Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Adventure of the Week: The Treasures of Barboz (1985)

The Treasures of Barboz await our adventuring skills this week, written in Atari 400/800 BASIC by Chris Smith and published by ANALOG Computing magazine in 1985. 

We can surmise that this is likely to be a standard treasure hunt adventure, judging from the title.  The game sports a windowed interface, with most space devoted to the location/direction/items display with just a few lines at the bottom of the screen for input and responses.  The parser dictionary is fairly limited, with few synonyms, and the text is kept spare in favor of a larger map -- while the game's world and puzzle structure feels very ZORK-like, the technical design is more in the Scott Adams mold.

As always, interested readers are encouraged to discover The Treasures of Barboz independently before reading my playthrough notes below.  I'll be detailing my struggles and successes in detail, so there are certain to be...

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

We begin at the Edge of forest, with nothing in inventory and no interesting items in the room.  This area extends (loops) infinitely to the north, west, and south; the only real way to go is E, to a Forest path.  There's a Low-hanging limb here, but we can't seem to do anything with it -- most verbs I tried weren't even recognized.

South of the forest path, we find a small clearing with a Rusty sword that Looks quite brittle upon closer EXAMINEation.  Ignoring it for the moment, we can travel east to an additional clearing, where a *Gold coin* is available.  Treasure hunt confirmed!

North of the clearing and east of the first forest path location is more forest path, with some Thick underbrush.  We can't GET it, but trying to CUT it suggests we have nothing to do that with.  We can also go U to the top of a tree, but there's nowhere new to go from here and no visible items of interest.

Continuing east, we discover a Grassy flatland with a bottomless pit.  Just for fun, I try to GO PIT -- and AAIIEEE!! You fell to your death, as expected.  Fortunately, Mr./Ms. Smith has implemented a SAVE GAME feature supporting disk and tape, so we can restore to an earlier save.

Ignoring the pit for now, we continue east to discover the West side of bridge (we assume there is an east side off to the east) guarded by a Greedy troll with his hand out.  There's also a Small path near the Tressle [sic] bridge, where we can GO to find the Bank of a river.  At the riverbank, we can go Nowhere (?) according to the exit list, but we can readily GO PATH again, after picking up an empty flask lying here and filling it with river water.

We can't PAY TROLL, but we can DROP COIN to gain access to the bridge; we can now freely come and go on the west side of the bridge, but unfortunately, there's another troll on the east side who won't let us go back once we're there.  So we might as well explore the area -- east of the bridge is the Base of a mountain with a thorny bush and a small path.  Trying to GET BUSH is fatal, as The sharp thorns are poisonous!

It's more interesting to go south, where we find the Front of house with a doormat reading: "Welcome to the home of Barboz."  We can freely GO DOOR and find ourselves inside, so we may predict that there won't be many treasures lying around for the taking here.

A laboratory contains a Glass vial, with a strange bubbling liquid inside.  The dining room features a *Golden goblet*, and the library a Book of magic.  We can READ BOOK multiple times -- it suggests that some potions are good, others are not; that "My name holds great power"; and that there's a RETURN command, "To retrieve a seemingly lost item."  RETURN COIN doesn't work as I hoped it would, though.

The bedroom contains a Long enchanted staff, and an *Ancient amulet*.  We have a five-item inventory limit, so we may have to start doing some juggling at this point.  I tried to DRINK LIQUID from the vial; we're told that we're feeling strange, but I didn't see any immediate effect, positive or negative.  Back at the mountain, we can follow the path to find a sign reading, "One false move and..." -- though this warning is vague at best.  Further east is a narrow ledge, which we can cross to reach a mountain path and a Rocky crag, with a large nest and a visible Feather in side of nest.

We can GO NEST to see a Griffon fledgling, who fortunately Looks harmless; we can exit the nest to the north or south.  If we try to GET FEATHER from the nest, however, A loud shriek causes an avalanche!  And we are once again dead.

