Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Adventure of the Week: Around the World Adventure (1981)

I've been on a bit of a SoftSide text adventure kick lately, and this week I'm filling in another gap in my recent play history by tackling the monthly disk magazine's Adventure #6:  Around the World Adventure, published in November 1981.  I'm playing the Atari 400/800 version here.

Our mission is laid out by the loading intro text: "Try to repeat the feat of the classic novel, complete with a balloon ride and other exciting features of the original adventure.  Are you ready to take the challenge?"  This game is inspired by the Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days, obviously, though it differs greatly in the particulars, and it opens with a brief dialogue scene at the Reform Club.  The player's character is not the book's Phileas Fogg; we're just an everyperson adventurer trying to repeat or best Fogg's famous feat.  It's one of those moments gamers always dislike (at least I do), when words are put into our character's mouth:

Perhaps it's not so much the dialogue attributed to YOU as the blandness of our response that I find annoying; "Yes I will," we say, which hardly seems necessary under the circumstances, and a simple YES/NO answer could have been handled by the parser.

Anyway, I always encourage readers to try these adventures out before proceeding with my commentary here; much of the fun of a good adventure game, or even a bad one, comes from discovering the story and puzzle solutions for oneself.  But I also want to document these games in detail for history's sake, which is why I have no qualms about offering the copious...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! ***** 

We have 80 days to make the trip, and one of our first discoveries is that they pass very quickly -- in addition to fixed increments associated with travel by various conveyances, we seem to burn a day every ten moves or so.  This approach has the odd effect of squeezing and dilating time -- it takes us a good day to make our way up the street to the haberdashery and buy an overcoat in London, for example, while it takes less than a week to cross the continental United States by handcar later on.

The game uses an engine similar to other SoftSide games -- this one adds a handy location line at the top of each room description so we can keep track of our whereabouts.  We are in London England at the start of the game.  An empty inventory just says You are carrying: with no clever text to cover the void.  And there are no EXAMINE or SEARCH verbs, so our interactions are pretty much limited to getting, dropping, and going places.

The game's structure is interesting and clearly constrained by memory and development time -- because there are so many locations to cover, each part of the world consists of a handful of rooms and one or two simple puzzles.  The London street where we begin our journey features a water puddle and a lady in distress, so presumably we need to make like Sir Walter Raleigh.  And indeed, we can GET OVERCOAT at the haberdashery to the north, then DROP OVERCOAT, whereupon Lady thanks you and crosses coat -- to no apparent effect?  Ah -- if we do not do this, she yells, "Stop! Balloon thief!" and won't let us get into the hot air balloon parked conveniently in a vacant lot to the east.  So either the balloon belongs to her, or we're just silencing a potential tattletale with our gallantry; it's never made clear.  There's a port to the west, but no ships are available as the game begins.

The balloon contains 4 bags of ballast, and DROP BALLAST unloads one bag at a time until we take off.  We drift along briefly until a pelican pecks the balloon, and suddenly we find ourselves in Barcelona, Spain with a wrecked balloon and a dead pelican.  There's a magnifying glass on the nearby beach, and a desert to explore, though there's no DIG verb so we won't be doing any treasure hunting.  What we need to do here is encounter a starving man in the desert -- GIVE PELICAN doesn't do him any good, but with the magnifying glass we can DROP and then COOK PELICAN.  Now the starving man says, "You may use my yacht," which makes his current predicament rather strange as the yacht is docked just a bit to the west.  But we're only too happy to take his yacht to Marseille, France, where we will leave it for him to pick up at some later date, if he doesn't starve to death after the pelican runs out.  I supposed we really haven't time to teach a man to pelican, though.

In France, some knife-wielding French punks chase us away from the train station.  They're strangely reluctant to actually do anything to us, it seems, as they never quite catch up to us -- even if we WAIT and a day passes, we still see that Oh! Oh! Punks are chasing you!  We need to borrow an old Hanna-Barbera gag and turn a detour sign pointing west to make it a DETOUR SIGN SOUTH, leading to a cliff; eventually, after more chasing, we learn that Punks take your bait and tumble down the cliff.

