The Let's Play Archive

The Chzo Mythos

by Quovak

Part 4: Five Days, Part 4: At Least We're Not Playing Moonlight Sonata

Five Days, Part 4: At Least We're Not Playing Moonlight Sonata

Did I?
You remember yesterday? You told me about AJ, then said you were going to look into the house. Then you asked me to wake you this morning so you could started.
Yes, I remember. Thank you, Jim.

[Day 1]

So it turns out we're all trapped in this house. Should we find AJ so we can stick together as a solid group and make sure we're all on the same page regarding this house? Eh, let's do that tomorrow.

[Day 2]

So it turns out AJ was murdered and it's likely that we're all in grave danger. Should I investigate why people are being murdered inside a malevolent house so as to prevent the same sort of thing from happening again? Eh, let's do that tomorrow.

I think the method to the house's madness is that it only lets in the most dysfunctional and incompetent people it encounters.

News: Mr. Cheasham was found to have hanged himself, and a ruling of suicide has already been declared. This is the latest in a recent string of deaths and disappearances connected to the mysterious DeFoe manor, a string which began with the murder-suicide of Sir Clarence DeFoe and his young wife, and has seen more recently the disappearance of BBC reporter Simone Taylor. Police were hoping to acquire the key to DeFoe manor in order to investigate, but the location of the key was known only to Mr. Cheasham himself. Numerous television stars have already come forward to pay tribute to Ms. Taylor.
Something tells me there wouldn't even be that much coverage in there wasn't a celebrity involved.

Have you seen the others?
No, all I know is they're not here bothering me. Why don't you go join them?
Are those maps of the house?
(sigh) Yes, they're maps. I'm going to find a way out, then I'm going to get away from this madhouse once and for all. And after that, if I ever see your smug pinstripe-wearing face again, it'll be a million years too soon.
Come on Phil, none of us could possibly have killed AJ.
You wanna bet? You're over six foot, you could've done it easily.

As much of a jerk as he's being, Phil is actually taking a fairly rational approach. Looking at maps instead of draining pools, realizing that Trilby would have been humanly capable of using a knife, etc.

Maybe I COULD have, but I didn't.
Prove it.
You know I can't. Your attitude could be the death of us.
It's certainly going to be the death of you if you don't get out of my face.

Never mind, he's just a jerk. Yahtzee openly admits to smacking people over the face with his characters' two-dimensional personality traits and takes little shame in it. This will end up constituting about 70% of the text in 7 Days a Skeptic.

(I must admit, it's a bit odd to insult the effort somebody put into a project when said person is reading the thread, but there haven't been any threats of lynching yet, so I'm feeling pretty safe)

Do you know whose it is?
Yeah. It's mine.
Did you bring it in here last night or something?
Of course not. It was in the front yard, and there's no way into the front yard.
Maybe someone's trying to help us. I'll go find the others and let them know about it.

In the commentary, Yahtzee openly admits not having thought about the why behind any of this. By the 7 Days commentary (and this thread), he turns a flaw in his thought process into a feature, claiming that ambiguity makes things creepier. While I agree, this particular instance seems less "unexplained eerie mystery" and more "deus ex machina".

They must have fallen out of my pocket while I was getting out of the car.

Let this line of dialogue sink in for a minute. Trilby, a master thief (going by implied attributes) left his lockpicks in the car. Our protagonist, who knew full well the house was "locked up tight", didn't bother to double check to make sure he had the most basic thieving equipment possible. This is the man we're supposed to root for.

I'll hide an emergency pick in the lining of my tie, like I usually do.

... except when he's going into a house with the intention of picking locks. People have mentioned the spin-off of this series called "Trilby: The Art of Theft". I guess his version is like outsider art. Made without paintbrushes. Or paint.

Said lockpicks can open up this turquoise-door shed, wherein a pickax and saw await. That this saw is able to fit in Trilby's pocket is amusing, but what's even moreso is that none of the other prisoners, all of whom are on edge due to a recent murder, see any problem with you carrying it around as you engage in idle conversation.

