Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Robin Hood Adventure (1982)

This week, we return to the collection of adventure games published by SoftSide Publications' monthly disk magazine, with SoftSide Adventure #14 - Robin Hood Adventure, published in July of 1982.  Like most of the SoftSide games, the author is not credited onscreen or in the code, but the style of this game is a bit unique, coupling traditional adventure game puzzles with some random, RPG-style events.

The colorful title screen promises an adventure with ROBIN HOOD, and some other ancillary characters who have much in common here with the Professor and Mary Ann:

The standard SoftSide intro screen gives us a general idea of the plot:

Thou art somewhere in Sherwood Forest...Thus it begins.  Take up thy bow and arrow, and gather thy merry men, for thou art Robin Hood.  There are rich merchants to rob and great deeds to do.  But have care, bold Robin!  The sheriff of Nottingham longs to see thy neck in a noose.  Thou wilt surely need all thy wit and cunning to succeed.

As it turns out, we will need more than wit and cunning.  We will need a considerable amount of luck and/or patience, given the number of critical but random events in this game.  And, at least if the version I found online is any indication, we will also need to dust off our BASIC coding skills to fix a bug in line 699.  As tokenized, the code on line 699 reads, nonsensically,  CONT X5=4 AND A=32 AND SC=1... and the keyword CONT should actually be IF.  If we don't do this, the DROP verb does not work, and some very troublesome (and game-breaking) weirdness ensues in its place.

As always, I encourage readers to assay the Robin Hood Adventure  (provided the bug is fixed) independently before proceeding here.  I will be documenting the game's events in considerable detail.  I will take from the game and give to the pressed-for-time, with no fear of the Sheriff of Not-In-Game.  In other words, there will be plentiful...

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

THOU ART SOMEWHERE IN SHERWOOD FOREST as the game begins, and it's rather odd how Rob i'th' Hood doesn't seem to know his way around Sherwood very well.  There are trees everywhere, and the map favors navigation in the four cardinal directions with the occasional diagonal move, but it's difficult to map as there are few landmarks, and we can't create our own as the DROP verb does not seem to work at all (we'll get back to that later.)  We can climb a tree and spot some flying geese, but LOOK GEESE reveals only that Thou seest nothing special; we have to act silly and try to GET GEESE to confirm that they Art yonder in sky, O none-so-wise Robin.

The command INVENTORY does not work but I does; these SoftSide games are not very consistent on this front.  We begin with a fairly full set of equipment -- a green suit, a bow, a sword, 3 arrows, and 0 bags of gold.  The inventory also tracks Robin Hood's DEEDS THUS FAR:, currently None; clearly there's going to be a little bit of RPG flavor to this adventure, which should make for a nice change from the usual treasure hunt or escape plot.

There doesn't seem to be much to do, and we're prohibited from dropping Robin's weapons --
Litter thou not. Keep thy weapons.  I guess Robin Hood has to stay in character.  We can use his bow to SHOOT GEESE (they are also visible from the ground) to end up with a DEAD GOOSE, but that doesn't accomplish anything just yet.  So it's time to do some mapping, or at least try to.

As we wander around the featureless forest, eventually we hear hoofbeats -- we can climb a tree and listen as the well-executed Atari hoofbeat sound effects grow louder as they draw nearer, turn by turn.  Eventually there appears a RICH MERCHANT BELOW THEE -- but I couldn't initially figure out how to rob him.  I try to DROP GOOSE -- and suddenly Sheriff says, "entry fee be 10 bags of gold".  I didn't know there was a contest afoot, or that the Sheriff was here.  Trying to DROP anything seems to produce this bizarre response, but I don't yet have a clue why this is happening.
Meanwhile, here comes another RICH MERCHANT.  We can't SHOOT MERCHANT or JUMP MERCHANT or ROB MERCHANT.  If we try to KILL MERCHANT we are asked, Fight or shoot?  FIGHT MERCHANT yields Missed... consistently.  If we pause to LOOK at the room again, the merchant has moved on.  We actually want to LOOK MERCHANT -- His horse is nervous.  He be carrying: 2 bags of gold (the number of bags he be carrying be randomly varying.)  If we try to GET GOLD, then Merchant laugheth at thee and rideth off.  If we try to STEAL GOLD, without looking at him first, the parser tells us to Make sure he be carrying gold first, in a brief lapse into piratese.  Then we can successfully STEAL BAGS or STEAL GOLD; After thou stealest, merchant fleeth.

