Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Teeny Tiny Text Adventure (198?)

This week, we're playing another text adventure squeezed into the portable TRS-80 Model 100's LCD display --  Teeny Tiny Text Adventure, by Tim Ekdom, which appears to have been written specifically for this platform, probably around the mid-1980s though no date is given onscreen or in the code.  I'm playing it using the VirtualT emulator (fans of the Model 100 affectionately call it the "Model T," as it was the first mass-market portable computer.)

The intro text informs us that an old man has passed away with a million in cash and no heirs; in this game's universe, it appears, there's no established law regarding these things, so if the estate is in cash anyone is free to break into the house and take it.  So, yes, this is another find-the-treasure adventure.

Teeny Tiny Text Adventure is not difficult to finish, though there are some red herrings and efficient execution is important -- it's possible to finish the game without actually having to deal with encroaching cold, thirst, or darkness in under 40 turns, and it's not possible to finish beyond about 90 turns after darkness arrives.  I'll provide my walkthrough at the foot of this post.  The game is freely available at the Interactive Fiction Database, and I always encourage interested adventurers to experience these games firsthand.  In my playthrough notes below, there are certain to be...

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

The engine appears to feature a running clock, though this is just part of setting the stage as the actual clock time isn't tracked, and what really counts is the turns consumed.  The BASIC program devotes almost no memory to descriptions -- we begin with a flashlight and canteen in inventory, standing on a road.  This will be the last indication we get of what's in our inventory -- there's no command to check it -- and there isn't any indication of which directions we can go, so a little trial and error is needed for mapping.  We need to LOOK to see what's in the room, probably to help conserve screen space; on the Road, this reveals a gate, a wall, and a mailbox.  We also note that we have to type full words -- this game does not rely on partial-word parsing, very unusual for the time.

Let's start by doing the Infocom thing and OPEN MAILBOX -- There's something inside!, to nobody's real surprise.  Another LOOK reveals it's a key, and we can TAKE KEY (GET KEY doesn't work.)  We can't go any way but North, but that way The gate is shutUNLOCK GATE and OPEN GATE fail, along with USE KEY, and while I'm trying to PUSH or PULL the gate instead, already It's getting dark.  I finally discover that we can CLIMB GATE, which I should have thought of several moves earlier, and probably would have had I tried to EXAMINE GATE, which reveals that It's padlocked, but not too high.  So EXAMINE and LOOK are distinct verbs here, good to know.

North of the path is the front porch of the house -- and my flashlight is already getting dim, so I'll probably have to restart soon.  But while it lasts, we'll note that the porch features a door and a window.  The key we have doesn't fit the door, but the porch is wide and circles the house proper.  On the east side we find some firewood and an ax, and the back side of the house has a door that we can UNLOCK with the key.  Meanwhile, we're getting thirsty, and cold.

Entering the back door, we find ourselves in the kitchen, which contains a cupboard, fridge, sink, stove, and some stairs.  There's also a living room south of the kitchen, where we can open the front door in case a quick escape is needed.  So the interior of the house, so far at least, is not very large.  But my flashlight has gone out and it's too dark to see the contents of these rooms now, so I'll restart after mapping and otherwise fumbling around for 90 turns.

This time, I pick up the ax and the firewood before entering the house, and observe that the living room has a bookshelf, a desk, and a fireplace.  I try to MAKE FIRE, which the parser doesn't understand, and LIGHT FIRE -- With what?  DROP FIREWOOD puts the firewood in the fireplace, though this isn't clear until we EXAMINE FIREPLACE to see that it now contains the firewood.  We still don't have anything to light it with, though.

We can OPEN DESK to discover a computer -- though examination reveals only that it's not a portable (pity those poor owners of systems other than the exalted TRS-80 Model 100!)  Going back to the kitchen, we can open the cupboard and fridge to find a knife and a pot; the stove can't be opened, and there's a bug here, as if we repeatedly open the cupboard and fridge we can create infinite knives and pots.  There's nothing in the pot, either, although the descriptions are so limited it could in fact be a fridgeload of cannabis.

Heading down into the cellar, we find a shelf and a workbench, containing a lantern and a screwdriver respectively.  It seems these items aren't portable, until I realize there's a limit on how many items we can carry -- the parser just responds with You can't do that if we try to take anything after we've reached our maximum encumbrance. 

And now I'm in the dark again -- restarting, I test the directions in the living room to find a bedroom to the west, with a western closet and northern bath. 

