Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Teenagent (MS-DOS)

Teenagent title screen
Developer:Metropolis Software House|Release Date:1995|Systems:DOS, Amiga

This month on Super Adventures I'm playing another point and click adventure game! But this time there's a twist: I have absolutely zero idea what this is. All I know is that GOG.com gave it to me for free when I signed up and the graphics looked a bit amateurish in the screenshots.

One thing I'm sure of though is that it's got nothing to do with the 1991 Teen Agent movie (called If Looks Could Kill in the US). This is Teenagent, one word; totally different thing. I'm guessing that it's probably a play on the word 'teenager'. It might also be a play on the word 'newsagent' but I'm kinda hoping it isn't as I'd rather jet around the world immersing myself in international intrigue than sell crisps. In fact I'd better check Wikipedia to make sure...

...oh that's interesting, it turns out that Teenagent was the first Polish game to be released on CD, though it seems GOG's given me the floppy disk version without the voice acting because those voices were all in Polish. I'm not considering that to be a problem. Plus it's running through ScummVM, but that's not a problem for me either.

Wikipedia also tells me that developer Metropolis Software isn't quite as obscure as I thought, as they made games like Gorky 17 and Infernal. In fact it was one of the longest operating game development studios in Poland before getting bought by CD Projekt in 2008 and shut down in 2009. Another fun fact: it was founded by opinionated video games bloke Adrian Chmielarz, who did programming and writing for Teenagent, before going off to make Painkiller and Bulletstorm for his new company People Can Fly, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter for his newer company The Astronauts. So that's interesting.

Okay I'm going to take screenshots of the first hour or so and write words under them now.


I... have no words.

Actually I do have some observations: Megabank's logo is God (they've stuck some other guy's face to the corner of the building as well but I think that's incidental), you need a password if you want to bring gold bars inside, and that armed guard inside the vault is actually being stored there amongst the other valuables. Seriously, all the security cameras are pointing his way and he has zero reaction to the gold disappearing; ain't any of his business, he's just there because he's priceless.

Uh... is there a troll hiding in that desk? It looks like there's a face peering out of an oval-shaped window.

Anyway, this next scene features the troll-desk's owner having a bizarre conversation with a fortune-teller with a speech impediment. His organisation takes care of unusual problems, but they've been struggling to solve the mystery of the vanishing gold bars for 6 months now and have decided it's time to bring in a fresh mind onto the case.

So he'd like her to use her fortune-telling powers to pick a name at random from the phone book.

She asks him if he seriously thinks this is going to work. He says no. She tells him that this is stupid. He indicates that he's well aware of that. But he wants her to do it anyway, because that's how he rolls.

The lucky winner is a teenager called Mark Hopper, so two agents predict what door he's headed to, ambush him there, and knock him out with the barrel end of a pistol. Maybe they've been studying his routine over the last few weeks, maybe the fortune-teller told them where he was going, I'm not sure. All I know is that I want his purple baseball cap.

I mean a purple baseball cap like it, not literally his cap; it's probably got blood all over it now.

When Mark wakes up he's brought over to the troll desk and briefed on the situation.

The man introduces himself as the head of a secret government organisation called the RGB, which is so damn secret that not even he knows what the letters stand for. He tells Mark that gold and cash deposited in bank safes has been disappearing and asks for his help in solving the mystery.

Mark's not against the idea of getting involved in this conspiracy stuff, but first he wants to know what he'll be paid. What's getting all the gold in the world back worth to the RGB? The man replies that Mark will be getting self-satisfaction as a reward and when that's not incentive enough he also throws in his respect. Also girls.

That gets Mark's attention.

He clarifies that what he means is that secret agents get all the chicks; he's not going to deliver a truck load of women to his door or anything like that. Mark accepts these terms.

The way things have been going so far I expected the RGB folks to kick Mark out of the door here, with nothing but his innate puzzle-solving adventure game instincts to rely on. But nope, they're not actually half-assing this; Mark's going to secret agent training camp!

