Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Crash (198?)

This week, we're tackling another BASIC text adventure for the early portable TRS-80 Model 100 computer.  Crash is a wilderness survival adventure written by Russ Hall; no year is given, but it was most likely created in the early-to-mid 1980's when the Model 100 was popular.  The title is somewhat in question -- it's called called CRASH.BA at a file level, but the title screen seems to call it CAN YOU SURVIVE?  The title screen helpfully tells us that CAPS LOCK is required, and there's no SAVE or RESTORE command, so we'll hope this isn't too random.  We're playing using the VirtualT emulator.

I always encourage readers to try these games firsthand before reading my notes below, and this one is challenging but reasonably fair and brief, as we have limited moves to complete the entire game.  But as it took me numerous tries to find a successful path, I will include a full walkthrough at the bottom of this post.  And beyond this point, there are certain to be...

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

As the story gets underway, we are on a business trip, but have crashed on a mountainside after our single engine plane encountered bad weather.  There is a pain inside our right leg.

We're at the crash site, surrounded by pieces of the plane, with a coat lying nearby.  We have nothing in INVentory and it's repeatedly noted that YOUR LEG IS VERY PAINFUL, so we'll GET COAT and... well, we can't do much with it.  We can't EXAMINE COAT or LOOK COAT or OPEN COAT or SHAKE COAT, but while I'm messing around with it, YOUR PAIN KEEPS YOU FROM MOVING FURTHER, AND YOU CANNOT KEEP WARM.  YOU HAVE FAILED TO SURVIVE.

So I guess we ought to WEAR COAT for warmth... except the verb isn't recognized.  Neither is DON COAT or USE COAT or PUT COAT ON or PUT ON COAT or WRAP COAT.  Fortunately, there's a HELP command that lists all the verbs in the dictionary, and... nothing else seems to suggest itself, so maybe we just have to carry it along. 

We have a few moves before we die, so let's head east to a gentle, southern sloping, snowy mountainside; there's a STRAIGHT LIMB here, which may be a hint.  South of here is a cliff edge, and an area of dense forest to the east.  But we die fairly quickly, so mapping the area might not be the best way to spend our brief time here.

But we still have to do something to try to survive, so we need to look around a bit.  There's some CHRASH [sic] DEBRIS west of the crash site, and a butane lighter. Further west is a mountainside sloping south, where we can pick up an aluminum can.  Trying to travel south down the mountain proves fatal, however, as YOU SLIP AND TUMBLE OVER THE ROCKS.

Heading due east from the crash site, we encounter dense forest, and a bunch of sticks which might prove useful if we had the lighter.  Heading south, we find a dense forest maze, and can't really start to map it as long as we're dying all the time.

Let's try to MAKE SPLINT with the straight limb, or MAKE FIRE with the sticks and warm up a bit.  In my travels I notice that GET COAT reveals a candy bar, but not immediately -- we have to exit and return to the crash site.  More important is that if we GET COAT and GET LIMB we can MAKE SPLINT, solving one major issue.

Of course, this is a survival game, so just a few moves after we fix our broken leg, we start feeling hungry and thirsty.  We can GET BAR and EAT BAR, to address one problem.  But while we can probably get and melt some snow, I can't seem to MAKE FIRE with the sticks or find any portable snow despite the abundance of snowy locations.  And DRAIN CAN doesn't produce any useful result, so I'll assume it's empty.  We can die of thirst very quickly out here, it seems.

Back to the drawing board again!  I haven't written up a walkthrough for an adventure in a long time, but I sense this one is going to need some repeatable instructions, as these crises come along one after another in the early going and there's little room for wasted moves.

Let's do some more exploring, ignoring the immediate needs while we try to find solutions applicable to our next life.  South of the crash site, by a roundabout east/west path, we find an area where the FOG SEEMS TO BE THINNING, leading to a hillside that slopes down to the west... fatally so.

We can also die by heading south off the cliff edge south/southeast of the crash site, but to the southwest we can find a beautiful moraine field.  Trying to climb the cliffs to its west leads to yet another fatal stumble, however.  East is the base of a cliff, with further exploration available, and south of the field we can see a large snowfield to the south.  Entering the slick, steep snowfield proves, yes, fatal once again.

