The Strange and Somewhat
Sinister Tale of the House
at Desert Bridge


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Rating: 4.8/5 (53 votes)
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The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge

GrimmrookThe Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge is an unconventional point-and-click adventure game by Jonas Kyratzes, the same developer who brought us Infinite Ocean and Museum of Broken Memories. Well, it's not actually a game, per se, so much as a trans-dimensional portal or a window, but if "game" is more comfortable for you, run with it.

desertbridge3.gifSee, it works like this. All that nonsense about eyes being the windows to the soul is all very cliché and played out, however if we turn that concept on its head, even just a little bit, we do get something sort of useful. That is, aren't the eyes the windows through which we observe the world around us? And if that's the case, there must be lots of other windows around; the dog-eared pages of your favorite book are windows that let you peek in on your favorite stories, your television is a window that lets you observe the antics of your favorite characters (usually they are doctors or police officers. No one knows why this is really, but there you go), and your computer monitor acts as a window that lets you see inside your computer, taking all those ones and zeroes, mashing them up, organizing them, and displaying them into a configuration that is meaningful to you.

If we were to keep following along this train of thought, your browser is also a window, one that allows you to view all kinds of interesting different little worlds including this bit of internet real estate right here. And in this spirit, the House at Desert Bridge is also a window, a very special window, personally commissioned by Harold.

Who's Harold? Oh, he's a perfectly normal enchanted talking picture frame, a pretty excellent dude as the mushrooms might say. Harold has a problem, and so do the mushrooms, and Stripes the dinosaur, and the paranoid rabbit, and the Horraffe, and the rest of the inhabitants of the House at Desert Bridge. Old Man Bill has gone missing (also a totally excellent dude according to the mushrooms), well, maybe not missing, he might just be locked up in his study, but the fish in the bath tub and the rubber duck in the sink haven't seen him in a long time, neither have the chicken in the tower nor the Buttlerware. He does this sometimes, but all of Old Man Bill's creations are starting to get a little nervous, especially now that the power has failed leaving the Horraffe to keep the house alive on back up power.

And so Harold has commissioned Jonas to build this window so that one clever and cunning point-and-click veteran could come and help out the inhabitants and hopefully sort out this whole missing Old Man Bill business. Are you that cunning person they've been waiting for?

Analysis: For anyone that is familiar with Kyratzes' work, Desert Bridge at once is familiar territory and a departure from the norm. It is familiar in that it has a tendency to break with convention as well as being a game driven by its plot and story, but it's an aberration in that whereas most of Jonas' previous offerings have been dark and foreboding, Desert Bridge is much of the time whimsical bordering on the absurd.

Above all else, this game is a story. A cute, endearing, wonderful story that gradually peels back its soft-edged veneer to reveal something that is indeed a little sinister, thrusting the player from humor into apprehension into sadness. A story of such layers and complexity of thoughts and emotion could easily end up a crumpled failure, but Kyratzes tells it with a master stroke, indeed, it is quite possible that Desert House alone establishes Jonas Kyratzes as one of the master story-tellers in indie game development.

desertbridge2.gifThe child-like visuals, though seemingly rudimentary, are perfect in establishing the imaginative and inspired look of this strange world. We know that Kyratzes is capable of producing far more realistic and three-dimensional images for his games, but nothing creates that sense of youthful and reckless imagination as the cartoon drawings which set the stage for Desert Bridge. Blending beautifully with the imagery is the music composed by Helen Trevillion (you can actually listen to or download the soundtrack) which instantly finishes out the feel of Desert Bridge, the tinkling bells, the dancing oboe, all mingling together to create a sense of wonder, like the first time your parents took you to a theme park or a museum. The sights and sounds of Desert Bridge are those of magic being made all around you.

But the true stars of this adventure are the characters, each unique in their personality and in their idiosyncrasies. They aren't animated, they don't show any expression other than the crayon drawings they come with (and even at that only a handful are that lucky), but with words alone there is such a depth of character behind each creature that you meet. In fact, this becomes something of a lynchpin to the successful execution of Desert Bridge because in the rendering of their quirky personalities it becomes hard not to grow attached to them, to see them as somehow real, and when that sinister shade does reveal itself, that attachment developed between player and characters allows the severity of the situation to hit home.

In truth, it's hard to fault Desert Bridge, even if it isn't a game that's for everyone. It's most definitely a verbose adventure, and often times plays more like an interactive fiction than a point-and-click game, but again, this is fine because it is the story and the characters that really matter. The puzzles are surprisingly straightforward; the most difficult thing in solving them is actually not over-thinking them too much. Even the inventory and menu can throw some players off; figuring out how to save and quit the game can end up being one of the first puzzles you tackle here, but even that is done on purpose, one of Kyratzes ways of challenging your preconceived notions of gaming and the world about you.

Just because Desert Bridge is difficult to fault doesn't mean its impossible; there are a few things I feel could be improved. For one, because the scenery has no animation and there are only one or two instances when it changes at all, it's not always clear when you've picked up an item or have performed a task satisfactorily leading to some confusion. I remember playing for quite some time, opening up my inventory, and all of a sudden it was half full with odds and ends I didn't even remember obtaining. Also it can be easy to get a little lost due to the nature of the scenery. This is most notably the case when you get in the room with four doors, or when you are traveling outside the house. Luckily, the House at Desert Bridge is not so big that when you get lost you stay lost for too long. Finally, while the music is absolutely beautiful, the loop sometimes is not very well done and when you get to the end of some of the bits of music, the abrupt stop and start can feel like you've just driven over a speed bump at forty miles an hour.

It also is worth mentioning that this is not a children's game despite the cartoony appearance and the lack of objectionable material (there are only a couple of bad words and one biological reference that is a little offensive). It's not that the game is inappropriate, but it is deep, plays on some very heavy themes, and involves a lot of reading and concepts that may not appeal to younger audiences.

