Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Adventure of the Week: The Beast of Torrack Moor (1988)

It's that time of year, when I like to play something that fits the All Hallow's Eve theme, and a recent reader recommendation brings me to Linda Wright's The Beast of Torrack Moor, originally published by Marlin Games in 1988 and re-released by Zenobi Software for the 128K Sinclair Spectrum ZX computer.  I've played Ms. Wright's Cloud 99, and enjoyed her atmospheric writing and sense of humor, so I'm looking forward to this one.

This is an investigative adventure with a monster theme, set in the English countryside.  A brief prologue wakes us up and sits us blearily at our desk at work, where a strange envelope arrives.  We work at a small regional newspaper, it seems, with an editor who's pressuring us for a decent story, something beyond the usual local interest coverage the Lowsea Gazette usually features.

I generally encourage interested readers to sample these adventure games before reading about my experience, and I always do so when the game is of sufficient quality to merit your time.  This is one of the good ones -- the 128K Speccy was a great platform for text adventures, with a decent amount of text onscreen and plenty of memory for prose and illustrations, even without a disk drive.  The Beast of Torrack Moor uses illustrations to great effect, providing vital clues within them, and Ms. Wright's writing is atmospheric and polished.  I got stuck in a few places and was grateful for Dorothy's CASA walkthrough, but it's not an overly difficult game, though it does have its share of old-school fatal dead ends where missing something early on makes it impossible to finish.

Whatever you decide, when you proceed beyond this point, beware... there are sure to be...

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

As the story begins, our area of the office contains a desk and a black swivel chair, as well as the aforementioned envelope.  Doors lead south to the street and east to the office of our editor, one Mr. C.D. Slime.  We have nothing in INVENTORY, but we're wearing some thin trainers, your denim jeans and a lilac shirt.  The player character is never given a specific gender, but I'm going to assume we're a female reporter for this one given its authorship.

The desk has a drawer and, possibly, woodworm.  The parser refuses to let us OPEN DESK, but OPEN DRAWER yields a bus timetable, a pencil, an electricity bill, and a notepad.  The bill has been paid, the notepad is full of illegible scrawlings, and READ TIMETABLE produces a barely legible graphic illustration, indicating a bus to L??? Street at 9:48 and somewhere else starting with a P at 10:48.  The strange envelope is addressed to LOWSEA GAZETTE, LONG STREET, LOWSEA, so we'll surmise we're on Long Street and the 9:48 bus is about to arrive in seven minutes, in my playthrough so far.

The letter is from one Rose Myrtle of Puddlecombe -- how convenient, it appears we can take a bus there -- advising us of a rumored strange beast seen on the Moors, a large black animal believed to be mauling the local livestock.  This sounds like a potentially exciting story, and we have no other obvious adventuring options, so we'd probably better try to get on that bus.

It's 9:50 as I get outside, after trying to tell Mr. Slime where I'm going to no obvious response, but fortunately the bus is still here.  But it's too cold to stay outside, and we're automatically returned to the office.  EXAMINE CHAIR yields a thin anorak, and now we can WEAR ANORAK and BOARD BUS.  Off to Puddlecombe we go at 9:57 AM!

We may have just made the bus, as we find ourselves standing on the Green at the center of the tiny village of Puddlecombe at 10:58 AM.  Ernest, the Torrack Moor Ranger, recognizes us as a reporter he's talked to before, and warns us that the Beast is not worth investigating, before he trundles off north.

A picture of the signpost here indicates High Street is to the west, Church Street to the southeast, and the Moors to the northeast.  The church clock has chimed 11 o' clock, and a mobile library has pulled up nearby but hasn't opened its doors yet.  There's also a notice-board here -- it tells us the mobile library will be on the Green from 11 AM to 1 PM, and that the Ranger can tell visitors about Torrack Moor if they visit the cottage on Moor Lane.

We can travel E to enter the library, operated by a Miss U.B. Kriett, where we espy a local map.  We can't READ MAP unless we have a ticket, the librarian informs us.  As we examine other possibilities, to no effect, Miss Rose Myrtle arrives.  ASK MISS MYRTLE ABOUT LETTER produces a smile but no response, and SHOW LETTER TO MYRTLE is also unproductive.  Hmmmm.  EXAMINE MYRTLE establishes that she is A sweet little old lady, with grey hair and blue eyes, but apparently a very short memory re: her correspondence.  I hope this whole Beast business isn't just her way of complaining about local rowdies!

Exiting the library, we try to head south, but the way is blocked by a closed door that turns out be locked if we try to OPEN DOOR.  So we'll head west into the High Street, as winds blow and clouds loom overhead.  There are some notices stuck on the doors here -- the Estate Agent is open from 9 to 5, and an establishment known simply as The Stores keeps the same hours but closes for lunch from 1 to 2 PM.

We'll head north into the offices of Connum and Fleesum, the Estate Agents.  The youthful desk clerk offers nothing comprehensible in the way of remarks, and we can't BUY HOUSE, so we'll move along for now.

On the south side of the street we can visit The Stores, a shop with inflated prices and a talkative parrot perched by the door.  Items on offer include a 35mm film (black and white), a can (of baked beans), and a torch (the battery-operated British variety.)  I BUY CAN, and then try to BUY TORCH, but I haven't got enough money.  So I'll have to try come up with some more, I guess.

We'll head further down to the west end of the High Street, where it meets the road from Lowsea and branches off into a narrow lane to the north.  A building on the south side of the street is occupied by MR. A. BITTERN, VETERINARY SURGEON, open 10 to 5.

We can enter the vet's waiting room, where a receptionist prevents us from going further south; we must have an animal in need of attention to proceed, so we'll come back later.  We can't travel further west on the road back to Lowsea on foot, so we'll head north onto Quarry Lane.

There are some pebbles here, which we can take before we continue north to the Old Quarry.  There's not much to do here among the blasted rockfaces, but there's a small shack to the west -- unfortunately, it seems the door is closed and latched on the other side, so perhaps it serves as an exit from some other location, or else we need to break the window somehow; my bare hands prove insufficient.

