Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Frankenstein Adventure (1981)

This Halloween week seems like a good time to tackle Frankenstein Adventure, written by John R. Olsen Jr. of (at the time) Newberg, Oregon, who credits himself only in the code and not onscreen.  This original TRS-80 BASIC version was published in CLOAD magazine circa 1981.  Olsen later produced an updated version called Frankenstein's Legacy as part of his "Thriller Series" using AdventureWriter (a.k.a. The Quill).

The technical approach presents onscreen text in mixed case, but we have to be careful to enter commands in uppercase only -- trying to travel n doesn't do anything, but N does.  There is a SAVE GAME command, which is rather slow but functional.  And we have a five-item inventory limit, so we need to be very careful sometimes.

I always encourage interested readers to play independently, at least for a bit, before reading further, as I will shortly be giving away everything I discovered about Frankenstein Adventure during my playthrough.   In other words, there lie...


The game begins in a classic horror setting -- from a dirt path, we can see An old rundown MANSION, an overgrown CEMETERY, a swampy BOG in the distance.  (Not a toilet, UK readers, an actual swamp.)  The mansion's porch features a locked door, in the grand adventure game tradition.

An inventory check reveals that we are carrying an envelope.  The parser insists that we can't READ it, but we can OPEN ENVELOPE to find a key and a brief and vaguely portentous letter: "As my last living relative, you are entrusted with a great mission. (signed) Victor Frankenstein."  Okay, that establishes some context.  Too bad great-whatever Victor couldn't be bothered to tell us more about this "great mission."  The key unlocks the door, and we can enter the family manse. 

Inside the house we find an empty umbrella stand and a side table.  LOOK TABLE reveals a note, if we are observant -- the room description updates but there's no other feedback given, so we have to notice that this new object has appeared.  The note gives us a little more information: "In my secret laboratory, you will find my nearly completed creature.  You must bring it to life!  P.S.  Don't walk in the dark."  We have to GET NOTE first, or READ NOTE yields a misleading I don't know how to do that, leading us to wonder why Victor would entrust his creature to an illiterate relative.

The writing desk in the library contains a quill pen and pen holder.  Taking the pen reveals a small secret passageway behind the bookcase; if we wander into the secret passageway, it's dark -- and trying to even walk back out of the darkness yields "You fell in the dark.  You're dead!"  So that's a bad idea.

From the library, we can travel upstairs to reach the master bedroom, where we find a four poster BED and a PAINTING of Victor Frankenstein, screwed to the wall.  UNSCREW PAINTING helpfully tells us You don't have the SCREWDRIVER, so that's an obvious clue.

Our host Mr. Olsen requires us to examine quite a few surfaces that really shouldn't be very good at concealing their contents from a casual glance.  EXAMINE TABLE in the dining room yields a CANDLE, and the kitchen counter has some matches.  The kitchen cupboard contains an old dry lemon and a spool of silk thread, which will surely be put to some esoteric use before the story is over.

The candlelit passageway reveals a staircase heading down, leading us to the Doctor's dusty laboratory, with a control PANEL, the Frankenstein MONSTER (kudos to the author for getting this right for once!) on a SLAB, and a SHOVEL.  The control panel has a lever marked "POWER."

But of course we can't just throw the switch and do the Mash.  For one thing, the lever is locked.  And there's apparently no keyhole for use with a key -- though EXAMINE LEVER reveals a PADLOCK, so that's a bit of a design shortcut.  We don't have the right key for it, anyway.

We can explore the cemetery and dig indiscriminately with our shovel.  We can dig up a coffin from a recent grave, but when we try to OPEN COFFIN we're informed that It's sealed.  We need to use the crowbar, found in the swamp across the way (where we can't travel further east due to quicksand).  Now we have a fresh CORPSE, but It's too heavy! to take with us, so yes, it must be fairly fresh.  EXAMINE CORPSE yields a screwdriver, so we have apparently discovered the fabled Grave of Hardware Hank.

Now a snarling WOLF blocks our way out of the cemetery.  We can't PET WOLFKILL WOLF is, not surprisingly, fatal as That makes him mad! He attacks and kills you!  Neither can we CLOSE COFFIN or BURY COFFIN.  So perhaps we need a way to deal with the wolf before getting stuck here.

How can we get past the quicksand?  And deal with the wolf?  Closer examination of the monster's slab reveals a SCALPEL.  This might be useful for handling the corpse, I had nothing to CUT it with on my earlier visit but the parser clearly recognized the possibility.  And yes, after we CUT CORPSE, we have turned it into a MUTILATED CORPSE and can now obtain a HEART and a LIVER.

