Missed Classic: The Archers – Won or Lost? (With Final Rating)

From The Adventure Gamer


By Ilmari

Last time I managed to complete two of the four parts of The Archer. Now, it’s time to try the two remaining ones.

Part three: Eddie Grundy



Trevor Harrison, the voice of Eddie Grundy


After a droll old conservative and a love-sick teenager it’s time to let the comic relief in. Eddie Grundy was born in 1951 to Joe and Susan Grundy. The Grundy family didn’t really play any role in the life of Ambridge until 1970s, when Joe Grundy was introduced as a tenant farmer at Grange Farm and a widower with two sons, Alf and Eddie. Alf was always an on/off-character, who spent a lot of time elsewhere – usually in jail – while Eddie soon joined his father to become staples of Ambridge life. From the very beginning Grundys got the role of perpetual underdogs, who never had the opportunity or good luck to rise above their working class position.
Come the eighties, Eddie Grundy had already settled into the role of a lovable rogue. He spends a lot of his time at Grange Farm, although he also hopes to make it big as a country singer. In 1980s, Eddie has recently married Clarrie, the daughter of farm labourer Jethro Larkin, and this marriage will last all the way to the present day. And oh yes, he has ferrets as pets.

New arrival




Really, do I have to spell it? You have to choose between Chicken Kiev, a ferret and a baby, which one is going to interest the audience?

The problem is that the Grundy family is poor and Eddie doesn’t have the money for an extension that a third child would require. So, Eddie has to make one himself. He starts digging something, puts his boot on it and falls into septic tank. I think I’ve set the standards for the rest of the season.

In the end this plot line goes nowhere – Clarrie wasn’t really pregnant after all.

The love life of Joe Grundy




Joe Grundy refuses to do work and is just a nuisance. I make Eddie suggest Joe could move in with Martha Woodford, the village shopkeeper and a widower. Joe asks Martha to a movie, where the romantic atmosphere affects him and he proposes to Martha. Martha is excited, but Joe backs up when he hears that Martha would want costly wedding with champagne and caviar.

Holiday




Clarrie wants to go on a holiday. Having no clue where to take this plot line, I make Eddie suggest that Clarrie should look at paper for ideas. At first Clarrie wants to visit Disneyland, but then she settles for Torremolinos, since Andie and Fergy went somewhere nearby. Although it would be a nice little surprise that they would find on the spot that their hotel has not yet been built, that gets a reprimand from BBC, because Spanish tourist council complained.

The sad tale of Jumbo the sow




Joe Grundy has purchased an old sow, Jumbo, from the market. The problem is to get the pig back to the farm. I make Eddie put Jumbo at the back of his van, together with his wife and children. Then the pig makes a mess and Clarrie won’t have it. Eddie tries to sooth the sow with some music and she does like “June is busting all over”, but gets all restless with Eddie’s hit record “Poor Pig”.

Jumbo puts her weight onto the back of the van and flies out. Where does it land? As you can see from the picture, on the bonnet of Jack Woolley’s Bentley, driven by Higgs. Jack tells Eddie to move the pig, but she won’t budge. They have to drive to Grey Gables, and when Eddie goes to ask for Jumbo, he hears that Jean Paul, “Wally’s froggy cook, has cut Jumbo into little cutlets”.

Audience loves the story, censorship brigade not so much – they are after my head because of Jumbo’s fate.

Eddie’s cars




Eddie’s van is on its last legs and its doors keep falling off. I decide Eddie should get it renovated. Later I learn that Hollerton Motors did a lousy job, since the doors open just when Eddie has a load of poultry in it. Eddie phones infuriated to Hollerton Motors and demands a repay. The company suggests a new car in return, and Eddie chooses a Triumph Stag.

Later, Eddies notices that brakes of Triumph are very sluggish. He decides to get the brakes fixed, but then someone nicks the car. “Oh well, it wasn’t much use to getting the pigs on the market.” BBC thinks I am getting too unrealistic – how can the Grundys afford so many car repairs?

