The solution to In Search of the Most Amazing Thing is actually rather straightforward for such a massive, open-ended seeming game.
- Auction off Smoke's junk until you can afford all the instruments and software and have some money left over.
- Buy all of the instruments and software.
- Fly to a hut and buy a clue there. You'll probably need to up-trade your green chips somewhere else before you can afford it.
- Fly to the region the clue points you to and buy a second clue there.
- Return to Metallica to buy the thing clue #2 says you need.
- Fly to the region indicated in clue #2 to buy a third one. Once again you'll probably need to up-trade your chips before you can afford it.
- Fly to the region clue #3 points you to and get The Most Amazing Thing.
- Fly back to Metallica without autopilot or directions.
What makes it challenging is the long, long balloon flights needed to get anywhere and the rather obtuse difficulty in operating it. Control is limited, instruments are imprecise and cumbersome, and you're constantly forced to land to sleep, refuel, and eat via one pretty annoying tree-shaking minigame.
At the end of the last post, I was on step 7, giving me the longest trip yet.
I caught a decent enough wind in that direction, blowing 33MPH, which I estimate works out to about 45 miles per minute with this game's time compression. Still, I had to travel about 1,500 miles, and you simply don't go that far on one fuel tank, one night's sleep, or one meal.
Bunchmarks are soft patches of tar which appear on the map while driving, and served no obvious purpose so far. You could drive into them, get out, sink into them, and jetpack out, but this never got me anywhere, so I ignored them until now.
Now, I needed to get a crab to spawn and lure it into the bunchmark where I might find The Most Amazing Thing. Of course now getting one to spawn and not kill itself on the sector border proved annoyingly hard.
|And other times they spawn exactly on the edge of a screen as you enter it. Arghh!|
Eventually, I got one close enough to the bunchmark, where it seemed to attack me.
But instead of being knocked out, I found myself floating above the tar.
I sank in.
Deeper. And deeper. Until three screens in,
Ha, I knew it! The Most Amazing Thing was never in a swamp, it was in you all along!
And then I got this:
Oh. My. God. Crab attacks - fatal? And navigate home without autopilot or the home navigation instrument? Are you serious?
Well, first I needed more food and fuel, and thankfully I was already on a sector border, which is where, apart from flying, you're safest from crab attacks. And northward I found supplies of both.
As for making it back home, first I'd have to fly to sector R-15. No big problem - it works same as as any other long-haul flight I'd made before, and I'd done much longer. Only this time I had the added stress of deadly crab attacks while landing to refuel and forage.
But once in sector R-15, what then? Each sector is 80 screens wide and 80 screens tall. Metallica could be in any of them, and I had no instrument capable of pointing to it. Radar showed nothing, the computer showed nothing. Searching all 6,400 squares by land wouldn't be practical even if it wasn't full of deadly crabs!
But I had one hope - a screenshot that I took near the start of the game!
My blogging proved to be my salvation here - the above shot shows Metallica's distance and direction from the nearest hut. And as I landed in sector R-15, the same instrument now showed me to be 139 miles and about 260 degrees from the nearest hut - presumably the same hut. I could triangulate Metallica's rough direction.
One more liftoff to get a bit closer to home... and soon I realized this wouldn't work. I crossed the border into R-16 well before hitting the place where I thought home would be.
New strategy. I looked up the hut locations in Torbion to the south.
Seemed to me that the nearest hut to Metallica had to be the one in Sector R13, which would place Metallica near the southmost edge of R15. So I flew south until I hit R14 and then landed immediately.
|That's more like it!|
I decided my instruments had gotten me as close as I could expect them to, and had to risk land travel the rest of the way. By my estimation, Metallica was 28 screens east, 19 screens north.
Sector borders are, thankfully, fairly safe places to travel. Drive horizontally across the border, and if you alert a crab, you just move to the other side of the border, and it will crash into it and die. Every ten screens, you'll find a sub-sector border "crossroads" where you can change directions and start driving vertically.
I took the border screens as close as I could, eventually going north at a crossroads 25 screens east of the landing spot.
After reaching 25 screens east, 19 screens north of my landing, I checked hut bearing again.
So close! But to get any closer, I had to leave the safety of the border lines.
I drove east. Each time I went a screen's length, I checked the control panel for the minutest change in the needle, and went one screen south when the distance had increased. I had one heart-stoppingly close call with a crab, but managed to retreat west to the border and not lose track of my bearings.
And then, I found the hatch to Metallica. Five screens to the east of the longitudinal border, putting it almost exactly in the middle of the sub sector. You heartless jerks.
Yeeeeahh. This sort of corny feel-good rah-rah would have felt patronizing even to 11-year-old me, not that at that age I had the patience to get that far.
Alternate ending - this happens if a crab catches you after finding TMAT.
GAB rating: Below average. In Search of the Most Amazing Thing is an interesting, imaginative, ambitious little adventure, but its many gameplay systems never really come together in a satisfying or cohesive way, and getting anywhere in its paradoxically massive world involves hours of frustrating tedium.
A lot of the elements feel unfinished too. The Musix system is a far more fully-featured drawing program than it needs to be for the gameplay role it fills - nothing more than a trading token whose value depends on the number of lines you used. Several B-Liner instruments, like the altimeter, storm indicator, radar, and mysterious TRAC4 program, served little to no useful gameplay function. Smoke's clues come either randomly or in an arbitrary order, and almost none were useful to me by the time I heard them. It's better than Snooper Troops, still, which similarly lacked satisfying gameplay cohesion; at least here I generally felt like I was solving problems and making progress toward the game's end state with each thing I did.
The educational aspect is also pretty unstructured. There are odd lessons here and there to be learned - on bartering, currency exchange rates, coded messages, and of course navigation, but there's no curriculum here, and no common theme tying the lessons together. Again, like Snooper Troops.
In the end, I'm not sorry I played ISOTMAT, but I'm happy to never look at it again.