Once we're in the station, we learn that the train leaves in 14 hours -- but we can WAIT as many days as we like and it still won't go anywhere.  We need to grab a ladder and change the time on the station's LARGE OPEN-FACE CLOCK to fake the official timetable, and now we're off to Brindisti, Italy.

In Italy, a mouse scampers by in the street and a fat lady blocks our path in an alley.  We can get a piece of cheese in the food store, and then DROP CHEESE in the alley, attracting the mouse and scaring the lady off. 

We find a steamship at the Italian port to the north, which takes us to Bombay, India.  In Bombay (now Mumbai -- one of those cases where a 1980s adventure game's real-world references are already dated), there's an unused shovel at hand, and workmen block the way east.  An ungrammatical and Mad indian native throws spear at you but missed in front of the Taj Mahal.  The spear is now impaled in the fence (I don't think impaled is really the right word here) but we can just take it.  We can also enter the Taj Mahal, where we find a long rope in the temple.  And, given the items at hand, it suggests that we can TIE ROPE (which attaches it to the spear).  There's an upstairs room with a steel post and an open window, but we can't JUMP WINDOW or GO WINDOW or THROW SPEAR.  And we can't THROW SHOVEL, either; all of these attempts yield the maddeningly standard You can't do that now

Hmmmm.  Well, we can also TIE ROPE in the Taj's upper room so that we end up with a ROPE TIED TO POST; but if we have already tried to TIE ROPE with the spear in inventory it ties it to the spear and apparently can't be untied.  And even with it connected to the post, we still can't seem to do anything with it.  We can't TIE ROPE to the spear while it's impaled in the fence, so we can't use it to pull the fence down.  If we tie it to the post, then the spear, we end up with the rope tied to both, i.e. ROPE TIED TO POST and ROPE TIED TO SPEAR both in inventory.  But we still can't seem to throw the spear out the open window, which seems the obvious thing to do.

So, guessing that I was on the right track but couldn't convince the game to understand my intentions, I took a peek at the code to confirm that we can slide down the rope if we're in area 35 (the Taj's upper room) and have a particular state variable RP set to a value of 4.  Examination of the evolution of RP indicates that we have to do this in a very specific way. We have to first TIE ROPE (to spear), then TIE POST second, and then THROW SPEAR.  Now, finally, we can GO ROPE to slide down it past the workmen and get to the train station, where it develops that we have more to do here than elsewhere.  This train is more detailed, but apparently understaffed, and we can buy peanuts from the peanut vendor in the passenger car.  We must also use the shovel to stoke the tender and open the throttle in the locomotive.  This takes us to the end of the tracks, in a jungle, where once again we must abandon our previous mode of transportation.

From the top of a jungle tree, we can see an elephant pasture to the east.  There isn't really a maze here -- all we have to do is travel due east several times -- but in mapping it out, I learned that if we try to DROP SIGN here, we get an error:

Apparently the transformation from DETOUR SIGN POINTING WEST to DETOUR SIGN POINTING SOUTH back in France was a little buggy -- the engine puts the former version of the sign in the player's inventory, but this object doesn't properly exist in the game and so causes problems if we try to manipulate it later on. 

Going east through the jungle (north/south directions just come back to the main east-west strip), we find the expected elephant in the elephant pasture.  If we forgot to buy peanuts, fortunately, the peanut vendor is still happily peddling his wares in the passenger car where we left the train.  We need to GIVE PEANUTS, and then the Elephant eats nuts and lets you mount him.  Um.  This is one of those situations where a few more bytes of text would have gone a long way toward creating the intended picture in the reader's mind.