We should probably use the heart for the monster, and give the liver to the wolf.  Yes!  The wolf grabs the LIVER and runs off... unless we chose to be more aggressive and THROW LIVER, in which case he gets mad again and kills us.

With the screwdriver, we can discover a SAFE behind the portrait in the master bedroom.  It has a combination lock, so OPEN SAFE prompts What's the combination?  Hmmmm.

So it's back to the lab with our ill-gotten heart.  There's no need for fancy surgery here, we can just PUT HEART -- In two words, tell me where? -- IN MONSTER.  But we can't quite finish the job -- SEW MONSTER indicates You can't do that...yet!

And... dang it, the candle does run out of light eventually!  The engine starts warning us at 20 turns, and the candle disappears completely after running out.  We can UNLIGHT CANDLE to conserve it, but I had to replay more carefully to get back to this point with more light available.

So what puzzles remain?  Opening the safe, getting into the crypt, and reaching the mill across the quicksand bog, it would seem.  We can't seem to DIG anywhere but the cemetery, or cut the dried lemon with the scalpel in search of treasure -- Frankenstein Adventure is very much a one-use-and-done design.  If we try to READ them, the tombstones in the cemetery all say, "It's just names and dates."  Mr. Olsen holds no truck with genealogy, apparently.

I got stuck here, so I resorted to Dorothy's walkthrough at the CASA Solution Archive -- the NOTE contains hidden writing we can reveal by holding it over a candle!  I have clearly forgotten my big book of cool science tricks, and failed to realize that the dried lemon was a clue.  We have to PUT NOTE -- In two words, tell me where? -- OVER CANDLE, revealing the combination 26-27-24 (in my playthrough, this is actually randomized), and Then the note burns up.  Now we can open the safe in the master bedroom to obtain a MAP laying out a secret trail through the quicksand bog, and a DIARY.  The diary indicates we need electrodes, heart and liver -- hopefully we will find the electrodes across the bog!

We can FOLLOW MAP -- simply having it and walking into the bog is not a safe approach -- to reach the ruins of the old mill.  There's a hole in the decaying floorboards, leading to a dark, damp tunnel with a stone slab.  We can PUSH SLAB to enter the crypt, which contains marble statues, an urn and a cane.  The statues look like angels, the urn contains ashes, and the cane has a silver wolf's head handle. 

We come out of the crypt in the cemetery again, where to our probable dismay we discover that the snarling wolf has returned!  With the cane, we can now KILL WOLF, returning him to human form as a dead MAN.  He happens to be carrying a needle, conveniently for our purposes (I will assume it is a sewing needle and not the hypodermic variety.)

And -- drat the luck -- I ran out of light and had to start over again.  This was okay because I had also realized I shouldn't have given the liver to the wolf, now that I've read the diary; is it possible that the wolf doesn't show up until we've cut the corpse?  No, he shows up as soon as we open the coffin.  Maybe we need to get a new one from the dead werewolf later.  This adventure is more complex than it seemed at first glance!  (And in my retry, the safe combination is now 15-42-25.)

Yes, once the wolfman is dead, we can mutilate him too -- he has no heart, bizarrely enough, but he does have a liver (or else we've simply salvaged it from his stomach.)  We can POUR ASHES out of the urn to find the gold electrodes.  Inventory space is tight, and we're burning candle light, so we either have to make a few trips to the lab or take a risk by leaving the candle behind as we prepare to finish the mission.

Once again, we put the liver in the monster, but we still can't SEW MONSTERPUT ELECTRODES yields Try CONNECT, which is helpful as CONNECT ELECTRODES gets them hooked up to the monster and the power supply.  The activation lever is still padlocked, but now we can BREAK PADLOCK with the crowbar.

But I'm finding myself stuck again!  If we have PUT HEART and PUT LIVER, we can't SEW LIVER or SEW HEART, apparently because You can't do that. Save your sewing for the laboratory -- even though that's where we are.  And trying to GET either organ again oddly yields It's too heavy!

So I have to start over again.  Aarrgh!  The combination this time is 35-24-29.  And still I can't sew up the furshlugginer monster!  I have the thread and needle and all the required body parts.... ah, we can't THREAD NEEDLE but we can PUT THREAD / IN NEEDLE, PUT the organs in, and now, at long last, SEW MONSTER.

Now we PULL LEVER for... whoops, not victory!

