Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Polynesian Adventure (1983)

Last week's excursion into Lurkley Manor inspired me to seek out further TRS-80 Color Computer adventures from the pages of The Rainbow magazine; I had almost forgotten that several adventure-focused issues were published over the years.  I tracked down a readable PDF file of the January 1983 adventure issue, and was actually considering typing in one of the contest-winning games the old-fashioned way.  But further research turned up a collection of disk image files containing the entire Rainbow Book of Adventures, including eleven more contest entries which were described but not printed in the magazine.  And so it is that this week, as a more-or-less random selection, we're playing through Polynesian Adventure, submitted by Don Dunlap.

The interface borrows from the Scott Adams style, with an upper window displaying location, obvious exits, and objects, and a bottom section for command entry and feedback.  It runs at good speed for a BASIC game, and while the simple music commended by the Rainbow judges at the time no longer impresses, Polynesian Adventure remains an attractively presented game that fits the CoCo's limited 32x16-character text mode well.

Interested readers are encouraged to take a Polynesian Adventure of their own before reading my playthrough notes below, of course.  It's not a difficult game at all -- most of the treasures are simply lying around for the taking, the map is not large, and there are no fatal puzzles.  But simplicity can be deceptive; I tripped myself up near the end by assuming I was keeping all the details straight in my head, when I should have been drawing a map.  At any rate, my experience (embarrassing details and all) is documented below, and therefore there are certain to be...

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

We begin at a Polynesian Treasure House, though there are no treasures visible here, so we'll step outside to the south.  This brings us to a road, where a Trans Am car looks interesting; there's no EXAMINE verb, but if we GO CAR we can LOOK COMPARTMENT to examine the glove compartment.  Inside is a boarding pass, which we will presumably be needing at some point.  We can try to DRIVE, but I CAN'T DO THAT.

Getting out of the car proves a bit of a puzzle -- there are no obvious exits, and EXIT, GET OUT and OPEN DOOR all fail miserably.  We have to GO OUT, at which point we can explore a discount store to the west to pick up an empty gas can, and a gas station to the east where we can FILL CAN.  Oddly, if we try to FILL CAR now, we're told that YOU'RE MISSING SOMETHING, but we can FILL TANK successfully; it seems the parser often focuses on the verb and a small collection of valid objects, which sometimes leads to strange behavior.  The display doesn't always indicate nearby objects, either, so we have to remember what we're doing and where we are on our own sometimes.

With a full gas tank, we can DRIVE to find ourselves on a pier near a boat.  It turns out to be the Love Boat (remember, this was 1983) -- it's not very big, with just a dining room and a hallway leading to the cabins for us to explore.  READ PASS tells us that our cabin number is G7 and our table is A1, so we can go to the dining room, GO A1, steal the *SILVERWARE* there, and then go the cabins and GO G7 to get our voyage underway... and pocket the *GOLD NECKLACE* apparently provided in lieu of a complimentary mint.  We achieve no SCORE for just picking these things up, though; we'll probably have to take them back to the Polynesian Treasure House at the end of our voyage.

Our first stop on this cruise brings us to a Samoan Village, where we see a pink hibiscus.  We can't TAKE it, LOOK at it or MOVE it, but if we SMELL it we are stung by a bee and rushed back aboard the boat for medical treatment.  Fortunately, this doesn't otherwise interfere with our adventuring.  We can see a FIRE KNIFE DANCER in the community house, though we can't GIVE him or her a treasure or anything.  And we can GET PEARLS from the council house, robbing the local community of its poorly-guarded assets.  We'll GO BOAT this time, even though it's not immediately clear that we can do that, to save ourselves the sting and ensuing medical treatment.

We GO G7 again, and when we emerge from our cabin and debark again, we find ourselves near a Maori village, with a colorful red tulip tree at hand, the smelling of which earns us nothing but another bee sting.  We can loot the local museum of its *VALUABLE RELICS*, without a second thought, although at this point we learn that YOU'RE TOO WEAK TO CARRY ANYMORE, i.e., we've hit the game's five-item inventory limit.  We'll have to risk leaving our treasures in our cabin, it seems, and as there's no SAVE game command and entering the cabin automatically moves us along to the next stop on the cruise, I'll just start over in case we can't come back here later.

Our next stop turns out to be Fiji, where a beautiful plumeria tempts us into getting stung once again.  The local chief's house sports *A DIAMOND HEADED SPEAR*, and a nearby hut contains Tonga coins which are not denoted as a treasure.  We'll steal them anyway, since we're not like those other suckers on this trip who are probably just here for the scenery.

