Monday, 4 February 2013

Waxworks (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

Mecha-neko, do not play a sports game. Do not play another James Pond game. Do not pass GO. Go directly to...

Waxworks! A horror-themed adventure game!


Two things:

First, this post ruins quite a lot of the thrills, spills and funnies that you may prefer to encounter yourself. They're the kind of thing that's only funny the first time.

Second, Horror Soft's idea of fun is blood. Lots of it.

We're either in for a very good game, or a very bad game.

They definitely know how to draw though. The credits are accompanied by small illustrations of the various locales you visit in the game. I don't want to paste them all...

But this one just looks plain cool.

And if I have to sit through them, so do you. (You CAN skip the credits, but it skips the entire intro with it.)

Once upon a time, some dude went to a Waxworks.

"Good evening sir, you are expected. Would you be so kind as to enter. "

No voices. Boo.

Umm... no. I think I have the wrong place. I'll just be going.

"Welcome to your uncle's Waxworks. I am his assistant. Your uncle instructed me to give you this Crystal Ball, Sir, I believe it is an old family heirloom. I know your uncle always guarded it very carefully."

I'd better take care of this: I might need it for the The Very Last Puzzle in the game.

It's my Uncle Boris! Wotcher, man.

He doesn't have voices either, and he's not real live-action FMV. He's just these frames looping over and over again.

"At last, Nephew, you have come. You and you alone can complete my life's work and rid our family of the witch's ancient curse. Within these walls you will find that I have collected together the most evil of all the twins that have been born to past generations of our family."

You've been gathering our ancestors? That's... not right. I'm somewhere between disgusted and afraid. Why would you DO that?

"By the use of powerful magic, you must enter their worlds, find and kill them and destroy the power that feeds the curse. Then and only then will you be able to find a way to rid our family of this terrible curse for ever."

Kill them? Why? If they're my ancestors, they're probably already dead. And killing my own ancestors doesn't sound like a good idea.

"So that you may fully understand this terrible curse, I have given the family's lawyer a very important letter for you. You should have read it before you came here. If haste has prevented you from reading it, I strongly suggest that you read it now, so that your understanding of what is before you is complete."

"Each exhibit within my Waxworks bears a plaque which, when read, will tell you something about the evils that await you."

"Good luck, and remember, I may be able to help you later, but it will cost you. Communing with the dead has a terrible draining effect on the psychic energy of a living human."

WHAT? I thought this was just some kind of sophisticated recording! You're telling me I'm talking to a dead guy!? And he's draining my life force?

The safety briefing comes FIRST, you son of a bitch!

Here's the skinny.

Hundreds of years ago, a witch placed an ancient Egyptian curse on my family, meaning that to every generation there would be born a pair of twins... a good twin and an evil twin. My lineage includes the most despised men and women in history; innumerable emperors and conquerors, witches and warlocks, murderers and sadists. Pretty much every heinous act ever committed in history has been the direct result of one of my evil twin ancestors.

My character's twin went missing years ago... but now he's BACK! And he's EVIL!

Uncle Boris has picked his four favourite evil bastards and created waxworks depicting them. I have to use 'powerful magic' to travel through time to the worlds depicted in the waxworks in order to murder my evil twin ancestors, in order to prevent my own evil twin from resurrecting them all in the present and raising the most evil army that the world of men has ever known.


First up, we go back in time to Ancient Egypt, to the first recorded appearance of evil within my family. The evil twin is a dark priest of Anubis, who organised the abduction of the good twin's fiancee in order to conduct a ritual sacrifice. I've got to go back and murder the crap outta him.


No turning... forward now? That was the exit slamming shut in front of me?

I haven't even done anything and I'm already confused.

We're adventure gaming in first person, tile-based Dungeon Master-style dungeons.

I have a whole bunch of icons running down both sides of the screen. No clue what they all do. I have a compass, but no automap.

You're lucky I'm hopelessly in love with Shin Megami Tensei, Horror Soft.

'Perhaps he is dead', indeed.

There's tons of stuff to EXAMINE, but nothing particularly interesting. The game tells me was a pyramid architect, but he's not carrying a map on him as far as I can tell.

