NIGHTMARE ON GAME STREET
SEND CHILLS UP YOUR SPINE WITH THESE GAMES THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
One dark and stormy night. Pete Scisco called from COMPUTE!: "You're our last hope, Shay. We've sent three reviewers to the House on Haunted Hill, and they've all vanished—not one returned to write up the gruesome events of Uninvited, let alone report on Maniac Mansion and Twilight Zone. I should have known from the Start to assign a piece on horror games to someone from the Addams family."
So into the gloomy night I lurched, the full moon rising eerily over my shoulder as I made my way to the decrepit old house on the hill. Glowing eyes peered out from every window, and the front door screeched when I pushed it open, then slammed shut behind me. In the entry hall. I surveyed a moldy slack of computer games. What had I gotten myself into?
Whether by magic or sheer luck. I survived the night, the next day, and the rest of the next two weeks. And I had to escape from some of the most horrific situations yet seen in the computer world. These are the games that Freddy Krueger would play if he had a computer on Elm Street.
When you play these four games, you may not be as lucky. So, in addition to all the morbid minutiae on the computer games. I've included clues to some of their most difficult puzzles.
And so begins my tale. From the entry hall hung with cobwebs. I headed for the first open door, slammed it, and locked it. From the corner of the room came an eerie glow. There sat a computer, cloaked in the thick cloak of Gothic atmosphere that could only mean one thing: The computer was running Uninvited.
Onscreen, the ominous house on the hill is reminiscent of the old Bates' place in Psycho. Inside, you'll find your little brother, but, take it from me, you'd better be prepared for the host of ghosts, fiends, and devils, too. Their idea of hospitality is to rip your body into a bloody mess.
Before rescuing your brother, you have to deal with the wayward wizard who haunts the place. You need to master a few spells of your own. You'll discover magic words like Abraxus and Magisterium as you examine books and other items in this possessed piece of real estate. The spells are vital to solving several puzzles, but, to cast them. You must form sentences with the correct magic words. Other problems, such as unlocking doors, hinge on rounding up keys and other objects and then figuring out how and where to use them.
ICOM plans to release an EGA version of Uninvited this fall, so the graphics will look a lot sharper and more colorful. In the CGA version, the game shows the main scene in a large window, which you can't move or resize. When you open an object, a fresh window opens to show the object's contents, which can be moved by grabbing them and dragging them to or from another window. You can open an envelope, for example, and slip the letter into your wallet.
Instead of typing commands such as examine rock, you click on an object in the picture window, then on a command in the menu bar above. The Operate command offers additional freedom—with a few quick clicks you can use an object in one window to affect an item in another. Color distinguishes objects worth investigating from those that are purely ornamental.
A small map always shows the current room's doors, which you may pass through by clicking on the door in the main picture or on the corresponding door in the small map. You can examine something by double-clicking on it, an extremely convenient feature. Devised by ICOM Simulations, this style of game interface has been dubbed interactive graphics.
Spot animation enhances sonic scenes—such as those in which a devilish imp dances across the room, taunting you with a key that you've just got to get your hands on. Sound and music are minimal, and the EGA version doesn't support any music boards, either. Still, the fluid interface, solid logical puzzles, and something's-lurking-around-the-next-corner feel make Uninvited most inviting. And the lady who stuck her rotting face right up to the screen was the only ghoul in any of these games that made me actually jump.
Beware of the rotting lady, the scariest ghoul to leap out of Uninvited.
The zombie that crawled in through window of my safe haven, however, was even scarier than that woman in Uninvited. Just when I thought I was a goner, my hand hit a secret button, and a hidden door opened. The dim passageway was illuminated by a lone computer running Maniac Mansion.
Whenever some TV character approaches a basement door, I always know there's an axe-murderer waiting on the other side. Don't go in there alone! I always shout. But do they listen? No, and that's why they're dead now and can't play computer games like Maniac Mansion—a game that quickly turns into a riotous send-up of slasher and science-fiction films.
In a secret lab in the mansion's basement. a mad scientist plots to take over the world. Dr. Fred's plan requires sucking the brains out of your teenage girlfriend. From seven neighborhood pals, you pick a pair to join you in your rescue mission. Maniac Mansion's most distinctive feature lets you control three characters and send them to different locations. To solve some puzzles, however, the characters must work together. Depending on the characters, you choose, there arc as many as five ways to solve the game. While exploring the mansion, you'll bump into other members of Dr. Fred's bizarre extended family: Weird Ed, Nurse Edna, the Purple Tentacle. There are enough oddballs to make the Addams' family look like yuppies. Fright turns to laughter when, for example, that bright red liquid oozing from the refrigerator turns out to be ketchup.
Rescue your girlfriend from Dr. Fred's dastardly clutches in Maniac Mansion.
Maniac Mansion is an animated adventure. You move a character around the screen, grabbing things, examining them and so on. Following ICOM's lead, the Lucasfilm interface has 14 verbs in a menu below the picture. By clicking on these actions in concert with items in the picture, you Pick Up. Open, and Use things. The New Kid command permits you to hop from one character to the next.