But this works only once, it seems -- after this, the next Merchant seeth thee and fleeth.  So we have to rob the next one from the trees, apparently reaching down to steal his gold; after that we can rob at ground level again, indefinitely.  And there's no apparent limit to how many bags of gold we can steal, the authorities don't seem to care.

With 10 bags of gold stolen, we can try again to DROP GOOSE, yielding something even stranger:  Sheriff taketh 10 bags of gold for entry free.  I know not what you mean!   And suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of an archery contest.  The scoring of the other competing archers is tediously laid out onscreen.  A miss yields zero points, while we get 25 points for hitting the middle ring, 35 for the inner ring, and 50 for a bullseye.  This is all completely random; despite Robin Hood's fabled archery skills, he can readily come a cropper here.  In my first try, Robin's first attempt yields 35 points in the inner ring; in round 2, all the other archers miss, and Robin earns 25 in the middle ring. And... we can't make it to Round 3, because I used up an arrow shooting at the geese earlier.

Following our embarrassing lack of preparation, we find ourselves in Nottingham, where Thou hearest beautiful singing and normal adventuring seems about to happen.  But an un-Sherwoodian alarm klaxon starts ringing, as we learn that Thou hast been recognized.  Thou art dead. This adventure is over.

So clearly we need to be doing this differently.  Wandering through the obstinately unmappable wilderness, we discover that on occasion one of Robin's Merry Men shows up, like Will Scarlet.  Will is ready to follow, which implies we will be rounding up some others.  More random wandering discovers the location of Friar Tuck, who says, "Robin, I'll not follow thee yet", so he must want something.  There's a LONG WOODEN POLE in one location, but it's not clear what we should do with it.

Trying to DROP POLE puts us back in the archery match, where we can confirm that the scoring is random.  Sherwood Forest is apparently mappable, but it's really hard to do with no ability to drop items.  There's a paper tacked to a tree in one room; it reads, "SHOOTING CONTEST TODAY IN NOTTINGHAM - Signed: THE SHERIFF".  So that must be where we magically arrive whenever we try to drop something.

To the east of this paper, we find a stream, and we Art crossing log in waterGO STREAM yields Water is B-R-R-RLOOK LOG yields Little John.   Huh?  LOOK JOHN -- He laughest at thee.  Uppity log.  Ah - we can GO LOG to see Little John standing there with a long pole, and calling, "Wilt thou joust, Robin?"  We can JOUST with the long wooden pole to end up in the water, but after we emerge, Little John says, "Robin, thou art good sport. I will join thee."  These Merry Men are very good-natured indeed.

Little John does, however, carry a bug -- after LITTLE JOHN joins the band, FRIAR TUCK no longer shows up as a visible item in his location.  We only know he's there because we're still told he's sitting there, smacking his lips and continuing to say "Robin, I'll not follow thee yet."

There's also a WINDING ROAD in the forest, but GO ROAD reveals only that it Is far to walk.  We can also STEAL HORSE from one of the merchants -- the animal is never mentioned as a visible item, but the hoofbeats and lack of telltale coconuts kind of give it away.  But Will Scarlet takes it, and after that we can't steal any more horses.  There are some pasture areas, one of which contains a large jagged boulder; we can PUSH BOULDER if we have the long wooden pole, and find a golden harp.  But we can't PLAY HARP.

If we DROP something again and actually manage to win the archery contest -- after multiple tries and keeping all three arrows early on -- we win a prize.  But then Thy cap fallest off, O clumsy Robin. Thou hast been captured, and we never find out what it is!  Ah - we can STEAL CLOTHES from a merchant, which become a DISGUISE.  When we GET DISGUISE, Robin puts it on and drops his traditional green suit.  And then, having abandoned the official highwayman's uniform, he can't rob merchants anymore; they just laugh and ride off.

It is at this point that I began to find Robin Hood Adventure's sheer randomness truly irritating, along with the need to raise quite a few bags of gold by mugging an infinite stream of careless merchants.

Back to the game -- after we lose the archery contest, or win, in disguise, we can navigate around Nottingham.  A lawn has some targets on it, but right now we can't SHOOT TARGETS, as Robin, thy quiver is empty.  The display also notes that there is No contest today.  The other lawn has a scaffold with (gulp) a rope, but we can't GO SCAFFOLD, CLIMB SCAFFOLD, GET ROPE or STEAL ROPE, so we apparently won't be needing that.  And still Thou hearest beautiful singing, but where is it coming from? 

While there are no obvious exits going west or north from our location in front of the castle, we can still go W to a lawn where A feast fit for a king is served and Friar Tuck is enjoying the chicken barbeque.  We can enter the castle to the North, and explore the Grande Hall.  A locked door is on the staircase -- oddly, we can still see the FLYING GEESE from inside the castle if we haven't yet dispatched them.

