The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Asylum by New Zone Productions

Around 1993, there was a short-lived Canadian outfit that went by the name of New Zone Productions and seems to have specialized on remaking other people’s puzzle games as Windows shareware with fancy graphics, fancy by 1993 Windows standards at least. Their best known game, found on many locations, is The Aztec Curse. There were at least two more, Asylum and Trice. I was not particularly impressed with The Aztec Curse. There is another Windows game, only a few months older, named Nuts! that implements the same concept with graphics that are simpler, but actually better fit to the task, and it’s freeware. Trice I know only from the readmes of the other games. Asylum I discovered only now, and it has a certain charm.

Asylum is not a single game, but a collection of four small puzzles, some interesting, some trivial. The file_id.diz should not be ignored:

ASYLUM – Mind Bending Terror

Four nightmarish puzzles await you in the Asylum. One is deceptively easy, the others are fiendishly difficult! So accept the challenge, you have nothing to lose but your mind!

When you start up the game, you are at first treated to a nice splash screen, or title screen, or whatever you want to call it:

This is nicely done, and should remove any doubt that the whole game, or collection, is set to a horror theme. The sky gradient uses only 12 colors, but the crosses use a lot, the whole screen has 200. From the menu, you can now select the four games. The first one is Pentagram.

This is one puzzle that I haven’t seen before, and it’s quite a tricky one. It’s the highlight of the collection. Let me quote from the help file:

The object of Pentagram is to group the 10 skulls into 5 equally spaced stacks. The following conditions must be met:

  1. Each skull can only be moved once.
  2. Each skull can only be moved onto another skull.
  3. With every move, a skull has to jump TWO other skulls, whether single or stacked.
  4. A stack cannot be composed of more than TWO skulls.

Cross is simply Peg Solitaire. No options, just the most common layout. At the time, there were already a few Peg Solitaires for Windows, TakeOne by J. Kavanagh, Pegs by Will Musgrove, Schwedisches Halma by Matthias Buggle. This last one even had multiple layouts. Compared to the others, Cross is neither better nor worse.

The Final Count is a joke rather than a puzzle. Written on paper, it’s quite witty. On a computer screen, it’s silly. This is completely non-interactive, or at least I couldn’t get it to react to anything I did.

The Black Widow is a classic again: Lucas’s Problem. Invented in the 19th century by French mathematician Édouard Lucas, it has been implemented in Windows at least twice before: Once, back in the Windows 2.x era, by James M. Curran, and a bit later as Hop by David A. Feinleib. But The Black Widow has definitely better graphics than its predecessors.

To sum it up: This Asylum isn’t great, but it has a certain charm. At the time, it was probably worth its moderate price of $10 Canadian, even though these aren’t really so much games but puzzles that, once solved, lose all interest. If that’s good enough for you, go and download Asylum!

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