The opening uses the TRS-80's limited graphics capabilities to put cinematic banner titles onscreen:
Several additional title screens identify this game as "A CAPTAIN RED PRODUCTION" "WRITTEN BY JACK POWERS" and "COPYRIGHT (C) 1980 PROGRAMER'S [sic] GUILD." Additional introductory text claims this game is "unique" because it features 8 navigational directions (it isn't) and tells us we can use LIST to see the available commands (which proves to be untrue.)
As always, I urge interested readers to try these games themselves before proceeding here. But in this case I want to warn the brave about several potentially aggravating issues before I dive into the spoilers:
- If you're playing this game under emulation or on a TRS-80 with a lowercase kit installed, be aware that the parser is picky and also case-sensitive -- we can't use s or go south, we have to GO SOUTH.
- The game's BASIC engine is a bit sluggish, so if you're using an emulator you may want to overclock it to speed up play.
- There's no SAVE GAME command, and a few random deaths, so be careful out there.
- Most critical objects are randomly hidden in the game world -- the player must EXAMINE ROOM in every location to unearth these items. I had to dig into the code to figure out why so many necessary items didn't seem to be available.
- The parser usually looks for the full name of an object, adjectives included. So when the player finds a CEREMONIAL MASK, for example, WEAR MASK does not work; only WEAR CEREMONIAL is accepted.
With those details out of the way, I'll talk about the game's plot and puzzles. And be aware, as always, that there are thorough...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
There's a flashlight found in the game's first location, on the temple steps, and if we forget to take it along, it gets damaged by spirits by the time we come back for it, forcing a restart. LIGHT FLASHLIGHT yields an ON OR OFF? prompt, which is grammatically awkward, but TURN FLASHLIGHT also works. In my experience, the flashlight never runs out of juice.
The large hall just inside the Temple's entrance has a CALENDER [sic], some hieroglyphics, and a knapsack; we can't GET KNAPSACK (the game responds YOU CAN ONLY WEAR IT) or OPEN KNAPSACK but we can, as hinted, WEAR KNAPSACK. The calendar is not portable, and provides no date-related info, but READ CALENDAR (or READ HIEROGLYPHICS) yields IT SHOWS A SHAMAN SKINNING A DEER TO MAKE A POUCH AND APRON. We will encounter a number of these pictographic hints as we explore the temple -- this one sounds grisly, but we'll eventually find one ready-made.
To the southwest of the entrance is A SHRINKING ROOM with SKELETON DUST WALLS [whatever those are] COMING CLOSER. There's no escape from this unfortunate fate -- we eventually end up sealed between the two walls, and the game is over. This room is a major mapping nuisance, as many paths lead unpredictably into this fatal dead end. A SPINNING ROOM suggests it is disorienting, but it actually isn't. The map has quite a few diagonal paths that criss-cross, and plenty of one-way passages, making for some messy mapping, but the game's world is generally internally consistent.
Most of the locations in the Temple of the Sun are simple and bare, and there really aren't many puzzles, aside from finding the necessary objects by executing the EXAMINE ROOM command in every possible location. The hieroglyphics provide some hints about the items we need to collect, and the SCORE command provides a much more explicit assessment of our current status, showing what we have in hand versus what we need to collect; this largely makes up for the broken INVENTORY command.
Near the second waterfall bath room, we find a room with twelve stone altars, an ivory statue, and golden hieroglyphics that show the shaman GETTING A SMALL FRAGMENT OF GEMSTONE OR HIGH QUALITY GLASS into the pouch. This refers to the JADE EYES available to the south, stashed in the 3 JAGUARS (non-living) stationed there. Another room is identical in appearance, but actually contains 3 (live) jaguars that can be fatal if we don't successfully KILL them, so good mapping is important.
At the Sacred Well, GO WELL actually GOes WEST to an area with rain and foliage, and a STATUE OF THE RAIN GOD TLALOC. The parser is prone to this sort of thing -- GO SOUTHWEST is interpreted as GO SOUTH, we have to GO SW to actually go southwest.
SWIM WELL is more successful, but fatal as piranhas attack, making a sacrifice out of the player. We can also SWIM DOWN into the waterfall pools where YOU SEE A LARGE TUNNEL; but SWIM TUNNEL only establishes that YOU HAVE JUST ENTERED THE MOUTH OF A LARGE TURTLE. YOU NEEDED MORE SALT, BUT YUMMY. So there's no good reason to SWIM anywhere at all during our visit.
The Quetzalcoatl Room has a STEEL BOX and an URN OF CRYSTAL; the urn contains a blackish liquid, and the steel box cannot be opened or examined. We can DROP LIQUID, which pours it out, and we can't get it back into the urn afterwards, but I never found a purpose for it.
The Shaman Tomb contains seated mummies, but they're just for atmosphere. There are, however, random earthquakes, and wearing the wrong items can invoke the wrath of the tomb's spirits, both of which send the player straight to the Shrinking Room.