Making our way back to the village green, we head north to The Puddle Arms, a pub open 11 AM to 11 PM, VOTED BEST INN 1865.  I really like Ms. Wright's way with words inside the pub, where we see that "several stools are perched precariously in an imaginative line."

The publican, described simply as Plump, doesn't seem interested in talking -- this community is rather tight-lipped -- so we'll continue exploring the map.  Walking southeast of the Green takes us toward the church, as we noted earlier, and we find a poster along Church Lane promoting a JUMBLE SALE 2 PM HERE TODAY.  So we'll probably want to visit later on, it's about 12:30 in my playthrough at this point.

South of Church Lane we find a pretty garden, and Myrtle Cottage, with a bell by the door.  There's another garden southwest of Church Lane, the Vicarage Garden, and we see the Reverend S. Ermon passing by, as he gives us a brief nod.  We can't enter the vicarage -- Ms. Wright's genteel approach makes it impolite and therefore impossible to just OPEN DOOR and barge in -- but if we RING BELL at Myrtle Cottage, Miss Myrtle answers and invites us inside.

We can't SHOW LETTER or SHOW ENVELOPE to any effect, or generically TALK MYRTLE, but if we TALK MYRTLE ABOUT LETTER, we learn that she has seen the beast again, near the farm, a big, black, fast-moving animal she saw jumping over a gate.  She says that the vet thinks it might be a wild cat.  I can't seem to prod her into any other meaningful conversation, so we'll move on for now.

We can travel northeast from Church Lane to a path leading north to the east end of Moor Lane.  There are passages in several directions here, so we'll head east first, to the farmyard where Farmer Lamb seems worried.  We can ASK LAMB ABOUT BEAST to learn that he saw it recently, and it took one of his ewes the other night.  The farmer encourages us to confirm his story by talking to the vet, as the Ranger seemed useless when he reported the incident.  Visiting the barn to the northeast proves uneventful, and we should probably finish exploring town before we head east along the public footpath to the Moors.

There's a small house to the southeast of Moor Lane, which we can't enter at the moment, and an attractive garden to the north where the impressive home of Dr. A.M. Sawly sits.  We can't enter the home, but we can travel into the side garden to the northeast and see the doctor inside the conservatory.  I try to KNOCK DOOR, but he doesn't seem to hear us.

The west end of Moor Lane adjoins a Scout Hut to the north, with a locked door for which we don't have a key.  So I'll head back down to the southeast to visit the church, as it's now 1:56 and almost time for the jumble sale to open.  The church porch to the south features a notice board indicating that Miss Myrtle is on flower rotation duty this week.  I try to KNOCK DOOR, but nobody answers.  To the east of the church is the cemetery, and a bench which on closer examination holds a carrier bag.  This proves to be perfect timing, as when I try to pick it up I have run into the game's inventory limit; it's become very handy to be able to PUT CAN IN BAG, for example.

So where is this jumble sale?  It's 2:31 PM and the church is still locked up?  Ah, there's a church hall directly east of Church Lane by the sign.  The sale is crowded with old dears pushing and shoving in order to get the best of the bargains, and we see Miss Myrtle and Reverend Ermon here.  Trying to quiz the clergyman about the Beast only yields an errand -- he's left a box of books in the Scout Hut, and gives us an iron key so we can fetch them.  Miss Myrtle is promoting a raffle to win a rug, only tenpence for a ticket, and we apparently have enough money to buy one so we'll do that.

I run over to the scout hut, which is in fact a boy scout facility.  The cardboard box is there, as expected, and contains the old books as well as a battered pan, which we'll take for our troubles.  The books are boring and weathered, so I'll just deliver them to the sale -- nothing obvious happens after I DROP BOX there, however.

What now?  We haven't visited the actual moor yet, so let's take a look out there.  A field east of the farmhouse has paths leading east and southeast, and I find Farmer Lamb here, though he has nothing new to say.  A meadow the east features a strong smell of rotting meat.

South of the meadow is some rough pasture, with a gate leading east and a deep ditch to the west.  The ditch is man-made, full of stagnant water, and there's a  man lying on the bank, groaning.  I try to HELP MAN, but the parser advises us to get a doctor.  The doctor is still in the conservatory, and still doesn't hear our knock.  I try to BREAK GLASS or KICK DOOR to get his attention, but that doesn't help.  I try to KNOCK WINDOW, PULL DOOR, and SHOUT DOCTOR, all to no avail.  I guess the fellow in the ditch will have to cling to life on his own a little while longer.

The rough pasture's gate is chained shut and can't be opened.  The man in the ditch appears to be a twitcher, that is, a birdwatcher; I had to look that bit of U.K. slang up!  I ASK MAN ABOUT BEAST, and he asks us to fetch a doctor as he thinks his leg is broken; he fell into the ditch while trying to take a photo of a rare woodpecker, so this is not a Beast-related event.  I try to ASK DOCTOR ABOUT MAN, but he can't hear me from outside.  I ASK LAMB ABOUT DOCTOR -- and the farmer tells us he's deaf, but a good doctor.

The doctor has his back to us as he potters with his plants.  CAST SHADOW is unrecognized by the parser, and WAVE DOCTOR is understood but ineffective.  I try to THROW PAN and THROW KEY, but oddly enough, THROW PEBBLES is the one that works -- he doesn't hear them, but sees them falling on the glass and comes outside.  I then try to TELL DOCTOR ABOUT TWITCHER, but of course he can't hear.  DOCTOR, FOLLOW ME and LEAD DOCTOR don't do the trick either; I then WRITE ABOUT TWITCHER and SHOW NOTEPAD TO DOCTOR, with similar non-results.  I finally manage to SHOUT DOCTOR ABOUT TWITCHER -- he's not completely deaf, actually, and now he rushes off to aid the injured bird-watcher.

