Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Adventure of the Week: Trash Island (1981/2012)

Returning to the Roger M. Wilcox oeuvre, this week we're tackling Trash Island (full title: Trash Island - The Hidden City of Trash Island), originally the author's sixteenth and seventeenth text adventures on the TRS-80 circa 1981, later combined into a single adventure game in GWBASIC, and converted to the Windows PC version we're playing here in 2012.  A third episode exists as a separate game.

This is an interesting setup -- the player is cast as a child dreaming of the mythical Trash Island, where trash is treasure, locked in his/her room by a disapproving mother.  The game itself is a treasure hunt in the classic Scott Adams tradition, but this little twist is fun.

As always, interested adventurers are encouraged to visit Trash Island before reading further -- these experiences are always best first-hand, and  Mr. Wilcox has made his games freely available online, and this one is entertaining and not particularly difficult to finish.  Beyond this point, I will be documenting my experience in geekish detail, so there are certain to be...

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

We begin in the player's room, with a closed window, a closed door, and nothing in inventory.  The window is painted shut, but the door can be opened to access a walk-in closet containing a metal toothbrush and a wooden stick (the door leading out of the room is apparently so completely closed by Mom that it's completely invisible.)  The toothbrush has a razor's edge on the front and the stick would reportedly make a fine levering handle upon further EXAMINEation.

We can't OPEN WINDOW or LEVER WINDOW or PRY WINDOW or CUT PAINT, but we can CUT WINDOW to convert it to a Cut open window (I'm picturing it as a cut screen, and not cut glass.)  When we GO WINDOW, we find ourselves in the slum's junkyard, with a variation on the traditional adventure sign: "Drop *TRASH* here then SCORE."  (SCORE without any treasures yields a comic insult: You get nothing for being here.)

We can't SEARCH PILE or EXAMINE JUNK to any notable effect, but we can GET JUNK to find a broken outboard motor and a metal scoop, both of which may come in handy, and neither counts as a treasure so they must be at least marginally useful.  The scoop reportedly has a 1" hole at the back end.

East of the junkyard is a Fiberglas factory (this seems to be a brand name and not an alternate spelling of "fiberglass") with a closed (and locked) iron door.  North of the factory is a gas station with a gas pump -- I tried to FILL MOTOR, but You're not carrying a motor that can be filled.  Maybe it needs repair.

East of the factory is a beach -- we can try to DIG, but of course You don't have a shovel!  West of the junkyard is a glue factory, which we can enter to see a button and a horse.  Oh no... and oh yes, PUSHing the BUTTON immediately turns the horse into Epoxy glue.

South of the junkyard is a graveyard -- this community's planning leaves something to be desired -- and a skeleton.  If we EXAMINE SKELETON, we are informed that It made an odd sound, and if we SHAKE SKELETON a Skeleton key falls out.  It's an old gag, but useful for our purposes, as now we can unlock the iron door to the Fiberglas factory.  Here we find some Sheets of Fiberglas, and a patching cloth (in, we should note, a fiberfilled room, should OSHA ever call upon us to testify about working conditions.)

Can we PATCH SCOOP with the Fiberglas?  No, the parser doesn't recognize that verb.  FIX SCOOP indicates that It's beyond your power to do that, so the patching cloth, Fiberglas sheets and epoxy glue must not be all we need.  Except... ah, yes, we can FIX MOTOR with it -- must have been a housing or fuel tank issue, not a mechanical break -- and now we can FILL MOTOR at the gas station.

This definitely feels a little Scott Adams-esque, if the multi-part "Island" title was not enough of an admitted influence -- we can now go to the beach and MAKE BOAT to produce a speedboat.  Be thar mongooses on the other side of the water?  Mongeese?  We START MOTOR, and, of course, You're ground to pieces!  You're dead!  I guess we should take it out of our pocket first, but we can't INSTALL MOTOR -- all we have to do is DROP MOTOR, then START MOTOR, and we're off to Trash Island!  (Presumably this is where the original Part I of the game ended, but I'm just speculating.)

We land on a beach, where a Large iron rock is the most notable feature.  To the east is a scrub forest, sporting only impenetrable scrub; north, another section of beach, with a Slab of flint; and south, a barren field of the sort where digging is often productive.

What to do now?  Burning the scrub sounds appealing, but we can't seem to STRIKE FLINT against the iron rock.  And the boat's motor is empty; we're not going to be able to go back the same way we came right now, so it's a good time to restore and make sure we've exhausted the possibilities nearer home before taking the one-way trip out here.

We can ATTACH STICK to make a shovel out of the wooden stick and the metal scoop -- I'm lucking out with my parser guesses so far in this one! -- but there's nothing to DIG up back home.  On the island, we can find a bottle of moonshine on the north beach, but it can't be picked up, nor can we FILL MOTOR with it if we bring the motor along (I thought it might work as a sort of ethanol, but nope.)  We can't DRINK MOONSHINE either -- You have nothing to drink.

