Monday, October 28, 2019

Catacomb Abyss: Sewers

Previously, I left off at a well at the end of the two undead-infested levels. I have to wonder about the design of this game for a section. Okay, this is just something Nemesis's minions have built yes? So therefore the two preceding levels must have been unfinished levels, presumably the skeletons are the workers. This makes more sense in Den of Zombies, but presumably nothing much has been built in the Subterranean Vault. This would explain why I'm forced to go through the sewers here.
I didn't get a shot of the entrance, but it was a solid square covering the immanent area. The area after this is a wide area surrounded by walls with the odd water vent. One of the area descriptions helpfully tells me I should try to find the blue gem in the region.
The water bubbles, are of course not actually water bubbles. They are signs a troll is there. I remember this causing me much anxiety as a youth. If you don't blast him down right away, he'll hide under the water again. This is slightly easier to deal with than the regular monsters, who don't pop out. I wonder if this is specifically associated with the water ground type or if you can have these guys over anything. There are two little vent corners in this room, each holding another one.
Right up against the breakable wall, I don't know whether to praise that or complain. After that, a room with a quasi-trap. A troll in front of a chest. I lose the chest. I carefully make my way through the "Aqueduct Northern Channels" making sure to eliminate each troll as I find them.
A grouping of them hiding inside some kind of treasure room proves to be more time-consuming than challenging.
This trick is then followed up again with the same trick. If this level had more substance to it, I wouldn't need to mention it with a picture. Not the best level I feel. Very confusing.
But when you get down to it, having a blue gem protected by a pack of trolls makes sense. I can now see all my enemies. All the enemies so far. And there's a troll out there somewhere. I activated him and never saw him. After I take care of him, I find another treasure room. Somehow I manage to slip all the way to the southern channels. I can't help feel that so far every single encounter has been the same. This seems to be the extent of the area I'm able to access from this side of the start. I go over to the other vent out of the opening area, fight another troll right against it.
A single troll all by his lonesome. A strange choice in this level. His nearest friend several seconds away. In fact, these aqueducts are far more lively than the other ones. A treasure room here, with the chests blocking off a troll. A treasure room there, with the chests blocking off a troll. After this, I figure I've cleaned this section out and must have missed something on the other side. I'm wrong and waste my own time.
Coming back and doing a careful investigation reveals another vent. Hiding a troll who's trying to be sneaky, hiding behind the wall. I'm too smart for that. Another one tries this trick, this time in front of a chest as if that wasn't clever enough.
Hmm, this looks like an exit. I don't see any monsters. No monsters.
Orc mines. So full of orcs the first thing you see is a skeleton walking out of the wall.
That really changes my opinion of this level. Why stop here? Why not throw a couple dozen trolls at me? A few demons. And a hundred necromancers for support? And make the whole floor lava!
"Don't miss the green gem in this region" and pretend you didn't see this graphical error. I guess I expect this kind of level design from an modder. I guess that's true in spirit in this case. Pair of exploding wall skeletons cover the way out.
An orc to the west and an orc hiding behind chests hiding behind exploding walls.
While I am grateful for the info, I have to ask myself, who is writing this? This is right behind the orc hiding behind the chests! Why would the orc write that? How did anyone get in here? Do orcs pull the same move as the skeletons, but they just don't show it in-game? Were there recent collapses in the mine? A kind orc waits for me to finish asking these questions before attacking me. The west area leads out, to the clue as mentioned here. The east area leads further into the mines.
Another second, another orc. They're nice, not very troublesome enemies, capable of doing damage that, in another game, would be the low end. The passage breaks off into two areas here. One north and one south. Both are covered by exploding skeletons. I go south. Its very densely made. Its very quickly makes a sharp turn and goes east, where two orcs wait. Here, there are two passages north, one of which leads to a room just full of skeletons in the wall.
Wall skeleton room turns out to lead to another secret treasure room. I'm sorry, "Hidden storage", where four orcs have packed themselves into a room. The eastern of the two passages is a long winding one with two obvious exploding walls.
The first of these appears to lead into a room made with solid stone walls. A horde of orcs are inside here, and while they have me distracted, a skeleton and another orc pop up from further down the passage.
The inside of the solid stone room has the final, green gem. I back off as to not accidentally destroy it. The orcs don't take the bait so I advance a little to get a clear shot at them without harming the gem. You have to line up your shots carefully sometimes.
