Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Utopia (1985)

It's a new year, and high time I started exploring a new platform for the joys of adventuring.  The early Apple Macintosh computer was black and white, WYSIWYG-oriented, mouse-based, and more successful than the ill-fated Apple Lisa computer.  The machine made rapid inroads in the publishing industry, and also hosted a number of adventure games, with many original or unique to the machine.  This week we're going to look at the Mac version of William Demas' 1981 TRS-80 game, Forbidden Planet Part I, known as Utopia on the Mac and published in 1985 by Unicorn Software.

The Mac version is extremely close to the TRS-80 original, so I'll refer readers to the link above for more details.  The biggest change is the removal of the original game's irritating digitized voice effects, and the addition of graphics, created by Craig Sadler:


Reader and Macintosh collector Gael was kind enough to set me up with a good Mac emulator, and he shared some pictures of the original Utopia packaging, which I'll share here with his permission, as this is going to be a fairly lazy post gameplay-wise.  The Unicorn Software editions were distributed in plastic clamshell cases with attractive cover art:

Readers interested in playing Utopia are, of course, urged to do so before continuing here.  As I've already covered this game in its TRS-80 version, I won't be divulging as much detail as I usually do.  But I will be pointing out a few salient features, and there will still be...

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

There aren't really many differences at all between the TRS-80 and Mac versions.  The opening screen drops the original dedication to Scott Adams' Adventure International, and introduces the game simply as "Another Macintosh Adventure By William Demas."  The dedication to a competitor was apparently not a problem in 1981 for Fantastic Software when the TRS-80 version was published, but it probably didn't make sense for Unicorn Software in 1985, especially after Adams' company went bankrupt that same year.

The game's HELP output is the same, but now also references the hint booklet included with the game.  The verb HINT also works, which was not recognized by the TRS-80 game, and can be typed or selected from the Mac application menu.  Gael also scanned the Utopia hint booklet:

Sadler's digital illustrations are small, allowing plenty of room for the command window and a dedicated location/item/exits display, but many of them are quite nice, like this initial view of Utopia after the player arrives planetside:

Utopia is so similar to Forbidden Planet Part I that my TRS-80 walkthrough works well for both games (following a few corrections noticed by Gael!)  It's been a while since I've played the TRS-80 original, but I did notice some timing differences.  We have fewer moves available before our ship's rough landing, so it's a little bit tighter getting everything figured out in time for a safe landing.  And the ship takes TWO turns to explode, instead of one, after we land, so we have slightly more time to get out of the way (or to try, and then return just in time to get caught in the explosion, which is what I did after wondering why I hadn't heard the expected BOOOOOM!)

I also note that the centaur now just screams and dies, instead of saying, "AHHHH! POISON!" in the process -- this seems much more natural, though it means that a player who has not committed unintentional suicide by drinking from the river may not really understand what happened here, if he or she just stumbles upon the solution.

And the ending is now more final when we READ SIGN -- we don't get a password for Part II, and we don't end up in front of the gates of the Forbidden City, confronted by a small speaker.  Instead, the story's ending indicates that we live out our days peacefully in UTOPIA, instead of merely surviving the journey to get here:

Forbidden Planet Part II, a.k.a. Forbidden City, was also ported to the Mac as Futuria, and in fact appears to have been converted first given this game's introduction as "Another" adventure.  But the two games are very different -- this one is more fantasy-oriented, while the other is more sci-fi in nature -- and the links between the two games were always loose, so neither title really suffers from the separation.

We'll look at some other Mac adventures in the future -- I'll probably wait a while to play Futuria, as I'd like to look at some of the Mac exclusive games first, but I'll keep it in my back pocket, knowing that if I'm pressed for time, it should allow for another quick playthrough.

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