Even by this LP's standards, I realize this update is feeling a bit disjointed due to cutting out travel between areas. I'll explain why I did this in a minute.

The bedroom doesn't have much to offer us except this book (we'll read it shortly) and ominous scratch marks (unexplained except for "ghost")

Unfortunately, this tree completely blocks our path, I guess. If you try to think of how this would actually work in three dimensions you will be sorely disappointed. Time to explore elsewhere.

What are you doing?
I'm just looking for stuff on the house. I want to help... But I'm not sure what I could do.
Do you want to tag along with me?
Sure. I promise not to get in the way.

This animation is hilariously poorly done. The screen shakes a bit and then the tree slides away in a smooth downward line. Yahtzee's commentary admits it looks horrible.

I'm not exactly sure. I know it makes me feel better.

Now, there are a number of creative things that could be done here, like positioning the tree at angle and using it as a makeshift ramp to get over the wall/onto the roof and into the front yard from there, but that's not on anyone's mind. Instead, we get to backtrack.

This backtracking that I complain about doesn't seem so bad when you're looking at screenshots, but let me emphasize what I just had to do:

1. Wake up on couch at the far east of the house
2. Travel to back door at the far west of the house, get pickaxe/saw
3. Travel upstairs to the library to get Jim to follow you.
4. Travel downstairs and back outside to cut down a tree
5. Travel back upstairs to the far east of the hallway and go outside.

Yes, you have to traverse the entire house four times in immediate succession. Yes, that's the most efficient and streamlined way to do it. Yahtzee, you actually played through this at one point and thought it was fun.

(This is surprisingly cathartic)

Hey, even more petty complaints. This game takes place in the 1990s, with its original owners having lived in the early 1800s. Presumably, a number of people have lived here since then, each of whom customized the manor to fit their personal tastes and living conditions. This would take effort to replicate, however, so it's assumed that nobody's touched anything since Matthew and Roderick lived here. This will become even more egregious as the series progresses, but for now let's look at some evidence:

1. On the bed, we see Matthew's teddy bear, left untouched over a period of 200 years and still lying where he left it.
2. In that nightstand we can find Matthew's Diary, left untouched over a period of 200 years and still in his desk drawer (a piece of furniture that was also unchanged)
3. Roderic's diary. See above

Speaking of that evidence, my wrists have been feeling too comfortable as of late. Let's transcribe some text!


March 5, 1805: Work on the house is going well. It should be completed by the end of July. Belinda is already excited about the forthcoming wedding, and spends many hours of the day going over even the smallest details over and over again. Not since our early courtship has she been so giddy with joy. It softens my heart to see her smile, and she smiles often. I am wondering why I didn't retire sooner.

August 12, 1805: I am only now having the opportunity to write this, as it has been a most hectic day. The wedding went without a hitch, and the house was ready for us to move in as soon as the ceremony was over. Belinda insisted on consummating our marriage immediately. I am sure, dear Diary, this house can expect to hear the laughter of children before 1806 is out.

February 14, 1806: A romantic day for our announcement; the physician has just left, confirming that Belinda is with child, a child we can expect to be born in June. We have already decided to name the child Matthew if a boy, or Jane if a girl.

June JULY 28, 1806: Belinda is dead. I will never forget her face, ash grey, contorted with pain. The child is healthy. Would that it had never come about and spared me this fresh hell.

May 24, 1820: Matthew showed me the painting of the grounds he had created. I worry about the boy. Why can't he have healthier interests, like soldiering? The painting was fair, I suppose, but I would rather my child be less of a weakling.

June JULY 28, 1821: It is the anniversary of the night I unleashed a horror. A horror which I tonight shall remove from this world. May God forgive me.