As your character reaches the edge of the screen, the picture scrolls smoothly to show the rest of the room you're exploring. Maniac Mansion's 3-D graphics reduce the flat feel that you find in other graphics adventures because your character can walk from back to front as well as from left to right in a room. Cutaway scenes help the plot unfold by showing what's happening in other parts of the house. Simple background musk and sound effects entertain your ears, while visual effects enhance the action for your eyes: Shine a flashlight in a dark room, for example, and you'll see only the illuminated square where the beam falls. The interface, graphics, and warped comedy make Maniac Mansion a must-explore for fans of both horror and humor.
Don't Go Alone
Laughter was furthest from my mind, though, when a flock of vampire bats stormed me in the secret passageway. I hit the tunnel stairs as if my pants were on fire, and when I got to the second floor I ducked into a bedroom. Another computer. Another game. I should have taken my mother's advice when I told her about this assignment: Don't Go Alone.
That's the name of Accolade's latest fright fest, and you'll be surprised to find all the monsters and evil spirits that inhabit the house called Nostrodomo. Your grandfather swears the house is haunted, and all you need to do is prove him right and defeat the Demon of all Demons that's causing the trouble. Proving your grandfather right may not seem tough, but no one will believe you unless you defeat the bad guy.
You and your team of four experts—chosen from a list of 16 characters, including scientists, psychics, and adventurers—must explore the house, wiping out spirits, ghosts, and demons as you go. Each of your team members react differently to each creature. Characters go from scared to petrified, and, if they get too terrified, your whole team is transported to a new section of the house. Ultimately, you could all face the same fate as your grandfather: You could go insane with fear.
Your success depends on the mental strength of your team, not the physical prowess. You rely on chemical formulas that work against spirits. You also learn how to recognize possible allies from the world of ghosts and ghoulies.
Like many of these other horror games, Don't Go Alone is driven primarily through direction icons and other graphics devices. You can drag out your mouse, pull out your joystick, or tap away at your keyboard.
Hints for the Haunted
To decode boldfaced answers, count one letter back, A complete solution and maps to some games are available in the Quest for Clues series, published by Origin.
To get the key in the entrance hall: Operate tfmg on mfgu dibjs. Operate by on mfgu dibjs. To operate the doll in Master Bedroom: Say "Tqfdbo lfbgpe Bcsbybt." To open the safe in lab: tfwfouz-ojof, gpsuz-ffwfo, fjhluz.
To get wall-safe combination: Send one character to Weird Ed's room, After Ed takes him to dungeon, send someone to Ed's Room to open the qjhhz cbol and get a ejnf. Use the ejnf in the slot on the telescope, press the right button to turn it to the right, and use the telescope to read the combination.
To the crowd in the bar, say Esjolt are on the ipvtf. When you meet Hairy and Grajunk, give Hairy dboez and give Gralunk hvn. In the key tower: Swap spdl with Ifz.
I was so absorbed by the secret formulas that I didn't notice the giant, oozing sponge making for me like a slug with a vengeance. I could see a ladder to the attic, and I took it as my only escape. Among the rafters, resting in some massive cobwebs, a computer flickered like a torch as it booted up Dream Zone.
Save yourself with a little psychotherapy and a lot of courage in Dream Zone.
In this Serling-esque game, a recurring nightmare drives you out of your mind, so you visit the renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Fraud.
The shrink explains that a monstrous demon seizes control of your mind when you fall asleep. Then the good doctor gives you a sleeping potion with one unusual side effect: Unless you slay the demon tonight, you'll stay in your nightmare zone forever.
Besides the doctor, other characters help or hinder your quest. You gather clues from some characters. From others, you must render assistance as you tiptoe through this dreamscape's creepy castle, church, and circus. Some people are as unfriendly as others are helpful, and the variety of the cast—as well as the vividly colored graphics and spot animation with which they're depicted— are Dream Zone's hallmark.
The parser is a simple verb-noun affair. You can execute many actions, however, by clicking with your mouse on one of ten buttons below the picture, then on an object in the scene. Click on the Get button, for instance; then click on an object. For players who prefer keyboard control, the function and cursor keys have also been dedicated to these actions. You can type directional commands or click on the appropriate icon to move from room to room. Novices will value the Visible Objects option, which displays all movable items in icon form and distinguishes them from background elements.
Dream Zone's great graphics, colorful characters and locales, and hassle-free interface make this nightmare so much fun. I didn't want to wake up.
Back to the Safety of Home
The House on Haunted Hill wasn't going to give up easily. Just because I'd made it to the attic didn't mean it couldn't chase me one level further. Sure enough, a headless ogre was quietly chewing on a hockey mask. I slipped onto the roof before he could catch my scent. I climbed to the edge, looking for a drainage pipe or rose trellis to help me down. But none appeared. So, finally. I resorted to the direct approach: I jumped.
I don't know who scraped me off the front sidewalk. I don't know who got me into my warm, safe bed. All I know is this: Next time Pete calls me with an assignment, the article better be about a Hawaiian-luau simulation.
Shay Addams, a fearless champion of the weird and the eerie, edits and publishes game tips in the Questbusters series.