That being said, House at Desert Bridge is a wonderful work to behold. It's a story book for grown ups, a fairy tale for philosophers and parents. It instills in you the memory of what it is like to view the world as a child, to see everything with wonder, and at the same time it bears the burden of age, conflict, and struggle. It is a labor of love that is a story that is about labors of love, and while it's not for everyone, if such things appeal to you, I suggest you check out the manual from Bob the Spider (comes with the download, for your convenience), and step through the window that leads to the House at Desert Bridge.

WindowsWindows:
Download the freeware game

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

42 Comments

SonicLover Author Profile Page February 1, 2009 1:41 PM

I downloaded it, but Crossover Games won't play it for some reason. It appears to be starting, but then it goes away again and nothing ever appears on-screen.

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you've already posted this game on a weekend download edition.

[Edit: Yep! You are correct and very observant. :) The weekend download, however, did not offer up a review for the game, just a blurb. Here we have a proper review of the game. -Jay]

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I can get it to work, but it is all messed up. The graphics are scaled down yet the hot-spots don't realize this so you have to blindly click to achieve anything.

Add to this that the game doesn't have the usual close button you get a pretty irritating experience.

P.S. The patch available on the game page does not fix anything.

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Cheddarius Author Profile Page February 1, 2009 2:46 PM

Played this back when it was a weekend download. Glorious, especially the ending...

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Why is there a fake Vault 43 skeleton in the shed?

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And now for the game's requirements.

* Windows 95/98/2000/XP/ME/Vista.
* Linux + WINE. (Tested, but may need some tweaking.)
* 50 MB of free space on your hard drive.
* A mouse or similar rodent.
* A keyboard.
* A sense of humour.

Linux option - Great!

Download game, installs OK but fails to run - :-(

Read troubleshooting notes ->

"Desert Bridge was created with Visual Basic 6. VB software requires the so-called run-time files to run. Normally, these come with Windows - but sometimes they are damaged, or missing. Before you try anything else, make sure the files are there. The simplest way of doing this is to simply install them again. A self-extracting installer for these files is included in the installation, and can be found in the game's folder. The name of the installer is vbrun60.exe."

Run vbrun60.exe under wine, everything works! - Great :-)

Now to find a red kipper to feed the cat....

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And the Nuka-Cola bottle, and the blue fridge that looks strangely familiar....

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Hi,

Developer here. The bug with the resizing is bizarre beyond words. I still haven't figured it out - the patch may only fix it on some systems. It would be great if you could email me and let me know what kind of system you're running this on, so maybe I can figure out what exactly is going on. There's really nothing in the game itself that should - or even *could* cause this.

Cheers,
Jonas

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I can get it to work, but it is all messed up. The graphics are scaled down yet the hot-spots don't realize this so you have to blindly click to achieve anything.

Add to this that the game doesn't have the usual close button you get a pretty irritating experience.

I got the same thing, and the patch doesn't help things much either. The hot spots are shifted off a bit, but still enough to make it confusing.

Maybe I'll take a look at the files and see if anything can be adjusted.

@the author of the game: could you please include a close button? it would make things easier in situations like this.

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nm on looking at the files, they aren't stuff like XML.

Anyways, I tried resizing the screen and that didn't help.

I have Windows Vista Home Preminum.

I also tried a bunch of things with the application file properties and nothing worked.

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i love the game; it's brilliant! it's beautiful, touching, uplifting, and charming. the ending is so amazing; it made my spine tingle. thanks for the beautiful game. luckily, i didn't have any of the problems others have had. everything worked perfectly.

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I'm all for games that look simple, but are actually really deep, so this one should be a treat! The music is really good, too! I ended up downloading the songs. ;D

I just hope it works...

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Excellent game so far - no problems loading or running it on my computer. Its me who has the problem

how have I missed the code for the hamster generator? I have the code for power and stairs, but nobody will talk to me about the hamsters....

have I missed something?

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Dohhhhh..... got it .......

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Hi.

I'm the guy who complained first about my resize issue. Is it perhaps because I have a wide-screen display (I am trying to run it on Dell Inspiron 6000 btw)?

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For those who can get it to work, here's a walkthrough. Told in story style!

But it's LOOOOOOOONG, so, yeah. Fair warning. Don't use this one if you don't care about the story.

I did not expect this. I thought I had downloaded another game, but I did not expect this in the least. I clicked on "Begin", and was immediately confronted by what appeared to be a blue picture frame. And it was talking to me. The frame's name was Harold. As he spoke, I clicked "Continue" in the lower-right corner.

Harold explained his plight, something about "Old Man Bill" having gone missing. Bill is Harold's creator, and the other inhabitants of the house, whomever- or whatever- they might be, all miss him. So I'm asked to find him. Harold gave me a game menu (which further baffled me; he's stuck to the wall, how can he give me anything?) and sent me on my way. I placed it in my Inventory. The Inventory was simple to use, but still bewildering. I'm still not sure about "Gerbelize".

I must admit that the house was very strange. There were flowers grinning at me. Right in front of me, I saw a door. I figured that would be a good place to start, but was stopped by a polite (but somewhat pompous) security system. I needed a password. I turned twice spoke to Harold about it. He said that Bill must have written it down somewhere. I asked many other things before setting off to find the password. I then found I could eat my words. I found it strangely amusing and I'm not sure why.

So Bill's study was locked and it was my job to get in there. I turned to the left and found stairs, another possible starting point. No luck. They are electrically powered, but the house was on backup. So I turned twice more, walked across a rug that smelled of oranges and went through the door.

