Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Lurkley Manor (1985)

This week, I'm dipping into the TRS-80 Color Computer archives again, to play a game I only vaguely remembered from back in the day -- an illustrated adventure called Lurkley Manor, written by Richard Ramella and published in a 1985 issue of The Rainbow magazine circa as a type-in listing.  (Mr. Ramella also wrote a book called Computer Carnival: Sixty Programs for Starters, published in 1982.)  As we might expect, this game is written in BASIC with simple code-drawn vector/fill illustrations, and if personal memory serves, I started to type it in once upon a time but either never finished or never actually played the game.  So I'm glad to have the opportunity to take a look at it now.

As the game begins, a hunchbacked Igor character appears to tell us that we must find the attic to escape!  He also mentions that we can navigate with N, E, W, S commands, and that we always face north as far as the illustrations are concerned.  The engine is a little odd -- it displays text, then erases it, so it was a little tricky to take notes for this blog entry.  But most of the text just describes the location, followed by a DIRECTION? or situational action prompt.  There's no real parser here, just prompts -- and we do have to be careful, as N can mean North or No depending on the prompt at hand, and some responses are fatal.  There's also no save-game feature, so we have to be doubly careful (or use a virtual machine with save state capability, something the VCC emulator I'm running lacks.)

I usually advise readers to visit these worlds before proceeding below, as much of the fun of adventure gaming is in the firsthand experience, and reading about my experiences may be more entertaining after you've had your own.  But Lurkley Manor is fairly linear -- we have some freedom to explore, but key actions must be accomplished in a certain order, and successful approaches will tend to be very much the same.  So feel free to proceed into all of the...

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

We begin in the Great Hall, where a flickering mess of magenta lines suggests the flames of a roaring fireplace.  We can go east to the scullery, and further east to a parapet, where we are warned that IT'S HUNDREDS OF FEET DOWN to the north, south, and east.  If we try to go E anyway, a ghost appears, warning us to RECONSIDER.  Going N after the warning causes the ghost to be redrawn with a frowning face as we jump to our doom.  It's THE END, and a rather lengthy ending tune plays -- interminably, actually, until we break out of the program or reset the computer.

Trying again, we find the door south of the Great Hall locked, so this must be the way we came in. To the west is the Drawing Room, where we get a different sort of prompt -- a woman named Noira Dark asks if we HAVE SOMETHING TO DRINK, ES or O.  Lying with a Y enrages her, and she produces a bomb, which promptly explodes, killing everybody in a sort of nihilistic morality play:

At least we have learned that it was genuinely a question of whether we do have something to drink, as opposed to awkward grammar asking whether we wish to have something to drink.

This is becoming a game of making the right decision -- there are lots of ways to die, and not much to do other than explore and answer prompts.  Another round verifies that we can't walk north through the fireplace without burning to death -- no secret passages there, it seems.  North of the drawing room is the dining room, which tempts us to try the food available there, but we're not hungry so I'll pass... well, no, actually I can't resist trying what I am pretty sure is the wrong choice, and yes, eating all the food kills us as ANOTHER PIGGY BECOMES A DINING ROOM VICTIM.  Uh-oh... is the Manson Family nearby?  Or The Beatles?

North of the dining room we must choose between two staircases, or return back to the dining room.  The left stair collapses when we try to climb it, but it is suggested that in our next life we REMEMBER THE FLAGON AND STAIR COLORS MUST MATCH as we die; rather a clumsy way of providing the hint, but it will probably be useful advice.  Since we haven't even seen a flagon yet, we'll go explore elsewhere before we try to assay the stairs.

East of the dining room is the Flagon Spilling Room -- we're told there are small strange things all around, and we are VERY LUCKY... FOR SOME REASON.  Maybe because we don't have a flagon with us, so there's nothing to spill and poison us or otherwise cause our untimely demise?  There are no exits from this room, except back the way we came, so we'll just avoid this area in the future.

