Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Danger Is My Business (1983)

This week, I'm returning to another long-running series, with SoftSide Adventure #20 - Danger Is My Business, published in 1983 for the Atari 400/800.  (Frequent visitors may notice I've skipped over SoftSide Adventure #19, Alaskan Adventure, which I played quite a while back before I realized how many of these games were published and resolved to do them in order.)

It sounds like a noir crime drama, but this is actually an Indiana Jones-inspired jungle adventure starring the off-brand hero, Sarasota Sam, who seems to favor a gun instead of a whip.  He's also purportedly a U.S. Special Agent, but there's an air of Dr. Jones about him (or her, if our character is actually Sarasota Samantha.)

Usually I recommend that interested readers play the game before continuing, but this one seems to have a serious, game-breaking bug very near the dramatic conclusion.  I will provide a solution of sorts in the discussion and walkthrough below, but to see it you are likely to encounter other revelations.  So I won't insist that anyone else actually try to solve this one; feel free to wander into the...

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

We begin standing in the jungles of India; a tall tree can be climbed, but there's nothing of use up there.  To the northwest of our starting point lies the American Embassy.  All we are carrying is a hat and a gun, and unlike his presumed inspiration, Sarasota Sam will happily DROP HAT and leave it behind, which is handy for mapping.  We can CLIMB TREE in any location, though most do not contain anything useful.  But one of the jungle trees has an apple in it, suggesting some strange biogenetics are at work, or else the designer just doesn't know his flora very well.

We can't get back inside the American Embassy -- the Ambassador asks, "have you my daughter?", and if we answer honestly with a NO, he tells us, "Then get her!", so clearly we're not welcome until our mission is accomplished.  YES prompts only, "Liar."  So why did he ask???

Ack!  Mapping the jungle is critical, as most of the time we are simply SOMEWHERE IN THE JUNGLES OF INDIA with a few distinguishing landmarks here and there.  But getting the map figured out is a major pain -- there aren't many items available, and if we DROP APPLE in the jungle, it gets stolen by a wild boar!  So we need to make a few educated guesses and confirm later when we have more items to work with.

There's a SLEEPING BEAR in the jungle -- LOOK BEAR reveals, helpfully, that He's sleeping on something you'll needWAKE BEAR doesn't work -- fortunately, perhaps -- and if we SHOOT GUN, Noise attracts angry natives - You're dead.

There's also a MONKEY in the jungle; He's playing with some shiny object.   Another tree has a BANANA up it.  The monkey will give us a SMALL KNIFE in exchange for the banana.

Another "room" features a creek, with a handy CANOE floating in it.  UNTIE CANOE yields a surprising limitation on the part of our hero -- I'm not very good at untying things.  We can CUT ROPE with the knife, and then GO CANOE.  But a few moves later, Your feet are getting wet; LOOK CANOE reveals a small round hole in the bottom of the hull.  We can PUT APPLE  -- In or on what? -- IN HOLE to plug it.

We can try to PADDLE in the canoe, but we're not getting anywhere yet.  Maybe that's what's under the sleeping bear?  Dropping the apple in the bear's location brings the wild boar whizzing through, but doesn't seem to disturb the bear one bit.  We can't TIE BEAR or PULL BEAR either.  We can THROW APPLE -- At what? -- AT BEAR, to get him to wake up and kill us, also not useful.  (THROW is otherwise a synonym for DROP, it seems, so this is special handling for the apple.)  If we try to climb the tree and then throw the apple at the bear, we are simply told, Better not.   LOOK TREE is more helpful -- There's a hornets' nest on a branch above the bear (though it's oddly invisible if we climb the tree and look at it from that vantage point.)  THROW APPLE / AT NEST sends the bear running off into the jungle, in the great adventure game tradition of random animal cruelty.

Under the bear we find a BOAT PADDLE, which was likely uncomfortable for the poor creature, though not nearly as uncomfortable as a swarm of angry hornets.  The apple is unrecoverable, so we have to go back to the apple tree and get another one.

Now we can paddle across the creek -- the apple plug fails, the canoe capsizes and we lose our gun in the process, but we make it to shore.  At least mapping becomes a little more straightforward here, with fewer "all directions" locations to deal with.

We encounter some MAD INDIAN HEADHUNTERS -- I presume this means angered and not loony -- and if we try go past them to the northeast, they give chase, throwing spears.  If we try to stop and GET SPEAR, the next one hits us and proves fatal.  So we should probably seek an alternate route.

To the southeast of the creek crossing is a bog, stretching from a nearby tree to another one in the distance.  We can't GO BOG -- not that we really want to -- and we can LOOK TREE to see that this one is an elm tree, which seems a bit out of place.  We can actually navigate the long way around, it appears, to get from one side of the bog to the other, so I'm not sure what purpose it really serves.  Unless... if we start moving and don't stop after we arouse the headhunters, maybe we can get them to fall into the bog... but simply climbing the tree doesn't manage it.