Fred the Ferret



Clarrie doesn’t like that Eddie is keeping a pet ferret Fred in their bedroom. Eddie puts ferret in the kitchen, where his son William pokes his finger into the ferret cage. Result is Fred biting William.

I could let Eddie bang either Fred’s or William’s head, but this seems too drastic a method. Instead, Eddie lures Freddie away with Clarrie’s chicken, and Clarries gets mad, because it was their dinner. Fred is banished outside.

After a few days, Fred’s cage door is open. Eddie finds him in the shed, nibbling his way through some sacks of feed. Now the ferret goes out into the dog house and has strict rations and no treats for a month.

After all the turmoil, Fred gets sick and doesn’t want to eat at all. Eddie calls in the local vet, Martin Lambert, which always means a call from Veterinary Association afterwards. Old Martin doesn’t fail us. He insults Eddie for calling him in to see a ferret, Eddie insults him back and the next thing you know is that Eddie’s nose is bleeding. Eddie goes to see the local doctor, who thinks that the only condition Eddie has is an unhealthy obsession with ferrets.

“The whole world is going barmy. I sit and wonder why the world is not kinder to ferrets.”

The Jailhouse Rock




Eddie’s bigger brother, Alf, is getting out of prison. Since he has no money nor job, Alf wants to be with his kin. Eddie dislikes the idea and goes to meet him with Clarrie. Eddie tries to persuade Alf not to come, but Alf starts to cry, which makes Clarrie go soft and invite Alf in.

Eddie has to now decide a proper way to celebrate his brother’s arrival. I at first suggest that Eddie just gets some cans in, but he and Joe drink them before Alf arrives. Instead, Eddie arranges a party at Cat and Fiddle, a local pub. Clarrie and Eddie go to the pub, and Clarrie complains about people being sick. Then Alf arrives with his lady friend, Delectable Dolores, and the party really starts. Clarrie can’t stand it and goes home.

When Eddie, Alf and Dolores get back to the farm, the party continues. Alf gets the lager out and Dolores dances in tune with Joe Grundy’s gramophone. Clarrie doesn’t like it and threatens to move to her father with the kids. Eddie begs her to come back, which she does, but only on the condition of getting a new dress. Eddie sends Alf and Dolores to bed and breakfast – at his father-in-law.

Country road




Eddie’s band is finally hitting it big, and they got a real gig! The only problem is that Eddie needs fancy cowboy boots. I make Eddie go around the town asking for work, and Phil Archer hires him to help with harvesting. Unfortunately, Eddie backs the combine into the shed.

Next, Brian Aldridge (Phil Archer’s brother-in-law) hires Eddie to paint some holiday cottages. While Eddie is whitewashing the fence, his friend Bugsy arrives with biker girls. Eddie invites them in to have some quality time. While they are busy with drinking and smoking and Eddie has his hands filled with a biker girl called Big Bertha, gamekeeper Tom Ferret bursts in and Bertha hurls a can at him.

Eddie ends up nicked because of all the damage done to cottages. I get in trouble too. BBC is furious, because my script pandered into lower instincts. Besides, people were worried what happened to old Tom. I get sacked!

I start all over again from the spot where Eddie needed some money. This time, I make him raid Joe Grundy’s sock drawer. Eddie finds £ 40, but also a love letter. Eddie decides to leave the money and blackmail Joe with the letter – unless Joe will improve his wages, Eddie will pin the letter up at the local pub. Joe does give him a raise, but only for two quids. Eddie cannot afford the new boots and has to wear his old wellies for the gig.

Part 4: Nelson Gabriel

While I managed to complete third part with only one reload, the fourth and final part was a different matter. I tried different tactics five or six times, but without success. I suspect the ending won’t be worth the effort of continuing, so winning the game is left as an exercise for the reader.

Jack May, Voice of Nelson Gabriel

Unlike with the previous characters, it was difficult to find information about Nelson Gabriel. Main reason for this is that the actor Jack May – and with him, the character he portrayed – died in the nineties, while the majority of Archer pages on the web focus on the current set of characters. Still, from what I’ve managed to learn, Nelson had been a major figure of the show almost from the very beginning.

