Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adventure of the Week: Adventure E - The Golden Apple (1983)

It's been a while since we played one of the popular Artic Computing Limited adventure games for the UK's Sinclair Spectrum computer, so this week we're going to pick up where we've left off, with the fifth game in the series: Adventure E - The Golden Apple.  This one, at last, is properly credited to one Simon Wadsworth, circa 1983.  And the presentation finally leaves the visual constraints of the original Sinclair ZX-81 computer behind, with a graphical title screen and multicolored, mixed-case text in-game.

The storyline is nothing innovative -- we are to find thirteen hidden treasures and store them in the designated location.  It's conventional stuff, but there are several fun moments along the way and several nasty puzzles.  It's not a treacherously difficult journey, but it's tougher than its Artic linemates Adventures A-D, and I had to consult the CASA walkthrough several times to get myself unstuck.

As always, if you enjoy old-school text adventure games and haven't played this one, I suggest you take a crack at it before continuing here.  Because there will doubtless be...

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

We begin in the most conventional fashion, standing on a road near a mansion, but we will have to explore the grounds and solve some puzzles there before we can actually get into the main house.  We can carry up to ten items, which seems generous but still becomes a bit of a constraint late in the game.  Few of the puzzles make any practical sense, so it's best to just go with the flow and do whatever seems likely to produce an interesting result.

As we've seen in the earlier Artic games, the parser treats LOOK as a room-level overview, and we must EXAMINE specific items to discover more detail.

There's a heavy log that's too heavy to TAKE, but we can CHOP LOG with the axe (found, inexplicably, up a nearby tree) to reveal *A silver Bar* and create Some Planks.  Ignoring the question of how the silver bar became embedded in the log, that's some mighty precise chopping!  We're the human lumber mill!

The parser recognizes the box of Matches as MATCHES, not BOX, which confused me for a bit.  Fortunately there's an INSTRUCT command, which provides brief how-to-play notes and helpfully informs us that the capitalized word in a complex noun is the operative one.  It's a bit of a kludge, perhaps, but it beats blind guessing.

A Gas-Main Lever in the gate-house outside the mansion breaks after we pull it, which avoids any ensuing complications from turning the gas back on.  It turns off the gas lamp inside the mansion, so we can convert it to portable use, and it wouldn't do to have gas filling the house for the remainder of the game.

We find a watering can and some seeds in the greenhouse, PLANT SEEDS in the vegetable plot, and water them with water from the stream.  Conveniently (for the designer, Mr. Wadsworth, at least) the watering can magically disappears as the seeds grow into carrots. We can now EAT CARROT, yielding I can see more clearly now. But this isn't a good idea -- while I thought it might help me discover some useful puzzle-solving detail, it's really just a destructive hint; we actually need to hang on to the carrot until later in the game.

Sunset eventually comes, and it becomes too dangerous to move around in the dark -- attempts to do so are likely to invoke the famous Scott Adams ending, wherein Oops! I fall and break my neck.

A jarring, rather cheap moment occurs should we choose to stop and SMELL FLOWERS -- actually, we need to do this if we hope to get into the house.  And what happens? 
As I smell them, I sneeze & pull out my handkerchief - with which comes a small Key.
The inevitable question, of course, arises -- why would our character not know he has the key to the mansion in his pocket, instead of wandering the countryside, searching hither and yon?  Oh, right, this is an adventure game.

With the rediscovered key in hand, we can UNLOCK DOOR (which also opens the door.)  Now we can get down to treasure hunting in earnest.  For instance, in the living room hangs a painting of a woman wearing a brooch -- it follows logically that we can simply TAKE BROOCH to gain *A valuable Brooch*.  Wait, what?  I've heard of trompe l'oeil, but... oh, right.  Adventure game.

We can't GO TABLE in the dining room, but we can CLIMB TABLE to find a gas lamp.  And GET LAMP, of course, but only if we've turned off the gas main -- if we haven't, the game is not much help, as we can neither take the lamp (I can't pick that up!) nor turn it on (I can't do that... yet!) which makes the opposite of sense.  I was lucky, in that I had already turned off the gas before I ever tried to take the lamp, but the connection here is not obvious.

