offers the creation options and development feedback of a typical mid-1980s RPG. The ability to change spell classes is nice.
  • 0 points for NPC interaction. I don't really consider shopkeepers and random old men popping up in dungeons as "NPCs" so much as "encounters."
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. I don't really offer anything for the indistinguishable members of the trash mobs that you fight throughout the game, but it gets some consideration for its puzzles and dungeon messages.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. The dumbed-down magic system leaves you with fewer tactical options than The Bard's Tale, and non-spellcasters have nothing to do but swing away.
       
Casting mass-damage spells is fun in any Bard's Tale clone.
      
  • 3 points for equipment. You get a steady stream of upgrades, but unfortunately no usable magic items as in The Bard's Tale.
  • 2 points for the economy. You need money for healing, spell-recharging, and spellbook acquisition, but nothing else. From your first battle, your money is on an upward trajectory throughout the game, so there's never any question of not having it when you need it. A lack of items to purchase in stores is a regrettable omission.
  • 2 points for a main quest with no side-quests or role-playing options.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface, almost all for the easy-to-master keyboard interface.
  • 2 points for gameplay. It's linear, not replayable, and too long for its limited content, but at least the difficulty is pitched about right.
   
That gives us a final score of 21, making it a somewhat average shareware title. This is one of those many games of the era that wouldn't exist except that maybe you didn't have a local software store, or if you did, it didn't carry The Bard's Tale.
    
That's not a reference I expected to see.
     
A final amusing note: One of the groups of enemies I fought in Xe-Tje's dungeon were called "Ducky Boys." The Ducky Boys were apparently a real Bronx street gang in the 1970s, but I'm only aware of them because of Philip Kaufman's excellent film, The Wanderers (1979). I've never met anyone else who has seen that movie, but Rainer Sulzbach must have.
    
In some ways, this ending is perfect. After all, it wouldn't be a German diskmag game if I could actually finish it.

55 comments:

  1. Oh what a horx
    Cloning Bard's Tale in 1990
    Buggy German diskmag RPG
    What a tygus, what a horx

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    1. I never even made sense of the name
      Such an average 90's diskmag game
      Game-breaking bug, what a horx

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    2. Excellently done - both of you! I had the tune in my head before the end of the first line!

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    3. I hoped more posters would have backed up Man of Stone's excellent post, but alas.

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  2. You manage to write interesting posts even from truncated playing experiences like this one. You are an amazingly good writer !

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  3. Sounds like a job for hex editing the save file. Saving the game, copying that save file elsewhere, taking one step and saving it again, and scanning the files for differences (one number incremented which would be X or Y position on the map). Then increment that number one more time to teleport past a wall.

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    1. I don't think the problem is that I need to go to a location that I can't reach. Every other dungeon has only offered three levels, and I've mapped three levels of the dungeon described above. The problem, I think, is that some encounter isn't triggering in that final room. In every other dungeon, the final room has given me the object that I need to get into the next dungeon. The overworld map has one more locked door, so I think I need a key. I can hex edit myself to a new position, but I can't hex edit an encounter to trigger.

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  4. That last sentence made me chuckle...

    Not trying to instigate a forty-posts-discussion, but wouldn't it be a good time to differentiate diskmag and shareware titles from professionally published ones, and only give them your 6-hour window to see if they bring anything new or interesting to the table? To speed things up, just a little?

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    1. Technically Chet has rule 4, in which he can reject independent and shareware titles, albeit the wording is weird. (I would think it covers quality too) I think for the most part its not really going to be an issue considering that most shareware titles are shorter than this and the ones that are longer tend to actually have something to them. But I must admit I don't have a complete memory of every shareware title.
      Now roguelikes, on the other hand...

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    2. I think part of the issue is that in this era, almost a majority of the burgeoning RPG market was made up of individual creators experimenting. The first few RPGs were college students playing around on their mainframes after all, and if we said "no goofy little one-man garage products" we wouldn't have covered the inception of RPGs. But at a certain point it does seem natural to start differentiating.

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    3. I agree, and somehow have to protect Tyrgus Horx - though I never played it. It’s a one-man-show of a game published in a way that people who couldn’t afford professional softwaremight enjoy it. All the titles I bought, as a pupil with pocket money, mind you, are of dubious to average quality. From 1989 when the Amiga and slightly later VGA MS-Dos games raised the quality dramatically (Wing Commander, Ultima VI, Speedball 2 etc.), those games simply couldn’t compete.
      Software programming had become a business with growing teams.

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    4. Oh wow… this is the first time in ages I am able to comment from my iPhone,
      Fincas Khalmoril

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    5. I suspect whether Chet invokes rule #4 will come down to things like: how strong the game's RPG credentials are, what country it comes from, and how annoyed it makes him (partly determined by what else he's playing at the time).

