Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Adventure of the Week: The Wizard of Akyrz (1981)

In Mysterious Adventure #8, Brian Howarth returned to the fantasy world established in his earlier games, The Golden Baton and Arrow of Death.  In this installment, the player is tasked by the King to recover some precious jewels, and save the princess, per usual, who has in this instance been captured by titular villain The Wizard of Akyrz.  Howarth's games were based on Scott Adams' technical approach and used the same database format, but his style is different, often devoting the limited memory of the era to scope rather than clues and puzzles.

I played this game using the ScottFree interpreter for a first go, and then fired up the Commodore 64 edition to capture screenshots of the fill-and-vector illustrations:

The Wizard of Akyrz is more linear than Howarth's other fantasy adventures, and the puzzles considerably more sensible in the early going, although I still got stuck on several points near the end.  I'll get into the nitty-gritty details shortly; I like to advise readers with an interest in playing these games themselves to go and do just that before proceeding.  Because, as always, there are bound to be...

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

I didn't particularly enjoy The Golden Baton or Arrow of Death -- I felt the fantasy theme was abused, with too many puzzles obtuse and solvable only by nonsensical magic.  I was assuming this game would be similar, and was pleasantly surprised to find the experience more coherent and solvable.  Perhaps co-author Cliff Ogden brought a different perspective to the design, or Howarth had learned more about what worked and didn't in the earlier titles.

The text of the C64 edition is even tighter than the original -- apparently making room for the illustrations required a bit of text trimming along the way.  As a comparison to the screenshot above, the distraught king's original message in the full-text version was more explicitly motivational:
Save the princess & find the Jewels
Your reward will be Priceless!
Another such instance occurs when, in the text-only version, There's a loud "Click" nearby!, while the illustrated version yields simply, CLICK! 

The puzzles in this game are largely simple, one-item-per-solution affairs, but the Strange Spectacles found in a dressing room to the west of the throne room are a little more complicated.  Light is blinding! when we wear them, which seems useful for illumination, but the sides are loose, and fall off after a few turns.  If we try to TAKE SPECTACLES in the dark, There's a sickening crunch of glass!   We have to take a thin gold chain from an oil painting of the princess hanging in the castle, and then FIX CHAIN to get the spectacles into structurally sound condition; FIX SPECTACLES, oddly, does not work.  (A walkthrough helps to clarify this -- FIT is apparently the intended verb.)

There are several small mazes in the game -- the palace corridors, a narrow tunnel, and a forest -- but they're not hard to map.  Thoroughness remains important, especially in the forest, where, even though no trees are specifically mentioned in any location, we must CLIMB TREE repeatedly to find the one with a Raven's nest containing a *Jewelled Orb* treasure.

The structure of the game is fairly linear, with a number of one-way passages as the story, such as it is, unfolds.  After we take the oil painting and hear the click, a formerly Locked Chest becomes an open, empty Linen chest; we then GO CHEST to roll down a passage to the Dark Forest.

Shortly we reach a cave entrance, and must WEAR SPECTACLES to see the dark Stinking Cavern, hosted by A Repulsive Slimy Goblin with a random tendency to tear the player's throat out.  To the west is a Smelly cave, and a Dead-End.  DIG there yields a clue -- A voice says: 'RAVENS Guard the Treasures -- and the *Golden Sceptre* appears.  DIG again reveals a narrow tunnel, leading to another maze to map -- we must DIG in a particular spot to find the *Royal Crown*.

There are only four treasures in the game, three of which are found fairly early on.  The clue about RAVENS flummoxed me for a while; it seemed like a magic word, but RAVEN and RAVENS didn't do anything.  SAY RAVEN did, taking us to the Royal Treasure Store to dump our accumulated treasures.  We need to do this as we find the treasures, which have no real use and make it harder to stay under the game's fairly tight inventory limit.

After we find a ledge and, finding no other puzzles to solve for the moment and giving in to existential despair, we jump off the ledge into a Raging Torrent, the next challenge reprises the classic fox-eats-chicken-eats-corn riddle of yore.  We can leave the fox near the corn unattended, but have to keep the chicken separate from both, and we can only carry one of the three at a time over a rickety bridge.  It's not too hard to deal with the situation, really, but it's nice to see this classic puzzle in game form.

Once we have successfully gathered the chicken, fox and corn near a giant boulder, we can PUSH ROCK to get it out of the way, revealing a steep path.  (The game won't actually let us do this until we have ferried all three items to the location -- it's an artificial constraint, borne of the fact that the chicken puzzle becomes much easier when we have more locations with which to work.)  Down the path, we come upon a farmer counting his chickens; dropping the chicken and restoring his flock earns an Ironbound Staff (a.k.a wand) for our trouble.

It's not useful at the moment -- WAVE WAND yields only, A voice says: Save the Princess & find the Jewels before your Quest is ended!  No great revelation there, but it will come in handy later.

We can then go into the farmer's hen house and FEED CHICKENS (GIVE CORN doesn't work) to make them Contented Chickens, sending them to their nests and revealing a locked trapdoor in the floor.  Once we've opened it (with the key obtained by killing the slimy goblin earlier) we need to smuggle the fox through the hen house.  Entering the hen house with the fox in plain sight makes the residents Terrified Chickens, covering the trapdoor again.  We have to WRAP FOX in a sheepskin rug, creating a Fox in Sheep's clothing which doesn't disturb the chickens.

Beyond the henhouse, we briefly see baying hounds and a hunter who declares, We've lost the scent! (the C64 version's compressed text just indicates that they've lost it, with no dialogue for the hunter.)  We can return the fox to his lovely vixen and fox cubs, after which he sits and waits expectantly until we FOLLOW FOX to a concealed cave, where things become a bit more difficult. 

We can go D here, which takes us back to the narrow tunnel maze; what we're actually supposed to do (a walkthrough finally informed me) is WAVE WAND, which causes us to float magically up an otherwise invisible shaft.  At the top, we find a library, and can GET BOOK, causing an undecipherable strip of paper to stick to our hand; again, a good walkthrough comes in handy, as we need to HIDE PAPER in the book, for reasons I never fully understood.

North of the library, we can KILL TROLL if we have found the Ruby Rod in the henhouse and have executed a FIX ROD command to insert it into the Elvish Sword.  We can't OPEN DOOR after turning the troll into a scorched statue, but can simply GO DOOR to discover villainy in its most efficiently-described form:  Evil Akyrz (Hurting the Princess).  It's not clear how exactly he is hurting her, or to what degree, but we have other problems -- Akyrz informs us that we have only three moves until we die.  We have to DROP BOOK -- again, I never quite got what was supposed to be going on here -- at which point the wizard grabs it, curses us, and flees from a huge demon, freeing the princess.

*The Beautiful Princess* is notably lacking in personality, and is in fact simply treated as the fourth treasure by the game.  We TAKE PRINCESS, SAY RAVEN one last time, and drop her in the Royal Treasure Chamber to end the game victoriously, with a puzzling final message:

We learn only that QUESTOR is your reward, which hardly seems priceless; it may have been meant as a password for a fourth, unpublished game set in this same fantasy kingdom.

I had fun defeating The Wizard of Akyrz -- it's not overly difficult, although patience for trial-and-error and/or a good walkthrough will make the final sequence more manageable.  It's a piece of adventure gaming history, and worth playing.

No comments:

Post a Comment