Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Horror House (1983)

This week, we're entering the Horror House, another contest entry from The Rainbow Book of Adventures, published in 1983 as both a magazine-style "book" collecting the type-in listings and a collection on tape or disk, ready to run.  This adventure was written in BASIC by Robert W. Mangum II.




I couldn't initially get the game running on the VCC CoCo emulator running Disk Extended Basic -- I was stuck on a series of flashing pink and green screens, which I was supposed to use to select one of the available text mode color sets.  Starting the program up with RUN 5 instead skips over a POKE command that may have been the source of my problem, skips the author's time-consuming title screen, and gets us underway more quickly. 

Horror House is a text adventure/RPG hybrid -- several screens of instructions establish that we're exploring a monster-infested house, where we have to PUNCH or HIT the monsters to defeat them without running out of hit points ourselves.  Our health regenerates at 1 point per ten turns, and every 50 turns one of the monsters is reincarnated.  After all the monsters are vanquished, we're told that the computer will be destroyed by an explosion.  Scary!  We can also REST once to regain all of our HP and reincarnate all of the monsters.  The parser vocabulary is helpfully displayed, limited to MOVE/PULL/PUSH, PUT/LEAVE/DROP, N/S/E/W for navigation, INSERT, LOOK, REST, and GET/TAKE.


This one's actually fairly fun to play -- success is partially random due to the combat-heavy gameplay, but it's a pleasant diversion and I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying it out.  As always, my further notes here will detail my entire experience in the Horror House.  So if you want to experience it firsthand, step away and go do so, because otherwise you will be subjected to the comprehensive...

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



As the game starts up, it becomes clear that the rooms are very generic, with no descriptions of specific locations -- we have to differentiate rooms based on the exit list and any objects that happen to be present, so mapping is a necessity.  The first room has exits to the north and west, and we can see the closed, locked door we just came in through.  We can't KICK DOOR or OPEN DOOR, and if we try to PUNCH DOOR, IT IS NOT HEREHIT DOOR suggests that YOU MUST HAVE THE SWORD, so finding that may be our most pressing need at the moment.

There's a hideous statue in the room to the west; we can MOVE STATUE to find a blue coin underneath it, but the statue also comes to life!  Fortunately it's not a very formidable foe -- it kept missing me while I slowly PUNCHed it to death.  And we might as well TAKE BLUE COIN (TAKE COIN doesn't work, the parser considers it to be a BLUE COIN and not a COIN.)

North of the entrance is a room with exits in all four directions.  Heading east and south, we discover a room with a vending machine and a giant crab.  The crab is a more formidable foe -- I had to fight pretty hard and lost about a third of my health before killing it.  The vending machine reads, "DRINK CREATURE COLA."  I tried to INSERT BLUE COIN, but while the machine accepted it nothing seemed to happen as a result.

There's nothing in the room to the west of the four-way room, and the north exit leads to a T-shaped room with exits east and west.  East is a bedroom, where I run into the giant crab again.  After killing it, we can MOVE BED to find an exit to the west, leading to a gargoyle.  He's a pretty tough customer, so I'll gamble and try leaving the gargoyle room to the north -- the monster doesn't actually block our way, so we're free to explore some more.

We're in another T-shaped room, and east/southeast down a bit of a hall I encounter a minotaur... and a sword!  Killing the minotaur takes a little bit of time, and these random battles prove to be rather comical, as both the player and monster spend a lot of time missing each other, with both combatants much less competent than fantasy lore would have one believe.  The sword bears the legend, "MONSTER SLAYER," just in case we didn't think to use it that way.

There's a computer in a room to the south, and while we're pondering that, A SNAKE JUST ENTERED ROOM!  It seems some of these monsters are of the wandering variety.  The computer is a 64K COLOR COMPUTER.  I try to READ COMPUTER, and the parser takes it as REST, so I am back up to full health but all of the monsters are alive again.  Curses!

Well, I'm not really trying to kill all of the monsters yet -- I'm just trying to map the place out.  I find a room on the west side of the house containing a rat and a cassette tape.  Killing the rat isn't too difficult, and we'll TAKE CASSETTE; it's labeled 5452532D3830, which if we assume these are two-character hexadecimal ASCII codes, translates to... TRS-80.  So it's not much of a clue.

There are some suspicious holes in what appears to be a 6 x 5 map on my graph paper, so it's not too surprising that when we INSERT CASSETTE in the computer room, a new exit opens up to the east.  We meet a goblin here, another toughish customer to dispatch, and can wander into the southern central area of the map to meet a zombie guarding a gold coin.  I'm not sure if we're supposed to want these treasures, but we might as well take it along after dealing with the walking dead.

There's only one room we haven't explored yet, it appears, in the southeast corner of the house, where an orc lives.  None of these monsters are too difficult to kill, but we do have to be careful as some of them can do a fair amount of damage if by chance they connect with an attack.  We've explored the map, as far as I can tell, so it's time to wander around and kill all of the beasties.

It appears that the living statue does not return to life after being terminated, or else it wanders off after it's reincarnated.  I do meet a new monster -- a skeleton in the vending machine room I managed not to run into before.  I dispatch it, and the giant crab, without too much trouble, and then run into the rat again.  This time I get it down to 1 hit point, and it runs away!  When I catch up with it, it's in the same room as the zombie and the gargoyle, and together they manage to overpower me before I can kill them all.

Trying again from the beginning -- there's no SAVE GAME in this brief adventure -- I kill the statue and gargoyle by punching, then use the sword to slay the minotaur, the statue (again, it does indeed reincarnate), the snake, the rat, the goblin, the orc, and the zombie.  I'm missing the crab and the skeleton, I think.  While looking for them, I find and kill the rat again, and the minotaur again, and the crab, and the minotaur a third time, and the crab a second time.  It appears that the monsters are not forced to actually navigate the maze, but can reincarnate at any random location.

So where is the skeleton?  While I'm looking for it, I find a PILE OF JUNK has materialized in one of the rooms, and LOOK PILE reveals a red coin.  Ah, this is the computer room!  So we must have destroyed all of the monsters, and the computer has exploded as promised.  Can we open the closed door by the entrance now?  Nope.

What else?  I am not seeing any monsters lately, so I think we have indeed dispatched them all, even though I never ran into the skeleton this time.  Let's try putting all three coins into the vending machine... and yes, A KEY FALLS TO THE FLOOR.  (We can't see it in the room if we LOOK after this happens, but we can still TAKE KEY successfully.)

Now we just have to INSERT KEY at the closed door, with no pesky monsters bothering us on the way there, and we can escape to victory!



Horror House isn't much of an adventure game, but it makes effective use of limited computing resources to present a simple, entertaining monster hunt.  The battles are randomized enough to provide some close calls and drama, and the timed reincarnation of the monsters makes the final leg of the trip fairly tough, though the final journey to victory is comparatively relaxing once all the monsters are dead.  Not a lost classic, but Mr. Mangum's game is fun and certainly not terrible by magazine type-in standards.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Mystic Mansion (1983)

This week, my TRS-80 Color Computer adventuring binge continues, as we tackle Chris Hawks' Mystic Mansion, published in 1983.  It's a menu-driven illustrated adventure, with no parser per se, written in BASIC with picture files loaded from disk.  I've been reading some old issues of the CoCo magazine The Rainbow lately, and this game was being advertised for sale circa early 1983, but I hadn't run across it in my travels until just now.


The opening instructions tell us we must escape the mansion, which was built by AN EVIL MAN!!!, and escape the island where the mansion stands as well.  It's pretty standard escape-the-house fare.

I'm not going to recommend that anyone else tackle Mystic Mansion, as the design really doesn't play fair -- the puzzles are straightforward, but the game is very strict about how and when we do things.  There are invisible triggers that make no story sense, and I had to dig into the code several times to figure out how to finish it even when I knew what I was trying to do.  It is entirely possible to complete the game without cheating, but it's not easy to pull off without a lot of tedious repetition.  So to save humanity the pain of actually playing Mystic Mansion, I invite everyone to jump straight into the...

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

  
We begin in the Mystic Mansion's Drawing Room, and can choose to go through the green door (G), the red door (R) or (U)p the stairs.  The game is entirely prompt driven, with a limited menu of choices provided in each location and the occasional Y/N question.  For the sake of brevity (I know, not my style!) I'll omit listing the menu options and just discuss the actions we can take along the way.

The green door leads to the Master Bedroom, where we can examine a picture, look out the window, check out the closet or go back through the green door.  The picture depicts a sun, with text suggesting THE WAY OUT IS A LOWLY ONE  -- LOOK IN AN UNKNOWN PLACE FOR THE KEY.  The window provides a view of a lake with a sailboat.  The closet contains another small door -- we can enter, it's not locked, but it's too dark to see inside at the moment.

The drawing room's red door leads to the Parlor, and it appears we can't go back directly, at least at first.  A window here is painted over, or is just a painting, the text isn't very clear; the picture on the wall depicts a sunrise, with no visible text or other details.  A green door here leads to the Kitchen -- windows look out on a tree-speckled hillside, and examining the cabinets turns up a lamp, always helpful.  And the parlor's blue door leads back to the drawing room -- the door is just painted red on one side, blue on the other.  Whew!

Let's head upstairs before we try our luck in the closet with the lamp.  A picture in the Upstairs Hall looks very much like the one in the parlor.  A red door provides access to the Study, where we find a book called "FALL OF ROMAN EMPIRE," apparently abridged or written by the Incredible Hulk.  The window offers the same view of the hillside we saw from the kitchen -- it seems the uncompressed picture file approach has its limitations.  A closet in the study is locked, so we'll return to the hall and take the blue door into a Small Bedroom, sharing the view visible from the master bedroom; a box here contains a gold chain.

It seems we're rapidly exhausting the options here, so let's take our lamp through the closet's little doorway.  This is a Secret Room!  There are two items here we can examine -- a chest and a sack.  The chest offers -- !!!!SPIDERS!!!!, whose bite puts us to sleep for a while, presented as a lengthy pause in the gameplay.  When we examine the sack, we find a key.  So let's go upstairs and try the key on the locked closet in the study.

The spider bites persist, it seems, so we're forced to sleep every now and then though it seems there are no fatal side effects... oh, wait, that was apparently only temporary.  We eventually do die, so next life we'll avoid opening the chest at all.

Now this gets interesting -- my second venture suggests that some things are randomized?  The box in the small bedroom upstairs is empty this time, although the lamp is where it was before, in the kitchen cabinet.  The sack is also empty, but the chest contains spiders again, dang it.  Or... wait, things are randomized each time we look?  Trying the box again, I find the gold chain again.  And the sack now yields a key.  Strange.  But I again die of spider bites while trying to reach the closet to try the key, so I'll restart from a fresh run this time.

Even with freshly initialized variables, the sack can be empty when we're expecting to find a key based on previous experience.  And it seems to stay empty now.  So some event must trigger the sack to contain the key.  Interesting.  Trying the locked closet door doesn't seem to be a factor, nor does finding the gold chain.  Well, this is a fine kettle of arachnids -- it seems we have to get bitten by the spiders in order to find the key!

Fighting our way through spider-sleep, we at last unlock the study closet, and fall down into the darkness... saved by the snagging of our gold chain on a root!  We can crawl through a hole here to find ourselves in the BASMENT [sic].

A box on the floor is nailed shut, but a shelf contains a prying bar so we can open the box.  Inside is a trap door, which we can choose to enter or not.  It leads into a tunnel with light at the end, but we find a note saying we have to touch the mystic medallion to the door, a gewgaw we do not have, so we're forced to turn back.  And now I'm dead, yet again, of spider bites.

This time I'll do a full reset of the virtual CoCo before I start, in case the code doesn't properly initialize memory.  And... the sack is empty, again, until I open the chest and take my spider bites, at which point the sack magically reveals the key.  And this time, the box is empty, so I don't see any way to keep myself from falling eternally down the closet hole.  Ack!

I think it's time to peek at the code -- I feel like the designer is being unfair, so I'm going to return the favor.  We can only survive four spider bites, and yes, the key cannot be found until we have been bitten once.  And the gold chain only appears if LP = 1 -- meaning it's only available after we pick up the lamp but before we pick up the key; I just lucked into the right order the first time I played.  (I'm also going to edit line 1920 to increase the spider bite survival time -- I'm hoping there's an antidote somewhere in the game, but since we can't save a game in progress I'd like to survive a little longer while figuring this out.  I also edited line 1940 to shorten the spider bite sleep time, which can be up to a minute normally and really slows down the gameplay.)

