Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Haunted House (Model 100, 198?)

I'm on a TRS-80 Model 100 kick lately, playing a series of BASIC text adventures designed to run on this very early notebook computer from Radio Shack and Kyocera.  This week brings us yet another adventure with the common title Haunted House, this one written by Barry Gaskins, probably around 1983 or 1984, when the Model 100 was the hot new technology with its 32K of onboard storage and 40 x 8 LCD display.  We're playing using the VirtualT emulator, using the game file available at the Interactive Fiction Database.

If we read the instructions, we learn that we were lost in the woods, and when we entered a strange looking house, the door slammed shut behind us.  An evil voice COMMING [sic] FROM THE VERY WALLS said, "YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE THIS HOUSE. YOU WILL STAY FOREVER TO WALK ITS ROOMS AND HALLS," and delivered the customary evil laugh.  So it sounds like this will be an escape-the-house adventure.

As always, I encourage interested readers to tackle Haunted House before reading through my playthrough below -- but it's a brief and easy game, so you aren't missing out on a lot if you don't play it firsthand.  Beyond this point, for history's sake, I will be documenting my experience in detail, and while there isn't really much to spoil here, there will definitely be...

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

As the game proper gets underway, we find ourselves in the strange house's den, with a rope available in the room, exits to the south, east and west, and nothing in inventory.  The parser has an annoying habit of giving us the complete verb list any time we type something it doesn't understand; there's no EXAMINE verb, but SEARCH seems to serve the purpose.

Heading south brings us to the servants' quarters, where we can grab a key; there are no other exits here.  West of the den is the Kitchen, where we can SEARCH RUG to find A TRAPDOOR UNDER THE RUG !!  (the narration is given to hyperbolic overuse of exclamation points.)  So there are no big surprises here for seasoned adventurers; moving or taking the rug opens a downward exit, but we'll continue south first to visit the dining room, where for some reason a bucket of water sits at the ready.

Before we go down through the kitchen trap door, we'll visit the Trophy Room east of the Den to acquire a sword.  Is this a haunted house adventure, or a ZORK ripoff?  Will we need to bring treasures back to the trophy room?  Well, heading down to the cellar doesn't lead to anyone slamming the door above us -- we're already trapped, according to the premise -- and instead of a troll we encounter a ghost.  We can ATTACK GHOST WITH SWORD to try to kill it, as the parser returns an irony-free THE GHOST IS DEAD !!!  -- though the text remains as agitated about the dead ghost as the live ghost.

We can pick up a wand here, but USE WAND does nothing useful.  Fortunately the dead ghost doesn't block our path, so we can just walk EAST to the wine cellar.  We can GET WINE here, and travel east to the Aging Room replete with kegs, or north to the storage room, where some moldy food looks unappetizing, especially as we can't GET FOOD but can only GET MOLDY based on the simple parser design.

SEARCH KEGS yields a surprising result -- one of them features a keyhole.  USE KEY reveals a passage east into a narrow passage where A WALL OF FIRE BLOCKS YOUR WAY -- until we do the obvious and USE BUCKET, at least.  (The wall of fire remains on display, like the ghost earlier, but we're allowed to pass freely to the east.)

Now we're in a huge cave, with a HUGE HUNGRY GIANT here.  Except I must have done something wrong, as even though I thought I passed through the fire after putting it out, the parser now notes that we've burned up in the fire and are dead.

Starting over, I confirm that we do have to ATTACK GHOST WITH SWORD one time, otherwise it blocks our way out of the cellar, and that while the onscreen text continues to warn us that THERE IS A GHOST IN THIS ROOM !!!, it doesn't really impede us, being twice-dead and all.  And we have to SEARCH KEGS to find the keyhole before we're allowed to USE KEY.  I also realize that our recent burning death was due to a parser bug -- if we hit the [ENTER] key without typing any commands after reaching the cave, it acts as though our previous move was still being evaluated and burns us up in the fire even though we left it behind in the previous location.

We can now OFFER the MOLDY food to the giant -- who gets mad and throws a rock at us, killing us.  On the next try (there's no SAVE capability here) OFFER WINE works better -- THE GIANT DRINKS THE WINE AND FALLS OVER ON THE FLOOR DRUNK.  Surprisingly, we can GET ROCKS and carry them with us -- they're not as large or heavy as one would assume, apparently, so the giant must have a well-practiced throwing arm.

East of the giant's lair is a small cave, with some leaves, and we can see the open sky through a hole in the ceiling.  We can GET LEAVES, just in case we need to, say, stuff a scarecrow or something, and USE ROPE -- YOUR ROPE CATCHES SOMETHING OUTSIDEUSE ROPE again leads us up through the hole... to victory!

Barry Gaskin's Haunted House for the TRS-80 Model 100 is about as basic and linear as BASIC text adventures get -- everything that's needed to finish the game is used in an obvious way, and there's no complexity to the puzzles or the simple escape-the-house story.  We don't even get the satisfaction of thwarting the evil entity that trapped us in the house in the first place, just a generic GOOD JOB from the game's author.  As long as we pick everything up along the way, and are willing to restart a few times if we make a fatally wrong choice, it's not a challenge.  But I don't mind a quick play once in a while, and this take on a very traditional adventure theme provided a pleasant if brief diversion.

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