There are choice grim stories throughout the Thief missions, and one of the grimmest begins with Garrett disguised as a cook in the tightly-enclosed corridors of the Baron’s Imperial Prison. It’s tightly-enclosed for a reason: released as part of the NewDark 64-Cubed contest, Cell 6 had to fit within certain dimensions. It also had to have a content advisory placed in its info file due to the aforementioned grim tale. Designed by Yandros, Random_Taffer and Tannar, or the “Three Anonymous Amigos” – anonymity was a requirement of the contest – the mission features solid design and atmosphere start to finish. My only quibble is the ridiculously obscure location of one hidden switch, but we Thief fans have to try frobbing every inch of a room sometimes, right?
Dark secrets and a cruel warden lord over this jail house. You must be sure not to draw undue attention to yourself or go where you shouldn’t, Undercover style. Pull this off and keep out a good eye for keys and hidden switches, and you’ll have this dark mystery unraveled. Grab a frying pan and dive in.
Soon after starting you may overhear a conversation between a guard and a servant, voiced wonderfully by Yandros and Random_Taffer, revealing the problems: a bloodstain that won’t go away Canterville Ghost style and a haunted interrogation room. The two are connected: the bloodstain is in cell 6 and the prisoner who died during interrogation was being kept in cell 6. This prisoner is also who Garrett is looking for: his fence Shylock’s father.
A nearby book, Banishing Evil Spirits: A Practical Manual, details what angry spirits may do: haunt the place of their violent death until they find resolution for the wrong done them. Finding reslution for the ghost of Shylock’s father becomes the central objective. You can swipe the key to the old, haunted interrogation room from a guard and in this room meet the ghost of Shylock’s father. To release his spirit, you need to give it a signet ring, the same family heirloom Shylock wants you to find. Once the spirit has been appeased, you must find evidence to incriminate the cruel warden.
The level design is tight, as noted, with lots of steep stairways and narrow hallways. There are quite a few guards on patrol – no way Garrett could have snuck through this one. Key areas include the noted interrogation room, the cell block, the Warden’s office, and the records hall. There’s an optional objective to free one of Sheriff Truart’s top officers, a dead rat whose name may be familiar to you, a pet frogbeast, singing prisoners, and a frustrated procurement officer (read his journal). Nice touches also include a Mechanist who will reset the power system once you shut it off Gathering at the Inn style and not just one, but two audio files that had also been used in Rose Cottage. If you’re harkening back to Rose Cottage, you’re making a fine FM. All the audio ambiance is done very well, especially Yandros’ mixing of Thief I sounds. The only sound I didn’t like was some of the ghost’s wailing; it can be cheesy (“Woooo, woooo!”). Custom textures and objects are used heavily to great effect.
The story resolves itself in a gruesome revelation and you’re left in awe at the abuse of power of a very evil man. Though Cell 6 did not win the 64-Cubed contest it came second and is a great-small FM. Its design, story, and ambiance are excellent. At over four-years-old it can now be considered a classic.