So now I'm at the secret training camp, listening to the cheerful platformer game music. They should've sent an anthropomorphic squirrel...

Anyway I've reached my first mystery to solve: am I inside the fence or outside the fence? I suppose that either way I'm supposed to be showing this guard my pass now.

After a bit of fighting with the interface I figured out that I have to move the cursor to the top of the screen to make the inventory appear, then click the right mouse button on the pass, move the cursor outside the inventory box to make it disappear, and then click the left button on the guard I want to use it on. They've swapped the mouse buttons around from what I'm used to, so I'll have to keep reminding myself that it's left click to look, right click to use.

The guard checked my papers then told me to go inside and talk to the captain, so that's what I've been trying to do, but it's not working. Once Mark reached reached the edge of the screen he stopped and refused to go any further. He's just standing there like an idiot saying "Cool," over and over again. Oh duh, it's left mouse button to look, right mouse button to use... I forgot already. The guy was examining the exit instead of exiting through it.

On the next screen I found three doors and trash can (each labelled when I hover the mouse over so that I know I can interact with them). So I immediately initiated resource acquisition and sent Mike over to examine the bin for loot. All he could tell me about it was "It stinks," but I sent him fishing for treasure anyway and he pulled out... something. He didn't bother telling me what he'd found though.

Oh it's a rope; handy.

I'm here to speak to the captain but the guard forgot to tell me where I'm meant to go, so I guess I'll try all the doors in order, starting with the canteen cantine door on the left.

Uh, the canteenagent door I mean.

Awesome, someone's left behind some crumbs on the table. I'll be helping myself to them then. Nice unique crumb grabbing animation.

I can interact with a few things in here, but none of it's doing me any good. The barman yells at me if I tried to go through the side door, the cash register's empty, the radio's too big, Mark doesn't know what to do with the clock and he doesn't have time to drink everything on the shelves.

So I had a chat with the barman instead and learned that the game's not giving me dialogue options. Mark says his own lines and then if I'm lucky he'll say entirely different lines second time the second time I click the guy, and the third, until the conversations are exhausted and the two of them start repeating themselves. Here's a sample conversation for you!
Hello sir I am Mark.

What a pity you're not a dollar. What can I do for you?

You can give me a lot of money....
... or you can do a headstand...
... or....

Okay okay. It's a tie. So?...

Who's else is in the camp?

You're a journalist?

No, I'm a secret agent.

You too?
Anyway, there are only three men.
Me, the captain and the guard.

No women?

No cry.

Erm, well...
I'm starting to feel like I'm too sober to really appreciate what the game's doing.

Next I decided to leave the doors behind and go wandering off to the left of the building instead. Here I found a wall with a a plant growing next to it and shovel behind it. I tried sending Mark over to get it but he's too weak to climb it.

I examined the "solid ground" in front of the wall and he says he'd probably need it, so I tried to grab it and he said he had no use for it! The dude needs to make up his mind.

I carried on down the path and was confronted with this bird/rope/mud arrangement. I was thinking I could use the crumbs I picked up with the top of the post to... I dunno, distract the bird so I could pocket him. Didn't work though; Mark didn't want to waste the tasty crumbs.

I'm not getting anywhere here, so I'll go back to that building to find the captain and get my secret agent training started.

Wow, I guess the process of becoming a secret agent is a lot more like becoming a pirate than you'd expect. Though in Monkey Island I was allowed to roam an entire island and do the trials in any order I wanted. Here I have to do them in sequence, and the first area I have to prove myself in is jail escapery.

Hey the music's changed! I guess that's the game being kind to me, seeing as I'll probably be stuck here a while. It's got a weird soundtrack this, as the songs tick all the boxes needed to qualify for being absolutely fucking unbearable, but I'm somehow enjoying them. Your mileage may vary.

Okay what do I have in here to use? A bed, a bin, a light bulb? I'll have to scan my mouse over the walls to make sure there's nothing else around.