I can pick up pretty much everything in the room. It's an adventure game: I'm sure I'm going to find a use for half a dozen clay urns.

This isn't me, this is the guy slumped on the desk.

I've found some blank papyrus, some ink and a brush. I smell a puzzle. And I can take the dagger out of the poor man's back. And I can USE it... the game doesn't tell me on what exactly. Alright, here goes. USE DAGGER.

That is now your selected weapon.

Huh? I have weapons? I was wondering about the sword icon. And the HP, EXP and Level indicators. Is this an RPG after all?

This... does nothing. I think. It's hard to tell. I have to move the mouse into the window to interact with the items in the world, and it's not clear where interactable items are. I've been stealing fans and gizmos off all these statues just in case.

It's a guy with a sword, let's talk... one of these buttons must be TALK... hey, HEY! STOP THAT!

Argh. I don't know how to fight back!

If I click on the enemy, I get the option to EXAMINE him. It doesn't tell me anything I don't already know, namely that he's an Egyptian guard, armed with a sword and he's going to kill me.

I'm dead. It's a sad thing.

This is the first time I've ever died in an adventure game because I wasn't a high enough level.

I've noticed that I've been getting EXP every time I take a step. If I wander around a bit before bumping into the sword guy, I might be able to level up before I fight him. I've got a plan and I've got a blade. Hit it!

I'm level 2! You're for it now!

First, I've got to equip the dagger using the axe icon, then enter a fighting stance using the crossed swords icon.

After that... no idea. I just click on him? Can I target different body parts? I have no idea! Just keep clicking until jam comes out, I guess!

YES! He's dead and I level up!

I don't know where the game gets off saying this is one of my 'victims'. I'm the good twin! I don't have 'victims', I have 'felled evil bastards'.

In case you're wondering what the PSY points are about: I don't have magic spells to use in combat. They're actually used to contact Ghostly Gary through the crystal ball. Ringing him up costs a few PSY and asking him a question costs another couple of points. He's got a couple of interesting things to say about the scenario, and he offers to help with any puzzles I come across.

It's a neat hint system. The starting questions don't seem to have used up much PSY at all, and it recovers when I level up. It might get more expensive later on, but you'd have to be in a really lonely mood to use up every last PSY point.

There's more fighting in this adventure game than I anticipated! I seem to be doing well, but I don't know how long I can keep it up. I don't think I can block enemy attacks and levelling up is the only way I have to restore HP.

Uncle Boris tells me that when I go back in time, I'm actually possessing the body of the good twin of the era. In ancient Egypt, the good twin is a warrior prince, which explains I'm not dead (again) yet.

The music in this game is as good as the graphics, even through the ear-mangling FM/Adlib/whatjamacallit sound hardware I'm using here. There's a lot of different themes too... there's a normal theme, a spotted theme, a fight theme... and, of course, a death theme.

The maze is lousy, repetitive, identical, and all that. It's an Egyptian tomb, so what can you do.

And no sooner do I worry about my HP than I find a river full of (what I assume is) delicious health restoring water.

I've got an inventory full of pots, flasks, beakers and amphorae... Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Click on water, click COLLECT:

WHAT. Wow.

The awful combat of Dungeon Master combined with the misery of Déjà Vu! It's a perfect combination!

Hmm. Well, I'm stuck. I've been wandering around the maze for an hour and the only way forwards is blocked by an impenetrable glass wall.

I'll try again later, maybe there was some item I was missing that I was supposed to find in the Waxworks before entering the Egyptian world (like, say, A GUN).

Lucky for you (not for me), Waxworks lets you freely choose from the first four quests right from the start. Each quest is completely independent from the others and your items and level are completely reset when you exit.

No, there's no way out of the Waxworks.

Three levels to go:

Mine Waxwork

"The seventh evil brother in the twins family was a dark priest of a chaotic cult that practiced satanism and black magic. Whilst in prayer to his terrible master, the brother was given the recipe for a magical formula that enslaves humans to the evil one's will whilst making them physically superior to other humans. Prolonged use of the formula began to tell on the bodies of the evil one and his disciples who gradually transformed into hideous mutants becoming more and more plantlike with every dose."