The end of the previous passage leads to a "Large vaulted room". Two chests apparently make a vault. Naturally, two skeletons appear here, eager to ruin my day. The area is otherwise clear. A passage out of here, labeled "Mine shaft passages", actually looks the part...as far as a room with no supports can look. From here, are two more exploding walls.
The southern one, reveals a key and two orcs. "Hidden storage", not exactly hidden if its necessary to win, is it? The northern one, reveals a slightly larger chamber with a key in it, also called "Hidden storage". Uh-huh. This one instead has a couple of skeletons and a wall that looks like it should explode, but doesn't.
Back to the first north/south split. The northern half has a horde of orcs. Another pair of passages reveal themselves after that. This level sure has a lot of splits.
Another key already? The western split has this key, some treasure and some orcs. I've hit 99 zappers, so I can't collect anymore without using one. I suppose that's the big flaw with this game, its easy to get a lot of supplies because you aren't going to be using them against most enemies. Key word, most.
Meanwhile, the eastern side of the split has a orc and more treasure. I carefully try to take care of him but end up destroying a chest anyway. That'll ruin my high score. There aren't any secret passages in either of these two areas, which is bad because I suspect I need more than 3 keys. So, for some time I try futilely to find another key. Maybe I'm wrong, let's see that exit area.
More skeletons in the walls. You'd think there would be some orcs or trolls in the passage out, but no dice. The passageway to the next level is just a non-stop barrage of skeletons. Sure, after the second key, there's some orcs, but its a surprisingly orc-light orc level.
Wait a minute, if the trolls are next, what are the blue things I've been fighting called? Water trolls? Water troll. Next, another FPS first. Although in this case it'll be the second.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Alone in the Dark: 2nd Floor

Previously, I left at the end of the second floor*. One puzzle left, although realistically, this is the first puzzle in the game. I don't count "do what the game told you to do" and "I wonder what this vase does" as puzzles. Those would be puzzles if I had way more options. This isn't Legacy: Realm of Terror or anything. Nothing as of yet is useless.
The reload produces some jamming ambient music. Its ambient, but its clearly going for a melody. Accidental darkwave?
The room downstairs has a pair of gargoyles. Clearly, they're meant to do something, as the music suddenly changes and they're 3D. I think I can figure out this puzzle. This isn't rocket science. Presumably I use the mirrors on the statues and they do...something. This puzzle only makes sense as a puzzle in a computer game without further input. I slowly inch across the northern wall, who knows what'll set these guys off. I put the mirror in place and...
Please, ignore that this is the opposite of how its written
The gargoyle starts going crazy. He's not moving, but he's writhering around, like he's in pain or he's about to slaughter me. Okay, carefully inch back, across the door. Gargoyle number 2 doesn't do anything yet.
Mirror put into place, gargoyle number 2 dies. Number 1 writhers in pain, but when I walk back dies. This doesn't really make sense as anything but computer logic. They probably built the engine in such a way that you can't touch things on the wrong part of the screen. Whatever, down the stairs. They're automatic when you get down them, and...
Door closing as you advance on it. Spooky. A laugh that sounds like Bela Lugosi's redneck cousin. Hilarious. I laughed. Out loud. That's more than I can say for some comedy games. Good job...kind of.
Walking around, I accidentally activate a suit of armor into fighting me. He's really dumb and overestimates his reach. I accidentally back up and then start just pounding him non-stop. For a good amount of time. While mysterious ambient music goes on in the background. I start to suspect that this suit is immune to a broken cavalry saber. Checking my book of walkthroughs**, I discover that I need something. I don't know what yet, but something. Fine, I reload. The combat music starts up for some reason after that. Armor-man isn't alert or anything.
The door that closed on itself is locked, and the armor is protecting the right area...I guess that means the area to the left then? Two paths there, one with a door and one further left that's a mysterious hole.
Uh, what? Am I downstairs now? I hate these kinds of stairs. Standing still for a while and nothing advances. I don't know if something is going to pop out or not.
A kitchen. On the first floor. Now, I'm no architect, but I would think you would put the kitchen on the ground floor. Or is this some weird British thing? Like one thing Americans and Brits agree on is kitchen on the first floor and they're fans of football. There's some weird ball of light on the table that I at first thought was a loaf of bread. I also discover that there's no water here, matches and a knife. Two knives. My first thought is, what kind of puzzle needs two knives? I guess they're weapons. Might as well try them out.
A groaning sound occurs as I walk toward a door. This is effective, not some hohoho level laugh.
There's a storage cupboard that has a key for some reason. A biscuit box. I'm starting to think the game is screwing with me now. Until I realize that's a health item.
