This week, we're tackling an Atari 400/800 text adventure, The Treasures of Golden Reef, published in 1985 by the magazine-on-tape Atari Computing. These magazines were fertile ground for now-obscure text adventures, as these games could be developed by a single designer/programmer on monthly deadlines; this one was written by Robert J. Fry, and credited to his company R.J.F. Software Co., Ltd. circa 1984 on the title screen.
It's a fairly conventional treasure hunt game that doesn't take too long to play through despite a few gameplay glitches, and its design and phrasing are clearly influenced by Scott Adams' seminal microcomputer adventure games.
As always, interested readers are encouraged to track down The Treasures of Golden Reef firsthand before proceeding to read my playthrough journal below. In the interest of documenting these games for history and nostalgia's sake, my further remarks are certain to contain...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
We start out on Golden Reef beach, where a typo in the intro text may not bode well for this adventure's quality. The traditional READ SIGN yields the familiar "DROP *TREASURES* HERE." While it's not formally mentioned, there is also the traditional SCORE command, reporting percentage of treasures claimed, and we will need to use it in order to finish the game. On the beach, we see a coconut and some sand and ocean. We can GET COCONUT but not OPEN COCONUT, and we have nothing we can DIG with, until we LOOK SAND and find a shovel. There's still nothing to dig up right here, though.
Heading north up the beach, we find ourselves in another vaguely familiar adventure setting, a field containing a hut with a thatched roof. There doesn't appear to be anything inside the hut, even if we dig. There's a passage to the west, and a path that (as it turns out) travels eastward.
We can GO PATH to discover a shallow lake and a long plank; we can GO LAKE and dig to find a rusty key (and we must GET RUSTY KEY, not just GET KEY, so there may be additional keys in our future.) It's too shallow to SWIM here, but we can travel further east to emerge on a grassy plain. Oddly, there's a cactus growing on the plain; we can't see anything special about it, and a clearing to the north of the plain doesn't seem to contain anything of interest either.
So for now, let's backtrack to the hut and explore west, entering a meadow with a cow. North of the meadow is a very tall wall, with a book lying on the ground nearby. READ BOOK returns only Maybe later... until we GET BOOK, and learn that It's called 'Animal Talk' and is full of jokes. We OPEN BOOK, and a leaflet falls out, promoting an as-yet-untitled sequel: "Look out for ADVENTURE 2 avalible [sic] soon from R.Fry,Bristol." (As far as I can determine, this second game never came to market, but it does provide a little more information about the UK-based author.)
Can we TELL JOKE to the cow? No, the parser doesn't get that, but we can READ JOKE -- all we get is a private "Ho Ho !" in response, though. We can OPEN BOOK a second time to produce a note -- it says, "Talking to cows can give you a MOOving experience." But we can't TALK COW -- the verb isn't recognized -- or MOO, or SAY MOO, apparently.
We can't CLIMB the very tall WALL -- it's too tall and steep -- and DROP PLANK doesn't help us scale the height. Aha! We can GO COW to reach Daisy's back, and then SAY MOO to travel -- though not in the way I expected, as she bucks us off and -- with an Adams-esque suddenly I'm elsewhere -- we find ourselves on a hilltop, above the very tall wall.
North of the western base of the hill, we find a cave... with a locked door... for which the rusty key isn't useful. South of the hill is a ditch containing a *NECKLACE*. The one treasure, returned to the beach, gets our SCORE to 16%, so we must have six treasures to find.
So what other puzzles do we have to solve? We can try to GO OCEAN from the beach, but Glug Glug. I drown. We can GO ROOF at the hut, and EXAMINE ROOF to find a small key, which allows us to unlock the cave door.
Entering the cave, we find ourselves in a north-south passage, and it doesn't look like we're going to need a light source in this game. We can enter a maze of caves but it's not really a maze, we can map it out without having to deal with any twisty passages or other confusing navigation. There are a number of items in the cave, and with a little exploration we can acquire a fur, and a spear.
There's another exit from the cave, in a room with a crack in rock. We can GO CRACK -- it must be a fairly broad crack, as inventory encumbrances don't seem to come into play at all -- to access an eastbound trail. Heading east, we can pick up some rope and see -- if not CLIMB? -- a tree before we reach the base of a mountain.