We can also visit YE OLDE ARROW SHOPPE south of the castle, which is very RPG-like -- we can buy arrows for 1 bag of gold, a new sword for 25 bags, or a new bow for 5 bags.  The proprietor seems to take great pride in his crummy selection of used arrows:

South of the shop, we find what appears to be the other end of the winding road leading out of Sherwood.  And it seems that we can't return to Sherwood Forest without a horse?  Dangeth it!  So we need to take a horse with us.  And this whole warping-to-the-archery-green business still seems weird.

So it's time to dig into the ancient BASIC code and discover why the DROP verb isn't doing what one would expect; the bug in line 699 is the culprit.  With CONT changed to IF, the DROP bug is fixed, and we can no longer exploit that defect to jump straight into the archery contest.  But it allows us to play the game the way the designer intended.  Now we can SHOOT GOOSE and GIVE GOOSE to FRIAR TUCK to get him to follow us.  After we joust with Little John, we can travel further W from the log to find Allan A Dale (I'll assume he's the same as Robin Hood's Alan-a-Dale and this is not just a relative or something.)  He also wants something, and it's his singing we've been hearing; we have to GIVE HARP to get him onboard.

Once we have all the Merry Men assembled, their merriment breaks down considerably and they all start complaining: "Robin, I've got no horse."  We hear this over and over again -- each Merry Man deprived of a mount will say this every turn, so we're strongly motivated to round up some horses.  We're not allowed to steal any more horses from the merchants -- Will already has his -- so we have to find a Brown Mare in the northeast pasture for Little John; Friar Tuck and Allan A Dale will ride together on the Black Stallion found grazing in the southeast pasture.  But Robin himself still can't leave the forest.

We can find a cottage in the western forest where POOR OLD WIDOW BROWN lives, and we can GIVE GOLD to earn deed #1, "Gave to the poor."  This act of generosity is a little too generous, perhaps, as it gives her all of our gold, so we're better off doing this early before we've done too much merchant-sacking.  Near her cottage, at least, we find a SILVER HORSE, after all the men are assembled, for Robin Hood himself to ride.  That is, if we can figure out how to do that -- we can't RIDE HORSE or MOUNT HORSE or GET HORSE (Thou art weakling) but we can GO HORSE.  The horse has no problem crossing the log over the stream, fortunately, and now we can make our way to Nottingham by road, as the author clearly intended.

Now we need to stop in the shop and buy an arrow to replace the one we used on the goose.  The horse can't go into the shop, but we can't GET DOWN or GET OFF or DISMOUNT either -- we have to DROP HORSE; you know, the one we couldn't GET earlier.

At last we can go to the field where the targets are to enter the archery contest properly -- now our fellow contestants have names, and the rules are stated up front.  This is all much more sensible than before the DROP bug was fixed, but it's still random -- it's wise to save and retry rather than running off to raise more gold and buy more arrows.

When at last we've won the contest, Robin's cap falls off and we're captured, even though we were in disguise, and we find shortly that Thou art being hanged.  Ye noose is upon thy neck.  But our faithful Merry Men shoot the rope with an arrow, and our horse runs under us, and Thou dot [sic] gallop back in yonder Sherwood Forest

So we're alive, but we still didn't get to claim our prize!  Oh, it's in inventory: a GOLDEN ARROW.  Returning to Nottingham, where the heat is apparently off, we find a note reading, "ROBIN SAVE ME - Signed: MAID MARION."  She's apparently held in the locked room adjoining the staircase in the Grande Hall, but it's guarded now.  We can try to FIGHT GUARD, but our sword breaks -- fortunately Friar Tuck arrives to bop the guard unconscious with a chicken leg.  There's another guard on the staircase, though -- and if we try to SHOOT GUARD, our bow breaks, darn the luck.  And it breaks again if we traipse off to Ye Olde Arrow Shop to replace it.  So we need to buy a new sword, and wait for a whole bunch of merchants to raise the 25 bags of gold required.  (I don't understand why the merchant class hasn't simply petitioned the King for a bypass; this route through Sherwood seems extremely costly.)

Now we can kill the second guard, and find a key on his body, and open the tower door and rescue Maid Marion (well, we can GET MARION, at least.)  Now the villainous SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM reappears, and patiently follows us around as long as we like until Robin feels ready to dispatch him.  We can't FIGHT SHERIFF -- Missed... -- but we can SHOOT SHERIFF (though not the deputy).

