Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Lighthouse Adventure (1983)

Our journey through The Rainbow Book of Adventures for the TRS-80 Color Computer circa 1983 continues this week, with Chris Wilkinson's Lighthouse Adventure.  Written in BASIC and available as a type-in as well as on tape and disk at the time, this is a treasure hunt with a little more atmosphere (and more typos) than usual -- we're looking for a golden cargo, seized by smugglers and hidden away in late 1700s New England.

The parser is slightly more sophisticated than the norm, as it supports PUTting objects in or on other objects, although usage is sometimes very situational and the dictionary doesn't recognize TAKE, only GET, which kept tripping me up.

I always urge interested readers to venture forth before listening to my own tales of erring-do, as much of the joy of adventuring lies in discovery, and Lighthouse Adventure is a fun but straightforward game that only took me a few hours to play through.  Beyond this point, I will recount my own experience in detail, and there are bound to be...

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

As the game gets underway, we find ourselves standing on a rocky peninsula south of an old lighthouse.  There are some rocks here, and EXAMINE ROCKS reveals that we can GET FLINT.  We have nothing else in inventory at the moment.

The area surrounding our starting point seems to be a maze of rocky ground, so we'll have to come back and map it more carefully.  For now, we'll head north to the ground floor of the lighthouse, with exits leading up, down and back out to the south.

Downstairs is the generator room, with a hole in the wall which we can EXAMINE to see a pulley system, now visible as an object in the room.  EXAMINE GENERATOR similarly reveals a switch.  We can't convince the parser to let us FLIP SWITCH or TURN SWITCH, but if we PULL SWITCH then NOTHING HAPPENS.  Clearly the old facility is in need of some repair.

Heading upstairs, we find a bedroom with a piece of paper prominently displayed.  READ PAPER reveals some clues in the form of a poem:
Presumably the meaning will become clearer later on, probably just after we've died, in the great adventure game tradition.  We can climb further up to the top of the lighthouse, with rocks below and an opening in the wall.  EXAMINE OPENING yields only I CAN SEE DOWN A LONG WAY.  Since we've just started the game, I'll try to GO OPENING and ENTER OPENING, to no avail, and also discover that I DON'T KNOW HOW TO JUMP.  Probably a good thing, that.

The map so far is pretty small, so we'll go back to the basement and mess with the pulley system a little.  It appears to be a dumbwaiter, so we'll try to PULL PULLEY and observe that THE PLATFORM STARTS TO RISE.  The same happens if we PUSH PULLEY, so it appears to be a one-way movement.  And I can't find a way to climb into the hole or otherwise try to ride the dumbwaiter. 

Let's try to map out the peninsula with the few objects we have collected in inventory.  This doesn't take much doing -- there are really only two peninsula "rooms," one of which is the starting location, with all other exits leading to the other room, from which one exit leads west back to the starting location.  So we haven't learned anything new outdoors, and this game's frontiers probably lie within the lighthouse itself; it is the Lighthouse Adventure, after all.

Can we put something in the dumbwaiter?  I try to PUT ROCKS, but before prompting me for a destination, my attempt is greeted with HOW CAN I ; I$ I DON'T HAVE A MUSKET (a little bit of code cleanup missed there, it appears.)  So apparently the rocks are meant as ammunition?  Not so fast -- it seems trying to PUT anything at all produces the same response, so that verb probably has a specific purpose.

What else can we try?  A second EXAMINE GENERATOR reveals a panel, and while we can't examine it (I was picturing a control panel) we can PULL PANEL to open it, revealing A CORRIDOR LEADING DOWN.  Now we're getting somewhere!  Before we head down, I'll examine the generator one more time to see if it's hiding any other secrets, and the third attempt comes up empty.

The passage leads downward to a long corridor carved out of the rock, where a lantern has been left behind for our convenience.  Of course, it has no oil in it, so we can't light it yet.  South of this point we encounter a guard room, with, surprisingly enough, a live guard who WON'T LET ME PASS, and a rope connected to the wall.  EXAMINE GUARD prompts, "WHAT'S THE PASSWORD?"  So we'll have to discover that somewhere.  Fortunately, he's not particularly suspicious and allows us to walk discreetly back north.