As we have sewn, so shall he reap!  Frankenstein's monster springs to murderous life and we need to flee with the creature always one step behind us (even if we RUN.)  We can't stop to do anything, or The MONSTER has caught you!  You're dead!   We need to have the bog map in hand so we can elude the monster, just in the nick of time:

This was a challenging early adventure, and I had a good time working it out, even if I had to resort to a walkthrough to finish it on deadline.  John R. Olsen wrote a number of adventure games -- I've previously played his Jungle Adventure II - King Solomon's Mines, and an alert reader recently tracked down its prequel which I had been unable to locate, so I will certainly be playing more of his works.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Gargoyle Castle (1980)

Once again, time pressures from life at large have led me to select an early TRS-80 adventure game coded in easily-hacked BASIC.  This week we're looking at Gargoyle Castle, written by Kim Domenico and (ostensibly) published by Panic Simulations in 1980.  The title screen lists the version number as PROTO 1.1, and there are a couple of bugs in this build that make it difficult to finish the game, so it's possible it was never officially released, though it's very close to being finished so if it wasn't it's a shame.

The game is written in BASIC, with an inelegant but fairly speedy approach to parsing based on lots of string comparisons and GOTO commands.  The interface is influenced by Scott Adams' seminal adventures, with a terse location/object/navigation window up top and the command entry/feedback section below.  It's a standard fantasy-themed treasure hunt, with some unusual but logical puzzles and a pleasant sense of humor.

I generally encourage readers to play these games independently before proceeding with my commentary, but this game's not quite finishable in its current form; we can get close, but the final puzzle falls into a gap between the story and the victory conditions that makes it impossible to score more than 90 of the possible 100 points.  It's still an entertaining journey to that stage, and there are ways to get around the issue which I will discuss below.  As always, beyond this point, be advised that there lie...

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

The first treasure, * A LIVING CRYSTAL BIRD, is conveniently sitting right here at the start of the game... but of course, if we try to GET it, IT FLYS [sic] AWAY.  Heading W into the castle's moat causes us to drown due to the weight of our armor.  Under these circumstances, the game assigns us a score of 0 of 100 on the treasure hunting front, but also penalizes us for SLOPPINESS; I ended my first game within a few moves, with a score of -19.

The only thing shown in INVentory at the start is SOME VERY, VERY HEAVY ARMOUR.  Dropping it lets us enter the moat, but there doesn't seem to be anything interesting to do there.  We don't have to WEAR ARMOR to regain its protection, GET ARMOR is sufficient after our dip.

A GATHERING ROOM to the south contains a DULL RING.  We can't EXAMINE RING (no such verb exists, which rather limits our discovery options in this game) or READ RING, but if we try to RUB RING, we learn that I HAVE NOTHING TO RUB IT WITH.  It gets too dark to explore south of the gathering room, and west of it as well.  It seems we need some sort of light source.  We can't WASH RING in the moat, either.

After hunting around in the handful of accessible locations for something glowing or ignitable, I started to wonder... do we actually need a light source?  It turns out that, while the parser gives us the standard MOVING IN THE DARK CAN BE DANGEROUS! warnings, it is actually willing to tell us that we can't move in a given direction, and it lets us move in the valid directions without spontaneously falling down and breaking our neck.  Navigating this way allows us to reach the OLD STONE ARMS ROOM, where we find an old book, a TIGHTLY ROLLED SCROLL ("ROLLED BY SCROLL ROLLER'S UNION 207"), and a fuzzy cloth.

Now we can GET CLOTH and RUB RING -- THE RING GLOWS GOLD, though not brightly enough to let us see in the dark areas; it just turns the dull ring into treasure, as * A SHIMMERING RING.  As a side effect, the formerly fuzzy cloth is now a FAINTLY LETTERED CLOTH; it reads, "IN THE CLOSET, DUMMY."  We can UNROLL SCROLL -- a lighter falls out, and the scroll reads, "BURN IT UP, CHUCK."  The old book is in German, unreadable by our protagonist.

We can LIGHT LIGHTER to reveal the contents of the dark rooms.  One is a dim closet, where we can acquire a garden trowel.  The other is a DANK AND MUSTY DUNGEON, with * A HUGE RUBY and a long ladder.  We can only carry six items, so we'll have to start juggling objects soon.

Attempting to BURN SCROLL in the closet -- assuming those hints are meant to be used together -- reveals an opening in the ceiling.  It's too high to reach, but the ladder helps, leading up into a high tower overlooking the meadow.  There's a bridge to another castle to the west.