An ambulance rushes past me as I head back to the ditch, and when I arrive, the injured man is gone, but there's a camera here which may come in handy if we ever track down the Beast.  I check out the pasture gate again, and this time think to CLIMB GATE, reaching a steep path on the other side at the same time it starts to rain.  We're getting drenched, and are advised to don a rain-proof garment.  I return to the scout hut, but am already pretty soaked; it's 6:27 PM, and a lot of other establishments are now closed.

Fortunately, Miss Myrtle welcomes us into her cottage, and it turns out we've won the raffle and are now in possession of one large rug, very warm by the look of it.  It's now getting dark outside; I try to DROP RUG and LAY RUG or SLEEP in several places, but that doesn't prove useful.  Can we get into the old shack by the quarry?  I still can't BREAK WINDOW WITH PAN or with anything else I have in inventory, it seems.

At 7:35, it's getting too dark to see anything at all, and as I try to move around, I eventually fall and break my leg.  The Ranger bundles me off to the hospital for a lengthy recuperation, and this adventure is unhappily at an end.  I have achieved only 15 out of 150 points in 548 turns, and will have to do much better on the next round.

Restarting from a mid-afternoon save, I run into the Ranger in Moor Lane.  He again says the beast is a "load of waffle" and in his opinion "a large fox" before wandering off.  I visit Ye Olde Tea Shoppe south of the Green, where there's not much to do but BUY TEA and take the plastic teaspoon afterward.  I EXAMINE ANORAK to confirm it's not rainproof, and EXAMINE POCKET to find my reporters pass and some coins.  I COUNT COINS and discover we have 60 pence at this point, so funds are very tight.

I can't afford to buy the torch in the store, but I do finally succeed in getting the Estate Agent to talk when I ASK AGENT ABOUT HOUSE.  He gives us a yale key so we can check out a property called Ivy Cottage, between Church Lane and Moor Lane.  We can READ DETAILS from some papers he provides to learn that the property is listed for 180,000 pounds.  I also EXAMINE DESK and learn that the agent's name is Ian Connum. 

So where is this house?  I have to EXAMINE HEDGES along the path between the two adjacent lanes to discover a gate to the southeast.  An overgrown garden greets us, and there's a brick here which may come in handy for breaking into the shack.  We enter the cottage to find ourselves in a decrepit living room; there's a large rucksack here, empty but useful for carrying things. 

We can enter a kitchen to the south, where a drawer has a broken handle that falls off as soon as we try to OPEN DRAWER.  The parser suggests we may need to lever it open somehow, but I seem to have nothing of use on me at the moment.

Let's open the shack with the brick if we can -- and after I shuffle inventory around, having actually filled the bag and now needing the rucksack to support further lading, I do manage to BREAK WINDOW WITH BRICK.  But as I try to OPEN DOOR, we're warned off for fear of cutting our hand.  So now we're going to need some kind of protection, it appears.

I search around some more -- EXAMINE STOOLS in the pub turns up some matches, but no gloves.  I spend my nearly-last 50p to BUY BEER in the pub, feeling refreshed, but the publican seems no more talkative than before.  No one responds to a knock on the church door, but I am able to enter the vicarage.  I try to ask the vicar about his watercolor paintings, but he sends us off to fetch the books again, as I haven't done that since restoring.  He does say the Beast is a mystery, and he's never seen it himself; he thinks the ranger is a lazy pain in the neck.  I ask him about the church, and he says he's lost his key, but Miss Myrtle has one and should be going to the church about noon.  It's 5:01 PM as I learn this, so I have a feeling I'll need another restart.  Before I do, though, I ASK MYRTLE ABOUT KEY -- but she won't let us have it, so I will indeed restart, having learned quite a bit about Puddlecombe though not much about the Beast so far.

With a fresh start and some a priori knowledge, I open the letter and take time to TELL EDITOR ABOUT LETTER before taking the bus.  He encourages us to track the beast down and get a photo, staying overnight if necessary.  He also gives us five pounds for expenses.  I also have a chance to ASK EDITOR ABOUT CAMERA, but the photographer's off sick, so we will need the bird-watcher's equipment later on, especially as I'm pretty sure five pounds won't buy any new equipment.

The bus arrives at 9:44 AM and we're on the Green at 10:45 this time.  I can COUNT MONEY this time to see that we have 6 pounds 60 with us.  The library isn't quite here yet, so I take a moment to fetch the carrier bag for convenience.  The librarian again tells me I need a ticket to look at the map -- and this time I ask her about this ticket, and she says I need to show some ID.  The Reporter's Pass isn't sufficient, as it shows no address, but we have that electric bill, and this additional evidence earns us a pink ticket.  Oddly, I still can't EXAMINE MAP -- Ms. Kriett again says we need a ticket -- but I can BORROW MAP with it.  It resembles my hand-drawn map so far, with a large unexplored area to the east of the village.

I'm unsuccessful in getting Rose Myrtle to talk about her letter here in public, but I follow her to the church -- I can't OPEN DOOR or KNOCK DOOR to any effect, but I can freely walk south into the church nave.  A table here contains some leather gloves, which Miss Myrtle says we are welcome to, as some tourist left them ages ago.  She still won't talk about the beast or her letter, however; it seems that conversation has to take place at her cottage.

I search the grass in the meadow this time, finding a dead sheep as the source of the rotting odor, and TELL LAMB ABOUT SHEEP.  He attributes it to the Beast, and gives us a large key to an old shepherd's hut down by the river, where we can shelter for the night if we go out on the Moor.  Good to know.

I get the camera and the brick, and this time succeed in opening the shack up thanks to the leather gloves -- we WEAR GLOVES and can then safely OPEN DOOR.  There's a huge chest here, containing a hammer and a leather pouch, which contains... gunpowder?  Not unusual for a quarry, actually.  I buy the can of beans and the torch, and still have 4.10 available.