To the east, we find a store room, with a tool box, weapon rack, musket, and dagger.  The musket is already loaded, so we don't have to deal with that just yet.  EXAMINE RACK reveals nothing special, but if we OPEN RACK we find some bullets, in case we need to reload.  We have a six-item inventory limit, the game now reveals, so I'll drop the rocks and the piece of paper.  OPEN BOX produces a can of oil, with which we can FILL LANTERN -- WITH WHAT? -- OIL, after which the can mysteriously vanishes along with its contents.

And here I encounter a common adventuring bug -- if we OPEN RACK and OPEN BOX again, the oil and the bullets magically reappear in their original places.  But since we didn't officially DROP them, they're still counted against the inventory limit!  So we can now only carry four items, and we'll have to restart and be careful about trying to break the game logic.  (Actually, using the oil as intended causes this same bug to manifest, so we really have a five-item inventory limit after this point.)

Heading west this time from the corridor entrance, we find a large dining hall sporting a fireplace and a dead smuggler.  EXAMINE SMUGGLER simply verifies that he's dead, but SEARCH SMUGGLER turns up a folded note.  We can READ it to see that THERE'S ONE WORD WRITTEN ON IT ....MARPLE....  Could this be the password?  Or was the smuggler simply an Agatha Christie fan with tattoo plans?

Before we try the password, we'll examine the fireplace to find a cup there.  We can't enter objects in this game, it seems, so we'll take the cup with us and assume there's no secret passage hidden in the fireplace.  The guard room's rope appears to be a bell-pull.  We'll try to SAY MARPLE here... and yes, the guard says, "GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, CAP'N" before vanishing into thin air.  Are these ghost smugglers?

We are now free to head south, but I'll try to PULL ROPE before going there.  NOTHING SEEMED TO HAPPEN?  Okay.  We stroll south into the chart room, where we can EXAMINE MAPS to see RATHER BADLY EXECUTED PICTURES OF ISLANDS WITH LARGE 'X'S DRAWN ON THEM.  (Presumably, all the smuggler's 'X's live in T'X's.)  East of the chart room is the Captain's Room, where a closed coffin is a surprising addition to the expected decor.

We can OPEN COFFIN to find a skeleton, and EXAMINE SKELETON to uncover a PIRATES LOG.  Fortunately, it's the kind we can READ to learn that it was written by a Captain James, lamenting the loss of his crew to one or more serpents (the late captain's lack of punctuation makes it difficult to interpret "THE SERPENTS TAKEN ALL BUT ME.")  This final entry trails off, and doesn't give us a lot of information, though perhaps the aforementioned BEAST is a serpent of some kind.

If we EXAMINE COFFIN, we espy a knob on its bottom and... um... PULL KNOB, opening a hidden door to the north.  This leads to a metal storage cabinet -- these smugglers do maintain a tidy operation -- with a RING (IT LOOKS MAGIC) and a bottle.  The ring has HIEROGLYPHICS AROUND IT, and the bottle contains a liquid we can't seem to identify.  We can WEAR RING -- IT FIT'S [sic] WELL.  And if we FILL CUP -- WITH WHAT? -- BOTTLE, we... encounter an adventure-crashing syntax error in line 166.  I'll go ahead and peek at the BASIC code with a LIST 166, since the error has pinpointed this location, and learn that what was supposed to happen was the cup was supposed to dissolve.  So it's probably a bottle of acid.  Fortunately we can GOTO 31 and continue the adventure; I'll drop the cup, since its only purpose may be to reveal the nature of the liquid.

We can SEARCH FIREPLACE again to spot a button, and PUSH BUTTON to open a secret panel leading north into a narrow path with a lagoon to the west, an exit to the east and a door to the north.  East is a small passageway containing a flute, and we can continue south to an ENOURMOUS [sic] VAULTED CHAMBER containing a TREASURE CHEST!  Hmmmm... something tells me it's not going to be quite this easy.

I guess the ring counts as something beautiful worn, and we ought to be able to play the flute for some music.  We can't OPEN CHEST, though, and EXAMINE CHEST suggests only that it is VERY UTILITARIAN.  These smugglers know their storage, all right. 

