Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventure of the Week: An Unexplored Mansion (1983)

I'm working through a more substantial game as I write this, but in the interest of my more-or-less weekly deadline, I'm tackling yet another Rainbow Book of Adventures contest winner -- An Unexplored Mansion, published in 1983 and written by Tim Hanson in BASIC for the TRS-80 Color Computer.

The story casts the player as a young person setting out for the city after growing up in a small town, then nearly hitting a deer and walking for miles to discover an old mansion... unexplored!  The parser is a straightforward two-word affair, with a few unique quirks -- invalid navigational directions just keep us where we are with no specific feedback, and there's no room-level LOOK, as it substitutes for EXAMINEINV handles inventory, while I and other unrecognized commands just refresh the current room display.

I can recommend this one to interested readers -- the code is fairly robust, and the puzzles are straightforward but well constructed with useful hints to be found via thorough exploration.  I enjoyed working my way through it in an hour or so, and it made for a pleasant diversion.  So please, feel free to step away and enter An Unexplored Mansion on your own before proceeding with my comprehensive...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! ***** 

We begin outside, on the front lawn, with the exit to the south (reversing the opening geography of many mansion adventures!) with directions AVALIABLE [sic] to the south, east, and west.

Before entering the house, we'll explore the environs -- to the east is the east garden.  I try to DIG but YOU HURT YOUR HAND with no other result.  To the west side is the rock garden, with a large rock and another exit to the south.  GET ROCK reveals a gun underneath?  Might as well take it along.

Continuing around the house, we find a veranda and another entrance to the mansion to the east.  At the southwest corner of the house is a hilly area with a jagged stone tower visible to the south.  We can obtain some batteries and a skull cap here.  LOOK CAP indicates it's produced by SKINNY BONES HATS FOR SKELETONS INC.

Going south again leads us to the stone tower itself -- the door is locked.  This seems like a good time to examine the objects we've acquired -- the gun is a VERY OLD PISTOL, we have two batteries, and the rock we're lugging around MUST WEIGH AT LEAST FIFTY POUNDS.

There's no SAVE GAME feature available, so there seems to be nothing to do but cross our adventuring fingers and enter the mansion itself.  I'll take the unorthodox approach and enter through the door on the mansion's west side first, since we're over here. 

We find ourselves in a ballroom with a staircase leading up and exits in all four directions.  North is the entrance hall -- and there's nothing nasty lurking there, so it wouldn't have mattered which way we entered the house.  East of the ballroom is the dining hall, with four exits again, so we're going to spend some time mapping this space out.

East of the dining hall is the bathroom, with a sheet of paper that provides instructions for use of... a TIME BOMB?  We have to BUILD BOMB, SET TIMER on the bomb, and escape.  Or somebody does, at least; this sounds suspiciously like a task we'll be taking on, rather than instructions for some other mad bomber.

Going north from the dining hall leads back to the entrance hall, and going south leads to the kitchen.  There's a book of matches here, promoting COLLEGE DEGREES BY MAIL, with a phone number that is notably NOT a fictional 555 exchange -- I wonder what its significance was in 1983?  There is also a dark staircase leading down.

The inventory system is interesting -- when I try to exceed its four item limit as I GET MATCHES, the parser reports, "UGH! YOU NEARLY BROKE MY BACK! BECAUSE YOU FEEL YOU SHOULD GET EVERYTHING YOU SEE YOU HAVE DROPPED EVERYTHING!"  I haven't seen this type of approach before, and it's actually kind of handy during this exploratory stage.

East of the kitchen is a pantry, and we can OPEN CABINET to find a soup can -- it reads CHICKEN NOODLE on the label, but it's empty.  We can try to go D the dark staircase in the kitchen, but IT'S TOO DARK, and when we LIGHT MATCH it BRIEFLY FLARES UP AND DIES.  So we'll need a more enduring light source, it seems.

South of the ballroom is a bar, leading south again to a study -- without the usual clue-filled desk.  West of the study is a library, however, with a very dusty book containing instructions for building a time bomb.  We will need a timing device, a small length of fuse, a small metal container (check!), two batteries (check!), an ounce of gunpowder (the gun?), some electrical wiring, and a match (got it).  The book also mentions that "SOME KNOWLEDGE OF THE USE OF TIMEBOMBS IS DESIRABLE," apparently saving that for a second volume.

So it seems our goal (or at least the only objective that has offered itself so far) is not to find treasure or exorcise an evil spirit or rescue anyone trapped in the mansion, but to blow the place up; kind of a SMALL TOWN BOY MAKES GOOD BOMB story.  So let's head upstairs from the ballroom in search of more bomb components.

The upstairs landing has exits in all four directions.  South is a bedroom, where we can OPEN BUREAU to find a torch, which should be handy.  We can tell IT HAS BEEN USED BEFORE, so it seems it's not a U.K. flashlight but an actual wooden torch.  South of the bedroom is a skeleton closet, containing a skeleton, who is described as KIND OF SKINNY.  Should we do something with the skull cap here?  We can't PUT CAP, but DROP CAP prompts the skeleton to say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH" and drop a fuse at our feet.  We'll just pick it up and not think too much about where that came from.

East of the bedroom is a short hallway with a ladder leading up, and more exits to the north and east.  Climbing up to the attic yields an old wooden box, in which we find a telescope with a label reading, "USE IN A HIGH PLACE."  Probably that rock tower.

