Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Haunted House (Model 100, 198?)

I'm on a TRS-80 Model 100 kick lately, playing a series of BASIC text adventures designed to run on this very early notebook computer from Radio Shack and Kyocera.  This week brings us yet another adventure with the common title Haunted House, this one written by Barry Gaskins, probably around 1983 or 1984, when the Model 100 was the hot new technology with its 32K of onboard storage and 40 x 8 LCD display.  We're playing using the VirtualT emulator, using the game file available at the Interactive Fiction Database.

If we read the instructions, we learn that we were lost in the woods, and when we entered a strange looking house, the door slammed shut behind us.  An evil voice COMMING [sic] FROM THE VERY WALLS said, "YOU WILL NEVER LEAVE THIS HOUSE. YOU WILL STAY FOREVER TO WALK ITS ROOMS AND HALLS," and delivered the customary evil laugh.  So it sounds like this will be an escape-the-house adventure.

As always, I encourage interested readers to tackle Haunted House before reading through my playthrough below -- but it's a brief and easy game, so you aren't missing out on a lot if you don't play it firsthand.  Beyond this point, for history's sake, I will be documenting my experience in detail, and while there isn't really much to spoil here, there will definitely be...

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

As the game proper gets underway, we find ourselves in the strange house's den, with a rope available in the room, exits to the south, east and west, and nothing in inventory.  The parser has an annoying habit of giving us the complete verb list any time we type something it doesn't understand; there's no EXAMINE verb, but SEARCH seems to serve the purpose.

Heading south brings us to the servants' quarters, where we can grab a key; there are no other exits here.  West of the den is the Kitchen, where we can SEARCH RUG to find A TRAPDOOR UNDER THE RUG !!  (the narration is given to hyperbolic overuse of exclamation points.)  So there are no big surprises here for seasoned adventurers; moving or taking the rug opens a downward exit, but we'll continue south first to visit the dining room, where for some reason a bucket of water sits at the ready.

Before we go down through the kitchen trap door, we'll visit the Trophy Room east of the Den to acquire a sword.  Is this a haunted house adventure, or a ZORK ripoff?  Will we need to bring treasures back to the trophy room?  Well, heading down to the cellar doesn't lead to anyone slamming the door above us -- we're already trapped, according to the premise -- and instead of a troll we encounter a ghost.  We can ATTACK GHOST WITH SWORD to try to kill it, as the parser returns an irony-free THE GHOST IS DEAD !!!  -- though the text remains as agitated about the dead ghost as the live ghost.

We can pick up a wand here, but USE WAND does nothing useful.  Fortunately the dead ghost doesn't block our path, so we can just walk EAST to the wine cellar.  We can GET WINE here, and travel east to the Aging Room replete with kegs, or north to the storage room, where some moldy food looks unappetizing, especially as we can't GET FOOD but can only GET MOLDY based on the simple parser design.

SEARCH KEGS yields a surprising result -- one of them features a keyhole.  USE KEY reveals a passage east into a narrow passage where A WALL OF FIRE BLOCKS YOUR WAY -- until we do the obvious and USE BUCKET, at least.  (The wall of fire remains on display, like the ghost earlier, but we're allowed to pass freely to the east.)

Now we're in a huge cave, with a HUGE HUNGRY GIANT here.  Except I must have done something wrong, as even though I thought I passed through the fire after putting it out, the parser now notes that we've burned up in the fire and are dead.

Starting over, I confirm that we do have to ATTACK GHOST WITH SWORD one time, otherwise it blocks our way out of the cellar, and that while the onscreen text continues to warn us that THERE IS A GHOST IN THIS ROOM !!!, it doesn't really impede us, being twice-dead and all.  And we have to SEARCH KEGS to find the keyhole before we're allowed to USE KEY.  I also realize that our recent burning death was due to a parser bug -- if we hit the [ENTER] key without typing any commands after reaching the cave, it acts as though our previous move was still being evaluated and burns us up in the fire even though we left it behind in the previous location.