The window changed and I found myself in a new room. Before me were two shelves chock-full of books. Some I knew from our own world. Most, however, must have belonged to this one. But I found nothing of use in the books. There was a door between the shelves, but I ignored it. I turned to the right and found an odd control panel, a screen, and a growling spider. The screen displayed numerous journal entries. I guess Bill had a German accent. He had read a book speaking out against trains and found it convincing. Entry 004 was missing, probably he simply forgot to write it. I made a mental note to find out who- or what- Squiggles was. I was fascinated by this Bill character. I noticed that he had mixed up Entries 008 and 009 so that 009 came first, but I thought I would humor myself by reading 009 first anyway. My smile faded as I read the short entry. I became scared, and I didn't know why. This was supposed to be a game, wasn't it?

I turned to the right again and found, next to the door I had come through, a board covered in papers held in place by tiny push-pins. Among the notes, I found the SGDS password (now why would Bill have that?), the Butlerware password, a note to remind Bill to write fewer notes to himself (and other things that made me chuckle), and an advertisement that said something about helping realize dreams. It was approved by King Urizen, a name that I did not know but did not like all the same. There was another mention of Urizen and someone named Kllalu. I also took quick notice of more peeling paint. The brick house is red on the inside; just like a human. I shook my head quickly to come to my senses. By the way, that couch is just painted onto the wall, don't bother trying to use it.

Though I had the password, I decided I'd continue exploring and went through the door between the bookcases.

The new room had four more doors, including one in a picture frame. Blueprints for various devices were pinned to the walls. De-Mushroomifying Pill Generator? De-Chickening Pills? A ball with legs? I was become increasingly confused, but liked it all the same. Another note made me chuckle: This one was reminding the author to have some breakfast. Right across from me was a door with a small window, but I decided to go through the door to the left.

The new room had many large and strange devices in it. Most didn't have enough power to work, though, since the house was on backup power. One of them looked so complicated that I didn't dare touch it for fear of causing catastrophe. I headed through the door across from me.

This looked like a guest room, or what was left of one. Cobwebs decorated the entire room like words in a book. Most weren't regular spider webs. In the drawer next to the bed was a recipe for bubble bath powder. I'm not sure why I took it. To the left was a cabinet that led to Narnia, but it was blocked by another spider web and I decided one adventure was enough for one day anyway. Turning again, nothing of any great interest. I turned once more and came face to face with the most laughable and disturbing thing in my life: Spiderpig. But it wouldn't talk to me. Not sure why. I didn't laugh, I just had a shocked look on my face. (Again I caught myself become immersed in this game far too much. I shook myself back to my senses.) I left the room and went back into the hall.

I entered the door next to the Spherical Leg-Based Perambulation Device schematics and discovered a strange laboratory. I found a few more books and was delighted by their titles, even if they were exclusive to the Lands of Dream. I investigated everything else and took some red goo before turning to the right. I found a piece of paper marked "Mushroom Recipe" in the yellow drawer marked "Food Recipes". The blue, cleverly marked "Blue Drawer", was filled with failed de-mushroomifying pill recipes, and the white drawer ("Invisible papers") was empty. I investigated the other things, but not too closely since any of it could explode. The Mixatronic seemed noteworthy, even though I didn't know what to do with it. I turned to the right again and found the door I had come through next to some shelves on the wall. The shelves held several bottles. One of the shelves had broken and made quite a mess. Even so, I'm still amused. "Essence of Jeff." There was also a control panel, but it was disabled. I turned right for the third and final time and found more strange chemicals and equipment atop a cabinet. I tried to use the equipment (Superdynamic Alchemystifier 2000 Colour Edition; wonderful), but was told that I did not have enough Flower Power. Immersed in strangeness and I'm told to become a hippie in order to proceed. I shook my head (but wore a smile) and left the room.

I turned back around, thinking that I had overlooked something in the lab. But I was on my laptop and laptop mice sometimes develop a mind of their own. I wound up clicking on the door painting on the wall and found myself in a new room. I doubt this house will ever cease to amuse and amaze me. Inside was a giraffe. I don't know why, but it seemed to be plugged into the two monitors hanging from the ceiling. The Horaffe, as it called itself, was busy keeping the house in one piece because it was all on backup power and couldn't speak, so I decided to explore a little. To the right were two monitors that showed information about the heating (or cooling, I wasn't sure) and the house's power. To the left were three monitors. The first regulated the energy use of the house, the second was about candy, and the third held the settings for Butlerware. I didn't know the instructions, but noted this in case I found them. I was getting a little tired of Butlerware and I barely knew the thing.

I also noticed that I had thought of the security system as a person. I quickly dismissed the thought, though this bugged me since I had had a two conversations with a picture frame already.

I left the room through the monitor with the door on it. I figured now would be as good a time as any to go through the windowed door. I found myself outdoors, in a garden. I saw more grinning flowers. One was reading Ulysses and giggling. A vine-like plant that liked to climb was breaking in through one of the windows. I tried the door below the vine, but a dinosaur wouldn't let me through. So I turned to the right and found another door and a flower whose description had been eaten by the elusive Squiggles. I tried the door in front of me, but again the dinosaur refused me access. So I turned to to face the door I had come through (the one with the window) and met two more strange characters. The rabbit reminded me of that cranky old man in that weird house that every kid in town always avoids (you know the one; you've got one yourself, every town does), so I didn't spend much time talking to him. I spoke to the flower. It spoke in riddles. Most I didn't understand. I asked it about Flower Power and received a very confusing riddle. I asked again and got an answer I could understand. Magic fertilizer from the larder. Well, there's no larder I could find that I have immediate access to. Might as well investigate the dinosaur.

But one thing the flower said stuck with me: "The garden is of the desert, yet the desert is also of the garden." I don't know what that means, but I'm determined to find out. This place is wonderful, but there's something else going on underneath it all.

