Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adventure of the Week: Jungle Adventure Part I - The Elephant's Graveyard (1981)

This week, we're back on the TRS-80 playing another adventure by John R. Olsen.  This one moved up my list recently -- I'd played the sequel, Jungle Adventure, Part II - King Solomon's Mines, and hadn't been able to locate the first game.  But reader A.J. Luxton tracked it down, so I'm glad to finally experience the beginning of the story.  Thanks, A.J.!

As with Olsen's other early games, this one was published in the cassette-based CLOAD Magazine, in 1981; he later rewrote it for other platforms using the AdventureWriter system, a Quill relative.  It's a treasure-hunting game, with a minor twist in that there's really only one treasure we need to retrieve.

Like Olsen's other games, this one features a simple BASIC parser -- it requires input in uppercase, though it renders text in mixed-case on TRS-80s so equipped, and there's no EXAMINE verb (though there are some other verbs, the presence of which tripped me up a bit!)  The core of the map and a few of the puzzles are identical to what I'd already seen playing the second game, so the sequel must have been a quick project, though the two games do feature distinct storylines and unique areas to explore.

As always, interested adventurers are advised to sample Jungle Adventure Part I - The Elephant's Graveyard for themselves before proceeding here.  This one's not as demanding as its sequel, with fewer time-sensitive puzzles though due care is still advised.  The two Jungle Adventure games taken together are self-spoiling to a degree due to significant recycling, but even if you've played the second game, this playthrough contains at least 25% new, pre-consumer...

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

We begin outside a trading post, with a watering trough, and a notice we ought to take a look at.  We are also faced with a bit of old-fashioned stereotyping, as the parser presents itself with, "I am your African native guide.  What do you want me to do, Bwana?"  Though it could be argued that "Bwana" is just as much of a stereotype of the player's Great White Hunter character, so that takes the curse off a bit.

READ NOTICE announces the game's objective, though we might have guessed it based on the title.  To win the Great African Explorer Contest, we must "find the fabled Elephant's Graveyard and bring back some IVORY as proof."  This sounds straightforward enough, but Mr. Olsen is known for tricky and exacting designs.  For instance, we are already dying of thirst in 5 moves, as I stand here exploring things; we can DRINK WATER from the trough but will need some way to carry water with us if we're going to venture far from the trading post.  This allows us to travel more freely, but we still run out of water from time to time and need to return to the trading post or find other sources of potable water to refill the bag.

This Part I game is almost identical to Part II at the outset -- same trading post, same revolver, same plastic bag available for carrying water.  And I had to re-learn that we can't GET WATER or FILL BAG or DIP BAG, but must PUT BAG -- In two words, tell me where? -- IN TROUGH to get some water. 

East of the post is a mountain with cliffs towering above, unclimbable at the moment.  There's a grasslands to the west, near a swamp containing foul water and a large crocodile, who tends to attack and kill us before we can leave the area.  We can SHOOT CROCODILE with the revolver, and the corpse floats off, allowing us safe passage.  We can DRINK WATER in the swamp, but it's not a good idea (if we have the bag we'll drink the safe water, otherwise we sample the swamp water to fatal results.)

A dead tree south of the swamp has some bark eaten away, and a sharp machete lies nearby.  Trying to leave this area means that a BOA constrictor drops out of TREE!  We have been killed!  We can LOOK TREE to allow the snake to emerge, and then SHOOT BOA to turn it into a dead BOA.  Atop the tree, we see native huts to the west, and a swamp to the north; this is nothing we can't find out at ground level, it seems.

The village to the west contains a large group of PYGMIES, who block the way south.  We can GET ("several handsfull of") GRASS with the machete in the grassland area, but this doesn't help us here.  We need to take one of the skulls posted on poles outside the Pygmy village into the vilage, where now the PYGMIES move about nervously.  As in Part II, we can then DROP SKULL, scaring the pygmies away when the sacred skull touches the ground!  It's not clear why they don't secure these a little bit better, instead of just leaving them lying around outside the village for strangers intend on abusing the local superstitions.

South of the village, we pass through a canyon and come upon a temple, where a witch doctor says something about snakes and drops a map.  We have time to GET MAP, but then we see poisonous SNAKES slithering towards us.  The snakes don't actually seem immediately dangerous, though if we stick around too long they prove to be fatal; the map shows a path through the mountains, so I went back up to the northeast to see what we could do there.

At this point, everything was seeming way too familiar, so I went back and read my post on the sequel to make sure I wasn't replaying the same game under a different name.  It seems that the map is pretty much the same, but the details and puzzles differ, so I was happy to proceed.  FOLLOW MAP in the mountains allow us to squeeze through a narrow pass to Hidden Valley (we need the map to get through it, so if we accidentally exit the area by heading west we can't come back here, though if we take the boots found here we can take an alternate route.)  Here we find some climbing BOOTS, and, more disturbingly, the REMAINS of a lost safari.  No ranch dressing, however.

With the boots (we must WEAR BOOTS), we can climb the mountains to reach the top, leading to a jungle with a roaring lion charging at us.  We can SHOOT LION, not killing him but causing him to limp off, never to be seen again as far as I could see.

Nearby is a river where we can drink and refill our bag (by putting it in the WATER, not the RIVER).  A waterfall at the south end of the valley hides a "secret" (unless we play a lot of these games, as this is a well-established trope) -- we can GO WATERFALL to discover a darkened cave.  It is, of course, too dark to see in there, and a less-fondly-remembered trope insists that with one wrong move, or even one right move without illumination, We fell in the dark. We have been killed! This happens even if we're trying to go back the way we came, so it's wise to SAVE GAME often.

We can TAKE some VINES if we have the machete.  The stones in the rock canyon are flint, as in the second game.  But we still don't have a workable light source -- the vines burn, but too quickly to see anything, and the dry grass I picked up before apparently gets wet going through the waterfall.  Ah... we have to empty and use the plastic bag to get the grass through, then run back and get some drinking water again before we expire.  Still -- drat it all! -- the grass burns up without shedding any light on the subject.

Can we rig a torch somehow? Apparently while vines and grass will not burn well separately, we can MAKE TORCH out of both of them to get a usable light source.  This gets us into the cave, where a section with damp walls leads to... the Elephant's Graveyard, unexpectedly soon!

But the story is not over yet -- getting the ivory back to the trading post proves a little bit tricky, as something heavy is keeping us trapped in the Hidden Valley.  Dropping everything else doesn't help, confirming that it's the ivory that's the problem.  We can't TIE VINE TO IVORY, it seems, nor can we throw it off a cliff somewhere and hope to find it elsewhere on the map.

Aha!  we can MAKE RAFT using an armful of poles stolen from the skull display outside the pygmy village, and some more cut vines.  We can't use the raft ourselves, it appears, but we can PUT IVORY / ON RAFT to load it up.  And while we can't GO RAFT, we can RIDE RAFT to float to the west, past the weight barriers.  So now we just -- well, not yet, now we learn that the ivory is too big to squeeze through the mountain pass.  But we can simply walk up the hill and down the mountain, to return to the trading post and victory (somehow word of our find has spread remarkably quickly!)  The celebration also sets up the sequel, which appears to have been ready for imminent release:

I've enjoyed both of the Jungle Adventure episodes -- they're good stuff, fairly challenging but not as painstakingly nerve-wracking as some of Olsen's later games, allowing a safety margin even when move counts require conservative play.  A fairly quick but interesting play.

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