The closet contains a safe, a coat and some stairs leading up to the attic.  The safe has a combination lock, but we're not prepared to open it, and we can't take the coat to protect us from the cold... oh, wait, we can't TAKE COAT but we can WEAR COAT.  We can open a box in the attic to find some magazines -- back issues of Portable 100 magazine, which we can READ to no obvious effect.

The bedroom contains a bed and a chest -- we can EXAMINE BED to learn it has a mattress, EXAMINE MATTRESS to see something underneath it, and then... after some trial and error... LIFT MATTRESS to discover a paper, which reads 11-6-23.  We can now go the safe and simply TURN DIAL (this only needs to be done once, though we can do it indefinitely) -- no number specifications are required after we've read the paper -- to OPEN SAFE.  Of course, my flashlight dies again right at this point, so we're on to another restart.

This time, I manage to open the safe and find a moneybag inside!  Well, an empty moneybag, as it turns out, made of heavy nylon.  The bathroom sink contains water, and the toilet can be opened but is fortunately empty.  The bedroom chest can't be opened yet, as a drawer is stuck, but the screwdriver from downstairs allows us to discover -- some smelly sox.  And we can't DRINK WATER from the sink, we need to use our canteen, though darkness always seems to set in before thirst overtakes us anyway so this isn't our primary concern.  I also discover that we can use the ax to CHOP WINDOW on the front porch and enter the living room that way, but this alternate route doesn't open up any new avenues.

What else?  EXAMINE FIREPLACE mentions its large chimney, and EXAMINE CHIMNEY reveals that The flue is blockedEXAMINE FLUE reveals that it contains a bundle, which is a heavy nylon bag, just like the moneybag.  Trying to make off with our ill-gotten gains, however, we find we can't CLIMB GATE, as the bag is too heavy.  We can try to THROW BUNDLE, but it just ends up on this side of the gate, and even after the bundle is out of inventory we can't climb over the gate, probably due to a logic bug.  We have to drop everything but the bundle in order to be able to climb over the gate again.

Is this the victory condition?  Apparently not.  We haven't opened the bundle yet -- we can't simply OPEN BUNDLE -- to confirm it's a treasure.  We can CUT BUNDLE using the knife from the kitchen, but of course my flashlight has died again and it's too dark to see what we've actually accomplished by doing this.  Trying again, I manage to CUT BUNDLE -- OPEN BUNDLE also works if we have the knife in hand -- only to find that it's another empty moneybag?  But it seemed so heavy when we examined it earlier!  Ah, the money has fallen out -- and we can't take it now, because It's scattered all over.

One more try!  Well, a few more tries... it doesn't seem like having the moneybag in hand lets us bag the money when we open the bundle, and we have to have the knife in order to open it.  Maybe we need to drop the moneybag before we open the bundle... nope.  Aha!  We have to FILL MONEYBAG to pick up the money.  But now we're too weighed down to get over the gate, even if we drop everything else?  Ah, what didn't work earlier with the bundle is the right thing to do with the bagged money -- we can THROW MONEYBAG over the gate, and then CLIMB GATE... to mildly praised victory!

Teeny Tiny Text Adventure lives up to its name, although looking at the BASIC code it could have been even tinier -- navigation is implemented using if-then logic, even though there appears to be a map data array constructed, so some memory is wasted by the design.  But it was a fun little game to play through -- the red herrings and time pressure raise the stakes a notch, and it was a pleasantly brief experience.  My walkthrough is below.

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

N, E, N, N, W
S, W
E, E
S, S
CLIMB GATE (mission accomplished!)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting the tweaks that can redeem certain games. Without that time limit, this would seem awful. A much longer and detailed game would be insufferable with such a time constraint.
    And now I suddenly think of a tweak that I have never even heard rumors of: a two-player text adventure. Not a MUD but an actual scripted game. This seems like a stage that simply never happened in the evolution of gaming.
    And not too surprising considering the decisions you'd have to make before even planning such a thing. Co-op, PvP, or player/DM? Real-time, simultaneous turns, or hotseat? Those would all have a huge effect on the type of stories you could use, and the market for 2PTA's would be pretty limited to begin with. The temptation to slip into some other genre of game would be strong even if the idea occurred to anyone with the skills/resources to undertake such a project (it'd require a whole new engine, I suppose).
    Still...an interesting notion. Might work best as an element in a novel instead of as an actual game.