Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Dungeon Adventure (1983, Steve Sherrard)

This week, we're looking at Dungeon Adventure, aka DUNGEON, written by Steve Sherrard for the TRS-80 Color Computer.  The name is admittedly generic, so much so that there was a second contest-entry game in the same 1983 Rainbow Book of Adventures collection with the same name!  The other Dungeon Adventure is an RPG I haven't been able to get running under Disk Extended Basic, but this one is a proper text adventure, with a D&D atmosphere about it.  We're supposed to be rescuing a princess, but have been thrown into the dungeon ourselves.

The engine isn't bad but it's a little buggy -- the parser has a tendency to get confused about object references with the LOOK command, and while it has a SAVE/LOAD feature, rare in these amateur efforts, and supports both disk and tape saving, the save content fails to retain some important flags.  This makes the restore operation largely useless without a little manual variable modification.

As usual, interested readers are encouraged to take a Dungeon Adventure before reading my notes below.  The game isn't difficult or lengthy, although there are a few unforeshadowed deaths and point-of-no-return challenges that required quite a few replays in my case.  At any rate, take care beyond this point, as there are certain to be...

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


We begin in what seems to be a hopeless situation, in a dark pit with no obvious exits.  But INV discovers we've been left with a match and a candle, perhaps thanks to a lax security search, so we can LIGHT CANDLE and LOOK to reveal a stairway leading up.

When we GO STAIRWAY, we find ourselves in a long hall with exits to the south, east and west.  South just takes us back to the dark pit; heading east lets us pick up a sword at a turn in the hall, and there's a drunken guard at the guard post to the south, which is probably why we're free to wander around the dungeon.  We're not allowed to KILL GUARD, though, so we'll probably have to bribe him with some libation.

Heading back to the long hall and exploring to the west, we find a watch, which reveals only that TIME IS RUNNING OUT.  Continuing south through a small tunnel, we reach a round room where we find a bottle of whisky, which we'll probably want to give to the guard next time we see him.  But for now we'll continue exploring to the south, passing through a long corridor and eventually heading east into a foul-smelling room.

Venturing north into the miasma, we discover a room full of cobwebs occupied by a POISONOUS SPIDER.  Fortunately, we can easily KILL SPIDER -- and our sword crashes through the floor, revealing a cave entrance.  There's another sword here -- NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT IT, though as the parser doesn't distinguish between the one we're carrying... oh, wait, this is our sword, which fell through the floor into the cave below.  Good to have it back, then.  Sometimes text isn't quite as clear as an illustration would be.

We can explore the cave to the east or west... a musty room to the east contains nothing interesting, though it leads south into a supply room with a hammer and exits to the east and west.  We have a five-item inventory limit, so I'll leave the hammer here for now.

East of the supply room is a jagged corridor that travels south into a low passage, with exits west and further south again.  To the south is a store room containing some rusty nails, probably for use with the hammer.  West is the EDGE OF A SMALL HOLE, leading down.  Should we go down there?  Might as well -- the hole contains a ladder, which we can take with us; we can climb U out of the hole without using the ladder, it seems.

Returning to the supply room, we explore to the west to find a descending passage heading south again, leading to a dead end where we can pick up a rope.  (This adventure's item list is nothing if not generic, so far!)

Backtracking to the cave entrance underneath the late spider's den, we explore west from this point to discover a large stone room with further exits south and west.  To the west we find the edge of a pit, and we'll postpone going down there for the moment.  South is a curving passage containing AN ISSUE OF RAINBOW MAGAZINE, and we can LOOK MAGAZINE to find "A REVIEW FOR DUNGEON BY STEVE SHERRARD."  Apparently this was meant as a commercial title at some point?  The reviewer seems filled with enthusiasm, sarcasm, or both: "I LOVE DIGGING HOLES IN DUNGEONS."   Probably a hint.

