Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Perseus and Andromeda (1983)

It's been a while since I've tackled one of Brian Howarth's Mysterious Adventures, written in the UK to run on the classic Scott Adams engine.  Next up from the series is Mysterious Adventure #9: Perseus and Andromeda.  Like many classic text adventures, this one makes use of Greek mythology, though the plot is a basic rescue-the-princess affair.  It's dedicated to A.J. Harding and the staff at Molimerx, Ltd., publishers of many of Howarth's games.

The game begins in classic fashion, very similar to Howarth's previous game, The Wizard of Akyrz -- we find ourselves in a marble hall near a throne room.  LOOK KING (oddly, not TALK KING) informs us that we are to Slay MEDUSA and rescue ANDROMEDA!  So we are clearly playing the title role of Perseus.

I started exploring this one using the Inform port of Howarth's original game, then switched to ScottFree to solve it, and played through one final time on the Commodore 64 to capture some illustrations.  This game isn't one of the more difficult Howarth adventures -- the puzzles are straightforward, at least if one is familiar with Greek mythology and recalls Howarth's tendency to use WAITing as a trigger for important events.  If it weren't for a bit of parser-induced frustration at one point, I would not have needed to consult the classic CASA walkthrough, written by the solution archive's founder, jgunness.

As always, I urge interested readers to tackle Perseus and Andromeda before continuing here, as for historical documentation's sake there will be...


In the Royal Palace's immediate neighborhood, we find the Temples of Hermes and Athene, a thirsty beggar and a leather sack.  We can fill the sack with water and GIVE WATER to the beggar, who gives us a discus in exchange.

The discus can be thrown to knock a Golden Helmet down from a tall statue in a cave, but we must THROW HELMET - At what? - AT STATUE, not AT HELMET.  Wearing the helmet makes us invisible, though we still can't KILL KING with impunity; in fact, LOOK KING still elicits the standard your-mission-should-you-choose-to-accept-it response, even though he presumably cannot see our inquiring glance.

PRAYing at the altar on the stone dais in the Temple of Athene yields a highly-reflective shield, which should be handy when we confront Medusa -- the game informs us that I hear the voice of the Goddess ATHENE: TAKE THE SHIELD, IT WILL PROTECT YOU IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE!

I got stuck after this point for a while -- there's a Withered Tree Stump in the neighborhood, but I could not climb, move, or otherwise make use of it; it appears that it is just scenery.  Finally I tried to PRAY near the ivory pedestal in the Temple of Hermes a second time -- having collected the shield and helmet and discus by this point, I now saw a pair of Winged Sandals flutter down, without any explicatory commentary from the gods.  Perhaps Hermes is simply not as talkative as Athene.

Now if we wear the helmet and the sandals, looking a bit like Hermes himself, we can GO PEDESTAL and WAIT.  The sandals begin to flap vigorously, and we find ourselves hovering in the Air!  We can now FLY NORTH once or twice, and FLY DOWN to land on additional ivory pedestals -- one on a small, grassy Island, the other in a grassy Plain.

The island presents us with a prickly thornbush -- we can LOOK BUSH to find some dark berries.  We can then GIVE BERRIES to a Blind Peasant, who looks hungry! -- but before he can eat them, the Wild Hyena nearby pounces, eats the berries, and dies.  This, as it turns out, is exactly what we want to happen, averting well-meaning manslaughter on our part.  Some fruit from the nearby grove of tall trees would seem like a better dietary choice, but it's not initially clear how we can obtain it.  Throwing the discus at the fruit, or at the trees, doesn't do the same thing it did with the helmet.  We can't climb the trees, or intentionally FLY, but if we again WAIT, the sandals start to flap and bring us within reach of the luscious fruit.  If we now GIVE FRUIT to the Peasant, we are rewarded with a Gleaming Sword, which also ought to come in handy.  It's a good thing these starving, poverty-stricken individuals always have such useful items tucked into their humble rags.

