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Text Adventure Playthrough #4: Anchorhead

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November, 1997.

You take a deep breath of salty air as the first raindrops begin to spatter the pavement, and the swollen, slate-colored clouds that blanket the sky mutter ominous portents amongst themselves over the little coastal town of Anchorhead.

Squinting up into the glowering storm, you wonder how everything managed to happen so fast. The strange phone call over a month ago, from a lawyer claiming to represent the estate of some distant branch of Michael’s family, was bewildering enough in itself… but then the sudden whirlwind of planning and decisions, legal details and travel arrangements, the packing up and shipping away of your entire home, your entire life…

Now suddenly here you are, after driving for the past two days straight, over a thousand miles away from the familiar warmth of Texas, getting ready to move into the ancestral mansion of a clan of relatives so far removed that not even Michael has ever heard of them. And you’ve only been married since June and none of this was any of your idea in the first place, and already it’s starting to rain.

These days, you often find yourself feeling confused and uprooted.

You shake yourself and force the melancholy thoughts from your head, trying to focus on the errand at hand. You’re to meet with the real estate agent and pick up the keys to your new house while Michael runs across town to take care of some paperwork at the university. He’ll be back to pick you up in a few minutes, and then the two of you can begin the long, precarious process of settling in.

A sullen belch emanates from the clouds, and the rain starts coming down harder—fat, cold drops smacking loudly against the cobblestones. Shouldn’t it be snowing in New England at this time of year? With a sigh, you open your umbrella.

Welcome to Anchorhead…



ANCHORHEAD
An interactive gothic by Michael S. Gentry

(Type HELP or ABOUT for some useful information.)

Release 5 / Serial number 990206 / Inform v6.15 Library 6/7

Day One

Outside the Real Estate Office

A grim little cul-de-sac, tucked away in a corner of the claustrophobic tangle of narrow, twisting avenues that largely constitute the older portion of Anchorhead. Like most of the streets in this city, it is ancient, shadowy, and leads essentially nowhere. The lane ends here at the real estate agent’s office, which lies to the east, and winds its way back toward the center of town to the west. A narrow, garbage-choked alley opens to the southeast.

>

     

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Cool, cool, cool. Let’s do this

>Help
>about

     
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I was afraid someone would start with ABOUT…
WARNING! Five or six pages long and I am not going to post the Tutorial, as it contains spoilers.  Tongue

> About This Game                                        
      About the Author                                      
      Credits and Thank-yous                                  
      How to Play Interactive Fiction                            
      A Short Tutorial                                      
      The Trophy Room        
   


> about this game
  Welcome to the fifth release of Anchorhead.

Version one was released in May of 1998. Since then I’ve patched up some bugs, cleaned up some code, revised a few puzzles and added a substantial amount of background and history to the game. The story, however, remains essentially the same; if you’ve played Anchorhead before, you won’t find any alternate endings or branching plot lines. Hopefully, though, you’ll find something new, some surprising details here and there, which will make the game enjoyable through another play. This was the first game I ever designed. Nearly all of what I know about Inform, I learned by trying to implement it here. It isn’t perfect; it doesn’t even live up to my own standards about how a REALLY good game should be designed, but I’m pleased with it nonetheless, and I hope you enjoy it.

Some things you should know about Anchorhead:

This is a pretty enormous game. There are lots of rooms to explore and lots things to mess with, and they don’t all necessarily contribute directly to solving the game. Don’t be daunted. Don’t spend too much time banging your head against a locked door—many of the keys only come to you in the course of time, as the story develops. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, wander around to the places you’ve already been—they may have changed since the last time you visited. Don’t forget to look ‘under’ and ‘behind’ things, as well as ‘in’ and ‘at’ them. And hang on to your umbrella.

Anchorhead is as much about uncovering a mystery as it is about accomplishing a goal. It isn’t meant to be puzzle-intensive, and what puzzles are there are not meant to be very hard. You will often find yourself receiving points for simply finding clues and reading documents, and you will just as often find that those clues and documents aren’t necessary to solve the game. It’s fairly easy to finish without scoring all the points, which might be an incentive to play again and find which bits you missed.

