Friday, August 28, 2009

The Great Scott Project - Adventure #9

Back in the States and way out West, the Great Scott Project steams ahead. We're up to Adventure #9: Ghost Town, about which our faithful guide, the 1981 Adventure International catalog, says:

Explore a deserted western mining town in search of 13 treasures. From rattlesnakes to runaway horses, this Adventure’s got them all! Just remember, Pardner, they don’t call them Ghost Towns for nothin’. (Also includes new bonus scoring system!)
This game is the last of what I thought of as the "canon" back in the day -- when I first encountered the Adventure series, there were 9 established titles sharing a page in the catalog, and the new #10 had its own separate space on the next page. But for purposes of this project, we'll go up to #12 -- and possibly beyond, although my original idea was to stick with the Scott Adams originals, considering the licensed games and Brian Howarth titles as separate series.

I found this one very difficult to play using ScottFree 1.03 for Windows -- there are a couple of puzzles that depend on a flicker of lighting, where the lit view passes too quickly to be visible, and the bonus scoring system doesn't appear to work accurately -- it always seems to read -1 or 0. There's also some different parser behavior that caused one puzzle to be more intransigent than intended. In the interest of being aware of any significant differences, I ended up playing the reliable old TRS-80 Model I version alongside the Windows version. I know there are newer ScottFree versions, but I don't like the non-windowed 2.01 -- I'll have to see if I can obtain 1.14 at some point, looks like I have to go through Debian.
Ghost Town is a tough nut to crack in any case -- I had to resort to the official hint book three times! One question made me realize I could go somewhere I thought was just window dressing, which was a huge help. I was on the right track with the other two, but the ScottFree parser was misleading me about the viability of one solution, and the hint book didn't tell me anything about the last one that I hadn't figure out already. I ran into the same dead end in both interpreters, and finally had to look up a walkthrough online to find the missing steps. More details on all of these challenges are in the SPOILERS section below.
******** SPOILERS, BY CRACKY! *********
True Tales of the Virtual West:
The map is very outdoorsy -- most buildings are just a single room. I found my way into the ravine -- there was too much detail given about the sagebrush for it NOT to be a puzzle -- but didn't realize I could get to the mountains across the ravine until I consulted the hint book.
How I managed to make it out West is a mystery -- apparently I'm the sensitive sort:

Afterwards I am carrying "Male cow manure." For a moment I thought the parser was recognizing bull**** as a synonym, but I think that was a ScottFree anomaly.
Finding a place to sleep at night is important -- the player character catches pneumonia very easily.
Making the gunpowder was fun -- finding the charcoal and sulfur wasn't difficult, but finding the potassium nitrate was more of a challenge.
Another fun response:
Sorry I can't
I'm not Alice!

The worn-out fiddle strings found in the saloon after the first night are a neat clue to the ghostly goings-on after hours. A really fun idea, this one.
A quintessential Adams object pun -- finding an *ORIENTAL GO BOARD* and a clue in the Jail paves the way to PASS GO and collect another treasure: two hundred dollars.

The *GOLDEN DERRINGER* is a non-violent sort of weapon -- it shoots water, but is still sufficient to frighten the Rattlesnake away.
An in-joke reward for playing this game after Pyramid of Doom -- there's a normal-sized Purple Worm in this game that can be easily killed for bonus score. The game's response is apropos:
That felt good!
A couple of "magic words" are employed that aren't mentioned in the game, but should come readily to anyone familiar with old Westerns. SAY GIDDYUP to ride the horse; SAY HOW to get help from Geronimo's ghost in returning to town. I struggled quite a bit with this puzzle. I got the horse shoed, and got him to take me to the Indian Village, but then he bucked me off and left me there. Thinking I was putting too much weight on his back, I rode without inventory -- no difference. I tried to use the compass somehow to find the magnetic horseshoe, now attached to the horse -- no luck there. I tried dropping the bell on the horse so I could hear him from a distance. Nope. So I started looking for a solution in the local area, using the *SACRED TOM TOM* treasure. I had the right idea, but this is where ScottFree tripped me up a bit -- I tried to PLAY DRUM/PLAY TOM, and got I can't do that yet. I tried HIT DRUM -- I don't understand your command. I consulted the hint book -- I was doing the right thing, or trying to. Finally, I realized that HIT TOM works after trying it on the TRS-80, where I got clearer guidance -- the interpreter explicitly told me it didn't recognize "DRUM". Whew!

I was stuck trying to get the safe open as well. I had made the gunpowder, and put it in a keg to keep it from burning up with a Whoosh! But I wasn't having any luck igniting it safely -- I couldn't make a fuse out of tape and manure, or wire it to the telegraph key with the worn-out fiddle strings. I couldn't use the candle and let it burn down to the gunpowder, or leave the lit candle in the telegraph office and roll the keg through the door. So I was stuck. Again I resorted to the hint book, and learned that the mountains across the ravine are not just scenery, but are in fact accessible. It took me two hints to get the right idea -- clue 1 was CROSS RAVINE, clue 2 IT IS NOT WIDE. Aha! After a quick JUMP RAVINE, I found a line shack with *PELTS* hidden in the floor, and another Telegraph key. Aha again! Maybe I could use the telegraph key here to set off the gunpowder there. Hold my ears, tap the key and... nothing?
Back to the hint book, which didn't help me -- it just confirmed this was exactly the right thing to do. Was it a ScottFree issue? Nope, the TRS-80 acted the same way. The gunpowder was in the keg, in the telegraph office where the safe was. I was doing exactly what the hint book indicated. What was I missing? I finally broke down and found a walkthrough online. It was, in the end, a visualization problem -- I was picturing the "Large safe" as a built-in wall safe, not a free-standing safe. I hadn't tried to MOVE SAFE -- when I did, it exposed 2 loose wires. CONNECT WIRES, go back to the shack, TAP KEY -- boom!
I found the smoking safe where the telegraph office used to be, and grabbed the final treasure. SCORE!

Next up... yowza. I've been nervous about this one -- it's Adventure #10: Savage Island (Part I) - for experienced adventurers only! But we've come this far -- and we certainly have some experience now. There's nowhere to go now but into its puzzley jaws.


  1. At the time I played this adventure (1980), I had not yet played _Pyramid of Doom_. So when I killed the purple worm and the game said, "That felt good!", I had a rather sickening image in my head of a kinky adventurer getting perverse pleasure from feeling purple slime oozing through his fingers as he squeezed the life out of it. *shudder*

  2. Hey, Where can I find a copy of this game/emulator. I'd love to relive this one.

    1. Hi -- Scott Adams has made his games available for download at his website,, where you can also buy his recent game, "The Inheritance."