Door no. 2, some kind of hidden area like corridor. I guess we'll try this door.
Oh...darn...The zombies aren't awake right away and I get the perfect shot at one right next to me. Okay, they won't awaken until I do something here, maybe I can hit them? So I hit the zombie next to me, he awakes, but hey, one-on-one isn't that hard. Boom, done. I go after zombie no. 2, door closes behind me, a zombie far away awakens just as I hit zombie no. 2. Reload!
I manage to get defeat them all, eventually. They awaken one by one in a way that doesn't screw me over too much. I feel like this game has a real problem with how the melee combat works. You have poor reach and thus have to pick the right moment to attack. The zombies at least, telegraph their attacks so you know the right time to attack. Most of the time. The problem is that the zombies have better reach that most of my weapons so far, are much more capable of spamming their attacks and can quite easily put you in a death spiral. Thus, what is arguably less of a problem in its inspirations is a big problem here. In Resident Evil, at least, the zombies may have a rare pain cycle, but its a long one and you know what you have to do to activate it.
As to the room itself, its a dining hall. Apparently abandoned during a dinner party. Yet the kitchen doesn't have a fire going or anything. The door out unlocked itself after the zombies died, leading me to three exits. Is one of these a bathroom? There's got to be more than one bathroom here. The double doors lead me back to the stairs. Okay, then, the hidden area looking corridor must be the middle area. What's door no. 3 lead to?
I guess I'm going to die now. No? Its just smoke? What? What? But it hurts me. Is this an incense room? Is this an opium den? Its possible, it is supposed to be the 1920s and the guy was old. There's a lighter in here, but I want to conserve my health for fighting the undead again.
Wait, isn't this where I came in? What? I'm confused by the layout of the house now. I mean, I shouldn't be, they showed me to here when I walked in.
What? Is the outside Cthulu now? I'm afraid I can't show the hilarious tumbling motion our heroine makes as she gets sucked into her doom. Is the ground floor a weird metaphor for the basement or something? Why can't survival horror games just lock the front door? I don't understand this at all. Right, picking the door on the right and hey music's changed. I guess there something-
Gun. Gun. Gun doesn't work. Yeah, I'm going to win with a knife against this guy. Who is he even? What, is he a servant of Cthulu? Or is he here for kicks and he figures no one cares if he murders me too. I don't bother, he'll kill me for sure. The guy has a freaking sword, he has reach. If I wanted to sound pretentious, I'd say this is a metaphor for women in the corporate world, even if they have a gun, the other guy won't die. That puts me in a position to figure out how to kill two enemies. Somehow I don't think the solution is to find Uncle Jeremy's stash of rifle rounds. That'd be an interesting survival horror game. Trapped in the mansion of your dead NRA supporting relative, trying to find the key to his gun safe before the forces of the ancient ones get you.
Back to the kitchen, let's try that last area.
Spooky music and...ants...? Oh, there's a zombie behind me. He traps me in the cabinet. Right, reload. He's tied to the entering of the water closet. Why is anyone's guess, but it must be related to that door in the kitchen I can't close. Let's see what's in here, some oil, a barrel of water...
...Shoes? Why? The sequels are supposed to be inferior, what kind of god-awful puzzles are there going to be? I half expect the next couple of items to be a tuba and a box of pins. On my way back out I discover I can take the pot of soup...for some reason. I don't know if this is a joke. Hey, wait, I can search the shoes. I wonder-
Oh, that's a badly rendered model. Although the previous 3D games would probably have it be a literal box revolver. Maybe Uncle Jeremy should've had a M1911. You don't need a lot to low-polygon model a M1911. People 25 years from now wouldn't mock a M1911...maybe they would.
Okay, these are the doors I have left at this point. Left one, I don't know where that'll lead. Right one might lead back to the pirate. Left one is locked. I have a key, and after using it I discover its a key to the Cellar. Huh. Let's wait on that. Right door it is.
Despite being in mostly 2d, I feel like this is superior graphically to a lot of games after it, minus my issues with Emily's face. I do a little searching around and notice that the statue doesn't say "nothing important" like the other areas. Hmm, I search a little more and arrows. This must be for the bow I picked up earlier.
Something, something, why would spiders wait for me to do that? Something, something, cosmic horror. Dead, reload, let's check that other door upstairs a little first.
Is that a ghost or a bloodstain?
