Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Germany 1942 (1983)

Without necessarily setting out to do so, I've been playing through Anthony Wood's short series of adventure games published for the TRS-80 Model I/III computers.  Wood put out four such adventures in 1983, using his own game engine; the title screen for Germany 1942 establishes that he was based in Houston, Texas at the time.

Wood's games are generally pretty straightforward, but they're well-designed with enough detail to help the observant player to success, so they're fine introductory adventure games.  This one is a World War II adventure -- cast as a gunner in Britain's Royal Air Force, we have been shot down over Germany and must find a way to return safely to England (so this one will presumably be a bit larger geographically than most adventure games!)  There were a number of WWII escape-the-Nazis games published back in the day, but they were more popular in the UK, and this homegrown US title is something of a rarity.

As always, I encourage interested gamers to try Germany 1942 out before proceeding here -- my documentation of the experience is likely to ruin some of the fun of discovering its quirks and secrets for yourself, and Mr. Wood has graciously made his games freely available for play.  Beyond this point, there are certain to be...

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

As the story begins, we have parachuted into a clearing in an old forest; the engine tells us I am carrying something and I or INVENTORY reveals a COLT 45, some RATIONS and a UNIFORM.  Examining the used parachute discovers that A flare was tied to the parachute, which may come in handy should we encounter any friendly forces later on.

But a little exploration is our first order of business.  There's a narrow dirt road in the forest, but we can't just DIG in this game -- I can't dig with my hands! -- so we will probably need a shovel.  There's a gas station in a village to the east -- but we're in enemy territory, and if we venture out of the woods unprepared, then Oh no.. I'm caught by a German patrol.  Somehow they knew that I was here!  I took this to mean that we need to get rid of our RAF uniform, but we can't DROP UNIFORM -- I'm not going to stand here naked!  So we will have to hide out in the woods a while longer.

There's an old bucket in a pile of leaves in an overgrown area south of our landing site, and an old abandoned airfield contains a HANGER [sic], which is in fact a hangar, but its door is locked.

An old hermit occupies a location down a side trail, with a makeshift shelter and tattered bag.  His only function seems to be to prevent us from looking in his tattered bag; we can't otherwise engage him, but at least he's not about to raise any alarms for the soldiers.  If we GIVE RATIONS, then The hermit gulps the rations down and falls asleep, and we can discover that the bag contains some old clothes.  Now we can WEAR CLOTHES and get rid of our uniform, and steal the hermit's axe from his lean-to shelter -- later events will confirm, as expected, that it's AN axe and not SOME Axe Deodorant Body Spray, as we're playing a game written in 1983 and set in 1942.  I hope the rations were a fair trade for the clothes and axe, as otherwise we've rather exploited this gentleman.

Now we should be able to safely enter town and visit the gas station... except, no, we still get caught by the German patrol.  Dropping the colt and the flare doesn't help, and even with just the old clothes on our back we are immediately suspect.  Firing off the flare doesn't help -- it makes it a USED FLARE, but we still get caught by the undistracted Germans.  Can we hide the parachute somehow?  Yes, if we go to the overgrown area where we found the bucket, HIDE PARACHUTE yields I cover it with leaves.  We can also HIDE UNIFORM and other objects in the leaves -- and if we LOOK LEAVES, we rediscover them.  I was impressed by the implementation here, it's unusual to see a truly functional HIDE verb in these early games and works well for this puzzle.  We have to conceal the evidence of our arrival in order to enter town unnoticed.

Now we can get to the gas station, where The attendant says "Heil Hitler."  If we SHOOT ATTENDANT then we are captured by a German patrol.  If we fail to SAY HEIL in response then the attendant shoots us.  So we will have to go along with the Nazis for a moment -- it's a surprisingly uncomfortable bit of interactive moral compromise.

An old house further down the road has a front porch, and a front door that is NOT locked, and the house takes up a good portion of the map.  In a desk drawer in the study we find a rat trap, and a map indicating something is buried down the road to the east.  There's a step ladder in the closet, and a piece of cheese in the kitchen cupboard.

The house has a backyard with an oak tree and some long grass and weeds, concealing a shovel.  We can't CLIMB TREE, but we can use the axe to CHOP TREE and find a gas coupon in a chipmunk's nest.  There doesn't seem to be an inventory item limit, which is good as so far we have found a lot of potentially useful objects but haven't solved many puzzles.

In the bedroom, if we LOOK MATTRESS, then AGGHHHHH!! I'm bit by a big rat!  And then I contract a mutant form of the bubonic plague and die within the hour!, and the game is over for simplicity's sake.  So we need to use the rat trap here somehow.  We can't BAIT TRAP or PUT CHEESE but we can SET TRAP (as long as we have the cheese in hand) and DROP TRAP.  But we still get bitten by the rat, and the same happens if we don't drop the trap.  We can't MOVE BED to discover the rat more safely, either.  So we will have to come back to this puzzle.

