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"A Scottish fly lands on your nose", February 28, 2023
One of these days I'll have to publish A Wanderer's Guide to the Mansions of TextAdventureLand. I will have to wade through this towering stack of notes and edit them down to a manageable volume though.
Haunted mansions, Alchemist's mansions, Vampire's mansions, mansions left to you in the will of your late (and pleasantly unhinged) uncle,...
McMurphy's Mansion falls in that last category. A pressing telegram urges you to Scotland, where you shall inherit your Uncle McMurphy's estate and 10.000.000 pounds. On one condition...
Find the twelve gold bars scattered around the grounds and solve the final puzzle...
Copyrighted in 1984, McMurphy's Mansion is magnificently old-school.
(EDIT: The original version for C64 was released in '84 or '85. The game was ported to DOS in 1987 and 1989. I played the 1989 version.)
IF conventions were not as firmly established, and this game has its own idiosyncracies regarding commands anyhow.
AGAIN is shortened to R (repeat) instead of G. DROP ALL works, but you have to TAKE FEE, TAKE FI, TAKE FO, TAKE FUM instead of TAKE ALL.
X is short for EXAMINE, as usual. Large objects can be examined immediately, but the game refuses to let you examine take-able items unless you are carrying them.
I works for INVENTORY (no messing with INV), MAP shows you the room layout of the mansion (no map for the outdoors), XMAP turns off the layout and snorts that real adventures make a paper map anyway.
It took a while before I fully put my trust in the game. Opening and looking in cabinets, for example, give responses so dry (contrary to the vividness of the rest of the world) that I was unsure if anything had changed in the underlying world model. It was not necessary to be mistrusting. The game and its engine under the hood are indeed solid.
Uncle McMurphy's will of course is just the pretext to drop the player in an unabashed puzzlefest.
There are a number of code-breaking tasks. These are probably the most logical of the batch. A few puzzles present a surprising application of common sense and everyday physics. A lot more rely on mental associations and not-so-straightforward intuitive leaps.
However, because the game is set in our normal (for an undefined value of the term) non-magical world, even the least logical puzzles have handholds in real life experience.
Most of the progress through the game, finding necessary items, comes from thoroughly exploring and investigating the game-world. And yes, this means copious amounts of LOOKing IN, UNDER and BEHIND stuff. Fortunately, there is no need for lawnmowering every location with these commands. Either it's clear that any curious investigator would look in, under or behind a certain piece of scenery, or a clue found elsewhere will explicitly tell you to do it.
The map itself is a joy to explore. Almost all of it is open from the get-go, allowing you to roam freely around the gardens and the house, noting interesting or questionable features and remembering where the various locations are in relation to each other. (Yes, this will be important.)
Another joyous idiosyncratic implementation feature is the use of L N (or any direction) in a room with a window to get a detailed description of the view. This knits the world together and joins the inside of the house and the outdoors lawns and trees into one continuous space. (It also provides clues. Read carefully, they may appear only once...)
From boldly exploring the edges of the map, it becomes apparent that the author was no big fan of death in adventures. Upon falling from great height (or some other accident), there is a humorous paragraph detailing your injuries and you are brought back to the house. In the original game, the player also got a 1-minute penalty where no commands would be accepted by the game, effectively freezing the protagonist out.
McMurphy's Mansion stands out among its mansionate peers by the liveliness of its world. You repeatedly bump into the butler, whom you also see walking around the yard through the windows. The many trees and flowers provide the pleasant distraction of nature's beauty, and you can even get a glimpse of the nearby moors on the other side of the estate wall, if you look out the right window.
A splendid old school treasure hunt.
- veronica, July 28, 2013
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