Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Ruins at Time's Edge (1983)

Up next, another vintage TRS-80 text adventure by the briefly prolific Anthony Wood: Ruins at Time's Edge, published in August 1983.  One of four releases using Wood's own adventure game engine, all put out in 1983, this one's an archaeology/fantasy adventure with a traditional treasure hunting plot and one potentially interesting game mechanic.  As the title screen tells us, we must SEARCH FOR THE LOST DIAMOND IN ANOTHER TIME.

Wood's games are generally straightforward -- it's not that they're overly easy, but his designs are gentle, with clear descriptions that provide sufficient information for solving the puzzles.  So Ruins at Time's Edge is a good introductory adventure, a brief but fun experience.  As always, I encourage interested readers to try the game out before continuing with my commentary below.  And in this case that's especially easy to encourage, as Mr. Wood has made the games freely available at his own website.  Beyond this point, be reminded that for history's sake, there are bound to be...

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

We start out standing in front of some OLD RUINS, but LOOK RUINS tells us that I see nothing special.  So we have to do some exploring to discover that the ruins consist of a surprisingly unbroken wall, surrounded by jungle filled with weeds.  It's not a maze, but these outdoor "rooms" aren't of uniform size, so the exterior mapping can be misleading.  We can DIG outside the walls, but we don't seem to find anything.

In the courtyard, freely accessible within the ruin walls, we discover a giant worm and a pond.  LOOK WORM establishes that it's a very large and mean looking worm. Well over eight feet long.  He seems to be curled around a trap door.  Trap doors are always worth exploring in adventure games -- they seem to turn up more often than in the real world.  In inventory, we find that we are already carrying a sword and a torch.  We can enter the pond -- there's nowhere else to go from there, but we can SEARCH POND to find a crowbar in the sandy bottom.

So should we try to KILL WORM?  Apparently not -- attempting to do so yields only I rush the ugly beast. I swing! Ugghh, i'm eaten whole!  We can't LIGHT TORCH either, as I don't have anything to light it with.  We seem remarkably ill-prepared for exploring ancient ruins haunted by oversized annelids.

So it's back to the jungle to hunt up more supplies -- we can LOOK WEEDS in various locations to come up with a bow, some arrows and a tinder box.  Now we should be better equipped.

We can SHOOT WORM with the bow and arrow -- but even though Wooshh! Kaboom! The arrow explodes when it hits the worm, we are next informed that Oh my gawd! The worm is still coming!  And if we try to follow up with  KILL WORM (as before, using the sword) the parser is fatally coy.  Please tell me how you want to kill it, it helpfully suggests, followed immediately by Oh no! I'm eaten by a giant worm!  We have to SHOOT WORM twice.

Now we can use the crowbar to open the trapdoor, but the parser is more obstinate than when the worm was guarding it -- we cannot now OPEN DOOR or PRY DOOR or PRY TRAPDOOR, but we can USE CROWBAR to get it open.  We need to LIGHT TORCH before the game will let us GO DOOR.  (And it won't let us UNLIGHT TORCH -- I won't be able to see!)  It seems the engine has no support for darkness, so it has to prevent us from going into the darkness and discovering it's actually still light.

The underground "dungeon" is fairly compact.  A dank room holds a WOOD CHEST, and The chest is too tough to allow us to USE CROWBAR.  An old crumbling room contains a FLASK OF OIL. A mysterious LARGE CHURNING CLOUD OF MIST occupies a large round room.  And the large room that seems to have once been for worship contains a STATUE.

If we GO CLOUD, we learn that Aggghh!!! Some strange forces rip me apart!  It's odd, because we can SEARCH CLOUD with impunity, finding nothing but somehow avoiding these mysterious forces.

The statue has a keyhole hidden in its ear, and trying to TURN STATUE yields I don't have a key.  We can take the flask and POUR OIL, but The oil is soon absorbed into the dirt and we now have an EMPTY FLASK, so that doesn't seem productive.  We can't THROW anything into the cloud.  Hmmmm.

Some further experimentation reveals that we can POUR OIL on the chest and LIGHT CHEST to burn it to ashes.  We can't search the ashes immediately, as they're too hot to examine well, but they cool down after three turns and we can find a key.

Using the key on the statue yields a wearable gold ring, and as there doesn't seem to be much more to do right here, we can take the chance and confirm that we can now more safely enter the cloud of mist.  Not completely safely, mind you -- I feel like i'm falling, falling... Suddenly i'm 10 feet above some lake! Splash! and we find ourselves sinking like a rock

We can see an island in the distance, and attempt to GO ISLAND, but while the engine will immediately put us on a sandy beach in the description, we are still told Oh no! I sink to the bottom and drown! I was too heavy!  There's no time to embark on a weight-loss program, so we need to drop some things -- almost everything, in fact -- before going into the cloud.  All we can take with us are the undroppable torch and the ring.

Once we are actually safely on the beach, we can DIG to find a scroll.  There's a large boulder to the east -- as in Wood's mini-adventure Space Hunt, examination notes that There seems to be something under it...
And in this game, we actually can ROLL BOULDER, though it doesn't seem to do anything of value.  It does sport some writing, however: Press the ring to return to normal time.

A small and shadowy cave nearby contains the SPARKLING DIAMOND we have been searching for -- but it won't be quite that easy, because there's still a MAGICAL FIELD SURROUNDING THE GEM.

When we PRESS RING, we are informed that I feel like I'm falling....Suddnly [sic] I'm elsetime! -- an homage to Scott Adams' classic SAY YOHO line, although it should really probably be "elsewhen."  This takes us back to the trail through the jungle, outside the ruins, which will be useful later but seems premature at the moment.

So what should we do with the scroll found on the beach?  Be warned that if we LOOK SCROLL in the wrong place, it is still taken by the parser as READ SCROLL, and thus activated, it fades to dust.  Its effect is intended to destroy the magical field, so if we trigger it prematurely we will need to restore an earlier save.  Reading the scroll in the diamond room, so that the field is dispelled, we can now GET DIAMOND, PRESS RING and... what?  We don't really seem to have traveled through time, per se, just space as we warp back to the starting location.  Maybe we lost or gained a few seconds, but there's no visible impact.  So I wandered around looking for paradoxes and other time-related changes, but discovered only that with the diamond in hand we can READ some previously unreadable RUNES in a small room underground to see a little inside joke:

Beyond finding this little homage to the author's friends circa 1983, I wasn't quite sure what to do next.  But the original TIME/TXT description file accompanying the game tells us that the ultimate object is simply to DROP DIAMOND at the starting location to win.  And so we can wrap this one up in very short order!

I expected Ruins at Time's Edge to be a little bit more difficult than Wood's other games, as there was no solution posted at the CASA Solution Archive (though mine has been added now), but it's pretty straightforward.  My walkthrough is also posted here, below the fold:


S, S, E, E, N
N, W

W, S, S, E
SHOOT WORM (it's dead)
E, S, E
W, N, W, N
LIGHT CHEST (it burns to a pile of ashes)
SEARCH ASHES (repeat until they are cool enough to find a key)
S, E, S, W
USE KEY (a ring falls out of the statue's mouth)
E, S
DROP BOW (we can only take a few things with us, the ring and torch)
DIG (find an old scroll)
GET SCROLL (don't look at it yet!)
E, E
LOOK BOULDER (there's something under it)
LOOK BOULDER (instructions on ring)
READ SCROLL (magical field is dispelled)
PRESS RING (we are back in the jungle outside the ruins)
DROP DIAMOND (and we are victorious!)

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