Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Treasure Island Adventure (1981)

This week, we're looking at another of the monthly SoftSide Publications, which after a random start I'm trying to cover in release order.  And we're up to #3 - Treasure Island Adventure, circa 1981.  No author is credited on the title and intro screens, but an in-game parchment scroll includes a thanks from one Pete Tyjewski, likely the program's creator, with a different style from SoftSide adventures #1 and #2.

This one is, as the title implies, a treasure hunt adventure.  The opening text sums up the minimal plot:  You came across a map giving the exact coordinates to Treasure Island and have traced it to be in Long John's writing.  So you spent your savings for passage to the island, where you hope to find his treasure.  There's also some Scott Adams-style intro text explaining the basic concept of adventure gaming.

As always, I encourage interested readers to try Treasure Island Adventure before continuing here, but I'll warn you that even my walkthrough (at the bottom of this post) is not quite complete.  The primary objective is challenging but feasible and fun to solve for a score around 200 points; earning the maximum score of 258 is a tougher task that I was not really motivated to complete.  I had to examine the code to learn that the maximum score requires visiting every location and collecting everything that can be carried (not just the treasures) in under 350 moves, which I'm sure can be done, but doesn't seem like fun.  So while I will be able to tell you most of what you'll need to know, if you want to max this one out you'll have to find all the shortcuts and draw a proper map.  With that said, be warned that beyond this point we will plunge into a plethora of...

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

Treasure Island Adventure's BASIC code is quite slow compared to earlier SoftSide adventures, so there was apparently not a house "engine" that all the authors were encouraged to use.  There's no word-wrapping control, leading to some awkward displays, and the parser is also on the primitive side, with a limited vocabulary and some unusual verb/noun handling.  One time-consuming annoyance is that the game repeats the room description (rather slowly) whenever it doesn't understand a command we've typed in.  I and INVENTORY work, but not INV; we can carry a generous 12 items, except for a few particularly heavy objects.  We are actually allowed to pick up as many items as we like, but the game won't let us move anywhere until we're under the encumbrance limit, which is a novel and intelligent implementation by 1981 standards.

The game starts on the north beach.  We can wander off the path into the woods, which is a maze of sorts but can be easily avoided by sticking to the delineated available directions.  (Unfortunately, this habit will prove troublesome later in the game, where several rooms do not list all available exits, much to the player's frustration.)  While mapping, I found a slightly quicker way to get to the North Beach - we can enter the forest at any point and then head N.

One gets the impression that the author has played the classic Crowther/Woods Adventure, as several elements from that game are "borrowed" here.  We find a narrow crack in a sheer rock wall, a maze of twisty little passages, a priceless but delicate vase, and a pirate who hides his treasure chest deep within the maze.  Scott Adams' Pirate Adventure and Infocom's ZORK and Enchanter may also have influenced the design to some degree.

Beyond the crack in the wall, it's too dark to see to the south.  But there's a tiny box in a nearby cave, and READ BOX indicates that these are *Diamond* Safety Matches.  We can't use them directly in the dark area, though, and the parser isn't happy with our attempts to do so; BURN MATCH and LIGHT MATCH both yield accusations of Arsonist!

An old vault in the building on the north beach proves to be the traditional SCORE room -- the posted notice is not kidding when it says, "Bring all your findings here --- to increase your score."  There's also the traditional brass oil lamp here, but it's empty.

Fortunately, a wooden keg at the top of a volcano on the south beach contains First Class Whale Oil.  We can't GO LAKE or GO CRATER up here, despite the scenic description, but we can FILL LAMP.  It doesn't last long, and can't be turned off once it's lit, but fortunately we can also GET KEG and carry it with us.  This is worth the inventory slot, as refilling the lamp while it's lit doesn't seem to reset the timer, so we have to wait for it to go out (with no warning) before we can fill it and light it again.

Inside the mountain, the Evil Wizard's Recreation Room is not exactly scary, but is certainly disturbing.  A sign on the wall reads, "De Sade was a sissy", and there are lots of props here - an iron cage, a table with shackles, a forge, a red hot poker, asbestos gloves and boots, a large hammer, and a black anvil.

The Evil Wizard's throne room is also nearby, which calls classic ZORK and Adventure to mind with a gold ring, a black rod, a pillow, a pointy wizard's hat, and a wizard's robe.  A curtain leads to an alcove, and a short distance away we find a priceless fragile ming vase in a small cell -- of course, we need the pillow to claim it successfully, as it fragments into worthless shards of china if we simply DROP VASE if we did not previously DROP PILLOW.  We can't get through the bars of the cell or another hole in the floor with the vase, but we can take the long way back around through the throne room to get outside and to our treasure store.

In the Room of the Ancient Mariner (LOL) we find a gold coin, and a coil of rope.  The coin is actually useful, but the rope is not needed.  We can READ COIN, yielding runes:

This doesn't look like a cryptography puzzle -- the words look too much like 1950s alien-speak -- so we will probably need a translator of some sort.