First I accidentally tore a cable out of the ceiling by grabbing the light bulb, then I deliberately broke the bed by yanking a spring out of it. Good thing I scanned over it with my mouse or else I never would've known that spring was there.

So now I've got a light bulb, a spring, a live power cable, an empty trashcan, a door, and something labelled 'crates' which is actually a window. Nope, I have no idea what I need to do here to escape.

I got bored and looked it up in the end. Turns out that I had to keep yelling through the window crates four times until the guy brought me a plate of food. It's not good game design to make a player repeat something until they get a different result.

Oh damn, I think I might have killed the captain! Still, at least now I can reach through the gap and grab the key off him. First trial completed!

Weird thing is that all I had to do was 'use' the wires and Mark figured out what to do with them himself.

Trial #2 is torture practice. I need to use enhanced interrogation on the captain to get him to give me the secret password (and hopefully find out how he managed to tie himself up while I'm at it).

He made it clear that I'm allowed to do anything I want here, even spit in his eye, but I'd rather try to solve this like an adventure game hero first so I went next door to the cantine to load up on drinks to loosen his tongue. Didn't work. Next I tried to grab the radio to torment him with bad music. No luck there either. I can't even pick up the weapons off the walls!

Okay, I came away from the cell with some items earlier, so I'm going to go off and use them with everything outside to see what happens.

Spring + 'solid ground' = I got myself a shovel!

In any other game Mark's solution for getting back would make me want to snap something, but here it's genius. The game's going for the Monkey Island kind of goofy comedy and it's actually pulling it off more often than not.

I checked the guide again to make sure I wasn't missing anything else on this screen, and it turns out that I can snap a bit off that plant next to the wall as well. So I went back to the captain tried using it to tickle the password out of him. The best I managed was to get him to drop his Swiss Army knife, but that's still progress.

With the knife I can cut through this metal fence and then I can use the shovel to dig out a kaleidoscope!

Uh, are kaleidoscopes any good for torture?

Aha, the guard wants the kaleidoscope and he's willing to trade it for the Soldier News magazine he's reading.

It's always nice to bring someone joy in a point and click adventure instead of being a git to everyone. Plus now I've got a magazine to torture the captain with!

I offered him the captive captain the Soldier News in exchange for the password, and he gave in and told me. Mark decided to leave him tied up though because it's funny. I went to the barman, gave him the password 'COFFEE' and he got me a coffee. Plus he also told me that the third trial is 'hide and seek', so now I have to find where the captain slipped off to with that chair still tied to his ass.

But first I'm grabbing a coffee cup of mud! Why? Because it happened accidentally when I tried climbing the rope again. This bloody game runs off cartoon logic, I don't know what I'm doing in it.

I eventually gave in and checked the guide again, and it said to grab the guard's grenade off his belt, use the rope on the grenade and then use rope & grenade on the desk drawer in the captain's office. Not the locked locker in the background, it has to be the locked drawer.

I really could've used some kind of hint that this lock could been blown (and the locker lock can't), seeing as they're both sealed shut and I've no idea what's in either of them. A line like "It looks almost strong enough to survive an explosion," when I looked at the drawer would've helped clue me in to what I'm capable of doing here without giving the whole puzzle away.

Anyway, now I have some slightly singed sleeping pills. Yay.

I mixed the pills with the crumbs and used them on the post to knock out the bird (and make a new friend)!

So now Mark's got a pass, a light bulb, a jail key, a bit of plant, a Swiss Army knife, a Soldier News magazine, a mug full of mud, and a live bird shoved down his pants... how the fuck does any of this help me find the captain?

Okay, trying everything on everything else has gotten really old so I’m checking the guide for a fourth time.

Oh, turns out that I had to use the bird on the radio. This is another case where an observation by Mark could've really helped. He just had to slip in a funny line about the antenna looking like a perch or something else bird-related and he'd have got me wondering 'but how can I get a bird?' earlier instead of 'what am I doing with this drugged bird in my pants?' now. There isn't even different music playing in here to draw attention to the bloody thing.