East of the short hallway is the upstairs bathroom -- nothing of note here -- and north leads to the guest room, where we find an important item in the form of an old alarm clock.  Traveling west from the short hallway leads us back to the upstairs landing. 

Exploring the western side of the upstairs now, we find an overlook with a view of the rock garden.  USE TELESCOPE here only confirms that YOU AREN'T HIGH ENOUGH.  North of the landing is the master bedroom, where we can GET the oriental RUG to discover the traditional trap door.  We can OPEN DOOR and go down to find a secret room -- a window facing west is coated with grime, too thick to see through, and there's a safe here, though of course we can't just OPEN it.  Examination reveals that it has a COMBONATION [sic] LOCK, and the dial is too rusty to move, so we'll have to... hmmmm... maybe blow it open!

This is probably a good time to learn that we can't leave the secret room the way we came -- the door seems to have disappeared, and we can't BREAK WINDOW or CLEAN WINDOW or MOVE SAFE.  But we can OPEN WINDOW -- it allows us to pop through onto the veranda, then shuts tight again.

So what are still we missing for our bomb construction?  We need a length of fuse and some electrical wiring, and there's a good chance we might find both in the basement.  Oh, wait -- the FUSE the skeleton gave us is actually a very short fuse, not an electrical fuse as I was picturing.  We LIGHT TORCH using the matches, and now we can go down to the cellar.  There's a spool of electrical wire right here, perfect for our needs, and we find a barrel of gunpowder in the arsenal room to the south... I opt not to hang around with my blazing torch, however. 

The wine cellar to the east reveals the source of a strong smell noted when we entered -- a rotting cask of chablis, as well as a monster, who lacks even the courtesy to wait for us to make a move, interrupting our typing with repeated attacks!  With four hits, we're dead, and need to restart.  So we'll need to be quicker about leaving the room, or, presumably, dispatching the creature somehow.

On my second go, I focus on this goal first -- only to find that I can't SHOOT MONSTER and when I cooperate with the parser by trying to KILL MONSTER, the gun isn't loaded.  LOAD GUN reveals that YOU DON'T HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED -- and while we have a source of gunpowder, we're short of ammunition.

So we actually have a puzzle here. While exploring some more, I find a small bug -- if we drop the rug anywhere at all, when we GET RUG again we reportedly DISCOVER A HIDDEN DOOR, though it only appears in the master bedroom where it's supposed to.  Maybe we don't need to deal with the monster at all -- we have everything we need to build the bomb now, I think.

Oddly, when we GET GUNPOWDER it doesn't show up in our inventory, but we're not allowed to get more, and the parser thinks we still don't have all the materials needed?  Ah, we have to GET POWDER -- GET GUNPOWDER is confused with the GUN, which I already had in inventory.  BUILD BOMB proves fatal, however, as apparently we were supposed to WIND CLOCK before we do so -- something none of the instructions we've found thought to mention.

As I work my way through a third attempt, something tells me we ought to build the bomb where we plan to detonate it, and since the monster in the wine cellar won't let us hang around long enough to deliver the components, it makes sense to attempt this in the secret room.  We GET CLOCK, WIND CLOCK, BUILD BOMB... whoops, I don't have the matches.  I fetch them, WIND CLOCK again just in case, BUILD BOMB, OPEN WINDOW to escape, and... nothing happens?

Ah -- I forgot to SET TIMER (a separate operation from winding the clock).  This time, I OPEN WINDOW, and on the very next turn: KER-POOOOOWWW!!! THE BOMB GOES OFF!

Fortunately, it was not a big enough bomb to destroy the mansion, just damage the safe in the secret room.  THE DOOR HAS BEEN JARRED LOOSE upon our return, and OPEN SAFE yields a silver lockpick, a note, and a bullet.  The note reads, "LET EVERYBODY KNOW (INCLUDING THE APES) THAT A TREASURE IS HIDDEN, BEHIND ROTTING GRAPES."  So the monster wasn't really the source of the wine cellar's strange odor, it seems.

This seems like a fairly obvious clue given our exploration to date, but before we shoot the monster in the wine cellar, let's check out the tower with our telescope and lockpick.  At the base of the tower we can UNLOCK DOOR with the lockpick, and enter to find a shovel stored here along with a rope ladder leading up.  Climbing to the top, we USE TELESCOPE to read writing carved in a faraway tree: THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS IS BURIED IN THE FRONT LAWN.  That will save us a little digging time, anyway, though we probably could have figured this out even if we missed the telescope altogether.

DIGging on the front lawn yields a golden key, so now we're ready to get some more gunpowder, LOAD GUN with the bullet, and KILL MONSTER (typing as fast as we can!)  It only takes one shot to kill the nine-foot tall, fanged, big-footed monster, which is fortunate as we only had the one bullet.  The large drum of chablis here is caked with dust, and when we GET DRUM a small wooden door is revealed.  We OPEN DOOR, and an exit to the north is revealed.

Inside the room north of the wine cellar, we find a LARGE VAULT.  And now all we have to do is UNLOCK VAULT, OPEN VAULT, and find victory and wealth (assuming we're allowed to keep the money and aren't convicted of trespassing on someone's property, breaking, entering, and stealing)!

I enjoyed venturing into An Unexplored Mansion quite a bit -- the puzzles were not difficult, but they were logical and there were a few surprises that forced me to stop and think.  And the descriptions and details were of a higher standard than many of the other games in The Rainbow Book of Adventures.  This was definitely one of the better amateur efforts in this collection, as we get close to wrapping this volume up.

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