Monday, August 17, 2009

The Great Scott Project - Adventure #0

Excellent. We have Mr. Adams' blessing via email and blog comment (thanks, Scott!) and so we begin our journey, with Adventure #0, Special Sampler.

This game was marketed as an introductory demo version, sold for $6.95 versus $19.95 for a standard title. By the time the 1983 Adventure International catalog came out, it was no longer being mentioned, and it was never remade for the S.A.G.A. (Scott Adams Graphic Adventure) series, so my guess is it didn't sell well, or served its purpose early on. It's an interesting forerunner to the modern era of downloadable trial versions, but since it had to be physically purchased on tape or disk like any other game, and the Adventure International library solidified quickly, most gamers probably just took a chance on one of the full-price offerings.

To set the stage, here's the promotional copy from a vintage AI catalog:

Never tried Adventure? This special inexpensive sampler complete with 3 Treasures is a cut-down versionof our large Adventureland. Guaranteed to supply hours of enjoyment: Try an Adventure today! Recommended for novice with built in help.

This one doesn't take long at all to play through -- it can be completed in a short series of about 25 moves. There are only three treasures to find, and while many elements and puzzles from the full Adventureland (#1) game are present, most are not essential to completing this demo version.

Technical info: I'm playing using the ScottFree interpreter ported to Windows by Hein Pragt, which has a different look and feel from the vintage platforms the games originally ran on. It follows the layout of Scott's original windowing interpreters -- room description and contents at the top, game responses below, command line entry at the very bottom. I haven't seen the top window's height dynamically scale to fit its content as the TRS-80 interpreter I remember did, but modern proportional fonts and screen resolutions likely make adjustments rare.

This is a text adventure, so there isn't much to look at, but here's my victory evidence:

The only inventory item the player really needs to pick up and use is the magical axe with the word BUNYON written on it. It seems to belong to folklore's Paul Bunyan, given the associated "Paul's Place" room and *Small statue of a BLUE OX* treasure, but the last name is spelled differently in the game, perhaps to help it stand out as a magic word, or perhaps because the arrival of nitpicky bloggers three decades later was not anticipated by the QA department. The axe is employed in different ways to solve a couple of different puzzles, a nice and unusual touch in a vintage adventure game. All the player has to do is find and successfully transport all three treasures to the storage location for scoring; paying attention to one's surroundings makes it a quick and easy job.

It's evident that this is indeed a trimmed-down version of Adventure #1, Adventureland, created after the fact, with room-specific HELP responses added for newbie adventurers. All of the accessible creatures and items behave as they do in the full game, but the game map has some unsolvable dead ends in this limited sampler edition, leaving tantalizing hints about the broader territory yet to be explored. There is also, of course, one of Scott's trademark in-game advertisements, written on an outdoor billboard:

This Mini-Adventure is but a small sample of what awaits you in our Classic: ADVENTURELAND, which contains an additional 10 treasures, magic carpets, killer bees, burning lava and much much more!

Purchase a copy of "ADVENTURELAND" from your favorite dealer today!

I always found these messages annoying as a teenager -- I loved the showmanship and meta-flair of the ads themselves, but they reminded me that in the wilds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, everything was mail order. Any "dealer" would certainly have been my favorite, but there were none to speak of in those early days, at least none carrying third-party TRS-80 titles. The only Scott Adams Adventures I ever recall seeing at local retail were the VIC-20 cartridge versions released by Commodore under license.

Okay, that was (briefly) fun. On to number zero's big brother: Adventureland!


  1. Haha. I grew up in Illinois, but went to visit my grandparents in The Upper Peninsula(tm) for at least a month every year. I very, very painfully recall how difficult my favorite pastime was to engage in up there (in terms of finding new games, naturally), even the few times my parents allowed me to bring my Atari with me. Nice memories.

    1. Right on. I live in Rockford and visiting the UP often.