After getting back to where we were the last time we succumbed, I check out the drain hole in the basement again -- and it seems every time we do this, we get bitten by a spider, so it's a very easy way to die quickly.  Going through the door leads us back into the house, apparently.  I check the pictures and windows again while we're here to see if we can find that medallion the note mentioned, to no avail.  And when we fall through the closet a second time, the chain no longer saves us, and we fall to our doom... or, at least, we are advised to WRITE WHEN YOU GET TO CHINA!
Another try... avoiding the door in the basement this time, we'll explore the trap door in the box.  This is just the tunnel where we need the mystic medallion to proceed.  And it seems we can only pry the box open to go through the trap door one time, as well, so we really need the medallion before we enter the closet.  Aggravating.  Ah, wait, we can look at the shelf again to regain the prying bar and reuse it.  So this one isn't so bad, then... although it seems we still go into the tunnel, whether we answer Y or N to the prompt asking us if we want to when we open the box.  And we also learn that the basement door actually transports us to a random location in the mansion.

Before I die this time, I examine the painted window in the parlor -- and lo and behold, this time we find the fabled medallion!  How odd, I'm sure I checked this earlier.  And the box upstairs no longer holds the gold chain, and as there's no visible inventory I'm not sure if it survived the earlier fall, so I'm not quite sure how to approach that issue.  I fear it's time to cheat some more... the code indicates that we can only find the medallion if DR=1, a variable set when we approach the end of the tunnel but don't have it with us.  No a priori knowledge allowed.

I'm fed up enough with this game's demands that I'm ready to seriously cheat, breaking out of the code and setting DR=1 manually in the early going so I can get the medallion.  With that simplification, all we really have to do is reach the basement and go through the tunnel to the waiting sailboat -- victory is ours!



Feeling more than a little guilty, I spent some additional time poring over the BASIC code and experimenting with the game, trying to figure out if I had missed some more natural solution.  It actually is possible to win playing by the rules, but we have to do everything exactly as the game demands.  The key is to avoid traversing the spider bite locations more than once -- they are not timed, but location-triggered -- after we've examined the chest, and to be lucky enough that the magic door doesn't drop us in the wrong location.  Passing through the door resets the bite count to one, but if we land in the drawing room (as I did my first time getting that far) we'll get bitten three more times, twice in the drawing room and once in the study, and thus die before we can make it back to the tunnel.  We also have to be careful with the chain due to a bug that I didn't realize I was running into -- if we already have the chain, but we examine the box in the small bedroom, we'll be told the box is empty; but when we leave the room, we'll actually lose the gold chain!

This was more of a meta-adventure than a legitimate experience; I think I spent more time examining the source code than actually playing the game.  Perhaps it's a meta-reference, and the game itself was also written by AN EVIL MAN!!!  In the end, the most mystifying thing about Mystic Mansion is that the game retailed for $29.95 back in the day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Polynesian Adventure (1983)

Last week's excursion into Lurkley Manor inspired me to seek out further TRS-80 Color Computer adventures from the pages of The Rainbow magazine; I had almost forgotten that several adventure-focused issues were published over the years.  I tracked down a readable PDF file of the January 1983 adventure issue, and was actually considering typing in one of the contest-winning games the old-fashioned way.  But further research turned up a collection of disk image files containing the entire Rainbow Book of Adventures, including eleven more contest entries which were described but not printed in the magazine.  And so it is that this week, as a more-or-less random selection, we're playing through Polynesian Adventure, submitted by Don Dunlap.



The interface borrows from the Scott Adams style, with an upper window displaying location, obvious exits, and objects, and a bottom section for command entry and feedback.  It runs at good speed for a BASIC game, and while the simple music commended by the Rainbow judges at the time no longer impresses, Polynesian Adventure remains an attractively presented game that fits the CoCo's limited 32x16-character text mode well.

Interested readers are encouraged to take a Polynesian Adventure of their own before reading my playthrough notes below, of course.  It's not a difficult game at all -- most of the treasures are simply lying around for the taking, the map is not large, and there are no fatal puzzles.  But simplicity can be deceptive; I tripped myself up near the end by assuming I was keeping all the details straight in my head, when I should have been drawing a map.  At any rate, my experience (embarrassing details and all) is documented below, and therefore there are certain to be...

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






We begin at a Polynesian Treasure House, though there are no treasures visible here, so we'll step outside to the south.  This brings us to a road, where a Trans Am car looks interesting; there's no EXAMINE verb, but if we GO CAR we can LOOK COMPARTMENT to examine the glove compartment.  Inside is a boarding pass, which we will presumably be needing at some point.  We can try to DRIVE, but I CAN'T DO THAT.

Getting out of the car proves a bit of a puzzle -- there are no obvious exits, and EXIT, GET OUT and OPEN DOOR all fail miserably.  We have to GO OUT, at which point we can explore a discount store to the west to pick up an empty gas can, and a gas station to the east where we can FILL CAN.  Oddly, if we try to FILL CAR now, we're told that YOU'RE MISSING SOMETHING, but we can FILL TANK successfully; it seems the parser often focuses on the verb and a small collection of valid objects, which sometimes leads to strange behavior.  The display doesn't always indicate nearby objects, either, so we have to remember what we're doing and where we are on our own sometimes.

With a full gas tank, we can DRIVE to find ourselves on a pier near a boat.  It turns out to be the Love Boat (remember, this was 1983) -- it's not very big, with just a dining room and a hallway leading to the cabins for us to explore.  READ PASS tells us that our cabin number is G7 and our table is A1, so we can go to the dining room, GO A1, steal the *SILVERWARE* there, and then go the cabins and GO G7 to get our voyage underway... and pocket the *GOLD NECKLACE* apparently provided in lieu of a complimentary mint.  We achieve no SCORE for just picking these things up, though; we'll probably have to take them back to the Polynesian Treasure House at the end of our voyage.

Our first stop on this cruise brings us to a Samoan Village, where we see a pink hibiscus.  We can't TAKE it, LOOK at it or MOVE it, but if we SMELL it we are stung by a bee and rushed back aboard the boat for medical treatment.  Fortunately, this doesn't otherwise interfere with our adventuring.  We can see a FIRE KNIFE DANCER in the community house, though we can't GIVE him or her a treasure or anything.  And we can GET PEARLS from the council house, robbing the local community of its poorly-guarded assets.  We'll GO BOAT this time, even though it's not immediately clear that we can do that, to save ourselves the sting and ensuing medical treatment.

We GO G7 again, and when we emerge from our cabin and debark again, we find ourselves near a Maori village, with a colorful red tulip tree at hand, the smelling of which earns us nothing but another bee sting.  We can loot the local museum of its *VALUABLE RELICS*, without a second thought, although at this point we learn that YOU'RE TOO WEAK TO CARRY ANYMORE, i.e., we've hit the game's five-item inventory limit.  We'll have to risk leaving our treasures in our cabin, it seems, and as there's no SAVE game command and entering the cabin automatically moves us along to the next stop on the cruise, I'll just start over in case we can't come back here later.

Our next stop turns out to be Fiji, where a beautiful plumeria tempts us into getting stung once again.  The local chief's house sports *A DIAMOND HEADED SPEAR*, and a nearby hut contains Tonga coins which are not denoted as a treasure.  We'll steal them anyway, since we're not like those other suckers on this trip who are probably just here for the scenery.

Next up, Tahiti, where *A HAWAIIAN ORCHID* greets us -- it can also result in a sting, but we'll steal it as subtly suggested by the glittering asterisks.  In a prayer house to the south, a group of Boy Scouts is singing "Kum Ba Ya," and we can lift an *EXQUISITE CARVING OF A FISH* from a fisherman's house to the east.  Back to the boat!

We now find ourselves in a Tonga village -- maybe we need to spend those coins here.  There's a waterfall here, and for once in adventuring history we can't GO WATERFALL to reach a hidden cave of any kind.  A Queen's Bedroom to the south contains a bird of paradise, though the parser doesn't recognize BIRD as a noun so we can't really interact with it.  A Tongan Festival offers FREE HULA LESSONS, but we can't TAKE LESSONS or LEARN HULA just for fun.  No treasures here, apparently -- maybe we've been preceded by fellow looters.

Next stop -- Marquesas!  An active volcano looks scary, and in a cooking house to the south we can see *A GOLD KNIFE (VERY HOT)*, too hot to GET, apparently.  There's a guest house to the east of the cooking house, a tattooing house north of that, and a warrior's house to the east of the tattooing house, where we can acquire *AN EMERALD STATUE*.  We'll have to come back for the knife when we can figure out a solution; for now we'll proceed to...

Our original location again!  Of course, we aren't carrying our treasures, having left them in the cabin, so we'll have to tour the circuit again until we can unload.  We'll do that, returning to our cabin six times to complete the trip, and then DRIVE back to the Polynesian Treasure House.  Dropping the four treasures we can carry (along with our boarding pass, which it seems we ought to keep) gets us up to a SCORE of 40 out of 100, so there must be ten treasures to collect, of which we have found eight so far.

On our next circuit, let's see if we can do something with the Tonga coins.  We can't GIVE or THROW them to the fire knife dancer, and DROP COINS doesn't catch anyone's attention either.  The Boy Scouts aren't interested in our money, and the game's design, which plays a room's theme music whenever the location is entered or re-displayed, forces us to listen to three renditions of Kum Ba Ya while we DROP and GET our coins back.  Our money is no good at the Tongan Festival either.  But while I'm here, I realize that I forgot to head east from the Queen's bedroom, into the Queen's Bed.  There's a *BEAUTIFUL WOVEN MAT* here, which we can steal.  Fortunately there don't seem to be any antiquities officials on the lookout for globe-trotting, heritage-plundering adventurers like us!

We can't READ MAT -- it just reads our boarding pass instead, another case of a single-purpose verb.  The hot knife can't be KICKed or MOVEd or BLOWn on or FANned, it seems, and I can't find a way to carry water from the waterfall to cool it down.  Trying to PICK KNIFE provokes another verb anomaly and gets us sent back to the boat, as it is unlawful to pick flowers.

Four more treasures dropped off gets us up to 80 points, and it occurs to me that the gas can, now empty, might be useful for carrying water.  But we can't seem to FILL CAN at the waterfall, or GET WATER either; the gas can can only be used to carry gas, it seems.  The fire knife dancer might be able to handle the hot knife... but we can't PAY DANCER, GET DANCER, ASK DANCER, or TALK DANCER... so that doesn't seem like a good idea.

And I seem to have misplaced the Tonga Coins altogether somewhere along the way... hmmmm.  I guess it's time to cheat and peek at the original BASIC listing from the Rainbow Book of Adventures.  We're on the right track with the idea of using water to cool the knife, some text fragments suggest, but we have to jump through a few hoops now.  I had filled the gas can at the station again, and while we can't FILL TANK at the pier to empty it, we can do so after we drive back to the road where we first found the car.

Now that we have an empty can again, where can we fill it with water?  I've tried the pier, the boat's boarding area, and the waterfall location.  The FILL CAN code only responds in locations 3 and 17; 3 is the gas station, and 17 is the... lagoon?  Where is there a lagoon???

Oh, man, it's right there, just east of the Maori museum!  I guess I was too busy helping myself to the relics to finish my map -- actually, because this game only has a handful of locations, I hadn't even bothered to draw a map.  My mistake -- my incomplete tracking of the obvious exits displayed onscreen made for tougher going than necessary.

Now we can FILL CAN at the lagoon, POUR CAN on the hot knife (we're not allowed to do this when the can contains gas), take the now-cold knife, and deliver it to the Treasure House.



The final tune, for some reason, is Amazing Grace -- I don't feel particularly amazing or graceful.  But victory is ours!



Some non-commercial adventure games are really easy, and Polynesian Adventure is hardly difficult, but my experience here confirms that observation always remains important, even when there are no mazes and the puzzle solutions seem obvious.  Mr. Dunlap's effort provided a pleasant evening's diversion, and I'm planning to dig into some of the other Rainbow magazine adventures now that I've located this treasure trove.  Forward, into the past!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Lurkley Manor (1985)

This week, I'm dipping into the TRS-80 Color Computer archives again, to play a game I only vaguely remembered from back in the day -- an illustrated adventure called Lurkley Manor, written by Richard Ramella and published in a 1985 issue of The Rainbow magazine circa as a type-in listing.  (Mr. Ramella also wrote a book called Computer Carnival: Sixty Programs for Starters, published in 1982.)  As we might expect, this game is written in BASIC with simple code-drawn vector/fill illustrations, and if personal memory serves, I started to type it in once upon a time but either never finished or never actually played the game.  So I'm glad to have the opportunity to take a look at it now.




As the game begins, a hunchbacked Igor character appears to tell us that we must find the attic to escape!  He also mentions that we can navigate with N, E, W, S commands, and that we always face north as far as the illustrations are concerned.  The engine is a little odd -- it displays text, then erases it, so it was a little tricky to take notes for this blog entry.  But most of the text just describes the location, followed by a DIRECTION? or situational action prompt.  There's no real parser here, just prompts -- and we do have to be careful, as N can mean North or No depending on the prompt at hand, and some responses are fatal.  There's also no save-game feature, so we have to be doubly careful (or use a virtual machine with save state capability, something the VCC emulator I'm running lacks.)

