Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adventure of the Week: Raaka-Tu

As the holiday season brings on warm feelings of nostalgia, I'm motivated to revisit Robert Arnstein's jungle adventure Raaka-Tu, published by Radio Shack in 1981 for both the TRS-80 Model I and Color Computer.  I played this one as a teenager, back in the day, and remember it as a fair challenge, not overly easy but not particularly difficult either.  Though as I played it again, I began to wonder if I actually finished the game during my original foray, or just felt as though I had finished it because there seemed to be nothing further to accomplish.

The game runs in 16K of memory, loaded from cassette tape, so the text is necessarily sparse -- after the load process finishes, the game opens with a very basic description:



Fortunately the game's manual lays out the basic scenario, though the backstory of our Ph.D. studies and quest to find the lost tribe of Khazhadim doesn't really affect the in-game events -- it's a straightforward treasure hunt within the game proper.

The interface is simple in the traditional command-and-response style, with one innovation --  command validation happens "in line." If the player types something the game doesn't understand, it flashes ?VERB? or ?PHRASE? for a second, then allows the player to correct the command.  And the parser is sophisticated enough to handle prepositions -- one can LOOK IN BOTTLE or ATTACK RUG WITH COIN.

My only unpleasant surprise replaying this game was realizing how my patience has faded over the years -- saving and loading my game using tape felt excruciatingly slow, and I found I had to occupy myself with other activities while the system did its work.  Hard drives do indeed rock.

As always, interested adventurers should explore the temple of Raaka-Tu themselves before reading on, as I am liable to give away many of its dark secrets.  My purpose is to document these games in some detail, lest they be lost to the ages.  But knowing too much can certainly spoil the fun.

And so...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! ******

The game's first puzzle isn't too hard to solve with a little patience.  A group of guards patrols the outer wall of the temple, and will kill the player on sight with lethal crossbow bolts.  It's not difficult to learn their route and timing and avoid them while entering the temple -- their movements are not random.  But at the end of the game, they become a more serious problem -- as we exit the temple, there's no way to determine their location, short of counting one's moves during the entire adventure, mentally tracking the guards' constant patrol.  So it's best to SAVE GAME before emerging from the shadows, because instant death may be rounding the corner.  The WAIT command comes in handy after a restore, if sudden death has established their whereabouts at the moment the game was saved.

There are a couple of monsters to battle in the game, and as it turns out, the gargoyle cannot be vanquished with simple swordplay.  At least there's some action-packed description on our way to death's door:





 The other battle, against a giant constrictor serpent, is handled RPG-style -- the outcome of each attack is randomized, and the battle may be over swiftly or drag on for quite a few moves.  Oddly, some of the serpent bites note that POISON COURSES THROUGH YOUR VEINS, but I didn't find myself dying from it.

There's a coin outside the temple that must be found before entering to avoid a dead-end scenario with no way to go back and fetch it.  I missed it, got stuck, and found it after restarting and exploring a bit more.

Many of the puzzles feature written clues, there for the READing -- if the RING OF MOTION had not been labeled as such, I don't think I would have understood what was going on.  Picking it up transports the player between the two round rooms -- which makes taking it fatal, as we end up blindly re-entering a room where we earlier diverted a trap now aimed squarely in our direction.  Dropping the ring and picking it up again works much better.

There's another deadly trap which might be detected with caution, but was (in my case) discovered by triggering it.  Trying to cross the rug in the large rectangular room reveals that it covers a deadly pit of spikes.  This can be discovered ahead of time, but it takes some persistence:

MOVE RUG

WHY DON'T YOU LEAVE THE POOR RUG ALONE?

LOOK UNDER RUG

YOU DISCOVER A DEEP DARK PIT WHICH EXTENDS FROM THE NORTH TO THE SOUTH WALL.  THE PIT IS TOO BROAD TO JUMP.

The order in which puzzles are solved is somewhat inflexible -- moving the altar and escaping back into the jungle with the golden idol BEFORE dealing with the gargoyle effectively blocks the rest of the game, as it's impossible to return to the gargoyle's area.

A plaque on a wall in one room counsels against greed, and should be taken seriously -- an adjacent bejeweled lever, if pulled, literally drowns the player in treasure.  But the lever itself can be taken as a treasure; it's a nice, subtle puzzle.

I am not at all sure I actually finished this game completely back in the day -- a walkthrough informed or reminded me that there's a randomly-placed PRECIOUS GEM to be found by examining each room.  In my case it turned up at the south end of the great hallway, near the end of the game, which was lucky as at the moment I realized I was missing a treasure, I had no way to go back to some areas where it might have been concealed.

A detail I am quite sure I missed on my original playthrough was that the player's score is doubled when we return to the game's starting location -- but the game doesn't announce this, so we have to use the SCORE command to find out we've won.  We don't have to drop the treasures, we just have to be in the right room.  And the game doesn't end -- we can keep playing after this point, though there's really nothing more to do. 

Victory is ours!  And then ours again!

 


Since the game was willing to let me continue playing, I enjoyed discovering the following:

RUB LAMP

THE LAMP GOES OUT. YOU MUST HAVE RUBBED IT THE WRONG WAY!

RUB LAMP

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, ALADDIN?

And this:

EAT CANDLE

TASTES WAXY, IT'S POISONOUS! YOU'RE DEAD. TRY AGAIN.


With that ironic conclusion, and all fifty points in my cold, dead hands, I ended my return to the world of Raaka-Tu.  It's not a masterpiece of interactive fiction, but it was a pleasant little trip into the past.

7 comments:

  1. Always thought it was very well written. Like you I could never remember if I finished it probably because the ending was so understated after all the work to get there (Examine room!).

    Arnsteins trs-80 text adventures respond to plugh as well this one says Gesundheit I think!

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  2. I really appreciate this blog...! I to am over 40, and remember my good friend's Dad getting one of the very first TRS-80's from Radio Shack. Along with that, of course, came the games. Pyramid 2000 was fantastic! I had not been exposed to the games that this was cloned from, so this adventure, for me, was excellent... however, we never could get out of the Pyramid without spending the coin in the Maze at the vending machine, thus never solving the game. Can anyone post a Link to that game on-line? I have searched in vain... thanks!

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  3. Thanks very much for the kind words.

    The very best resource I know of about Pyramid 2000 is this page at figmentfly.com:

    http://www.figmentfly.com/pyramid2000/pyramid.html

    It includes this link to a Java emulator that allows playing the game online (it's the TRS-80 Color Computer version, so it's not quite the same experience you remember, but the game is the same as far as I know):

    http://members.cox.net/javacoco/

    Saving the coin is, if I recall, a matter of efficient execution -- probably on a second go, per standard adventuring rules!

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  4. OK... so how do you beat the gargoyle anyway. I could never get past him. And do you remember the text game Bedlam? It had Napoleon and some other weirdness to it.

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    1. I remember Bedlam. I played the text version and had found six different escapes from the mental hospital. The most creative one was getting Picasso to paint a door on the wall which opened to the outside.

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  5. The gargoyle is dispatched by lighting the candle and leaving it in the gargoyle's room for a while -- the fumes are poisonous, but the smoke takes a while to do its job. Sorry I wasn't more explicit about that!

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