In the grassy plain area, we can obtain a wooden torch and explore a ruined temple with an open roof, containing a silver halter protected by swooping harpies.  The classical GRAIAE, the three Stygian witches who share a single eye, also put in an appearance nearby.  We can GET EYE to induce the expected wailing and begging from the Graiae -- if we take pity and GIVE EYE back, we are shown a narrow crack in the rock wall; after that, we can LOOK GRAIAE to find the eye again, and repeat, to no new effect.  We can't enter the narrow crack while wearing the Winged Sandals, apparently because they flap too much.  Once inside, we can make our way to a huge underground cavern, though it isn't initially clear why we would want to.

More immediately useful is a large net found in a small, dark cave -- we need to light a torch in the cooking fire of the Graiae -- and it seems likely we can use this net to cover the hole in the roof of the ruined temple, especially because we can CLIMB TEMPLE to approach the roof.  It took me a while to find the right verb here -- we can't DROP or PUT or PLACE or ATTACH or STRETCH it, but we can SPREAD NET to cover the hole, and it foils the harpies' attack.

As with most adventure game light sources, the torch eventually burns out; we can UNLIGHT TORCH to preserve it, but if we play efficiently it will last long enough.

If we WAIT in the cold chamber beyond the crack, the fabled Gorgon MEDUSA appears and we die, turned to stone.  To prevent this, we must LOOK SHIELD before we WAIT; now we can see a Reflection of MEDUSA in the shield.  If we now try to KILL MEDUSA, the game asks us to Be more specific, and if we're not quick to dispatch her, she strangles us.  The gleaming sword obtained on the grassy island is called for here, but we still can't just kill Medusa or STAB her, or USE SWORD, SWING SWORD, or THROW SWORD to do her in.  We would do well to remember the story of Perseus, or at least the movie Clash of the Titans, but even with that precedent in mind we can't DECAPITATE MEDUSA or CUT HEAD.  But if we BEHEAD MEDUSA or CUT MEDUSA, she is defeated, and her head rolls away to another location.

One annoyance with the illustrated version is that, after we WAIT for Medusa to appear, it's not actually clear that she has done so while the graphics screen is displayed; she is only mentioned in the text description of the room's contents, so her appearance can be missed with the graphics turned on:

In the huge underground cavern nearby, the winged horse PEGASUS materializes, growing from the blood trickling from the Gorgon's severed head down here where it has come to rest (traditional brother Chrysaor is nowhere in sight, and it's still not safe to LOOK HEAD.)  If we try to MOUNT PEGASUS, however, we are immediately thrown off, so this seems like a good time to use the silver halter obtained by outwitting the harpies.  Again, the parser requires us to work a little bit even though we know what we want to do.  We can't APPLY or USE or GIVE or TIE or PUT HALTER successfully, or attempt to use it to TACK or LEAD PEGASUS.  I got stuck here for a while, and finally gave in, consulting the walkthrough to discover that we can successfully FIT HALTER, which, arguably, is one (see, it halts... the parser giving us... erm... fits... Sorry.)       

We can now RIDE PEGASUS, twice, to find ourselves deposited on a small Island of Rock (despite the name, no bass guitarists appear.)  We can travel to the considerably less headbang-inspiring Huge Outcrop of Rock, where we find a Maiden chained to Rock, and encounter the mighty KRAKEN.   It would be too simple to let us simply KILL KRAKEN, of course, and if we try to do so he readily tears us to pieces.  Neither can we THROW DISCUS at the creature; we can CUT CHAIN before killing the monster, but there's still no chance of escape.  What we need to do is bring Medusa's severed head along, then SHOW HEAD to the Kraken, turning the sea beast to stone.

Now, we simply CUT CHAIN -- victory is ours, and so is the princess Andromeda, with Athene's blessing, and none of that nasty classical business about turning her uncle Phineus to stone with the gorgon's head when he complains at the wedding!

I enjoyed playing Perseus and Andromeda -- it's a good old-fashioned text adventure, not unreasonably difficult aside from the critical waiting moments, and it makes appropriate use of its mythological inspiration.  I look forward to tackling Howarth's next adventure sometime soon.

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