The study turns out to be The Treasure Dumpsite this time around, with the traditional sign reading: Leave *treasures* here and say SCORE.  The study also features a walk-in safe -- but we can't OPEN SAFE, as the game actually implements no OPEN verb.  We will have to wait a while before we can walk into the walk-in safe.

The dusty bedroom upstairs is a productive venue for exploration.  MOVE BED yields a metal Whistle.  We can EXAMINE DUST to reveal *A bearskin Rug* -- that's a mighty thick layer of dust! -- and BLOW WHISTLE in this room (other locations yield Not here!) to fly magically to a distant hilltop.

We'll spend most of the game's second act in the area surrounding the hilltop, though there are only a few treasures to find.  There's a suspiciously broken bridge nearby; we can't FIX BRIDGE, but we can REPAIR BRIDGE if we have the right equipment -- planks and rope.

There's also a dark cave in the vicinity, which raises the intriguing question of how the #$*@! we are supposed to light the lamp.  LIGHT LAMP does not work, and I tried quite a variety of approaches before stumbling on the right one, ON LAMP:

It's important to have the lamp up and running by Sunset -- it doesn't seem to run out of gas, at least not easily, which is pretty amazing considering it's a borrowed wall lamp with no fuel reservoir.  We can find a fishing net aboard a pirate ship, and use it to CATCH FISH.  This exertion yields a Salmon.  And it seems like EXAMINE SALMON should yield some sort of rhyming pun or joke, but it does not.  What we can do is GIVE SALMON to a nearby Starving Beggar (FEED BEGGAR does not work) to obtain *A gold Coin*.  Which raises the question of why the beggar was starving in the first place, if he had a gold coin on his person, but... wait for it... it's an Adventure game.

There's a pool in the Round Cave room, with a plug in it - we can PULL PLUG, and the liquid drains away; the liquid turns out to be acid on closer inspection (provided we EXAMINE POOL, instead of something silly like EXAMINE LIQUID), so there must be something useful and/or fatal we can do with it.  A round Stone can be found in an alcove above a nearby stalactite -- DROP STONE in the acid pool room doesn't do anything interesting, but THROW STONE causes it to fall into the liquid and dissolve, revealing a diamond. We then have to to pull the plug to drain the acid so we can retrieve it.

The cave's aptly-named Spooky Room features an apparition who won't let us GO HOLEThe ghost won't let me!   But if we try to interfere with this being, the parser shrugs us off with an I don't know what "GHOS" is, because it's officially a ghostly Shadow.   We can't [do anything of interest to] SHADOW, either, but the designer's word here is carefully chosen -- a simple OFF LAMP makes the ghost disappear.

Past the ghost we find some rope and a shovel, though it will be a while before we find a suitable spot to DIG.

I got stuck for a bit, per usual, and discovered that a cry for HELP reveals that a help sheet is available from Artic Computing Ltd.  Or was available back in the day, anyway.  Today, we rely on the bounty of the Internet, which I did to discover that we can catch a second fish.  I retrieved the fishing net from the cave where I'd left it and did so, but couldn't think of anything to do with it.  Back to the walkthrough to learn that we can actually SAIL SHIP to reach a strange beach.

This location appears to be influenced by Scott Adams' popular Adventure #2: Pirate Adventure -- there's a crack in the rock, at least.  But there's a crocodile blocking it, and the parser decides to throw us a curve, as our experience with the beggar does no good here -- GIVE SALMON doesn't work, but FEED CROCODILE does.

Beyond the crocodile, we find ourselves in a strange museum-like complex with color-coded rooms.  There's a Sad guard in the green room, and *A pot of Emeralds* "under" a glass Case in the red room. There's also a panel in the blue room, which I mistook for an instrument or control panel but is actually a sliding wall.  All of the related puzzles need to be solved before we move on, so a walkthrough comes in handy at this point.

