Friday, January 12, 2024

Game 395: Wishbringer

Read the manual here:
Get Frotz (if native Windows execution is your wish) here:


Rebelstar Raiders will continue next week, but today, we return to interactive fiction.


1985 is a lean year for Infocom adventures, and a troubling time for the company, with only three releases (two of which I will be playing) compared to the five of 1984 and the five in 1983 before that. They had been busy with their ill-fated Cornerstone database software, along with their "Z-Machine v4," a 128KB upgrade to the aging v3 engine which, thanks to the memory requirement, could not replace it, but coexisted alongside it for years, for bigger games that had to run on bigger computers.

Wishbringer, the first release of the year (and the first by Steve Meretzky), is one of those smaller v3 games, targeting older 48KB-64KB computers such as the Commodore 64, Atari, and Apple ][+ and //e models. Marketed as a beginner's interactive fiction, though not necessarily a children's one, it became one of their five best sellers, earning a 1988 re-release under the "Solid Gold" label.

The manual begins with a Grimm-style fairy tale about a peasant-born girl, Morning Star, kidnapped by a wicked queen and raised as her daughter. As she came of age and suitors from across the land come to seek her hand, the queen sends them all off on various grue-filled quests, never to return, and the poor princess, doomed to spinsterhood, shrivels away into dust. Nothing remains but her heart and lifetime of unfulfilled wishes, which metamorphosed over the centuries into a gemstone - Wishbringer.

We're told that Wishbringer's magic can grant whoever possesses it seven wishes, but only specific ones, under certain requirements.

  • Rain, but you must have an open umbrella.
  • Advice, but you must have a sea shell.
  • Flight, but you must have a broom.
  • Darkness, but you must drink grue's milk.
  • Vision, but you must wear glasses.
  • Luck, but you must have a horseshoe.
  • Freedom, but you must eat candy.


Also included in the box is a sealed envelope - a replica of a letter that our protagonist will be tasked to deliver - a map of the area, and Wishbringer itself.

Like many Infocom games, Wishbringer begins in media res, only to be a dream.

"Behind you!" cries the Princess. "It's a trap!"

Too late. The drawbridge crashes shut against the tower wall. You turn to face your enemy, and find yourself staring into the open maw of Thermofax.

Only your Magick sword can save you now. You swing it high, speak the Word and stand unhurt as the blade absorbs the searing dragon-breath.

The reptile bellows with rage and flaps its wings to fan the fire in its belly. You are advancing, sword poised to strike, when a familiar voice shatters the daydream and stays your mighty hand...

Interactive Fantasy for Beginners
Copyright (C)1985 Infocom, Inc. All rights reserved.
Wishbringer is a trademark of Infocom, Inc.
Release 68 / Serial Number 850501

You're on a hilltop overlooking the seaside village of Festeron.

To the south stands the Festeron Post Office. It's a little brick building with a neatly-trimmed lawn. The Post Office door stands invitingly open.

Roads run down the hill to the east and west. There's a signpost nearby.

Somebody inside the Post Office is calling you.


The obvious thing to do is to go south, and for now I do.

Post Office
This is the lobby of the Festeron Post Office. The walls are lined with small, private mailboxes and wanted posters. A service counter runs along the entire length of the room.

Your boss, Mr. Crisp, is behind the service counter reading other people's postcards.

Mr. Crisp hides the postcards away as you enter. "Where have you been?" he barks angrily. "Daydreaming again, eh? I've been looking everywhere for you!"

(Your score just went up by 1 point! Your total score is 1 out of 100.)

What next?
Time passes.

Mr. Crisp reaches under the service counter and pulls out a mysterious envelope. "We just got this Special Delivery," he snarls, tossing it onto the service counter. "I want you to drop it off right away. That means NOW!"

What next?
>get envelope

(Your score just went up by 5 points! Your total score is 6 out of 100.)

Mr. Crisp drums his fingers on the service counter impatiently. "Quit stalling, chowderbrain! The Magick Shoppe closes at five o'clock!"


No time for that right now, though - even though the game comes with a map, I've got some Trizborting to do!

The time limit eventually cuts my adventure short, but I'm able to map out a good chunk of Festeron before five. The game does not accept intercardinal directions, for which I am thankful.

  • East from the hilltop overlooking the signpost, a small but very nasty poodle outside a cottage prevents me from heading in any direction other than right back the way I came.
  • West from the hilltop is a small, spooky cemetery area, which the narrator warns us to take caution exploring.
  • Within the cemetery, a creepy gravedigger inquires about the letter. I ignored him, and he disappeared through a gate off to the north, locking it behind him. An umbrella, one of the wishing items, is found here, leaning against a recently-placed tombstone.
  • A bone lies in an open grave. I grabbed it and fed it to the poodle, allowing me to pass into Festeron's suburbs.
  • Approaching the central rotary, surrounding a park, Miss Voss, the town librarian gave me a note addressed to Mr. Crisp. A church sits on the corner of the north side.
  • Further northward, past the rotary, a bridge leads to the base of a cliff.
  • Eastward from the bridge is a decorative lighthouse, where a pelican sits perched, watching intently.
  • South from the lighthouse is a tidal pool where a conch shell, another of the wishing items, sits half-buried in the sand.
  • Further south is the wharf area, which is directly east from the rotary. A movie theater and video arcade are seen from the corner, and a large mailbox is seen in the center. On the east end, a seahorse, caught and abandoned by the fishermen, gasps for breath.