If you skimmed through all of that, go back and actually read it. This is where the mountains of text start to actually be worthwhile (though the game will beat us over the head with this information a few dozen more times to make sure we understand it)


June JULY 28, 1814:
Today is my eighth birthday. Nanny said I would soon be a big strong man like my father. I wanted to see him today, but he wouldn't come out of his study all day. Nanny says he always gets cross on this day, but it's not because of me.

August 5, 1817: I found a new friend. He is behind the door in the kitchen and he doesn't have a name. He likes me to sit and talk to him, but father gets very angry when he finds me doing this. I asked father who the boy behind the door was, but he told me there was no boy behind the door and it was just a silly fantasy.

May 24, 1820: I showed father the painting I just finished. He said it looked quite good, which is the best thing he has ever said. While he was in a good mood, I asked if I could go and look behind the door in the kitchen. He pretended not to hear me.

June JULY 28, 1821: My father has done a terrible thing. All this time he pretended there was no boy behind the door, and now this. This is blood all over the kitchen floor. I will do what I can. Then we can be a family together and be happy.

Remember how I said the last two games retcon everything in the series? Matthew's birthday eventually becomes July 28 instead of June, which becomes very important. Let's actually give the man a break and pretend Yahtzee planned it out that way; it works better.

I think I've read enough to have some idea of what's going on here. If there is a ghost in this place, there must be some connection to the disappearance of Sir Roderick and Matthew DeFoe. Was Matthew schizophrenic, or something? Did Sir Roderick kill him and disappear to avoid the law? It's odd that neither of their bodies were ever found. If I could find Matthew's body, perhaps I could get to the bottom of this. Maybe there's a book or something in the library that could help me.

Even on a replay, you have to read all of this; having it in your possession isn't good enough to trigger the event flag. In other news, Trilby is nice enough to tell us the one place in the house where things will happen, a charitable service he'll stop providing immediately after.


Tie the possession in question to a stick and dip it in salt. Next, wave it over where the subject sleeps. When you hold it in front of you, the object should now indicate in which direction the owner lies.

Yahtzee actually wrote that. Just saying.

What follows is the most forced and counter-intuitive puzzle in the game. Suspend your disbelief as far as it can possibly go; I guarantee it won't be far enough.

Step 1: Combine the cord, twig and bear. This makes Trilby wrap the cord around said bear and attach it to a twig, making the equivalent of one of those cat toys consisting of a feather at the end of a string. Then dip that in salt. This is actually a puzzle.

Step 2: Wave the "Salty Bear and Stick" (It's actually called that) over Matthew's bed

Step 3: Look at the enchanted bear thing every five seconds to follow directions. Think a more annoying version of finding LeChuck's ship in the first Monkey Island game.

Step 4: Okay, this is ridiculous.

This is another "puzzle" involving nothing but backtracking. In this case, bedrooms (far East on top floor) to get supplies, kitchen (far West on bottom floor) to get a salty bear, back to bedrooms (East top floor) to wave over the bed, back to kitchen (West bottom floor) to vandalize the sheetrock that nobody replaced in 200 years. Gameplay!

Are these manacles? What the hell was this room used for?

And, almost like magic, this game becomes creepy and worthwhile.

Now, I'll admit that this is a horrendously awkward place to end an update, but I have my reasons. This is where the game exhibits a tremendous amount of competence whiplash and suddenly becomes subtle and disturbing. It doesn't last, but I'm going to leave the day transition for another update so as to clearly separate this game's worst aspects from its best ones. Until then, let the speculation and Q/A session commence.


Creator Commentary
I don't plan, long-form. It works for some people, but not me. Whenever I've worked out the whole plot of something before starting work on it, I've lost interest very quickly.

These days when I do long-form I'll start with some characters and basic ideas and just keep writing until a plot takes shape, then go back to the start and rewrite the earlier bits so they tie into the themes and plot elements that appeared later. Obviously couldn't do that when 5 Days was released years before I even thought of the Chzo stuff. So yes, while 5 Days and 7 Days were intended at first to stand alone, I retconned them into the larger plot later. Handily, both games had left some things unexplained, like how  John DeFoe became so powerful in death despite being so flimsy in life.  