I usually advise readers to visit these worlds before proceeding below, as much of the fun of adventure gaming is in the firsthand experience, and reading about my experiences may be more entertaining after you've had your own.  But Lurkley Manor is fairly linear -- we have some freedom to explore, but key actions must be accomplished in a certain order, and successful approaches will tend to be very much the same.  So feel free to proceed into all of the...

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



We begin in the Great Hall, where a flickering mess of magenta lines suggests the flames of a roaring fireplace.  We can go east to the scullery, and further east to a parapet, where we are warned that IT'S HUNDREDS OF FEET DOWN to the north, south, and east.  If we try to go E anyway, a ghost appears, warning us to RECONSIDER.  Going N after the warning causes the ghost to be redrawn with a frowning face as we jump to our doom.  It's THE END, and a rather lengthy ending tune plays -- interminably, actually, until we break out of the program or reset the computer.

Trying again, we find the door south of the Great Hall locked, so this must be the way we came in. To the west is the Drawing Room, where we get a different sort of prompt -- a woman named Noira Dark asks if we HAVE SOMETHING TO DRINK, ES or O.  Lying with a Y enrages her, and she produces a bomb, which promptly explodes, killing everybody in a sort of nihilistic morality play:

 
At least we have learned that it was genuinely a question of whether we do have something to drink, as opposed to awkward grammar asking whether we wish to have something to drink.

This is becoming a game of making the right decision -- there are lots of ways to die, and not much to do other than explore and answer prompts.  Another round verifies that we can't walk north through the fireplace without burning to death -- no secret passages there, it seems.  North of the drawing room is the dining room, which tempts us to try the food available there, but we're not hungry so I'll pass... well, no, actually I can't resist trying what I am pretty sure is the wrong choice, and yes, eating all the food kills us as ANOTHER PIGGY BECOMES A DINING ROOM VICTIM.  Uh-oh... is the Manson Family nearby?  Or The Beatles?

North of the dining room we must choose between two staircases, or return back to the dining room.  The left stair collapses when we try to climb it, but it is suggested that in our next life we REMEMBER THE FLAGON AND STAIR COLORS MUST MATCH as we die; rather a clumsy way of providing the hint, but it will probably be useful advice.  Since we haven't even seen a flagon yet, we'll go explore elsewhere before we try to assay the stairs.

East of the dining room is the Flagon Spilling Room -- we're told there are small strange things all around, and we are VERY LUCKY... FOR SOME REASON.  Maybe because we don't have a flagon with us, so there's nothing to spill and poison us or otherwise cause our untimely demise?  There are no exits from this room, except back the way we came, so we'll just avoid this area in the future.

South of the drawing room is the flagon room, where a man introduces himself, almost, as COUNT DRACU- before thinking better of it and not mentioning his name (though the fangs and trickle of blood on one side of his face kind of give it away.)  He offers us a flagon of POIS- before cutting himself off again.  He really should have rehearsed this spiel!  Accepting his offer gives us the option of accepting the RANGE or LUE flagon -- I took the Orange.

Passing through the drawing room again, we have to remember to answer Noira's question honestly -- when we tell her we do have something to drink, she asks if we can give her a drink.  Given that it's poison, presumably, I opt not to -- she gets angry but we're still alive, though she assures us we will slake her thirst before the night is through.

We haven't been north of the scullery yet, so we'll go there to witness someone named Blurton Sharpe practicing his shooting skills.  He observes that we have a flagon and asks for a drink; our well-meaning refusal to poison him proves fatal to ourselves, though, as does walking north through his line of fire if we enter the room without a flagon.

In yet another life, I offer Noira a drink from the flagon -- but she sniffs it and says the skeleton must okay it first.  At least she doesn't get mad.  And Blurton says he hates the orange stuff, so we'll try again with the blue... except Noira hates it and sets off her bomb again, so we need to avoid offering her a drink when we're carrying the blue flagon.  And Blurton wants the blue drink approved by his MOMMY -- no, MUMMY before he will taste it.

We can access the Laboratory east of Blurton, where a Professor Fuddles experiments on amoebae, but there doesn't seem to be anything we can do here beyond waiting for the beep-boop music and light display to finish each time we answer a prompt.  Going back to the staircase, we successfully ascend the blue stairs on the right with the blue flagon in hand, and must now open the left, middle, or right door.  I'll go with the Middle one first... and I fall through a trapdoor, to be devoured by a ravenous creature from another game who manages to "PAC" in a little more food.



Restarting once again and trying the left door, with the orange flagon this time since we needn't bother visiting Blurton yet, leads us to the mummy -- who kills us, enraged as he is by the orange beverage we're carrying.  So, by process of elimination and deduction, we can guess that the door on the right should house the skeleton... and it does, but he is unhappy as we are here too early, and now we are "THE LATE" and dead once again.

Okay.  Let's try grabbing the blue flagon and visiting the mummy first... he's friendlier this time, as he performs some sort of gesture over the blue flagon and advises us to offer it to someone whose name begins with the same letter.  (Actually, the same diphthong applies in this case!)  Blurton Sharpe drinks the blue beverage, enjoys it and, by way of gratitude, promises never to shoot us.

Now we can travel North of the gymnasium, to encounter an elephant, who rushes toward us happily and inadvertently kills us!  So getting past Blurton isn't necessarily something we want to do.

On yet another attempt, we return to the flagon room for the orange flagon, after giving Blurton the blue one, and now we can get the skeleton's approval to give the flagon to Noira Dark.  She drinks it happily and advises us to walk through a wall, now.  Hmmmm.  A little experimentation establishes that we are able to walk East through the wall of the laboratory, to obtain a bucket from the dungeon and return.

As we pass through the gymnasium, Blurton now advises us to GO SEE THE ELEPHANT... and this time, instead of trampling us, it fills our bucket with water from its trunk and advises us to GO DOUSE SOMETHING.  The only thing that comes to mind is that fire in the Great Hall... and yes, when we take a chance and try to go N there, we automatically douse the fire and reach the Attic.

We don't really get to explore the attic -- Igor is up here, clearly surprised to see us, and provides us with a parachute.  We suspect that we can use this on the parapet, and if we ignore the ghost's warning and jump South (other directions might work as well), we escape Lurkley Manor just as the sun comes up!  We are VERY HAPPY, and hopefully wiser about getting ourselves locked in creepy old mansions, and the game is over:



Lurkley Manor isn't a complex adventure, and it's very linear -- we really have to do everything the game wants us to do in a prescribed order, and the lack of a true inventory system or parser means our options are very limited indeed.  There were a number of these choice-driven adventure games produced back in the 1980s, but the format hasn't really survived -- while they were easy to design and code, they weren't a lot of fun and left little room for individual play styles.  I enjoyed the game's random structure and sense of humor, but the lack of a SAVE feature and unpredictable deaths made me glad it's not more substantial than it is.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Graphic Pyramid (1984)


Aardvark (known under various similar names during the 1970s and 80s) produced a number of text adventure games for early microcomputers, most of which are a little bit buggy and obtuse.  The company also released two graphic adventures for the TRS-80 Color Computer, which as a "CoCo" owner in my youth I remember seeing listed in Aardvark's catalogs.  I never came up with the financial means to play them at the time -- college was coming up in a few years -- so I've been on the lookout for these titles for quite a while.  I managed to play Graphic Mars, like this one an illustrated version of an earlier text-only title by Aardvark founder Rodger Olsen, back in 2011, and I have been trying to track down a copy of Graphic Pyramid without much success.  So now that it's finally turned up in the online archives, thanks to a recent reader tip, I'm looking forward to playing it, even though I expect to run into some issues in the mighty Aardvark manner. 

The illustrated version was reprogrammed by Roderick Smith, and it was published in 1984, when the company was calling itself Aardvark Action Software.  I'm playing using the VCC Color Computer emulator; reds and blues are probably reversed in these screenshots, as the CoCo was notoriously inconsistent in its hi-res artifact color mode and VCC doesn't provide any way to randomize or switch the palette interpretation.


As always, interested readers are encouraged to visit the Graphic Pyramid (or its text-based predecessor, Pyramid) before reading through my comments below, although based on my experience it may be a much more pleasant experience just reading about my travails, especially near the game's conclusion.  (You can discount the old Aardvark marketing claim that this "tough" game takes 50 to 70 hours to complete -- it took me about five hours in the Internet era, with help on a couple of sticking points in one section.)  Whatever you decide, be forewarned that beyond this point, there are certain to be...

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

We begin in an Archeologist Hut (spelling was never Aardvark's strong suit) where we find a knapsack, shovel, and sign, of the traditional "BRING TREASURE HERE. TYPE - SCORE -" variety.  We have nothing in inventory, and we can OPEN KNAPSACK, though after doing so we can't seem to EXAMINE it or SEARCH it or LOOK in it... ahhh, wait, we have to pick it up before we can examine its contents.  LOOK and READ are treated as synonyms, so I can my case I ended up with READ KNAPSACK to discover a tin can, a pistol, and a flashlight. 

We'll also take a moment to confirm that there's no SAVE capability here (and VCC does not have a save state capability), so we'll have to be careful as we progress.  We can't OPEN the DOOR visible in the illustration here -- it's LOCKED, apparently -- but we can go N to exit the hut.  This brings us to a path with exits in the cardinal directions; walking further north takes us to the steps of the pyramid, festooned with vines and featuring a heavy door, also LOCKED.  (Actually, we can try to OPEN DOOR in any location at all, and if there's not even a door there we'll be told it's LOCKED.)  We can't CLIMB VINES here, either.

From the path, we can also head east into the desert, where we find an aardvark, a monkey, and some bananas, though the illustrators have opted not to show us any of these interesting things, probably because the engine doesn't support objects overlaid on the background.  Heading further east wraps back around to the path, so this is not a very large area so far.

Can we TAKE BANANAS and then TAKE MONKEY?  Nope, MONKEY WONT LET ME (old BASIC issues with single quotes persist in this machine-language update), though the aardvark is more compliant.  And there's nowhere else really to go here, either, as the desert wraps back onto itself to the north and south.  Can we FEED MONKEY or GIVE BANANAS? Nope.  But we can PUT BANANAS -- WHERE? -- ON VINES to attract the monkey to the pyramid steps.  (Actually, it seems the monkey is just following us around now, as the parser did not actually recognize ON VINES and just dumped the bananas on the ground where we stand.)

Now what?  We can TAKE VINES -- and now trying to TAKE anything else yields HANDS FULL, so we've hit the inventory limit.  Fortunately, we can PUT VINES - WHERE? - KNAPSACK to tuck them away, at least, not a bad implementation there (or so it seems for the moment...)

What else?  Well, we can DIG with our shovel on the path, to fall through to a cavern with steep walls and a boat parked in the sand.  A stream flows into a hole in the wall.  We can TAKE ROCKS from the cavern floor, and GO BOAT, then go D to return to the cavern.  We can't LAUNCH BOAT or PUSH or PULL or TAKE it.  I seem to be stuck here without a way to SET SAIL or otherwise escape, so we'll start over... QUIT... I DONT KNOW HOW.  Uh-oh -- your persistence is admirable, but I really want to... let's see... DIETOO HARD.  Well, yippie-ki-yay... I guess we have to hit the reset button.

What can we try?  Well, we can TIE VINES -- TO WHAT? -- TO DOOR at the pyramid.  But that doesn't seem to really do what we think it might; in fact, it does nothing at all, though the parser doesn't respond with anything one way or another.  After we dig and fall down into the cavern again, we can try to PULL VINES -- WHERE? -- but I can't come up with a useful response.  Aha!  This parser only uses two significant characters.  So PULL = PUT.  And DIE = DIG.  There's a reason most of these early games recognized at least three characters...

It seems if we put the vines anywhere at all, the monkey arrives, though I would have put my money on the bananas under other circumstances.  If we OPEN the TINCAN from our knapsack, it produces some matches.  We can try to LIGHT VINES, which produces no response at all, or BURN VINES, which indicates only that, oddly enough, they WILL NOT BURN.  Neither will anything else around here, it seems -- the monkey, the aardvark, the boat, the SCORE sign and even the matches are similarly fireproof.

So we have some vines and a monkey who clearly likes them, but no clear way to use this information.  The tree visible near the pyramid is not recognized by the parser.  SHOOT MONKEY with our trusty pistol yields NO EFFECT!  Hmmmm.  Ah, we can PUT ROCKS -- WHERE? -- STREAM and now the water is rising.  Fine time for the game to tell us we can't swim!  We'll get back on the boat and see what happens.