I turned right from the flower and came face-to-face with Stripes the dinosaur. Stripes is young (as the flower had said). He loved to read. I asked about the garden and Bill and Harold (he was still the most mysterious thing around here for some reason). Aside from the house, Harold is the oldest thing around here. I asked Stripes about the doors, and he said that he would let me through if I delivered a message to the Zathras the turtle, who lived outside the house. "He's wrong about Otherworld politics; his assertion that the Social Democratic Party of Mag Mell was responsible for the isle's descent into poverty is unfair, and he should think of their Anti-Poverty Campaign in 1601."

Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to head back to the first room at the front of the house and give the password I found earlier to Butlerware. I again caught myself thinking of the security system as alive and again dismissed the thought. Still, I couldn't help but think that...

I entered "Aardvark" into the Butlerware system and stepped outside. I was greeted by blue skies, yellow sand, and a stone bridge. The Desert Bridge. I was in awe of the ancient mystery before me.

I turned right and went around the side of the house. I looked to my left and saw a small shack. When I investigated, I was again stopped by Butlerware. I tried the buttons at the bottom and received a message from Jonas. So I turned and continued to the back of the house, where I met Zathras the turtle.

Zathras always spoke in the third person, and in an odd fashion. Stripes had said he was one of the oldest, and I had already begun to believe it, even if he didn't use auxiliary verbs like "is." I asked many things of Zathras. I asked him about the desert, and learned there was once a river. I asked about the Spiderpig, and learned that it was shy but liked blue milk. I asked about the password to the old shack and Zathras knew it. I wrote it down exactly as he had said it. I then delivered Stripes' message. Zathras laughed and gave me a message of his own.

"1601 Stripes says, so Zathras says 1598 and 1599 and 1600. Who reintroduce death to Mag Mill, for efficiency purposes they say? Who pass new sickness laws in summer 1600? Little cork does not help after bashing hole in ship." I had only the slightest inkling of the subject matter, but Zathras seemed like he knew what he was talking about. So I delivered the message to Stripes.

While returning to the inside of the house, I explored the remaining outer wall. I found nothing, but I learned that the bricks were Socialist and that Bill had built the house out of communism. Weird. I delivered Zathras' message to Stripes, who then said, "Hmmm. Well, i see that the SDPMM made some mistakes in their early years, but you have to consider the pressure they were under from King Urizen-" I shuddered, but Stripes didn't notice- "and the general state of things in Mag Mell after millennia of deathlessness and Irish immigration... and as I said, the Anti-Poverty Campaign was a real attempt to improve things. It may not have restored things to how they were, but it did improve a few things - and with so many people to take care of, that was a real achievement. Tell that to Zathras."

Irish immigration and deathlessness? I found nothing wrong with either, but didn't want to get into the argument myself. I already had enough on my plate. I went to tell Zathras.

"Zathras says to ask about Manannán mac Lir in 1601. Yes, that is what Zathras says. Very sad story. No one remembers poor Manannán, no, they have quite forgotten. Only remember Anti-Poverty PR stunt. Very sad story."

After delivering the message, I learned more of that particular event in history, was finally given a reason (albeit a vague one) to dislike this Urizen person, and learned that, sometimes, politicians will pull stunts like Anti-Poverty Campaigns to keep the people from wanting any real change. I asked about the doors and was given the go-ahead, with a warning about Squiggles. So I asked about him. Squiggles is a cat. I turned and walked through the vine-door...

... and found a cat. Must be Squiggles, I thought. I spoke with the cat. He was hungry and apparently owned the bathroom keys. Hungry cats aren't something to mess with. I asked about the bathroom and was told to bring Squiggles a red herring. Goody, a wild goose chase. I asked about other things as well before Squiggles ate my words and I moved on. To the left, Squiggles' cat tree, complete with satellite dish. To the right, a locked door

I went through the other door in the garden and found myself in a kitchen. I also found that the door behind me had been locked. I found a toasted key in the Toast 2000 machine. I turned left and looked in the fridge. I found a herring. I also found some milk, ice, and what might possibly have been a sandwich in the past. I took everything except the last one; it had become one with the fridge. To the right, the garbage recycling machine was failing to recycle the works of Jacque Lacon. I opened a cupboard filled with pots, pans and puns. One of the puns fell out, but it was pretty bad so I ignored it. I went through the door that was also there.

I'm still not quite sure what I was looking at when I entered that room. I took some Hamster Munch 2000 and noted that the hair on the green comb had the smell of doom about it. To the left... mushrooms. Loads of mushrooms. And they all talked. I talked to a blue and red one on the wall. His name was Bart. He said "you know" a lot and made a Bill and Ted joke. He didn't know where the magic fertilizer was. I spoke with the other mushrooms. Apparently, they all used to be mice that Bill had forbidden Squiggles to hunt (though he still did sometimes, even though he never caught any of them), but they turned into talking mushrooms when they ate the De-chickening Pills. A green and spotted mushroom needed help putting the Eat button back in its place. I learned that the fertilizer was up on the shelf, so I spoke with the mushroom on the box. It gave me some... complex instructions. I asked for clarification and received generosity and the fertilizer instead. There were a few other things, but I didn't really bother with them.

I gave the flower her magic fertilizer. After one last riddle, she gave me the Flower Power. I was quite pleased to have finally gotten it, but now I had it, I didn't know what I would do with the alchemy thing anyway. So I decided to go give Squiggles his herring and investigate the bathroom. I went to visit Squiggles and offered him the herring, but was hissed and yowled at. I guess I have to give him a red herring, I thought. Well, maybe I can use one of those color things in the lab.

I entered the lab and immediately turned to the right to operate the Mixatronic 2000 (Simple Edition). Red and blue. The herring and milk both popped up in one of its menus. Zathras and Squiggles were speaking literally about the fish and milk. I selected the herring and added Flamboyant Radish Essence. I went back to the Mixatronic and added Onion-Based Water Extract to the milk, turning it blue. Off to see Squiggles. I planned to visit the Spiderpig after I had investigated the bathroom.