My round-trip through Festerton brought me back to the cottage, where the poodle had finished its snack and wouldn't allow me to return, and I had no choice but to face Mr. Crisp's wrath.

"There you are, dummy!"

You wince as Mr. Crisp strides into view and grabs you by the front of your uniform.

"You good-for-nothing numbskull!" he bellows in your face. "I wanted you to deliver that envelope BEFORE five o'clock! Now the Magick Shoppe is closed... and you're FIRED!"


Restarting, I continued exploring, this time being more adventurous in my interactions.

  • Trying to open the envelope and read is not allowed yet.
  • Offering it to the gravedigger causes him to remark that he buried the addressee years ago.
  • Miss Voss's note also cannot be opened. Nor can it be given to Mr. Crisp just yet - the poodle blocks your return home.
  • There is a police station on the west side of the rotary. Here, Sergeant MacGuffin naps, and a chocolate bar sits on his desk. Waste any time here, and Mr. Crisp chides you through the police radio.
  • The church on the rotary's north side is open. There is a lit candle on the wall - not take-able - and a mouse can be seen skitting across the floor every now and then.
  • The mailbox by the west rotary has nothing inside, and clangs itself shut when opened.
  • West of the bridge is the river outlet and lake, from which the other side of the cemetery's locked gate is seen. A hill can be climbed here, where a horseshoe sits on a stump.
  • The seahorse on the wharf can be thrown back into the bay to save its life, but there's no immediately obvious benefit.
  • Only one machine in the arcade is operable, titled "LEATHER GODDESSES OF PHOBOS!" But playing requires a token.
  • Heading upwards from the cliff leads to a twisting trail, where wrong steps kill you. The correct path leads to the magic shoppe.


Confident that I've seen everything I can while meandering, I restarted and made sure to grab everything and do everything before heading up the dangerous trail, arriving a few minutes before 4:00pm.

I handed the letter to the half-blind old woman who ran the shop, who asked me to read it to her. At this point, we are meant to open the envelope included in the game box.


The old woman is motionless as you read. Glancing up, you see tears of anger forming; but she turns away as your eyes meet.

"Kidnapped," she whispers after a long silence. She paces aimlessly around the room, deep in thought.

"Many seek to gain the Stone of Dreams," she mutters, mostly to herself. "Yet few can imagine the price. For years I have fought to conceal it from the Evil One and others like her. My youth, my home and family, all were forfeited for its protection. And now," her voice breaking with emotion, "now it claims my only companion."

Impulsively, the woman snatches away the letter and envelope and crumbles them in her trembling hands. "No one is strong enough to guard Wishbringer alone." 

The old woman makes an effort to compose herself.

"Thank you for coming all this way for me," she says, reaching up to a shelf full of cheap gags. "I know I'm not supposed to tip you, but take this little trinket anyway."

The woman holds out a small metal can for you to take.

>get can

"It's getting Dark outside," the old woman remarks, and you can almost hear the capital D. "Maybe you should be getting back to town."

The old woman hobbles over to the Magick Shoppe door and opens it. A concealed bell tinkles merrily.

"Keep a sharp eye out for my cat, won't you?" She speaks the words slowly and distinctly. "Bring her to me if you find her. She's black as night from head to tail, except for one little white spot... right HERE."

The old woman touches the middle of your forehead with her finger. The light outside dims suddenly, like a cloud passing over the sun.

The old woman takes away her finger. Your forehead is tingling.

"The Stone of Dreams can help you in your search. I cannot reveal the place where I have hidden it, for the Evil One would see your thoughts and take the treasure for herself. You must discover it alone, and rely on legends to instruct you in its mysteries."

As she speaks, the old woman gently leads you through the door of the Magick Shoppe. She pauses before closing the door.

"Return the cat to me, and Wishbringer shall be yours.

"Her name is Chaos."

A concealed bell tinkles merrily.


Cliff Edge
You're standing high on a rocky cliff, at the top of a steep trail leading downward.

The surrounding landscape has disappeared under a thick blanket of evening fog. All the familiar buildings and landmarks are completely hidden; only the summit of Post Office Hill is high enough to pierce the cloud, rising like a lonely island in a sea of mist...

... an island with a tower on it.

There's a TOWER where the Post Office used to be! The massive outline is hard to make out against the twilight sky. But the longer you stare, the clearer and more frightening it becomes.


The can contains a rattlesnake joke... and Wishbringer, concealed by a false bottom. But as I retrieved it, the fog quickly rose from the valley, concealing the safe path down the cliff.


My inventory:

  • Wishbringer
  • A squashed can
  • Violet note

Magic stuff:

  • Conch shell
  • Horseshoe
  • Umbrella
My Trizbort map (so far):


  1. “the first by Steve Meretzky…” - Brian Moriarty?

  2. I'm glad you're not playing the "Solid Gold" release, because that one has a silly bug that causes you to never run out of time.

    (Well, almost never. You can run out of time if you manage to lose enough *points* in the early part of the game.)


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