We can now OFFER the MOLDY food to the giant -- who gets mad and throws a rock at us, killing us.  On the next try (there's no SAVE capability here) OFFER WINE works better -- THE GIANT DRINKS THE WINE AND FALLS OVER ON THE FLOOR DRUNK.  Surprisingly, we can GET ROCKS and carry them with us -- they're not as large or heavy as one would assume, apparently, so the giant must have a well-practiced throwing arm.

East of the giant's lair is a small cave, with some leaves, and we can see the open sky through a hole in the ceiling.  We can GET LEAVES, just in case we need to, say, stuff a scarecrow or something, and USE ROPE -- YOUR ROPE CATCHES SOMETHING OUTSIDEUSE ROPE again leads us up through the hole... to victory!

Barry Gaskin's Haunted House for the TRS-80 Model 100 is about as basic and linear as BASIC text adventures get -- everything that's needed to finish the game is used in an obvious way, and there's no complexity to the puzzles or the simple escape-the-house story.  We don't even get the satisfaction of thwarting the evil entity that trapped us in the house in the first place, just a generic GOOD JOB from the game's author.  As long as we pick everything up along the way, and are willing to restart a few times if we make a fatally wrong choice, it's not a challenge.  But I don't mind a quick play once in a while, and this take on a very traditional adventure theme provided a pleasant if brief diversion.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Crash (198?)

This week, we're tackling another BASIC text adventure for the early portable TRS-80 Model 100 computer.  Crash is a wilderness survival adventure written by Russ Hall; no year is given, but it was most likely created in the early-to-mid 1980's when the Model 100 was popular.  The title is somewhat in question -- it's called called CRASH.BA at a file level, but the title screen seems to call it CAN YOU SURVIVE?  The title screen helpfully tells us that CAPS LOCK is required, and there's no SAVE or RESTORE command, so we'll hope this isn't too random.  We're playing using the VirtualT emulator.

I always encourage readers to try these games firsthand before reading my notes below, and this one is challenging but reasonably fair and brief, as we have limited moves to complete the entire game.  But as it took me numerous tries to find a successful path, I will include a full walkthrough at the bottom of this post.  And beyond this point, there are certain to be...

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

As the story gets underway, we are on a business trip, but have crashed on a mountainside after our single engine plane encountered bad weather.  There is a pain inside our right leg.

We're at the crash site, surrounded by pieces of the plane, with a coat lying nearby.  We have nothing in INVentory and it's repeatedly noted that YOUR LEG IS VERY PAINFUL, so we'll GET COAT and... well, we can't do much with it.  We can't EXAMINE COAT or LOOK COAT or OPEN COAT or SHAKE COAT, but while I'm messing around with it, YOUR PAIN KEEPS YOU FROM MOVING FURTHER, AND YOU CANNOT KEEP WARM.  YOU HAVE FAILED TO SURVIVE.

So I guess we ought to WEAR COAT for warmth... except the verb isn't recognized.  Neither is DON COAT or USE COAT or PUT COAT ON or PUT ON COAT or WRAP COAT.  Fortunately, there's a HELP command that lists all the verbs in the dictionary, and... nothing else seems to suggest itself, so maybe we just have to carry it along. 

We have a few moves before we die, so let's head east to a gentle, southern sloping, snowy mountainside; there's a STRAIGHT LIMB here, which may be a hint.  South of here is a cliff edge, and an area of dense forest to the east.  But we die fairly quickly, so mapping the area might not be the best way to spend our brief time here.

But we still have to do something to try to survive, so we need to look around a bit.  There's some CHRASH [sic] DEBRIS west of the crash site, and a butane lighter. Further west is a mountainside sloping south, where we can pick up an aluminum can.  Trying to travel south down the mountain proves fatal, however, as YOU SLIP AND TUMBLE OVER THE ROCKS.

Heading due east from the crash site, we encounter dense forest, and a bunch of sticks which might prove useful if we had the lighter.  Heading south, we find a dense forest maze, and can't really start to map it as long as we're dying all the time.

