I recently enjoyed playing Artic Computing's A game, Planet of Death, so this week I'm tackling the company's Adventure B: Inca Curse. There's no author credited on this one either; the style seems similar to its predecessor, although the spelling is even less reliable.
As in Adventure A, our basic objective is laid out at the start -- in colored text, even -- as we set out to find some treasure and bring it safely hence to claim victory:
What's that further down the tunnel? It glimmers like a treasure... but no! It's...
**** SPOILERS AHEAD! ****
This game really is a treasure hunt -- there are a few puzzles, but most of the challenge lies in mapping out the extensive Inca temple and finding the golden goodies. There are lots of one-way passages, and the task is complicated by the occasional hidden passage or misleading room description; one room has an invisible path DOWN, and another says the exit is WEST when in fact it lies to the east. There's some compensation in the Emperors Corridor, where the text plainly informs us that A SECRET PASSAGE LEADS WEST... making it somewhat less than secret.
The two-word Artic parser has a few new tricks up its sleeve in this game. A branch that is HEAVY WITH LOTS OF LEAVES -- too heavy to pick up, it seems -- can be made portable with REMOVE LEAVES. There are some other situation-specific verbs, but WITH handles most of the workload.
Very few of the game's challenges are really puzzles at all, and most of the useful objects are lying around in plain sight. We encounter a locked door early in the game, but LOOK DOOR reveals that THE LATCH IS VERY FRAGILE, and we can easily BREAK LATCH - HOW? - WITH BRANCH. At another point we need to CLIMB BOAT and ROW. In general, we just need to have found the correct items and use them sensibly. The game also prevents us from doing certain things -- BREAK WINDOW yields only NO.. I AM NOT A VANDEL [sic]. Apparently breaking and entering for the sake of tomb robbing is okay -- we will shortly need to BREAK LOCK / WITH ROCK -- but Artic urges us to say no to, er, vandelism.
Behind the unbreakable window is something interesting, actually - an in-game ad a la Scott Adams, the first one I've seen in quite a while:
The game's misspellings are legion -- whatever playtesting it may have gone through was clearly not done with a proofreader's eye. We visit a SACRAFICIAL CHAMBER, a GUILDED REST ROOM and an ARMARY, are informed YOU ARE NOT CARRYING THE CORRECT POSSESIONS, and most memorably must translate some HYROGLITHICS with the HYROGLIPHIC TRANSLATOR. One such bit of dictionary sloppiness impacts gameplay -- we find *** GOLDEN KNIVES ***, but cannot TAKE KNIVES; we must TAKE KNIFE.
There aren't a lot of fatal scenarios in this game, but we do have to escape the Fire Room within a few turns, or find that I HAVE BEEN ROASTED ALIVE. There are also dead ends ahead if we have not carried key objects with us, and the critical red and blue stones cannot be dropped, lest they turn into useless powder. There's a warning for one dead end -- if we translate the hieroglyphics, we learn that DEATH AWAITS ALL WHO GO WEST UNPREPARED. I had already gotten stuck there once when I translated the sign, and discovered that the real threat was boredom, much moreso than death.
Inca Curse's most notable feature is its unusual lamp implementation. At one point we have to SMOTHER FIRE with a magic blanket, at which point everything goes dark. There's a lamp in the Fire Room, and if we have a match we can continue adventuring. But the darkness is actually handled as a blinding device -- we can move around freely if we have a good map and know where we're going, but simply getting ourselves back to a lighted area doesn't restore normal vision. We can not see clearly again until we GET LAMP and WITH MATCH, and find the darkness lifting wherever our wanderings have taken us.
The game's second act, where all the treasures are hidden, takes place in a large, maze-ridden area where even the normal, unique rooms (like a kitchen) don't necessarily map according to the rules of the compass. We can only reach this area if we WITH CHISEL to get the magic ring out of its surrounding flint, and have also found the red and blue stones. And we need to bring rope to get back out of this section of the map, which leaves precious little room for the many golden treasures left around for the taking. Most are standard stuff, like the *** GOLD COINS *** and *** GOLDEN STATUE ***, but I don't recall seeing a *** GOLDEN THUMBSCREW *** in many past adventures.
The game's minimal approach to description gave me entirely the wrong impression when I visited the SLAVE PREPARATION ROOM and the SLAVE EATING ROOM. I believe the latter is meant to be some sort of cafeteria.
As in Planet of Death, the maze in Inca Curse can be mapped, but key locations can be reached with non-repeating permutations of the cardinal directions. From the maze's starting point, N, S, E, W gets us to the TRAITORS HALL; S, N, W, E reaches the HALL OF HALLS; and S, N, E, W reaches the MIRROR ROOM.
Inca Curse is not particularly difficult to finish, as most of the puzzles are straightforward. I did get stuck near the end, and referenced a walkthrough to learn that I could get back out of the sand dungeon by CLIMBing UP - HOW? - WITH ROPE, which I should have figured out on my own (though not having tied the rope to anything prior to coming down, it might have taken me a while to think of trying it; the ladder seemed a more likely tool for the job, but of course did not work.) I was glad I looked up the solution anyway, as I learned in passing that the Artic games employ a REDESCRIBE verb, solving my growing irritation as I repeatedly fell for the old LOOK - I SEE NOTHING SPECIAL gag.
The SCORE mechanism behaves oddly. As I picked up and dropped treasures before leaving the temple, I saw my score change from 3000, to 0000, to 9700. Its behavior seems consistent, but I couldn't figure out how it was meant to operate.
The game's ending is rather abrupt -- perhaps this is what the title screen's warning about greed is all about, but it surprised me. I had found eight treasures, but could not carry them all in one trip, and the moment I set foot back in the clearing with a few treasures in tow, it was instantly victory time with a score of 2800:
Different treasures carry different point values, so it behooves the player to experiment and find the most score-worthy combination of treasures to carry out of the temple. We are limited to six inventory items, and need to carry certain items lest we get stuck in the temple forever, so this challenge constitutes one final puzzle.
But I was satisfied with having explored the Inca temple and SUCCESFULLY [sic] finished the adventure, and I look forward to tackling ** ALIEN SPACE SHIP ADVENTURE **, apparently the working title for Artic's Adventure C: Ship of Doom.