Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adventure of the Week: King Tut's Tomb (1978)

This week we'll be looking at one of Greg Hassett's early text adventures, King Tut's Tomb, written in BASIC and published in 1978 for the TRS-80 Model I computer.  Ports also exist for the Commodore PET and C-64; no publisher is identified here, but the game appeared in type-in form in Bob Liddil's The Captain 80 Book of BASIC Adventures.  This proved very important as I tried to solve this one!

The game begins with a minimal title screen:

This release predates wide availability of lowercase kits for the TRS-80, so commands must be entered in all uppercase characters or they will not be recognized.  As was the case with several of the author's other games, LOOK is treated as a room-level look, and there's no EXAMINE verb for closer inspection, though READ applies in a few cases.  Nor is there a TAKE verb, only GET works.  Young Mr. Hassett's spelling remains uneven, but there's no questioning his coding skills -- performance is very good for a BASIC-language adventure.  This game's theme and certain elements are clearly influenced by the Crowther/Woods Colossal Cave Adventure, or possibly by the Radio Shack release Pyramid 2000, which borrowed heavily from the early sections of that game.

I would normally suggest that interested readers explore King Tut's Tomb independently before diving into my comments, but in this case there's a significant caveat -- the version I found in the online archives cannot be completed.  It appears that whoever typed KINGTUT/BAS in decided to swap some of the map data around, and prevented the player from returning to the tomb's entrance in the process.  Some of the errors are typos, some look like intentional transpositions, but the net effect is that I was not able to finish the game until I sat down with the Captain 80 book and corrected a number of lines of code.  Other versions may be accurate, but at least one TRS-80 edition is broken.  So don't feel guilty if you opt to proceed directly into the...

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

(Note that my directions in the game's early stages may be wrong, as I had not yet corrected the map data.  I didn't go back and correct my notes after fixing the problem, so you will get to witness a little extra confusion!)

We begin the story standing outside AN ENOURMOUS [sic] PYRAMID -- and in this case, the misspelling is due to the anonymous typist, not Mr. Hassett's original listing.  There are some basic supplies on hand -- a package of food, an ancient torch, and THERE IS [sic] SOME MATCHES HERE as well.  (Greg Hassett was a skilled and precocious coder, but most of his games could have done with a little proofreading.) 

There's nowhere to go but E into the Pyramid -- and even though I went in without the matches or a lit torch, and IT IS PITCH DARK, we can still see that HOLY BAND-AIDS! AN ANCIENT MUMMY WALKED IN TO PUT ME TO DEATH!  If we do nothing, then this surprisingly spry collection of bones and bandages is suddenly charging at us, killing us in short order.

This is a randomized event, but when the player meets such an untimely end, the game will "TRY AND REINCARNATE YOU" -- borrowing from the original Adventure, we are reincarnated in a puff of orange smoke.  We can do this twice, but it's only marginally useful as some of the items we need get left wherever we were last standing, forcing a collection trip to resume play.  It's usually best to RESTORE (the SAVE goes to cassette only, so an emulator with save state support is easier to work with.)

With a lit torch, we can find an OPAL DRINKING CUP.  To the south we are CRAWLING OVER A JUMBLE OF BROKEN ROCK, another Adventure-inspired reference it would seem.  Further south, through an AWKWARD N/S PASSAGEWAY, we suddenly find ourselves in the 1970s again, in a game room with A STEVE MARTIN POSTER, referencing Martin's novelty song hit, King TutREAD POSTER yields, "BEST FISHES -- STEVE MARTIN (KING TUT)."  Time to put on our cruel shoes, because comedy is not pretty.

Further south, we find ourselves at the west end of a temple, where we discover a GOLDEN CHALICE.  Going west again leads us to a TWISTING CORRODOR [sic], and a maze.

The torch is remarkably brief in duration -- mine ran out just a few rooms into the pyramid!  Fortunately, we can LIGHT TORCH again after it goes out, we just need to carry the matches with us.  Checking out the east end of the temple this time yields a golden key, and nowhere else to go, really, so we'll have to deal with the maze.  It's not a complicated maze, just a couple of rooms, but the other rooms in this area are also a bit mazey.

There are a number of treasures lying about in the royal chambers on the other side of the maze -- a PLATINUM SPEAR in the annex, an ALABASTER NECKLACE in the JEWELRY CHAMBER, and a RUBY EARRING in the QUARTERS OF PRINCESS ANKA

In THE ARTIST'S STUDIO we find a JADE STATUETTE -- but another randomized threat rears its ugly (I assume) head, as THERE IS A THREATENING LITTLE GOOBER IN THE ROOM WITH ME.  A peanut?  We can try to KILL GOOBER, but THE GOOBERS ARE IMMORTAL.  Eventually this fellow throws a knife at us, fatally, so we probably need to dispose of him somehow.  We can't FEED GOOBER -- THERE IS NOTHING HERE IT WANTS TO EAT.  (EXCEPT PERHAPS ME!)  But it doesn't attack immediately, so we can do a little more exploring while it follows us around.

An EGYPTIAN LIBRARY contains the fabled BOOK OF THE DEAD, which is written in EGYPTIAN HYROGLYPHICS [sic].  A disappointing WINE CLOSET (ALL CHEAP STUFF) contains a GOBLET OF WINE.  A hard-to-visualize BEDROOM DESIGNED FOR THE AFTERLIFE leads to a STABLE and then to a WARRIOR'S QUARTERS where a GLASS MEDALLION awaits.