Anyway, we will execute quite a few cycles of GO ELEPHANT and RIDE ELEPHANT as we explore a cultural mishmash, where an Indian princess (presumably not Native American) is surrounded by fire, to be sacrificed in the jungle by a dozen natives in the sort of ritual uncommon to India, even in old movie serials.  A lake to the east is useful -- the elephant can fill its trunk there, and then use the water to put out the fire, largely of its own accord with no real prodding from the player aside from repeatedly riding him where he wants to go.  We can't leave the ritual site after rescuing the princess, or do much else, until we GET PRINCESS and resume our travels with her awkwardly stashed in our inventory.  Beyond that, the only useful thing to do is to ride the elephant again.... all the way to Ahmadabad.

In Ahmadabad, a sign in front of the train station reads, "Leave elephant here."  If we fail to do so, we end up stuck in jail, although at least the authorities allow us to keep the Indian princess for company. If we park our dangerous nut-eating elephant properly, then the next train gets us to Calcutta, and in the port we need to JUMP to just barely make it onboard a departing steamship.

After some ocean travel, we're in San Francisco -- these areas get smaller and simpler as we go, probably because memory was running low or the author needed to wrap up the game, so we're rapidly funneled across the Golden Gate Bridge, then by train to a valley where Tinkerbell is seen flying by (in what I presume is a departure from Verne's original narrative) and the bridge is out.

We can't actually navigate anywhere here, as all paths lead back to the single valley location.  But we can GET TINKERBELL -- she sprinkles pixie dust on you and you let her go.  Now we can FLY just long enough to get over the bridge, and take a handcar to New York.  That's a long way to go by handcar, but it only takes us about a week to get there, presumably with the help of our Indian princess.  (Again, as I picture this I have to remind myself that, speaking in readily mnemonic Disney terms, I should be thinking Jasmine more than Pocahontas.)

Despite her patient endurance and contribution to the journey, if we take the steamship from New York to London and return to the Reform Club with the Indian princess in inventory, our rather snotty "friend" Cromwell simply says, "Sorry, no admittance!" -- as it's an exclusively male club.  On my first try I came in at 82 days and I thought he was refusing me entry because I was late, but the princess turns out to be the real issue here.  Why we are still trying to please these misogynistic and probably colonialist club members after our perspective-broadening adventures is now a mystery.  But if we've made the journey in 79 days or less (gaining a day by crossing the international date line), we receive an acknowledgment that we bettered Mr. Fogg's time; in either case the game is over and we have been successful.

Around the World is a fairly quick and pleasant play; aside from the Indian rope trick difficulties with the design, all of the puzzles are easy to solve, and aside from getting stuck in jail there are no fatal scenarios that I could discover, just the pressure of the ticking clock.  It's one of those games where we have to figure out how to solve it, then do it again as efficiently as possible, but it's not overly demanding once we know what we're doing.  My walkthrough below the fold (also available at the CASA Solution Archive) includes a couple of non-essential informational moves, and will still finish the journey in 70 days.

I think I've filled in the SoftSide series gaps I created by jumping around a bit a month or so ago -- we now have games #1 through #7 covered, but these are pleasant and generally straightforward adventures and I will probably be taking another one on in the near future.


W, N, N
S, S
DROP BALLAST (4 times)

(balloon takes off and carries us to Barcelona...)

E, E, N
COOK PELICAN (starving man offers use of his yacht)
S, W, W, N

(yacht takes us to Marseille)

S, W
W (punks tumble off cliff)
E, E, E
D, S

(train takes us to Brindisti, Italy)

S, W, S, W
N, E, N, N
DROP CHEESE (mouse scares lady away)   

(steamship takes us to Bombay)

S, S

(train runs to the end of the tracks, to a jungle)

E, E, E, E
D, N (we see an indian princess about to be sacrificed by a dozen natives)
D (elephant fills its trunk from lake)
D (elephant squirts water and puts out fire, natives run)

(elephant takes us all the way to Ahmadabad, India)


(train takes us to Calcutta)


(departing steamship takes us to San Francisco)


(train takes us to a valley "somewhere")

GET TINKERBELL (she sprinkles pixie dust on us)

(we take the handcar all the way to New York City)


(steamship takes us back to london)

E, S, S
DROP PRINCESS (the Reform Club is males-only)
GO CLUB  (victory!)

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