We can enter the hanging cage in the Wizard's rec room to find a Golden crown and a locked door.  But we're eternally trapped inside if we don't have some way to unlock the door, it seems -- GET OUT yields the entertaining but unhelpful I can't get a OUT.  Unfortunately, the idiosyncratic parser interprets a preemptive attempt to UNLOCK CAGE before we enter to mean that we wanted to GO CAGE.  And it's too dark in the cage to see anything if our lamp has gone out, even though the cage is hanging in the wizard's forge-lit room.  I tried to CUT CAGE but that was also interpreted as GO CAGE.  So I decided to leave the cage alone until I could find some sort of key.

As this is a treasure hunt game, it pays to EXAMINE ANVIL and learn that Some of the black paint has chipped away, showing gold underneath.  It's solid gold!  It seems that such a soft metal wouldn't work very well as an anvil, but that's adventuring for you.

The game's scoring mechanism is puzzling -- early on I thought I was losing a point every time I invoked the SCORE command, which didn't seem fair.  I saw my score drop from 73 to 71 with no apparent reason, then I thought that perhaps each hundred moves lowered it by a point.  I had to look at the code toward the end of the game to figure out just what it wanted from me -- there's a 350-move limit, after which the player's score is prorated against that as "par."  My initial explorations for mapping and examining had used up 400-odd moves, which is why my score was dropping with every step.

Back in the Wizard's rec room, it develops that we don't need the asbestos gloves or boots to handle the red hot poker -- and we don't need the gloves at all, but the boots come in handy later on.  It's not wise to GO TABLE -- the shackles snap, leaving us spread eagle on the table with all four limbs chained.  There's no way out of this, either -- it's just an unforeseeable dead-end trap, though it does establish again that the parser's vocabulary is very limited.  We can't BREAK CHAIN or HAMMER CHAIN or UNLOCK SHACKLES because I don't know those words.  Carrying the wizard's outfit doesn't seem to stop the table or cage traps, but we can't WEAR anything, so that's not an option either.

There are not many rooms in the map, but some puzzles are not obvious either.  The biggest problem I ran into is that some rooms do not actually list all available exits -- so I thought I had mapped everything and was trying to make sense of the game with an incomplete picture of the world.  A random attempt to go E opened up sturnning vistas, fascinating possibilities, and... well, mostly... annoying mapping requirements.

There's a large maze to map out, but at least the room names are somewhat unique -- tiny little room as distinct from little teeny room, at least.  There are lots of DEAD ENDs where we can only go back the way we came, and one room has an exit U to the Cross Chamber near the Evil Wizard's area for a quick escape.  Beyond the initial section of the maze lies a more difficult maze of twisty little passages, some of which are one-way but none of the rooms are easy to distinguish without dropping a lot of "bread crumb" items.

The guillotine room has a giant rock balanced on the ledge above you, but this rock of Damocles is never more than an idle threat as far as I could determine.  Above this area is the Bridge over hell, a red hot iron crossing which accounts for the asbestos boots.  Without them, GO BRIDGE only establishes that Your shoed [sic] burned off and you fell in a pool of molten lava.

Nearby is the lair of the ancient scholar, with graffiti, a treasure map, a mouldy book, and a parchment scroll. 

READ SCROLL yields, "Scroll are useful / thanks for playing / signed / Pete Tyjewski"READ BOOK tells us, "If you have me with you you can read elvin [sic] runes."  Now READ COIN indicates, "If you have me with you, and say valoor, I will reveal, A secret door."  Good!

READ MAP produces some ASCII art showing the Pirate's Treasure Room concealed behind a Secret Door on the Ledge with the Giant Rock.  So I guess we don't have to wander around saying valoor indiscriminately!  Checking in person discovers the secret door, as advertised, but we can't OPEN DOOR or GO DOOR.  Hmmmm.

With the asbestos boots (the gloves are not needed), we can GO BRIDGE to reach a wide ledge and the Quad Chamber which is much like the Cross Chamber, with exits in multiple directions.

Near an arch is a sign reading, Archie's Place - Magicians only / full formal dress required.  If we don't have the wizard's outfit in hand, then an ugly house trained troll ejects you saying 'You ain't got fittin clothes you ain't a comin in.'   Nice to see that Ma and Pa Kettle have apparently started a home for wayward trolls, though they haven't taught him a thing about punctuation.

To the east of the quad chamber there's a Green Room, which seems to exist only to deliver an in-joke, personal dig, or industry warning:  Scratched on the wall are the words: Beware Long John Lindy -- the software pirate. 

A small chamber has a one-way hole that takes us back to the Low Chamber; it's probably intended to help us escape if we forgot to bring the keg of whale oil along to keep the lamp going.