EXAMINE GUARD allows him to plead, Can you help? I can't see very well.   This was bad news for me, as I had eaten the carrot way back at the beginning, before learning that it's this guard who needs to be able to see better.  I restarted and worked my way back to this point; the guard isn't so uncouth as to offer his services quid pro quo, but after we give him the carrot he turns a hidden knob, revealing a secret passage.  (And whether we've restored his vision or not, he doesn't actually guard anything; at least he doesn't stop us from stealing the emeralds from the red room, which we can do by shattering the glass with a little SINGing.  Thanks, walkthrough!)

In the blue room, I tried to MOVE PANEL and PUSH PANEL, only to learn that I can't do that!  However, I apparently can SLIDE PANEL, making this whole discussion a semantic argument. The panel leads us to a steep slope, where I continued to rely on the walkthrough, learning that we should then ROLL the SPHERE found in the secret passage -- it rolls down the slope and smashes into pieces of glass and *A platinum Ring*.

Now we're ready to round up the locked box in the black room (it opens with the front door key, again raising certain questions never to be answered here) and DIG in the Soft Corridor to create a pit.

From the pit, we can access a number of other rooms.  In one, a Very deranged Parrot cries, 'To be, or not to be? That is the answer!'  This is perhaps the game's most intentionally obtuse clue, but it's a simple matter to answer a computer prompt in a nearby room with 2B, causing *some Jewelry* to materialize.

This game throws just about every possible environment into the mix.  We encounter an Air lock, where if we PUSH BUTTON, Water comes into the room and I drown!   We can HOLD BREATH and survive longer, but not very long; it's just enough time to nip out and retrieve a valuable sapphire stashed on the wet side of the window.  After we're inside again, PUSH BUTTON pumps the water back out.  But we can't explicitly resume normal respiration -- BREATHE returns BREATHE what?, but then BREATHE AIR claims ignorance of the very concept of AIR.  Fortunately, we breathe automatically after a few turns.

This bit doesn't seem like it would actually work -- there's a Tin of silver spray paint in a small recess north of the air lock, which we have to use with the glass from the shattered sphere to make a mirror.  It seems such a mirror would be severely concave or convex, at best, but it seems to serve the purpose.

There's also a switch near a sharp drop, too high for us to reach.  I thought perhaps we had to free the Parrot to help us out somehow, but all we have to do is THROW KNIFE, assuming we explored the shipwreck back at the beginning of this island area to find the knife.  A hover taxi now appears, continuing the game's random eclectic mix of themes, and enables us to travel to the other side of the gap.  Here, we must CRAWL to avoid poison gas and retrieve *A large Ruby*.

Assuming we've been able to juggle inventory and carry all the treasures and needed items, as this will be a one-way trip, we enter a bright light to teleport back to the mansion.  I had left the key back home, so this was my first opportunity to UNLOCK BOX and reveal *A silk Glove*.

I had rounded up 12 of the 13 treasures, and was relieved to find that saying SCORE with 12 treasures stored in the study opens the safe, as A distant voice whispers: 'Well done! 12 out of 13. Only one to go.'

A sign inside the safe reads, Hold it. Then enter.  I tried HOLD BREATH, which didn't do the job, as we shortly discover that Medusa is lurking in the safe (Greek mythological icons turn up in the oddest places.)  But this is a classical puzzle with an obvious solution -- we can HOLD MIRROR, and retrieve the titular treasure: *The Golden Apple*.

Back to the study, SCORE, and victory is ours!

In keeping with Artic tradition, we are advised to look out for news of ADVENTURE F, which would come to be known as The Eye of Bain.  I have been enjoying the Artic adventures, irritatingly old-school as they can be at times, and we will likely be continuing with the series in the not-too-distant future.


  1. "This one, at last, is properly credited to one Simon Wadsworth, circa 1983."

    Certainly was :)

    I'd been a fan of the ZX81 Adventures A-D by Artic and after they published my awful Pacman clone "Gobbleman" I asked if they'd be intersted in a new adventure - and they said "sure". "Golden Apple" was written in only a couple of weeks; the story is nothing original I'm afraid - I was only 17 ;)

  2. Just finished this one! Thanks again. Needed you a couple of times there. Really enjoyed this.