Nelson Gabriel was born to Walter and Annie Gabriel in 1933. Gabriel family had traditionally been blacksmiths of Ambridge, but Walter had chosen another career and worked as a tenant farmer. Walter’s wife had died young, and Walter spent the rest of his life, until his death in 1988, dedicated to his son, always willing to turn his blind eye to Nelson’s failings.

And failings Nelson was rumored to have. Notoriously, he had been suspected of the 1967 Borchester mail van robbery, especially as he had faked his death just around the incident. Jury never found enough evidence to convict him, but rumours of illicitly gained riches persisted.

Nelson tries to keep a veneer of respectability in his role as a man of the world, owning both a sophisticated wine bar and an antique shop. Still, local police force has doubts about Nelson: could he be selling stolen goods?

Spoiled brat




Elizabeth Archer has a considerable debt for Nelson’s wine bar. Nelson can threaten to phone her dad and he can even go to Sicily to learn some creative ways for collecting debts (although Italian embassy will then complain to BBC about this misrepresentation of harmless Sicilian farmers). Eventually they come to an agreement that Elizabeth will do some cleaning for Nelson. I have little sympathy for Elizabeth, the whining teenager, but I must feel pity when I see how Nelson treats her. Nelson makes her polish all the brass in his house – and he has lot of brass items. “What it is to see an Archer toil!”

Nelson’s regular cleaner, Elsa, goes after Elizabeth, pointing out all the smears she hasn’t noticed. Elizabeth can’t take it anymore, so she pours a bucket of water on Elsa. Nelson gives Elsa an extra £ 10 as a consolation money and adds it to Elizabeth’s debt.

Later, Elizabeth is hired as Ms. Snowy the ice cream lady and makes enough money to clear her debt and to buy a bottle of Monet for Nelson. Nelson thinks he might have chosen the wrong career, if ice cream sellers are paid so well.

Depressed dad




Nelson’s father, Walter, is depressed and thinks his days are numbered (well, he will die in a few years). One possible answer is to buy a small macaw to Walter, but it will eventually grow up and Nelson has to get rid of it by selling it to a gypsy. Back to square one.

Finally, after other false leads, Nelson organises a tea party for his dad, inviting all the Oversixties of the village. Nelson catches Joe Grundy nipping some chocolate fingers into his pockets. Whatever Nelson does, it all turns against him in the end, but let’s say he suggests to Joe that milking time is coming soon. Joe doesn’t get the hint and finally someone else notices the missing chocolate fingers. Nelson accuses Joe, but then Tom Ferret makes a crying confession that he has been eating chocolate fingers for the whole evening. Meanwhile, Joe has managed to sneak away and the common opinion turns against Nelson, for blaming an innocent man. Nelson tries to point out how suspicious it was that Joe Grundy left so suddenly. “It is the milking time”, all say in chorus.

Renewing the wine bar




Nelson does not have enough money for sending his satin sheets to French laundry. He can try to cut back the expenses by sacking Shane, his cook. Unfortunately, Shane is the only gay person in village, and BBC needs to fill its minority quota.

Eventually, Nelson decides to go into partnership with Pat and Tony, another line of the Archer family (seriously, Ambridge citizens should really consider extending their gene pool beyond Archers). They are going to open a whole-food restaurant “Wild Oats”. Problem is that local organic food provider (yet another Archer) cannot provide Nelson with the products he requires.

After trying to get organic food elsewhere and making for a few weeks multi-hour driving trips to another town, Nelson decides to stop. Instead, he listens to Shane’s advice and starts a gay discotheque Adonis, where Joan Collins lookalike competitions are held (male strippers are strictly forbidden by BBC). The discotheque is at first successful, but then it becomes hip in the gay community to look straight, and Adonis has to be shut down for too little audience.

Nelson also tries to redecorate his wine bar in a more Oriental style. He doesn’t have money to buy real Oriental, so he settles for fake Sari. He also wants some Oriental style statuettes, and he can try to dupe local art students to do them for him. Unfortunately, their teacher gets angry and threatens to release the local education committee on Nelson – and BBC gets complaints about Nelson cheating students.