What about the door to the north?  If we try to open it, we learn it's jammed shut; actually, examination reveals that it's locked.  The chest is far too heavy to lift.  Can we pour acid on it?  Nope, it seems we can only POUR BOTTLE on something we have in inventory.  READ MAPS establishes that our avatar can't read Spanish.  We can't PUT BOTTLE into the opening at the top of the lighthouse, or anywhere else; now that we have the musket, it appears we just get NO EFFECT from any PUT attempt.

Actually, it turns out we can POUR BOTTLE -- IN OR ON WHAT? -- DOOR, and the jammed door disintegrates.  This allows us to access a large room containing a boat.  I wish this game had a SAVE facility, but we'll have to prepare for the unknown as best we can.  EXAMINE BOAT suggests that IT'S BIG ENOUGH FOR TWO OF ME.  We can't GO BOAT or ENTER BOAT or SET SAIL or LAUNCH BOAT or GET BOAT, but we can SAIL BOAT to find ourselves out on the lagoon.

We can return from the waters by heading E, and floating W, we encounter A HUGE SEA SERPENT!  IT LOOK'S [sic] TERRIBLY FERROCIOUS [sic or ironic]  -- we can try to SHOOT SERPENT, but BULLETS HAVE NO EFFECT ON A SERPENT THIS SIZE.  The musket remains loaded, at least, and we can try to WAVE RING instead... or SHOW RING... nope.  PLAY FLUTE?  Yes!  THE MONSTER SMILES HAPPILY AND DISSAPEARS [sic].

We can now reach a wide beach on the west side of the lagoon, where a trolley stands.  We can GET TROLLEY, so it must not be the streetcar variety, but just in case I'll try to RIDE TROLLEY and BOARD TROLLEY to the expected lack of effect.  What use could this be?  I carry it back to the treasure chest, and nothing visibly changes there.  I try to return to the beach, but I left the flute behind and now the sea serpent has returned, preventing that possibility.  Sigh.

Further exploration establishes that the bell-pull opens and closes the passage from the generator room to the smugglers' area, not of any immediate use.  Oh, here's an idea -- let's try to PUT CHEST -- ON OR IN WHAT? -- TROLLEY.  This works!  It's the British usage of the word, and there's a usage hint right there in The Rainbow Book of Adventures.  The physics aren't really presented in any convincing way here, but we can now GET TROLLEY and wheel the treasure chest out of the caves.

Of course, I CAN'T GET THE TROLLEY UP THE STAIRS once we get back to the generator room, so we'll have to use the dumbwaiter.  We can't PUT TROLLEY anywhere, but we can PUT CHEST -- ON OR IN WHAT? -- HOLE, and then PULL PULLEY to send it to the top of the lighthouse.  We have to put it back on the trolley there, and now we can come back down and exit the lighthouse -- to victory?  Well, we have the treasure chest in hand, but now we're just standing forlornly on the rocky peninsula with it.

I try to GO HOME, but that's not going to work.  How else can we make off with our ill-gotten salvaged gains?  Do we have to open the chest?  We can't THROW CHEST from the top of the lighthouse, but if we DROP CHEST there, it falls and smashes open on the rocks below.

In my haste to exit the lighthouse and recover the treasure from the rocks, however, I accidentally overstep by one move and find myself in the generator room again, where I run into a fatal bug.  I can't go back upstairs with the trolley in hand, once I've found it, and even if I DROP TROLLEY the game continues to insist I can't go upstairs, rendering me a prisoner.  And I can't PUT the TROLLEY itself in the dumbwaiter, only when it's attached to the chest, which is no longer possible!  So I've gotten myself trapped here, within what seems like an inch of victory.

Having one more go from the start, we manage to get out of the lighthouse to see the gold bullion scattered at its base.  Fortunately, all we have to do is GET BULLION -- no, whoops, GET GOLD -- and victory is ours!

Lighthouse Adventure is a fun little treasure hunt, despite a few bugs.  It manages to convey a sense of its world with minimal text, and I appreciated its logical puzzles that reward careful exploration.  I took a peek at the source code after finishing and it looks like we can try to shoot at the guard -- confirming he is a ghost as the bullets pass through him -- and we can also blow the door away with the musket, instead of using the acid.  The attention to detail is unusual for a type-in game, and Mr. Wilkinson is to be commended for allowing a variety of approaches.  A pleasantly brief adventure.

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