Mystery Mansion: A wild stew   3 comments

Please note the maps below are only in progress. Click them for PDF files.

After a lot of confusion I finally read James Garnett’s Mystery Mansion Spoilers, which serve enough to clarify what is going on without giving too much away.

* There are treasures to collect, but it’s much more nonobvious than Adventure or Zork. Every item in the game — including mundane ones like the broom and the rusty shovel — gives points. It’s just some give more than others, and there’s an inventory limit. There are 13 “major” treasures (that give 10 points each) and 3 “minor” treasures (that give 5 points each). I’ve only come across two of the treasures so far, so I’ve got a ways to go.

* There’s a map you can pick up that tells you what you’ll find in each cardinal direction:

> READ MAP

THE MAP SHOWS THAT IT IS:
NORTH TO THE BACK GATE
EAST TO THE STRANGE STREAM
SOUTH TO THE DENSE WOODS
WEST TO THE DENSE WOODS

The map only works on the outer edges of the map (not indoors or in the garden).

* The screams I was hearing are just the game’s way of counting time. At every hour on the hour something noisy happens off of this list:

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

* There’s a fair amount of alternate solutions for things. For example, there’s a secret passage (the west rooms on each floor) that can be entered in 8 different ways. The identity of the murderer, weapon, and location of the crime can be discovered completely by working out how to unroll a magic scroll, or piecemeal by questioning suspects and finding random messages on walls. There’s a vampire that can be killed in two different ways (one of them clever enough to be a worthy puzzle in a modern game).

* There’s a book that gives a single random possible verb depending on which mystery number (1 up to 999) you are playing. If you want to get a complete verb list you are technically supposed to return to the book over and over until you’ve randomly manage to hit upon every possible word. (For two of the magic words, this appears to be the only in-game way to find them.) I said “hmm, no” to that and cut and paste out of the source code instead (I already needed to look at the verbs to find out LIST stood for INVENTORY anyway).

* There’s some random distribution of objects based on the mystery number. Normally there’s an AXE to the east that I go to as my very first move but on rare occasions (possibly when it is the murder weapon) it isn’t there.

* You have one day of time to solve the mystery, grab as many treasures as you can, and escape. Oddly this bothers me more than the lamp-running-low-on-power time limit in Adventure and Zork. I think it’s because you have a certain measures of control over the lamp and can coordinate and plan to save lamp energy. With this game time passes even if you are goofing around looking for a secret passage with the lamp turned off. Also, the lack of a hard score limit makes me less inspired to try and grab all the treasures (I am unsure if it is even possible to carry all the major treasures at once).

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Posted May 6, 2011 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Mystery Mansion: A wild stew

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  1. I must say, the more I learn about this game the happier I am to just experience it vicariously through you. :)

  2. Hi, I just stumbled across this old post. I used to play this game as a high-school kid back in the mid 1980’s, and it was fun to port it from its ancient source code into C when I was trying to avoid finishing my master’s thesis in grad school. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed playing it! There actually is a hard score limit (999, I think), but it’s very very hard to achieve it. Hint: the occasional messages along the lines of “a crow caws as it flies by” are important for reaching the hard limit.

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