I also luck into intercepting Ermon at the sale after I pick up his box of books, and he gives us some sturdy shoes for our trouble.  I replace my thin trainers with the sturdy shoes and feel much better equipped to proceed down the path east of the gate now, but I still don't have any rain gear.

We have some other puzzles to resolve first, anyway.  We can probably pry open that drawer in the ivy cottage now that we have a hammer... and yes, we can OPEN DRAWER WITH HAMMER (though PRY DRAWER WITH HAMMER doesn't work.)  We find a tin opener in the drawer, probably useful for that can of beans if we have to camp out later. 

I now examine the kitchen door more closely and see that it's bolted, not stuck -- I UNBOLT DOOR and we can now visit the back garden, where we find a ladder and an outhouse.  Some leaves rustle, and we find a tortoise there -- we can take him along -- and we also find a trowel in the outhouse.  I try using the ladder to reach the second floor of the cottage, as the stairs are unsafe and impassable, but my attempts to DROP LADDER and CLIMB LADDER and LEAN LADDER are unsuccessful.  I try to LEAN LADDER AGAINST WALL, to no avail, but am luckier when I LEAN LADDER AGAINST STAIRS instead.

This allows us to reach the bedroom above, where we can acquire an unlit candle and a blue vase.  I try to TAKE VASE, but it's too big to fit in the rucksack, so I DROP VASE and it shatters.  I forgot that old adventurer's rule!  I'll restore and leave it alone this time until I know I need it for something; I will take the candle, for now.

I am still going to be wet and chilly at this point, but I am pretty sure I'll need the matches so we'll return to the pub. There's nothing on the bar, and the publican remains untalkative, so I finally consult a walkthrough to learn that I need to SHOW PASS TO PUBLICAN.  Now he's ready to gab, though his comments seem to echo Reverend Ermon's word for word; I think this is just memory-constrained writing, not a sign of mass hypnosis or a village conspiracy.  What does change here is that, as I exit the pub, the barman tosses me a rainproof kagoule coat left by another tourist weeks earlier.  So that puzzle is solved, though it's not the most logical one in the game.

My timing is different on this pass, only 4:31 PM as I climb the gate, but it starts to rain right on cue again.  I'm able to climb up the steep path to Torrack Moor proper now, where we see several paths that exploration determines run northeast, east and southeast.  This becomes a bit of a maze, with lots of paths in multiple directions that aren't called out in the location descriptions.

I do find some notable locations -- a group of Standing Stones to the east of the moor features a tree that's too unsteady for safe climbing.  A dangerous path southward reaches a cliff-face with a path down... a very steep path, as it turns out, and the sturdy shoes are not sufficient to maintain safe footing.  Fortunately, this mistake is not inherently fatal, and we're able to scramble back up to the cliff-face.

We can snag some birch bark from trees at the north edge of the moor, but then I find myself lost and wandering in circles after I pick it up -- this, it turns out, because I put the map away to free up the inventory slot.  I also find a stout branch in the bracken along the dangerous path, and now we're able to work our way down to the river's edge.

It's 6:55 PM when I get here, after wandering too long around the moors, and I head north to see a stone hut... on the other side of the river.  We can't JUMP RIVER or CROSS RIVER, but there's a damaged bridge at the north end of this area.  Should I have brought the ladder along?  That tree up by the standing stones might be movable -- I try to PUSH TREE, and the parser suggests scraping away some of the surrounding earth.  I DIG TREE with the trowel, making a small hole, but it still won't move: "Still won't budge!  Blasted thing, isn't it?"  Hmmmm.  Maybe this is a hint that we need to blast it.

I'm able to PUT POWDER IN HOLE, but not PUT CANDLE IN POWDER.  And as I'm doing this, darkness falls and I break my leg even though I'm not trying to walk anywhere when it happens.  Interestingly, a black, cat-like creature is mentioned, lurking nearby while I'm doing this, but it repeatedly bounds off and seems uninterested in attacking.  Perhaps this Beast is not so beastly after all.

I restore to a point before I got lost in the moors, and try again.  The candle's wick is noted in its description, and I am able to REMOVE WICK.  But I can't seem to PUT WICK IN HOLE or PUT WICK IN POWDER.  Ah -- I have to ATTACH WICK TO POUCH, otherwise it's trying to use the pouch as a container.  I try to BURY POUCH for good measure after putting it in the hole, but this isn't possible, nor is it necessary -- I simply LIGHT WICK, hide behind a rock, and the tree is toppled down the eastern slope by the small explosion.

Returning to the river's edge, we find the washed-out bridge replaced by the old tree and some rocks that fell along with it, and can now cross to the hut -- well, we can cross most of the way, we have to JUMP to the eastern bank when we run out of makeshift bridge.  The shepherd's hut is nearby, but I have to GET LARGE KEY out of the bag before we can enter -- unlocking is only automatic if we have the key in primary inventory and not hidden away in the bag or rucksack.  The hut is small but dry and secure.

I try to SLEEP now, but hunger keeps us awake.  I open the can of beans with the tin opener and put them in the pan, but can't seem to PUT PAN ON FIRE or PUT PAN IN FIREPLACE.  I try to HEAT BEANS, which seems acceptable to the parser, and learn that, of course, there's no fire built yet.

The stout branch is too large to fit in the fireplace, and we're told we need some paper to help ignite the birch bark if we try to light it directly.  The electric bill can't be used for this purpose; nor can the envelope, the bus timetable, or the details about the ivy cottage.  Ack!  All this useless paper remains useless.

So what special bark-igniting paper are we missing here?  I consult Dorothy's walkthrough again, and see that we're supposed to have a newspaper with us at this point.  Hmmmmm.  Apparently I was supposed to find it in the church chancel earlier.  While thinking about where to find it, I also think to check the camera -- and it has no film, so I have to restore and catch the church while Miss Myrtle is still there as well as buy some film at The Stores.

Next try -- starting from just after I arrive in Puddlecombe -- I also remember that I didn't claim the large rug earlier, so I grab that before venturing onto the moor.  I happen to run into Miss Myrtle on my way, and she gives it to me as the raffle winner, so that took a little less time than I thought it would.