The new castle is large but fairly sparsely populated  -- there's a garbage pit with nothing in it, a library with an empty bookcover that is resolutely unREADable, and a roof-top garden that's otherwise empty.  Then things get weird, as a westerly passage leads past a TULIP BULB to a remote icefield where a caravan of ice beasts is visible.  A sign there lies half-buried in the ice -- "STAND BY FOR MORE ADVENTURE," it reads, suggesting that this was meant to be the first in yet another adventure game series.  We can take some GREENISH ICE here, but trying to MELT ICE yields only I CAN'T YET; it seems like there should be an emerald in there somewhere, if we can figure out how to dispose of the ice, but there isn't.

To the south we find a tomb with an unlight flashlight and a funerary urn.  OPENing the URN yields a * PLATINUM SMOKING PIPE.  There's a museum with broken, destroyed displays, save an ANCIENT SHOVEL which, as it turns out, is extremely useful for unearthing additional treasures.

Gargoyle Castle seems unfinished, in part because many potentially interesting rooms, like a HALLWAY WITH WARRIORS IN BAS-RELIEF IN THE WALL STONES, don't contain any items or puzzles.  A BEDROOM FIT FOR A KING hilariously notes that "IT SAYS 'KING' RIGHT ON THE CURTAIN."  The king's bathroom contains a coiled rope and a mound of trash; a torture chamber features a wicker cage and glowing coals.  OPEN CAGE claims SOMETHING FELL OUT, but there doesn't seem to be anything new in the room or in inventory, so this is probably a bug.

A room with a TALL GOLDEN THRONE includes a small plaster plaque set into the floor -- ah, at last, we have found a place to DROP * TREASURES HERE AND SAY SCORE!   Delivering two treasures nets us 20 points out of 100, so there must be ten to find in total.  There's a also a socket and a bottle of polish here.

We need to find quite a few more treasures, so let's see what we can do with the various objects we've discovered so far.  COVERing the old BOOK suddenly reveals it is * A COMPLETE GUTENBERG BIBLEDIGging in the meadow where we began our journey creates a HOLE, and inside is... a LIGHT BULB, apparently in good working order despite its burial.  If we SCREW BULB in the treasure room, the empty socket becomes * A TIFFANY LAMP.  We can MELT ICE with the glowing coals in the torture chamber, yielding COLD COALS and THAWED WATER; no treasure there yet.  Can we invoke a classic adventure trope and capture the * LIVING CRYSTAL BIRD with the wicker cage?  Yep!

What about the tulip bulb?  We can try to PLANT BULB, but my initial attempt yielded only I DON'T HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED.  I have the tulip bulb, the garden trowel, the ancient shovel, and some thawed water.  What am I missing?  I had to dig into the code to learn that I need items 12, and 15, and 29, and need to be in location 14.  Aha -- we need some compost!   We can dig in the garbage pit to find SOME WELL ROTTED COMPOST, then PLANT TULIP in the flower garden to yield -- a few turns later -- a * RAINBOW COLORED TULIP.

Digging another hole in the meadow yields a BLACKENED, DISCARDED CROWN -- though there seems to be a bug here, as if we go UP from this new hole we can come out in the garbage pit inside the castle where we were digging earlier.
Digging in the tomb produces another hole containing * SOME TRIANGULAR GOLD COINS.  And now we're up to 9 treasures!   Where could the tenth one be?  I looked at the code again to learn that we're supposed to have * A ROPE BOUND GARGOYLE.  But we haven't even seen a gargoyle, though we do have some rope from the King's bathroom.

I finally found the gargoyle in a hole I'd previously dug -- and with armor on for protection, I was able to TIE GARGOYLE with the rope -- but if we try to GET him after that, the game ends without giving us credit for finding this final "treasure."  I had to pore over the code some more to confirm that we have to TIE GARGOYLE in the treasure room to get credit.  But he originates in a hole in the windswept ice field, normally (a general hole handling bug, because the HOLE is always the same "room", sometimes causes him to appear elsewhere) and any time we try to GET him, the game gives us a final score and ends at that point. 

The gargoyle doesn't seem inclined to follow us around, so I had to fake the final steps to the victory condition by forcing the gargoyle to appear in the throne room so I could tie him up there and end the game.  (FYI, one can break out of the BASIC code, set LC(31) = 15, and CONT to do this.)  And now our adventure is finished:

Yay!  We're done... except for that darn sloppiness penalty, whose purpose eludes me.  The code suggests that the author wants us to leave every portable object that isn't a treasure in a hole, or in the moat, or in the garbage pit.  Any "leftover" objects get counted against us, but it didn't seem worth the trouble to clear that up.