I don't think I've ever seen a cat happier in my entire life, especially over a red herring. The irony nearly killed me. Squiggles casually tossed me the key before going back to his red herring. I entered the bathroom and found a rubber duck floating in the sink. And I spoke with it. He said "nice" a lot. As it turns out, the rubber duck was hungry (this world just gets stranger and stranger). He gave me a recipe to be used in the syntheseyezer (yes, that was how he spelled it), and then promised a key in exchange for rubber duck food. I became curious and agreed. (I noticed this lapse of judgment, but I payed it little mind. I knew I was still playing a game, why not have a little fun?)

I sought to explore the rest of the bathroom. To my right was a toilet. The flush button was humming a song and the toilet paper had the complete works of Jean Baudrillard printed on it. I decided not to bother question the nature of the message this might be sending and looked to my left. In the bathtub was a huge orange fish named Portkalopsarius. I'll just call her Port. She was a dear to talk to. Port didn't have much to contribute, though, so our conversation was light and brief.

With nothing left to do, I decided to once again investigate the old hut outside the house. I had gotten the password from Zathras, so I was able to get in. I typed "Zapus hudsonius" exactly like that into the Butlerware and was promptly allowed to enter.

The inside was like a dungeon. It had an eerie atmosphere, the feel of doom nearby. I recalled the hair on the giant green comb in the larder for some reason. To my right was a replica of a skeleton with the number 43 on its shirt. To my left, an odd and deadly-looking machine. I tried to operate it, but found I needed a password. Behind me was the door, a pair of rubber shackles, some bones, a disabled Butlerware panel, and two SuperTorch 2000s. Directly in front of me were two more SuperTorches and a staircase going down. I decided to brave the stairs.

The room below was even more doom-y than the first. Gnawed-on bones littered the floor. A generator with stale electricity flowing through it sat in front of me. Behind me were the stairs, and two skulls with candles on them. One was fake. The other belonged to Hernan Cortez. To my left and right... Hamsters of Doom. Though I tried speaking with them, all I got was loud growling. I decided to leave to find the password for the machine upstairs.

I first checked with Zathras. Zathras did not know the password to the machine. I then checked with Harold and he advised me to ask some of the others. After I had checked with everyone I could think of, I finally reached Port again. And as it turns out, she did know the password. But she was in need of bubble bath powder and offered a trade. Well, I remembered I had found the recipe for the stuff earlier. I decided to examine it.

I opened my Inventory and examined the bubble bath recipe. It told me to mix grass, bananas, tomatoes and water, or anything else that looks similar. Every step of the way, I've realized that things aren't always as they would seem and that sometimes, you have to take things far more literally than usual. The alchemy-thing in the lab had four colors on it, each one matching those of the listed ingredients. And since the recipe also said to use anything similar, I decided it was worth taking the chance. Upon leaving the bathroom, I noticed the Butlerware interface next to the door was unfinished. The towel was upside down. I laughed.

I entered the lab and turned left to the Superdynamic Alchemystifier 2000 Colour Edition and added the recipe. I figured that, since there were only 4 colors, I had to add them in the correct order. Green, yellow, red... schlubbl drubbl eekle (not quite what Harold had said it sounded like)... I added the blue and created the bubble bath powder. Back to Port!

Port was right pleased to have the powder, bless her. She gave me the password and sent me on my way.

I made my way back to the generator and inserted the food into the machine. Then I typed "MYRTLEBAUM HOGWASHING FIEND" into the password window and the machine fed the hamsters. I went downstairs and checked that the electricity was flowing smoothly. It was zippy and energetic. Both of the hamsters were full and pleased as well.

Now that the house was back to full power, I decided to see if I could speak with the Horaffe. He was grateful that the power had been restored so that he could better control things. I asked him about Old Man Bill's study and learned that it was locked. Someone had the key, but the Horaffe didn't know who. I suspected the rubber duck had already found it. I went to the room with all the devices to see if one of them could help me make the rubber duck food. To my surprise (and slight dismay), none of them worked even with the power on. I headed back to the Horaffe's room to investigate and looked at the monitor on the left that operated the power regulation throughout the house. Apparently there had been an error during the switch from backup to primary power and some parts of the database had been erased. The equipment could be turned on again with a restart, but I needed a password to do this. I asked the Horaffe and he told me to "dig around a little."

I had long since learned to take things literally in this game (though I was starting to lose my belief that it WAS just a game), and I remembered spotting a shovel in the larder. I headed there to get it and see if someone could tell me where to dig. But when I took the shovel, some of the wall came with it and I discovered what looked like an unfinished room behind it. Littered throughout the room where various drawings with half-finished descriptions or no description at all. On my left were two unfinished book shelves. The books all had unfinished titles. To my left was a desk or cabinet of some sort with a piece of paper on it. The paper had various notes on it about the game, probably left by Jonas himself. I at once was reminded that this was just a game and began studying the notes thoroughly. Most of the stuff I had already done, but then I found the password to restart the tech room. I immediately turned to leave and noticed that even the hole wasn't finished on this side.

I returned to the Horaffe's room and turned to the power regulation monitor and entered "COOKIES". Everything was back to normal, so I proceeded to the Tech room. Unfortunately, the Syntheseyezer required a password, which Squiggles had eaten. The machine with the gloved hand and leaf-pen was some sort of deciphering machine. The third machine, however, was another one of Bill's journals. All four entries had been encrypted, except for Bill yelling at Squiggles to stop jumping on the controls. I laughed again. I then noticed I could print the journals. Perhaps I could use the deciphering machine. But not right away since it also needed a cipher. So I just took the papers and went to look for that password to the Syntheseyezer. No one knew it. I decided to explore upstairs. The stairs were, after all, electric and the house was back to full power. But the stairs also required a password. No one knew this one either. But then I remembered that there was one person I had not talked to: the Spiderpig.

