Mystery House
With actual flushable toilet!

This page was published about four days after the death of one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history, Steve Jobs. Jobs got started with the Apple II (he and Steven Wozniak built the Apple I in his garage back in '76), but despite his fingerprints being all over the hardware, he didn't write any software. A new Applepalooza article to mark his memory is a no-brainer. Too bad it has nothing to do with him at all.

If I could review an Apple II game that Jobs had any tenuous connection to besides the machine that it ran on, I would at this time. But I can't, so we'll have to pick someone else significant.

There once was this guy who bought an Apple II to do stuff relating to work. But it was mostly used by his wife, who did stuff relating to fun. Only she didn't actually have much fun.

She played text adventure games like Zork, but was frustrated by the inability to see where she was. She set out to conjure up her own game that was sort of like Zork only with pictures. She and her husband coded and finished the game, made a few copies, Xeroxed an instruction manual and packaged the whole thing in Ziploc bags. They then somehow found retail space around the LA area (try that with your indie game now).

Despite the odds against it, the Ziploc did very well. As in, a ten thousand copies kind of well. So well that the man and his wife were able to found a new software company on the profits, and the mystery woman whose name I still haven't mentioned began work on her second game. That game was King's Quest and it did so well she made seven more, and became an early PC legend.

But before then, Roberta Williams' first game was Mystery House.

This is you just read above, Sierra released this game into the public domain on their own, while the Apple was still a viable product. This makes Mystery House one of the very few Apple titles to not have a message like "KRACKED BY THE PIRATE SQUID" on its main screen.

Woo, time for some Agatha Christie action! Wait, did Roberta say it takes hours to move? I guess for a game of this variety it shouldn't be that surprising, but...

I'm j'accusing early.....It's gotta be the gravedigger.

On the more annoying side of things, though it is free, Mystery House is every inch a You Can't Get Ye Flask game (so much so that another review is cited at the front of that page). If you don't want to click the hyperlink, the mechanics are explained here:

Kill? I know what I'm doing first!

Liar! That didn't work at all!

Neither does NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST, GO NORTH, GO SOUTH, GO EAST, GO WEST, GO HOUSE or GO DOOR. Yes, it's fully possible to get permanently stuck on the first screen. And as you read earlier, Roberta no longer takes your calls!

One of these words she just gave us in the description of the area must do something. GO PORCH does not work. GO STEPS, however, is the only thing that does. I got lucky and guessed that on my fifth try. Plenty of others weren't so fortunate.

What an ugly doorknob. I wonder if there's anything cool under the mat.

I typed in, "LOOK MAT." The game told me, "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO LOOK A MAT." I tried "LOOK UNDER MAT" instead, and it replied with "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO LOOK A UNDER." We're not getting anywhere.

I had to venture onward. There better not be anything important, like a key required to finish the game, under there. "OPEN DOOR" was easy enough to guess and I walked inside. The door spookily closed and locked behind me.

Still didn't work. C'mon, she must be one of those "people."

There was an obvious NOTE on the floor. I took it.

We-e-e-e-lll, if the note says it's okay...

I tried to go left or right, but the game wouldn't let me and the note continued to fill the screen. PUT AWAY NOTE got me nowhere. The first command I guessed that got rid of it was "DROP NOTE." But that means anybody could read it and start taking my jewels! Bah!

After the note was gone the game still wouldn't let me go north, west or south. Only the stairs worked. It was also at this point that the game started telling me "It is getting dark" on every screen, for some reason.

I chose north, to the steps and hopefully the attic. I didn't have all day to play this game, and I wanted to get to the creepier areas in the game quickly.

All right! Stuff! I couldn't tell exactly what the thing on the ground is....I hoped it was a hammer and typed "GET HAMMER." It worked! Then I tried "MOVE LADDER", and the ladder moved! Even "ENTER DOOR" got me into the secret passageway! Three for three!


"OPEN CHEST," I typed! The thing was locked. I should have noticed that. Great, if there really WAS a key under that doormat.....

Ah, but wait -- I just picked up a hammer!

Nothing that described the action of a hammer hitting a chest resulted in anything happening. After twenty tries, in frustration, I asked to examine the chest to see if I was missing something.....AND.....









Hooboy. Weren't there some boxes in the room? I wondered if I could cut my losses and still take those.

Does not remove? That's one way of putting it. Any reason why? No, I couldn't see. I only had one more idea left....

Crud, there's nothing left to do. All I can do is leave, exit the attic and stumble around until I die.

This game can't even kill me right! For some reason, the killer gave up after that one attempt. I'm gonna be playing this forever!

Major bummer, dude. Only one thing to do now in his memory....

Hah, I didn't think it would actually let me do that.

Outside of the bathroom was the study. The only two available directions, as far as I could NOT see, were north and east (which put me back in the bathroom). So I ventured north.


I'm not kidding. From this point, the only way I could go was north, and every time I did, I found a door that took me back into the study room again. This infinite loop effectively ended my game. Was it a trick by some ghost? Had I stumbled into a time anomaly? Was this Roberta's ingenious way of giving the player a fate unexpected, a fate worse than death? Was it on purpose?

No, it was not. It was just a stupid bug the happy Sierra couple never found, probably because they did no debugging at all. If Steve Jobs were alive, he'd never allow such shoddy workmanship! .....wait, he was alive.

One more thing about Roberta Williams....

She's the one on the far right.