And that's Gargoyle Castle.  If it was ever released, I'd be curious to know how the final version differs from this prototype.  It's very close to being complete, and almost playable to the end, it just needs a few bug fixes and tweaks to reach a proper professional standard.  If the author Kim Domenico ever runs across this post, I welcome him or her to drop me a line and let us know what became of this game.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Deserted Island (19??)

Regular readers will notice that my posting has been considerably less frequent lately -- real life and other projects have been intruding on my gaming and blogging time.  I've been cheating a bit to keep these Adventure of the Week posts going semi-regularly, by focusing on shorter, simpler adventure games from the early TRS-80 era.

This week's post ends up being an even quicker piece of work than I thought it would be -- I ran across a game named Deserted Island in the online archives, credited by at least one source to a Thomas Ally.  This name does not appear within the code at all, so I don't necessarily want to blame Mr. Ally for the mis-attribution or outright theft in evidence here.

Deserted Island starts out in a familiar but presumably unique manner, with the player aboard a defunct motor boat, anchored near a mysterious Pacific island.  Island escape adventures are certainly nothing new, and many games have used this same basic premise to launch the story:

I'd like to say I spotted the ancestral resemblance immediately, but I set about mapping the game and solving the puzzles in the usual manner.  I was about 45 minutes into the adventure when I started to have the nagging feeling that I'd encountered the same map, items and puzzles before.  And I had -- I'd already written about this game back in 2010, as Lost Island / Lost on the Great Barrier Reef!  That game was published as a type-in in 80 Micro magazine, so the version I played had some typos and bugs.  But there's little doubt that this version stems from the same code -- here's the first interactive screen from that game:

The intellectual theft seems to be intentional, or, more charitably, the work of a lazy typist, as very little has been changed.  Basically, Lost Island has been renamed to Deserted Island, some text has been shortened, and different typos have been introduced (though both versions contain the misspelling SMITHERINES).  Most telling, perhaps, is the fact that the Deserted Island code has removed this critical title and credits screen from the original game:

Since writing about Lost Island, I have heard from original co-author Tom Johnstone, who confirmed its origins.  Once I realized where this game came from, I decided not to bother playing it to completion -- though in trying to confirm that the code had been little changed, I ran into a different crash bug I didn't run into in the more accurate version:

At least I've crossed Deserted Island off my to-play list, and would advise others to do the same.  How this version originated and survived remains a mystery -- did someone steal and rename the game in to try to impress his or her friends with mad adventure writing skillz?  Or were the omissions made simply to reduce the amount of typing required?  Only the typist knows for sure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Adventure of the Week: City Adventure (19??)

This week, we're tackling another TRS-80 adventure of uncertain history.  City Adventure bears no opening credits or in-code attribution, no publisher or year.  I would guess it was an amateur effort -- its BASIC language engine is rather slow and doesn't acknowledge some unsupported commands, leaving the player a bit confused.  It also doesn't refresh the screen correctly on occasion, leaving fragments of previous displays around.  But the code exists, and has managed to survive the binary vagaries of vintage diskettes to make it into the online archives.  So we're going to tackle it this week, and if I'm lucky perhaps the author will see this post and come forward to make him- or herself known.

The player's objective in City Adventure is a bit vague, there's a random event that can make the later stages of the game maddeningly difficult, and the successful endgame conditions are difficult to pull together; I had to dissect the code to figure out exactly what needed to be where to complete the adventure, even though I was on the right track.  So while I always encourage readers to sample these games independently before proceeding here, in this case I can't say you're missing out on a lot should you choose to barge forward into the...

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

We start out in a bed.  Getting D (or moving in any other direction, actually) puts us in the bedroom of our house placed rather specifically in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where we see a double bed, a night table, a five dollar bill, a closed drawer and a "DOG TRAINING" book.  OPEN DRAWER and LOOK DRAWER reveal a WALLET containing a NOTE... which we can't read just yet, due to bad eyesight.  The Dog Training book hints that we can teach a dog to fetch NEWSPAPERS, SHOES OR -GLASSES- by giving him a reward.  The hints in this game won't be any too subtle, it appears.

It makes sense to grab all the movable items before heading west into the living room; the parser provides a generous 13-item carrying capacity so we won't need to start dropping extraneous items until we're fairly far into the game.  A locked door adjoining a panel with buttons lettered A-G prevent exiting the house at this point, but the kitchen to the north contains a cassette tape intriguingly labeled -ALARM SYSTEM-.