Okay!  Back we go to the shepherd's hut.  I get rained on again before remembering I need to visit the publican -- I also confirm that we need to buy a beer (making us broke now!) and ask him about the beast before he'll give us the kagoule.  Now, at last, I have built a fire in the shepherd's hut, heated up some beans, and eaten them with the spoon, so we can SLEEP at last.  Whew!

We awaken just before dawn at 6:01 AM -- the editor wasn't kidding about an overnight stay -- and step outside just in time to see a dark shape disappearing into the combe to the south of the hut.  We head southeast into Eldritch Combe, continuing into the steep-walled passage to discover a pool.

There's a ledge above, a thicket to the south, and some mud between the pool and rocks visible to the east.  EXAMINE MUD reveals paw-marks -- some large and some smaller ones?  Uh-oh.  I head south into the thicket, a useful hiding place perhaps, and from there I go northeast to reach the rocks. 

There's an animal carcass here -- the remains of a deer, clearly a recent meal for some large predator. Uh-oh-oh.  I have enough presence of mind left to PUT FILM IN CAMERA so we can take a picture of the Beast, should we encounter it.  Maybe we should take pictures of the carcass and pawprints?  Heading back to the pool to do so, I startle the Beast -- and her cubs!  The black,  four-legged animal roars and they all disperse into the darkness.

I can climb up to the ledge above the pool, and WAIT -- it takes quite a while, but eventually they return, a mother and two playful cubs.  We TAKE PHOTO OF BEAST -- and the story wraps up, with a reasonably happy ending as the panther and her cubs are moved safely to a wildlife park, while the Ranger gets sacked.  And perhaps there are more Beasts about...

I ended up with 135 out of 150 possible points, so I must have missed something along the way, but I'm satisfied with having completed the game.  I did check the walkthrough -- I missed taking the tortoise to the veterinarian, but that wasn't absolutely essential to finishing the story; my uneducated examination of the tortoise didn't suggest it was ill or injured, though if I'm honest I have to admit that I thought I might need to make some tortoise soup if the beans provided insufficient nourishment, and so didn't really consider taking the poor creature to the vet.

I really enjoyed the writing and construction of The Beast of Torrack Moor -- Linda Wright knows how to design an interactive story, and while there are some time-based events that can inadvertently be missed, other important occurrences happen logically and flexibly.  Most of the puzzles make physical sense, aside from a few parser challenges.  I had good fun with this well-realized story, even if it wasn't quite the horror-themed Halloween adventure I had in mind -- I'm always a sucker for a happy ending.

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!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventure of the Week: An Unexplored Mansion (1983)

I'm working through a more substantial game as I write this, but in the interest of my more-or-less weekly deadline, I'm tackling yet another Rainbow Book of Adventures contest winner -- An Unexplored Mansion, published in 1983 and written by Tim Hanson in BASIC for the TRS-80 Color Computer.

The story casts the player as a young person setting out for the city after growing up in a small town, then nearly hitting a deer and walking for miles to discover an old mansion... unexplored!  The parser is a straightforward two-word affair, with a few unique quirks -- invalid navigational directions just keep us where we are with no specific feedback, and there's no room-level LOOK, as it substitutes for EXAMINEINV handles inventory, while I and other unrecognized commands just refresh the current room display.

I can recommend this one to interested readers -- the code is fairly robust, and the puzzles are straightforward but well constructed with useful hints to be found via thorough exploration.  I enjoyed working my way through it in an hour or so, and it made for a pleasant diversion.  So please, feel free to step away and enter An Unexplored Mansion on your own before proceeding with my comprehensive...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! ***** 

We begin outside, on the front lawn, with the exit to the south (reversing the opening geography of many mansion adventures!) with directions AVALIABLE [sic] to the south, east, and west.

Before entering the house, we'll explore the environs -- to the east is the east garden.  I try to DIG but YOU HURT YOUR HAND with no other result.  To the west side is the rock garden, with a large rock and another exit to the south.  GET ROCK reveals a gun underneath?  Might as well take it along.

Continuing around the house, we find a veranda and another entrance to the mansion to the east.  At the southwest corner of the house is a hilly area with a jagged stone tower visible to the south.  We can obtain some batteries and a skull cap here.  LOOK CAP indicates it's produced by SKINNY BONES HATS FOR SKELETONS INC.

Going south again leads us to the stone tower itself -- the door is locked.  This seems like a good time to examine the objects we've acquired -- the gun is a VERY OLD PISTOL, we have two batteries, and the rock we're lugging around MUST WEIGH AT LEAST FIFTY POUNDS.

There's no SAVE GAME feature available, so there seems to be nothing to do but cross our adventuring fingers and enter the mansion itself.  I'll take the unorthodox approach and enter through the door on the mansion's west side first, since we're over here. 

We find ourselves in a ballroom with a staircase leading up and exits in all four directions.  North is the entrance hall -- and there's nothing nasty lurking there, so it wouldn't have mattered which way we entered the house.  East of the ballroom is the dining hall, with four exits again, so we're going to spend some time mapping this space out.

East of the dining hall is the bathroom, with a sheet of paper that provides instructions for use of... a TIME BOMB?  We have to BUILD BOMB, SET TIMER on the bomb, and escape.  Or somebody does, at least; this sounds suspiciously like a task we'll be taking on, rather than instructions for some other mad bomber.

Going north from the dining hall leads back to the entrance hall, and going south leads to the kitchen.  There's a book of matches here, promoting COLLEGE DEGREES BY MAIL, with a phone number that is notably NOT a fictional 555 exchange -- I wonder what its significance was in 1983?  There is also a dark staircase leading down.

The inventory system is interesting -- when I try to exceed its four item limit as I GET MATCHES, the parser reports, "UGH! YOU NEARLY BROKE MY BACK! BECAUSE YOU FEEL YOU SHOULD GET EVERYTHING YOU SEE YOU HAVE DROPPED EVERYTHING!"  I haven't seen this type of approach before, and it's actually kind of handy during this exploratory stage.