If we go back the way we came, we see a SPEAR LODGED IN TREE after the headhunters' first attack.  There's no time to GET SPEAR, though; if we stop moving at all, we get speared by their second try.  What we can do is climb the tree on the west side of the bog, and TIE BRANCH to affix the rope to  a strong branch; now we can SWING ROPE to get to the other side, and Headhunters topple single file into the quicksand

Now we can collect the natives' spear stuck in the tree -- actually, we can't just GET SPEAR, we need to PULL HARD -- and retrieve our rope.  Now we can reach a chasm with a tree on the other side, tie the rope to the spear, throw it at the tree, and... not CROSS CHASM or GO ROPE or... oh, wait, I didn't keep the other end of the rope handy on this side!  Tying it to the tree on this side first creates a taut rope we can use to gingerly cross the chasm.

On this side, we find more jungle, of course; the map here is a little more logical than elsewhere, but still difficult to navigate.   There aren't many landmarks -- just an OLD NATIVE; we can try to TALK NATIVE but he says, "Gimme something valuable first."  The knife isn't considered valuable, apparently; nor is the hat or the boat paddle.  So we probably need to find a treasure of some kind.  Nothing seems to be hidden up any of the trees... but LOOK SPEAR reveals that It's golden from stem to tip.  We have to cut the rope yet again, losing it into the chasm, in order to retrieve the spear.

Now we can learn something from the elderly gentlemen: "Three men and girl.  Look for oak tree.  Go southwest."  Until we know this, going SW from that location just takes us back to the chasm's edge, but now we can reach an area with a wall of fire near a waterfall.  GO WALL just burns us to cinders, but if we GO WATERFALL and get drenched first, then we can make it through.  It's another one-way trip, too -- this game is very episodic in nature.

On the other side of the firewall, we encounter an INJURED NATIVE.  The three men and the girl shot him and traveled northeast from here, he tells us, just before he becomes a DEAD NATIVE.  Following his directions, we find our rope again, or at least one very similar to it, and then we come upon a tent with whispering audible from inside.

We can LISTEN TENT to uncover a ransom plot -- someone is to go southwest and deliver the note.  Waiting to the southwest doesn't seem to move things along though, and there's no WAIT verb as such... but if we've heard this and return, we run into a SNEAKY BANDIT and we are caught, then dead.

To the southeast of the tent is an apparently infinite series of jungle locations; to the northwest we eventually come to a canyon spanned by a rope bridge.  We can cross it; there's a SKUNK lurking in the jungle beyond that point, as well as some more MAD NATIVES.  We can't GET SKUNK -- Phew! You drop him -- nor will the natives let us pass to the northwest.  But we can HOLD NOSE, and then drop him off to scatter the natives.  Except this just makes them very mad, and they return on the next turn to chase us.

They are gaining on us as we run in the only new direction available; a few moves later, we come upon another quicksand bog, with the natives gaining on us.  We can avoid the bog and keep running, but they do catch up with us, and we're dead again.  I had to cheat and look at the code, then wrestle with the parser -- we can't THROW HAT, or PUT HAT / IN BOG, but we can PUT HAT / ON SAND.  This causes the natives to assume we are done for, and they wander off.  We can't retrieve the hat, so perhaps that puts the nail in the coffin of my assumptions about this story's inspiration.

Returning the way we came, we run into the MAD NATIVES again and we are dead.  Oops!  Let's try going the other way this time.  We enter yet another jungle maze, and can find a MOUNTAIN, from the top of which we can see the American Embassy, due west from a cedar tree.  We can navigate through the jungle, then head due west a few moves to reach the embassy.

Of course, I have still failed to rescue the Ambassador's daughter at this point, so it's back to the bandit encampment to deal with the bad guys.  Being bold with a GO TENT proves fatal, as we face an EVIL CROOK, a FEROCIOUS OUTLAW, a SNEAKY BANDIT and the AMBASSADOR'S DAUGHTER!  We will assume she is not suffering Stockholm Syndrome and actually wants to be rescued, but we have to deal with the other three.

We can CLIMB TREE by the tent and wait a few turns -- now we can safely observe the sneaky bandit emerging, and JUMP BANDIT to knock him out.  Someone cries for "Help!" -- I hope it's the Ambassador's daughter and not the guy I thought was unconscious.  We can GO TENT now -- and untie the Ambassador's daughter, Messrs. Crook and Outlaw having gone to see what's keeping their friend, and apparently taking the very long way around.

The Ambassador's still-nameless daughter willingly follows us now -- we have to move quickly, exiting the tent and heading across the rope bridge as suspicious footsteps follow us.  And somehow, oddly, we're dragging the SNEAKY BANDIT along with us -- eventually, he wakes up and we're dead?  He must have followed us after waking up.  Hmmmm.  Perhaps we need to dispatch him more permanently?  But we can't successfully THROW KNIFE / AT BANDIT... the parser just tells us, Better not.  We can't seem to keep our gun with us by putting it under our hat when we cross the creek.  And we can't directly STAB or KNIFE or KILL BANDIT, either.  But we can use the long rope to TIE BANDIT -- actually, we have to be more specific, and TIE HANDS or TIE FEET.