A pantry contains a box of cookies and a stairway leading down to the basement, where we are confronted by a growling doberman guarding a wrench.  GIVE COOKIE doesn't work, but FEED DOBERMAN does -- DOG EATS COOKIE, WAGS ITS TAIL.  Now we can order the friendlified dog to FETCH -- IN ONE WORD TELL ME WHAT THE DOG SHOULD FETCH -- GLASSES produces a pair of glasses.

With the glasses, we can read the note from our wallet to learn that we should "REMEMBER DATE WITH SUZY MEET HER AT 45 & 6 NY."  At last, a plot!  There doesn't seem to be any time constraint or urgency, though; this Suzy seems remarkably patient.

We're still stuck in the house, so if we're going to make our date we'd better solve that puzzle.  A study to the south of the living room contains a chair and a table.  The table contains a TRS-80 computer, in the reflexively-referential style of a number of these early games, and we can SIT CHAIR to access the computer, its cassette recorder, and a sheet of paper.

Using the computer requires a little familiarity with the cassette-based system's operating procedures.  We can INSERT CASSETTE, LOAD CASSETTE, and TYPE RUN to be confronted with a prompt: TRS-80 HOME SECURITY SYSTEM.  WHAT IS THE PASSWORD!  So is this an Abbott & Costello routine?  We can't type WHAT on an A-G panel, so I guess not.  The paper is from our office at NEW YORK COMPUTER CO. 38TH AND LEXINGTON, NY NY 10020.

Aha -- we can't type out WHAT on the alarm panel, but we can TYPE WHAT on the TRS-80 to learn that the panel password is D-E-C-C-G.  That's an intriguing approach to a security system, dependent on subtleties of punctuation.  We can't TYPE D-E-C-C-G on the panel (in fact, attempting to do so somewhow causes the computer in the study to respond with a ?SN ERROR -- a syntax error code on the TRS-80) but we can PUSH D, PUSH E, and so forth -- the parser notes that THE TONES MAKE UP THE THEME FROM CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.  It's definitely the late 1970s, folks!  And actually, if those letters are meant to correspond to musical notes they definitely do not make up John Williams' famous five-note theme, so our author is apparently not musically inclined.

Stepping outside the house lets us explore an alley near a drugstore to the west, where the primary item of interest is a trash bin.  We can't LOOK BIN but we have to GO BIN -- I hope Suzy is a good sport regarding personal hygiene -- in order to READ GRAFFITI that tells us, "FOR SOME REAL MAGIC GO TO 39TH AND ELEVENTH!"  The drug store is rather sparsely stocked, with a local magazine containing an article entitled CRIMINALS FOUND TO FEAR ANIMALS (and apparently nothing else of interest, as repeated attempts to READ MAGAZINE draw our attention repeatedly to this same story.)

To the east is a DEAD END, with a sign helpfully reading "+DEAD END+" and a soda machine.  We have no change, so we have to make a trip back to the drug store to BUY MAGAZINE and obtain a DOLLAR and a HALF DOLLAR in change.  We can BUY SODA now, ending up with a dime in change and a can of soda.

A bus stop to the south has a crosswalk, which we can cross to be able to see an ad on the other side of the bus for CITIBANK (yet another unlicensed brand name reference typical of this under-the-radar period in computer gaming), citing its MAIN OFFICE 44TH ST. & FIFTH AVE.  Our sightseeing itinerary once we get to the city is getting to be pretty substantial.

Before we leave town, it occurs to us that the magazine article might have been a hint -- and yes, we can simply GET DOBERMAN to take him with us. We have to pay the bus fare with exact change -- GIVE DIME and GIVE DOLLAR to the driver -- and then SIT DOWN.  We quickly fall asleep, waking up at the corner of 34th and Eighth in New York City.

We're free to wander around town, block by block, to visit the available destinations and discover one new one.  In no particular order:

39TH AND ELEVENTH --  Here we find a pile of garbage, and a sign reading, "GO WEST YOUNG MAN!"  (READ SIGN produces this response anywhere there isn't a sign, actually.)  We can LOOK GARBAGE and GET a SCRAP of tarnished metal.  Going west as directed leads to a fire hydrant and a closed valve.  We can USE WRENCH -- WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE WRENCH? - OPEN VALVE to unleash a stream of water.  PLAY WATER yields the puzzling SOMETHING'S MISSING!  I'm not sure what purpose this serves yet.  But our dog jumps down -- to take advantage of the hydrant, perhaps -- and disappears.  With our canine companion gone, we start to see frequent instances where A MUGGER APPEARS AND TAKES SOMETHING, and these random disappearances make it rather difficult to progress.  So it's time to restore and explore a bit more before coming here; it now becomes apparent that the dog will spontaneously jump down at any time, seemingly at random.  Hmmm.

