Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Adventure in Ancient Jerusalem (1981)

This week, we're looking at another BASIC adventure game for the TRS-80, from the cassette-based CLOAD magazine.  I have been trying to track down the original Jungle Adventure, after playing the second part recently; I'm speculating that the first part was also published by CLOAD, and when I found a file called JADVENT in an earlier issue, I thought I had found what I was looking for.  But in fact this game is Warren Melnick's Adventure in Ancient Jerusalem, written in 1980 and published in July of 1981.

The game opens with a rather ominous title screen -- the game uses a keypress checking routine to prevent the player from breaking out of the BASIC interpreter to the system prompt, but unfortunately it also makes input slower and less reliable than normal.  I should also note that if you're playing on an emulator and aren't seeing your input register, check the CAPS LOCK status -- the game only recognizes uppercase characters.

According to the instructions screen, we must "explore the city while out-maneuvering Arabs that will kill you if you invade their quarter," find nine treasures and pass through the Golden Gate of the original temple.  The game is dedicated to the author's brother, Wayne; no onscreen credit is otherwise cited, but I found the author's name in the code.  As with many adventures of the early 1980s, the Scott Adams influence is visible; treasures are denoted with asterisks, and many of the same stock responses turn up.

As always, I urge interested readers to take an Adventure in Ancient Jerusalem firsthand before reading the following.  It's a tricky game, though; there's no SAVE GAME feature, and plenty of opportunities for unforeseen instant death.  But games are an experiential art form, and there's really no substitute for dipping your own toe into the waters.  My goal here is to document these games for history's sake, so whether you ever play the actual game or consider this an acceptable substitute, be advised that there will be plentiful...

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

We begin on a street in Jerusalem with no inventory in hand; exploring the streets suggests that the neighborhood is a bit of a maze, but as we have no items to drop for mapping purposes, we aren't going to get anywhere trying to figure it out just yet.

To the south is an underpass, from which we can climb to the top of the Western Wall.  There's a pair of glasses here, but going down doesn't bring us back to where we were earlier.  The map has a number of these one-way passages, so the player is required to do certain things in a fairly linear order.

There's no doubt about the danger warned of in the intro -- if we find ourselves in the Arab Quarter, You are attacked by an Arab.  You are dead.  We aren't given any warning about this fatal choice of direction, either, so we just need to mark the fatal choice on our map and start over.  The game is mostly about mapping, really; there are few traditional puzzles, but several mazes and fatal navigation options.

The first of the nine treasures we are likely to run across is the *SHEPHERD'S STAFF* in the Zion gate area.  The fabled Golden Gate to the temple is nearby, sporting a ruby colored button, but it seems we can't just PRESS BUTTON to open it.  The second treasure lies near the synagogue -- it's a *BRONZED BAGEL*.  Yum!

The glasses, presuming we made it to the top of the Western Wall to retrieve them, and also thought  to WEAR GLASSES, allow us to see a secret passage leading to the east in the synagogue.  This path leads to a hidden chamber with an old wooden table.  We can't see anything lying or written on the table, nor can we climb it, but we can MOVE TABLE to reveal a hole in the floor.  The hole leads to a door, but OPEN DOOR yields only How?? and UNLOCK DOOR yields TRY OPEN.  We probably need a key, but now that we've come down the hole, we can't go back to look for one.  Time to start over.

The keys are a few rooms to the north of our starting position, just lying in the street.  With the keys in hand, we can open the door beneath the synagogue's hidden room to reveal a passage to the west.  An underground cavern leads to the shores of the Dead Sea; entering the salt-saturated sea instantly and fatally burns out our eyes, so that's a bad idea.  We need to avoid wandering south of the shore.

The area does yield a number of treasures, however.  We can find a *DEAD SEA SCROLL* in a nearby cave, an *ARCHAIC BOOK* on the beach and a *RUBY RING* on a nearby mountain trail.  The book reads: "For more information on these adventures, write to me at:", followed by Mr. Melnick's name, address and phone number circa 1980 when the game was written.  It's probably a bad idea to bother whomever resides there now, but the use of "these adventures" is intriguing as it implies there are other works by this author floating around.

