Thursday, March 11, 2021

Infidel: Won!

I restarted Infidel, with the goal of making more effort to catalog the hieroglyphs on a replay. This turned out to be quite helpful with some of the unsolved puzzles.

At the end of the prologue, I examined the top of the pyramid before inserting the cube, and found these symbols:
       !-!        !-!
->  #. ! !  -  #  ! !  /

The cube rubbing guide translated every word:
Through this door sits the door to
Combined with the cube's translation, we get:
Through this door sits the door to the queen and all queen treasures.


Simple enough.

The bend in the hallway says:
           .     =  - -
!@!  ...>  -  #  *   =   ::  <... ;

#  *


Now, at first I assumed "...>" meant "through," but the notation is different from the arrow used earlier, so perhaps it means something different. Substituting known words, we get:
           .     =  - -
Queen ...> - the *   =  and  <... ;

the *


Not sure what the rest of the words could be, but there's some symmetry and in more than one axis.

The scroll on the barge's aft deck says:
*->  <.>  <:.>  ... <::.>

::  :  **  --->>  -)  (*)


Could the first word be "remove," in reference to what I did with the bricks labeled with the following numerals?
Remove 1   3    ...   5
and :  **  --->>  -)  (*)


Inside the temple, we see:
-!-  #  !*  ::  #  *!  ::

*->  #  !@!  >*>

If my previous guess is right, we can partially translate to:
-!- the !* and the *! and

remove the queen >*>


The four goddess's shrines all say a variant of this:

))  /  #   \  ::

<-*  (@@@@)  =!=  /  *

One of those words is a reverse of what I assume means "remove," so maybe it means "put?" If we assume all of my prior guesses are correct, we can get this:
)) to the NE and
put Nephthys =!=  to  *


In the center of the cube, there's this text:
...>  -. >... #  !  ! !

/  ...>  /  #  !@!


I can no longer assume the arrows mean "through" or that the last symbol on the top row means door, but based on the glyphs in the goddess's shrines that seem to indicate directions, I can infer that "-." means "west." And we get:
...> east >... the ! ! !

to ...> to the queen

At the bottom of the stairs through the cube's hidden passage, we see on a plaster wall:
*->  #  !!!  ::  ...>  .-


Which substitutes to:
Remove the !!! and ...> west


Maybe "remove the wall and go west?" Since that's more or less what we do here. Why did the architects give instructions for robbing their tombs?

At the bottom, on the next wall, we see:
<-*  #  /!\  -  #  (=  =)

::  *->  #  !!!


After substituting:
Put the /!\  - the (=  =)
and remove the wall


Yeah, this looks like grave-robbing instructions. The correct action here is to "put the beam in the niches and remove the wall," although "on" makes more sense as an ideogram. Though you also have to stand on the beam before destroying the wall, or else it won't help much.

In the north side of the antechamber, we see:
             -     !=!
<-*  #  /!\  .  #  ! !

::  *->  #  !!!


Translating to:
             -     !=!
Put the beam . the ! !

and remove the wall

If the dot above the dash means "on," then surely the dot below the dash means "under," and the other symbol sort of looks like a supporting beam, like what's featured in this room. So I retrieved the beam and wedged it under the door before destroying the seals. The door opened, and the beam groaned as it suddenly bore three tons of stone.

Inside this door was a burial chamber, where statues of Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selkis held a quartz sarcophagus shut. On the top were two recesses. It wasn't yet clear to me what to do here.

The southern end has this on its door:
<-*  #  /!\  (.)  #  ! !

::  (  #  ! !


Partially translating to:
Put the beam (.) the ! !

and ( the ! !

At this point, taking the beam causes a cave-in, blocking off the door to the burial chamber, and the game won't let you close it. I was sure I wasn't done with the burial chamber so I reloaded. As for what to do with the beam, the only logical course of action was to put it in the door before opening it. Apparently there's more than one word for door.

Inside was another chamber called the annex, in which a stone slab had four holes. Clearly these corresponded to the jeweled clusters found in the goddesses' shrines, which I retrieved and placed, and then easily moved the slab, revealing an ancient tome. And a spatula.

The outside of the book simply bore the symbol:


The inside, revealed by carefully turning the pages with the spatula, said:
        =  .          !   !
<-*  #  =  -  #  !@!  !---!

            .          !  !
::  #  >*>  -  #  !@!  !--!


Which I inferred translated to:
                          !   !
Put the book on the queen !---!

                         !  !
and the >*> on the queen !--!

The rightmost symbols I assumed referred to the recesses on the sarcophagus, but I still had no idea what a ">*>" was. I couldn't easily try every inventory item either; not only is inventory space limited, but the beam can't be a door support and span the pit to the antechamber at the same time.

So I tried every inventory item anyway, first by taking multiple trips from the Chamber of Ra to the antechamber to move everything there, and then using the beam to prop the ceiling as I entered the burial chamber. And nothing worked.