44TH AND FIFTH -- The CITIBANK BRANCH is here, right next to THE GUTTER where a dirty mangled brochure can be found advertising X. ZITTY'S SORCERY AND MAGIC SHOP at 42ND AND 7TH AVE.  (This seems to be, in part, an obscure pun referencing the early Exidy Sorcerer home computer.)  The bank contains only an ATM, where we must INSERT BANK CARD.  But we don't have one, so we'll just add the magic shop's address to our itinerary for now.

38TH AND LEXINGTON -- There's a computer store here, as expected.  And it stocks APPLES AND ATARIS as well as A TRS-80 PROGRAM.  Closer inspection indicates that the program is called INTERLUDES... hmmmmm; Interlude was a notorious early sex-suggestion-for-couples program, is Suzy into that sort of thing?  A poster on the wall reads WATCH FOR THE NEXT ADVENTURE - MICRO COMPUTER - AVAILABLE SOON.  As far as I can determine, such a game never saw the light of day.  The office features our BOSS -- we LOOK BOSS, apparently in some meaningful way as BOSS REACHES INTO HIS POCKET AND PULLS OUT SOMETHING -- a check for $25, apparently something we are owed.  Or else the boss hopes we are about to settle in for a round of INTERLUDES.

42ND AND SEVENTH -- The magic shop is closed -- a note reads OUT TO LUNCH - BACK IN 10000 YEARS -- but it appears that anything the mugger has stolen from us ends up here.  A posted leaflet cites J.R.R. Tolkien' famous -ONE- RING TO RULE THEM ALL, -ONE- RING TO FIND THEM, -ONE- RING TO BRING THEM ALL AND IN THE DARKNESS BIND THEM.  But it's not clear what this means at the moment.

45TH AND SIXTH -- SUZY is waiting here as expected, and we can GET SUZY, at which point it may become apparent that there's an inventory bug -- items stolen by the mugger aren't removed from our inventory count, so if anything's been stolen our carrying capacity is permanently reduced.  The mugger can also steal Suzy herself from us -- her affections are easily won, it seems -- so we'd better solve that problem if we're going to have a successful date.

So how do we keep the dog?  It appears that the game contains a LEASH; at least the dictionary recognizes the word.  Except it's not in the code... ah, LEA refers to the LEAFLET, okay.  Peeking at the BASIC code, we can see that line 159 implements a random 1-in-50 chance of losing the dog once we've been carrying him for 25 moves.  There doesn't seem to be any way to prevent this, or to recover the dog, so I resorted to breaking out of the code and forcing O(15,0) back to a value of -1 every time the dog ran away, forcing him back into inventory with a blatant cheat.  Dropping any item in town is troublesome too, as A MAN tends to run by and pick it up, so we need to be careful to drop only disposable items.

What else?  Well, the wallet also contains a bank card, allowing us to cash our check from the Boss -- the machine dispenses correct change, but while we can TAKE TWENTY we can't TAKE FIVE, we have to satisfy the parser and TAKE BILL to obtain the FIVE DOLLAR BILL.  The SCRAP OF METAL in the garbage pile turns out to be a SHINY GOLDEN RING if we WASH SCRAP in the hydrant's stream; odd that its underlying ring shape is apparently not apparent without a good washing.  The ring bears an inscription: "IF YOU BY CHANCE SHOULD SAY MY NAME, I'LL TAKE YOU BACK FROM WHENCE YOU CAME!"  No return bus trip for us, apparently, which Suzy will probably appreciate. I'm guessing the ring's name is ONE, but we'll test that in a moment.

We're out of obvious puzzles, so it's time for our date, I think -- we pick up Suzy (literally) at 45th and 6th.  And, yes, SAY ONE spirits us back to the apartment... and straight into bed.  We can DROP SUZY and KISS SUZY -- as well as a few more explicit verbs -- yielding in all cases, M-M-M. THIS IS FUN! BUT YOU HAVEN'T COMPLETED YOUR ADVENTURE!  Hmmmm.  Maybe we can go to the TRS-80 with Suzy in tow, and PLAY INTERLUDE... ? No, we can't do that.  What are we supposed to do?

