Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Game 488: Schelober's Quest for a Babe (1993)

Schelober's Quest for a Babe
United States
3DK (developer); released as shareware
Released 1993 for Amiga
Date Started: 10 March 2023
Date Ended: 10 March 2023
Total Hours: 4
Difficulty: Moderate (3.0/5)
Final Rating: 15
Ranking at Time of Posting: 91/508 (18%)
Schelober's Quest for a Babe is a weird game from a weird set of developers who came together to create a weird company. The three of them--David Boelema (design), David Timmer (programming), and David Huang (graphics)--were all named "David," so you imagine that the "3D" part of the Michigan-based "3DK" stood for "3 Davids." As for the "K" part, their old website (which was up through 2018) said that it was too long a story and we could just assume it stood for "khaos."
The credits help explain the company's name.
"Khaos" is a good descriptor of the, uh, "company," which had several projects other than its one attempt at an RPG, but I honestly can't explain any of them. They invested money and time in a series of short films called Ninja Chaos (you can see the fifth here), which purport to poke fun at cheesy ninja movies but . . . don't quite do that. They had an "antigravity project" that consisted of pumping 40,000 volts into aluminum foil wrapped around balsa wood. And they sold "merchandise" through CafePress that consisted largely of t-shirts that read, for some reason, "Dave B. in your face!" Since 2018, the site simply shows an image of a notebook and an email address at the domain m-e-o-w.com. That domain, in turn, consists of a blog from the perspective of a cat.
Given all of this, Schelober is a surprisingly competent, if basic, game about a caveman who hopes to attract a mate by finding all five parts of the "ultimate mating call burp." (A long belch also accompanies the title screen.) It's somewhat of the "gauntlesque" variety, with the single character wandering through mazes of not-very-paleolithic dungeons and contending with locked doors, pressure plates, hidden switches, and illusory walls. As he explores, he finds keys, "bucks," and "chunks," the latter two supplies used to bribe his way through some doors or to purchase items in the game's one shop.
Finding some items in a dungeon.
Control is entirely through a joystick, which the game sells as a feature. "No annoying keyboard commands," it specifically says. This makes me roll my eyes, but I admit that in Schelober, there really isn't enough interface complexity to require anything more than four directions and a button. Holding down the joystick button calls up a menu where you can manage inventory and save the game.
Bashing a slime.
Schelober differs from its Gauntlet/Dandy roots in combat. Instead of using the main exploration screen, the game takes you to a separate side-view screen for battles. You can move back and forth in relation to your foe and hit the button to attack. If Schelober is close to his foe, his attack will be a two-handed wallop with a club. If he's not in range, the attack is a scream that kicks the enemy back a bit and damages him for 2 hit points. The only "tactics" are whether to close the distance quickly or try to maintain a range; this choice comes down to whether the enemy has a ranged attack itself. 
Screaming at a "land sharc"--which is just a shark flopping about on land.
I would have loved to BRIEF this one, but Schelober unfortunately gains (hidden) experience for every enemy he kills and slowly increases both maximum health and strength. Most enemies respawn, too, so the player could grind. It thus meets my technical definitions of an RPG, but you can see how this type of game is so different from something like Serpent Isle that it's basically absurd we regard them as part of the same genre.
The game begins in the upper-right corner of Loberland. Even this "overworld" map is basically a dungeon, with movement restricted by walls, chasms, and slopes. Some of the slopes you can go down but not up, which adds a navigational challenge. Monsters don't appear in the overworld initially, but eventually something triggers them. Scattered across this map are entrances to the five "carbonated caverns"--multi-leveled dungeons in which you find components of the ultimate burp. A sixth dungeon serves as a "store," with doors to various treasures unlocked with combinations of keys, bucks, and chunks. There's even a "bank" where you can store excess items. Banks for retrieving these items occasionally appear in dungeons.
Starting out.
The dungeon levels are quite large. I paced off one at 100 x 100 (the exploration window shows 7 x 7 at any given time). The number of enemies is modest, and they don't respawn unless you leave the level. The game otherwise saves the dungeon state, so you can't farm the same chests or key locations. The puzzles aren't terribly hard--at worst, you have to search for a barely-visible switch or bump the walls looking for an illusory one. The harder part is simply getting lost. Ten thousand tiles are too many to map but also too many to be sure you'll find everything if you adopt a right-wall or left-wall approach. 
It's easy to get lost in this game.
You have an inventory of 21 slots. You find items in dungeon rooms and on slain enemies. There are also several items in the shop. Most of what I found were potions, most of which heal, but some of which are poison. There's no way to visually tell the difference. I never figured out what most of the other items do, including spectacles, dynamite, and "mystic tree stumps." Some of them clearly have an effect that appears for a while in the "Items in Use" bar, but I never saw any difference. Spectacles do not show illusory walls and dynamite cannot be used to blast open doors or walls. I did determine that a "mass spectrometer" allows you to distinguish healing potions from poison.
The game's "shop." You don't buy items directly. Instead, you pay to enter the door so you can pick up the item. It's like the game is trying to get around some kind of tax law.
Combat is mostly a one-enemy-at-a-time experience. Sometimes, you'll face multiple enemies in one area, but it's usually possible to retreat or avoid multiple combats in a row. This is good because in the early game, you almost always have to chug a potion between each combat. If you have no potions, health regenerates slowly on its own, so you can walk back and forth for a few minutes. Enemies are weird and amusing but not tactically interesting.
"Melvin" is a skeleton wearing a hat and carrying a briefcase. For some reason, Schelober punches him instead of bashing him with a club.
I played long enough to find the first burp part--some kind of carbonated beverage--and imagined finding the rest of them. I even started to make maps. As I did so, I began to compose the winning blog entry in my head. It was going to start something like this:
I don't believe in an afterlife, but I sometimes like to imagine what one might look like. In one of my imaginary versions of hell, all the people you love are in the next room. You can hear them calling out for you. You can open the door and go see them--right after you've re-experienced all the things you did that kept you from spending time with them while you were alive. In my case, those years of torture are going to start with all the time I spent creating maps in order to find the five parts of a burp.
Fortunately, I had a moment of self-reflection, and I realized that I should take a lesson from that planned paragraph, stop playing the game, and go spend some time with Irene. But later that night, I was back playing Serpent Isle, so it wasn't quite the epiphany that it could have been.
Schelober probably shouldn't mate anyway.
If you want to try this one for yourself, be aware that 3DK (which also went by "threedeekay") put out a one-level demo called Schelober's Quest for Schelober's Quest for a Babe in 1992. The goal in the demo is to find the full version of the game. Amiga World gave the game a quick review in April 1993, and the reviewer loved it: "Great fun, and well-executed fun at that, as you send this little Simpsons-skinned caveman around collecting [items]." The review described it as "a more arcade-like version of DarkSpyre."

