Mystery Mansion: The end   5 comments

The alternate ending for Twilight.


I’ve been corresponding with Bob Sorem, authors of one of the ports of Mystery Mansion. It’s easy to to forget the context of these games: this was a mainframe game in the time many did not own personal computers, and so for some this was the only computer game they had access to for years. Hence: obsessive playing and perfection. Bob writes that he was disappointed if he got anything less than 999 out of 999 points.

(Bob answered all of my questions and also sent a complete map set which he has given permission to post here, so I am very grateful to his help.)

One of the peculiar things I learned from him which doesn’t seem clued at all in the game, is that the odd messages I’ve mentioned
YOU HEARD A WOMAN SCREAM
YOU HEARD A WOLF HOWL
YOU HEARD A CROW CAW AS IT FLEW BY
YOU HEARD SOME ROCKS FALLING NEARBY
which occur every hour (on the half hour — there are traditional clock bells on the hour) are also scoring opportunities. Immediately after one of those messages occurs you can SCORE POINTS to get a bonus 2 points. This can be awkward timing if you’re about to stake a vampire or fight a wolf so does cause a little extra caution, like one of random Achievement challenges in a modern game (shooting all the cameras in Portal, say).

I approached things with lower standards than 999 out of 999 points. I consider a winning run to:
a.) Kill the threats: vampire, werewolf, wolf, and warrior.
b.) Expose the murderer and hand him or her to the police.
c.) Raid the treasure in the “treasure trek” maze.

Still, this was rather a challenge to wrangle everything.

  • The characters will sometimes pick up items and wander off with them. Relatedly, the murder weapon (needed to accuse the murderer) can be tricky to locate. Fortunately there’s a parrot that can be used to FIND items (it says so in the description, so you don’t have to guess at that at least).
  • Part of a successful run requires a trip to a “mole maze” where the mole sometimes changes the exits. Should I marvel at the innovation (dynamic map changes!), or just be really annoyed? My method of coping was to tackle the maze first thing after getting the compass, but even then multiple attempts were required.

  • In the “treasure trek” maze (which occurs after figuring out the amulet-cavity deal from my last post) you are also outrunning rising water so you have to be careful not to drown. (Trivia note: when activating this section the route to the mole maze collapses and the mole maze rooms are “reused” for this maze as a way of saving memory.)

  • The conditions where you can or can’t do things are mysterious and seem to occasionally depend on the time of day. For example, there’s a wooden wedge in a pile of wood, but sometimes you can’t reach it.

    >GET WEDGE
    THE WOOD IS STACKED TOO HIGH.

    then for no reason I am quite sure of, later attempting a staking sometimes result in

    > kill vampire
    YOU HAVE NOT FIGURED OUT HOW NOT DO THAT YET.

  • Fortunately there’s an alternate (brilliant) way of killing the vampire which I will discuss in the comments.

  • To be a little more positive, there’s just so many ways of handling things. For example, to find the murderer you can question people until someone gives their suspicions, LISTEN during a conversation (for example when the MASTER and the BUTLER are in the same room), hear it on the radio from a police announcement, or learn about it from a magic scroll. Alternately, you could presume everyone is guilty and shoot everyone in the house (Grand Theft Auto mashed up with L.A. Noire, so to speak).

One bit that helped was an extra dollop of science fiction onto the genre pile

IT IS THE LABORATORY OF THE MAD SCIENTIST. THERE ARE SEVERAL PIECES OF EQUIPMENT HERE WHICH ARE ALL HUMMING READY TO WORK. IT SORT OF LOOKS LIKE THE TRANSPORTER ROOM OUT OF A STAR TREK MOVIE. LARGE WINDOWS OVERLOOK THE GROUNDS. THERE IS A DOOR TO THE SOUTH AND A SMALL DOOR ON THE FLOOR.

There’s a MATTER XMITTER and a MATTER RECEIVER that let you BEAM UP and BEAM DOWN to teleport to the laboratory and from the laboratory to where the matter receiver is. I placed the matter receiver at the exit so I could teleport at the very end.

In any case, after midnight the Mansion explodes, so I made my exit to triumph:

YOU HAVE BEATEN THE ODDS AND HAVE DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE. YOU HAVE SURVIVED MYSTERY MANSION AND YOU CAN NOW SEE IT GOING UP IN SMOKE BEFORE YOU.