East of the kitchen is a pantry, and we can OPEN CABINET to find a soup can -- it reads CHICKEN NOODLE on the label, but it's empty.  We can try to go D the dark staircase in the kitchen, but IT'S TOO DARK, and when we LIGHT MATCH it BRIEFLY FLARES UP AND DIES.  So we'll need a more enduring light source, it seems.

South of the ballroom is a bar, leading south again to a study -- without the usual clue-filled desk.  West of the study is a library, however, with a very dusty book containing instructions for building a time bomb.  We will need a timing device, a small length of fuse, a small metal container (check!), two batteries (check!), an ounce of gunpowder (the gun?), some electrical wiring, and a match (got it).  The book also mentions that "SOME KNOWLEDGE OF THE USE OF TIMEBOMBS IS DESIRABLE," apparently saving that for a second volume.

So it seems our goal (or at least the only objective that has offered itself so far) is not to find treasure or exorcise an evil spirit or rescue anyone trapped in the mansion, but to blow the place up; kind of a SMALL TOWN BOY MAKES GOOD BOMB story.  So let's head upstairs from the ballroom in search of more bomb components.

The upstairs landing has exits in all four directions.  South is a bedroom, where we can OPEN BUREAU to find a torch, which should be handy.  We can tell IT HAS BEEN USED BEFORE, so it seems it's not a U.K. flashlight but an actual wooden torch.  South of the bedroom is a skeleton closet, containing a skeleton, who is described as KIND OF SKINNY.  Should we do something with the skull cap here?  We can't PUT CAP, but DROP CAP prompts the skeleton to say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH" and drop a fuse at our feet.  We'll just pick it up and not think too much about where that came from.

East of the bedroom is a short hallway with a ladder leading up, and more exits to the north and east.  Climbing up to the attic yields an old wooden box, in which we find a telescope with a label reading, "USE IN A HIGH PLACE."  Probably that rock tower.

East of the short hallway is the upstairs bathroom -- nothing of note here -- and north leads to the guest room, where we find an important item in the form of an old alarm clock.  Traveling west from the short hallway leads us back to the upstairs landing. 

Exploring the western side of the upstairs now, we find an overlook with a view of the rock garden.  USE TELESCOPE here only confirms that YOU AREN'T HIGH ENOUGH.  North of the landing is the master bedroom, where we can GET the oriental RUG to discover the traditional trap door.  We can OPEN DOOR and go down to find a secret room -- a window facing west is coated with grime, too thick to see through, and there's a safe here, though of course we can't just OPEN it.  Examination reveals that it has a COMBONATION [sic] LOCK, and the dial is too rusty to move, so we'll have to... hmmmm... maybe blow it open!

This is probably a good time to learn that we can't leave the secret room the way we came -- the door seems to have disappeared, and we can't BREAK WINDOW or CLEAN WINDOW or MOVE SAFE.  But we can OPEN WINDOW -- it allows us to pop through onto the veranda, then shuts tight again.

So what are still we missing for our bomb construction?  We need a length of fuse and some electrical wiring, and there's a good chance we might find both in the basement.  Oh, wait -- the FUSE the skeleton gave us is actually a very short fuse, not an electrical fuse as I was picturing.  We LIGHT TORCH using the matches, and now we can go down to the cellar.  There's a spool of electrical wire right here, perfect for our needs, and we find a barrel of gunpowder in the arsenal room to the south... I opt not to hang around with my blazing torch, however. 

The wine cellar to the east reveals the source of a strong smell noted when we entered -- a rotting cask of chablis, as well as a monster, who lacks even the courtesy to wait for us to make a move, interrupting our typing with repeated attacks!  With four hits, we're dead, and need to restart.  So we'll need to be quicker about leaving the room, or, presumably, dispatching the creature somehow.

On my second go, I focus on this goal first -- only to find that I can't SHOOT MONSTER and when I cooperate with the parser by trying to KILL MONSTER, the gun isn't loaded.  LOAD GUN reveals that YOU DON'T HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED -- and while we have a source of gunpowder, we're short of ammunition.

So we actually have a puzzle here. While exploring some more, I find a small bug -- if we drop the rug anywhere at all, when we GET RUG again we reportedly DISCOVER A HIDDEN DOOR, though it only appears in the master bedroom where it's supposed to.  Maybe we don't need to deal with the monster at all -- we have everything we need to build the bomb now, I think.

Oddly, when we GET GUNPOWDER it doesn't show up in our inventory, but we're not allowed to get more, and the parser thinks we still don't have all the materials needed?  Ah, we have to GET POWDER -- GET GUNPOWDER is confused with the GUN, which I already had in inventory.  BUILD BOMB proves fatal, however, as apparently we were supposed to WIND CLOCK before we do so -- something none of the instructions we've found thought to mention.

As I work my way through a third attempt, something tells me we ought to build the bomb where we plan to detonate it, and since the monster in the wine cellar won't let us hang around long enough to deliver the components, it makes sense to attempt this in the secret room.  We GET CLOCK, WIND CLOCK, BUILD BOMB... whoops, I don't have the matches.  I fetch them, WIND CLOCK again just in case, BUILD BOMB, OPEN WINDOW to escape, and... nothing happens?

Ah -- I forgot to SET TIMER (a separate operation from winding the clock).  This time, I OPEN WINDOW, and on the very next turn: KER-POOOOOWWW!!! THE BOMB GOES OFF!

Fortunately, it was not a big enough bomb to destroy the mansion, just damage the safe in the secret room.  THE DOOR HAS BEEN JARRED LOOSE upon our return, and OPEN SAFE yields a silver lockpick, a note, and a bullet.  The note reads, "LET EVERYBODY KNOW (INCLUDING THE APES) THAT A TREASURE IS HIDDEN, BEHIND ROTTING GRAPES."  So the monster wasn't really the source of the wine cellar's strange odor, it seems.