Let's try to MAKE SPLINT with the straight limb, or MAKE FIRE with the sticks and warm up a bit.  In my travels I notice that GET COAT reveals a candy bar, but not immediately -- we have to exit and return to the crash site.  More important is that if we GET COAT and GET LIMB we can MAKE SPLINT, solving one major issue.

Of course, this is a survival game, so just a few moves after we fix our broken leg, we start feeling hungry and thirsty.  We can GET BAR and EAT BAR, to address one problem.  But while we can probably get and melt some snow, I can't seem to MAKE FIRE with the sticks or find any portable snow despite the abundance of snowy locations.  And DRAIN CAN doesn't produce any useful result, so I'll assume it's empty.  We can die of thirst very quickly out here, it seems.

Back to the drawing board again!  I haven't written up a walkthrough for an adventure in a long time, but I sense this one is going to need some repeatable instructions, as these crises come along one after another in the early going and there's little room for wasted moves.

Let's do some more exploring, ignoring the immediate needs while we try to find solutions applicable to our next life.  South of the crash site, by a roundabout east/west path, we find an area where the FOG SEEMS TO BE THINNING, leading to a hillside that slopes down to the west... fatally so.

We can also die by heading south off the cliff edge south/southeast of the crash site, but to the southwest we can find a beautiful moraine field.  Trying to climb the cliffs to its west leads to yet another fatal stumble, however.  East is the base of a cliff, with further exploration available, and south of the field we can see a large snowfield to the south.  Entering the slick, steep snowfield proves, yes, fatal once again.

Despite all the snow mentioned in the location descriptions, so far every place we've tried to GET SNOW we learn that IT ISN'T HERE.  West of the snowfield area we can reach a forested mountainside.  I'm starting to really wish we had a SAVE command, as there's a great deal of trial and error involved in mapping this world out -- heading north from the beautiful mountainside leads into yet another fatally steep incline.

We can reach a path blocked by the snowfield, a few "rooms" south of the moraine field, and explore a rocky mountainside southeast of the field where our footing isn't immediately fatal.  We can even travel south to a sloping mountainside with clouds high above, and east from that point to a mountainside with A MESS OF FALLEN TIMBER.  But we're out of food energy, so it's game over time again as hypothermia sets in.

Wandering into the forest maze tends to waste a lot of time, at least until we get some of these other needs addressed.  There is more treacherous terrain around the snowfield, more paths into the forest, and not much else of use.  And eventually it starts getting dark, with who knows what threats may lurk in the wilderness.

So how do we survive?  MAKE FIRE doesn't do anything until we have some sticks, and then THEY WON'T BURN... YET.  And sometimes that doesn't even work, returning MAKE WHAT? or YOU DON'T HAVE THAT when we try to make a fire... it seems location-based, but there are no obvious clues about where we can or cannot build a fire.  If we don't have the lighter, we're informed that we don't have a match, so there is some logic here.  We can't seem to DROP STICKS, or DRY STICKS, so we'll have to MAKE FIRE wherever we can and figure out what's missing.  It seems we're supposed to make the fire on the mountainside just east of the crash site.

Ah -- the DRAIN verb isn't for drinking, we're meant to DRAIN GAS from the airplane.  But we need the can in order to do so, otherwise the response is INTO WHAT?  Once we have the can of gas, we can MAKE FIRE on the mountainside, then MELT SNOW (suddenly it's available, though not as an inventory item!) and DRINK WATER.  Whew!

Now we can SLEEP, and at dawn we hear a plane.  But the fog's thick and we're not seen.  Maybe we need a bigger fire?  Fortunately it seems that once we've eaten once and had something to drink, we can SLEEP all we like and those requirements are met for the duration of the adventure.  But there is a general time limit, and eventually we can still die from being out too long in the cold.

So once the initial needs are met, we need to go down the mountain and bring back the MESS OF TIMBER. But it's getting dark, so we need to SLEEP first.  Can we find a shortcut back through the forest?  We can't DROP anything at all, so mapping isn't easy, and we need to hurry back so the helicopter doesn't leave without us.