I immediately went to the cobwebbed guest room and found the Spiderpig staring at me. I offered him the blue milk and he became very pleased and very friendly. He suddenly seemed very cute. The poor creature was very shy and often found things scary or just unpleasant. He had lived in the jungles of Discardia, a descriptive enough name, when he was tiny and was abused by old ladies. I pitied him, but not in a belittling way. More like I wanted to protect the tiny thing. I asked him about the stairs and he informed me that the password was "Cake". I also asked him about the window. Apparently bill had talked to a hairy creature that he called Jonas. Spiderpig didn't like Jonas much. I chuckled and left for the stairs.

The walls of the first room were absolutely covered with books! I wished with all my heart to sit and read them all, but I knew I could not through the port- er, window. Just pixels and all. But, oh, the titles of them were just so entrancing... some I recognized from our world, from fictional worlds, from this world... one was an orange stick.

To my left, there was a stuck door and a Butlerware panel. I spoke with it, but it could not find Bill either. Its systems were damaged during the power failure and had yet to be repaired (I would have to visit the Horaffe one more time). Butlerware told me to find a book called "Kiss of the Fur Queen," by Tompson Highway, said it would be on one of the upper shelves. Inside would be a slip of paper with Butlerware's default settings and to return for further instructions once I found the paper. Butlerware also commented on the code of the window I was using... priggish thing...

I found the book (it was emerald green) on one of the top shelves next to a set of stairs that I resolved to explore later. I examined it and found I could not read it. I returned to the Butlerware panel. It gave me a cipher to use in the Decipherer downstairs. I headed to the tech room and found the machine right in front of me when I entered. I entered the cipher "redatt" and selected the unreadable note in the Decipherer's menu. It then printed out a copy of the deciphered note.

I then headed to the Horaffe's room to fix Butlerware. I turned left once I saw Horaffe and selected the monitor on the far right. The first paragraph of the note brought yet another smile to my face. I read over the note quickly and entered the settings as they were written. I was again amused by Bill's comments on the workings of his house.

Once I fixed Butlerware's settings, I returned upstairs. Butlerware was a bit more pleasant when I asked about Bill's study, but still posh on everything else. I entered the study and found that the Bill was absent from the room. I decided to look around, though. Right in front of me was a desk with three draws. The bottom was filled with nonsense and trumpery. The second was so full that it would never open again. I marveled that Bill could even close it. The third was filled with unfinished plans for alchemic devices. Beside the desk was a chair that might very well begin to tap dance if you asked it nicely enough. Resting atop the desk were two quills, an ink pot, a pot of invisible ink (or an invisible ink pot perhaps?) and one of Bill's journals. I dove in immediately.

Again, Urizen is mentioned. I hope I should never meet this King Urizen.

Squiggles seems prominent in Bill's writings. He loved that cat. He invented a new toy and informed the great cat city of Katsouli of its success with Squiggles. Stripes, in the meantime, had taken up political readings and Bill was very proud of his kind disposition to the world.

Bill's writings continue. They no longer bring bemused smiles to my face. I still smile. But not so much confusedly or in a humored way. No. These smiles have a deeper meaning. These are smiles of appreciation, smiles that let me drink of beauty and wonder. And yet I can't help but shake my head in sad agreement as Old Man Bill speaks of the darkness in the Lands of Dream. But it was not always this way; Bill's home was not always a desert. Before Bill's time, he writes, Zathras lived in this place. And it was green and lush and a forest. And a river ran beneath the stone bridge. But not even Zathras knows its origin. But he knows the origin of the desert: war.

Twelve was encrypted and I couldn't read it for the life of me. But entry thirteen mentioned something about a duck and Bill drinking a brew. That would explain the encryption, I suppose. I think I'll have to find that duck.

I found entries fourteen and fifteen particularly interesting. A man, wandering for decades and believing himself to be the only survivor in the world, stumbled onto Bill's house. He soon left for Oneiropolis, though they all forgot to ask his name. But he needed to be on his way to Oneiropolis. He needed to know he was not the last.

I found another computer in Bill's study, but it was all out of binary. I'll have to find some, however I do that. I left the study to inquire of Harold where else Old Man Bill could be. He told me to try the bedroom. The only locked room in the house is upstairs, so I assumed that's where I'm trying to get. I went back up to the library and then up the stairs I saw earlier. I met a chicken there. The chicken's name was Sinclair. Sinclair is really a duck. I need to find the De-Chickening pills. But I remember talking to the mushrooms, and they ate them all. That's how they turned into mushrooms.

So I went to talk to the mushrooms. I spoke to Berta quite a bit and then she gave me the recipe. I examined it and saw that I could use the Alchemystifier. I headed to the lab and entered the recipe, then took the pills to Sinclair and she changed back.

It was quite an explosion.

Sinclair gave me another recipe, but for what I don't know. Afterward, I noticed that the telescope had been moved to a downward position. I thought I'd take a look... but I did not like what I see.

Urizen was on the move.

I had to find Bill and warn everyone along the way.

I examined the "Awesome Duck" recipe Sinclair gave me. Another Alchemystifier concoction. But there were additional instructions. Very strange. This must have been what Bill drank that made him write in gibberish and gave him such a headache, I thought to myself. I followed the instructions on the recipe and created the potion. I combined blue with yellow, then red, then green. I then took it to the Mixatronic 2000 and added Flamboyant Radish Essence (red). Finally, I looked at it in the menu and shook it. Once it was done, I drank it.

I am going to kill that duck.