We'll continue south and west to AN OLD FOOD STORAGE ROOM where we can acquire a mousetrap.  We have to refer to it as a TRAP, not a MOUSETRAP, so we can LOOK TRAP to see an inscription: NEVER-MISS CO.

The dungeon isn't too hard to map out, as many pathways lead to a dead end with just a few forks in the path along the way.  The only direction we haven't checked out down in the cave at this point is the pit, but I'll bring the rope and the ladder along just in case we can't climb out.  We find a shovel in the pit, very handy, and we can test it out by trying to DIG HOLE here, though we don't find anything.

How do we get out of the pit, then?  I brought the ladder, but when I try to drop it and CLIMB LADDER, I HAVE NOTHING TO CLIMB.  Hmmmm.  LOOK LADDER indicates it sports writing reading "4.U.2. CLIMB," but this seems to be false advertising.  Ahhhh... we have to have the ladder in inventory in order to CLIMB LADDER.  This is not the way these devices usually work, but we're out of the pit at least, apparently using some sort of awkward pole vault maneuver to launch ourselves out of its depths while carrying the ladder.

I suspect we're going to need to DIG HOLE in the right place to make much further progress, so I'll spend a little time exploring and digging holes throughout the dungeon map now that we've covered the obvious ground.  But I don't find anything.  Hmmmm.

I guess it's time to GIVE WHISKY to the guard and see where that gets us.  His departure reveals a small passage, and we see a sharp knife here -- though if we try to GET KNIFE, we cut ourselves and bleed to death before we can take any sort of action to stop this from happening.  So we'll leave it alone on our next life.

Continuing past the GinsuKiri knife, we find ourselves in a jail cell with A CAVED IN HOLEDIG HOLE here clears the blockage, and we can enter a tight tunnel if we drop some items that are too large to fit through.  Unfortunately, it seems I should not have dropped the shovel, as the passage caves in behind us once we pass through it.

I might as well continue exploring for a bit before giving up, and I soon discover that our candle can burn out, leaving us in the dark where one wrong step is likely to mean death -- and even stopping to try to take INVentory leads to an accident of precisely this sort, so once the candle is out, we're pretty much done.

On my third life, I SAVE before entering the hole in the jail cell - the game conveniently supports either tape or disk saving -- and discover that the shovel is the thing that won't fit through the tight tunnel.  So we'll have to deal with the cave-in some other way, or simply accept there will be no turning back.

With only the candle in hand, because I don't know what else we might have needed to bring to this point, I explore south of the new cave-in to find a dead end with a lantern and a locked door.  The lantern might last longer than the candle, but of course I've left the matches behind as well, so we'll just have to go until our light source burns out (LIGHT LANTERN yields YOU CAN'T DO THAT YET, so the burning candle is apparently incapable of igniting the lantern.)

We can walk past the cave-in to the north, through a small hall to... a point where the candle again burns out completely, and again I die on the next move even if I stand stock still!  Apparently if we don't have the lantern at this specific location, we're simply doomed regardless of the number of turns we've gone through.  Perhaps there's a bad draft here.

Anyway, we'll LOAD and try again... except it turns out there's a bug of some kind afoot, because while I can still see the CAVE ENTRANCE and the STONE STAIRWAY, I am unable to GO to or through either one of them after a restore.  So I guess this feature doesn't quite work as advertised, and we'll have to start over from scratch anyway.

This time, I go into the jail cell tunnel with the matches, the candle, the rope, and the hammer, speculatively equipped with the items that seem most likely to come in handy.  As it turns out, we can't LIGHT LANTERN until the candle has gone out -- and then we had better do it immediately, or die from a bad fall.

With the lantern lit, we find ourselves in a windy passage now (that is why the candle went out!) with a map and an exit to the west.  The map is A MAP OF SOME TUNNELS.  To the west is a large chamber, and west of that point we are LOST IN MAZE-LIKE PASSAGES, in a location with some moldy bones.