I turned to a walkthrough. I was dumb - I completely missed an exit from the burial chamber in plain view, leading to a treasury, where I found a scarab with the symbol ">*>" etched on its back. Of course, taking it kills you. The scarab weighs down a set of scales. I was now pretty sure that the etchings in the temple, the only other place mentioning a scarab, translated to this:
Balance the left and the right and
remove the queen scarab


The chalices were logical enough to put on the circular scales, but gold is heavier than silver. So I filled the silver chalice with water from my canteen. This seemed to work; I took the scarab without consequences.

Back in the burial chamber, I put the scarab in the small recess and the book in the large, and the statues clicked. They still held the sarcophagus lid closed, but could be turned. I turned them all, and they instantly slid back into their original positions. So I tried turning them in the order indicated by their symbols - first Neith, indicated by (@), then Selkis indicated by (@@), and so on.

They clicked, staying in place. So I opened the sarcophagus, to Infidel's infamous ending.

>open sarcophagus
You lift the cover with great care, and in an instant you see all your dreams come true. The interior of the sarcophagus is lined with gold, inset with jewels, glistening in your torchlight. The riches and their dazzling beauty overwhelm you. You take a deep breath, amazed that all of this is yours. You tremble with excitement, then realize the ground beneath your feet is trembling, too.

As a knife cuts through butter, this realization cuts through your mind, makes your hands shake and cold sweat appear on your forehead. The Burial Chamber is collapsing, the walls closing in. You will never get out of this pyramid alive. You earned this treasure. But it cost you your life.

And as you sit there, gazing into the glistening wealth of the inner sarcophagus, you can't help but feel a little empty, a little foolish. If someone were on the other side of the quickly-collapsing wall, they could have dug you out. If only you'd treated the workers better. If only you'd cut Craige in on the find. If only you'd hired a reliable guide.

Well, someday, someone will discover your bones here. And then you will get your fame.

Your score is 400 out of a possible 400, in 473 moves.
This score gives you the rank of a master adventurer.

This abrupt end, both of the adventure and of the protagonist, doesn't bother me too much. Infidel had already subverted the treasure hunting adventurer trope that Zork built itself on by making the "hero" a bungling, opportunistic swindler and way out of their element. Players may balk at being told that you feel foolish, that your failure was inevitable, that you made poor choices. After all, the game never gave you the option to not make those choices. But as far as I'm concerned, we are playing a predefined character here, not an avatar of yourself as in Adventure and Zork, and the second-person narration is simply genre convention at this point. Would this ending be more palatable if the adventurer had a name? If it wasn't you doomed to die in your golden tomb, but someone named "Illinois Williams" or something similar? We don't complain that Cuphead got in trouble for a poor decision the player never got to influence, so why this one?


Wrapping things up, I took a look at the remaining untranslated hieroglyphs to see if I could decipher them.

The bend in the hallway to the barge says:
                =  - -
Queen go on the *   =  and  <... ;

the *


The "<..." is "go" reversed, so maybe leave? The rest still makes no sense.

The scroll on the barge's aft deck says:
Remove 1   3    ...   5
and :  **  --->>  -)  (*)


And I still have no insight on the rest of it. None of those symbols appear anywhere else in the game.

The goddess' shrine:
)) to the NE and
put Nephthys =!=  to  * 


No ideas.

In the center cube chamber:
Go east >... the ! ! !

to go to the queen


Not sure what this could be. ">..." seems like it might be a typo. It's almost "go" reversed, but the ">" isn't flipped.

I checked Invisiclues, which has a hieroglyph dictionary. These passages translate to:

  • Queen go on the night winds and return with the dawn
  • Remove 1 3 then 5 and a pathway will appear
  • Nephthys turn to the NE and put Nephthys offering to Ra
  • Go east from the south room to go to the queen

The grammar might not be completely correct, but I think the meaning is clear enough.


GAB rating: Above Average. It's a typical Infocom adventure with an excellent parser, good writing and design, but it just feels mechanical and obligatory, and there's not that much that stands out about it apart from the ending - I'm not surprised that I retained memory of little else from my first playthrough decades ago. The adventure itself is really just solving a bunch of puzzle rooms of middling difficulty. Ironically, the hieroglyphs that I kvetched about in my last post turned out to be the most interesting puzzle in the game.

My Trizbort map:


  1. If you enjoyed this one, it might be fun to visit juvenile Andrew Plotkin's take on it, "Inhumane".

    1. Heh - one gets the impression that this might be even more fun if you didn't enjoy Infidel.

  2. I've read that many people were upset with the ending to this one...

    I think it is pretty cool and perhaps a little bit thought provoking...

  3. You receive the full 400 points after turning the last statue, not for having opened the sarcophagus. I interpreted that as implying that the player could then choose to leave the pyramid with as much treasure as they can carry, type "quit" and consider the game won.

    The official ending, though, seems quite appropriate given the racism and all around villainy of the player character. I certainly understand why it wasn't to everyone's liking, but it was quite daring in 1983 to have that kind of a subversion of expectations. I feel it did for adventure games what Ultima 4 did for RPGs in that regard, even if it wasn't as well known or popular of a game.


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