I tried to TIE FEET, and he woke up, saying, "You don't tie me good enough" before killing us.  And the same happened after I opted to TIE HANDS instead.  We can't TIE BOTH, or TIE NECK, for that matter, and my attempts to tie him to the nearest tree also failed.  We can't search him for weapons, though he handily kills us if we don't keep him out of the way.  We can't GET BANDIT and toss him out of harm's way somewhere, either.  The parser seems to recognize TIE HANDS TO FEET, but he is still able to kill us; I think it's just echoing what we've typed, actually.

So what are we to do here?  I had to cheat again, which revealed something that should have helped but didn't -- we can CUT ROPE to produce two pieces of rope, and now, in theory, we can tie him up properly without him reviving as soon as we've tied one or the other.  Unfortunately, we are not allowed to CUT ROPE while we're in the tree, so we need to do it earlier.  But he still wakes up and kills us before we can get both hands and feet tied.

I was still having problems here, so I had to dissect the code more thoroughly.  Line 968 sees that he's knocked out and sets a Number of Turns counter, NT = 3; if it reaches 0, then he strikes, perhaps?  So we should not go into the tent and come back out before tying him up, and we should cut the rope before we try to jump him?  No... on line 410, when NT = 2, he announces he hasn't been tied up properly and kills us.  I am pretty sure this is an actual bug in the game -- these lines of code appear to be in the wrong order!

If I'm reading this right, it checks to see if we are trying to tie hands or feet individually before it checks to see if we have cut the rope in two -- so whichever one we try first, we end up dying as the bandit wakes up!  There's no way to reach the "good" TIE scenario as far as I can see -- it is preempted by the earlier lines, which do almost the same checks without paying any attention to the state of the rope.  My guess is that this map is so convoluted the unnamed author tested in pieces and never actually played the whole game through from start to finish.  We can do something similar here, by setting NT=3 and then doing a GOTO 300, which brings us back into the game with the bandit denatured.  This works -- and I think it confirms this as an actual bug, as clearly some other flag has been set that keeps him from attacking again -- but it completely breaks the reality of the game's world.  Curse you, unnamed author!

Anyway, with the bandit disabled (by whatever means necessary) we can now get across the rope bridge, with the other two bandits in hot pursuit -- we can CUT ROPE after we cross the bridge to strand them on the other side.  And now we can find our way back to the embassy as we figured out earlier, and return the Ambassador's daughter for victory!

I have enjoyed the SoftSide games in general -- this one was more difficult than most, due to the huge amount of mapping required; this game's world is pretty much a huge jungle maze with a handful of unique locations buried in it.  And that bandit-tying bug, if such it is, still has me feeling like I didn't truly finish the game.  But there are more playable adventures out there, and it's time for me to move on to one of them.

My walkthrough (complete with awkward patching around the bug) is below and should also be available at the CASA Solution Archive.


D, E, SW
THROW APPLE (at what?)
AT NEST (bear runs off)
D, S, E
D, E, N
S, E
CUT ROPE (again, frees it from tree)
PUT APPLE (in or on what?)
PADDLE CANOE (canoe capsizes, but we make it to shore)

D, NW, NE, E, NE (headhunters give chase)
SWING ROPE (we elude them)

THROW SPEAR (At what?)

GIVE SPEAR (learn about the oak tree)
LOOK TREE (oak tree)


CUT ROPE (into two pieces)
LISTEN TENT (ransom plot!)

LOOK (repeat until the sneaky bandit appears)
JUMP BANDIT (he's knocked out)

(there should be some way to disable the bandit for good by tying his hands and feet with the two pieces of rope, but I couldn't figure it out!  He always wakes up and kills us before we can finish the tie-up job.  I'm pretty sure this is a bug -- the critical check seems to be in a line of code that's actually inaccessible.  What did work for me was this:)


(bandit wakes up and kills us... the program exits, so at the prompt, we can type:

NT = 3
GOTO 300

This resumes the game with the bandit disabled)

GO TENT (others are away, we untie the Ambassador's daughter)


NW, NW (bandits give chase)
CUT ROPE (bandits are stranded)
NW (natives are angered)
PUT HAT (on what?)
LOOK (natives arrive, believe we've sunk in the quicksand)

CLIMB MOUNTAIN (see embassy to west of a cedar tree)
W, W, W (the embassy!)
GO EMBASSY (Ambassador asks, "Have you my daughter?")
YES  (victory!)


  1. Love your tricky code fix ;)


  2. Thanks. I wish it was a neater, true correction, but BASIC code tends to start unraveling when you pull on one thread. :) I'd have been much happier if I had found a proper solution in-game, but that darn bandit as coded was not fit to be tied, at least as far as I could discern.