Ahhh -- now the boat has floated to a new location.  Somehow, immediately after we step off the well-lit boat, it's TOO DARK and I CANT [sic] SEE.  We can GET FLASHLIGHT from our knapsack, though, and LIGHT FLASHLIGHT to see that we're in an ANCIENT CAVE.  Heading up from here takes us to an empty treasure room, with a sword and an altar.

The sword confuses the traditional Egyptian mythology a bit here, as it's apparently PROPERTY OF ALI BABBA, the off-brand Arabian hero.  I can't figure out whether I'm trying to PRAY or PRY, as it responds, WITH WHAT?, but I can't find a way to MOVE ALTAR or otherwise do anything new here.  But it feels like this is a one-way trip so far, so there must be some way to make progress.

Starting over, I figure out that PR stands for PRY, as if we try to PRY the heavy DOOR of the pyramid, we're prompted WITH WHAT? and SHOVEL returns, THAT IS A SOLID DOOR. NOTHING HAPPENED.  Back at the altar, I try to SACRIFICE AARDVARK to no avail.  Aha!  We can GO ALTAR for a different perspective.

Once on the altar, we can try to JUMP ALTAR... NO???  Ahhh... SA is not SACRIFICE, and if we SAY SESAME here, presumably with Ali Babba's sword in our possession, we end up in a twisting corridor with exits south and east.  To the south is another twisty passage, leading south and east again; we can READ INSCRIPTION here to see:

  XBMMT IBWF TFDSFUT

If Aardvark's other adventures are anything to go on, this will prove to be not ancient Egyptian but modern English encoded with a letter substitution cipher.  And yes, if we just shift all the letters one place to the left, we get:

   WALLS HAVE SECRETS

South of this point we encounter a skeleton -- we can't do much with him, but if we GET SKELETON we hear (I hope) a TINKLE.  Yes, a KEY has been revealed!  We can't learn much about it, though, so we'll just keep it in the knapsack in case we find a lock, a reasonable likelihood by adventure game conventions.

Heading E of the skeleton takes us back to the corridor with the inscription.  To the west is another section of corridor with exits south, east and west.  Mapping is going to be important here -- while trying to get my bearings, I encounter a MUMMY who WILL NOT LET ME PASS and later run into a floorless room that leads to my first design-based demise.  The game doesn't allow us to try again or even exit back to the operating system after we die -- we have to do a full system reset, and load the game all over again.

Trying again, I am more careful to map the twisty corridors.  Most of them follow standard geography but there are a few tricky loops and nonsensical connections.  The section where I fell through the floor earlier was in fact preceded by a north-south corridor where the FLOOR FEELS FUNNY, so I'll take that as a hint not to proceed in those areas, at least for now. 

There's another section east of where we enter the corridors that has a funny-feeling floor, and some GRAFITTI [sic] that translates the same way as the other to:

    THREE TREASURES HERE

That seems like useful information, at least.  I also find a DEAD END in the passages that displays an illustration instead of a black screen, and confirm that ignoring the FLOOR FEELS FUNNY messages tends to kill us with a fatal fall if we proceed in either such area.

Starting over again -- with no SAVE support this will be a frequent necessity -- I try to BURN MUMMY with the matches.  This produces no response.  SHOOT MUMMY has NO EFFECT!   While going through my belongings, I notice that the knapsack has a limit -- once it's full, PUT [object] -- WHERE? -- KNAPSACK just drops it on the ground, without mentioning that to the player, so I've misplaced some items along the way.  I try to LIGHT MUMMY and LIGHT MATCH and THROW MATCH... and I'm not quite sure what I did, but now the mummy is reduced to ashes and we can travel south.  First, though, we'll LOOK ASHES and see that SOMETHING GLEAMS -- if we GET ASHES, we don't actually pick them up, but an amulet is revealed on the ground.

South of the mummy, we find a crypt with a sarcophagus that gives us the key to the inscriptions with "CAT=DBU" if we read it, but we've already cracked the code.  We can OPEN SARCOPHAGUS here to obtain a DEATHMASK OF GOLD.  Cool!  One treasure down, it seems, assuming we can find a way back to the hut to SCORE our haul.

Can we do something at the dead end?  We can't seem to CLIMB WALL or WAVE AMULET or SHOOT WALL.  We can't seem to JUMP in the areas with the shaky floors to reach a new area.  But we can GO SARCOPHAGUS in the crypt to find ourselves in a dusty cellar that looks just like the dead end in the other part of the maze.  Examining the floor and walls doesn't seem to yield any new information, however.

Can we do anything here?  I've been doing pretty well up to this point, but I think I'm going to have to do a little cheating.  I wasn't having any luck finding a walkthrough for the Aardvark version of either Graphic Pyramid or the original Pyramid, but the CASA Solution Archive comes through again with Dorothy Millard's walkthrough for an alternate version of Pyramid distributed by Mogul Communications, here

Now I can learn that... Ack!  The game actually recognizes two variations of the verb PU -- while I have been assuming it always means PUT up to this point, and I tried without success to MOVE WALL earlier, the parser will accept PUSH WALL in the dead end room.  IT SWINGS!, and this opens up an exit to the south.

This takes us into an empty room, with a very small hole in the floor. LOOK HOLE reveals a lock mechanism, and we can use that key to open it... well, at least we ought to be able to.  I couldn't UNLOCK LOCK or OPEN LOCK or OPEN MECHANISM or USE KEY, or... INSERT... KEY... or...  INSERT... MONKEY?

Ah, thanks again, Dorothy!  It seems this isn't the kind of lock that works with a key, but the kind that has to be blown open.  We can OPEN PISTOL to find some BULLETS, and then OPEN BULLETS to get some... GUNPOWER?  We'll assume it's supposed to be GUNPOWDER, and PUT GUNPOWDER -- WHERE? -- HOLE.  Retrieving the matches from the crypt, where I left them earlier, we LIGHT GUNPOWDER and an EXPLOSION results -- fortunately, being at extremely close range does us no damage.



Now this is strange indeed, as the image displayed post-explosion appears to be a corrupted version of the Martian character from Graphic Mars!  There's now a BIG HOLE in the floor, and we can go D to a narrow ledge near a chasm.  LOOK CHASM reveals a dagger with a jeweled handle lying at its bottom.  Can we use the vine to retrieve it?  TIE VINE -- TO WHAT? -- DAGGER yields DONT SEE IT HERE, which is fair enough as it's at the bottom of the deep chasm.  Maybe this is why the monkey has been following us around, though. TIE VINE to MONKEY doesn't work either, though.

We can, however, TIE VINE to BANANAS and then PUT BANANAS into the CHASM -- the monkey climbs down and brings back the dagger!  Have we found the three treasures, then?  SCORE yields only, NOT HERE.  Hmmmm.

Well, we've been refused our attempts to JUMP quite a bit along the way, and if we JUMP CHASM here... I WAS YOU HEAVY AND DIED.  What the... Hey!!!

Ahem... since it feels like we've been getting plenty of exercise in this maze, I'm going to assume this text was supposed to be I WAS TOO HEAVY AND DIED, and that it means we're carrying too much when we try the jump.

Restarting and finding our way back here again, we try jumping across with nothing but the flashlight in hand, and we land in the Throne Room -- where we see some killer ants!  Can we make it across with the aardvark and the flashlight both in hand?  Well, we might be able to, were it not for a bug here that seems to think our hands are full when we have nothing at all in them, making it impossible to pick up the things we want after dropping too many items, apparently.  Aarrrrgh!

Trying again, I learn we have to LIGHT MATCH before we can LIGHT GUNPOWDER -- apparently the match burns indefinitely once it's been lit, but with a fresh game I have to light it first.  This time, we successfully JUMP CHASM with the aardvark and the flashlight in hand, as well as the key that we haven't used yet, so we can apparently take three objects with us.  We DROP AARDVARK -- with a quick GOBBLE, the killer ants are gone, opening an exit to the south.  If only the aardvark could gobble up the game's other bugs, but we'll soldier through.

Going south leads to the Hall of Columns.  There's a door here, visible in the illustration though it isn't mentioned in the description -- I'm not sure how this worked at all for the original text version.  We can OPEN DOOR with the key, and find ourselves on the steps of the pyramid again, back near the start of the game.  And fortunately, with the heavy door unlocked, we can now reenter the pyramid to the north, so we should be able to start putting our treasures away with a nice straightforward path from the map's beginning to its end.

Of course, I have none of the treasures yet, but I do learn that YOU HAVE 0 OUT OF 4 TREASURE-SCORE 0.  Wait, *four* treasure... treasures, I mean?  Hmmmm.

Well, nothing for it but to round up whatever treasures we can now.  And it seems the Dagger counts for two -- after I drop it, we have 2 out of 4 treasures, for a score of 50.  The jeweled handle must count separately?  Odd.

Okay, let's grab the amulet and the golden deathmask again... except I am once again running into the nasty item carrying bug.  And the game thinks I am too heavy to jump the chasm even though I am empty handed!  This is getting ridiculous.  It seems we have to keep at least three things in hand to avoid this issue, more inventory juggling than we bargained for.  Something is getting set to -1 somewhere, methinks, and breaking all of the inventory count logic.

One more go... we have to LIGHT MATCH and then BURN MUMMY to get the amulet.  And I think I see a cause of the item carrying bug -- after we use the vines and the bananas to retrieve the dagger, we temporarily have five objects in inventory, when we're normally only allowed four.  I'm going to be careful here and try to bring all the treasures across the chasm, one at a time, so I don't have to jump it again later.  And now the bug works to my advantage, as after I deliver them to the throne room side, I can now carry all of the treasures at once, without running into the four-item limit.  At least, I think I have all of them...  And yes!  We don't actually have to DROP them at the hut, just have them in our possession -- the instant I check my score, with all four of the treasures in hand (the sword does count as one, which is why I was getting credit for two earlier), we have achieved victory!



After several decades of anticipation (if low expectations) for Graphic Pyramid, I'm glad I finally had the chance to play it.  Despite the bugs, spelling errors and a few strange puzzles, I had fun working my way through what is in the end a fairly straightforward little treasure hunt adventure, once some of the technical issues are worked around.  Pyramid and Mars must have been Aardvark's best-selling titles, as it seems they're the only ones given an illustrated upgrade.  And now it seems I have some other CoCo adventures to follow up on...


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Adventure of the Week: The Nuclear Submarine Adventure (198x?)

This week, I'm returning to the early portable TRS-80 Model 100's small library of adventure games, to tackle Steven Neighorn's The Nuclear Submarine Adventure, probably published around 1983 when the Model 100 was the new tech toy on the block.  I'm not sure if this game was original to the Model 100 -- versions exist for the IBM PC and Japanese MSX computers as well, but it runs well on Radio Shack's proto-notebook.  I'm playing it using the VirtualT emulator.




This is the only TRS-80 Model 100 BASIC game I've played to date that adopts a Scott Adams style interface, with location and objects at the top of the screen and commands entered at the bottom -- the dividing line means we're down to 7 lines of usable display, but it looks very nice.  The game is the usual escape-the-critical-situation plot, with no treasures to find or complex objectives -- we just have to get ourselves and our fellow crew members to the surface alive after our sub experiences an impact of indeterminate origin.


Interested adventurers are always encouraged to try these games firsthand before reading my comments below, and this one is freely available at the Interactive Fiction Database.  The Nuclear Submarine Adventure isn't difficult, though time constraints are tight, the SAVE/LOAD commands aren't fully implemented, and there's one sticking point that tripped me up near the end.  But I'll let you make that decision, dear reader.  Beyond this point, there are certain to be...


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





We begin in a bunk, with nothing of interest visible and nothing in INVentory.  While we're exploring our surroundings, something hits the ship and we're sinking!  GET UP yields only That's not hereUP yields You don't know how to 'UP.'  U (or GO UP) is the only way to climb out of the bunk.

Our bunk is in the after crew's quarters; the room is full of bunks, and there's a red locker here.  We can't EXAMINE anything, apparently, and OPEN LOCKER indicates we don't have the right key.  So we'll head F(ore) to the main passageway.

Here there's a water-tight door, which we're not strong enough to open, and passages to port and starboard.  Port is the maneuvering room, with a depth gauge and ballast control.  READ GAUGE suggests, You can't read anything... yet.  Interesting.  Do we need our glasses?

We can travel down from the maneuvering room to the lower aft section of the engine room, where we see a steam turbine engine and a drive train.  Is the steam engine powered by nuclear fuel, then?  We can LOOK ENGINE -- which works like EXAMINE, I now see -- to observe that it's turning but not operating properly, most likely because the drive train is broken.

From here, we can F off to the fore section of the engine room, and see that the electrical generator isn't working and the ship is operating on its batteries.  Going U takes us to the upper deck of the engine room, fore of the maneuvering room, where there's a hatch You can't even begin to open.

Closing the loop and returning to the maneuvering room, LOOK GAUGE indicates we're at 108 fathoms, and LOOK CONTROL indicates it's set for DIVE.  I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, so I'll leave it alone for now.