Hey, its a Star Trek alien! Right, reload, don't touch the ghosts. Ghosts don't like to be touched. I'm guessing there's a puzzle here somewhere. Ammo, which will be useful soon enough. A grammophone, which I can carry, but lack the inventory space for it. Well, let's give the pirate another shot with all these bullets I'm carrying. Maybe throw some things at him if I need to.
What's French for "this is a puzzle, you stupid American?" I do find out that the pirate can't cross the door. Ah, technical limitations. Hmm, does this mean I can just leave the door open when I grab the arrows?
Yes! Yes! Muahahaha! Hmm, I don't know if this is the plan or not. I don't know if I'm exploiting the rules in a way the developers intended or if I'm just exploiting the rules. Well, let's keep a save before this event just in case. Does pirate fall to arrow? And hang on a minute, I just now realized that these spiders were reused for the game Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time. I don't have a screenshot handy, but they have the same coloration and general style to them. The ones in Bugs Bunny are far bigger and more deformed, but there's a definite family lineage.
What? No. I'm shocked. I probably need to use the hot glue gun on the saber or something.

So, that leaves me with a handful of problems and only one solution:
1)Ghost is guarding a box of something. Possibly I can get by him without activating him.
2)Armor is guarding a corridor. I don't think I have anything that can kill him.
3)Pirate is guarding another corridor. He probably needs some kind of melee weapon.
4)Another door is locked and I don't have the key.
5)Spiders drop when I take the arrows. Is running out of the room the right answer?
6)A room with smoke it in. Is tanking the damage the right solution?
7)I missed something somewhere and I have to go back and get it.
Solution: Go to the cellar.
I think I'll stop here before this goes any further. This basement thing's gonna be a real problem. Goosebumps might have told us not to go into the basement, but Fighting Fantasy showed us why you really shouldn't go into the basement.

*The real floor number is 3rd, since this is presumably in America. But because some Frenchman didn't do his research its the 2nd floor and I got confused like any big dumb American.
**Hey, its not really cheating. I'm just confirming my suspicions about an enemy. If you want to read about someone futzing about with the suit of armor for an hour...I don't know who to direct you to. That sounds like a really bad LP.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Catacomb Abyss: Dens

Because I already remember a good chunk of this game, not everything is a surprise to me. At this point we see the return of the undead from the first two levels, except now the developers are more clever. The developer of a level has a bunch of good advantages when it comes to designing ambushes in this game. I'd argue that these are much better than the typical monster closets more typical at this point in time. Teleporting enemies, are of course, a cheap trick.
A nice calm, scenic level.
I still don't know how I activated this guy, must've been hiding on a corner tile.
The opening area is a grand hallway, "Hall of the Undead" if you will. Ordinary walls on the northern and south sides, with passages to different levels in the center, other rooms where applicable. Two dirt walls on the west/east axis, no doubt where the place either collapsed or the contractors stopped getting paid.
Or option three, the contractors are all dead. Why, yes, the zombies are coming up from the ground and the skeletons are coming in through the wall. Who knows how many there are?*
Of course, turning around also activates the other monsters. This room is very symmetrical. Clearly, Nemesis has good taste in architecture. Of course, since Nemesis's minions built this place, this was all clearly planned. Nevermind how these scrolls I'm collecting got here.
These are Quake-style doors. Walk in, they disappear. Can't shoot them. When I go in, there are many skeletons in the wall. I don't know how many of them will become enemies. You see, its not always true that a skeleton in the wall is a skeleton you have to kill.
For instance, this guy dies like so many of his brenthern, while the other guy hides in the wall. Sometimes they mix this up and have the skeletons pop out after activating items, maybe its a longer delay. Does it really matter? "A large dusty room" has nothing in it but a door to another room. What's the next room?
Didn't really plan it, but its amazing how well this works as a Halloween game. On the other hand, nothing is really a threat unless you suck or are young. As it turns out the room called "Bone piles" doesn't really have many more than other rooms. The next room, has more and mentions nothing of bones or piles. It also has a key, no doubt for the level's exit. I still have some exploring to do, and there's probably a gem somewhere here. As I go back to the central hallway, I discover that the doors are helpfully called "Open cavern entrance". How useful I guess.
Right across the hall, a single pile of bones stares at me. Is he an enemy? Yes. Yes he is. "A Musty Room"? Aren't all these rooms musty? What, does "Bone piles" smell like cherry orchids? Musty room has several skeletons, some of which wait a good long time before popping out, could ruin your day quickly. "Cramped corridor" has a skeleton that woke up somehow, and I have to figure out how that happened.
