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March 25, 2012 / jwaxo

Gobliiins (Victory Conditions)

There are no screenshots from this game that aren’t absurdly confusing.

Once more I return to the well of Gobliiins games to tell you one final lesson that they imparted on me. We’ve already gone over the frustrations of eternal crashing and patching, which dovetailed nicely together. And, honestly, no long-form retelling of the important games from my childhood would be complete without a specific mention of all three Gobliiins games, and thus this post came up. And, truthfully, there are many different things that it taught me. As my first real point-and-click adventure, there are a lot of things we could go over: trial-and-error gameplay, figuring out the strange associations of items with locations to use them; the class system that the game used to differentiate its three main characters (which fit very well into the classic warrior/wizard/rogue archetypes); how losing health can sometimes be a lot more frightening than whatever it was on-screen that suddenly popped up.

These are all important gameplay aspects that resound in my mind with this game. But, naturally, I wouldn’t mention them if I wasn’t going to explicitly say “it’s none of those.” And it’s true. The one most important lesson that Gobliiins taught me was in one of its earliest levels, caused me my own fair bit of hair loss, and still pops into my head on an almost daily basis.

Let’s paint you a picture: a difficult puzzle game, one that actively punishes you by subtracting health when you get a solution wrong, that the entire family poked at every once in a while. It didn’t have a save system beyond a password that kept track of items held, puzzles solved, and current health. Such password systems were kind of the norm for certain games in those days.

Mega Man‘s instruction booklet overflowed with my saves.

Whenever we’d go back to Gobliiins to try our hands at a few new puzzles, it would be standard procedure to go down through the saves list, putting each code in one at a time, until either a late-enough level was found, or the one that we were actually at. More often than not, though, the saves paper would get lost, and we would be forced to go back through the earlier levels over and over again.

There was always one level, though. That One Level.

Gobliiins health system was unique in that you rarely lost health for actually being injured. The main cause of losing was your character’s just getting scared: each scream and cry of fright would reduce that ever-important health bar by an unhealthy amount. And in this particular screen, the one I’ve illustrated above, there was a frightening creature that you had to hide from, in some way. If you didn’t, he would walk past your three characters at a very slow pace, and they would scream their little hearts out until the bar was completely depleted and you were screaming in rage with them.

Fig. 17

Despite doing this several times in the past, every time I was presented with the screen I could never remember the proper sequence of events to solve the puzzle. No, it wasn’t the mask; that just caused the Goblins to scare themselves. No, you can’t talk to the Igor; he just says “boo!” and scares the Goblins. No, hiding inside the purple head didn’t work; the Goblins just got scared anyway.

I couldn’t solve it. This is the truth. No matter what I did, I couldn’t find the solution.

I couldn’t cheat. I couldn’t look up the answer (this was sometime in the early 90’s). No one in my family could figure it out. So, every time, I decided to skip the actual solution.

I would play through the beginning of the game, saving up all of the extra health that I could. I would have a perfectly full bar. I would find the one spot that I could stand in and be the least scared as possible. And I would activate the monster. And I would survive.

The lesson learned was that, sometimes, you don’t need the right answer: you just need the next closest thing. In the end, victory was achieved. And sometimes, a lot more often than most people would care to admit, it doesn’t matter how you achieve the victory conditions. You just need to.

Or, as I read in Ender’s Game two years later, the enemy’s gate is down.

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