Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… You’ll meet up with the pirate and
his daffy bird along with many strange sights as you attempt to go from your
London flat to Treasure Island. Can you recover Long John Silver’s lost
treasures? Happy sailing, matey...
As this was the first of Adams' adventures I ever played, on my first home computer, it seems fitting that I run this one on an emulated TRS-80 Model I. The emulator I'm using is Matthew Reed's superb TRS32 -- and it supports lowercase characters, a luxury ROM upgrade I was never able to afford, so the text is considerably more readable than it was my first time through.
On startup, I see that the interpreter was apparently responsible for displaying the classic boot screen I remember but haven't seen in decades -- I haven't seen this text on any of the newer interpreters I've been using, so I'm preserving it here for posterity:
I remember thinking at the time that the reference to a "PIRATED" COPY OF ADVENTURE was specific to this game's startup screen, but it appears on all of the TRS-80 Adventure games and in similar form on other platforms. From a coding perspective, I suspect this screen was loaded directly into screen memory as part of the game loading process, or into memory otherwise recycled after this point -- on a platform with 16K of RAM, it seems an awful lot of space to devote to introductory text otherwise.
No hints were needed for my playthrough -- having played the game several times before, I found myself in familiar territory and was able to finish in about an hour. This is largely because Pirate Adventure is more straightforward than Adventureland, by design -- the objectives are spelled out clearly, death is better foreshadowed, and aside from a little magic transportation the world makes coherent sense. Objects and characters behave logically, and the primary challenge is inventory juggling -- unable to carry everything needed at once, the player has to drop and shuffle and find alternate modes of transportation. The Parrot is a useful source of hints and reminders, making it harder to miss something important. Navigation is straightforward, with no serious mapping needed; there is a small maze of caves, but the tricky parts can be ignored. And the game has a sense of humor -- it's a fun piratey romp, and while Ron Gilbert has never to my knowledge cited it as an influence, it's hard to see how it could NOT have informed The Secret of Monkey Island to some degree.
Again, if you plan to play it on your own, go forth and do so! This post will still be here when you get back, ye treasure-huntin' scallywag.
********* SPOILERS AHEAD! **************
Points of interest:
A great, creepy prop is encountered early in the game: "Large blood soaked book." The brief text description is visually evocative in the best early text adventure tradition. And as always, Adventure #2 promotes the next one in line, this time via an advertising flyer stashed inside said book:
Ask for Adventure number 3: "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE" at your favorite computer dealer. If they DON'T carry "ADVENTURE" have them call: 1-305-862-6917 TODAY! "ADVENTURE" also supports lower case!(I've never known if the lower case reference was meant specifically for TRS-80
users; it does appear in the canonical "generic" .DAT files in circulation, but
I believe those originated on the TRS-80 as well.)
There's one tactical similarity to Adventureland here -- one has to be carrying a bottle of (salt) water to keep a fish alive and kicking in inventory. These kinds of associative in-possession/in-room object puzzles are part of Adams' style -- the parser can't generically handle containers or explicit object linkages, so it's often the case that you have to be carrying associated objects, or have one in hand and find one in the room, for these connections to work. Consequently, certain puzzles can be difficult to grasp -- the rules can seem inconsistent, when in fact you just didn't notice whether or not you had access to some significant combination of items. It's useful to notice such quirks -- playing an adventure game is like pitting one's brain against that of the designer. Actually, at this writing, I am pitting my aging brain against the designer as he was 30 years ago! Methinks Scott Adams has found the key to immortality.
One great meta-gag suckers me in no matter how many times I play this game. The player encounters a Mongoose, and having been through this sort of thing before, feels obligated to take it along, "in case it should come in handy" (the adventurer slyly remarks to him- or herself). And near the game's climax, when the deadly mamba snakes turn up right on cue, the Mongoose is thrown into battle and... does not survive. It develops that the mongoose is a squirrel, or was a squirrel, and is now a dead squirrel. The play on the gamer's tendency to take the game's word for granted presages any number of Monkey Island jokes, and I laugh every time.
I did encounter one bug I'd never noticed before -- after digging up the wooden box, you can OPEN BOX repeatedly, and the *RARE STAMPS* keep falling out of it (pulling them out of your inventory if need be.)
But Pirate Adventure is not frustrating at all -- patience, observation, and trial and error make it possible to get a worthy ship built and crewed, a lengthy process that occupies most of the game. Once on Treasure Island, digging up the two treasures and lugging them home is fairly straightforward.
Victory is ours!
A pleasant trip to the beach, really, and quite profitable. Time to shake the sand out of our safety sneakers, put the Peter Gunn Theme on the stereo and don our Secret Agent Man sunglasses for Adventure #3: Mission Impossible!