At least I was able to figure out to swap the cups all by myself, and the barman took a nice gulp of mud and collapsed. So now I'm free to go see what's behind the side door!

I can see the captain's eyes peering out from a hole in one of the barrels, but I'm not sure what to do about it because Mark refuses to look in them. I tried planting the Soldier News magazine to lure him out but he won't do that either.

Hmm... I bet that locker hides a secret passage leading back to the identical locker in his office. It's the only way he could've gotten in here without walking past me. I can't test my theory though and either way it's not going to help me find the guy any faster. Okay fine, where's that guide at?

The guide says I just have to look at him and the job's done, but I've been doing that. OH! It means I have to look exactly at the tiny blinking pixel! Sure, okay, whatever gets these trials over with.

I did it, I passed secret agent training! As a reward, the boss stripped all my items off me and gave me a tube of super glue, then sent me to investigate a rich businessman who's buying a lot of stuff with cash lately.

Hey this scene really does look charming!

The game's freeware now, but back in the day the 'three trials' section I just played was released as shareware, to show off the game and get players hooked enough to put down cash for the full product. So this seems like the perfect place for me to call it a day.


CONCLUSION

Okay, Teenagent was way better than I expected it to be. You might have gotten the impression that I hated playing the game, but that's not true at all. I just didn't know what the hell I was doing in it due to its lack of hints and its cartoon logic, and I wasn't exactly hit by a feeling of achievement and satisfaction when I actually managed to figure something out on my own. More like I was hit with an impulse to shout "What? Seriously?" at the monitor.

But the nonsense puzzles didn't really bother me much once I gave in and opened up GameFAQs on my second monitor, as I was entertained enough just watching it all play out. It's a deeply weird game, amplified by an English translation that comes off like someone trying to remember lines from a movie they saw yesterday after having a few pints, and it definitely has its moments.

It doesn't quite have the visuals of a top-tier graphic adventure and the graphics are at a low resolution for its time, but it's not an ugly game and it's pretty well animated on occasion. It's got an indie game charm to it that goes well with its mad indie game story and semi-irritating upbeat soundtrack. Plus it seems to follow the LucasArts adventure game rules as I was never able to get Mark killed or move forward without an item I need to continue.

So in conclusion: it's not as good as Painkiller or Bulletstorm, but I enjoyed what I saw of it well enough. It's a comedy, it made me laugh, job done.


Attention: Teenagent is one the games you get on GOG.com if you sign up for a free account.


Did you know... that you can click that NEXT GAME picture on the left to immediately jump to the next post? Try it yourself! Though obviously you'll want to wait a week or so for me to write and post the next game article first, or else there'll be nothing there for it to jump to.

Comments are welcome, I'm always eager to read what people think about the game or how I'm doing with my site. You could tell me that my articles are way too long and wordy now, or that you liked it better when I used to be funny, or that you wish I'd post about more than one game a month... or other stuff too! You could even try guessing what the next game is.

10 comments:

  1. I remember this game! I played a shareware version from a Magazine. Good times.

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  2. Is that a walking cactus kissing a Mexican guy? Can't wait to see what's the next game.

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  3. Surprised you put the gold medal to this one. In past times you would have hated it. Fair enough, the game is playable and times change people, good work

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    1. Well it's less of a gold trophy of excellence and more of a 'didn't hate it' award, and I really didn't hate this one. It's closer to being a Toonstruck than a Curse of Enchantia in my estimation.

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  4. Good to see Amiga games back front and centre where they belong, even if, um, I've never heard of this one. Still, it's the principle of the matter!

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  5. Oh, and I like that this is basically a Kingsman tie-in, only twenty years before Kingsman.

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    1. Thanks for reminding me that I still need to watch that.

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  6. The next game is Gunman’s Proof.

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  7. i love all the old stuff :)

    best regards
    thomas from computer 22

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