Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Adventure of the Week: Shenanigans (1983)

This week, we take a look at another Bob Withers/Stephen O'Dea graphic adventure -- Shenanigans for the TRS-80 Color Computer:

This was the first of the Mark Data Products graphic adventures by this team, and was designed for the graphical format -- illustrations with a vintage two-word parser.  It's a straightforward, simple adventure game, with real-world puzzles early on, though success depends heavily on one's knowledge of Irish lore.  There isn't much of a plot beyond the puzzles -- the player starts in his/her apartment and has to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  There also isn't any animation in this game -- the images are quite simple, but there are a lot of locations; later games in the series made better use of graphics.

An emulation aside:  After playing through this game, I finally figured out how to get this series to run under MESS, using its CoCo 3 mode.  MESS handles the CoCo's rarer purple and yellow artifact colors much better than the VCC emulator does.  The games are still playable with four-color graphics, but, for example, the walls here really should be yellow instead of white with black polka-dots, and the horizontally striped floor should appear darker than the valet and dresser:

Under MESS, which does a more realistic job mimicking NTSC TV technology, the display is much more colorful, though the text is noticeably blurrier:

In the future, I'll use MESS for these games so you can see the graphics at their best.

This was a fun one to play, but there isn't much to it - it's fairly brief and feels more like a proof-of-concept than a full game, with only two slightly obtuse puzzles that aren't particularly difficult.  So without further ado...


While getting the player character dressed, it struck me that the Mark Data games appear to make no distinction between carrying and wearing an item of clothing -- this one has no WEAR verb, but GET does the job.

The story is grounded in reality in the first act -- there's no magic involved, doors have to be opened, the landlord has to be paid, and O'Malley's Pub is serious about its No shirt/No shoes/No service sign.

An odd parser choice -- to look under the bed, the sequence is:

Under what?

I found a bug in the early part of the game -- there's a window in the bedroom that can be opened, and a window in the hallway that can't.  But if the player opens the bedroom window, GOes WINDOW to the fire escape, closes and opens it while outside, then goes back inside, the window in the hallway ends up being described as open.  But when one tries to CLOSE it, the game says it's already closed.  GO WINDOW is allowed in the hall in this situation, but leads to the fire escape outside the other window, which returns the player to the apartment.

The pub offers three beers on tap:  Highenbrau, O'Shaunasee, and Blitz.  The Irish one is the correct one to buy, of course; drinking it opens up the map to allow access to the subway.  The player can't leave the bar with the beer, it stays behind automatically if attempted.  If the player buys the wrong beer, or gets mugged, the $2 spent/lost gets returned to the fire escape.  This might be a bug too -- one can't LOOK CURRENCY when this happens, as the game reports it is not "here," but one can still TAKE CURRENCY and transfer it to inventory for re-spending.

I'm beginning to think ALL adventure games from this era were based heavily on Colossal Cave and/or Pirate Adventure.  This game has a barkeep saying "What'll it be matey?"a transition where Everything spins around and suddenly..., a magic word that reveals A large crystal bridge now spans the ravine, and a cave where Twisty passages lead off in all directions. 

I struggled a little bit with the muggers -- I couldn't interest the police officer in my plight, but they're not as vicious as they look, as it turns out.  OPEN KNIFE makes them run away.

Once past the subway turnstile, the game becomes considerably more fantasy-oriented.

This clue on the cabin wall really should have been a limerick instead of a poem:

Tho the cliff is very steep;
I have a gift, yours to keep;
Play a tune if you're in need;
To your call I'll always heed.
I was grateful for the clue, though, as it might not otherwise have occurred to me later to PLAY HORN, given that it's a unicorn's horn.

There are two puzzles dependent on the player's familiarity with general Irish lore.  First, a (rather strange-looking) young woman in a clover field has to be ROLLed, causing the game to respond  Roll er over, in the clover... 

Second, rolling her reveals a shamrock, which when dropped near the snake at the mouth of the cave causes it to vanish, in homage to St. Patrick.

The cave really has to be mapped -- it's fairly linear once all the non-move directions are identified, but it takes a little time.  Fortunately the flashlight never goes out!

To cross the rainbow, both shoes and a 12-foot-pole are needed, or fatalities result due to a major slip'n'fall accident and/or loss of balance.

The game ends abruptly after we cross the rainbow:

Shenanigans indeed!

1 comment:

  1. Had a slight of a helping hand when solving Shenanigans (thanks to a mini-walkthrough provided by a popular computer magazine). Tried downloading them onto my PC but unable to play them. Would be great to see them available for Android ;)