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    6. I always enjoy reading about the more obscure games. For some of these he is the only person who has documented them in detail.

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    7. As experience has shown, shareware titles tend to be derivative and time consuming - even though I enjoy discovering hidden gems on this blog as much as the next man, we (sorry, he) might enforce harsher rules concerning putting excessive time into amateur stuff than strictly necessary. Probably an eternal conflict/unsolvable dilemma type of topic...

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    8. Personally I feel like obscure amature games that don't offer anything new won't be a real problem until the blog gets to the point where RPG Maker games start popping up

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    9. It's interesting that several Build-Your-Own-RPG toolkits have appeared before RPG Maker, but either pretty much nothing was ever built with them, or nothing survived to nowadays's internet.

      I say this because 1991 game ZZT (which descends from the Rogue family but is not an RPG) does have an extensive modding scene even today.

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    10. Actually, I haven't been active in it for a while, but I believe there's still a thriving FRUA (Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures—the Gold Box "game kit" released after DQK) community, with various adventures and mods.

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    11. No. These offbeat games are the whole fun of this blog. More magazine games! More cassette games! More completely obscure titles that are covered nowhere else on the internet except for this blog!

      Hurry things up a bit‽ Whatever for‽ Is there some kind of time pressure? What are we hurrying to, exactly?

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    12. Good point, Harland… I guess we all want to reach the top games of today, but you are probably right. What will Chet (and everyone else) do then???

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    13. @Delvin good to hear that; do you have a link please?

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    14. I fully agree with Harland, and am more looking forward to interesting late 90s and early 00s indie titles that barely anyone played, rather than the big hitters like Baldur's Gate (in fact I don't care about that one at all since it's been covered so many times by so many people already)

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    15. Do you really want to rehash this discussion for the n-th time? The arguments and opinions are well known and have been exchanged often already:

      - 'Covering the obscure is what makes this blog special' vs '(Yes, but) we (also) want to read his specific views and style on the better known games even if they are already covered quite a bit elsewhere and if he covers everything, we'll never get there'.

      - 'He can always / just should use his '6 h rule' and/or option to reject games due to not being relevant or having anything interesting' vs 'Chet might still get stuck and frustrated on boring and repetitive clones nevertheless due to his penchant not to give up on games without a 'win''.

      etc. ... .

      Chet will decide how he'll handle it - in general or in each case, whenever he sees or feels the need to. And if he wants our views on it, he'll let us know or float it first with the Patreon subscribers.

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    16. @Radiant, This is just my observations on the subject, but I think there's a very good reason for that. Most of these engines were not very good, or the games they created were basically just inferior copies of commercial games they were based off of. Anyone trying to make a half-way decent game using one would find themselves working within very limited rules. Even if you aren't a coder it would be a simpler option to just learn to code over using one.
      Since then all the games were made by people satisfied with simplified versions of more popular titles, there wasn't really a lot of reason for people to play them, especially as those games were a bit passe back in the day. ZZT in comparison, well, if you can find the Best of ZZT compilation, you can see that those ZZT games could do some pretty impressive things. Things that other GCS couldn't do.

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    17. I agree with everyone, I like seeing the coverage of unknowns (to me at least) like Tygus Horx, and also the coverage of games like Ultima VII, which I've played. Chet has a unique perspective on RPGs, not to mention an experienced one that most people don't have, and is a good and entertaining writer to boot. However he handles his rules is fine, and more informed than any of us would.

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    19. Well, coming up on deck is a MacAddict magazine shareware special from 1993, Mechanical Anarchy, a pretty simple and wonky Mac game that I rescued from a shareware disc and put on Macintosh Garden. It was made with SuperCard, a commercial alternative to HyperCard with more features. That didn't really seem to help the game, but it was one of my favorites from back when I was a weird little kid of eight or nine, devouring any Mac shareware game I could find.

      I'd be perfectly happy with Chet doing a brief on it, but I also would understand if it didn't make the cut. It IS a bad game--mostly linear, open world (but a tiny world), you're basically stuck doing minor fetch quests, racing the clock before enemies become too strong to kill (they scale with you), and the battle system is barely any system at all.

      Still, it would be fun to at least see Chet cover forgotten shareware games, even briefly. A lot of these games are forgotten for good reason, but they are still a part of the historical record of RPGs, and mindlessly completing big projects, much like Chet mapping entire game levels, is kind of all of our collective thing. I'm happy either way, I suppose.

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  5. 'The Wanderers' - I'm pretty sure I've seen it, even though the movie I first thought of is actually called 'The Warriors' (directed by Walter Hill, also about street gangs).