That's my evil twin there, front and center. The ten foot tall plant monster with the constricting tentacles and half a dozen eyes.

And the good twin? He's some kind of kick-ass supernatural demon hunter, right?

No. He's a safety inspector who came to have a look at the mine one day. His defense consists of a hard hat, and his offense consists of a flashlight.

No guns, no swords, no pick-axes, no shovels, no magic.

No problem.


I've started in a linear corridor that's only a few tiles long. If there's a weapon here, I'm not seeing it... unless that's a flamethrower?

Alright, I've picked it up... and it doesn't appear in the combat menu.


Let's have another go.

The backpack is actually a chemical fungicidal spray. How convenient!

You've got to click on the fungicide in your inventory and then click USE, which is completely different to how you equip swords in the Egypt level.

This guy wants a doctor. I ring up Ghostly Boris on the telephone, but he's got nothing useful to add. Let's explore the mine!

My fungicide spray does nothing to the vines on the walls. Ew... if my twin has turned into a plant monster, doesn't that mean that all of these things are part of him?

Aha, there's a mine cart slowly rolling towards me. Maybe if I leap inside, it'll take me somewhere interesting!

You'd best believe this place isn't passing my safety inspection.

Alright, alright. This time, I smoke the plant zombie, inspect the dying man, dodge out of the way of the runaway mine cart.

You see that thing on the left?


Meanwhile, down another indistinguishable passageway...

Moving Vines > EXAMINE or CUT OFF.

Goes without saying that it's a trick question.

I'm not getting anywhere! Next waxwork!

Graveyard Waxwork

"The fifth in the line of twins showed a keen interest in death and the supernatural from an early age. He went on to study black magic and before long had specialised in necromancy - the magic of the dead. The twin began to take an interest in his families curse and started to collect and restore the bodies of his dead ancestors - especially those of the good twins. He also managed to capture and tame one of the most powerful undead - namely a vampire which he used as his personal bodyguard."

The evil twin is a necromancer, protected by an army of undead good twins. And a vampire.

The good twin? A gravedigger who wandered into the graveyard to recover his favourite shovel.


It's another maze! Shock-o-rama!

There's no way to climb over or around the gravestones, so it's a maze where you can't tell what is or isn't a wall.

By sheer incredible fluke, I manage to find the guy I was supposed to find...

There's some kind of murderer on the loose. Other than my good self, I mean.

I'll just take this here sickle and...

ZOMBIE! Fighting staaaance!

This fellow requires some special tactics. First, I click like mad on the left, then I click like mad on the right, and then... pop.

Of course, there's only so much identical maze one can withstand before one's intestines LEAP OUT OF ONE'S CHEST.

Jack the Ripper Waxwork

"The eighth evil twin lived in Victorian London and soon became known as the terrible Jack the Ripper. From what I have been able to gather the motive, for his terrible crimes, was to provide sacrifices to Beelzebub."

If the evil twin is just a lone man this time, I might stand a chance this time!

According to the plaques in front of the waxworks, the good twin has already defeated the evil twin in each era. I'd be satisfied with that, but it just doesn't count unless I go there myself and do it right. Maybe being killed by a good twin possessed by another good twin from the future counts as a Super Mega Double Kill.

What's this?

A great start, that's what.

Hey Uncle, I've been quiet up until now, but I think your 'powerful magic' needs calibrating or something. You're always sending me back after everything's gone to crap. If you send me back a couple of days earlier, I may have been able to prevent a lot of this madness.

Boris suggests I find a disguise. No idea where to start with that. I'm just wandering around the streets leaving bloody footprints behind me.

I swiped a diary and three shillings from the body. Murderer and thief. I'm the worst good twin ever.

Make that a useless diary.

Eek! It's the filth!

I don't have much choice, I'll have to fight! (I'll go easy on him, Uncle, I swear!)

And... enter the fighting stance... my fighting stance button is missing! God DAMN it!


These look like decent, upstanding folks...

Aw, who am I kidding? It's happened again, hasn't it?