On the starboard side of the main passageway we find a laundry room containing nothing of apparent interest.  The main passageway continues forward to a warning sign.  As I'm exploring, we hear a ** claxon** [sic], so we're probably going to run out of time while we're mapping out our surroundings.  But we'll keep going as long as we can.

The warning sign suggests that an ANTI-RADIATION SUIT MUST BE WORN before we head below.  We can open the water-tight door here, despite the warning, but we don't have to go down there yet, so we'll CLOSE DOOR.  (I always appreciate adventure designs that allow closing things we've opened; it's rarer than one might suppose.)

Heading forward some more we discover the missile compartment, with a panel reading .  Forward again is the attack center, with a remote microphone and a passageway leading down to the main control room, where a push-button control regulates the reactor.  North of the control room location is the radio shack (tee hee), with a complex radio that isn't so complicated we can't tell it is broken, but is so complicated we can't readily FIX it.

Fore of the attack center (the sub runs quite a distance lengthwise) is the periscope room, with two periscopes, one for search and one for attacking.  I'm about to head upwards from here, when the reactor melts down and my adventure is over.  The briny sea claims another victim...  fortunately, this game implements a SAVE feature, so we'll use that in the future.

Returning to mapping, we find an access passageway above the periscope room, with a hatch that can't be opened until the ship surfaces.  Fore of the radio shack is a main passageway area with passages in every direction but upward.  Downward is the infirmary, where we can GET some smelling SALTS.  To port is the captain's stateroom, with a combination-locked wall safe that isn't even hidden behind a picture.  We have to enter three numbers to open the safe, and since I'm just guessing I'm not able to open it yet.

Returning to the passageway, to starboard we find the officer's wardroom, empty, and the main passageway continues fore again.  Port here leads to the crew's mess, where we at last see our fellow crew members... all unconscious in front of a videocassette player and television; perhaps they have been watching Down Periscope.  We can WAKE CREW with the smelling salts.  There's no tape in the VCR, and we can't ORDER CREW, so we'll leave them standing around for now.

Oh.  Actually, we can't leave the crew behind, as it seems they are bent on following us around now.  The galley features a stove, and we can go down to the main stores and the frozen stores room, where a single frozen T.V. dinner is available.  We can PUT DINNER -- Into what? -- STOVE, and then COOK DINNER so we can FEED CREW... no... OFFER DINNER... no... GIVE DINNER... no... well, now the klaxon is going off again, so it probably won't matter in our lifetimes.

Starboard of the crew's mess, on the other side of the passageway, we find the health room, with a weight training set.  And they must have some of that Captain America technology here, as we can LIFT WEIGHTS to become incredibly strong in a single turn.  That may come in handy.

Fore again leads us to the chief's quarters across the hall from the galley, where a white locker waits for us to find the right key.  The ship overheats at this point, and when I try to LOAD and the filename I specified earlier doesn't seem to work, we find ourselves in a kind of limbo.  The crewmen are unconscious but continue to follow us around.  We'll take advantage of the extended play to do some more mapping, anyway.

The main passageway continues fore to another bunk room with a blue locker, locked awaiting the right key, of course.  We can go D into a bunk, where we find a decoder, with a plug in it -- I'm not sure what that means yet.

Fore again -- this is a very large map by Model 100 standards -- we find the forward torpedo room, with one tube labeled and the other .  We can continue F into the empty torpedo tube, though this doesn't seem like a safe place to hang out.

Now it seems we've mapped the submarine out pretty well, and solved a few puzzles along the way.  Let's see if we can use our super strength to open that door near the start of the game.  (On the way, I discover that the LOAD command does work, it just throws a false alarm error, so we do die shortly as the sub's reactor overeheats, and I have to LOAD again.)

We can indeed open that water-tight door now, to reach the ship's can (our group of unconscious crewmen still in tow -- they remain unconscious as described after a restart and restore, but they're still dragging themselves around with us somehow) where we find a Navy repair manual.  It contains instructions for repairing the ship's radio, also handy.

Our first order of business, however, would seem to be stopping the reactor from melting down.  We can't open the hatch in the upper engine room.  But we can PUSH BUTTON in the main control room to switch the reactor to COOL mode, and the warning klaxon ceases.  Easier than I expected!  Pushing it again sets the reactor mode back to hot, and sets off the alarm again, but we can switch between modes at will so that's no longer a big problem.

Now that we can explore with a little less pressure, let's see what else remains to be done.  If we lift weights and then read the Navy repair manual, maybe we can FIX RADIO.  While I'm working on this, though, it turns out we're very hungry... and then the ship's batteries run down and the lights go out!  It's dangerous to move in the dark, but if we've mapped well we can still get around -- we can even read the manual in the dark.  But one wrong move in the pitch black, and we're dead of a broken neck, so we'd better restart and play more efficiently.

On the next try, I discover that just reading the manual isn't enough to let us FIX RADIO.  We probably need some tools or something.  So let's see if we can get the ship's generator working again, as that seems like a more pressing matter.  It's not going to be as simple as START GENERATOR or FIX DRIVE TRAIN, though.  Can the crew help out?  I don't know, because I can't figure out how to EAT DINNER or OPEN DINNER when we start getting hungry again.  Ah, we can only EAT DINNER in the crew's mess -- it's impossible to consume it anywhere else!  This game is going to be fastidious about its rules, it appears.

The ship's batteries have run out again, but let's see if I can fake my way through in the dark to see if the crew can fix the drive train.  Nope.  We need something to open the hatch in the engine room, I think.  We can die by entering the nuclear reactor without protection, but that's not going to help.

We aren't strong enough to open the hatch or the door in the torpedo room, even if we've lifted weights.  Hmmmm... ah, if we have the crew in tow (and conscious) they will help us to open both.  We can access the forward access and escape trunk now, to find a wrench, and a repair and work compartment below the torpedo room to pick up an electronic repair kit.  Now we should be in better shape to get the sub working again!

We'll stop to prepare and eat the TV dinner on the way, just to have that puzzle out of the way, since we can probably navigate in the dark if we need to.  I get to the engine room just as the lights go out, but with the wrench, we can now FIX TRAIN to restore power.

We can't just PUSH BUTTON to change the sub's direction in the maneuvering room; presumably we'll want to switch from DIVE to SURFACE at some point, but we can't yet, at least not with any commands I can come up with.  We can use the wrench to open the hatch in the engine room, finding a key labeled WKEY -- probably good for the white lockers in the chief's quarters.  Yep!  Here's the anti-radiation outfit.

Let's fix the radio before we go too much farther -- with the repair kit and the manual, we can get it working.  We can now USE RADIO -- but a coded message comes through that we can't make sense of, and then it blows up!  We must need to use that decoder we found in a bunk earlier.  Restoring our saved game doesn't restore the radio to its pre-smoldering state, however, so we have to QUIT and LOAD to get it back into a fixable state again.  This time, we LOOK RADIO to see that it has an empty plug -- and we can PUT DECODER -- Into what? -- RADIO before we use it.  The message we receive now indicates we've been hit by a Soviet anti-submarine weapon, and gives us the combination to the captain's safe: R 36, L 7, R 46.  The radio still blows up after we use it.

We can now open the safe -- the spaces in the coded message are significant, so typing R36 doesn't work but R 36 does -- to obtain... a videocassette?  This better be worth it!  GET VIDEOCASSETTE doesn't work, but GET CASSETTE does.  We can put the cassette into the player, and then... hmmmm... USE PLAYER and START PLAYER don't work, and WATCH T.V. just shows a 'HEAVY' film?  Ah, wait, maybe that's a hint -- "the ups and downs of life in the submarine corps" might mean this is a training film.  Yes, now we can PUSH BUTTON in the maneuvering room to shift the ballast into service to help surface the sub.

What else?  We haven't used the anti-radiation suit yet, so let's go try it out.  We can WEAR OUTFIT, OPEN DOOR by the warning sign, go D and observe that the reactor is running normally.  Fortunately, the crew has the good sense to stay behind; the only reason we need to come down here, apparently, is to pick up the blue key in the aft section of the reactor room.

Going back to the crew quarters near the torpedo tube, we open the blue lockers to recover a Captain's uniform.  We can WEAR UNIFORM, but to what end?  Ah, the microphone in the attack center is the captain's microphone upon a closer look.  We can SAY FIRE -- Fire what? -- TORPEDO, but can't do that yet; SAY SURFACE returns a similar result.

Trying to LOOK through or USE the search and attack periscopes proves fruitless, as does UP SEARCH or UP PERISCOPE.  The captain's microphone is portable, it seems.  What about the red locker at the start of the game?  Ah, the RKEY is available if we just LOOK BUNKS -- the locker contains a book called "The Submariner" that just gives us basic navigation tips for the game.

Maybe we can mess with the torpedo tubes.  LOAD TORPEDO doesn't work, as it just invokes the game restore command.  And while I'm trying to fire a torpedo from the torpedo room using the captain's microphone, to no avail, we run out of time for surfacing the sub, and the game is over again.

What do we have to do here?  I'm going to break down and take a peek at the BASIC code.  We're on the right track -- line 174 specifies a lot of conditions for giving the order to surface.  We have to be wearing the captain's uniform; ballast setting has to be set to SURFACE; and we have to be at a depth other than 0 fathoms.  Check on all those counts.  Ahhhh... what I was missing was that we have to be in the main control room when we SAY SURFACE, or our orders are ignored.

Now we can go there, SAY SURFACE, and the sub surfaces... and now we can open the hatch above the periscope room and make our way past the bridge to the open air on the main deck, where we see rescue ships in the distance!  Man, it's a good thing we never figured out how to fire that torpedo.  Victory is ours!





I enjoyed playing through The Nuclear Submarine Adventure -- the tight timing made for a bit of a challenge over and above the straightforward puzzles, although the final puzzle seems unnecessarily opaque; why make the captain's microphone portable at all, if it has to be used in a specific place?  But I've definitely run into more aggravating requirements in vintage adventure games, and this one had some nice moments of discovery.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Nancy Drew #22 - Trail of the Twister (2010)

This week, we're returning to Her Interactive's series of point-and-click first-person adventure games based on the popular books by the pseudonymous Carolyn Keene, with Nancy Drew: Trail of the Twister.  This 22nd game in the long-running series was designed by Cathy Roiter, with Story Concept work by Anne Collins-Ludwick and Marc Templin as Technical Director.  We'll be playing on the PC on the Senior Detective difficulty level.


 

This time around, Nancy Drew has been hired by a storm research team funded by business magnate P.G. Krolmeister -- Nancy's job is to investigate equipment issues, possibly sabotage by a rival team in a competition for a hundred million dollar research grant.  This "storm chasers" theme represents the series' more recent trend towards topical plots, rather than the old dark house/inn/cottage staples of the books and earlier games.

I haven't been playing the Nancy Drew titles in any particular order, but I should note that these later games benefit from some interface enhancements -- a Task List helps keep us on track if we're not sure what to do next (this is only available on the Junior Detective difficulty level), and a Journal records important facts in case we haven't been keeping notes.  There are more flexible 360-degree views of interiors as well, reducing navigation frustration, though the pre-rendered approach still has its limitations and there are unexpected dead ends here and there that have to be backed out of before we can move to another area.  The series follows its established formula fairly consistently -- Nancy can die, but we can always get another chance with a reset prior to any fatal mistake, and most of the gameplay centers around exploration and conversation.

As always, interested adventurers are encouraged to follow the Trail of the Twister first-hand before reading my comments below.  I will note that it's more linear than some of Her Interactive's other titles, and sometimes feels more constrained and less investigative as a result, so you may want to take that into account.  The game is commercially available through many channels, including Steam.  Beyond this point, I will be discussing my experience of the story and its puzzles in detail, so there are certain to be...

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


After we read the case file -- following the standard startup format of the later Nancy Drew games -- to learn about the premise of Trail of the Twister, we can click on Nancy's plane ticket to launch the game.  We can choose to play on a Junior Detective or Senior Detective level, with more challenging puzzles on the Senior difficulty setting but no plot or content differences.  We'll play as Senior Detectives here.



As the game starts, Nancy pulls up to an aging farmhouse, with heavy rains and winds.  The case file is in her inventory, in case we forgot to look at it earlier.  We can move some debris piled up by the side door to find a tin box -- it contains some money, with a note reading, "Once again, amazing job!"  Hmmmm.

Clicking on Nancy's car leads into an overhead-view driving mode, something I haven't seen before in this series, which allows Nancy to drive around and explore the area.  We'll stay at the farmhouse a bit longer before we go driving, though. 

