Friday, August 21, 2009

The Great Scott Project - Adventure #4

The Great Scott Project is moving along nicely, although I expect the pace to slow down very soon as I start to encounter titles I haven't played before. But we're already up to Adventure #4: Voodoo Castle. Through the mists of time, our reliable Adventure International catalog tells us:

Count Cristo has had a fiendish curse put on him by his enemies. There he lies with you his only hope. Will you be able to rescue him or is he forever doomed? Beware of the Voodoo man…
This was the first Adventure not officially written by Scott Adams himself -- it's credited to then-spouse Alexis Adams, although it's likely she handled the design and he did the implementation. If I may wax interactive-fiction-esque for a moment, the authorial voice is noticeably different from the Adventures we've played so far. Voodoo Castle depends less on puzzles than on discovering magic words and explicit clues -- characters and artifacts provide information that can't easily be guessed or worked out through trial and error. The map is straightforward and not particularly atmospheric -- there are no mazes, few odd connections, and many locations are generic: "a room in the castle." The player character is never really defined -- he/she could be servant, lover, or friend; I chose to believe I'm some sort of loyal aristocratic ally of the Count.
I had intended to fire this one up on a virtual Commodore VIC-20, as I'm running out of opportunities -- only the first five Adventures were released for the C-64's junior sibling. But while they worked just fine in the real world, the extra-large 16K Adventure cartridges are tricky to configure and start in emulated environments, and after struggling with a couple of different approaches I decided to play this one on the Apple IIe instead, using the excellent AppleWin. The opening screen follows the standard we've seen elsewhere, using the Apple's 40-character text mode:

I was able to finish the game in a couple of hours, but did get stuck at one point and had to resort to the hint book (details below). Once again, if you are playing along, this is a good place to stop reading and go explore on your own. Feel free to return when you've experienced it to your satisfaction.

******** SPOILERS AHEAD ***********

Random observations:

The game challenges the player to free Count Cristo from a voodoo curse, but the voodoo theme is treated fairly loosely -- there are Ju-Ju references and a pin-spiked doll, but no sign of zombi, poultry, snakes, or any other stereotypical aspects of vodou. Most puzzles are of a purely practical nature, while other events are based on decidedly Western chemistry, spiritualism, and superstition.

An advertising leaflet found in-game is actually NOT promoting Adventure #5 -- instead, it is a clue for the game at hand:

(I have a hunch the name refers to Scott and Alexis' daughter, or another relative -- Adventure #3 is dedicated to a Maegan Adams.)

There is, of course, a traditional Adams promo to be found -- in this case, a raven can be heard outside the window, and LISTEN RAVEN yields the ad:


An unusual grammatical inconsistency occurs if the player sips the witch's brew -- instead of the first-person phrasing typical of the Adventures, the game-ending response is: "YOU'VE BEEN TURNED INTO A BROOMSTICK & A WITCH RIDES OFF ON YOU!"

As the puzzles are straightforward and the rooms nondescript, I found myself wishing more memory had been available for item descriptions -- there are a lot of interesting props in this game, e.g. Animal heads, a Knight's Suit of Armor and Labeled chemicals, but LOOKing at almost everything produces the generic "I SEE NOTHING VERY SPECIAL" response.

Alexis chose to dedicate the game "to all MOMS!", and I wonder whether domestic frustrations inspired the maid character, who appears just long enough to chase the player into another room whenever he/she tracks soot through the ballroom; there doesn't appear to be any other purpose for this event, so I suspect it's a bit of an in-joke.

There's a bit of a cop-out in one puzzle -- trying to break the window yields "THIS GLASS CAN'T BE BROKEN" as a response, with no further explanation as to why. It's a coherent reply, it just seems like some sort of magical justification could have been dreamed up.

There's also an unforeseeable dead end, as was common in the text adventure era -- entering the jail cell without the saw in hand condemns the player to death from starvation, boredom and/or the reset button.

The Ju-Ju man (presumably the Voodoo man referred to in the catalog copy) never really seems menacing. But perhaps we should beware for other reasons, as his dialogue seems redolent of sex and drugs:

Ju-Ju man says: "My bag is now yours! Its magic will help you -CRACK- the curse!"
As I neared the end of the game, one annoying situation drove me to the hint book for help. I couldn't figure out how to get the magically slamming window to stay open -- there was no opportunity to nail, prop, or break it open. The first decoded clue urged me to GET LUCKY, but as a suitable partner was nowhere to be found, I concluded it must have something to do with the two good-luck charms I had acquired. I discovered that I was stumped simply because the two items are not interchangeable -- the medium had hinted that I should keep such a charm on myself and my friend, so I had left the clover near the Count's coffin and carried the rabbit's foot myself. As it turns out, I needed to drop the rabbit's foot in the coffin room -- an "ON WHAT?" prompt then allowed me to place it explicitly ON CRISTO, an option not available for the four-leaf clover. Then with the clover in my possession, the window magically stayed open and I was able to finish the game. Not an intentional puzzle, per se, but it certainly puzzled me. Whew!

And thus we have un-cursed our dear friend/patron/employer/lover, and a post-comatose SMILING COUNT CRISTO seems quite pleased to be out of his coffin and none the worse for wear. At least I like to think his smile is genuine, and not a symptom of premature rigor mortis and rictus setting in.

So the Count is not down for the count after all. But we are, brave Adventurers! Up next -- we embark for Transylvania with Adventure #5: The Count!


  1. I am also from Michigan--NE. This was actually the last of these games I played back in the day. Before I was able to win it, my Vic-20 silently passed into darkness forever. Getting a response to "break testtube" of "Can't do that, yet" totally threw me off for a long time. I have since played and won it from the download site (I'm still working on the others). I used to save up money from mowing grass and buy one of these games. I played them all to this point, except Mission Impossible as it was not in the store, which was K-mart. When we first got that Vic-20, we had Gorf and Radar Rat Race. My other friends had Atari's, so it was comparable. My cousin, who now lives in the UP, also had a Vic-20 and we traded some games. The one he had was Adventureland. I had never seen or played anything like it. It remains as one of my most prominent memories as a teenager. I have had dreams where I was lying in a sunny meadow looking up at the blue sky. To the east was a lake... After Vic-20 was gone, I revived the game for my younger brother and his group by playing on paper where I was the (vocal) interpreter as I had the game memorized from playing it. They asked where they were and we kept track of what they had on paper. It was funny seeing them struggle and fly out of their chairs with whoops at their successes and fun for them, too. Now that the download is available, I have since retired doing the paper version, lol.

  2. Hi Rodd!

    Many thanks for sharing those memories!

    If you are interested I am currently working on a new game. See my face book page at

  3. Hi. I don't know if you solved the VIC-20 problem; if not, here's how to do it on the VICE emulator:

    1- run xvic.exe (the VIC-20 emulator)
    2- in the memory options (in some versions it's Settings->Model, in others it's Settings->VIC20 Options) activate blocks 2 and 3, but leave the others disabled. When you reset the emulation, it should still say it's got about 4KB available.
    3- File->Autostart Disk/Tape Image, and open the game file. It should return you to the VIC-20 command line.
    4- type SYS 32592 , press Enter, and the game should start. Just tried it with Pirate Adventure, but it should be the same for the rest.