Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

Countdown 1 - The Body (Windows)

Countdown 1 - The Body Windows Opening intro.

MISSING COVER

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  vicrabb (6984)
Written on  :  Dec 30, 2008
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Summary

The Tale of Frehorn's Blade - The Making

The Good

In order to satisfy players until the release of the last game in the Chzo Mythos, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw did three games introducing this awaited sequel known as 6 Days A Sacrifice. And well, he just wrote interactive adventure stories... You know, the kind of game where you have to type the command after reading. No graphics, no soundtrack, just a text parser, a story and the download of a reader software like WinFrotz.

You must say that after having so much voiced complaints about the similar gameplay in Trilby's Notes, I'm a masochist to play this kind of game. Well, surprise, the logiciel is made for AZERTY and QWERTY keyboards and then, when you have played Trilby's Notes, you're used to find the right word... And I was also curious about these three countdowns.

Well, I'll begin with the storyline. The general plot for the three games is to follow the Frehorn's Blade destiny. This item play a minor role in 6DAS however. But the countdowns tied 5 Days A Stranger, 7 Days A Skeptic, Trilby's Notes and 6 Days A Sacrifice between each other. And, with no real surprise, these three games are speaking respectively about the Body (the present story), the Soul and the Mind, the three important parts of a human being in this quadrilogy.

So, the game begins in 1779 and put you in the shoes of Jack Frehorn, the famous guy who founded the Order of Blessed Agonies, the sect that is trying to bring Chzo, a pain elemental, in our world, by destroying the Body, the Soul and the Body of the Bridgekeeper, John Defoe or if you prefer, the murderous spirit of 5DAS.

You have been introduced to Jack in Trilby's Notes, during a flashback. Our man was interested in the occult matters and acquired a harpsichord, a piano in other words, made with the wood wall of the Unicorn Inn, an haunted mansion. Well, for those having played Trilby's Notes, we do know that the wood was the recipient of a tall man, the Prince, a puppet... errh, the right-hand of Chzo.

The Prince appeared the 28th July 1778, the King's Day and Jack, not wanting to die by his hands, shoot at him. Wrong idea. Because I still don't know how but Wilbur, his friend (and likely lover), was killed instead of the Prince. Frehorn begged him to spare him. The Prince did.

So, now, Jack is about to do what the Prince ordered him to do weeks ago. We're in August 1779, a year after Wilbur's death. And the same day of it, the 28th July, the Prince appeared again with instructions to do. After all, the Frehorn's Blade must be made and the prophecy must be written...

The gameplay is the usual one when it comes to text parser: type a command with easy word. What I love the most in it was that I didn't need to think in terms of QWERTY. I could write without looking and that's a good point. But will you believe me that I've only understood how to make move my character out of his basement by playing The Soul?

Indeed, for making move your character from a room to another, you have to type "walk" or "go" followed by a cardinal point ("north", "south", "east", "west", etc.) or by "up" or "down". Well, I can curse Trilby's Notes for the climbing stairs where you have to write "climb up" or "climb down'. That was so normal for me to type it in The Body that I was shocked when the following text appeared: "It's not a verb I recognize".

And believe it or not, but it's the same for "use". Instead, you have to find other verbs like "hit" if you need some violent actions or "put". I can guarantee you that the first minutes playing this game made me quit and try the Soul - perhaps this one would be less frustrating. Thanks to it, I've understood how to play. I finished it and then came back to The Body.

Stuck again. I needed a pen for writing the prophecy. I've finally got out of my basement jail for being stuck seconds after. No pen was present.

Yesterday, I've had an idea. Why not type "open drawer"? Bingo. Congratulations, you've written the prophecy. It was hard but you did it, Vic!

Something who would have taken perhaps maximum 30 minutes, took me the double.

It was interesting to see the 5DAS characters introduced in the Prophecy for the Guide (who is Trilby) and how they were described. But if I killed only the poor Number Twelve for having only this.... Luckily, I did know at the time that the tale of 5DAS written by Frehorn would continue in the next countdown, so...

The Bad

As I've said, it's a text parser. Thanks to Trilby's Notes, I was used now to the useful verbs like get, take, open, etc.. But when I couldn't use the verb "use", I was... "Oh no, how to find another word for it?". I did find them. But after having worked hard for putting the blade into the pillar, I couldn't go out of the basement. If I hadn't played the second countdown, where you have to move a lot, I would never have finished this one..., I mean, advance.

The "open drawer" was also a difficult one. I don't know if English native speakers would have find it sooner than me but for me, it was hell to find the famous pen. I knew that I needed to write on my page, so, without pen, I couldn't finish the game. I don't know how it came to me that perhaps, I had to open drawers for finding something. Luckily for me, I did know the term drawer and didn't need to find a dictionary for translating the French term "tiroir" into its English counterpart "drawer".

So, yes, I didn't like the fact that it wasn't indicated clearly not to use "use" or to write a direction with "walk" or "go". I also didn't like the fact that no mention of drawer was made. Yes, obviously, a writing desk has drawers. But it's not obvious for everybody.

I hate also the fact that you can't scrollback directly. You had to switch between the "play" mode and "scrollback" mode. It was perhaps because I've downloaded WinFrotz... But Yahtzee was mentionning it and linked to a mirror site for download.

Also, I had a problem. Sometimes after submitting my command, or some parts of text weren't visible (so, you need to switch to "scrollback" mode where everything is in order and written) or you had previous text parasiting everything. You couldn't read clearly your story, you didn't know if you command will be taken in count, so the only thing I could do it was to press enter until I found a normal screen. I don't know why this was happening but it was very frustrating because after that, you needed to switch to the "scrollback" mode for reminding you where you had stopped before this cleaning process. The first time it happened, I was freaking out thinking that I've done something wrong.

The Bottom Line

Like I've pointed, this game has no graphics or no soundtrack. WinFrotz is only proposing your text in white on a blue background, reminding me of "Fatal Error System". It's not really bad, you know. You can read well and it's not really hurting. Though I prefer the black text on white background like in the "scrollback" mode.

Only play it if you're interested in the Chzo Mythos or if you want to know more about the prophecy. Because if you think to find pleasure by playing it, forget it. I didn't enjoy myself, mainly because of the "I don't recognize the verb" or the famous "open drawer". Yes, I was happy to finally finish it. Yes, it was frustrating, perhaps more than in Trilby's Notes. But the storyline behind is something that I wouldn't have missed. It's not the plot of the year nor the complex one but it's still pleasant to see how Frehorn was lead to found his sect.

Anyway, I only recommend it to fans of text parsers or to curious people about the Chzo Mythos. The others will avoid it.