A note on the passing of time—for the most part, it doesn’t. The main body of the game is divided into “days”, and the day ends when you return home and go to sleep. There is no objective clock. The day will not end until you actually go to sleep, and you will not be tired enough to sleep until you have completed certain key puzzles. When the status bar indicates that it is “evening”, you’ll know it’s time to go to bed, though you don’t have to right away if you don’t want to. The final chapter, on the other hand, does indeed have a time limit—and things start moving pretty fast. If you’ve left things undone, you may find yourself running out of time. What I’m promising is that you’ll have plenty of time to get most of everything ready before the clock starts ticking.

Tragically, there are ways of trapping yourself in an unwinnable situation in this game, and although I’ve tried to provide enough clues to let you know when you’ve missed something, it won’t always be obvious when you do. Don’t go throwing objects into the ocean until you’re positive you don’t need them anymore, and save often during the final chapter.

Also, please note that no body parts have been implemented in this game. Don’t go looking for your head or your hands or your legs or your boobs; you won’t find them. I have implemented the grammar “PUT FINGER ON/IN <object>” and “TAKE FINGER OFF <object>”, since in a handful of situations that has been a very intuitive response from my playtesters. Your fingers, however, are not actual “objects” in the usual sense, and you cannot interact with them in any other way.

And finally, know this: this is absolutely freeware. If you really enjoyed playing this game, here are a few ways you could pay me back:

  - Write a review, good, bad, or ambivalent; I appreciate criticism as well as praise, and I love seeing my name on the Internet.
  - Tell all your friends to play it.
  - E-mail me and tell me what you thought of the game.
  - E-mail me and tell me if you found any bugs.

I am currently reachable at   .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

And now, at long last, I would like to dedicate this game to my wife, Ramee, an exemplary human being who is wonderful beyond my powers of description, and who promised me she’d play this when I finished, didn’t get around to it in time, and has promised me again that she would play it when I finished Version 2. I appreciate the support.

EDIT: The command help is the same as about

     

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Promising

>x
>x me
>i
>x office
>knock on door

     
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> about the author
> Michael Gentry. What is he good for? Absolutely nothin’, say it again.

Send your critiques, accolades, and/or death threats to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). That last dot wasn’t a ‘dot’, by the way, it was the end of the sentence.

I’ve also written a shorter game called “Little Blue Men”. It won seventh place in the 1998 Interactive Fiction competition, so it might be worth looking up on the ftp.gmd.de.

If anyone knows anything about restoring antique typewriters, drop me a line. Thanks.

> credits and thank-yous
>Anyone who has ever read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, or even stood downwind of someone who has, will immediately recognize his influence throughout this game. While I strove to add a fresh twist to certain conventions, it is still, staunchly and without apology, a genre piece. The quotations at the beginning of each segment are from “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, “The Festival”, “The Dunwich Horror”, “The Dunwich Horror” again, and “Call of Cthulhu”, respectively.

I adapted (“swiped”) the telescope puzzle from Brendon Wyber’s “Theatre”, another excellent Inform game in the Lovecraftian mode. It was a nifty idea, and I trust he won’t mind that I borrowed it.

There is simply no way I could ever adequately thank all my beta-testers. They are truly princes among men. And women. These are people who willingly give up the enjoyment of playing a new, original, finished game in order to clinically and joylessly take it apart, bolt by bolt, cracking open all the secrets and surprises and spoiling it for themselves forever. It’s a rotten, thankless job, in my opinion. You guys ought to form a union and start demanding wages, really.

And so: thank you to my original team of beta-testers: Joe Barlow, Dave Gatewood, David Gilbert, Brian “Llamaboy” Uri (especially for the webspace), Michael Kearns, Dennis Matheson, GD Brehm, Scott Forbes, Laurel Halbany, Karen Grogan and Brenna Murdock. The insights and suggestions of these fine, patient people were indispensable in transforming a sprawling, half-assed pile of barely interactive yak dung into the polished juggernaut you are playing today.

Thanks to Dr. Graham Nelson for providing the programming language and the compiler. Thanks to Andrew Plotkin for helping me streamline the code. Thanks to Irene Callaci for reminding me to breathe when I hit the 64k limit, and thanks to L. Ross Raszewski for excellent suggestions on how to dodge it.

Thanks to everyone who sent critiques and bug reports to me throughout versions 1 through 4. And thanks to everyone who answered my frantic posts on rec.arts.int-fiction. And heartfelt thanks to my wife, who put up with me and acted interested even when I explained the whole “smart commas” controversy to her.

And thank you, Craig: I finished what I started. Fnord.