We can FEED FIRE with the sticks -- another bunch appears in the same spot after we make the fire -- and save the trip down the mountain.  But the helicopter still doesn't see us when it approaches?  Hmmmm.  Is our fire not big enough?  Are we not visible in the fog?

I finally had to cheat a bit by looking at the BASIC code to figure this out in the end -- the helicopter always arrives on move 45, and we have to have a large fire built or we're not seen.  Bringing the timber up the mountain to FEED FIRE seems like it should work, but it doesn't -- we need to start a second fire in the clearing at the base of the mountain, away from the fog.

So on one final (we hope) attempt, we build the second fire, FEED FIRE with timber repeatedly, and this time the helicopter spots us and we are rescued!  Victory is ours... or basic preservation of life and limb, at least!

I enjoyed Crash for its intensity -- while the design is very linear and we have to execute most steps in a precise and timely order, it doesn't feel unnatural and the final puzzle is tough to crack but sensible overall.  The Model 100 didn't have a lot of horsepower by modern standards -- and its semi-permanent onboard storage can't hold more than a few of these text adventures at a time -- but this is a good and playable example of its capabilities.

For the sake of others trying to fight their way through this one...

*** WALKTHROUGH *** (below the fold)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Galaxy Trek Adventure (1983)

When I first started this blog series, I thought I'd eventually run out of adventure games to tackle.  But after playing literally hundreds of them, I'm still only scratching the surface, and I've learned that every machine had its share of unique, exclusive adventures.  So this week, I'm dipping my toe into a new platform -- the early portable TRS-80 Model 100, a Radio Shack machine (via Kyocera) with a limited 8-by-40-character LCD display.  But it was no technological slouch, and not cheap either at more than a thousand 1983 dollars, and it had enough power to present a decent text adventure. 

So this week we're playing Howard Batie's Galaxy Trek Adventure, an unlicensed Star Trek story written in BASIC for the Model 100 and released by the author in 1983; the title screen calls it #1 but as far as I can determine there was never a #2.  According to line 1 of the source code, it was made available via the Club 100 Library back in the day, a Model 100 support/fan group that survives even today at www.club100.org.  We're playing using the VirtualT emulator, with my PC's caps lock on, as commands are only recognized in uppercase.

Interested readers can find this game, along with several other Model 100 adventures, at the Interactive Fiction Archives.   I usually recommend playing through any game I cover firsthand before reading my notes below, as I'll be documenting my experience from beginning to end, but in this case I will warn you that there are a couple of syntax errors in lines 101 and 158 of the BASIC code that I had to fix before I could finish the game.  So if you want to save yourself some emulation and debugging headaches, feel free to proceed into the...

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

As the adventure begins, Captain James T. Kirk (the player) awakes to find himself on a mysteriously empty Starship Enterprise.  In-game instructions are available, handily informing us that INV is the inventory command, we have to spell out directions as full words (e.g. NORTH), there is a SCORE command, and we can even SAVE, QUIT and START (to restore from the single save slot.)

We begin in the Captain's Quarters, with a 3D Chess Set and an exit north.  Captain Kirk has nothing in inventory, and we can GET CHESS to pick up the chess set (though there's no EXAMINE verb so we can't find out any details about it.)

To the north we find an east-west corridor of the Enterprise; to the east is the Transporter Room, currently empty, and to the west the entrance to a turbolift, with additional passages north and east.  A sign here reads "FEDERATION STARSHIP ENTERPRISE -- NCC 1701 -- DECK 2 - PERSONNEL SECTION."

We can go north into the turbolift, and travel up and down, but first we'll explore further west to another corridor -- where we encounter a Klingon Soldier!  And WITHOUT A PHASER, YOU MUST SURRENDER! THIS ADVENTURE IS OVER.