It doesn't seem that this is a traditional adventure maze, however -- the map is still geographically consistent, or at least it is if we're carrying the map.  South of the bones we find a slanted passage heading south to a BRIGHT ROOM with exits north, south, and west.  Traveling south again through a few locations brings us to a KEY.  There's also an outdoor location, outside of the dungeon, west of the bright room, with a sign reading, "RETURN PRINCESS HERE TO WIN."  Oh, yes, the princess -- almost forgot about her!  We've escaped the dungeon, but not our heroic obligations.

The key we found just might work on that locked door near the cave-in... and yes, we can UNLOCK DOOR now.  There's no princess in the OLD DUSTY CHAMBER that greets us, but a large intersection to the south has exits in all four cardinal directions. 

Trying to go south here proves fatal, with no warning, as we slip and fall into a crevice.  I LOAD my previous game, and this time I peek at the BASIC code to learn that I can fix the GO bug by setting F(4) = 1 and continuing; this workaround lets me enter the tunnel I can't otherwise enter after a LOAD and that won't respond to DIG HOLE a second time.  I'm considering this a bug workaround and not a cheat.

Returning to the four-way intersection, I find an empty weapons chamber to the east, and a storage chamber with spiked sneakers to the west.  Ah!  Maybe I need these to keep from slipping and falling.  We can't WEAR SNEAKERS, so I'm relieved to confirm that just having them in inventory helps us travel south of the intersection safely.

And now we encounter... THE DREADED MINOTAUR!  And me with no sword.  Dang it.

Another LOAD and fetch, and we're able to KILL MINOTAUR with the sword in hand, revealing A SMALL OPENING.  And at least we reach the royal chamber!

The princess is ON A CHAIR SCREAMING

There's a bed, and a chair, and a mouse!  Man, I wish I had brought that mousetrap...

But I'll try to KILL MOUSE with the sword... YOU MISSED THE MOUSE AND ACCIDENTLY [sic] KILLED THE PRINCESS!!  Oops!  Sorry, hero, your princess is in another phase of existence.

On the next try, I'll bring the mousetrap so I can TRAP MOUSE... nope... DROP TRAP works, though. THE MOUSE GETS CAUGHT IN THE TRAP AND DIES.  So not one of those newfangled live traps, then.  This may explain why the princess is still screaming, but we can just GET PRINCESS, and OK, YOU GOT HER.  She's treated as an inventory item, basically, and we can't TALK PRINCESS or KISS PRINCESS or otherwise put the King Graham-style moves on her, so we'll just have to haul her back outside the dungeon.

We're outside the dungeon now, with the princess, but we haven't been congratulated yet... so I'll DROP PRINCESS... OKAY, I DROPPED IT, as if to emphasize the game's complete lack of development of her character.  And nope, we still have no luck after dumping her unceremoniously outside the dungeon.  Can we SCORE?  We have 0 points.  What the... ?  Ah!  We have to have the princess in our inventory when we type SCORE... and however the game chooses to interpret that verb, now victory is ours!

Steve Sherrard's Dungeon Adventure isn't a bad little game -- there are plenty of rooms to explore, and some suspense and challenge in the endgame, even though the design is a little too specific about certain events like the candle/lantern switchover and the manner of the princess' rescue.  I had fun playing through it, anyway, and it didn't take too long to uncover its secrets.  Onward!


  1. The game doesn't state you have 100 of 100 points after typing 'SCORE' while holding the Princess, so one's mind can certainly wonder at what Steve was implying there.

  2. Just a heads-up (months later): the "other" Dungeon Adventure is far superior; essentially a scaled-down Ultima/D&D game in BASIC (certainly the best CoCo RPG game in that language I know of as a long-time reviewer with a site I won't name so I'm not spamming folks). But you need to run (and save) it as a series of cassette files until you know how to edit the programs to access the disk drive. If you see this and have any intertest in trying the program, put a response in here and I'll contact you.

    1. Hey, Iceman -- I am definitely interested in trying it out, if you can assist in any way it would be appreciated. Please get in touch! Thanks!