With the Evil Wizard's hat, robe and rod in hand, we can get into Archie's place where we find a door to the Bucaneer [sic] Lounge.  We can't GO LOUNGE at all, and can't GO DOOR without satisfying certain vague prerequisites -- You must have known a pirate and have a treasure to enter.

I navigated the entire twisty little maze in hopes of satisfying one or both of these requirements, but mapped the whole complex zone without finding either a pirate or a treasure.  So I resorted to taking a peek at the code to learn that we need a magic sword first.  It is found in room 68, the armory, which turns out to be U off of the Cross Chamber; it's not kidding when it says there are passages in all directions, and I had completely missed this location, which also contains a golden shield and a golden dagger.  READ SWORD reveals more elven runes indicating that with the sword in hand, we can SAY VARGAY to open doors magically.  This works to open the Evil Wizard's iron cage so we can claim the golden crown.

We can also use the sword to get into the Pirate's Treasure Chamber; it initially looks empty, but unannounced to the north lies a little nitch [sic] containing a very large treasure chestEXAMINE CHEST establishes, finally, that The whole idea of this game is to bring this chest (INTACT!) back to the vault.  So THAT's what we're doing on Treasure Island!

We can't, however, get through the cross chamber's hole in the floor, or past the cell bars, or even the downward sloping hole with the treasure chest.  And if we're carrying it, the Evil Wizard inconveniently returns to block the way out via the throne room.  So we have four exits, none of them workable.

And while we're wandering around trying to find a solution, Suddenly Long John the pirate leaps out of the gloom and takes the treasure.  And he runs off to hide it deep in the maze, a la the original Adventure.  Sigh.  We really have to map out the maze -- the chest lies near its furthest reaches, and while READ SCROLL attempts to give us a clue, I wasn't able to make sense of it: Noon, Sunset, Sunrise, Midnite, Noon, Sunset.  I translated this to U, W, E, D, U, W, as well as N, W, E, N, N, W, with no resemblance to my own route.

Once we've found and reclaimed the chest, it's off to Archie's place again.  Archie apparently can't spell Buccaneer Lounge, mangling it variously as the bucanner lounge and the bucaneer lounge.  With the reclaimed treasure chest, we can enter the lounge, and access a labyrinth.  Oh, joy, another maze!  But it's a one-way trip with just a couple of locations to deal with.

Emerging from the labyrinth, we find ourselves in a cavern we haven't visited before.  Going D from here into a whirlpool leads us back to the original cavern we visited early in our explorations, and we can finally escape the cave with the treasure chest in hand.

However, taking the treasure chest back to the vault, ostensibly satisfying the whole idea of this game, doesn't get us very close to the theoretical 258-point maximum score.  I had to dissect the BASIC code to discover that the critical items we must bring to the vault include the treasure chest (50 points), the fragile ming vase, the disguised golden anvil and the golden crown (20 points each).   We also earn 30 points for encountering Long John the pirate.  So victory should be ours, right?  Except, still, we are shy of the maximum score...

So at this point we sonly have 209 points, in 202 moves of efficient play.  I examined the code further to learn that we also earn points for visiting each location on the map (1 per room) and storing all movable objects (2 per item).  So I made a trip back into the caves to verify, bringing a bunch of random stuff back to find my score slightly improved:

At this point, my curiosity about the scoring was sufficiently sated, and I decided it was not really worth trying to earn all of the points -- to do so, we have to accomplish all these objectives in less than 350 moves, and instead of a vault full of glittering treasure, we end up with a room full of random junk.  It's no doubt doable, but at this point we've done all the interesting exploration and puzzle solving, and conquered the game's self-declared primary objective, so I didn't have the urge to be completionist about it. 

My 209-point walkthrough is below the fold; earning the maximum score by making a clean sweep of the map is left as an exercise for the reader, as I'm ready to move on to another adventure!  Maybe another SoftSide game, maybe something else...


N, W, S, S, E
W, W, S, S
D, W, N, S, S, S
S, E
D, S
N, W
E, E, E, D, S, S, S, U
SAY VALOOR (secret door appears)
SAY VARGAY (door opens)

S, S, D, N, N, N, U, W, N
S, W
N, E, E
W, N, N, N, N, N, N

N, W, S, S, S
E, E, D, S, S, U, N
N, N

(Somewhere in here, Long John should appear and re-hide the treasure chest!)

W, S, S
S, D, N, N

(to reclaim treasure chest...)

W, W, N, N, E, U, U
N, E, D, U, W
D, S, E, D, D, D
W, U

(back at cross chamber)

E, E, D, S, S, U, N
N, N
GO DOOR (into the labyrinth - another maze, but brief)
W, W, S, D (back at cavern)
W, N, N, N, N, N, N
SCORE (we should have 209 points in around 200 moves, and have accomplished the main goal of making off with Long John's treasure chest)

(to earn ALL points, we have to visit every location and bring every object we can carry back to the storage vault -- not just treasures, everything!)

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