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The Usurper: Mines of Qyntarr (PC) artwork

The Usurper: Mines of Qyntarr (PC) review


"Imagine if Dimwit Flathead had written Zork I. 1/10 "



Imagine if Dimwit Flathead had written Zork I. 1/10

Some kids had garage bands in eighth grade, but I went with text adventures. I enjoyed hacking up a crude parser, writing up new rooms, throwing in objects, and making simplistic puzzles. But looking back, I also forgot plot, coherence, and innovative puzzles. I wasn't up on the concept of filler. Classmates and adults were vocally impressed, though they wound up playing my low-resolution dot-chase game more. The folks at Sir-Tech approached text adventures much as I did with Usurper: Mines of Qyntarr (MoQ,) their attempt to muscle in on the text adventure market Infocom felt they had to shift focus from to retain profitability. One flaw: people would actually have to PAY for MoQ. Uh-oh!

You see, Sir-Tech created Wizardry, the graphic first-person RPG that was revolutionary for its time. It had big maps, tough monsters and few and silly puzzles. Also, Wizardry II and III for the Apple required characters created in Wizardry I. MoQ never got in on the second-game racket because not enough people bought the first. But MoQ stuck to Wizardry's formula: too much empty space, too many silly puzzles, occasional pointless random deaths, and outbursts of implausible narrative. The sub-areas are slapdash, too: a town, a zoo, a magic castle, and a subway. But at least they don't compound the problem with nonsensical description. They just avoid it completely.

That aside, MoQ is, essentially, a rip-off of Zork I, with some lame parroting of Zork II for good measure. The parser is worse, but hey, you can use that high-tech numpad to move between rooms on your endless treasure hunt, culminating in you splattering the Big Bad Guy with a crystal pyramid. Find a bunch of items, drop them into a well (hi there, Zork I's trophy case!) for points, and restart the game a few times if you threw in an item you needed to use twice. There's a dragon much sillier than in Zork II and an idol that senses evil, like the Sword of Zork. A yallou and blooble sound like well-known colors, not unlike Zorkian grues.

And here's what happens when MoQ tries to be original. Strong instruction manual reading skills are sufficient to lure monsters to their deaths. Do something dumb or random, and you die. Like standing around an anthill with a frankfurter: you're jumped without warning! And how about that first puzzle? A brief Google shows this groaner "fooled" many people. The withs are important below, you see.

GET LIGHTER. LIGHT LIGHTER WITH HAND. G. G. LIGHT LAMP WITH LIGHTER.

You get five points for finding the right stupid-specific phrase here, versus ten for several items just sitting around, but the unfairness goes beyond points. The logic puzzles are more on the order of which item haven't I used yet and who can I use it on. Received ideas or obvious items generally solve things when the manual doesn't. I'm not sure what the Geiger counter and radiation suit are doing, but they make one of the more sensible if obvious puzzles in the game. Another puzzle may get you looking in the dictionary for "funambulate," which almost has educational value. Though "simulacrum" would've been more relevant for Zork fans.

But wait! One more thing! MoQ has cross platform differences in the puzzles. You see, the PC version has a sophomoric puzzle not included in the Apple version. You say "Checkmate" to a chess piece just hanging around. That was my first thought, but then my second was, "even Sir-Tech wouldn't be THAT corny." It was my fault ignoring the evidence from previous puzzles.

I hope I have established that MoQ is a very, very bad game, and for many reasons. It felt like trying to stop a smart, but socially awkward person from stringing together several boring topics in a row. It abuses basic logic shamefully in many ways, rambles on uselessly with many rooms that just make it harder to find the one you want, and breaks up the tedium with a few arbitrary deaths here and there. I'm not disappointed MoQ's popular failure precluded "Usurper II: Chug, Chug, Next Verse." It stacks up horribly against many freeware text adventures created today. It's hard to imagine a better parser would've helped. But maybe MoQ will help you smile at your old, lousy, earnest text adventures.

Rating: 1/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (June 19, 2009)

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