This Halloween week seems like a good time to tackle Frankenstein Adventure, written by John R. Olsen Jr. of (at the time) Newberg, Oregon, who credits himself only in the code and not onscreen. This original TRS-80 BASIC version was published in CLOAD magazine circa 1981. Olsen later produced an updated version called Frankenstein's Legacy as part of his "Thriller Series" using AdventureWriter (a.k.a. The Quill).
The technical approach presents onscreen text in mixed case, but we have to be careful to enter commands in uppercase only -- trying to travel n doesn't do anything, but N does. There is a SAVE GAME command, which is rather slow but functional. And we have a five-item inventory limit, so we need to be very careful sometimes.
I always encourage interested readers to play independently, at least for a bit, before reading further, as I will shortly be giving away everything I discovered about Frankenstein Adventure during my playthrough. In other words, there lie...
***** SPOOKY SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
The game begins in a classic horror setting -- from a dirt path, we can see An old rundown MANSION, an overgrown CEMETERY, a swampy BOG in the distance. (Not a toilet, UK readers, an actual swamp.) The mansion's porch features a locked door, in the grand adventure game tradition.
An inventory check reveals that we are carrying an envelope. The parser insists that we can't READ it, but we can OPEN ENVELOPE to find a key and a brief and vaguely portentous letter: "As my last living relative, you are entrusted with a great mission. (signed) Victor Frankenstein." Okay, that establishes some context. Too bad great-whatever Victor couldn't be bothered to tell us more about this "great mission." The key unlocks the door, and we can enter the family manse.
Inside the house we find an empty umbrella stand and a side table. LOOK TABLE reveals a note, if we are observant -- the room description updates but there's no other feedback given, so we have to notice that this new object has appeared. The note gives us a little more information: "In my secret laboratory, you will find my nearly completed creature. You must bring it to life! P.S. Don't walk in the dark." We have to GET NOTE first, or READ NOTE yields a misleading I don't know how to do that, leading us to wonder why Victor would entrust his creature to an illiterate relative.
The writing desk in the library contains a quill pen and pen holder. Taking the pen reveals a small secret passageway behind the bookcase; if we wander into the secret passageway, it's dark -- and trying to even walk back out of the darkness yields "You fell in the dark. You're dead!" So that's a bad idea.
From the library, we can travel upstairs to reach the master bedroom, where we find a four poster BED and a PAINTING of Victor Frankenstein, screwed to the wall. UNSCREW PAINTING helpfully tells us You don't have the SCREWDRIVER, so that's an obvious clue.
Our host Mr. Olsen requires us to examine quite a few surfaces that really shouldn't be very good at concealing their contents from a casual glance. EXAMINE TABLE in the dining room yields a CANDLE, and the kitchen counter has some matches. The kitchen cupboard contains an old dry lemon and a spool of silk thread, which will surely be put to some esoteric use before the story is over.
The candlelit passageway reveals a staircase heading down, leading us to the Doctor's dusty laboratory, with a control PANEL, the Frankenstein MONSTER (kudos to the author for getting this right for once!) on a SLAB, and a SHOVEL. The control panel has a lever marked "POWER."
But of course we can't just throw the switch and do the Mash. For one thing, the lever is locked. And there's apparently no keyhole for use with a key -- though EXAMINE LEVER reveals a PADLOCK, so that's a bit of a design shortcut. We don't have the right key for it, anyway.
We can explore the cemetery and dig indiscriminately with our shovel. We can dig up a coffin from a recent grave, but when we try to OPEN COFFIN we're informed that It's sealed. We need to use the crowbar, found in the swamp across the way (where we can't travel further east due to quicksand). Now we have a fresh CORPSE, but It's too heavy! to take with us, so yes, it must be fairly fresh. EXAMINE CORPSE yields a screwdriver, so we have apparently discovered the fabled Grave of Hardware Hank.
Now a snarling WOLF blocks our way out of the cemetery. We can't PET WOLF. KILL WOLF is, not surprisingly, fatal as That makes him mad! He attacks and kills you! Neither can we CLOSE COFFIN or BURY COFFIN. So perhaps we need a way to deal with the wolf before getting stuck here.
How can we get past the quicksand? And deal with the wolf? Closer examination of the monster's slab reveals a SCALPEL. This might be useful for handling the corpse, I had nothing to CUT it with on my earlier visit but the parser clearly recognized the possibility. And yes, after we CUT CORPSE, we have turned it into a MUTILATED CORPSE and can now obtain a HEART and a LIVER.
We should probably use the heart for the monster, and give the liver to the wolf. Yes! The wolf grabs the LIVER and runs off... unless we chose to be more aggressive and THROW LIVER, in which case he gets mad again and kills us.