Okay, so we need to find a phaser.  Starting over and taking the turbolift up, we can exit on its east side to find a room with exits south and east, a sign, and some star charts.  We can READ SIGN to learn that this is Deck 1, the Bridge, and while we can't READ STAR or READ CHARTS we can GET CHARTS to carry them around.  Many of the objects in this adventure aren't actually useful, but they do lend a little Trek atmosphere to the proceedings.

Heading east brings us to the Navigation Console, where a button is labelled FIRE IMPULSE ENGINES.  South is the Science Officer's Station, with a SHIP'S STATUS button.  This one seems safe to PUSH, though in fact we have to PRESS BUTTON to learn that THE ENTERPRISE IS IN A DECAYING ORBIT AROUND THE CLASS 'M' PLANET TIERAS-80 (get it?); it is also noted that IMPULSE ENGINES MUST BE FIRED SOON, OR WE'LL BURN UP IN THE ATMOSPHERE.  So there is a time element at work here.

Heading west to the Communications Station allows us to use the ship's sensors, determining that the Enterprise is occupied by one humanoid life form, many Klingons, and one Vulcan.  Hmmmm... Mr. Spock must be around somewhere, then; but where is everyone else?  Before we leave this floor, we'll try firing the impulse engines -- the ship is still in a decaying orbit, but the status warning has been cleared, at least for now.

Heading down to Deck 3, Technical Departments, we wander through some empty corridors.  In the northeast corner is the Ship's Library, where the ship's Technical Manual can be reviewed, though IT DOESN'T MENTION ANYTHING OF VALUE.  In the southeast corner is the Enterprise's Sick Bay, with a Hypodermic Antidote we can't seem to GET.

We're still phaserless, so let's go down in the turbolift again to Deck 4, the Security Section.  We find Spock's tricorder down here, but we can't seem to USE TRICORDER or TALK TRICORDER... but ah, READ TRICORDER indicates that THERE ARE STILL KLINGONS ON THE SHIP!  We find Mr. Spock unconscious in the ship's brig at the east end of the corridor, but we can't WAKE or SLAP or NUDGE or TALK to him.  A Supply Warehouse at the west end of this deck doesn't explicitly list its contents, but we can GET PHASER here.  We can't seem to SET PHASER or SET STUN, or READ PHASER or otherwise examine it, so we'll just have to hope it's appropriately configured should we need to use it.

We might as well continue exploring the Enterprise, so we'll go down one more level to Deck 5, Engineering Division.  We soon encounter danger in the Warp Engine Drive Area, where YOU'RE SURROUNDED BY KLINGONS, AND HAVE TIME FOR ONE ACTION BEFORE THEY FIRE!  I tried to escape the room by continuing east, but that doesn't work -- though the end game logic is a little buggy here, as we're informed that we've been CAPTURED AND THE ENTERPRISE IS LOST!, after which the unconscious Mr. Spock somehow manages to tell us that THE ENTERPRISE IS SAVED. BUT WITHOUT THE CREW, OUR MISSION IS A FAILURE.  At any rate, we need to (re)START and try again.

Maybe we should go back to Deck 2 and see if we can dispatch the single Klingon blocking the way there.  It seems the enemy soldier just doesn't appear if we have the phaser in hand, and we're free to visit the Crew's Quarters where we can acquire a furry little Tribble (if we drop something else, because we have a six-item inventory limit, convenient for the Model 100's 8-line display; I chose to drop the so-far-useless Technical Manual.)

I also stop by the Sick Bay on Deck 3 and this time I manage to GET NEEDLE, which succeeds where GET HYPODERMIC and GET ANTIDOTE fail.  On a hunch, I try to GIVE NEEDLE to Spock, which doesn't work, but INJECT NEEDLE does the trick: SPOCK AWAKENS AND SAYS -- I AM WELL ENOUGH TO HELP YOU NOW.

Spock's assistance is invoked with the HELP command, though most of the time this just returns I SEE NOTHING UNUSUAL, CAPTAIN.  He comes in very handy as we approach the Warp Drive room, however, saying, "CAPTAIN, I SENSE KLINGONS TO THE EAST.  TOO MANY FOR JUST HAND PHASERS."  But while he confirms that almost anything is available in the Supply Warehouse, we can't GET GRENADE or GET BOMB or GET RIFLE.