Despite all the snow mentioned in the location descriptions, so far every place we've tried to GET SNOW we learn that IT ISN'T HERE.  West of the snowfield area we can reach a forested mountainside.  I'm starting to really wish we had a SAVE command, as there's a great deal of trial and error involved in mapping this world out -- heading north from the beautiful mountainside leads into yet another fatally steep incline.

We can reach a path blocked by the snowfield, a few "rooms" south of the moraine field, and explore a rocky mountainside southeast of the field where our footing isn't immediately fatal.  We can even travel south to a sloping mountainside with clouds high above, and east from that point to a mountainside with A MESS OF FALLEN TIMBER.  But we're out of food energy, so it's game over time again as hypothermia sets in.

Wandering into the forest maze tends to waste a lot of time, at least until we get some of these other needs addressed.  There is more treacherous terrain around the snowfield, more paths into the forest, and not much else of use.  And eventually it starts getting dark, with who knows what threats may lurk in the wilderness.

So how do we survive?  MAKE FIRE doesn't do anything until we have some sticks, and then THEY WON'T BURN... YET.  And sometimes that doesn't even work, returning MAKE WHAT? or YOU DON'T HAVE THAT when we try to make a fire... it seems location-based, but there are no obvious clues about where we can or cannot build a fire.  If we don't have the lighter, we're informed that we don't have a match, so there is some logic here.  We can't seem to DROP STICKS, or DRY STICKS, so we'll have to MAKE FIRE wherever we can and figure out what's missing.  It seems we're supposed to make the fire on the mountainside just east of the crash site.

Ah -- the DRAIN verb isn't for drinking, we're meant to DRAIN GAS from the airplane.  But we need the can in order to do so, otherwise the response is INTO WHAT?  Once we have the can of gas, we can MAKE FIRE on the mountainside, then MELT SNOW (suddenly it's available, though not as an inventory item!) and DRINK WATER.  Whew!

Now we can SLEEP, and at dawn we hear a plane.  But the fog's thick and we're not seen.  Maybe we need a bigger fire?  Fortunately it seems that once we've eaten once and had something to drink, we can SLEEP all we like and those requirements are met for the duration of the adventure.  But there is a general time limit, and eventually we can still die from being out too long in the cold.

So once the initial needs are met, we need to go down the mountain and bring back the MESS OF TIMBER. But it's getting dark, so we need to SLEEP first.  Can we find a shortcut back through the forest?  We can't DROP anything at all, so mapping isn't easy, and we need to hurry back so the helicopter doesn't leave without us.

We can FEED FIRE with the sticks -- another bunch appears in the same spot after we make the fire -- and save the trip down the mountain.  But the helicopter still doesn't see us when it approaches?  Hmmmm.  Is our fire not big enough?  Are we not visible in the fog?

I finally had to cheat a bit by looking at the BASIC code to figure this out in the end -- the helicopter always arrives on move 45, and we have to have a large fire built or we're not seen.  Bringing the timber up the mountain to FEED FIRE seems like it should work, but it doesn't -- we need to start a second fire in the clearing at the base of the mountain, away from the fog.

So on one final (we hope) attempt, we build the second fire, FEED FIRE with timber repeatedly, and this time the helicopter spots us and we are rescued!  Victory is ours... or basic preservation of life and limb, at least!

I enjoyed Crash for its intensity -- while the design is very linear and we have to execute most steps in a precise and timely order, it doesn't feel unnatural and the final puzzle is tough to crack but sensible overall.  The Model 100 didn't have a lot of horsepower by modern standards -- and its semi-permanent onboard storage can't hold more than a few of these text adventures at a time -- but this is a good and playable example of its capabilities.

For the sake of others trying to fight their way through this one...

*** WALKTHROUGH *** (below the fold)

GET BAR (it has appeared somehow)
SLEEP (plane arrives but doesn't see us)
GET STICKS (more have appeared)
DRAIN GAS (again)
FEED FIRE (keep feeding until helicopter arrives)

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