Oversixties trip




Peggy Archer has too much things to do on Grey Gables hotel, so she cannot chaperone the Oversixties annual field trip. The Oversixties are terrified when they hear that a recent arrival to Ambridge, Mrs. Antrobus, known also as “The Dog Woman”, because of her kennels for Afghan hounds, has volunteered to lead the trip. Oversixties want Nelson to help them.

One possibility is to let Nelson ask Jennifer Aldridge, Peggy’s daughter, to take the lead. Nelson samples some of Jennifer’s yoghurt, when meeting her, and the next night he wakes with stomach pains. Nelson tries to extort Jennifer with this information, since she has been trying to sell her yoghurt into a health shop. Unfortunately, Jennifer knows some dirt of Nelson. “History has never seen a Gabriel retreat from battle so hastily!”

Nelson has then no other choice but to lead the tour himself. He has to choose the destination – either Weston-super-Mare where the Oversixties have traditionally traveled, or the more sophisticated Longleat. If Nelson chooses Longleat, Mrs. Anthrobus gets excited and starts calling to Marquess of Bath, who resides in Longleat. Marquess isn’t happy with Mrs. Anthrobus’s antics, and the Oversixties are banned from entering Longleat.

Weston-super-Mare it is then. Nelson still has to hire some entertainer for the long bus trip. The only real alternative is Mick ’n Dick, Borchester’s answer to Chas ‘n Dave – they do not have “any musical talent, but one rousing chorus of Knees Up, Mother Brown is much like any other”. After some amusing incidents, Mick ‘n Dick start to sing Eskimo Nell. The Oversixties men are delighted and join in, while the women and Nelson are too flabbergasted to say a thing. BBC isn’t and says a lot, since Morality Brigade are horrified (then again, some members of audience request lyrics for the song).

Antique shops




Nelson’s antique business is not doing well and he has to step up his business. One thing he can do is to read a DYI guide and start an antique restoration business. This evidently backfires sooner or later, and the local police officers pay a visit of a suspected fraud. Nelson might also start to knock on people’s door, offering cash for what might seem like junk to them, but what really are priceless antiques. Unfortunately, BBC vetoes this plan since older listeners are already afraid of con-merchants.

Eventually Nelson starts a house clearance service. He hires Stewart, one of the Horrobins – a family of local ruffians – to do the heavy work. Due to an extremely bad luck, during the first gig Nelson’s competition, Chippendale Charlie, sneaks in, locks Nelson and Stewart inside a closet and steals all the furniture. Stewart breaks the door and Nelson has to pay the damage so that he has no money to pay for Stewart. Next night, Horrobin clan pays a visit and demands the paycheck of Stewart. Nelson placates them with some whisky.

Final Rating

Puzzles and Solvability

The Archers shares a central failing with Secret of Adrian Mole, namely, that the player often has no reasonable way to know what the choices made imply. Didn’t you know that a character going to Channel Islands meant writing that character out of the series? Too bad, you are dead already. And when the solution can be solved beforehand, it is usually too easy.

The case looks a bit different, when we do not focus on individual choices, but on a series of them. Adrian Mole tracked only a single number throughout the game (your score), and that number had nothing to do with your ability to move forward in the game. The Archers, on the other hand, tracks several attributes (at least realism, the opinion of BBC and the number of viewers). Furthermore, these attributes are essential for moving forward, since after each part their status is evaluated. Thus, as a whole The Archers feels more of a challenge than Adrian Mole.

Score: 2.

Interface and Inventory

I complained that Adrian Mole had too simple an interface, since the player could do nothing beyond choosing a number between 1 and 3. The Archers seemingly uses the very same interface, but the feel is quite different. Partial reason could be the complexity behind the surface that I mentioned with the previous score. Partly it is all about the context – while making decisions from three well-defined choices is something we rarely do in everyday life, I can imagine a showrunner having to choose from few possibilities to continue a plot (i.e. scripts).

Score: 2.