What else?  In the Transporter Room, Spock advises us to "SAY 'ENERGIZE', CAPTAIN."  We really have to SAY ENERGIZE, ENERGIZE alone doesn't work, and Spock beams us down to the sandy surface of Tieras-80, where we see some raw dilithium crystals, so we'll GET CRYSTALS.  Interesting... if we try to travel north, we learn that we're carrying too much for this planet's gravity, and we'll have to drop something.  DROP CRYSTALS seems like a bad idea, though, as they shatter into dust, and DROP TRIBBLE simply allows the furry little critter to run away.

We'll do a little exploration here before we restore.  A dune to the north of our beam-down point reveals many Klingons to the east.  A Klingon Officer to the west takes Kirk out if we don't have the Phaser in hand.  Even if we have it, SHOOT OFFICER doesn't work -- we're too slow, and we've been captured.  Timing doesn't seem to be the actual issue, so we'll try to avoid that area after we restore.

East of the landing area is a sandy hillside; to the south is a sand sea, where a large sand snake kills us before we can react in any way, and heading east of the hill leads us fatally into a rockslide.  This is a very hostile planet!  North of the hillside is a Klingon camp, where we again are captured by the Klingon Soldier here, even if we try to SHOOT KLINGON with our one available move.

Aha!  My problem here is that SHOOT isn't recognized and we don't get another chance to satisfy the parser.  KILL KLINGON is also not supported, but FIRE PHASER works!  However... when I try to FIRE PHASER at the Klingon Officer, he's removed, BUT YOUR PHASER VAPORIZED!  And when I try to SAY ENERGIZE to return to the Enterprise, it turns out that we don't have the communicator and are mis-beamed fatally into deep space.  There also seems to be a limit on how much stuff can be beamed back to the Enterprise, but that's kind of a secondary issue at the moment.

So after this latest restart, let's try to go planetside with a minimum of unnecessary stuff, and a communicator, which we can get from the Supply Warehouse.  Vaporizing the klingon soldier south of the camp destroys the phaser again, but we can go north to the camp gate... to be captured by another Klingon guard.  The same happens if we go east, so it seems we'll need to acquire another phaser after taking care of the first guard.  With the communicator, we can safely beam back aboard and... nope, we can't pick up another phaser from the supply warehouse; the Federation supplies only one per customer, apparently.

HELP (from Spock) near the Klingon-infested warp drive room suggests that WE NEED SOMETHING TO FRIGHTEN THEM AWAY.  Dropping the tribble in their presence doesn't seem to do the job, though it seems like that ought to do something; the dilithium crystals don't frighten them either.

What can we do with the tribble?  Spock suggests that the creature may be useful, but dropping it just outside the warp drive room doesn't seem to scare off the Klingons.  And it doesn't seem to want to multiply and infest the supply room.

Further experiments establish that we can't seem to PLAY CHESS with Spock.  The tribble always returns to the crew's quarters after we drop it, it seems.  We can SAY ENERGIZE anywhere on the surface, or even onboard the Enterprise, apparently, though that doesn't really help us much as it doesn't get us away from any Klingons quickly enough.

Can we come up with something in the warehouse that might scare Klingons?  Aren't Klingons supposed to be afraid of Tribbles, if I remember my Trek lore correctly?  SHOW TRIBBLE and GIVE TRIBBLE don't parse, but I discover that while DROP TRIBBLE allows the critter to run away, THROW TRIBBLE just drops the furball in our current location.  Let's try that in the warp drive room, then -- and yes, WHEN THE KLINGONS SEE THE TRIBBLE, THEY RUN AWAY IN ALL DIRECTIONS!

