One of the other things I did today was sit down with Dither to watch a Let’s Play. I was making steak and eggs and he was making garlic chicken, and we were trying to decide whether to watch a movie or an episode of Farscape or something, and he thought of looking up a Let’s Play. We discussed and mutually shot down a few–I’d played this, he had no interest in that, one of us would rather play the other–until he came up with one that I did not find familiar and had no objection to.
Super Solvers Treasure Mountain.
We looked it up on the unfortunately abysmal lparchive.org, only to find that it is apparently like the Agony Booth was (and should have stayed, their video series are awful). So we went back to Youtube. There was a let’s play posted there, but the person playing was dull at best and clearly didn’t know how to play. Since Dither already knew how to play and I figured out how to play within about a minute, this was pretty frustrating.
I paused the video and found an abandonware site, where we downloaded the game. A bit of filework, then I opened up DOSBox, and we were off.
For those who don’t know, Super Solvers was a series of educational games put out by The Learning Company in 1989. Treasure Mountain was the third installment in the series. In it, the series’ villain has stolen all of the treasures, and it’s up to the player character to find and collect them, travelling up the mountain in the process. Fairly simple, but that is certainly the best policy.
The gameplay can be summed up thus: Capture elves carrying scrolls to answer a riddle and gain a clue. There are three clues on each of the mountain’s levels. You need to find the one thing on the level that matches all three clues, which will give you the key needed to move to the next higher level. However, the treasures are hidden in objects that only match two of the three clues. There are a total of 300 treasures to be found, and although you can only collect two treasures per level of the mountain at the beginning rank, as you collect treasures, you rank up and gain the ability to find more treasures per level.
This game is based around its own replayability. There are only three levels to the mountain, which means that at the earliest level, you can find a maximum of 6 treasures. When you have found 25 treasures total, you rank up and can find a maximum of 9 treasures in a playthrough.
All of this, I figured out with inference and the tips in the game. The riddles are very, very basic math, word puzzles such as finding rhymes and similar beginnings and endings, as well as similarities between other words (such as bird, bee, and moth). It’s a great game for kids, but I enjoyed it too. The UI and controls are non-intrusive, and the replayability is achieved by a simple formula and just enough random elements to keep it from being just repetitive.
This is what we’re missing in games now. Effective, successful simplicity. Especially JRPGs, which have little to no replay value (made worse if you hate the story).
The music is also somehow protected from becoming too repetitive or irritating. It sounds nice enough and it repeats at just the right frequency to pass out of notice rather than annoying the player. The graphics are obviously dated, but in a way that is retro and pleasant, not “Oh my gosh we used to settle for this.”