I've said often in ZP and my other critical writings that a fan-service sequel that simply 'pays homage' to the original by retreading the same points is pointless. The best sequels use the original as a jumping-off point to do something new and exciting. Hence why 7 Days was set in space. Perhaps not the best example.

Improvement thoughts:

Trilby should have his lockpicks from the start. Have most of the rooms unlocked anyway, since the other housemates have been exploring. Set up sleeping areas in the bedrooms to show where they spend their nights. But have a couple more rooms on the second floor that are locked with a sturdier kind of lock. Almost as if someone desperately wanted to forget about their contents... Trilby realises he needs a more specialised kind of pick.

Lose the transported car miracle. On the third day, the toolshed outside gets unlocked somehow. Include increasing evidence throughout this day that Trilby is being guided by Matthew DeFoe's spirit. Trilby can now use the equipment in the toolshed (maybe a lathe) to cut one of his picks down into the kind he needs to open one of the sturdy doors.

The room beyond contains half the evidence Trilby needs to figure out the Roderick DeFoe connection. He climbs out the window and does the same tree puzzle as before to get into the other locked room, which was deadbolted from within. Here, he finds the body of Michael Cheasham, the DeFoe lawyer, several weeks dead by suicide (the TV reports his disappearance rather than his death in this case - he was drawn into the house while investigating Clarence's mysterious murder-suicide, and fell under the evil influence).

In this room is the rest of the DeFoe evidence, and Matthew's teddy, which Trilby soon discovers provokes stronger manifestations of the spirit that is helping him. It leads him to the basement, and the stuff that will be happening in the next update.

Is it worth mentioning again that I made 5 Days seven years ago, and four years before I became a professional game critic? That's the trouble with the internet, everything you ever made is freely available side-by-side in a single, frozen moment of 'now'. People change their minds about things, skills improve.

That said, let me defend the teddy bear thing a tiny bit. Even then I knew a lot of amateur (and commercial) adventure games that were little more than endless sequences of putting keys in doors. Except sometimes the key was a bribe, or a crowbar, or a piece of rope, and the doors were sometimes cliffs or cupboards or guards - wherever you went it was essentially 'use this on this to get this'. The worst example I can think of is Simon the Sorceror 2, where the large part of exploring the game world was finding the start of the chain. Picking up an item to use on this puzzle that gave you this item to use on this puzzle that gave you another item to etc. etc.

So the bear thing was an attempt to put an alternative kind of puzzle together, and introduce a signal-following gameplay mechanic (like the orichalcum dowsing in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis) to mix things up a bit and add suspense.

That was my thought process at the time. I assumed that telling a ghost story automatically opened the door for any other supernatural shit I could think of, and even more crazy shit happens later in the series. On reflection, it's a bit of a lurch.

I still like the signal-following mechanic, but today I'd probably make it a bit less like a voodoo recipe and a bit more makeshift. Like, say, shaking the teddy bear makes Matthew's ghost appear and indicate where to go.

Another thing I'd probably do is bring Roderick DeFoe's story forward to a more recent time, like the 1950s. As you say, there have probably been a lot of different residents since the early 19th century. I guess I told myself that the books and the teddy bear would be considered family heirlooms and hung onto, while the easel could be explained away as Matthew's ghost affecting the newer residents of the room and making them artistically inclined. Shaky, I know. A few more documents authored by the more recent residents might have helped.

Actually getting back to the teddy bear thing, I'm suddenly reminded of why I didn't like a lot of the new Tales of Monkey Island games: because it seemed like an awful lot of the puzzles involved following baffling voodoo recipes to create magical Maguffins that sort everything out, rather than any kind of tool-based logic.