    And now I've got the song in my head again ('The Wanderer', performed by Dion) . Who would have thought what a German BT clone can lead to... .

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    1. Well, a lot of us Germans are Wanderer (means hiker in German), I too am. So that's fitting I guess.

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    2. Immediately thought: "Wanderers, come out to play-ay".

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    3. That Dion song has always posed a mystery for me. When he tears open his shirt and he has "Rosie" on his chest, is that just another one of his many conquests? Or is that the one that really mattered--the woman whose disappearance or death made him "The Wanderer" despite his protestations that he's just that "type of guy"?

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    4. This must be that Rosie from the Spider Murphy Gang

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    5. lol. Perhaps a Whole Lotta Rosie from AC/DC?

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    6. @CK: Not sure anyone who didn't grow up (in a certain generation) in Germany would understand that comment.

      @Chet: Yeah, it's not really clear, but from the rest of the song I'd say the former. And this quote from Dion seems to confirm it: "The big inspiration was this kid in the neighborhood... I think his name was Jackie Burns. He was a sailor and he had tattoos all over him, like he had 'Flo' on his left arm, 'Mary' on his right. Janie was the girl that he was going to be with the next night and then he put 'Rosie' on his chest and he had it covered up with a battleship. Every time he went out with a girl, he got a new tattoo. So the guy was worth a song!""
      (https://www.songfacts.com/facts/dion/the-wanderer)

      Looking this up I just learned that in 2017, Dion DiMucci filed a lawsuit against video game publisher ZeniMax Media for the use of "The Wanderer" in the 2015 television commercials for Fallout 4. The lawsuit alleged the commercials "were objectionable because they featured repeated homicides in a dark, dystopian landscape, where violence is glorified as sport" as well as being "repugnant and morally indefensible". DiMucci invoked a clause that he wasn't given an opportunity to reject the ads and was seeking "in excess of $1 million" in damages for the association of his song with "immoral images". Arbitration was compelled (i.e. the court said an arbitration had to decide on the matter), no idea what became of that.

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    7. Realized again now that 'The Wanderers' has quite a number of well-known 60s songs in it: Stand by me (B.B. King), Shout (The Isley Brothers), Do You love me (The Contours), Tequila (The Champs), Wipe Out (The Surfaris), ... plus (not on the soundtrack album, but also in the movie) The Times They Are a-Changin' (Bob Dylan).

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    8. @Busca - Thanks for the Dion stuff, that's good info I never heard before. Pretty sure Stand By Me was Ben E. King, not B.B. King though.

      @fireball - you know Whole Lotta Rosie was autobiographical? Cool article: "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_Lotta_Rosie"

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  6. The two parts I got are "REST" and "IN." It doesn't take a lot to guess the third.

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    1. I mean, if I were the game designer I'd make the third word "PEAS" or "PIECES" or even "OPOSSUM" just to mess with players, and have the word "PEACE" lead to a dead end instead...

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  7. Hey, you get what you pay for. Don't look a gift Horx in the mouth.

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    1. You should really stop beating this dead horx.

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    2. You can take a horx to the water, but you cannot make him drink potions.

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  8. Most of us have seen The Warriors, I suppose. Perhaps it was influenced by The Wanderers. I am curious to check the latter out.

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    1. They came out the same year, so I suppose it's an early example of the Armageddon/Deep Impact phenomenon.

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    2. Deep Impact was the better movie!!

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    3. @CarlKontermann - I've never seen Deep Impact, but the Denny's I worked at in '99 had Armageddon on a tv on a weekend midnight. I noped out back to the dishroom. (I did meet my wife there though, so it wasn't all bad :)

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    4. @Carl: Although I never saw Deep Impact, saying it was the better movie isn't saying very much.

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    5. Armageddon is obviously crap but at least it isn't boring. Still, though, I suppose it would suck even worse if it didn't have the charisma of Bruce Willis to carry it.

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  9. So, what names did you settle on for the cats?

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  10. Fun little thing I noticed: Tygus Horx and Skara Brae have the exact same number of letters.

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    1. Interesting. Maybe there's some cryptographic key that gets you from one to the other.

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    2. I noticed that from the moment you made the Bard's Tale comparison with Skara Brae (which happens to be a real place). I always notice stuff like that. I mentally looked for ROT-13 type comparisons and didn't come up with anything.I must have OCD or something. Since I was 12 or so I started noticing when books had exactly 10 words per line.

      Whatever

      Oh Tygus Horx, late Felember, back in Tygus Horx...

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    3. With 10 letters (counting the space) it is pretty easy to construct a method that would map one word into the other, but it can't be a simple substitution cipher with a 1 to 1 mapping of letters. Skara Brae has 3 'a' which Tygus Horx has 3 different letters in those locations.

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