Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Klondike Adventure (1982)

This week's adventure has a bit of a Christmas theme, though I didn't expect that to be the case.  We're returning to the long-running SoftSide Publications disk magazine adventure game series, with SoftSide Adventure #9 -- Klondike Adventure, written by James Bash and published in February of 1982.  The author credit on the game's title screen is unusual -- most of the SoftSide games were uncredited onscreen, or at best had the author's name buried in the BASIC code.  Maybe Mr. Bash managed to slip this quick mention subliminally past the editors, just before the normal startup screen:

From the game's introductory text:  Face brutal snow, ice, and bitter cold as you search for fame and fortune in the northern country.  The player's simple goal is to find five treasures and store them in a specific location before freezing to death; this is a thematic forerunner of the later SoftSide Adventure #19, Alaskan Adventure.  We're playing the Atari 400/800 version here.

The SoftSide adventures are generally brief, uncomplicated treasure hunts, written by a number of authors with some "house style" consistencies and some interesting variations.  Klondike Adventure follows the traditional model introduced by Scott Adams -- we must collect the items denoted as  *TREASUREs*, store them in the prescribed location, and say SCORE to win.

As always, I suggest interested adventurers sample Klondike Adventure independently before continuing here.  I will be documenting the game's puzzles and storyline, and there are definitely...

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

The adventure begins in the lobby (is that the right word?) of a small building, with a vending machine and a sign reading "GOODIE STORAGE LOCATION."  So this is presumably the SCORE room.  INVENTORY at this early stage yields I am currently carrying: ZILCH!!!  The author's parser has a sense of humor and tries to keep itself fresh with randomized standard responses -- for example, its incomprehension phrases include No comprendo, Run that by me again? and That does not compute.

The vending machine sells FUR COATS for $19.95; presumably we will need one for the journey, to avoid the aforementioned freezing to death.  A locked door is to the east, and if we go north we find ourselves standing outside in front of YUKON BILL'S COUNTRY STORE, where we can also see AN AWESOME SNOWBANK.

We will also shortly discover that we can't even leave Yukon Bill's establishment safely -- we get locked out as we leave the store, and we'll likely freeze to death within a few turns.  But this is an adventure game, so we might as well map the world as best we can before we die in the frozen wastes. 

The Alaskan Pipeline runs through a snow-covered valley to the north of the store.  We can CLIMB PIPELINE to enter it, but it's not warm inside.  There's a frozen pond to the east, and some mountains to the north.  A KILLER WALRUS occupies the mountain pass -- we can't get past this surprisingly active large aquatic mammal, so we will need to eliminate him somehow.

So before we can really accomplish much outdoors, we're going to need that fur coat; we'll need to poke around Yukon Bill's and see if we can scare up some cash.  A PAN in the storage room inside the store might be useful -- this is the Klondike after all, home of the historical Gold Rush.  But The pan is on a high shelf and we can't just GET PAN, nor can we CLIMB, KICK, HIT, or MOVE the SHELF

The solution to this one is rather interesting -- we can MOVE or PUSH some items, and we're asked for a direction, so we can actually relocate these objects to another room on the map.  This is an unusual implementation for this generation of text adventures, and a neat idea.  We can actually move the vending machine into the storage room, and then CLIMB MACHINE to retrieve the pan.  Cool!  EXAMINE PAN confirms that I don't think it's for cooking... so we can probably use it to pan for gold, if we find a suitable stream later on.  There doesn't seem to be one running through the country store.

We still don't have any way to  buy a fur coat.  We can't BUY COAT or OPEN MACHINE, but we can attempt to BREAK MACHINE -- and out pops a coat!  This reveals a bit of intentional design strangeness -- the author likes to avoid using common words, so that we have to guess at the dictionary's intended term.  In this case, examing the coat reveals that It has a small piece of cloth affixed to the collar with writing on it.  But we can't seem to READ COAT or READ COLLAR or READ WRITING or READ CLOTH; most of these are not recognized as nouns, so we can't GET any of these objects first either.  I ultimately had to inspect the source code to learn that the dictionary wants us to call this a LABEL -- and READ LABEL reveals this is a *GENUINE MINK* and therefore a treasure.  I always like it when a treasure doubles as a utilitarian object -- and I can image players wondering where that fifth treasure could possibly be, when they've been wearing it all along.

Now that we're suitably befurred, we can explore the game's world in more detail.  The Alaskan Pipeline is a bit of a maze, but it's linear and fairly easy to map now that we can stay warm long enough to do it properly.  There's a valve inside the pipe; we can TURN VALVE, but Oil comes gushing down the pipeline towards me! I drown in a sea of petroleum! I'M TERMINATED!!  So that's a bad idea.  At the end of the pipeline we arrive in an oil field with a LARGE OIL WELL, and atop the oil well we find an OLD PARCHMENT, which turns out to be Yukon Bill's Last Will and Testament -- we can claim the oil well simply by signing on the dotted line.  Of course, this is an adventure game, so we have to find something with which to SIGN PARCHMENT.

I pause here to note that READ and EXAMINE seem to be the same verb in this game -- so we don't have to deal with any pointlessly obtuse There's writing on it! messages.

We can't just KILL WALRUS, because He gets upset. He eats me!   We can BREAK ICE on the frozen pond to swim underneath -- we are told it's surprisingly warm - it must come from a geyser of some sort.  This is another simple maze -- we can just go straight down to the bottom and ignore the other directions offered for exploration.  But there are definite limitations on how long we can hold our breath, and there's no apparent reason to come down here yet.