We can only carry five items.  The parser uses several characters to recognize verbs and nouns, but oddly if we enter a command it doesn't recognize, it sometimes only echoes back some of the letters.  I tried to JUMP and was told I don't know how to "JU" -- no pun intended, I am sure -- but when trying to replicate the issue, I only succeeded in crashing the code with an initialization error in line 51000.  I suspect there's a misplaced string index somewhere, though I didn't run into the crash in my playthrough.

So I had rounded up five treasures -- though I couldn't carry them all -- and I couldn't figure out how to get back from the Dead Sea area to town.  READ RING yields, "It says: I am -Touched- by your curiousity [sic] in the -Gate-."  So we will need this to pass through the Golden Gate, as implied by its ruby button.

I tried to CLIMB DOWN from the mountain overlooking Jerusalem, or CLIMB MOUNTAIN, or ROLL DOWN, to no avail.  I tried to climb back up from the room beneath the synagogue, also unsuccessfully.  I also drowned in the Dead Sea with burned-out eyes several times, until at last I was driven to look at the code, which indicated that I had already mapped the game pretty well.  But there are clearly several treasures I haven't seen.  Further digging in the game logic (I don't often say this, but BASIC has its advantages) reveals that verbs 26-29 correspond to a puff of smoke taking us somewhere, and that these commands are in the SAY, SCREAM, etc. family.  Then I had to look at the map data, as it appears these commands only work in a few specific locations.   At last I spotted some additional text I hadn't seen in-game yet, and figured out that SAY AMEN in the underground cavern room below the synagogue takes us back to the streets of the city.  (Actually, the code isn't specific here -- we can SAY YOHO if we like, or SAY anything at all.)

I found my way back to the Western Wall area, and at the gate, learned that TOUCH GATE doesn't seem to work as I thought it would based on the ring's text.  We just have to WEAR RING and then PUSH BUTTON.  This reveals a big lock, which opens with same set of keys we found lying in the street earlier.  The gate leads to several rooms of Paradise, whose geography turns out to be rather more Earthly than one imagines.  There are four more treasures to be found in Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern Paradise: *SILVA HALVA* (another food made inedible for value's sake), a *GOLDEN CALF* (unlike the famous Mosaic example, this one is small enough to carry), and some *GOLD COINS* and *ANCIENT SHEKELS*.  We can again SAY [anything] in Paradise central to return to the streets once more.  No lazing about in the afterlife for us!

I had now collected all nine treasures, and my next challenge was figuring out where the score room is -- we get 10 points for entering the Golden Gate, and each of the nine treasures is worth ten points each if stored in the proper place.  Traipsing back into the code indicates that [IF O(X) = 9 then SC=SC+1].  Is location 9 perhaps the Western Wall area?  Yep.  How we are supposed to figure that out is unclear, unless we chance to READ WALL and learn that we are to Leave *TREASURES* here!  Okay -- with little additional fanfare, victory is ours!

Adventure in Ancient Jerusalem is pretty straightforward aside from the SAY locations -- that really had me stumped, and it bugged me enough to do some further digging.  There is a way to discover this in-game -- but it also feels like a cheat, as we are required to ask for HELP in the underground cavern below the synagogue.  This admission of defeat returns the telling phrase, AMEN to Jerusalem! -- and we can be on our way again.

I enjoyed this little adventure, in part because of its novel setting, and even with the odd challenges it only took a few hours to solve.  Now I'm curious about whether any other games by Warren Melnick will surface -- one never knows what's buried in the TRS-80 archives.  My walkthrough is below the fold, and will be available at the CASA Solution Archive eventually.


N, N
S, S, S, U
W, S, E, E
W, W, N
READ WALL (store treasures here)
SCORE (should be 20)
S, E, E
S (glasses reveal a passage to the east)
OPEN DOOR (passage to the west)
W, S, W, N
S, E, E, N, E
SAY AMEN (teleport back to streets)

W, S, S, S, U, D, W (at gate)
PUSH BUTTON (reveals a lock)
S, W
E, S
N, E

W, S, S, S, S
SCORE (victory!)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the walkthrough. Ported the game to my favourite system with its help. Also removed the worst sterotypes from my version: https://youtu.be/25KK5f1_1s0