Splat. Unusually upbeat music for the deaths in this zone.

Next time, I don't even get through rifling through the dead woman's stuff before I receive a firm hand on the shoulder spinning me around.

Wandering around in a daze, covered in blood, the dead ringer for Jack the Ripper, spotted by the police as he's standing next to the body.

I think I might be able to talk my way out of this.

I was wrong.

Alright, that's all four of the waxworks explored. Haven't gotten anywhere in ANY of them.

I'm going to give the Egypt level another shot.

I gave Ghostly Gary another try and chuckled as my character had added a new, somewhat exasperated sounding, 'HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KILL SOMETHING I CAN'T SEE' option to the list of questions I can ask.

Also, I asked him if he could wave some kind of healing magic my way (because, of course, you want healing magic advice from DEAD FOLKS), and he surprisingly obliged. He converted my blank papyrus item into a useful healing spell! Thanks, man!

I'm sure that I wouldn't have needed it for a puzzle later on. Y'know, I might have had to use it with that inkwell I found...

Right. Hmm. Yes.

These statues would work as landmarks in the otherwise featureless maze, if you could a) see them from a distance, and b) they weren't all the damned same.

I find a ceremonial room full of shiny things and I can't resist seeing if my inventory has any sort of limit. It doesn't.

All these items and I don't even have pockets!

At first, I thought this calm looking priest would be a fellow captive within the pyramid.

And then he stabbed me to death.

Ghostly Gary didn't have any advice about the indestructible glass wall, so this is the ONE walkthrough hint I'm allowing myself.

In one of the many, many pots I'd found, there was a 440Hz tuning fork. I had to look inside every pot until I found it, and then USE the fork when standing in front of the glass.

I was confused because Uncle said I had to lure out the alligator before I could kill it and whacking the indestructible wall made a 'distinct sound'... nope. You come back for the alligator 'later'.


Instant death.

Watch out for those tripwires. They are there, about ten pixels up from the description box.

When you click on them, you get the options EXAMINE, AVOID and CUT. One of these options kills you, one of these options silently disables the trap and doesn't tell you, and one does nothing at all. Guess!

I've completed level 1 of the pyramid! There are 6 levels!

Err... I kind of don't want to touch it.

Help me, Uncle!

I love this game. I thought I'd hate it, but I don't. It's entertainment!

They tried to make an entire game out of the Midian section of Nightbreed: The Interactive Movie. I can't quite wrap my head around the train of thought that went into that decision, they're clearly round the twist, but I'm actually really enjoying it. It's like a fun version of Perihelion: The Prophecy.

I suppose it's because I know there's no chance that I'll ever play it to win it, so it doesn't matter if the game keeps killing me. The game keeps giving me new and exciting ways to do myself a mischief, so dying is still amusing. The daft music when you die in each zone makes it seem like the game is laughing along with you rather than at you. If the alternative is being locked in a completely inert dungeon with nothing for company than the words 'Nothing happens.', I'll take the massacre-a-minute world of Waxworks any day.

I even got used to the FM/Adlib music squelching in my ears, even if they are ringing like hell now.

I usually play games to progress in them, but you'd have to be a masochist to enjoy this game as a straightforward adventure game. Then again, I think you'd have to be a masochist to play any kind of adventure game.

The Amiga version is the same as far as I know. I didn't check. It comes on ten disks.


  1. Love your reviews and nostalgic gameplay pictures :) - Indie Retro News

    No I'm not spam

  2. Thanks for introducing me to this game dude, i downloaded it last night. man is this game hard as hell.

    1. No problem, boss!

      Let us know if you get anywhere in it. I'm told that the Graveyard is the easiest and shortest of the four, but your mouse won't be thanking you afterwards due to all the damn zombies everywhere.

    2. The Graveyard level can be annoying at sometimes, the zombies tend to pop up one after another after you kill them. Literally.

      *kills one, another rises up*

    3. Also i agree about the London death scene music, its awesome. I can imagine the mob or Jack The Ripper rocking out to it after they killed the guy you're playing as lol.


Semi-Random Game Box