I checked, and moving the GOODIE STORAGE LOCATION sign does NOT actually move the location, so we will eventually have to get back into Yukon Bill's Country Store to get credit for our accumulated treasures.

And the AWESOME SNOWBANK doesn't register as a noun with which we can do anything, according to the implacable parser.  I was getting a bit stuck at this point -- I had run into several dead ends, without the one key I assumed would unlock some other solutions -- and I finally had to reference the code to learn we can collapse the snowbank with a YELL.  This reveals a key -- literally; it opens both the front door and the door at the end of the hallway inside Yukon Bill's.

The toolshop inside contains a SCRAP OF PAPER with YUKON BILL'S CHRISTMAS LIST - item 1 is a Pickax, item 2 is a Surprise gift...  There are no treasures here, but we can surmise a pickax will be involved in this story at some point.

With the snowbank collapsed, we can GET SNOW, MAKE SNOWBALL and THROW SNOWBALL - AT WHAT? - AT WALRUS to get him out of the way.  We can now access, but not enter, a FLOWING GLACIAL RIVER -- because I get frostbite! I'M TERMINATED! -- nor can we seem to PAN RIVER or PAN GOLD.  There's a hole in the glacier from which the river flows, but it's too dark to see inside, and we can easily slip and suffer a fatal broken neck in the traditional adventurer's manner.

Things become more interesting when we suddenly find ourselves at the North Pole -- and a billboard outside a building reads, "SANTA'S WORKSHOP."   The building can be entered -- it is, of course, S.C.'S HOUSE, and there's a FAT GUY IN RED SUIT here.  The stable to the west contains a REINDEER, who turns out to be the famous Rudolph, just in case we needed further confirmation of our whereabouts.  We can try to KILL SANTA -- one of the pleasures of old-fashioned text adventures is trying anything we can type -- but the jolly old elf only gets mad and walks away, permanently.  We can't seem to show Yukon Bill's list to Santa, even though LOOK SANTA indicates that He seems to be expecting something.

Oh, dear -- I think I just figured out what he's expecting.  We have to SIT LAP first -- LOL! -- and we need Yukon Bill's Christmas List in hand.  Now we can ASK PICKAX -- and despite the grammatically awkward phrasing, Santa says 'Ho Ho HO'.  And a PLATINUM PICKAX appears on his lap.  (Sounds painful, but it serves him right for calling me a Ho.)

ASK INK also works (handy for signing the parchment will) -- though ASK PEN and ASK for other things gets no response.  The parser's responses inadvertently reveal whether any particular noun is known to the dictionary -- we can see the difference between ASK WHAT? and a recognized item name.  I took advantage of Santa's tendency to leak information to learn that no SHOVEL or LAMP is available in the game.

Given that knowledge, perhaps Rudolph's nose bears closer inspection.  We learn that IT GLOWS - '45 watts' -- and while we can't GET NOSE -- it's connected somehow -- we can UNSCREW NOSERudolph cries & runs away -- sorry, dude, but we have treasures to find.

With Rudolph's creepy disembodied, glowing nose in hand, we can now get into the hole in the glacier and find the even creepier frozen remains of Yukon Bill.  We can DIG deeper inside the glacier with the pickax to find a *FIST-SIZED SILVER NUGGET*.  We have to EXAMINE BILL more than once to notice that he has boots on.  We can't EXAMINE BOOTS at all, but we can GET BOOTS, which reveals that they're fishing boots.  If we try to WEAR BOOTS, the game responds, That's kinky!  Apparently sitting on Santa's lap is not bizarre, but wearing fishing boots is considered outrageous.  As it turns out, we don't have to explicitly wear the boots; having them in inventory is enough.

We can also use the pickax to dig at the bottom of the frozen pond and find a rusty fountain pen, which we can fill with ink and use to sign the deed to the well, converting it to an official treasure.

Now we've only got one treasure left to find, and we haven't used the pan yet.  With Yukon Bill's fishing boots, we can now GO RIVER and PAN RIVER to find *GOLD FLAKES*.  They're probably not worth nearly as much as the other treasures, but they count just the same, and with all five treasures gathered at the late Yukon Bill's Country Store, we just have to say SCORE... and victory is ours!

This one's pretty straightforward, aside from a few parser-guessing challenges that tripped me up long enough to send me into the code.  My walkthrough is available at the CASA Solution Archive, and also here, below the fold.  I'll continue tackling the SoftSide Adventures now and then -- they're usually fun and quick to play through.


MOVE MACHINE (which direction?)
BREAK MACHINE (out pops a fur coat)
N, N (door locks behind us)
N, N, W, W, N  (arrive at an oilfield)
READ PARCHMENT (Yukon Bill's last will and testament)
D, S, S
E, E, S, S, E (back outside)
YELL (snowbank collapses)
E (to the toolshop)
READ PAPER (Yukon Bill's Christmas List)
W, W, N
N, N
AT WALRUS (killer walrus runs away)
GO BUILDING (it's Santa!)
EXAMINE REINDEER (it's Rudolph!)
EXAMINE NOSE (it's 45 watts)
UNSCREW NOSE (sorry, Rudy!)
E, S, E
GO HOLE (it's the frozen remains of Yukon Bill!)
DIG (find a silver nugget)
EXAMINE BILL (repeat if necessary -- he's dead AND wearing boots)
S, S
W, W, S, E
BREAK ICE (fall through into warm geyser water)
D, D
U, U, U
W, S, S
SIGN PARCHMENT (it's now a valid deed)
LOOK (just to survey your treasures)
SCORE (victory!)

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