It looks like we've explored most of the available map now; what else can we do?  If we SAY BARBOZ, the amulet grows hot and we are forced to drop it.  Trying to KILL TROLL yields a hint -- You don't have the sword.  Starting over and picking up the rusty sword doesn't help much -- it disintegrates on its first attempted use.  EXAMINE GOBLET reveals that it Contains a magic potion! -- but drinking it has no obvious result.  (More on this later!)

Ah... if we exit the Griffon's nest to the south, we're actually on a different part of the rocky crag, and heading west takes us across a different ledge, where we must JUMP from one ledge to the other to get through to a Snow-covered ledge with an Opaque sheet of ice.  Heating up the amulet here (after dropping it) reveals an Icy cave, occupied by a Sleeping white dragon.  The cold also seems to break our flask of water, leaving us with Pieces of glass in inventory.  We can't seem to WAKE DRAGON or TALK DRAGON; the heated amulet doesn't annoy him/her either.

Well, clearly I'm missing something.  Giving up the gold coin to get past the troll seems like a mistake, and I haven't found anything like a treasure-storage location yet.  We can't DIG anywhere, and I haven't come up with a way to search the thick underbrush or make use of the low-hanging limb near the beginning of the game.

Fortunately, a handy walkthrough at the CASA Solution Archive written by Juan Duc suggests that we can SWIM at the riverbank (I had tried to GO RIVER earlier with no luck; we actually use SWIM to cross the river.)  We can acquire a shallow pan on the opposite bank, though we can't PAN GOLD in the river.  Going north leads us to a spot under the bridge, where another greedy troll guards a *Treasure chest*.  He can't, unfortunately, be bribed with the gold coin.  (And after we drop it, he won't let us pick it back up!)

Ah -- thanks again, walkthrough! -- we can pan for gold in the river, but we have to do it with a DROP PAN and GET PAN to do it, revealing a * Gold nugget *.  The troll will let us drop and pick this treasure up at will, but we still can't get the chest.  I'm still stuck, so I need another hint -- and I'm glad I was able to get one, as it seems that by drinking the potion from the golden goblet in Barboz' house, we can turn the rusty sword into a durable *Jewel-encrusted sword*.  But of course!

Now we have a very useful tool -- we can KILL TROLL on the east side of the bridge, revealing that he's the same greedy troll we've been seeing everywhere else.  We can even reclaim the gold coin under the bridge, and collect the treasure chest.

We can also CUT UNDERBRUSH, revealing a small hole leading to the interior of a hollow tree; its upper reaches feature a carving: "Store treasure here."  Great!  DROP COIN gives us a resulting SCORE of 10, so there must be ten treasures to round up; we'll keep the sword for now, dropping the goblet, nugget and chest to get us up to 40 points.  We'll also grab the Gloves of strength from the tree's lower section, that sort of gear usually comes in handy (we can WEAR GLOVES too.)

We can also CUT LIMB to produce a hollow stick, with a notch in it; we can't PLAY STICK or MAKE FLUTE, but we can BLOW STICK to produce a whistling sound.  We can't GET BUSH with the gloves of strength on, but they do protect us from the thorns, and we can CUT BUSH to reveal another small hole, leading into a Bat cave (not THE Batcave, note.)  Unfortunately, as soon as we enter, Thousands of bats cause a cave-in.  Even with the gloves of strength on, we can't GET BOULDERS, so we'll proceed down a tunnel to a Subterranian [sic] cavern containing a bucket.

The southern end of the cavern is lit by a Strange green glow, but it's not radioactivity -- it leads to Medusa's lair, who turns us instantly to stone, so that's not a good place to visit just yet.  There's also a Powder room with a wooden keg of black powder (not that other sort of powder room, then), a door, and a staircase.  We could probably set off an explosion using the amulet, but I don't have it with me at the moment so it's time to restore.

Examining the powder room a bit before we try to blast it (and ourselves?) off the map, we find we can go through the door to a small room with a stone slab above.  Climbing the staircase leads to another door, leading to a mine shaft above the slab, where we can pick up a rope.  We can indeed set off the powder keg using the amulet, even remotely, but there's probably a better place to use it.  We can't drop it in Medusa's lair, though, as there's no time to do so.