Now we can access the areas past the Warp Engine Drive Area.  To the east is the Auxiliary Power room, with a power control panel and an unarmed Klingon Commander.  We can't CAPTURE KLINGON -- but Spock's HELP advises us that the Klingon phrase for "DO YOU SURRENDER?" is TRISAETI.  He does indeed when we SAY TRISAETI, and promises to provide transporter coordinates so we can rescue the crew before he goes to the brig.

South of the warp drive area is the Dilithium Crystal Power Station, where we note that power levels are very low.  This should be easy enough to solve, but let's get the crew back first... well, maybe we'll take care of the dilithium crystal situation first, as I'm not quite sure how to invoke the transporter to return the crew!  We take the crystals from the planet's surface to the power station, INSERT CRYSTAL, and now power is above 93%.

How to get the crew back onboard, then?  Spock suggests we consult the ship's manual, but it still contains nothing of value after I go back to the crew's quarters where I left it earlier.  We can't ENTER COORDINATES anywhere, it seems.  If we SAY ENERGIZE in the transporter room, we're back on the surface of the planet, with nothing apparently changed (the Klingon surrender, it seems, does not extend planetside.)

Maybe we have to READ MANUAL in the rooms where Spock mentions it -- and, yes, in the power control room it indicates that we need to INSTALL THE SHUNT IN THE CONTROL PANEL.  We can GET SHUNT in the supply room and INSTALL SHUNT -- A GREEN PANEL LIGHT GLOWS, and Spock says... ahh, dang it!

It seems there are a few syntax errors, a semicolon where there should be a colon and a missing print command, in line 158, a bit of code that kicks in when the ship's orbit starts to decay.  It probably got missed in playtesting, because an efficient playthrough would never see it.  After fixing the bug and restoring, we have to race upstairs to the bridge (I just barely made it before time ran out) and fire the impulse engines again to get the ship back into a stable orbit.  Whew!

Now how do we beam everyone back aboard the Enterprise?  The Tribble is still available, so maybe we can shoot one Klingon and scare the other to get into the Klingon camp.  THROW TRIBBLE at the south edge of the camp on Tieras-80 works, but we get a syntax error in line 101, another semicolon/colon mixup (fortunately the Model 100's EDIT command is pretty easy to work with.)

The tribble runs off again after scaring the Klingon guard away, but we can still FIRE PHASER to eliminate the sentry outside the camp.  And now we can enter the camp and find the crew!  YOU MUST LEAD THEM BACK TO WHERE YOU BEAMED DOWN, we learn, which is easy enough to do if we've drawn a map so we don't wander into the surrounding dangers.  We return to our landing point, SAY ENERGIZE one last time to beam back aboard with the crew, and victory is ours!

A second screen informs us that we are to be promoted to Commodore after a bit of shore leave; my mission score was -6003, which doesn't sound impressive at all, but the story is over and I'm not going to replay the game to improve upon it.

Galaxy Trek Adventure #1 is a fairly typical early text adventure, one of many unlicensed Star Trek-inspired games during the early home computing era, with straightforward puzzles and a limited parser.  But it shows off the Model 100's capabilities nicely -- I was impressed that this simple BASIC game features more than three dozen rooms, online instructions and save/restore features (using the machine's RAM-based file system), and the design manages to make everything work within the 8-line display, no mean feat.  Mr. Batie's effort is not a bad little game, aside from the syntax errors I ran into, and I enjoyed playing through it in emulated form on this unique system.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Video Podcast: Episode 45 - Sampling the PSX

It's been a couple of years since I've done a video podcast, so I'm really happy to be back on the air with this look back at the Sony Playstation's US launch, via the Playstation Picks sampler disc:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adventure of the Week: 9:05 (2000)

This week, I was pressed for time due to several days spent with visiting family.  So I'm going to play and write about 9:05, a very short but clever piece of interactive fiction published in 2000 by Adam Cadre.  The game was written in Inform and compiled to the older .z5 format -- it can be played with any of the Frotz interpreters, I'm playing using Windows Frotz here.