This seems like a fairly obvious clue given our exploration to date, but before we shoot the monster in the wine cellar, let's check out the tower with our telescope and lockpick.  At the base of the tower we can UNLOCK DOOR with the lockpick, and enter to find a shovel stored here along with a rope ladder leading up.  Climbing to the top, we USE TELESCOPE to read writing carved in a faraway tree: THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS IS BURIED IN THE FRONT LAWN.  That will save us a little digging time, anyway, though we probably could have figured this out even if we missed the telescope altogether.

DIGging on the front lawn yields a golden key, so now we're ready to get some more gunpowder, LOAD GUN with the bullet, and KILL MONSTER (typing as fast as we can!)  It only takes one shot to kill the nine-foot tall, fanged, big-footed monster, which is fortunate as we only had the one bullet.  The large drum of chablis here is caked with dust, and when we GET DRUM a small wooden door is revealed.  We OPEN DOOR, and an exit to the north is revealed.

Inside the room north of the wine cellar, we find a LARGE VAULT.  And now all we have to do is UNLOCK VAULT, OPEN VAULT, and find victory and wealth (assuming we're allowed to keep the money and aren't convicted of trespassing on someone's property, breaking, entering, and stealing)!

I enjoyed venturing into An Unexplored Mansion quite a bit -- the puzzles were not difficult, but they were logical and there were a few surprises that forced me to stop and think.  And the descriptions and details were of a higher standard than many of the other games in The Rainbow Book of Adventures.  This was definitely one of the better amateur efforts in this collection, as we get close to wrapping this volume up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Adventure of the Week: The Deed of The York (1983)

This week, we're trying to hunt down The Deed of The York (1983), yet another Rainbow Book of Adventures contest winner, in this case created by Dwight Logan and translated to TRS-80 Color Computer BASIC by Chris Harland.  We're playing using the VCC emulator.

As we might surmise from the title, we're trying to track down the deed to the York Hotel, a family asset hidden by one William T. York, our late, unlamented grandfather, before a rival family faction does.  It's reportedly hidden in his summer home, so it seems we'll be spending our time there rather than going anywhere near the hotel.

Like a lot of the other reader-submitted adventures in The Rainbow's first adventure collection, the format of The Deed of The York comes partly from experimentation, partly from inexperience.  It's not nearly as limited as some of the menu-driven adventures I've recently been covering, but it's not a full-blown adventure engine either.  We're given text descriptions and prompts, and are free to enter whatever we like, but the parser recognizes only a limited set of options in each location and is highly situational, with no inventory system to broaden the possibilities.

This is another one you can safely skip playing -- it's easy enough to explore the world, and the structure is simple enough that death isn't a huge setback.  But actually completing the game depends on sidestepping a frequently fatal bug at the game's conclusion, and I don't generally wish that upon my readers.  So feel free to see what recovering The Deed of The York is all about by venturing directly into the...

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

The game's intro text informs us that THE DOOR WILL ONLY OPEN IF YOU SHOUT 'PIZZA'.  The parser, unusually, asks us to type WHERE to get our bearings rather than LOOK, and its tone is rather snippy -- an initial WHERE at the first prompt yields, YOU'RE OUTSIDE AN OLD HOUSE, STUPID!  And a LOOK, for some reason, causes us to exit the game completely?  Ah -- apparently if we fail to invoke the magic word PIZZA on our first or second turn, the game unceremoniously ends.

Surviving into the entrance hallway, we see a very worn carpet, a coat rack, doors to the right and left and a glass door straight ahead.  LOOK COATRACK reveals the carved initials W.S. -- not William York, apparently.  William Shakespeare?  Will Smith?  MOVE COATRACK and TAKE COATRACK produce the same response as LOOK -- apparently the parser just looks for recognizable keywords in the player's input, so we can save ourselves some typing by sticking to nouns and navigation.

Let's head to the RIGHT and check out the living room -- a couch and two easy chairs are covered in sheets, with a folding door on one wall, a sliding door on another, and a door going left back to the entrance hallway.  Accessing the FOLDING door leads to a dining room with a long oak table and eight chairs, a swinging door, two pictures and a wall switch.  PICTURES moves one of the pictures, yielding a cryptic note: "HE GOT A PIGLET, HE GOT A BIG MAC, BUT WHEN HE LEARED [sic?], HE GOT HISTORICAL."  Is that supposed to be LEARNED or LEERED?  No telling at this point.

Returning to the living room, we move the COUCH to reveal a panel in the wall -- an arrow shoots out, narrowly missing us, with another note: "DON'T MAKE MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING."  Another Shakespeare reference?  This action will repeat any time we access the couch -- the game doesn't worry about retaining a memory of events, it seems, so everything kind of happens in the moment.  (And no, I don't think it's going to go all Marcel Proust on us, it seems resolutely focused on Shakes.) The SLIDING door takes us to a den with no other exits, where we spot a TV set -- written in the dust on its top are the words, "BOOKS ARE BETTER!"

Okay -- so far, not much has been learned, or leared, for that matter.  We'll continue exploring the right side of the hall by returning to the dining room north of the living room.  If we touch the TABLE, a trap door unceremoniously dumps us into the basement, and our rivals the Chomiuk family find the deed first, leading to our expulsion from the York family.  I'm not sure I really want to be part of either of these clans, but such is the familial hand we've been dealt.

Re-starting again, we touch the SWITCH on the dining room wall, and LIGHT FILLS THE ROOM every time we do this; there seems to be no way to turn the lights off, nor does there seem to be any reason to want them in either state.  Going through the SWINGING door here leads to a kitchen, with doors left, right and straight ahead.  The CUPBOARD is bare except for a dusty glass, and the ICEBOX contains a roll of paper, reading "SHELVE ALL PLOTS AS THE BARD WAVES HIS JAVELIN."  A double Shakespearean reference here, giving the Prince of Denmark +2 points while the Fresh Prince remains at 0.