Restoring back to a point before the cave-in, some other experiments may be appropriate.  Blowing the stick at the griffon nest causes the fledgling to fly away (and the feather to disappear, which explains why trying to get it caused so much ruckus earlier!)  We can obtain some *Griffon eggs* from the vacated nest.  But now the feather is gone -- we need to CUT FEATHER first, because we need it to TICKLE DRAGON in the ice cave (thanks, walkthrough!)

Fortunately, The dragon laughs and flys away, revealing a frozen warrior, who didn't find the dragon in such good humor as he's quite dead, and a black shield.  Perhaps the blackness is from dragonfire, and if we can scrape it off it'll be shiny enough to ward off Medusa?  We can try to WASH SHIELD at the river, but for some reason this is only possible if we GET FLASK and GET WATER first, otherwise You don't have any water despite the river flowing nearby.  And yes, now it's a *Silver shield* which may be a lot more useful.

Before facing Medusa, I've had to do some inventory juggling up to this point, so we'll store the *Griffon eggs* in the nest to get our score up to 50.  This game is unusual in that several treasures have practical uses -- I feel like I need to keep the amulet, shield and sword handy, eating up most of the available inventory space.  So we have located 8 treasures, but have only scored 5 so far.

The shiny shield works as expected -- Medusa's glare only succeeds in getting herself stoned, and now we can enter another subterranean cavern. It's not actually a maze, though it looks like one as we enter, with lots of exits.  We just have to find a pick-axe here, and a rock in another room, so we can PICK ROCK -- no, MINE ROCK -- no, USE PICK -- no.  Hmmmm.

The rock is on a narrow ledge.  We have access to a rope and bucket -- can we TIE ROPE and lower the bucket down?  No, but we can TIE ROPE to the rock and CLIMB ROPE... and then Stalagmites and stalagtites [sic] close in to seal your doom!  We get a glimpse of some *Precious gems* before the rocks close in, so there must be an answer here.  Ah -- we need to keep the enchanted staff around, it must protect us from some traps by making us Barbozian in some manner... and yes, the text mentions that Something you're holding stops the ceiling from crushing you.  And it's not even magic, as it turns out -- the staff is just tall enough to jam the trap, and now it stays here permanently.

I suspect we can blow ourselves back out of here using the stone slab and the room beneath it with the powder keg, but now we have a new problem -- how do we get everything we need back out of here?  With any luck, anything on the slab will travel with us.  We can't UNTIE ROPE, so that's apparently not going to be needed later.

Next problem -- I can't GET KEG, It's too heavy?  Hmmm... I'm wearing the gloves of strength.  The walkthrough suggests we can GET POWDER, but the parser indicates we need something to put it in -- the bucket, maybe?  Yes, that works.  And now we drop the bucket below the slab, leave the amulet nearby as a trigger, SAY BARBOZ, and we're blasted back to the grassy flatland.

Now, we've lost the amulet in the process, unavoidably.  The magic book suggests we can RETURN AMULET -- but that doesn't work?  Uh-oh... oh, we can SAY RETURN and the amulet is now back in our possession (though if we're full up on inventory, this doesn't work or indicate any reason why.)

Okay, we have 9 treasures now, and the only remaining puzzle is that bottomless pit... though I don't have the rope and bucket, and can't see a way to get them out of the cave.  Hmmmm... walkthrough time again.  I had assumed I needed the pick-axe to get the gems, but maybe it has another purpose... and yes, we have to HIT (not PICK) BOULDERS at the bat cave-in site to obtain a *Huge diamond*.

Heavily laden with treasure, we drop everything at the storage location -- and we don't even have to invoke the SCORE command, as the game automatically takes us to a simple victory message immediately after the tenth treasure is dropped:

The Treasures of Barboz is a fairly involved adventure by 8-bit magazine standards, with some challenging dead ends and complicated puzzles.  I got stuck several times, especially on the sword restoration puzzle, but most of the setups make sense and the game provides enough feedback on close-but-unsuccessful actions to help the player along.  As far as I can determine with a quick search, Chris Smith didn't create any other published adventure games -- I wish he or she had, as this one was quite entertaining.

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