DIGging in the barren field yields a lodestone, which proves to be an unsuitable stone for striking the flint.  We can't THROW it at the large iron rock, or drop it, or PUSH ROCK to get it nearer the scrub, or anything like that.  But it seems that with the Lodestone in hand, we can GET BOTTLE -- oh, no, wait, I was confused.  We can GET BOTTLE anytime, and take it along or drink the moonshine if we want to waste it.  Only GET MOONSHINE is beyond your power to do that.

Ah!  I was mentally picturing the large iron rock as much larger than it actually is.  We can GET ROCK, and now we can STRIKE FLINT to make sparks.  The sparks alone aren't enough to ignite the scrub, but if we POUR MOONSHINE first, we create a brief Whooosh! and are left with a Burnt path through the woods.  Now we can GO PATH to reach the fabled Hidden city of Trash Island.

A pueblo apartment here contains a grappling hook and some * DEAD BATTERIES * -- our first trash-as-treasure -- as well as an Unlit flashlight.  An alley to the south provides a * TRASH CAN * and a manhole cover, which is too heavy to OPEN -- It's made of heavy gauge steel.  You'll need a stronger FORCE.  Jedi skills?

Stone steps to the east lead up to a pyramid, but climbing the steps is too fatiguing at the moment.  We can DIG at the foot of the steps to discover a grave containing a * PULVERIZED SKELETON *.  We can't carry all these trashy treasures, so I made a trip to dump the three we've found so far in the speedboat; no SCORE progress can be ascertained yet.

Further east is a steep hill that looks impossible to climb back up.  Before we go downhill, we can visit a dust bowl to the north, with some Locked bars in ground that we can open using the skeleton key, leading to an underground maze.  It's dark down here, so we need to LIGHT FLASHLIGHT (fortunately it has good batteries!) -- it's a tricky maze, as almost all directions go somewhere with no easy return loops to keep it simple, but all we ultimately need to do is go E, pick up the *TRaSh-80 MICROCOMPUTER* there, go N, and go U again to exit the maze.  (The TRaSh-80 designation was sort of the Yankee Doodle of its time -- intended as a pejorative name for Radio Shack's inexpensive home computer, it was taken affectionately to heart by TRS-80 owners.)

There's also a drug store atop the hill, where a Bottle of vitamin might help us climb the steps... yes, if we EAT VITAMIN we can make it to the top of the pyramid to collect some * PYRAMID RUBBLE *.  We also now have a valuable * EMPTY VITAMIN BOTTLE * left over.  I made a trip back to the boat, and we now have 6 treasures accumulated.

Can the grappling hook help us get back up the steep hill?  I hope so -- at the bottom of the hill is a magazine store, where we can get * TRASH MAGAZINE * and * HUSTLER *.  (I don't think this gag was intentional, but if we try to READ HUSTLER, I don't know how to "read" something.  So I guess we'll just look at the pictures.)

We can now OPEN the manhole COVER -- the vitamins must have helped -- and collect some * SEWAGE *.  We have 9 treasures now, but still no way to get back to the scoring location.... oh, no... something just dawned on me based on a Scott Adams trick... and yep... the SCORE sign is portable!  So bringing it to the beach with us makes it possible to score points without having to get back home.

So now we have 90% of the available points, but we're still missing one treasure.  I think I've tried DIGging everywhere.  We can't SWIM on the beach.  We still have the lodestone -- does it tell us anything interesting?  It doesn't seem to point anywhere and I can't float it in a liquid, though I guess I missed the opportunity to make a moonshine compass if that would have worked.  So close!  But I had to sneak a peek at the code to see that the treasure we're missing is a * BANANA PEEL * -- and then it wasn't hard to guess that we can find it by OPENing the trash CAN.  Now we have all ten treasures, and have earned the password to access the next game: Trash Island Adventure: Escape from Trash Island.  Victory is ours!

I was expecting this to be a longer and more difficult adventure, given its origins as two separate games developed later in Mr. Wilcox's often challenging series, but I have nothing against a pleasant and straightforward afternoon's entertainment.  I wish the intriguing premise factored into the plot more -- it's a traditional treasure/trash hunt, despite the stab at a different framing device -- but maybe the player character's youthful rebellion against Mom and her anti-trash conservatism will factor into the exciting conclusion, which we will probably be tackling here in the very near future.


  1. The metal "toothbrush" with the sharp edge was supposed to be a (cleverly disguised) glass cutter. Yes, your little pre-pubescent self was supposed to crawl out through a window with a hole cut directly into the glass. This was before such frivolities as child safety seats and bicycle helmets had caught on, you understand.

    You're correct in that taking the speedboat to Trash Island was where the TRS-80 original Part I (title: "In Search of Trash Island") had ended. Making the SCORE sign portable was a devious idea I only came up with when I combined parts I and II together.

  2. Your wondering about the lodestone got me curious, and I looked back at my old code to see what it was used for. Turns out, it's not the vitamin pill that allows you to open the manhole cover, it's the lodestone. It's an iron manhole cover, you see.

    Or at least, the lodestone was SUPPOSED to open the manhole cover. I apparently made a boo-boo translating the code from GWBASIC to C#, and checked the state of the wrong object. (With the code you ran, the Skeleton Key was necessary to open the manhole cover, which is way counterintuitive given the clue.)

    I have since fixed the code and put the corrected version up on my website.