There are a ton of treasures in the game -- there's no SCORE room identified, but if we bring the treasures to our starting location we are awarded points.  There's an eight-item inventory limit, so we will have to make multiple trips, and doing this efficiently presents the game's primary challenge.

A ROYAL THRONE room contains AN IVORY THRONE.  When we encounter the MUMMY again, we can try to BURN MUMMY and LIGHT MUMMY and TORCH MUMMY, to no apparent avail.  Except the mummy does seem to leave us alone if we try?

South of the HIGH PRIEST'S CHAMBER we suddenly find out that I'M IN THE KING'S HAREM.  Fortunately this is just a location name, and the King is nowhere in sight.  A SNAKE PIT contains a FIERCE SNAKEKILL SNAKE suggests only that THAT IS A STUPID THING TO TRY!  But the snake doesn't actually block our passage, and if we can get the the threatening little goober to follow us in here, we get some relief as THE GOOBER SEES THE SNAKE, LEAPS UP AND RUNS AWAY!  He will return later to harass us, though.

There aren't many puzzles as such in this game.  We just have to round up the treasures -- all we can carry -- and get them out the door.  Except (or so I thought before figuring out that the map data was incorrect) we can't get out the same way we came in, it seems.  There's a LABYRYNTH [sic] OF PASSAGES DESIGNED TO KEEP OUT TOMB ROBBERS, which we will probably need to navigate to get back out (or not, actually, pending code corrections.) 

The labyrinth contains a GIANT PEARL, and leads to a locked gate that can be opened with the golden key.  This leads to the BURIAL CHAMBER where KING TUT'S COFFIN lies.  But we're no closer to an exit.

I broke down and asked for HELP -- but IT'S AGAINST COMPANY RULES TO GIVE AVERAGE ADVENTURERS HELP.  We can OPEN COFFIN, but can't seem to PUT or INSERT anything in it, or ENTER it.   

The randomness extends to a couple of specific scenarios -- on one retry, instead of the HOLY BAND-AIDS! message, I got SUFFRIN' SUCCOTASH! when the ancient mummy walked in to put us to death.  And at another time, in KARMAK'S CATHEDRAL, I saw that THE MUMMY IS CHARGING AT ME!! but HE SLIPS ON A CONVENIENTLY PLACED BANANA PEEL AND CRACKS HIS SKULL. THE BODY VANISHES.  Odd.  Good luck?

This time, looking at the Book of the Dead, I attempt to TRANSLATE BOOK -- and it works!  IT SAYS: GOOBERS HATE SNAKES.  MOM IS FLAMIBLE. [sic].  This is unusual because Hassett's games don't usually employ a lot of special-case verbs; apparently trying to BURN MUMMY still makes sense, maybe it just doesn't produce a visible response.  If we FEED SNAKE, then we can carry it around and avoid goobers. 

I'm stuck -- can't seem to find my way back out after going in.  But two different walkthroughs at CASA are inconsistent with my navigation (prior to fixing the bugs) -- I can't follow the paths they suggest, those entrances are closed off.  Looking at the code -- how do I get back to room 6?  No path is apparent from the data.  Both walkthroughs suggest that there should be a path from room 18 (end of the maze) east to part of the labyrinth; this map is different but can be navigated.  What seems to be missing is a path that goes east, back to the Entrance to the pyramid.

Something else is wrong with this version -- the mummy walks in, and if we BURN MUMMY we get WHAZZAT? but the mummy still disappears.  Time for a little research -- this game's source code was published as part of The Captain 80 Book of BASIC Adventures.  If only I could find an original listing!  Ah, I did!  Amazon is sometimes just the ticket.

There are definitely changes in the map data -- these appear to be intentional but end up breaking the game.  This is not a comprehensive list, I know I fixed a few other things to get this into playable shape.  But to provide a flavor of the issues... line 219 is incorrect; data for second room should be "2,7,3,6" but is entered as "0,2,7,3."  Line 227 should have "9, 13, 5, 0" but has "5, 13, 0, 0."  Line 237 should be "18,37,15,18" but is "15,37,0,18".  Line 239 should be "14,0,0,24" but is "13,24,0,0."  Line 246 has a typo, the last value is "026" but should be "0."  Line 240 repeats data from the line before it.

Whew!  With all those fixes, the walkthrough at CASA is almost good now -- we just need to improvise a bit when the little goober shows up or the torch goes out.  And with a few saves and restores, victory is finally ours, with all the treasures gathered!

After quitting and getting the bonus point evaluation, I found that I'd only earned 200 of the 207 points possible -- that is, 25 of the 32 possible bonus points.

So what did I miss?  And is it worth going back for them?  Another look at the code indicates that anything above 182 still qualifies us as an ADVENTURER GRANDMASTER.  We earn points for visiting certain locations, I believe I got all of those; we lose points if we run out of matches or take too many moves, no issues there.  Some points are based on the number of matches left in inventory, and I used several relighting the torch when I could have carefully navigated in the darkness.  And we can earn some points for bringing non-treasure items of significance out to the entryway.

Good enough -- solving the mystery of King Tut's Tomb was not as difficult as solving the mystery of the anonymous typist, so I'll call this one complete.  There are still several Greg Hassett TRS-80 adventures I haven't tackled, and I intend to get around to them in due course.

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