With the screwdriver, we can discover a SAFE behind the portrait in the master bedroom. It has a combination lock, so OPEN SAFE prompts What's the combination? Hmmmm.
So it's back to the lab with our ill-gotten heart. There's no need for fancy surgery here, we can just PUT HEART -- In two words, tell me where? -- IN MONSTER. But we can't quite finish the job -- SEW MONSTER indicates You can't do that...yet!
And... dang it, the candle does run out of light eventually! The engine starts warning us at 20 turns, and the candle disappears completely after running out. We can UNLIGHT CANDLE to conserve it, but I had to replay more carefully to get back to this point with more light available.
So what puzzles remain? Opening the safe, getting into the crypt, and reaching the mill across the quicksand bog, it would seem. We can't seem to DIG anywhere but the cemetery, or cut the dried lemon with the scalpel in search of treasure -- Frankenstein Adventure is very much a one-use-and-done design. If we try to READ them, the tombstones in the cemetery all say, "It's just names and dates." Mr. Olsen holds no truck with genealogy, apparently.
I got stuck here, so I resorted to Dorothy's walkthrough at the CASA Solution Archive -- the NOTE contains hidden writing we can reveal by holding it over a candle! I have clearly forgotten my big book of cool science tricks, and failed to realize that the dried lemon was a clue. We have to PUT NOTE -- In two words, tell me where? -- OVER CANDLE, revealing the combination 26-27-24 (in my playthrough, this is actually randomized), and Then the note burns up. Now we can open the safe in the master bedroom to obtain a MAP laying out a secret trail through the quicksand bog, and a DIARY. The diary indicates we need electrodes, heart and liver -- hopefully we will find the electrodes across the bog!
We can FOLLOW MAP -- simply having it and walking into the bog is not a safe approach -- to reach the ruins of the old mill. There's a hole in the decaying floorboards, leading to a dark, damp tunnel with a stone slab. We can PUSH SLAB to enter the crypt, which contains marble statues, an urn and a cane. The statues look like angels, the urn contains ashes, and the cane has a silver wolf's head handle.
We come out of the crypt in the cemetery again, where to our probable dismay we discover that the snarling wolf has returned! With the cane, we can now KILL WOLF, returning him to human form as a dead MAN. He happens to be carrying a needle, conveniently for our purposes (I will assume it is a sewing needle and not the hypodermic variety.)
And -- drat the luck -- I ran out of light and had to start over again. This was okay because I had also realized I shouldn't have given the liver to the wolf, now that I've read the diary; is it possible that the wolf doesn't show up until we've cut the corpse? No, he shows up as soon as we open the coffin. Maybe we need to get a new one from the dead werewolf later. This adventure is more complex than it seemed at first glance! (And in my retry, the safe combination is now 15-42-25.)
Yes, once the wolfman is dead, we can mutilate him too -- he has no heart, bizarrely enough, but he does have a liver (or else we've simply salvaged it from his stomach.) We can POUR ASHES out of the urn to find the gold electrodes. Inventory space is tight, and we're burning candle light, so we either have to make a few trips to the lab or take a risk by leaving the candle behind as we prepare to finish the mission.
Once again, we put the liver in the monster, but we still can't SEW MONSTER? PUT ELECTRODES yields Try CONNECT, which is helpful as CONNECT ELECTRODES gets them hooked up to the monster and the power supply. The activation lever is still padlocked, but now we can BREAK PADLOCK with the crowbar.
But I'm finding myself stuck again! If we have PUT HEART and PUT LIVER, we can't SEW LIVER or SEW HEART, apparently because You can't do that. Save your sewing for the laboratory -- even though that's where we are. And trying to GET either organ again oddly yields It's too heavy!
So I have to start over again. Aarrgh! The combination this time is 35-24-29. And still I can't sew up the furshlugginer monster! I have the thread and needle and all the required body parts.... ah, we can't THREAD NEEDLE but we can PUT THREAD / IN NEEDLE, PUT the organs in, and now, at long last, SEW MONSTER.
Now we PULL LEVER for... whoops, not victory!
As we have sewn, so shall he reap! Frankenstein's monster springs to murderous life and we need to flee with the creature always one step behind us (even if we RUN.) We can't stop to do anything, or The MONSTER has caught you! You're dead! We need to have the bog map in hand so we can elude the monster, just in the nick of time:
This was a challenging early adventure, and I had a good time working it out, even if I had to resort to a walkthrough to finish it on deadline. John R. Olsen wrote a number of adventure games -- I've previously played his Jungle Adventure II - King Solomon's Mines, and an alert reader recently tracked down its prequel which I had been unable to locate, so I will certainly be playing more of his works.