Story and Setting

The town of Ambridge and its occupants, as described by the radio series, form a rich background for the game. What is more, this background has an actual effect on the events of the game, which now feel like an organic growth of the history of the radio series instead of mere tacked-on stories. In addition, there’s the interesting metaelement of the player being the showrunner striving to find balance between spectacle loving audience and conservative BBC authorities. The biggest failing storywise is that all the little stories form no grand thematic whole, but are mere daily stories in the life of Ambridge.

Score: 5.

Sounds and Graphics

Every plot line has its unique distinguishing picture. Some of them just show the place where the main action happens, others reveal more plot details. Just like with Adrian Mole, the graphics are a bit more memorable than they have usually been in Level 9 games.

Score: 4

Environment and Atmosphere

The Archers is essentially a soap opera producing simulator. The idea may seem daft, but it is surprisingly fun to tinker and try to find different plot lines and reactions from the audience. I can just imagine that a similar concept with some modern genre show would be great fun:

Tyrion Lannister stands upon the Wall and decides to relieve himself. What happens next?

1) Tyrion makes a quip about people on top of the world being able to throw their wastes on the lower classes. He then soliloquises about the unequal division of power and muses about the possibility of people governing someday themselves.

2) Suddenly a hand appears from the other side of the Wall. It’s a White Walker! Tyrion grabs a sword, cuts the hand and kicks the body down. He says to the corpse: “I am sorry we couldn’t arrange a warmer welcome.”

3) One drink too many tonight has deteriorated Tyrion’s sense of balance. He leans a bit too far and falls to an icy death. Nameless watchman says: “I thought he would make a bigger splash.”

Results:

1) Entertainment Weekly writes a detailed and approving review of the show: “Rarely is a sword and sorcery show so deep and thoughtful. We may be watching a new Wire.” You gain +10 % general viewers.

2) A Song of Ice and Fire Wiki section “How the show differs from the book” has grown. You lose -20 % G. R. R. Martin fans.

Reddit goes hot: “Best action scene EVER”. You gain +30 % preteen viewers.

New Yorker columnist writes about the empowerment of minority groups in modern fantasy. You gain +30 % viewers with university degree.

3) A Song of Ice and Fire Wiki sections “How the show differs from the book” and “Beloved characters killed off too soon” have grown. You lose -40 % G. R. R. Martin fans.

Teacher from Minnesota sends an angry tweet about school children imitating the death of Tyrion: “Kids dropping from roofs like apples!” Parents all over the country restrict their children’s screen time. You lose -50% viewers under twelve years.

Little People of America is offended by the exploitation of persons of short stature in modern media. You lose -40% progressive viewers.

4chan goes viral: “This ain’t free country if we can’t make fun of dwarves!” You gain + 60 % alt-right viewers. Don’t expect to visit your mother anytime soon.

Fox Corporation considers purchasing the rights for the next season of GoT. Kelsey Grammar rumored to get the role of Sir Davos.

What doesn’t work very well is the need to carefully min/max your audience reactions. Especially the fourth part started to feel stale, because I was forced to replay the same events over and over again, when trying to find a working combination of events. Either more variation in the possible storylines or less stringent criteria for a successful run would have been appreciated.

Score: 4.

Dialogue and Acting

I enjoyed my time reading this satire or parody of a soap opera. Some sites suggest that the writers of the show wrote parts of the text, and it is quite believable that some professionals were involved. The writers showed a good sense of humour and wit, especially in their descriptions of what the BBC executives and the audience liked about the show. Furthermore, all the four characters have a different and believable voice.

Score: 5.

(2 + 2 + 5 + 4 + 4 + 5)/.6 = 37. Most of you had significantly lower score guesses, but Will Moczarski nailed it almost perfectly and chose a one point too high a score. Congratulations!

Well, I wouldn’t have believed it when I started this game, but yes, this is one of the best Level 9 game so far. Of course, this is mostly due to the story and the writing being at least decent. Viewed solely as a game, The Archers is not much to look at, but as a piece of interactive fiction it is at least entertaining, if not that deep of an experience. In fact, the rating of The Archers might give us some indication how visual novels would fare with the PISSED ratings.


Original URL: https://advgamer.blogspot.com/2019/07/missed-classic-archers-won-or-lost-with.html