It gets a 15 on the GIMLET with mostly 1s and 2s. The type of player who thinks that most games Take Themselves Too Seriously will probably give it a few more points. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense that I'd be willing to spend 20 hours playing a game with the same mechanics where the goal is to recover the Amulet of Yendor instead of a burp, but there it is.


  1. No worries, I think you've given the game all the time it deserves.

    Is "lober" supposed to be a word or place? The only thing I find when googling is a meme with a blue lobster.

    "It thus meets my technical definitions of an RPG, but you can see how this type of game is so different from something like Serpent Isle that it's basically absurd we regard them as part of the same genre."
    I have the same feeling when it comes to roguelikes or Diablo and clones but I'm probably in the minority with that opinion.

    1. A Schell Ober is a specific card in the Bavarian playing card deck. Probably unrelated.

    2. Maybe a play on lotr Shelob

    3. I figured it was a play on something like "schlub." It has kind of a dumb, brutish sound to it.

    4. I wouldn't write off the possibility of it having something to do with the playing card. Lots of Germans in the upper Midwest, and some of them play card games their ancestors brought over (like Sheepshead, based on Schafkopf). "Funny-sounding word Grandpa used to say while playing cards" seems as likely a source as any.

      Also, I don't know the game of Schafkopf myself, and this is a stretch, but it seems like many of the player nicknames for the Ober of Bells are insulting ones (I guess it's a bad card?): "the Round Man, the Bump, the Mean One... the Shoddy One, the Never-Won"... kind of sound like our hero, perhaps?

    5. If it's anything like Doppelkopf, which I think it is, the Obers are the highest trump cards, but the Schellober is the lowest of the Obers. So the names sound like complaining on a high level.

  2. "3Decay"?

    Well, at the very least it was something different and somewhat original, I wouldn't have expected that from an independent 1993 Shareware RPG with such a title...

  3. I have nothing meaningful to say about this quest to "in order to find the five parts of a burp" (quoting you) but found this on the Internet. It's fun.

    Soup On Sunday Night

    One Sunday night at our place
    The family gathered round
    Mum made Minestrone soup
    And we ate like hungry hounds

    Mum and Dad and Grandma
    Uncle Dave and Grace
    Me, and little sister Meg
    Bowls and spoons in place

    You could hear the clinking of the spoons
    Slurps and swallows too
    Such a winter warmer
    With plenty for me - and you.

    Then from the head of the table
    Grandma rose from her chair.
    We all put down our soupy spoons
    And at her we did stare.

    From her mouth did tumble
    Not a single word,
    But instead the biggest, loudest BURP
    That we had ever heard.

    It rattled the windows.
    It slammed shut the door.
    I doubt that a burp
    Has ever done more.

    The table lamp flickered.
    The cat dashed for cover.
    We all looked aghast
    Especially, Mother.

    We stared in amazement
    At what had beset her.
    But Grandma just smiled
    And announced- Ah, that feels better!

  4. Looks like his attack is a belch, too.

  5. This game is so incredibly 90s that it actually hurts.

  6. At least the original's better than the sequel where the two are married and the Babe has to find him instead. The Hunt for Wed Schelober can probably be left off the list.

    1. [outraged reaction that is meant to be pleasing to you]

    2. Not to mention the spin-offs 'Clear and Present Lober' and 'Belching Games'. ... Ok, sorry, seems the game's level is rubbing off.

  7. "Men are not punished for their sins, but by them."

  8. It's maybe an interesting sign of the times (globalization and Amiga distribution) that this / such a game not only made it to France (at least the demo version is listed in ad catalogues there in 1995), but also already in 1993 shows up in magazines in Hungary and Serbia (or FRY at that time, I suppose) and even gets a full page review in a Turkish one (https://archive.org/details/amiga-dergisi/Amiga-Dergisi-005-1993-Haziran/page/n71/mode/1up?q=Schelober). Though that latter appears to be rather descriptive in nature and didn't give it a glowing score.

  9. A typical example of the common amiga user being immature and unsophisticated. The game itself also looks like the regular amiga people, rather dull.

    1. This is such a weird comment. Are you trying to pick a fight with someone 30 years ago?

    2. This is a retro blog so let us have a retro quarrel.

    3. (this comment is only for the commoners among amiga fans)
      Oxford dictionary describes quarrel
      "a heated argument or disagreement, typically about a trivial issue and between people who are usually on good terms."


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