LOOK SUZY yields I SEE NOTHING OF INTEREST.  Really?  Then why are we going to all this trouble?  We can't PAY SUZY, or BUY SUZY; if we try to GIVE BILL, the bus driver apparently pops into the bedroom to tell us, "CAN'T GIVE CHANGE. COME BACK WHEN YOU HAVE THE EXACT AMOUNT OF $1.10", which kind of destroys the sensual mood we are presumably trying to create unless Suzy has some kind of Ralph Kramden fixation.  At least it appears that Suzy, is actually a date and not a "date."

I had to dig into the code and do quite a bit of trial-and-error experimentation to figure this out.  Here's what we actually have to do:  go to the computer room, INSERT PROGRAM (as opposed to the TAPE we loaded up earlier) and LOAD PROGRAMTYPE RUN now yields NOT HERE! in the study, but if we take our trusty TraSh-80 into bed with us (presumably with the aid of a lengthy extension cord or a spontaneous invention of the world's first laptop computer) and TYPE RUN there, victory is ours, and the curtain is discreetly drawn over the remaining action:

I really have no idea where City Adventure came from -- these days, I'd assume it was a stealth ad campaign for Interlude, but that probably wasn't the case, especially as it takes quite a bit of effort to discover the product's climactic ultimate value and the name isn't exactly right.  The uncredited author apparently felt this tale represented a wonderfully romantic urban evening, and ignored the likelihood of Suzy dissolving into helpless, eye-rolling laughter as her would-be paramour brings his TRS-80 to bed.  In a just world, the immortal phrase "Move over a bit there, Suzy!" would still be a popular meme today.

And so one more obscurity from the TRS-80 archives is checked off my to-play list.  City Adventure is not a very good adventure, as some puzzles are way too easy and others too obtuse -- but sometimes that's what's most fun about playing these early, awkward games, from a rule-free industry still finding its way.

Move over a bit there, Suzy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Adventure of the Week: An Adventure (19??)

My schedule has been very busy of late, which means I actually didn't get to put together an Adventure of the Week post last week.  And this week's entry is just going to be a brief novelty post, though that's not what I expected it to be when I ran across a copy of its BASIC source code in the obscure nooks and crannies of the Internet.

This TRS-80 game, known simply as An Adventure with no year or publisher cited, is clearly unfinished and not in any kind of publishable condition.  It's notable mainly for what I presume to be a pure coincidence in naming on its title screen:

Wait... Tim Schafer?  The spelling matches that of Double Fine founder and game designer extraordinaire Tim Schafer, whose storied Lucasarts history included the point-and-click classics The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle, and whose in-progress Kickstarter phenomenon currently known only as Double Fine Adventure is eagerly anticipated.

But I have to rein in my enthusiasm and conclude that An Adventure was not written by the same Tim Schafer -- or, if by some odd confluence of events it was, it must have been a late-night bender project, begun and left unfinished in the space of a few hours.  For this is an unfinished choose-your-own-adventure style game, which starts with poor grammar and spelling and goes downhill from there.  I'm not even going to put a *** SPOILERS *** boundary in this post, because there's nothing to spoil here, really!

Here's the premise:  The player is bored and decides to take a road trip (at least that's the more interesting of the binary choices presented.)

Going to bed is an instant end-of-story - HOPE YOU HAVE A BORING EVENING.  Presuming we decide to call our best friend, the next "challenge" is to remember their phone number.  We can look it up, non-interactively, if we don't know the number, so this is not really an obstacle.  Grammar and spelling remain questionable as we WAIST NO TIME looking up the friend's phone number.

Then we get to impose a choice on our called friend as to whether or not they want to take this road trip, and even if we choose the negative response, the story barges ahead by insisting that we somehow manage to talk our friend into it.

The only non-binary choice is that we get select the color of the Camaro Z-28 for the trip, which was recently given to our character by his or her parents in recognition of an 18th birthday.  And then -- perhaps forebodingly -- the game crashes with a SYNTAX ERROR in 1170.

I managed to patch up this line of code -- some quotes were in entirely the wrong place -- and learned that we can then choose to go north or south, east or west.  Selecting to travel east or west crashes the game with an undefined line number.  North or south doesn't produce an error, but making this choice simply clears the screen and ends without further comment.
Looking at the code verifies that this game is unfinished -- it appears that the author simply made it up as he was going along, and the final choices branch to nonexistent line numbers.  I'd have thought the source code file was corrupted or something, but the "real" ending that clears the screen and just ends appears to be entirely intentional, and the general sloppiness of the code at hand suggests that this was just a lark.

It's often said that half of success is just showing up.  The other, more difficult half is actually finishing something.  This effort clearly lies somewhere in between.