Infidel: Translation of Hieroglyphs

A little while ago, I completed a collection of the grey box Infocom releases, so I decided to start playing them, mostly for nostalgic purposes (I’m even playing them on an Apple IIe!). I decided to start with Infidel because, well, it’s what grabbed my attention. I h ave not played most of them before: At the time I really only played the Zork series on a mainframe, and HHGTTG on my Apple II clone.

I’m not sure how much of the game is left to go, but it’s been a weird mix of too easy and too hard so far. Virtually every obstacle encountered has been very easy, that is, except one: Translating the hieroglyphs. There seems to be no anchor from which to even begin such a venture. Aside from the handful that are obvious from their depiction (mostly the cardinal directions), I was at a total loss.

Eventually, I turned to the InvisiClues (as packaged with the recent iPad Infocom app), but the InvisiClue about the hieroglyphs is a single-step clue that just flat-out gives you the translation. After that, of course, the game seems to become mostly very easy again (with again the note that I haven’t actually finished it yet).

I guess what I’m ultimately wondering is, for those of you who played and completed it, did you:

  1. Finish it without translating the hieroglyphs at all;
  2. Translate the hieroglyphs independently;
  3. Use a provided translation (such as the invisiclues).

If number 2, what enabled you to begin that venture, and how challenging was the translation, as a puzzle? Was translating the hieroglyphs the single hard puzzle at the core of the game, such that looking up a translation essentially ruined the game for me?

2 for me. Solved it without hints. I don’t remember the details today, but what I remember is that it wasn’t terribly difficult. (I was good at puzzles, but not, you know, the best in the world at puzzles.)

The manual comes with some initial words – these are not hints or invisiclues material, but part of the game feelies. That gives you “the”, “and”, “sits”, “to”, “through”, “door” – which is enough to get started on the rest.

I felt the translation was crucial to the game in terms of atmosphere, but not so in terms of puzzle design. The things they warn about, I probably died in the trap before I translated anyway. I enjoyed the translation puzzle more than the rest of the game, which just like you I found to be unexpectedly easy, but I enjoy this sort of puzzle anyway.

Yeah – the hieroglyphs were not the most difficult or crucial part of the game, but they were the most memorable gameplay element. (Story aside.)

I have not played this game (yet), but I can say there are games with things you can solve without all of the information. In Myst, there is a note that is divided in two halves in two different places. I managed to solve it using only the left half (inferring what the right half must say). There are similar situations in other games too (including one I made up, where the other half of the information simply isn’t available).

Therefore, add another option to your list: Translate only some of the hieroglyphs.

I recall the hieroglyphs not being all that hard, and I remember them as much more interesting than the other puzzle types in the game. I don’t think I used clues to beat them. (I played just a few years ago, so there were almost certainly hints available online, but I don’t recall referring to them.) I am pretty sure that I did look at the game feelies to get initial clues.