     

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>l
Outside the Real Estate Office
A grim little cul-de-sac, tucked away in a corner of the claustrophobic tangle of narrow, twisting avenues that largely constitute the older portion of Anchorhead. Like most of the streets in this city, it is ancient, shadowy, and leads essentially nowhere. The lane ends here at the real estate agent’s office, which lies to the east, and winds its way back toward the center of town to the west. A narrow, garbage-choked alley opens to the southeast.

>x me
You look good, considering. A bit rattled by recent events, perhaps, but well-poised and collected, all the same.

>i
You are wearing your wedding ring, your trenchcoat and your clothes; in addition, you have in your hand your umbrella.

The pockets of your trenchcoat are empty.

In the distance, you can hear the lonesome keening of a train whistle drifting on the wind.

>x office
The door has a glass front with the name of the real estate company—Benson & Brackhurst—stenciled across it. The blinds are drawn, the lights are off inside, and no one appears to be home. Odd, since the agent knew you were coming today.

>knock on door
You rap on the glass sharply, peering through it into the dark room inside. Nobody answers. Strange; you just talked to the real estate agent—Miss Benson, you think it was—yesterday. She was going to meet you here.

>

     

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>open door

     
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>open door
It seems to be locked.

>

     

And now it’s time for another round of… Spank the Virgin!   Monty Python & The Quest for the Holy Grail

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That starts off very promising indeed Smile

Let’s see if there is anything inside that explains the missing agent.

>x door
>look inside

     

A prince it is? I see. And I am Lord of this dusty path!

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>x door
The door has a glass front with the name of the real estate company—Benson & Brackhurst—stenciled across it. The blinds are drawn, the lights are off inside, and no one appears to be home. Odd, since the agent knew you were coming today.

>look inside
(the sky)
The sky is an unbroken blanket of seething gray clouds in every direction.

Huh?

>look through door
Cupping your hands around your eyes and peering in, you can make out dim shadows in an empty office.

     

And now it’s time for another round of… Spank the Virgin!   Monty Python & The Quest for the Holy Grail

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Call me crazy, but I am convinced there is someone lurking inside.

>x shadows
>yell at shadows
>yell at door

     

A prince it is? I see. And I am Lord of this dusty path!

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>x shadows
You can’t see any such thing.

>yell
Come now; you’re not that frightened.

>yell at door
I only understood you as far as wanting to yell.

I’m going to give you people some (unwanted) advice. Anchorhead is an older game, which means that the parser is not as good as more modern ones. Not saying you shouldn’t try fun things, but your options are limited. And please remember: It’s a vast game, just like the developer said. And we need those keys.

Here are some extras, just for fun.

>x wedding ring
Staring at your wedding ring like that tends to make you sentimental.

>x trenchcoat
You bought this coat during your honeymoon in England; it’s a genuine London Fog. In addition to looking very cool, it has several deep pockets in which you can fit just about anything.

>x umbrella
Olive green, with a hook-shaped handle. It’s a handy little thing, when it rains. It’s currently open.

>x clothes
A tasteful ensemble from Ann Taylor in muted browns and olive greens (you’ve been an autumn person since you were old enough to match your own socks).

I’ll leave you to it. Smile

     

And now it’s time for another round of… Spank the Virgin!   Monty Python & The Quest for the Holy Grail

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The Ann Taylor London Fog trenchcoat actually exists, 18 years after Anchorhead was released. Cool!  Cool

     

And now it’s time for another round of… Spank the Virgin!   Monty Python & The Quest for the Holy Grail

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>se

     
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Oh yeah, I had forgotten that we played a female protagonist. Something that we’d never see in one of Lovecraft’s stories, of course.

     
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Oscar - 27 September 2016 06:31 AM

Oh yeah, I had forgotten that we played a female protagonist. Something that we’d never see in one of Lovecraft’s stories, of course.

Violet at least had a face. Maybe I should use the London Fog trenchcoat as my avatar. Smile

Alley
This narrow aperture between two buildings is nearly blocked with piles of rotting cardboard boxes and overstuffed garbage cans. Ugly, half-crumbling brick walls to either side totter oppressively over you. The alley ends here at a tall, wooden fence.

High up on the wall of the northern building there is a narrow, transom-style window.

>

     

And now it’s time for another round of… Spank the Virgin!   Monty Python & The Quest for the Holy Grail

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