GO MOUNTAIN takes us to its summit, with a rope bridge. Before crossing it, let's go back to the tree -- we can't CLIMB TREE or GO TREE (TREE isn't recognized) but we can go U to see a hole in the tree. It's a pretty big hole -- we can't LOOK HOLE to any notable effect but we can GO HOLE to find another locked door, which can be unlocked with the rusty key to access a secret passage -- but there doesn't seem to be anything in it?
The rope bridge is more stable than I thought it might be -- we can simply cross it to reach a rocky hill. Climbing down the hill, we find ourselves near a mountain -- and a bear! We can try to THROW SPEAR, but it doesn't do anything but land on the ground, and now we can't pick it up as the bear won't let us. KILL BEAR has the same effect, though, so while the spear is an appropriate weapon maybe that's not the right approach. We can try to TIE ROPE -- To what? -- but TO SPEAR doesn't seem to work, so we have no opportunity to retrieve the spear for another try that way. We seem to be wearing the fur we picked up, as WEAR FUR yields only I ALREADY HAVE IT, but I never confirmed any practical reason we need to carry it.
Can we open the cactus somehow? The spear, the coconut and various attempts to BREAK it don't seem to work. The coconut has a cross marked on it? We can SHAKE COCONUT and something rattles inside. Dropping it from the tree doesn't seem to open it up, either.
So there's quite a bit of map here, and we've explored most of it, I think, but the puzzles aren't making themselves apparent... though I was playing this late at night and the combination of compass directions and GO commands led me to miss some available navigation in my mental model of the game's world. I hadn't been east of the grassy plain, for example, where we find a rocky cliff with Another cliff opposite. We can DROP PLANK to make a bridge, and cross it to reach a tall cliff on the other side.
South of this point is a stretch of moorland with a stone small enough to carry. And here on the tall cliff, we can TIE ROPE -- To what? -- TO POLE, then LOWER ROPE and CLIMB ROPE to find ourselves hanging over a small canyon with a *NUGGET* in reach; we can GO CANYON to explore further (without losing the ability to climb back up the dangling rope, fortunately.)
North of the canyon is a valley with an arch bridge and a small stream underneath. There's a fish in the stream, if we go there and examine it, and we can GO BRIDGE to encounter a crocodile; we just have to THROW FISH to send it on its way, and then we can find a *SWORD* on the river bank north of the bridge.
With the nugget and sword scored, we have 44% -- so there must be seven treasures, not six. With the sword, we can KILL BEAR and go east from that point to reach a pasture, where can we dig up some *SOVEREIGNS*. Four treasures down! And the sword has more uses -- we can now BREAK COCONUT to find a *GOLDEN BULLET* (or was that possible because of the stone?) So that's five.
What else? Well, we can GET CACTUS -- I was thinking it was larger -- but we can't seem to do anything interesting with it. I did some more DIGging and found a parchment at the river bank, but we can't seem to READ it and trying doesn't seem to do anything magical (READ PARCHMENT does return Maybe later... so there may be a particular situation where it works, based on previously observed patterns.)
What about the seemingly empty secret passage? Ah, more bad mapping on my part -- I was confusing the exit upward with the door inside the tree -- with that door unlocked, we can access more of the secret passage to reach a pit with a huge rock. We can't seem to DIG ROCK or PUSH ROCK or EXAMINE ROCK to any purpose, but we can MOVE ROCK to discover a *GOLD RING*. Just one more treasure to go!
Tracking the last one down was a matter of brute force and thoroughness -- I had missed a viable DIG spot, just inside the maze of caves, where we find some *DIAMONDS*. And now we have them all -- and I have to be quick on the draw to capture a useful screenshot, as the victory message starts printing repeatedly, infinitely looping until we turn off the computer!
The Treasures of Golden Reef is nothing special or unique, but it's a very typical example of the late-1970s/early-1980s style, despite not being published until 1985. There's no story to speak of, and no character interaction or deep mythology. But it was a pleasant little excursion, and I kind of wish Mr. Fry had published that second adventure promised by the leaflet.