Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Adventure of the Week: Madam Rosa's Massage Parlor (1982)

This week, we're playing the very first of Bob Krotts' Misadventure series of humorously "adult" adventure games, published by Softcore Software beginning in 1982.  Madam Rosa's Massage Parlor was released for the TRS-80 Model I and Color Computer, and as the first game in what would become a series, it was not specifically identified as Misadventure #1

Krotts' series flourished briefly -- seven games are known to have been produced in a short period of time, each with technical advances -- but, according to a recent conversation I had with Mr. Krotts, within a few months of the last game's release, sales died completely.  Most of the games are available in today's online archives, but even the title of Misadventure #4 remains a mystery at the moment.

This game is fairly simple in its approach, with a primitive parser that would be improved upon as teh series continued.  The story begins on a deserted wharf -- the player's objective, which I only figured out after almost finishing the game, is to infiltrate the infamous Madam Rosa's and escape with some valuable photographs:

Madam Rosa's Massage Parlor is a semi-difficult game, if not always for the right reasons -- the parser is very primitive, with specific verb/noun combinations hardcoded into the game logic.  To save others potential headaches, I will provide a walkthrough at the end of this post; it has also been posted at the CASA solution archive.  And if you plan to play through on your own, I advise you to do so before continuing here.  In the interest of historical documentation, there will be numerous...

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

The parser is not only primitive, but generally unhelpful.  It tends to say TRY SOMETHING ELSE... or WRONG... if we type something it doesn't understand or try to navigate in an invalid direction.  And because it recognizes specific commands, and doesn't really dissect the verb and noun, extraneous spaces and synonyms can cause frustrating dead-ends.  There are also what appear to be a few navigation bugs -- one "dead end" wraps around to another location elsewhere on the map, and another location tells us that ROAD GOES NORTH AND WEST but won't actually let us go N.  The code is set up with room-specific blocks of description and command handling, so we're actually moving through the code as we go from room to room; this design means that a command that leads to further interaction is usually treated as though it were a room.  There's also no INVENTORY command -- there are only a few items to deal with, but we need to keep careful notes.  There's no SAVE GAME method either, so it's a good thing the game is short, as full replays are necessitated each time we discover a fatal dead end.

The design is fairly linear -- there's not much to do, and few real navigational choices to make, until we get to the DARK AND FILTHY ALLEY, where we hear muffled noise behind a closed door, and see a peep hole.  Now we get to wrestle with the parser -- we can't OPEN DOOR or KNOCK DOOR or EXAMINE PEEP HOLE or LOOK PEEP or LOOK PEEPHOLE or even PEEP HOLE, but we can KNOCK.

When challenged by the entity behind the door, we have to answer YES before we can try to SHOW I.D. (and the parser is a stickler for punctuation -- it will have none of that SHOW ID stuff!)  We can find the necessary identification by doing an EXAM TRASH in the alley near the beginning -- again, we cannot LOOK TRASH or MOVE PILE OF TRASH or, most annoyingly, even EXAMINE TRASH.  The nonstandard usage remains problematic, as we must next EXAM WINO to get his wallet and I.D. card.  (A similar scenario occurs in Cathouse - rolling drunks seems to be a popular adult adventure game activity!)
Once past the door, we find ourselves in MADAM ROSA'S SPEAKEASY BAR & GRILL, an alternate name that presumably attracts less attention from law enforcement.  We can visit the game room, but it's fatal to PLAY CARDS -- we notice that a fellow player is cheating, we accuse him of such, and he shoots us between the eyes.  So it seems best not to bother with that.

What we have to do is visit the bar and BUY DRINK to make progress.  The chummy bartender asks us if we want to have fun with some wild women.  YES takes us into a hallway ruled by a bouncer; there are no visible exists, so we must BRIBE BOUNCER to get past him.

The actual game objectives after this point are straightforward -- we needn't actually bother with most of the locations, and none of the locked doors need opening, but it's worth wandering the halls to see the gallery of comical perversions Mr. Krotts has provided for our amusement.  In the hallway as we enter, A FRIGHTENED NAKED LADY RUNS SCREAMING FROM THE WEST!!  To the west, we can discover that AN OLD NAKED MAN IS LAYING FACE-UP ON A BED, deceased but happy. 

The building is full of these sorts of gags, including one room where we actually can LOOK PEEP HOLE to see something mercifully undescribed.  We can observe prostitutes of various styles and vintages, visit the cold shower room FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T CONTROL THEMSELVES, and spend endless hours of fun trying to figure out how to climb the creaky old staircase.  Sorry, did I say fun?  I meant we can try to go U or CLIMB or CLIMB UP or CLIMB STAIR or CLIMB STAIRCASE.  But what the game actually expects us to do is to CLIMB STAIRS.  Sheer pleasure!

There are some darker elements as well -- we find blood and evidence of a struggle in a red-carpeted room, festooned with whips and chains.  This led me to believe I was going to be solving a murder mystery, but it appears the local S&M enthusiasts are just very, um, enthusiastic.  There's a bat flying around in a plush room with a long pull-cord dangling from the ceiling -- we can PULL CORD, but it just rings a bell, summoning A MEAN BOUNCER and getting us escorted back to the bar.  A trapeze room has TARZAN written in blood on the door, which seems rather more William S. than Edgar Rice.  Inside, we can SWING TRAPEZE, which pulls down a bar.  We cannot TAKE BAR, but EXAM BAR yields... some photos, hidden inside the trapeze crossbar?!?  Well, that was easy enough, though it's annoying that we can't seem to discover what exactly these photographs depict.

We must now explore the maze of halls in the southern area of the second floor to find our way to an exit.  There are a few dead-ends, one hall that fades into darkness, muffled voices and a veritable Kinsey Report's worth of funny little rendezvous to witness.  One room contains a bookcase stocked with dirty books -- we cannot READ any of them, but GET BOOK reveals a secret passageway.

At this point, we are almost to the end of the game, but there are some setbacks in store as we attempt to map out the maze.  At last we reach a spot where a girl calls us a pervert (perhaps with justification if we have thoroughly explored the area) -- she runs screaming from the room, leaving us to discover a small corner room, six stories above the street.  Fortunately, EXAM WINDOW reveals a long rope tied to the fire escape outside.

We can escape now, with a simple CLIMB ROPE, but if we haven't discovered our objective, we learn that WELL, YOU GOT OUT - BUT YOU FORGOT THE PHOTOS!  What photos might those be?  Well, if we're successful, we learn that they are, of course, THE PHOTOS YOU NEED TO COMPLETE YOUR DANGEROUS MISSION.  So we never actually learn what's in them!

At least we have survived our encounter with the dark side more-or-less unscathed: 

And that's that.  For those less-inclined to wrestle with Madam Rosa's Massage Parlor and its obtuse parser, which sent me scurrying into the BASIC code on more than one occasion, I am pleased to provide a full walkthrough below the fold.

***** WALKTHROUGH *****

S, W
E, E, S, S, S, S, S, W, S
N, E, E, S, S, W, S, E, N, E, S, S, OPEN DOOR
EXAM BAR (get photos)
(navigate to bookcase)
S, S, S, S, S, E, E, S, E, S, W, N, W, W, N, W,
S (x 8), E, N (to first room with door)
N, N, N, N
E, E, S (girl)
S (corner room)
CLIMB ROPE (to victory!)

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