There are two locations named the Room of Fine Apparel, one of which has yet more hieroglyphics -- IT'S MISSING SOME PIECES DUE TO AGE AND WATER DAMAGE, BUT YOU CAN MAKE OUT A SHAMAN SPITTING 2 OBJECTS INTO A POUCH. These turn out to be the TEETH OF GOLD, referenced only as a SACRED ITEM by the SCORE command. A COTTON ROBE is found here, but it's eventually fatal if worn, so the fact that WEAR ROBE doesn't work (WEAR COTTON is expected) isn't such a bad thing. If we succeed in overcoming the parser's stubbornness, eventually A STRANGE BLUE MIST MANIFESTS, and we are judged by the spirits, whose grammar isn't great: THOU ART A FAKER AND ANGERS US -- and we're sent to the Shrinking Room to die. This also happens if we wear the non-feathered CEREMONIAL MASK.
There's a PRAY verb, which often responds, IF I WERE YOU....I'D QUIT AND TRY AGAIN, but sometimes gives more useful hints. After we die, the program asks, DO YOU WANT TO PLAY ANOTHER GAME? -- but if we answer Y, it insists on playing this one again. ;)
The astronomical hieroglyphics in the Solar Room show the SHAMAN PUTTING SOME CHARRED WOOD INTO A POUCH; going northeast from here exits back to the temple steps, which will come in handy later on.
The hieroglyphics and the SCORE command cumulatively indicate that this game's object is to round up a number of items, wearing some and putting others into the sacred pouch (not the knapsack) in explicit imitation of the shamans of old. But we really have to hunt these items down -- the only workable approach is to traverse the entire map, examining each room until we have all of the required objects.
There's a DRINK verb, but it usually returns EECH. I WOULDN'T THINK OF LETTING YOU DO THAT. Oddly, near the waterfalls EXAMINE POOL indicates YOU SEE A LOT OF FRESH CLEAR WATER, yet DRINK WATER here yields (with typos) YECH...IT'S BEEN SITTING HEREMFOR CENTURIES AND YET.. YOU SOMEHOWSURVIVE.
After beating my head against this game for a while, I realized that EXAMINE is treated differently from LOOK, which is not actually a supported command. For example, LOOK ALTAR yields SORRY BUT YOU CANNOT LOOK ALTAR, while EXAMINE ALTAR indicates that ALL 12 SEEM TO BE MADE OF 12 INDIVIDUAL STONES FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON.
I had to dig into the code to solve the mystery of the unfindable hidden objects, and in the process I discovered a little homage to Scott Adams' classic Adventure #2: Pirate Adventure: SAY YOHO yields OH NO YOU JUST SAID THE SACRED WORD FOR BLASPHEMY. THE ANGLE [sic] OF DEATH JUST SWEPT DOWN TO TAKE YOUR POOR SOUL TO THE UNDERWORLD. Darn those obtuse angles of death!
We can PUT [object], and are prompted IN OR ON WHAT (EX. KNAPSACK)? The prompt is misleading -- we have to type IN KNAPSACK, not just KNAPSACK. And the parser doesn't support general cases -- the JADE EYES can't be put IN WELL, for example. But we will need to use this command to put the magical items in the sacred pouch, that's its primary purpose.
The big secret to finishing this game, in my case, was the realization that we can't GET (the charred) WOOD but can GET CHARRED, can't EXAMINE (the bronze) BOX but can EXAMINE BRONZE to find GOLD, and can't EXAMINE (the ivory) STATUE but have to EXAMINE IVORY.
The randomized items include the SMALL FEATHERED CROWN, MINIATURE FEATHERED ROBE, CEREMONIAL MASK, COTTON ROBE, ROBE OF FEATHERS, KNIFE, FEATHERED MASK OF GOLD, TINY GOLD MASK, POUCH AND APRON, SNAKES, and the CHARRED WOOD. Sometimes the SNAKES appear when we EXAMINE ROOM and kill us instantly, but usually we can escape before they strike, and sometimes it is even possible to KILL SNAKES.
Once we've found and collected all the necessary objects, avoiding any that invoke the arbitrary wrath of the spirits, we can put the special items in the sacred pouch, escape the temple, and claim victory as a Great Shaman (with a final congratulatory misspelling):
Temple of the Sun is more of a treasure hunt than a true adventure, and I found the randomness of it irritating until I realized what was going on and figured out how to find all the items I knew I needed but could not locate. My walkthrough is below the fold, and has also been posted at the CASA Solution Archive.
Most of the critical objects are randomized and hidden, so as you navigate, be sure to EXAMINE ROOM everywhere. This walkthrough will tour the rooms, but omits the EXAMINE ROOM commands for brevity.
You will need to acquire these items to win (SCORE to check progress):
ROBE OF FEATHERS (WEAR ROBE)
TEETH OF GOLD
FEATHERED MASK OF GOLD (WEAR FEATHERED)
CHARRED WOOD (GET CHARRED)
POUCH AND APRON MADE OF DEER SKIN (WEAR POUCH)
CROWN OF GOLD AND FEATHERS (WEAR CROWN)
And AVOID these items:
SNAKES (can KILL or ignore them)
Other items can be taken or left.
Again, remember to EXAMINE ROOM in every location and collect the important items!
KILL JAGUARS (may have to repeat this command)
(At this point you should have found all of the important items if you remembered to EXAMINE ROOM during your tour)
(Warning message appears -- we need to escape the temple now)
(Escape to the temple steps and victory!)