The barn contains a yellow car, inoperable, and a workbench.  Poking around, we can find an article about the local Canute College's leasing of some of its land, to help cope with financial difficulties.  A side door on the garage/barn isn't locked but appears to be blocked by something behind it; it's just a cylindrical plastic bin, visible if we enter through the big barn door.  The blockage can't be moved, so it isn't clear if this is meant to be a puzzle or might come into play later in the story.

Nancy can play with a tire swing out in the yard, to no apparent purpose, and witness some prairie dogs playing near the cornfield that surrounds the house.  We can find a copper coin, not US tender but a commemorative piece -- it bears a profile image of a man, and reads "IN PA WE TRUST - SINCERITY - 1998."  There's a cellar or access door of some kind out in the yard, near a WARNING sign, neither of which we can really examine. 

We can enter the farmhouse to find a greeting note from someone named Debbie, welcoming Nancy -- the storm team is currently out looking for a possible tornado forming to the north.  Nancy is asked to take a Tornado Quiz on a computer in the cellar, file some papers using Debbie's ordering system, and visit Ma 'n Pa's General Store down the street using the GPS in the car.  Nancy is posing as an intern here, in order to have better access for her investigation -- it's an unfortunate design choice, as it means she doesn't have her customary degree of freedom as the story develops.  But we have some puzzles to solve here, so we'll get to work.

The filing system uses cryptic symbols to identify categories, with a positional code we have to crack, e.g. "A is to the left of B" and "D is to the right of C."  We just have to tab 6 file folders with tags marked with these symbols to be consistent with the 9 rules given, and Nancy gives us basic pass/fail feedback whenever we fill all the slots.  Then we have to file all the folders on top of the cabinet by the same symbols, which are easy to file under the matching tabs once we've done the first part.  Underneath the last folder is a wrapper for Koko Kringle Milk Chocolate Crunchies, which Nancy discards as garbage.  Once we click on the trash can, the perspective shifts and we can examine its contents, finding a receipt from Ma 'n Pa's General Store for 3 Corn Bags at $6.99 each; there's nothing else with which we can interact.

As we return to the room view, a mouse squeaks and runs by near the wall; Nancy is uncharacteristically unhappy with the critter's presence.  A computer on the desk nearby shows topographical maps and weather patterns, and a grid on the wall is festooned with post-its, which we can't examine closely(it appears a few of them are in-jokes by the art staff, though none are quite clear enough to really read.)

Going downstairs to the cellar, we find a laptop which lets us view photos of storm systems and take the Twister Trivia quiz mentioned earlier; I got 5 out of 8 on my attempt, so I did learn a few things.  The laptop also has a camera feature which apparently works with Nancy's phone somehow, though I wasn't able to figure out how to transfer images back and forth at first.  There are some instructions on the laptop, indicating we need to attach the camera to the computer -- I probably need a cable for that?  Ah, there's a cable attached to the laptop -- we have no real reason to do this yet, anyway, but now we know how it works.  We can download pictures from the phone to the laptop, but there's no mechanism going the other way.

As we step back from the laptop view, Debbie and team leader Scott Varnell arrive back.  Nancy can ask Scott about the storm team; when she tells him she witnessed a small tornado on the way in, he seems frustrated and annoyed at missing it.  It seems his team is at risk of losing its academic funding without some results.  Scott asks Nancy to put a disaster kit together for a presentation he has to give next week, and redesign the local community's warning siren system so that everyone will be within earshot of a siren based on a chart in the next room.

Scott doesn't want to be bothered with further conversation, but we can poke around his cluttered office a little.  There's a news clipping recounting the story of "Ma," Betsy Ochs of General Store fame, who was killed in a tornado some years ago when the warning sirens didn't go off before a twister touched down.  Scott Varnell is quoted in the article on the difficulty of predicting these violent events.  We can also look at a chart of Oklahoma on the wall, showing where major EF5 (on the Enhanced Fujita scale) and lower-intensity storms hit during the 2009 season, and listen to a radio near the doorway to hear an ad from Krohlmeister Industries for a lockbusting product, among other bits of random radio traffic.

Before we leave the office, Scott asks Nancy if the tornado excited or scared her, and we have some influence over the tone of Nancy's response.  Scott is an interesting character, well-written and acted by Nancy Drew standards, frustrated about the stalling of his academic career.

Going upstairs from the farmhouse living room equates to bedtime -- we never see Nancy's accommodations -- and Nancy's not ready to hit the sack just yet.  There's a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein on the coffee table, and the television doesn't really work, though we can pick up brief images and audio clips for fun.

We can't go back downstairs to the basement yet, as Debbie, the Project Manager, insists on talking to Nancy.  We're supposed to talk to her every morning for Nancy's intern assignments, and this will indeed prove to be an unavoidable ritual.  Debbie just got her doctorate in Metereology and has been on Scott's team since she was a student; she's used to dealing with him, but there's clearly some tension there.  In addition to her other tasks, Nancy is supposed to go out to the cornfield and fix the sprinkler system.  Nancy also gives Debbie the box and cash found out front upon her arrival.  We also learn that Debbie is the sound and lighting director at the community's Grange Hall theatre, as a hobby outside of her storm team duties.  "Pa" is involved with the big upcoming show.

Heading back to the computer downstairs, we re-check the tornado quiz and note that a disaster kit requires specific elements: water, sugar, salt, granola bars, batteries, flashlight, can opener, toothpaste, duct tape, and bleach.  So we'll have to acquire some supplies at the General Store.

Now that we have time to poke around the basement some more, we can find a list of storm weather symbols under the sink -- some of the symbols used here were also used in the filing system.  Is there any correlation between these symbols and the filing system?

Another mouse is squeaking around here -- Nancy seems to have an issue with mice in this game -- and we can examine a partially assembled disaster kit, which oddly contains a Thank You note with a family photo.  There's also a book of surface charts, recording high and low temperatures, wind speed and direction, dew point, and weather using the standard symbols, for the month of March -- no year is given.

We can also talk to 'Frosty' Harlow, the storm team's media guy, who has a desk in the basement.  He earned his nickname after he chanced to capture some rare photos of a major hailstorm system.  He's currently sporting some scratches he claims he got from a bramble patch when he dropped his camera.  Frosty joined the team after their previous photographer quit, and he's more than a little cocky about his skills, though he doesn't seem like a saboteur.

It's time to head into town and assemble that disaster kit.  The driving interface's overhead perspective is a little tricky to control -- we have to get the car oriented correctly and moving in the right direction using mouse clicks, and the vehicle can take damage that intensifies with speed, so if Nancy doesn't drive safely the game is over.

While trying to find the store, we run across a little shed built into a hillside.  It doesn't seem we can do anything here, but stopping at a destination refills the vehicle's damage bar, and while I'm looking through inventory, I find the welcome note that mentions the car has a GPS.  Too bad I took the truck -- ah, wait, the truck has a GPS also.  That's a big help, and also alerts us to a new destination -- the windill -- as well as identifying the little shed we've discovered as the Spring House.


When we finally get to the general store, Pa is pretty personable, and the set design here is nicely evocative of small-town marketing.  Pa already has Nancy's cell phone number as part of the storm team's emergency contact list, which throws our heroine off a little.  But he seems harmless enough -- he gives Nancy one of his "Pa Pennies" like the one we found earlier, and we learn that these can (actually must) be used to buy items not on the storm team's official line-of-credit shopping list.

We can ask Pa about the play he and Debbie are involved with -- it's a local history play, and Pa is playing the town's early sheriff and librarian.  He is fatalistic about tornadoes, understandable considering his personal history.  Nancy can shop here for all the items needed to populate a disaster kit.  But there's a puzzle aspect to this, as many prices are based on a buy-two-items-with-same-tag-color sale, and we have a limited budget; I was able to get everything with $1.89 to spare.  There are some fun little jokes on the shelves too -- Broth of Khan soup and DingBats cereal ("All your Favorite Unicode symbols" in colored shapes!)

We can also browse the local publications; an article on Scott mentions that his Canute College team's biggest rival in the Green Skies grant contest is New York's Kingston University, led by Brooke Tavanah.  There's also a mysterious "surprise package" box for sale at $99.90 -- too expensive for Nancy's circumstances.

Before we go back to the farmhouse, let's visit the windmill.  There's nothing to do here, but it might be useful for checking wind direction later.  Returning to the farmhouse, we can talk to Debbie about the little piles of dried corn Nancy has been finding around the place, and the General Store receipt in the trash can.  Telling her we think someone's trying to lure the mice inside produces a simple dismissal of the whole idea.  We can talk to Scott some more -- he admits he's lost enthusiasm for his work over the years, and confirms that the farm facility will be sold if his team doesn't win the grant competition, leaving the team without a headquarters.

Getting back to Nancy's tasks for the day, we need to redesign the warning siren system so that everyone in town is within earshot.  This is a visual puzzle -- we can see the sirens and their ranges, and have to position them so at least one range overlaps each point in town.  This takes some trial and error (at least it did for me) but it generally works out if we consider both range (circle size) and pin placement, as we can only mount a siren with its center at specific locations.  Nancy confirms we've got it right when we get the last piece correctly into place.

Next, we have to fire up the sprinkler system out in the cornfield.  Another Pa Penny is hidden under the lid of the sprinkler system's control panel.  To turn the sprinklers back on, we have to open eight valves in an 8 x 8 matrix, with no sprinklers in the same row, column, or diagonal line related to each other; this generic puzzle isn't really related to the task at hand in any sensible way, a trend that will unfortunately afflict much of this game.  We have to stagger the pattern to make this work, avoiding backing ourselves into a straight line combination so we can reset the pump.  It's hardest to avoid the diagonals, but it is possible.  Once we get eight valves in valid positions opened, the pump comes back on.

With these three tasks done, Nancy will allow us to send her upstairs to bed.  The rooster crows bright and early the next morning, and Debbie gives Nancy some new tasks; so far the intern work is taking up all of Nancy's detection time.  Nancy is now supposed to realign some sensors out in the corn field, and learn the basics of storm photography from Frosty.

The sensor puzzle is a beam-and-mirror affair -- we have to rotate mirrors to get the red beam shining at the red sensor, the same for the blue.  This isn't too difficult, as many options are ruled out because they bounce the light beams irretrievably out of bounds.  After Nancy finishes setting up the sensors, we overhear Debbie saying something about staying at Canute, and "we just have to give him a little push.  No one is going to suspect a thing" -- and Frosty sounding uncertain about agreeing to help.  They seem to be planning to get rid of Scott, though whether that means encouraging him to quit or killing him isn't blatantly spelled out.  And it could always a be a theatre thing.

P.G. Krolmeister, Nancy's employer, calls afterward to get Nancy's impressions of what's going on with the storm team; this seems designed to recap the current story for the player's benefit.  Talking to Frosty oddly doesn't produce any new conversation topics, so it's not clear how Nancy is supposed to learn about storm photography from him.  Entering the barn while looking for something to do, we are asked for a hand by Chase, the team's fix-it man, who is working on the broken-down car stored there.  He asks Nancy to fix the car's LED display, by rearranging some numbered fuses so that no consecutively-numbered fuses are touching each other.  What worked for me was to put fuses 7 and 2 in the top and bottom slots, allowing us to spread out the "neighbors" in the remaining six slots.

Chase is willing to talk a little -- the damaged car was being driven by the previous intern when it crashed.  He says Scott is pretty negative and a bad luck magnet, which in his opinion is why stuff breaks down all the time.  The intern's car broke down because its coolant had leaked out after mice chewed through the hose.  He still has the damaged hose, so we'll take a look at it -- it looks more like it's been cut, really, with a V-shaped incision in the line.  Chase doesn't think Scott's team is going to win, just on account of Scott's pessimism.  Nancy can also earn some Pa Pennies by wiring up circuit boards for Chase here -- it's a voltage/wiring puzzle with time and correctness constraints, so I'll put that off until we really need the Pa Pennies.

Can we drive somewhere to find Frosty?  Ah, if we get in the car, he joins Nancy automatically.  Our first destination is the windmill, where Frosty gives Nancy a book identifying the shots Nancy needs to capture.  This provides an opportunity to learn about various cloud types, but the skies are realistically uncooperative in terms of presenting clouds that look like the illustrations.  It seems Frosty is happy with any dark shape Nancy can snap with her cell phone camera.  If we've run out of possibilities, driving away for a little bit and returning presents randomly different views, some of which are much more dramatic.  We can do this a few times, taking pictures of interesting formations. 

How do we finish this activity?  We don't have to cover all the cloud types; we just have to take some photos back to the farm and download them onto the laptop there, after which Frosty gives us an MP3 player to return to Chase.  As we head toward the barn, Debbie tells Nancy it's time to turn in, so we must be about done for the day.  We don't get to talk to Chase now anyway -- as Nancy attempts to enter the barn, we hear Chase yelling at somebody or something, and Nancy peeks through a knothole to see him cleaning his boots and telling something to get out of them.  Mice?

