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The Hermit's Secret, by Dian Crayne

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Large Treasure Hunt From A More Patient Age, January 2, 2024
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: Puzzle Fest, Large, Old Fashioned, Two Word Parser, Mazes

Hermit's Secret was the second of six games written by the science fiction author Dian Crayn (she had several pseudonyms) in 1982 and 1983. They are all of a piece, that is large, puzzle based treasure hunts replete with mazes (a couple of them nasty with random exits) and timed end sequences. As I have always been a fan of old style games these are right up my street, or down my grating if you prefer. The grating reference is apt as all of the games have more than a bottom note of Willie Crowther and Don Woods. Each has its equivalent of the pirate and the axe throwing dwarves and in this game they are an over-stressed salesman, a hooded assassin and an obsequious elf. Keep on the move and you should be okay. There is even an homage to the dragon killing method in the 1976 game in here as is the last lousy point. There are also a number of magic words in the game that transport you instantaneously across its broad canvas and into some secret rooms which are not reachable by conventional means.

Dian's descriptions are mostly well-done and of medium length although the two word parser could have been improved by allowing more location items to be interacted with - "examine" is not included. There is a coding oddity in that the table for the push command appears to be empty. This does not prevent the game from being completed but does affect a later game, Granny's Place from being wrapped up. I also make no apologies in spoiling one particular puzzle which had me flummoxed for ages, namely digging in the mud hole only works if you are holding the pig. It should be predicated upon whether or not you are holding the shovel but there is a dodgy conditional flag here; likewise when attempting to cross the chasm with the pig. I realised it must be possible to dig at the mud hole as the parser hints as much when you essay the action sans porker.

In all there are 22 of the Hermit's treasures to be located and stored in an unlikely place across over 200 locations; these are split roughly between two thirds below ground and one third the other side of the topsoil.

There is a lamp timer at work but the number of moves permitted is so large that this should not be a problem - if it is, a battery vending machine can be located guess where? Yup that's right, thank you Don Woods.

I played via DOSBox-X which is my go to program for playing these old DOS games. I find it gives a better save game experience and a cleaner more customisable display.

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