Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Quest for Fire (1983)

This week, we're tackling another vintage adventure game for the TRS-80 Model I -- Quest for Fire, written by Anthony Wood and published in 1983 via the CLOAD cassette magazine.  I wasn't familiar with Mr. Wood's work, and simply ran across this game in a miscellaneous archive collection.  But it's a quality effort, running in efficient machine language -- the author created several text adventures back in the day using his own MicroAdventure engine, and he has graciously made his work freely available today at his website.

The game begins with a simple title screen rendered using the TRS-80's limited graphics capabilities:

Despite the familiar title, the game is not based in any way on the 1981 movie or the 1911 novel Quest for Fire.  The game's object, clearly stated on a sign in the first room, is to "Bring the Emerald of Fire here."  So it really is a quest for fire, and we know what do with it; now we just have to find it.

I always encourage interested readers to sample these works for themselves before reading my detailed comments, especially in this case, as Quest for Fire is freely available and a very straightforward adventure to play and beat.  There are only a few deadly scenarios and they're not difficult to anticipate and avoid.  There's a walkthrough at the CASA Solution Archive, but you probably won't need it.

Keep all of the above in mind, and be aware that beyond this point, there are bound to be...

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

The engine is pretty solid -- some of the text is in mixed-case, some in uppercase only in keeping with the standard original TRS-80 hardware.  The game's SAVE and LOAD commands are functional and occasionally come in handy, but the game is really quite brief and fair, and these features aren't critical.

Adventure game geography tends toward the incongruous, and Quest for Fire is no exception.  Here, we find a pyramid and a coconut tree (with a coconut at the top) in a clearing in a forest of oak and pine.  And there's sand in the forest too.  We can DIG SAND there to find a chest, but opening it requires a key.  The map has a lot of loops and odd connections, but isn't hard to figure out -- it's fairly compact outside the pyramid, just six rooms, and there aren't any mazes per se.

We can't GO PYRAMID (There isn't a door on the pyramid!) or CLIMB PYRAMIDEXAMINE PYRAMID tells us only that The pyramid is very old.  Examining the coconut indicates that there might be something inside, and we can THROW COCONUT from the sacrifice cliff above the pyramid to break it open and reveal a key.  The key opens the chest, revealing that I SEE AQUA-LUNG.  Trying to WEAR AQUA-LUNG reveals only that I never learned how to scuba!  So what is it for?

The chest also contains a note, found with a second LOOK CHEST (repeated inspection pays off on several occasions in this adventure.)  The note says 36-26-36.  Um.  We'll assume that's a combination and not somebody's measurements.  The chest also contains a dagger.

There's a goat hanging out in a small clearing in the forest -- not a traditional habitat for these animals, really, but we can GET GOAT and carry the poor animal around.  We can THROW GOAT at the sacrifice cliff, but unlike the coconut scenario, the parser treats this action as a simple DROP GOAT here.  With the dagger in hand, however, we can SACRIFICE GOAT.  (Sorry, Mr. Goat!)  And now The pyramid seems to change below, we have a carcass left over, and we can GO ENTRANCE to enter the pyramid; the door disappears behind us as we enter, though we can get back outside easily enough so it's not a fatal situation if we have forgotten something important.

The pyramid seems to be not so much a man-made construction as a portal to a large natural/constructed area that seems bigger on the inside than the outside.  There's a safe inside the magnificant [sic] cavern inside the pyramid.  When we open it, using the combination from the coconut, A gas mask falls out!  This is a little strange, but this is an old-school adventure game so we'll just go with it.  There's a bottle of gas with a valve on it in a cubic shaped room to the south, so we will probably want to WEAR MASK and OPEN BOTTLE when a threat appears, if adventure game tradition holds.

There's a pool of murky water inside the pyramid, but we can't do anything with our non-scuba-friendly avatar, who refuses to do any DIVEing, at least for the moment.

A giant rat and a rat's nest greet us in a small dead-end alcove, which given our experience with the goat seems like an opportunity for further animal cruelty.  With the gas mask on, we can... well, we can't OPEN BOTTLE or OPEN VALVE or BREAK BOTTLE or THROW BOTTLE, but we can TURN VALVEThere is a slight hissing.. The rat dies!  Man, we are just murdering animals left and right here.

Fortunately, the rat's nest contains a book, entitled "11 Easy Steps to Scuba Diving."  Nothing like instant skill acquisition!  Now we can don the aqua-lung and SWIM DOWN in the murky pool to find some slime.  There's a trap door embedded in the slime, leading to the remains of a well shaft, below which is a flooded hall, leading to a large cavern with a resident shark, an irregular cavern with a weird chair, and the treasure chamber where the fabled Emerald of Fire resides.

So it seems we are already close to completing this Quest for (the emerald of) Fire.  Of course, we can't simply GET EMERALD and make off with it -- It's too heavy!!  So we can try something else -- if we GO CHAIR and TURN KNOB, it instantly beams us back to the game's starting location in the forest.  Hmmmm.  This will probably be handy for actually finishing the game, but we're going to need to figure out how to bring the emerald there with us.

So what else can we do?  Well, someone has to try these things, so I confirmed that we can't GET SHARK -- Bad move my friend, the shark decides it is lunch time...  We can't safely try to SACRIFICE SHARK either.  We can also die if we DROP AQUA-LUNG while underwater, yielding AGGGHHHH... I can't breath [sic] under water. GURGGLR.. BURBBLE GURBLE....

So we do have a puzzle here.  But if we EXAMINE SLIME a second time, we find a spear-gun.  Then all we have to do is SHOOT SHARK -- KKAAAAAAAPPOOOFFFFFF!! You really totaled that shark!  Now we have a mutilated (and apparently an insured and now written off) shark, and EXAMINE SHARK reveals... a magic ring.  Yes, this is an adventure game.

We can now WEAR RING -- I feel strange. -- and now we can magically carry the heavy emerald to the weird chair.  We use the chair to go back to the forest, drop the emerald, and voila!  Suddenly my [sic] back in the forest, and victory is ours!

Quest for Fire is a VERY straightforward adventure, but I found it a pleasant experience.  The puzzles generally make sense, and the descriptive details do a fine job of steering the player in the right direction; it's really much better than a lot of its peers in that regard, but it's also rather brief.  It only took me about an hour to solve, mapping and note-taking included, mostly because no items go unused, the puzzles are simple and clear, and we can generally find an appropriate item or action to get past any obstacle if we look around and experiment a bit.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Anthony Wood published four adventure games back in the day, so I will probably get around to playing the rest of his works eventually.  But probably not next week.

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