I vaguely remember stumbling upstairs, laughing heartily, and then whiningly, and then in an odd color. It smelled like white mixed with Pi and sounded like Harold clapping his hands in 5/4 rhythm. I danced into the study with a singing frog and convinced to wait long enough for me to read this very odd page in someone's journal. Something about a Marzipan being a cipher. Or a cipher being Marzipan. I can't recall, my head was hurting so badly.

My head was pounding so badly that I wound up in the laboratory instead of the tech room. I decided to fiddle with the Alchemystifier, even though my ears were sensitive to the slightest noise. I found it wasn't so bad, though. I recalled that I had earlier asked Harold about De-Chickening pills. He couldn't quite remember the recipe, but remembered what it sounded like. He was actually off by a a letter in two words. So I thought I'd try the sound he thought it was.

I created binary mucus. I pondered this for a moment, then turned to the Mixatron 2000 and added Onion-Based Water Extract to the potion on a whim. The binary potion ended up complete. My headache had subsided by then, so I thought I'd investigate that last computer in Bill's study. But first, to business. I needed to decrypt that printout.

I entered the Tech room and activated the Decipherer. I selected the printout and entered "Marzipan" into the machine, praying all the while that it would work. Thankfully, it did. I began to read. On the very first page, I discovered the password to the Syntheseyezer. But though I found what I needed for one thing, I did not have what I needed for the entire mystery of Old Man Bill. I read on as I continued slowly toward Bill's study. I read of Urizen destroying another city, Eridu, claiming to have brought freedom and order. That is not what Old Man Bill saw. He saw destruction, devastation, pain, death, and hunger. I put the papers away and felt a weight in my chest; my heart had grown heavy. I looked up. I had at last reached Bill's study.

I entered the room and turned right. I put the binary potion into the computer and then began to read. I started with the monitor on the left. I learned of the day Squiggles was found on the doorstep of Bill's house. I grew a desire to visit Atlantis. I began to question the point of hairless cats. I prayed that wounds of the soul could be healed far better than wounds of the body. I learned the true name of this dark king. I learned of Bill's heavy heart.

I stopped for a moment to take it all in. I then started on the second monitor. Only three entries. Golgonooza... a shadow of Oneiropolis, but is actually Oneiropolis. Perhaps this is what it became. Perhaps Bill did not have a dream of Oneiropolis becoming a machine. Perhaps it happened and he dreamed it while it happened. The third entry is the shortest, and, I feel (and fear), the lightest my journey shall be from here on out.

The second entry... I never knew... I never suspected... I asked Harold about this.

I returned to the Tech room and put the password "JELLY" into the Syntheseyezer. Somehow, I had the option of creating Mojave magic Mushroom Mush. I made it, I ate it... and I wound up speaking to a squirrel who had nothing useful to contribute, except for a casual remark about armies. Casual though it was, I was left with thoughts.

I made the rubber duck food and then went to give it to the rubber duck, apologizing quite profusely for the delay and explaining about the army. The duck didn't really care about the delay, if using the word "nice" 28 times is anything to go by. After a brief history theory, I received the key. I warned Port about the army, then went to warn Stripes, Squiggles, and the mushrooms. I spoke with Stripes, who only barely managed to keep calm. The plant merely said, "Oh, crap," quite out of character for it, which worried me. The rabbit just yelled at me to go away.

I had done everything. Bill had to be in his bedroom. I had the key now, I was certain of it. I dashed through the house, ran up the electrical stairs and nearly crashed into the bedroom door. Butlerware harrumphed at me, but said nothing else when I told him I had the key to the bedroom.

I burst in. "Bill!" I shouted, but no one answered. Where is he? I thought. I began to look around. I turned to the left, where Bill's bed was. And there... there was a note. A note, containing so much of Bill's fear. Fear of Urizen, of his Great Machine. Fear of watching his creations be destroyed or belittled and worked to death, or replaced, or simply reduced to a self-less void, beings without identity.

I looked around frantically. The wardrobe and drawers had been opened and things were scattered about. Old Man Bill was gone.

I had no choice. I had to tell everyone.

I told Butlerware. He- HE, that wonderfully, pompous thing- told me to speak to Harold. Sinclair said the same, and something about houses flying. Spiderpig begged me to tell Harold. As did the Horaffe. Stripes said he had an idea, but I don't know what. The flower tried for one last riddle, but it faded into "something." I love that plant. Squiggles told me to speak with Harold while he sharpened his claws, surely readying himself for a battle I hoped would not come. The mushrooms were really upset. Bertie urged me to speak with Harold. I rushed to speak with Zathras, to warn him. Zathras also said to tell Harold while he prepared. (Prepared for what? I asked myself.) I even warned the Hamsters of Doom, although I still only got growls out of them.

I won't comment on what the rabbit said.

Everyone had been warned. I at last spoke to Harold. But when Harold spoke to me... I understood.

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@baba44713: the widescreen could be it! I don't know how exactly, but it sounds possible. There's nothing in the game itself, you see, that is even *capable* of resizing the window or (more importantly) the graphics.

Anyone else playing this on a widescreen monitor?

(Though come to think of it, my girlfriend's laptop monitor is also widescreen. But that may work differently.)

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@Baba: I have a Dell Inspiron as well, 1720 model laptop. The fact that we have similar model computers is probably coincidence, and the fact that Dell is pretty popular.

@Jonas:
Anyways, my monitor is a widescreen, 17 inch I believe. I prefer 1280X800 resolution and I have an NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card.

I doubt the graphics card has anything to do with it as the graphics are fine, plus it's not exactly something that places high demand on graphics. I tested the resolution earlier and changing that has no effect.

Jonas, have you tried it on your girlfriends laptop (with her permission of course)? Unless she has already put it on there.

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Well it's obviously a problem between a "canvas" that draws the graphics and the actual "window" the application uses. Either the painting funcion resizes the display before showing it or - more likely - the OS/graphic card driver/something else for some reason resizes the window after the game gets initialized and the application is blissfuly unaware of this fact.