YOUR SCORE INCLUDES 84 POINTS FOR THE ITEMS YOU HAVE WITH YOU.

NOW YOU HAVE TO WALK TO THE BIG CITY.

YOU SCORED 804 POINTS WHICH RATES YOU AS A SLEUTH.

YOU PLAYED 70 MINUTES REAL TIME AND 18.0 HOURS GAME TIME OR 31 % UTILIZATION.

There are three parts I missed, according to the nebulous and nearly incomprehensible source code. First, there’s gold coins found by doing … something … somewhere. Also, SLEEP is not just an intransitive word (see the image clip on top of this post) and there’s even a way to succeed (ranking Mystery Mansion as the first computer game of any type to include sexuality) but I have no idea how. Finally, there’s a way to call a taxi (you don’t have to walk back to town as per the ending text) but the phone always gives me a busy signal; I don’t know if I need perfect timing or what exactly.

Still, I think I’ve got the full experience. I can start to see — at the end of my journey, mind you — why HP mainframe users were addicted; once the game is “figured out” it becomes more of a re-playable strategy game with multiple endings. Getting a perfect score would require reckoning with the random aspect to the mystery, the strange SCORE POINTS mechanism, and the fact visiting every new room is worth points.

Posted June 1, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Mystery Mansion: The end

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  1. Vampire alternate solve: There are many rooms with curtains. Opening the curtain lets in the sunlight. If the vampire is chasing you when you open a curtain the vampire will run away (but unfortunately won’t die since he was near a safe exit). The way to kill the vampire outright is to go with him into the secret passage, travel from there to a curtained room, and then open the curtain. Not close enough to an exit to escape, the vampire shrivels up and dies. (There’s a mechanism to get back in the passage but the vampire can’t reach it.)

  2. You can replay a mystery over and over by typing as the first command given when starting: mystery XXX where xxx is the number of the mystery you want to play. This allows you to learn at least initially where things are, who the murderer was, the weapon and use the fewest commands to get that part resolved.

    Fortran IV came with the HP3000 system as part of the standard package. Fortran 77 was a $10k add on (in 1980 dollars) so it makes sense that the programmer had access to IV and not 77. We used IV up until the late 1980’s in our laser printing service environment.

  3. I first played Mystery Mansion on an HP3000 in around 1978/9. Eventually, after using the save option and thus playing the same version each time, I amassed around 950 points. Some points-scoring actions (like confronting and turning in the murderer) gain points whereas some other things that can be difficult to do (such as sleeping with the maid) gain no points at all!. Key things apart from solving the murder include disposing of the vampire (easy) and the wolf (not so easy), collecting all the treasure, avoiding it being stolen or moved and placed somewhere awkward (for example, the woodsman might drop your matter receiver down the deep well) and finally making your way back to the big city. But, beware darkness – when it gets dark, the rules change for the worse.
    I rediscovered this excellent game recently and although it runs on WIndows XP, I can’t get it to run on Wndows 7 even in compatibility mode.
    In summary – an excellent game, ahead of its time that makes you think and reason what needs to be done whilst holding a picture in your mind. Better I think than purely visual games.

  4. Further notes on a good ending to score points. Leave the matter receiver somewhere that no one else can move it or you might get a nasty surprise – for example beaming down into a deep well (I sometimes leave in in the maid’s room and lock the door). Be sure to have the silver bullet when one of the inmates turns into a werewolf. Just in time, drop everything you don’t need, leaving lantern (with new battery), compass, use your extra strength device to pick up all the booty you have stashed in your chosen safe place (ring, pearls, emerald, coins, goblet, diamonds, jewelery, necklace, crown and anything else of value) and make your way out of the exploding mansion be means of the fire escape (you will need to oil the rusty hinge before it will open) back to the main gate where of course the taxi is waiting to take you to the city (you did have time to telephone for a taxi didn’t you?). Having done that and previously survived all hazards, confronted the murderer and turned him/her over to the police and still had time to take a shower and a restful sleep on the maids bed (I have been able to get all the available treasure quickly enough to need to sleep for a couple of hours before the game ends), you should score well over 900 points.
    PS, The maid is particular about the circumstances under which she will “come across” – BUT, having managed to have you way with here, it seems to score NO points at all!!!!

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