I always encourage interested readers to play these games before getting into my playthrough notes, and 9:05 is freely available for download at the Interactive Fiction Database.  This one doesn't take long at all to play, and there's one huge spoiler involved which I really hate to give away.  But I'm trying to capture my own experiences of these games for history's sake, and as a result, my comments are certain to contain...

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

We wake up after too much time asleep, with the phone ringing, in our messy, spare bedroom.  Answering the phone earns us a chewing out by a coworker -- our name is Hadley, apparently, and someone named Bowman is about to fire us, as we've missed an important presentation that started about five minutes ago.

There are a few items of interest on the end table.  Opening our wallet reveals our identity as a Brian Hadley, working for Loungent Technologies.  We can also acquire a key chain with house and car keys.

EXAMINE ME establishes that we're covered in mud and dried sweat after an exhausting night." So we probably ought to head south into the bathroom for a shower -- but we should REMOVE CLOTHING, REMOVE WATCH and drop everything before we TAKE SHOWER.  Then we can return to the bedroom, open the dresser and put on clean clothing.  We can't BRUSH TEETH or SHAVE in the bathroom, as the verbs aren't recognized, yielding a precise but reality-breaking message: "[!; Verb error. (This generally means that the first word of your command was not recognized.)]".

Heading east into the living room, we see the front door to the south and a kitchenette to the east.  Outside the front door is our driveway, in a rather seedy neighborhood, and our parked car.  We can't UNLOCK DOOR -- The locking mechanism seems to be broken -- but we can UNLOCK CAR, ENTER CAR and wind up Driving.

The on-road navigation is implemented as a choose-your-own-adventure system -- I opt not to get on the first freeway onramp, a good decision as it seems to be blocked by maintenance work.  Our second option leads to the Loungent Technologies parking lot.

We have to GET CARD (out of our wallet) before we can INSERT ID CARD IN SLOT to enter the secured building.  We find our cubicle just inside the entrance, as well as a hallway leading north to reception; a door to the west is marked "MATTHEW BOWMAN," whom we might want to avoid.

Let's GO CUBICLE and see what's up -- a note, apparently from Bowman, requires us to sign an F209 form and return it immediately.  We take the pen, sign the form, open Bowman's office door, walk in smiling to hand him the form...

And now it gets interesting, as Bowman asks, "Who the hell are you?" and we are immediately wrestled to the ground by security.  It seems we are not, in fact, Brian Hadley, and there's more to this story than we have discovered so far!  This is not so much a case of an unreliable narrator as an adventurer's standard assumptions proving to be way off base as the story develops, and a clever play on the customary amnesia that afflicts most adventure game characters.  After we're arrested, a newscast epilogue tells the real story -- we are apparently a vicious burglar who killed Brian Hadley, then -- chuckle chuckle -- tried to assume his identity, enter his workplace and do his job.  "An insanity defense is deemed likely."  Very funny, Mr. Cadre!

Starting over, we explore the kitchen a bit, though the room description advises us to limit our time here.  This time, with knowledge gained from my first attempt, I think to LOOK UNDER THE BED, discovering the corpse of the guy who owns his house.  If only I'd thought to do that!  But of course, we had no reason to look under our "own" bed when we thought were late for work.  EXAMINE CORPSE confirms that we're not normally violent -- you generally don't even carry a weapon on these jobs -- but we broke the actual Brian Hadley's neck after he attacked us on our burglary job.

So our real objective is to clean up and get out of this place.  Action doesn't vary much with this new insight, but intent does -- and now we have a reason to drive past the Loungent building, continuing until we merge onto the second freeway ramp available.  And with that, we're away from the scene of the crime, vanishing without a trace into a victorious ending!

9:05 is a very, very brief game, and there aren't any typical puzzles to solve.  But it's an interesting little interactive fiction experiment that toys with the player's perceptions -- following the normal adventure game rules and taking the story at face value produces a completely different tale than a second go-round, without a lot of variation in the actual gameplay.  Good, clever, quick fun from Mr. Cadre, and I think I'll be exploring some of his other works in the future.