I am not sure if wide-screen is really the thing causing the bug - HOW it causes it exactly. I mean, if I switch my resolution to 640x480 then the OS shouldn't even be aware I have the wide-screen display, init? However, the bug is still present even at that resolution.

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hmm, what graphics card do you have and what OS do you have Baba?

I also tried resize thing as well, but it stayed the same and acted like the screen zoomed in and was effectively unchanged in size. Plus the leave button was blocked off a few inches off the page.

I removed the game from my comp for now since obviously it isn't working properly. The hot spots and stuff work, but they are screwed up in relation to the..... actually, you know what, since the hot spots are in thier 'correct' places, maybe it has something to do with the resizing of the graphics. The inventory button is the only hot spot which matches the graphics and the word inventory is in the corner. The hotspots for the inventory menu are correct as well I believe.

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Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

I hope there really is a sequel to this. I want my chance to feed Urizen his own intestines. :3

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Poor Bill. After all the discussion of political thought with everyone and everything in his house, hasn't he learned from every politician ever that ignoring or hiding from problems never solves any of them?

Thank you, Jonas, for sprinkling some magic into an otherwise highly technological era.

Things sort of slipped at one point...

The mushroom's playing "the sequel to this game" kind of broke the facade. Oh well.

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Wow. That was beautiful. And just think, if I hadn't gone back and really looked at the review, I would have simply skipped over this game and never gotten to expirience this awesomeness.

Thank you Jonas for making it and JIG for reviewing it.

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Excellent! I was hoping this game would get a full review! Thanks Jay, for heeding my request. :D

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thepantweaver February 3, 2009 2:32 PM

Great game, wonderful story, and really imaginitive characters. Really liked finding the can of Nozz-a-la!

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Any word if there is going to be a fix for the strange resize problem?

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Not yet. The problem is really weird, because the game isn't even capable of resizing itself. So clearly it's a question of what Windows is doing TO the game. If anyone is willing to email me and help me experiment a bit, I may find a solution, but I can't guarantee it. It's just weird. You'd think Microsoft products would be compatible with other Microsoft products... (but you'd be wrong.)

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Great game, great ending. This is honestly one of the best games I have ever played. It's certainly has raised the bar for stories, both in video games and in actual fiction. I would have loooved it to be longer, but I understand it's a one man project mostly and people have lives outside of their freeware (I hope!) Anyways, if you haven't yet, EXPERIENCE THIS GAME.

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One of the betatesters just posted the following in my blog:

"did some research, and found that changing windows DPI setting (http://www.lawfirmsoftware.com/support/change_dpi_settings_xp.htm) to something other, than default "96 DPI" causes "desert bridge" window to be scaled up (including game hot spots), while bitmaps remains unscaled. looks VERY similar to the problem in question!"

And indeed, that does sound familiar, doesn't it? I can't say that I have any good way of fixing it, but temporarily altering this setting may allow you to play Desert Bridge. If I can find a way around this problem, I'll publish it - but I'm a writer, not a programmer, and this is probably outside my abilities.

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It is a lovely game, very inspirational!

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A possible solution to the bug is in the works!

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I recently realized that Froghead's song sounds a lot like the Alfred Hitchcock theme music. Was this an intentional homage, a silly parody, or what?

(I couldn't help but look for or think of an easter egg with a sped-up, high-pitched "Goodeveningladiesandgentlemen!!" or something like that)

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The Froghead song is something of an in-joke, but not about Hitchcock. It's based on an ancient text-to-speech system that they had at Helen Trevillion's school. (Came with some kind of word processor, I think.)

Anyway - in case anyone happens to look at this, the new version of Desert Bridge will finally fix the DPI issue for good. It should be out in a couple of days max.

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Jeff Quigley May 4, 2010 1:23 PM

You people are easily impressed. All that gushing about how unconventional this game is, and it turns out to be a 98% standard adventure game. You find keys, and you use them to unlock things. There are shallow references to Monty Python, Douglas Adams, and other nerd touchstones. There is a half-baked philosophical message. There is a simple conflict between good and evil. There is a lot of whimsy, some of it lovely. There are many attempts at humor, some forced and some funny. All of this is totally conventional. The drawing is unusual, the game menu is unusual, and a couple of elements of a couple of the puzzles were unusual. Otherwise... well, it's one more competently made text adventure with a quirky vibe. There are a lot of those. Have you played them all? If you're so excited about this game, then you ought to play those as well. Don't dump on me for being as heartless as Urizen, until you've done that. I love games that do something new, if they do it well, and this game does some things well but it does little that's new. www.ifarchive.com

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Awesome duck potion!

WHEEEEE!!

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Anonymous October 17, 2010 2:56 AM

I've got a problem with the gameplay:

When I use the Decipher thing...
It accepts it but then it says "Printing..." for ETERNITY and I never get my note back!

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Anonymous October 19, 2010 1:30 AM

I wonder what happened after

The house blasted away? Maybe it came back down? So many unanswered questions!

But the mushroom said there was a sequel... I hope it comes out soon!

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Just_A_Schmuck Author Profile Page August 17, 2011 3:10 AM

@Jeff Quigley

Hm...someone sounds a little bitter.

And even if not, sometimes we celebrate games not because they do new things but because they do old things exceptionally well. And this game does that. I think it's close minded to say a game is bad because it doesn't do exactly what you want it to do.

As for me, I've found that Mr. Kyratzes has a talent for creating creative, engaging, engrossing worlds that I always hate leaving once the game is over. And that's a talent to be treasured. I can't wait to visit this world again, hopefully soon.

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So I played The Great Machine: A Fragment and the Museum of Broken Memories before this. I feel like that made it all the more horrifying

when I saw Urizen's forces across the desert.

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