Next up, Tahiti, where *A HAWAIIAN ORCHID* greets us -- it can also result in a sting, but we'll steal it as subtly suggested by the glittering asterisks.  In a prayer house to the south, a group of Boy Scouts is singing "Kum Ba Ya," and we can lift an *EXQUISITE CARVING OF A FISH* from a fisherman's house to the east.  Back to the boat!

We now find ourselves in a Tonga village -- maybe we need to spend those coins here.  There's a waterfall here, and for once in adventuring history we can't GO WATERFALL to reach a hidden cave of any kind.  A Queen's Bedroom to the south contains a bird of paradise, though the parser doesn't recognize BIRD as a noun so we can't really interact with it.  A Tongan Festival offers FREE HULA LESSONS, but we can't TAKE LESSONS or LEARN HULA just for fun.  No treasures here, apparently -- maybe we've been preceded by fellow looters.

Next stop -- Marquesas!  An active volcano looks scary, and in a cooking house to the south we can see *A GOLD KNIFE (VERY HOT)*, too hot to GET, apparently.  There's a guest house to the east of the cooking house, a tattooing house north of that, and a warrior's house to the east of the tattooing house, where we can acquire *AN EMERALD STATUE*.  We'll have to come back for the knife when we can figure out a solution; for now we'll proceed to...

Our original location again!  Of course, we aren't carrying our treasures, having left them in the cabin, so we'll have to tour the circuit again until we can unload.  We'll do that, returning to our cabin six times to complete the trip, and then DRIVE back to the Polynesian Treasure House.  Dropping the four treasures we can carry (along with our boarding pass, which it seems we ought to keep) gets us up to a SCORE of 40 out of 100, so there must be ten treasures to collect, of which we have found eight so far.

On our next circuit, let's see if we can do something with the Tonga coins.  We can't GIVE or THROW them to the fire knife dancer, and DROP COINS doesn't catch anyone's attention either.  The Boy Scouts aren't interested in our money, and the game's design, which plays a room's theme music whenever the location is entered or re-displayed, forces us to listen to three renditions of Kum Ba Ya while we DROP and GET our coins back.  Our money is no good at the Tongan Festival either.  But while I'm here, I realize that I forgot to head east from the Queen's bedroom, into the Queen's Bed.  There's a *BEAUTIFUL WOVEN MAT* here, which we can steal.  Fortunately there don't seem to be any antiquities officials on the lookout for globe-trotting, heritage-plundering adventurers like us!

We can't READ MAT -- it just reads our boarding pass instead, another case of a single-purpose verb.  The hot knife can't be KICKed or MOVEd or BLOWn on or FANned, it seems, and I can't find a way to carry water from the waterfall to cool it down.  Trying to PICK KNIFE provokes another verb anomaly and gets us sent back to the boat, as it is unlawful to pick flowers.

Four more treasures dropped off gets us up to 80 points, and it occurs to me that the gas can, now empty, might be useful for carrying water.  But we can't seem to FILL CAN at the waterfall, or GET WATER either; the gas can can only be used to carry gas, it seems.  The fire knife dancer might be able to handle the hot knife... but we can't PAY DANCER, GET DANCER, ASK DANCER, or TALK DANCER... so that doesn't seem like a good idea.

And I seem to have misplaced the Tonga Coins altogether somewhere along the way... hmmmm.  I guess it's time to cheat and peek at the original BASIC listing from the Rainbow Book of Adventures.  We're on the right track with the idea of using water to cool the knife, some text fragments suggest, but we have to jump through a few hoops now.  I had filled the gas can at the station again, and while we can't FILL TANK at the pier to empty it, we can do so after we drive back to the road where we first found the car.

Now that we have an empty can again, where can we fill it with water?  I've tried the pier, the boat's boarding area, and the waterfall location.  The FILL CAN code only responds in locations 3 and 17; 3 is the gas station, and 17 is the... lagoon?  Where is there a lagoon???

Oh, man, it's right there, just east of the Maori museum!  I guess I was too busy helping myself to the relics to finish my map -- actually, because this game only has a handful of locations, I hadn't even bothered to draw a map.  My mistake -- my incomplete tracking of the obvious exits displayed onscreen made for tougher going than necessary.

Now we can FILL CAN at the lagoon, POUR CAN on the hot knife (we're not allowed to do this when the can contains gas), take the now-cold knife, and deliver it to the Treasure House.

The final tune, for some reason, is Amazing Grace -- I don't feel particularly amazing or graceful.  But victory is ours!

Some non-commercial adventure games are really easy, and Polynesian Adventure is hardly difficult, but my experience here confirms that observation always remains important, even when there are no mazes and the puzzle solutions seem obvious.  Mr. Dunlap's effort provided a pleasant evening's diversion, and I'm planning to dig into some of the other Rainbow magazine adventures now that I've located this treasure trove.  Forward, into the past!

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