Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Adventure of the Week: King's Ransom (1986)

This was one of those busy weeks when I needed something very straightforward to play -- I'm working on a couple of larger games, and I tried tackling one adventure that I thought would be a short experience but seems likely to keep me busy for a while.  I then found a version of an old magazine listing adventure only to find it poorly typed-in, as a lot of stuff seems to be broken to the point of unplayability. 

So in the interest of having something to post this week, I'm tackling this brief demo adventure, King's Ransom, released by Incentive Software in 1986 to show what could be done with the company's Graphic Adventure Creator tool.  The engine originated on the Amstrad CPC computers available in Europe, but was ported to a number of other 8-bit home computers; we're playing this one on the Sinclair Spectrum ZX.

Oddly enough, this graphic adventure starts with a bare text screen intro.  It seems that the king has been kidnapped, but our mission is more mundane than this scenario suggests -- we won't be executing any daring rescues, but fulfilling a back-office role by raising the ransom to effect his return.  (Yes, our kingdom negotiates with terrorists.  Otherwise it wouldn't make sense to title the game King's Ransom, now would it?)

I'll make an exception to my usual go-yonder-and-play recommendation for this particular game -- it's so brief that the trouble of finding it and getting it up and running likely outweighs its entertainment value, and there are many more interesting games available on the adventure-friendly Speccy platform.  So have no qualms about venturing into the...

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

We begin on the bank of a stream, where we can GET LAMP to honor tradition, picking up an old oil lamp.  RUB LAMP doesn't produce any magical or interesting results, but we can LIGHT LAMP and produce sufficient light to explore the dark cave to the east.

Here we find passages leading south and east.  Going E, we get killed quickly and painlessly by a snake whose slumber we have disturbed.  Restarting and going south instead leads us to a fortress surrounded by a moat.  (The Graphic Adventure Creator system suffers one significant issue from my perspective-- excess text pauses but then moves on automatically, making it easy to miss important material when taking notes while playing.)

There's a dead rat lying here by the moat, and if we GET RAT and take it with us, the snake in the dark cave wakes, eats the rat, and goes back to sleep, instead of bothering us.  Traveling east past the snake, we find ourselves on the edge of a huge lake, where a solitary tree stands; we can EXAMINE TREE to dislodge a key from its branches.

There's also a passage south of the snake area into a crevasse -- literally, as traveling that way plunges us into a pit, to meet your doom on the jagged rocks below!  So that's a bad navigation decision.

The door to the fortress is a heavy oak door, looks very strong -- but its lock can be opened with the key we found lying around in a tree, allowing us to go east into the grim interior.  Fortunately, we don't have to look very hard for the treasure -- there's a gold bar just sitting here.  But we do run into a strict two-item inventory limit -- one item per hand? -- so we have to DROP KEY before we can GET BAR.  The bar upon further examination must be worth a fortune, judging by the size of it, so this seems to be what we've come for.  Are we going to be allowed to just walk out of here with it... ?

Yes, actually.  We simply have to return to the starting location with the gold in hand, and victory is ours!

Obviously, this "game" was designed to provide a quick sample of the GAC system's capabilities, and it provides just enough to accomplish that goal.  It seems like a decentt tool for the job -- the parser works fine, and the graphics editor seems very solid judging from the results.  It uses both vector-and-fill and bitmapped graphics to provide a reasonable compromise between detail and storage efficiency, and in this example it sidesteps the Spectrum's usual color-clash problems nicely.  I'm interested in playing some more of the games created with it -- GAC wasn't a huge hit as engines go, but it still saw more than a hundred games published and I'm sure a few of them are well worth experiencing.


  1. Hmmm ... maybe if you pick up the snake after it eats the rat, you can ride the snake like a surfboard down into the crevasse and discover the SECRET LEVEL!

    ... Nah.

  2. Just discovered a GAC interpreter for Linux -- http://www.glassfractal.com/games/GACPlayer/ -- and you can guess which game is demonstrated in the screenshots.