Here are my thoughts on each puzzle I mentioned above.
- Throughout, the puzzle “how do I end the day” seems to have no logical answer. It should at the very least link back to each dream at the start of the day, but it doesn’t.
The first night’s dream is about discovering the secret passage and spying on Michael, but you can’t do that until the third day. The second day ends when you solve the hobo/Rebis puzzle, for no clear reason.
The second night’s dream is about discovering the well, which is fine, but then you have to play the flute in the Burial Mound to regain access to the real-estate office via the sewer tunnels; your only lead is the dream line, “Michael’s in the cellar, doing something bad.” Only once you get back to the office do you have a “mission” again, to break into the paper mill.
A) Breaking into the real-estate office. Other than adventure-game logic, there’s nothing in this game that says, “yes, you should break into the real estate office.” Michael recommends waiting. The game never says, “that’s it, you’ve waited log enough.” And there are plenty of other buildings to discover that you can’t break into yet, especially including the Church, the Mill, the Asylum, the Sewers, and the Courthouse.
It is intriguing that Michael will propose breaking in if you ask him for help. IMO the “PERSON, COMMAND” syntax is now so rare in modern games as to be undiscoverable without an ABOUT page recommending using it, but “ASK MICHAEL ABOUT HELP” (or “FOR HELP”) also works. The problem is that this requires guessing that Michael will respond to that topic, when the text never explicitly mentions the word “help.” I think there’s no good reason for players to guess that “help” is a valid topic here. This “guess the topic” puzzle is at least as hard (and at least as unfair) as the puzzle we’re trying to solve in the first place.
B) Proving that Dr. Rebis lied about William. It’s easier to find William’s coffin now (you can just stumble across it), and that’s probably for the best. The problem is, the hobo (Dr. Rebis) is the centerpiece of Day 2; you must solve his puzzle to end the day, and you specifically have to prove to him that you know that William wasn’t buried in the crypt.
But this task is totally non-motivated. Why does my character want to do this? What evidence does the player have that Rebis is essential to end the day? After I find the skull, why am I showing the skull to Rebis? He’s not even mentioned in the first night’s dream. What puzzle am I solving?
In my InvisiClues, I phrased the question, “What should I ask the man in the Vacant Lot about?” This question is totally unnatural; nobody would bother to ask this question if it weren’t right there in the InvisiClues.
Perhaps the thought is, “you should solve him just because he’s there,” but there are a bunch of NPCs on Day 2 that you can’t gainfully interact with yet, including the locals in the pub, the orderly, and the mom in the Shanty Town. Why am I interacting with this guy in particular?
I think the right fix would be to have the key appear in his personal description. At least then the question could be, “How do I get the key from the man in the Vacant Lot?”
C) Spying on Michael. You can’t see Michael open the mural until the third day. Randomizing the spy holes makes this worse, not better. I have to just guess that persistent surveillance will pay off, even if I get unlucky and see a repeat message in the holes (which happens).
IMO, spying on Michael opening the mural should conclude Day 2. That’s what the first night’s dream is about: opening the secret passage and watching Michael.
D) Putting the black disk in the telescope. The “thin, rectangular slot” is for some reason meant to hold a non-rectangular black disk that is only “like a lens.”
E) Finding the hidden entrance to the paper mill. IMO this puzzle is bizarrely harder now in 2018 than it was in 1998. In 1998 the thickets are described like this:
It requires persistent examination to bother examining the thicket, but once you see it, it’s a pretty clear invitation to search.
Here’s the thicket description in 2018:
That doesn’t sound inviting. It forces me to make a huge leap of logic to try searching the thickets.
F) Returning the bear to get a mill key. The houses no longer have visible street numbers, so even if you manage to figure out that the newspaper could lead you to the right house, it requires a huge leap to guess that you should type “knock on #48” here to access the house.
G) Picking locks. The needle itself requires searching the asylum in a stressful “time is of the essence” section, quite possibly under attack from the madman. But once you get it, for some reason you can use it to open the shackles, but not any of the other locks we care about? The asylum gate? The new church padlock? The lighthouse door?