Day 3 begins with an early weather alert -- multiple tornado touchdowns have been reported in the area, and as Nancy attempts to head down to the cellar, she finds the power out and Debbie huddled fearfully in the living room.  At least that was my impression, though the glimpse in a lightning flash is so brief that it could have been Scott working a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table.  Morning comes shortly, and things are back to normal.  Debbie asks Nancy to round up the prairie dogs living near the corn field before an exterminator arrives.  We are supposed to talk to Scott and Chase about how to move them in a humane fashion.

Strangely, when we visit Scott, he thanks Nancy for driving during the chase yesterday.  That doesn't seem to have happened in my game?  He also asks us to get rid of the mice infesting the house.  Chase says he and Frosty aren't really close, but Debbie seems to spend a lot of time talking to him, though not in a romantic way.   He has a vacuum device Nancy can use for moving the prairie dogs, though we'll need to trade its rubber hose in for a bigger size at the general store.

So far, Trail of the Twister seems to be much more linear and errand-focused than Nancy's usual free-form investigative approach; we can't find a lot of clues on our own, and have to earn them by solving puzzles that often seem arbitrary.  Pa doesn't sell live mouse traps, but he has an antique one Nancy can borrow if she does something for him first -- setting up a display that compares the old Fujita scale for measuring tornado strength to the new Enhanced Fujita scale.  And he'll upgrade the rubber hose if Nancy sets up his new snack display.  Cheap folksy old son-of-a...

Apparently Ma 'n Pa's is a bigger outfit than it would appear, as the Wickford snack display we need to set up features items available exclusively at the General Store.  There must not be a lot of shopportunities in these parts.  We have to arrange the snack display of different-shaped boxes into a frame so they all fit and no space goes to waste.  The trick is figuring out that we can rotate the items with the right mouse button to make better use of the available real estate.

I somehow totally missed the swinging doors leading into Pa's mini local history museum during my first trip to the General Store, but found them while looking for the Fujita scale puzzle.  The museum contains information about the Dust Bowl, and mentions that spring houses were used to keep things cool before electric refrigeration came to the area.  There's also a display about the Trail of Tears, the forcible removal of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands during the 1830s, during which many died.  There's also a nice mythbusting tornado facts display, a Jackalope Fight amusement machine, and a Land Rush arcade game, a territory-claiming contest that can be played with Pa Pennies.

More subtle educational content is provided by the Fujita scale puzzle, which asks us to arrange damage levels and wind speed values matching the F0-F5 and EF0-EF5 scales.  The numeric scales for wind gust speeds follow continuous sequences, so it's not hard to order the values -- we just have to get the right column of values in the right place.  As we finish that puzzle, we overhear someone named Brooke gossiping with Pa, gathering information about Scott's team's failures.  After she leaves, Nancy can talk to Pa to get the mousetrap along with his grammatically imprecise "Y'all earned it."  Pa also confirms that Brooke heads the other storm team, and says she and Scott are always looking for news about the other's team via Pa.  Asked about Ma's whereabouts, he looks away and says she's running errands, apparently still unable to deal with her death; this is a nice little character touch, and the animation here is well handled.  While looking for the mouse trap, Nancy notices a divining rod is missing from one of the displays.  But we have some animal wrangling to do, so we'll go back to the farm now.

The hose we got at Pa's store is a good fit for Chase's prairie dog vacuum -- we have to minimize sucking at empty burrows, as when we do some of the animals we've captured will escape, and bring the vacuum back to Chase when we're done.  Persistence pays off, and this isn't really a puzzle -- we just have to watch which burrows have visible prairie dogs in them, and suck them up as quickly as possible until they're all captured.  We have to find a new home for them before we give the vacuum back to Chase -- there's a suspiciously similar group of burrows out behind the barn, so we'll dump them there.  We earn a whopping 100 Pa Pennies when we return it to Chase, too, which should come in handy if we need them later on.

The mice are harder to trap than the prairie dogs.  Placing the trap near a pile of corn is possible, but we don't get any immediate reaction, and if we leave the area Nancy takes the trap with her.  It looks like we need some bait -- Nancy mentioned that the Moon Chunk cheese snack in the Wickford display we assembled earlier would seem appetizing if she were a mouse, so let's start by buying some of that.

While we're here, we'll take a moment to let Pa know that his museum's divining rod is missing -- he says some folks believe divining rods can be used to find oil, though he's mostly dismissive of the concept (the game misses an opportunity to discuss the ideomotor effect here.)  The Moon Chunk cheese has to be bought using Pa Pennies -- which, as it turns out, are worth exactly one penny each, so the 95-cent cheese eats up most of Nancy's budget.  We also have to be careful baiting the trap, as Nancy will gladly eat the cheese herself if we just click on it in her snack inventory!  The same thing happens if we select the trap from inventory and click on the cheese with it.  Ack!  Ah, once we have the cheese, an icon in the main game window shows our available bait inventory after we put the trap down in appropriate spot.

Trapping the mice is an interactive, timing-based action puzzle -- we have to rotate a gate at the intersection in the center of the trap to send each mouse to a different area of the trap, until all available squares of the trap are filled with mice.  When a mouse is facing another mouse or a dead end, it will turn around.  This isn't too hard to do, and once we have the trap filled, Scott tells Nancy to set them free out by the Spring House. 

Unfortunately, one load of mice isn't enough -- there's at least one more infested spot, downstairs in the basement.  So we need to earn some extra Pa Pennies -- this guy seems to have the local snack economy squarely under his thumb -- by wiring circuit boards for Chase.  We have to hook up fans with the specified number of wires for each, interconnecting them so each fan has the expected set of connections.  This puzzle isn't too hard, despite the time pressure, as we can quit at any time once we've earned some pennies, though if we damage a lot of circuit boards by checking bad solutions our pay will get docked substantially.

Off we go to buy more Moon Chunk cheese and bait the trap again.  Pa remains reluctant to discuss Ma's whereabouts.  Hmmmm... there's another corn pile, by the filing cabinet on the main floor of the farmhouse, but it doesn't seem we can set the trap there.  Are we already done for the day?  Nancy says it's too soon to go to bed if we try to send her upstairs.  We can try to give Scott some Moon Chunk "candy," after angering him by asking if he's been asking Pa about Brooke's team.  He seems touchy if we poke around his business too much.

Debbie has nothing new to talk about.  We can offer Debbie and Frosty some candy, but it's probably better to keep it in case we find another spot with mice.  Nobody seems to have anything new to say, and nothing obvious has changed out by the cornfield.  Checking out the new prairie dog location again, Nancy spies a flash from a flowerbox along the side of the barn.  It's a metal box similar to the cash box we found at the beginning of the game, and contains a cryptic note -- someone is paying $500 for a series of "CB, with CC or CG," from an HP storm, to delivered by June 2nd.  We know an HP storm is a high precipitation storm.  Attempting to show the box to Debbie or anyone else produces no response, it just acts as a generic conversation mouse click.

What else?  The coffee table in the living room has changed a bit -- there's a paper under the open copy of Frankenstein.  It's a letter offering Debbie an assistant professorship at Gorge University in Ithaca, New York.  So maybe it was Debbie we saw during the storm!  We can ask her about her plans, now that she's finished her degree, but she won't discuss any specifics.  It's not a topic we can discuss with Scott, though we can ask about the mice problem to learn he's allergic to cats.  Frosty and Chase have nothing new to say either.

Well, when in doubt, we can always use Nancy's phone to seek advice and hints from her friends. Except Nancy's usual friends, Bess and George, are not in her contacts list!  She can call the Hardy Boys, in case there's a crossover in the offing -- actually, yes, it's a promo for the one and only Hardy Boys game Her Interactive has released to date, and they spend some time yammering about the plot of that game.  Frank and Joe do suggest that vehicle sabotage via coolant house is inept at best, and Nancy says she believes Debbie is turning down job offers in hopes of taking over Scott's team soon, maybe because she is planning to push him off the team.  Calling P.G. Krolmeister reveals a little bit about rival team leader Brooke Tavanah -- he thinks she's too smart to need sabotage, but wouldn't put it past her -- and he waxes rhapsodic about the quality of his products, given the chance.  Krolmeister's fascination with storms is due to their refusal to be tamed by technology; he once lost a house to a tornado, and his friend Prudence Rutherford was injured by the same one.  But we haven't really learned anything new or useful.

Nancy's Journal reminds me that her usual consultants Ned, Bess and George are off hiking, hence unreachable, and she indicates an interest in getting a look at Scott's records when he's out of the office.  I seem to be out of things to do, but Nancy still won't turn in for the night.  It seems I've gone everywhere and looked at everything a few times after some trying, so I turn to the web for help.  It turns out that a number of people have gotten stuck here -- Her Interactive's community website clued me in to a couple of possibilities.  We actually have to put the survival kit items into the duffel bag downstairs -- they're in inventory as a bag of items, similar to the candy sack.  This seems to be a bug -- Day 1 finishes if we have done the shopping for the disaster kit, but the task isn't really "done" until we've put them away.  Once that's done, Frosty mentions we should talk to Debbie... and yes, now we're moving again, with a storm to chase!  (I think this was supposed to happen on Day 1, which is why Scott congratulated Nancy on her storm driving, though it never happened in my game!)





We have to drive to the northwest, into the thick of the storm, with Frosty riding shotgun.  Of course, just as we see what we're looking for, his video camera dies and Nancy has to fix it.  This is a tricky puzzle -- we have to arrange the numbers 1-88 in a partial grid so that a complete sequence can be navigated contiguously, with adjacent numbers touching on a side or corner, with the red numbers fixed in place.  The red numbers are actually helpful, as they constrain the solution a bit, but there are many possible paths.  What worked best for me was to build in from both ends of the sequence, putting the pieces with the fewest possibilities in place first and then working out the rest using as many overlapping diagonals as possible to keep as many possibilities for filling in the matrix open as I could.  Fortunately, although Frosty repeatedly tells Nancy to hurry it up, the storm lasts as long as necessary while we figure this out.

The storm takes out a barn (we think it's abandoned) but as Frosty tries to film it, he says the camera was still broken even though Nancy is quite sure she fixed it.  Scott asks Nancy if she still thinks tornadoes are "cool" -- we can choose positive or negative responses more often in this game than is usual for Nancy Drew, which gives us a little bit of control over Nancy's personality if not her agenda.  Scott blames Nancy for the camera snafu, taking Frosty's word for it, and tells her she can call it a day.  Whew!

Day 4 gives us yet more chores to do -- fixing some antennae (which we noticed mysteriously appeared on the landscape as we were doing the storm chase drive), and then checking in with Chase.  The car's GPS has an additional new location, called Viewpoint, as well, though this seems to be a barren pull-off at the side of the road.

The antennae were severely damaged in the storm, with pieces lying around; we have to put the loose pieces back in place, rotating them and placing them in perspective, basically restoring displaced pieces of the location's painted image.  This puzzle feels extremely artificial, because the structures clearly wouldn't still be standing in place with so many supporting pieces missing, but it doesn't take long to solve.  Under the foreground tower, Nancy finds another metal box, and a mysterious key.

Suddenly, an HP storm comes up, and Nancy has to race back to the farm -- with a buggy or sabotaged GPS system that's giving faulty directions.  If we take a wrong turn or drive into the storm, we run into fatal hail, so it's best to head east and drive around it, ignoring the malfunctioning GPS (which is normally silent but chooses this moment to start issuing verbal directions.)

We're given another puzzle to do -- Chase wants Nancy's help reassembling a transmission, by aligning gears on rods so they mesh but don't overlap; we also have to "stack" the gears on the rods so we have to put them on in a feasible order.  Once that's done, Chase gives us an auto repair estimate to deliver to Scott, for fixing the former intern's car.  Nancy can also ask Chase about the malfunctioning GPS system -- he is very apologetic, says he doesn't know what could have happened and promises it will never happen again.

Debbie asks Nancy to trap the mice by the file cabinet (now she asks) and doesn't agree with Nancy's hypothesis that they are being lured in by someone using corn.  She also promises to have Chase look at the GPS, though we've already asked him.  The second mouse trap puzzle is like the first, with a slightly more complicated trap structure with multiple gates; since the mice never leave the trap after they enter, we just have to play traffic cop until all the slots are full.

Giving Scott the auto repair estimate produces no strong reaction other than a comment about how much damage hail can do, but while we're talking Frosty screams from downstairs.  Nancy investigates -- nobody else in the house can be bothered, apparently -- but it's just another mouse sighting, behind the dryer.  We have to dump our current load of mice first, however; funny how this one trap keeps changing configuration.  (The mouse animation, incidentally, is nicely done -- there's a cutscene of a mouse entering the trap, and it has more personality than most of the human characters!)