Continuing our vaguely northeastern progress, we'll step outside the kitchen to the RIGHT, onto the back porch, where we are explicitly told we should return to the house and nothing else I try produces any interesting responses.  Moving AHEAD from the kitchen is far more dramatic -- A DISEMBODIED ARM SWINGS AN AXE AT YOU!  We stagger through another door, bleeding badly, and take a chance at heading RIGHT -- which leads us outside, to attract help at the hospital, where we can recover and try again (from scratch) another day.  Retrying and going LEFT instead leads us into the central ballroom, where we simply bleed to death.  So we'd best not try to travel north of the kitchen at all, it seems, despite the glimpse of a pantry mentioned before the axe connects.

In our next life, traveling LEFT from the kitchen puts us in the central ballroom -- so apparently we staggered back into the kitchen earlier.  We're always facing north in these rooms, so LEFT is WEST and RIGHT is EAST for traditional mapping purposes.  The ballroom is quite impressive, with a chandelier, a settee, doors to the BEHIND (south), LEFT and RIGHT, a winding staircase leading upstairs, and a green door near the staircase.

There's a music room behind the GREEN door (no, there's no Marilyn Chambers quartet), with a red door, a piano, and portraits of famous English authors and playwrights providing decor.  If we approach the PIANO, unseen fingers play "AS YOU LIKE IT," though trying to look for the portrait of SHAKESPEARE produces nothing interesting.

The music room's RED door leads to the study, with a DESK containing a library card with "1600S" written on it.  A door to the right returns to the music room -- I had my bearings reversed here at first -- and approaching the big FIREPLACE creates a phantasm, a choking hand of ash that drives us back into the ballroom (we can also get there by going through the study's DOUBLE doors.) 

The study's LEFT hand door accesses the library, where we find a shelf of books and a metal panel.  The PANEL leads to a narrow enclosed porch, with a mirror and an old novel lying on a lawn chair.  The MIRROR produces a hummed rendition of "I'M HENRY THE EIGHTH I AM," meant to evoke Shakespeare's work rather than Herman's Hermits, of course, or DJ Jazzy Jeff for that matter.  The NOVEL proves to be a book of blank pages, except for "THIS IS NOT 'A SUMMER'S TALE'" on the first page, and "ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL" on the last, just in case we haven't yet gotten the message.  A DOOR at the rear of the porch takes us back to the entrance hall, through the door on the left that we hadn't explored yet.

Oddly, messing with the SHELF in the library doesn't do anything, despite the apparent hint about shelving the plot.  And I note that some of the geography doesn't quite make sense here -- we go left from the kitchen into the ballroom, and left again from the ballroom to the kitchen.  Touching the SETTEE in the ballroom drops a carved pumpkin on our heads, and we stagger back into the kitchen in a daze before recovering.  Trying to interact with the CHANDELIER causes it to sway away from our attempts.  Curious.  Where have we not been yet?  We can try to go UP from the ballroom -- and a loud wailing noise precedes the appearance of a ghost in white that rushes at us, scaring us out of the house in terror for several days, forfeiting our chance to find the deed.

So... it seems we've explored the accessible house now.  I hadn't yet examined the CARPET in the entrance, which has a label reading, "MADE BY LORD CHAMBERLAIN'S MEN'S SEWING COMPANY-1605," another reference to the Bard's personal history.  We can't use the old library CARD in any direct way, and as I muddle about I eventually provoke an OS ERROR IN 130, as the BASIC program runs out of string memory and forces yet another restart.

What else?  Well, we can pinch our finger in the old lawn CHAIR, to no real effect.  And oh!  It strikes me now that the apparent misspelling LEARED is intentional -- that verse refers to Hamlet (PIGLET), MacBeth (BIG MAC), King LEAR, and Shakespeare's HISTORICAL dramas.

It sure seems like the study or the library might be the place to invoke the Bard and find the deed, but I try SHAKESPEARE and BOOKS and PORTRAITS in both locations to no avail.  And while I'm experimenting in the library some more, I again run into the fatal OS ERROR IN 130 I saw a bit earlier... and that happened here, in the same location... hmmmmmm... maybe we should peek at the code to see what tiny infuriating detail I'm blindly missing... aha!  It's not my approach at fault, for a pleasant change -- this bug's to blame, wherein we'll catch the concept of the game!

All of the unsubtle clues lying around the house are meant to point us toward SHAKESPEARE as our inevitable target, a magic word clearly held as a source of great power by the authors of this adventure.  We've got that much right.  But the game logic doesn't quite work the way the authors intended.  They clearly expect us to enter the library, and immediately say SHAKESPEARE -- which wins the game like so:

Whoops!  Looks like I just told everyone THE SECRETS!

But anyway, here's the technical problem I was running into -- if we hang around the library trying other possibilities, as adventure gamers are wont to do, the routine in line 130, meant to safeguard the magic word from prying eyes, actually causes it to grow with every move.  It's looking for SHAKESPEARE on the first turn we're in the library, but it just keeps adding to the "decrypted" string with each turn.  That is, it starts looking for SHAKESPEARESHAKESPEARE, and then it wants SHAKESPEARESHAKESPEARESHAKESPEARE, and so forth, creating a moving target until it runs out of string memory and produces the game-crashing OS ERROR IN 130.

So the game's offer of victory is good for a very limited time only, and that makes The Deed of The York rather more difficult to complete than it should be!  This is why playtesting is so important -- this is exactly the type of bug that an author never runs into, while almost all players are likely to encounter it.

I have to say, while these old amateur adventure games are often simplistic and buggy, they do come in more varieties than the commercial efforts of the time.  Not everyone had the benefit of reading Scott Adams' seminal article in BYTE magazine during those pre-Internet days, and I'm enjoying seeing how different people starting from scratch chose to implement their own ideas, even if they weren't always completely successful.

(And don't worry, faithful readers -- I'm itching to get back to some more traditional adventuring myself, and will do so before too much longer.)