The map shows an X on the road east of the old house, but if we just go there and DIG, then I'm caught by a curious German patrol that sees me digging.  So we will have to conceal our actions, somehow.

We need money to buy gas at the station, not just the rationing coupon, so that puzzle also remains to be solved.  We can CLIMB LADDER in various places to no effect -- we just climb back down -- but in the back yard we can ascend the ladder.  As I had already cut the tree down, I started over, and established that if the tree is still standing, we can climb the tree itself using the ladder.  But it appears there's nothing we can find up in the tree anyway, or so it seemed to me.

But all is not lost -- while I was wandering around trying my experiments with the step ladder, I discovered that eventually The sun sets.  Now, in the dark, we can DIG safely and find an iron box.  Unfortunately it is rusted shut.

At least I had some new insight into the game's design, and determined that if we drop the rat trap and leave the bedroom for a few turns, patience also helps with the rat -- eventually A rat is caught by the trap!  And now we can LOOK MATTRESS so that I find some money here!

After we BUY GAS with the coupon and money, and the bucket found in the forest, we have an OLD BUCKET FULL OF GASOLINE.  This sounds like a really unsafe way to carry it, but we are in desperate circumstances here.

We have gas but still can't get into the hangar, so we have to return to unsolved puzzles.  How do we open the box?  Do we need to drop it from the tree?  No, that doesn't work -- it actually just leaves it in the tree.  And if we leave it in the tree and then CHOP TREE, it disappears completely.

Experimentation establishes that apparently we can try to OIL BOX, but I haven't seen any oil anywhere.  A peek at the game data indicates that a CAN OF OIL exists. But where is it?  I'm getting stuck here, for the first time in one of Anthony Wood's games.  But fortunately Dorothy's handy CASA walkthrough indicates that we can climb up higher in the tree than I had.  (To Mr. Wood's credit, the location is described as in the middle of an oak tree, but with the BRANCHES ALL AROUND I took the description to mean the center of the tree, instead of implying a bottom/middle/top arrangement.)  I found it odd that I had not tried to do this before, but I think I did and just missed the right command -- it turns out we have to CLIMB TREE specifically, not CLIMB or CLIMB BRANCHES.

From the top of the tree, we can see a roof.  GO ROOF yields I can't get there.  There is 5 feet of space between us.  (Apparently the roof is anthropomorphic.)  But JUMP ROOF works.  The roof has shingles, and a key, and a bit of parser dictionary oddness -- LOOK ROOF while we're standing on the roof yields There is not one here!  We can JUMP TREE to return to the tree and climb back down.

With this key in hand we can now return to the hangar, UNLOCK DOOR, OPEN DOOR and GO DOOR.  Inside we find an airplane, and the can of oil we need to open the rusty box, which turns out to contain a compass, without which we would presumably be lost.

LOOK PLANE doesn't reveal much, but There is a place to put gas into the tank.  Good enough, we can FILL TANK with our bucket of gasoline.  Entering the plane, we should probably be cautious WEAR the life JACKET found onboard before we take off, which we can do with a simple FLY PLANE (Gee, this is fun, says the indisputably experienced RAF gunner, who apparently knows how to fly a plane also.)

We can WAIT for quite a while -- the sun rises, and sets, and our plane seems to be doing just fine on its bucketful of automobile-grade gasoline, but when it finally occurs to me to quit stalling and explicitly FLY ENGLAND, it's suddenly too late... Oh no! I'm out of gas. The plane crashes and I die.  I don't have a parachute!  So our preparations are incomplete -- we need to restore and go back and get our old parachute, it seems, and we might want to grab our uniform while we're at it.

Another attempt ends with Agghh! My parachute isn't ready to use.  I'm shark bait!   Fortunately the game's save and restore mechanisms are functional and user-friendly -- we can SAVE or LOAD at any time while we work this out.  We have to PACK PARACHUTE first, which also reveals the flare (which I had forgotten about several restarts later.)  Now we can parachute to safety, ignoring any nagging doubts about whether there are in fact any sharks in the English channel where we land and float.  We can't GO ENGLAND -- again, There is not one here! -- and it also develops that I don't know how to SWIM or just navigate out of the water.  But we can SHOOT FLARE (it appears to be watertight, fortunately) to be rescued by an English patrol boat, and solve the game!

This one's a bit more difficult than Anthony Wood's other games -- there are more "gotchas" during the climax, and I did need a hint for this one.  But none of these situations were nonsensical or overly contrived, by adventure game standards, and I enjoyed playing this one too.  It seems that Wood put out four text adventures, all in 1983, and then his output stopped for some reason.  At least he's alive and well today, and we still have the four games he produced to play and enjoy.

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