Frosty confirms that the camera was still broken during the storm, and says he's left the camera in the living room for Nancy to look at.  The video footage is all black, though it clearly picked up audio during the event.  As we leave to free the mice at the spring house, Debbie says she's going to hit the sack -- odd, as it's clearly still daylight outside, though I think this is just an art design issue.  Before we call it a day, we'll visit Pa's store again and ask if the team has always been so accident-prone; he blames it on the nature of the work they do.

Day 5 dawns with a storm front moving in that might produce supercells -- exciting stuff!  But Nancy doesn't get to go along, as a lightning strike just took out Scott's phone connection so we have to fix it.  We can open Scott's desk drawer and see that he has been denied tenure due to a poor publication record.  We can also see that his phone's wall jack is actually on fire!  We have to fix the phone by traversing a "wiring" grid without crossing the same section of wire twice, though we can revisit intersections and this puzzle isn't too difficult.  Are there any more Scott files we should inspect?  We overhear Scott and Brooke talking, somehow, though the audio is fuzzy and it sounds like they're just making repetitive small talk -- until we click on Scott's headset on his desk, and overhear Scott and Brooke apparently conspiring to fix the competition!

Entering the barn, we see Chase's boots are dirtied by oil.  There are some Pa Pennies behind a stall gate, and an empty case under the workbench with foam padding in unusual shapes that may make sense later.  Pa has nothing new to say at the General Store.  Frosty's desk features a newspaper ad for a slightly-used expensive sports car, which he has apparently already been test driving; a handwritten note reads, "Drives like a dream.  If only..."  Scott's desk has nothing new to investigate, but the radio table in his office has a movable spool of cable -- moving it reveals a retractable utility knife, with orange splotches.  Nancy recognizes the odor as coolant.  So is Scott sabotaging his own team?  Given the huge $100 million prize in this grant contest, it wouldn't be out of the question for two leading teams to conspire for one of them to throw the competition and then split the winnings.  Though it seems there would be easier ways to go about this, especially as there's no guarantee one of the other teams won't actually win in the end.

Now Nancy's cell phone rings -- it's Krolmeister, checking in on the team during this storm.  He tells Nancy to go to the General Store, even though we were just there a little while ago.  Pa doesn't have any messages from the boss, at least not yet -- instead, now he wants Nancy to trap some mice in his museum.  Sigh.  At least he gives us a Moon Chunk cheese snack for bait so we don't have to buy one from him.

Finding the mouse trap spot takes a little doing, it's not an obvious location to check even though Pa's told us it's by the Homesteaders display.  This one isn't too difficult either, and we'll go dump the mice at the spring house again.  Surprise!  The divining rod from the museum is here, along with an oily footprint.  Was Chase "borrowing" the divining rod?  Taking the rod to Pa produces only mild surprise, and he asks Nancy to put it back in the display.  Lazy old... at least he gives us some of his self-serving fiat currency, fifty Pa Pennies to spend in the company store.

What now?  There's that new Viewpoint location on the map, so let's go check that out; there's nothing there of note at the moment, just an empty field.  Back to the farmhouse, I guess.  Checking the cut hose in the barn again, this time Nancy confirms that the V-shaped cut looks like it was made by the knife we found in Scott's office.  Chase says he was able to put a sensor in the path of a major downdraft.  Asked whether he is spending his spare time trying to find oil, with supporting allegations about the divining rod, he admits he has been doing exactly that, believing there's a large crude deposit under the farm.  But he denies he's sabotaged anything, and shows Nancy something interesting he found after the lightning strike -- a lightning rod was set up to direct the surge into the house wiring, instead of away from it.

Debbie says Nancy didn't miss much on the chase, and thanks her for fixing the phone, then asks her to fix the static-plagued TV in the living room.  This time, when we turn the TV on, we get a color RGB test pattern (remarkably crisp for a CRT display), and we can fiddle with five small knobs on the set's control panel which we haven't been able to interact with before.  This puzzle is not based in anything reality-based regarding scan lines or phosphors, it seems -- by turning the small knobs, we rotate rings in the circular test pattern, trying to line everything up with the small displays in the corners of the screen.  But something doesn't make sense here -- the small images don't match the available colors in the rings with any consistency?  Ah, okay, there are cells where it doesn't matter which color is displayed.  If we focus on a single color at a time, we can get a set lined up fairly easily.  But we have to do it in the traditional R-G-B order -- I did blue first, and nothing registered until I set up the red positioning, at which point red was grayed out and I was able to calibrate the green, then the blue elements.  We're not trying to create a composite pattern, just arranging the dials to match the patterns for one color at a time.  Nancy gets the television fixed just in time to see what appears to be the "lost" footage from Frosty's camera -- shot at the same location, it seems, and broadcast on the local news!  Curious.

Talking to Debbie about the footage is fruitless -- she assumes somebody else was at the same vantage point as Frosty and Nancy, and seems to be mad at Nancy for bringing it up.  Confronting Frosty reveals some details I didn't realize Nancy had noticed -- like scratches on Frosty's arm from the rose bushes where the money boxes are found, apparently evidence of his sales tactics (odd in these Internet days, when financial and video transactions could have been conducted more secretly online.)  Nancy lets fly with accusations that Frosty and Debbie are trying to get Scott to blow up and jeopardize his position leading the team.  Frosty says Nancy sounds crazy, though he admits selling the footage to a girl who wants to be a nature photographer.  He tries to get Nancy not to tell Scott any of this.  Nancy seems to believe him, and they talk about cloud photography a little bit.

Confronting Debbie with her collusion in Frosty's sales of the team-funded work yields nothing more than advice that Nancy should focus on her own responsibilities and not worry about these things.  This seems to be the end of Day 5, as Debbie says it's time to hit the sack, but let's try talking to Scott first.  We can't bring any of this team misbehavior stuff up, unfortunately, though we can talk a little more about Brooke -- Scott seems fatalistic about his own team's chances, and it's hard to tell if he's being deceptive or not.

Day 6 seems to sweep yesterday's controversies under the rug, as there are now some new storms brewing.  We have to drive the storm tracking vehicle into a pull-off to the west (the Viewpoint location), and use the Doppler radar unit, riding with Scott and Debbie.  Getting the radar working is a switch puzzle -- to warm up the old equipment, we have to arrange a bank of switches so all the lights are blue, by flipping them in banks of three.  This is a trial-and-error puzzle, trying three-switch combinations methodically until we get a set to stay blue; we have to flip at least one switch twice, but even if it's already blue we can touch it to get the set completed.

The Doppler system doesn't work for long, shorting out almost immediately after we get it working.  The next puzzle is a cable-sorting exercise -- Scott tells us that the top cable goes in the first plug, the bottom in the last plug?  Ah, we have to observe the depth of each cable in the layered wiring, and arrange the colored plugs in that order; all the wires are pulled taut so this is like visually parsing a set of pick-up sticks.  This isn't too difficult, as we can test the arrangement by pressing a button at the bottom of the screen -- the display progressively removes the wires we've ordered correctly, revealing a clearer picture of the underlying wiring as we make headway.

With the wiring fixed, we head back to base, as the weather is not developing as expected; we don't have to drive back to the farmhouse, we're taken there automatically.  Scott hasn't come back to base, though?  Checking his desk, we find a piece of paper sticking out of the drawer we unlocked earlier.  It indicates Brooke has been paying Scott to throw the competition, as we have been suspecting -- the arrangement is that Scott disappears, leaving his group without leadership until Brooke's team has been named the winner.  The conspirators are supposed to meet at a site encoded in the surface charts downstairs -- clues point to days with 45+ dewpoint and continuous moderate rain or 85 degrees with either light hail/no thunder or severe thunderstorm with hail.  Odd that we are left such detailed instructions for a secret code, but... the surface chart notebook downstairs points us to March 19th, if I'm reading the symbology correctly.  March 19th is marked with a B on Scott's calendar, and there are twelve slots to fill in the calendar display that seem meant for decoding this puzzle.  What does that suggest?  Ah, maybe we're supposed to decode letters from the calendar using all the matching weather dates for the criteria given, not just the common set.  So we're really looking at March 8, 9, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 26, 3, 16, 18, and 19th again; twelve distinct dates matches the number of typeable slots in the calendar view nicely.  But I am not seeing any real words in the mix?   Ah, I misread the original note -- I'm using the wrong dates, I was conflating the two clues.  Trying again, I realize there are more pages in the Surface Charts notebook as well, covering April and May as well as March.  The dates we need to look at are in fact March 3, 8, 18, 21, 26, April 3, 6, 10, 23, 29, and May 6th and 12.

Using these dates, we come up with... WM9A, GV2C, and SH4A.  These aren't words, at least yet, but they must be codes of some kind, as they share a similar structure... but what kind of code?  The storm strength map in Scott's office doesn't use these.  Aha!  The gallery photos on the laptop computer are labeled with these codes.  Nancy helpfully notes this as we browse images -- all three correspond to images of windmills, and as we go through these, Nancy explicitly notes the meaning.



So I guess we're going to the windmill to see if we can intercept the skulduggery at hand!  Nancy confronts Scott with the evidence she has found, and he gets rather upset, attempting to justify his behavior by bemoaning the lack of respect he gets for his work.  A storm comes up -- a tornado is forming, Scott feels -- and he suggests that Nancy could just accidentally die out here, what with the weather and all.

He knocks Nancy out, and she is briefly unconscious until Debbie calls on her radio.  We have to get in the car to converse -- I couldn't figure this out at first, looking for a radio in Nancy's inventory -- and Debbie asks us to meet her at the Grange Hall, a new destination on the map that's used as a tornado shelter as well as a playhouse.  When we arrive at the Grange, hail is already falling.  Debbie is somewhere here, but the shelter is locked!  Debbie gives Nancy the Grange Hall keys, which lets us unlock the storm cellar doors, but we don't have the right key for the basement doors beyond.  There's a set of additional keys here in a case -- nine keys, but which is the right one?  We only have time for one try, it seems, and if we back away from the puzzle the tornado hits and we're all dead.  We only have time to try three keys even if we don't back out.  As it turns out, there's no actual logic to this "puzzle" -- we just have to grab the right key after dying as many times as necessary before we randomly pick the correct one and succeed.

The worst of the storm passes, and we can exit the shelter -- Debbie advises Nancy to return in case it gets bad again, but Nancy is determined to keep Scott from getting away.  Some excitement at last?  For once, the GPS actually works the way we'd expect, with a trackable dot and a compass arrow onscreen as we chase Scott in the storm tracking truck.  Even though time is of the essence, there's room for a conversation between Debbie and Nancy about Debbie's plans to oust Scott from the team before the chase ensues -- Debbie says she wanted to take over because he was losing focus and putting the team in danger.

The chase itself requires us to stay out of the storm's way and chase Scott's truck until he stops -- it's the only other vehicle out in this weather, but there's a lot of storm debris on the roads.  We can't make him pull over, but if we stay close long enough he drives into the fringes of the storm and crashes into a telephone pole by the spring house.  Nancy has to get herself and her quarry into the building for safety, which we can achieve by simply picking up a handy crowbar and pulling the boards off the door.  And this final bit of drama leads straight to victory!


The story is over and Nancy wraps it all up with a letter to her boyfriend Ned.  Scott has to do some community service, and the university fires him.  Brooke is also punished for her misdeeds, and Debbie combines the two teams for the remainder of the season.  Frosty renegotiates his contract so he can also work as a storm photographer on his own, and Chase stays busy doing repairs, moving up to be Debbie's second-in-command.  Nancy arrives home to find herself receiving a lifetime supply of Krolmeister's Koko Kringle bars, and the industrialist indicates he will continue to employ her (so now she's making a living with the detectivey investigatory stuff instead of just treating it as her hobby.)  Pa sends a postcard indicating that the show will go on after the Grange Hall is repaired, with a new scene about Nancy's adventures added to this and future productions.
The game awards the player a variety of medals, based on how thoroughly we explored and played the side events -- I only earned the Couch Potato, Glass Half Full, Sightseer and Super Sleuth awards.  The game wraps up with a promo for Nancy Drew game number 23 (well, the next new one after a remake of the first one, Secrets Can Kill), called Shadow at the Water's Edge, set in Japan and inspired by Japanese horror films (Ju-On is a big influence, if the trailer is any indication.)  The credits are followed by a few mock outtakes using assets created for Trail of the Twister, though the jokes are a little heavy handed.

I didn't enjoy Trail of the Twister as much as some of the other Nancy Drew adventures -- this one is so linear and puzzle-driven that it feels closer to a hidden object game than a true adventure game, and the puzzle difficulty seems to be arranged at random.  The puzzles aren't always realistic, either, missing some of the genuine hands-on educational character of other games in the series.  Most clues and all essential ones aren't there for the finding with careful sleuthing, but are treated mostly as rewards for doing what various characters want the player to do, which makes the whole affair seem less like an investigation and more like a checklist.  I'm hoping the next one of these I tackle will feel more like a mystery.