Was it this? Nah, but computer philosophy isn't my strong suit. If you're freaking out over the line of skeletons on the right, you haven't been paying any attention. Those are the exploding walls. Its the skeletons on the left you should worry about. After some more magick missiles and a staring contest with a wall, I journey away from the exploded wall.
Once again, completely blindsided. Once again, not actually hurt. "Haunt of Skeletons", again, not the most skeleton heavy part of the level. It contains more items than enemies. Right, what's behind wall of bones?
Treasure, and skeletons. Now we're talking. "Hidden treasure room"? No, that's not it either. Unless the words hidden and treasure are not supposed to be related. Hidden as in hidden skeletons that are sneaky. That finishes off the eastern side of the level, how about the western half? Starting with the south door.
Oh, look, another area that alludes to having lots of skeletons in that don't show up. What, is this some kind of surprise after I get the treasure?
Yep. Fortunately, I have many friends to help with this. 64 at this point, but I think I'm going to lose a few of them. For once, the game hasn't lied about a room. Nothing else here beyond this. I wonder what's in the final area?
Oh, "a moldy and musty room". That's certainly going to be a unique smell among all these rotting corpses! A skeleton and a zombie. What a surprise!
Really? Really? I guess they really did smell like cherry orchids. And a room after this called "Chamber of Good Things" that actually only contains good things? And a green key? What's this game trying to do? Lull me into a false sense of security?
Oh, the only thing left is the exit. How undaunting. I guess its intended to artificially increase length. As I ponder this a single zombie pops up, undoubtedly to screw with players just like me.
It's really called Subterranean Vault, huh? Imaginative. What's next, Underground Cave? Those exploding skeletons you see hide a bunch of chests. No skeletons hiding in the walls yet. Very interesting. In fact, for a good half minute, the area doesn't even seem to have any enemies. There is an enemy in there, of course. There's some treasure on either side of the opening area. Just the side passages. They don't go anywhere.
 That's rather helpful. Who wrote this?
Of course, now the skeletons decide to pop up. Thanks, guys. After dealing with them, I am at a loss of ideas as to my next move. The area doesn't really have an obvious out route. Or that's what I thought at first. I make my way to a group of wall skeletons. Get rid of the wall and...
This thing. I think they're trolls, but they're the multi-colored generic giant dude that plagues the later levels. They all deal a lot of damage and soak up some punishment. I'd say they're the biggest flaw of the enemy design. They don't stop moving whenever their pain animation is triggered, but they don't attack.
You know, I realized I've come this far and not mentioned the pain system. See, every time you hit something, you activate it. This means that single enemies aren't very difficult. In packs, you aren't assured survival. Packs of trolls and up and you're screwed.
Fifty magick missiles later and we're in the "Northern Tunnels of Gloom". They're tunnels and can be slightly confusing, but we're still not at Wolfenstein 3D levels of confusing yet. They do eventually give way to the "Southern Tunnels of Gloom", which lead me to another hidden chamber. Gee, another hidden chamber I waltz right into. This is like someone hiding a bunch of Playboys in their closet. Technically, it is hidden, but any sort of search will reveal it.
Golly, Big Jim's done hidden another chamber behind yonder chest. How will I ever discover it? Lawlsy, lawlsy. I better tell Mike that he needs to hire a level designer that doesn't put obvious statements in front of the secret chambers. Lawlsy, lawlsy-
 ...lawlsy.
Okay, this is waking me up. I feel alive again! Shame that won't happen to my new friends.
Wow, this might kill me. You know, if I didn't have 55 potions. After taking a little too long to use some exterminators, I slowly walk back to another hidden chamber, after finding it again. Only to find my search for it has resulted in more skeletons popping out.
"Twisted Passages of Death", well, I'd argue that was "Southern Tunnels of Gloom", but then, I've never been paid to make levels. The passages twist and lead to more hidden chambers, except these aren't even hidden, they're open hidden chambers. The passages aren't that full of death either. Sure, a few skeletons hide so far in the dirt that they can't be seen at first, but that's easy for me to get rid of at this point.
The well is already in sight? Huh, okay. Its not that its easy to get to, those skeletons put up quite a fight. A lot of them pop out here. It earns the name "Bone Chamber". Although, some of the skeletons are in "The Chamber of the Well". There's another little side chamber that has a troll and two chests in it. You take the second chest and a skeleton pops out. Clever.
And that's this section of Catacomb Abyss, next, we'll find out what's in that well. Although, I think I already mentioned what that was. Oops.

*Answer, you, if you look in the game files, but do you really want to know the magic?