Here's something REALLY annoying, however -- the shop only has one extra bow in stock, so if we break it a second time on the second guard... we need to restore and backtrack quite a distance.  Ack! 

After we SHOOT SHERIFF, we have 4 major deeds accomplished.  But the game doesn't end yet?  We can wander around for quite a while, looking for some daring deed or puzzle that might provide closure.  We can't wake the unconscious guard.  Delivering Maid Marion to various places and putting Robin's old GREEN SUIT back on doesn't seem to cause any reaction from the people of Nottingham.

I finally had to dig into the code to discover that there's a fifth objective - to meet the King!  And I also had to figure out that King Richard is object 28.  He has no permanent location -- we just have to find him, which turns out to be something we can do by wandering around in Sherwood Forest.  And now, at long last, Thou hast won:

Robin Hood Adventure is another one of those early games whose interface accounts for most of the challenge and aggravation -- that furshlugginer DROP bug made the early going a real non-treat.  Once I had that little meta-game solved, I was able to piece the narrative together in a more sensible manner.  But even so, there aren't many clues as to what we're supposed to do -- we just have to find things to try and hope some of them count toward victory.  I always enjoy the SoftSide adventures, but if they weren't written in easily-hackable BASIC, I'd probably have to give up on most of them.

My walkthrough, below the fold, should save you some of the headaches, though it can't avoid the long rounds of repetitive waiting and robbing that the game's design requires.  It should also be available soon at the CASA Solution Archive.


This is a semi-random adventure, with a fair amount of waiting and acting on opportunities, so just treat this as a general guideline.

NOTE:  Some online disk images have a game-breaking bug, so before beginning, be sure to check and if necessary fix code line 699 -- the first keyword on line 699 should be IF, not CONT.  Without this fix, the DROP verb does not work!


N, W, S
N, N
NW, W, W
JOUST (splash!)
E (Little John joins)
GIVE HARP (Allan A Dale joins)

(wait or wander until FLYING GEESE to appear)

E, S, W
GIVE GOOSE (Friar Tuck joins)

(now we have to do some merchant mugging; wait or navigate N/E/W/S in the forest until you hear

hoofbeats approaching)

WAIT (repeat until a RICH MERCHANT appears)
LOOK MERCHANT (see how many bags of gold he has, if he has 0 then STEAL CLOTHES or STEAL HORSE)
STEAL GOLD (merchant flees)

(now go give some gold to the poor)
E, N, W
W, W
S, E, E

(Merry Men are complaining about horses)
E, NE (Little John takes BROWN MARE)
SW, SE (Friar Tuck and Allan A Dale take the Black Stallion)
NW, W, S

(time to rob more merchants; if merchants start immediately fleeing, then CLIMB TREE and wait next

time you hear hoofbeats; you can LOOK MERCHANT and STEAL GOLD from up there too, then come back


(keep robbing merchants until you have at least 43 bags of gold, a HORSE and a DISGUISE - but take

the disguise last:)

STEAL HORSE (Will Scarlet takes this one)

(now find another merchant to rob)

GET DISGUISE (swaps for GREEN SUIT and leaves it here)

(find your way to the END OF FOREST, north of the tree with the paper tacked onto it)

W, W, W  (Robin finds a SILVER HORSE)

S, E
E, E, N
GO ROAD  (off we go to Nottingham!)

DROP HORSE (dismount, that is)
1  (menu option to buy arrow)
1  (buy another arrow)
L  (to leave shop)

N, NE  (Sheriff takes 10 bags of gold for entry fee)

(just hit RETURN when prompted as archery contest plays out -- if you lose, it's better to restore and try again.  After winning, we are slated for hanging, but are rescued by the Merry Men; we end up back in Sherwood Forest.)

N, N
READ NOTE (Maid Marion: SAVE ME)
FIGHT GUARD (sword breaks, but Friar Tuck comes to the rescue)
SHOOT GUARD (bow breaks)
D, SE, S, S, W
3 (buy sword)
2 (buy bow)
1 (buy arrow)
L (leave)
N, N, NW

E, D, SE, S, S, S

(somewhere in here, Sheriff of Nottingham appears)


I (4 deeds accomplished)

(return to Sherwood Forest)


(wander in forest until you find King Richard -- he knights Robin Hood for VICTORY!)


  1. Wow! I tought I was the only person to play this game BAZCK THEN! I still have most all of my old Softside magazine, so this is a walk down memory lane...

  2. I'm glad this brought back some good memories, Russ! I've been enjoying the SoftSide games -- they're short enough to finish on deadline, but not necessarily easy.