South of the drawing room is the flagon room, where a man introduces himself, almost, as COUNT DRACU- before thinking better of it and not mentioning his name (though the fangs and trickle of blood on one side of his face kind of give it away.)  He offers us a flagon of POIS- before cutting himself off again.  He really should have rehearsed this spiel!  Accepting his offer gives us the option of accepting the RANGE or LUE flagon -- I took the Orange.

Passing through the drawing room again, we have to remember to answer Noira's question honestly -- when we tell her we do have something to drink, she asks if we can give her a drink.  Given that it's poison, presumably, I opt not to -- she gets angry but we're still alive, though she assures us we will slake her thirst before the night is through.

We haven't been north of the scullery yet, so we'll go there to witness someone named Blurton Sharpe practicing his shooting skills.  He observes that we have a flagon and asks for a drink; our well-meaning refusal to poison him proves fatal to ourselves, though, as does walking north through his line of fire if we enter the room without a flagon.

In yet another life, I offer Noira a drink from the flagon -- but she sniffs it and says the skeleton must okay it first.  At least she doesn't get mad.  And Blurton says he hates the orange stuff, so we'll try again with the blue... except Noira hates it and sets off her bomb again, so we need to avoid offering her a drink when we're carrying the blue flagon.  And Blurton wants the blue drink approved by his MOMMY -- no, MUMMY before he will taste it.

We can access the Laboratory east of Blurton, where a Professor Fuddles experiments on amoebae, but there doesn't seem to be anything we can do here beyond waiting for the beep-boop music and light display to finish each time we answer a prompt.  Going back to the staircase, we successfully ascend the blue stairs on the right with the blue flagon in hand, and must now open the left, middle, or right door.  I'll go with the Middle one first... and I fall through a trapdoor, to be devoured by a ravenous creature from another game who manages to "PAC" in a little more food.

Restarting once again and trying the left door, with the orange flagon this time since we needn't bother visiting Blurton yet, leads us to the mummy -- who kills us, enraged as he is by the orange beverage we're carrying.  So, by process of elimination and deduction, we can guess that the door on the right should house the skeleton... and it does, but he is unhappy as we are here too early, and now we are "THE LATE" and dead once again.

Okay.  Let's try grabbing the blue flagon and visiting the mummy first... he's friendlier this time, as he performs some sort of gesture over the blue flagon and advises us to offer it to someone whose name begins with the same letter.  (Actually, the same diphthong applies in this case!)  Blurton Sharpe drinks the blue beverage, enjoys it and, by way of gratitude, promises never to shoot us.

Now we can travel North of the gymnasium, to encounter an elephant, who rushes toward us happily and inadvertently kills us!  So getting past Blurton isn't necessarily something we want to do.

On yet another attempt, we return to the flagon room for the orange flagon, after giving Blurton the blue one, and now we can get the skeleton's approval to give the flagon to Noira Dark.  She drinks it happily and advises us to walk through a wall, now.  Hmmmm.  A little experimentation establishes that we are able to walk East through the wall of the laboratory, to obtain a bucket from the dungeon and return.

As we pass through the gymnasium, Blurton now advises us to GO SEE THE ELEPHANT... and this time, instead of trampling us, it fills our bucket with water from its trunk and advises us to GO DOUSE SOMETHING.  The only thing that comes to mind is that fire in the Great Hall... and yes, when we take a chance and try to go N there, we automatically douse the fire and reach the Attic.

We don't really get to explore the attic -- Igor is up here, clearly surprised to see us, and provides us with a parachute.  We suspect that we can use this on the parapet, and if we ignore the ghost's warning and jump South (other directions might work as well), we escape Lurkley Manor just as the sun comes up!  We are VERY HAPPY, and hopefully wiser about getting ourselves locked in creepy old mansions, and the game is over:

Lurkley Manor isn't a complex adventure, and it's very linear -- we really have to do everything the game wants us to do in a prescribed order, and the lack of a true inventory system or parser means our options are very limited indeed.  There were a number of these choice-driven adventure games produced back in the 1980s, but the format hasn't really survived -- while they were easy to design and code, they weren't a lot of fun and left little room for individual play styles.  I enjoyed the game's random structure and sense of humor, but the lack of a SAVE feature and unpredictable deaths made me glad it's not more substantial than it is.

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