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.
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.
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.