Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Arabian Nights Adventure (1983)

I'm digging into the SoftSide archives once again this week, to tackle what I believe is number 25 in the magazine's monthly adventure game series -- Arabian Nights Adventure, published for multiple platforms in 1983 with issue 42 of the magazine.  It's distinct from SoftSide's inaugural text adventure, Arabian Adventure, and mixes Greek and Middle Eastern mythology.  I'm playing the TRS-80 version here.

Interested adventurers are encouraged to tackle the Arabian Nights Adventure independently before proceeding here -- and if you manage to make it through the final leg of the story without having to cheat as I had to, please share your tips in the comments here!  Beyond this point, I'll be detailing my playthrough (and cheating) experience in detail, so there are certain to be...

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

We begin in the throne room of the Caliph of Baghdad -- his daughter has been placed under a spell by the evil magician (and early l33t speaker?) Roxor.  She is in a trance until we can bring her a piece of shell from the egg of the giant Roc, and we can expect to encounter magic along the way.

We're not allowed to do so much as check INVentory before the Caliph's guards hustle us out of the room to a large waiting room with chairs; the Caliph must be auditioning a lot of heroes today.  We can't find anything special about the chairs, or take one with us, so we'll head east out onto the palace steps.

From here, we can travel north to a bazaar and pick up a silver coin from the ground.  There's a shop on the bazaar's eastern side, operated by a shopkeeper named Hassan who offers Various woven goods.  He doesn't speak, but if we LOOK SHOPKEEPER he holds out his palm.  GIVE COIN isn't productive, though -- he just tosses it on the ground.

Traveling west, we find ourselves at the gates of Baghdad, with desert visible to the west and a SEER sitting cross-legged on the ground.  He holds out his palm, too, and will accept the silver coin.  For some reason we are told he "whines" this prophecy: "Of the two pools in the desert, one is poisoned.  But the other makes you invulnerable for a short time."  Fortunately, unlike a lot of SoftSide adventures, this one actually has a SAVE GAME command.

Outside the city walls, we see sand, and can travel north into the desert.  Fortunately, there's an oasis not too far off to the north, with a sign reading, "Pool of Omar."  We can't GO POOL or SWIM, but we can DRINK WATER -- Gulp. You feel different.  Hmmmm.  I hope that wasn't the poison!

Heading east into the desert, we find another oasis, the Pool of El Habib.  Let's see if this water is safe to drink -- You feel normal again by the time we get here, so this one is probably the poisoned pool, but maybe the seer isn't seering so well these days...  Nope, he was right!  Gasp, you've been poisoned!  -- and we're dead.

I'll avoid both pools for the moment, since the invulnerability appears short-lived and we might need to carry the water somehow.  I head north from the desert into a narrow ravine with steep rock walls.  Continuing through the ravine, I come upon a sandy beach with a ship visible to the north.

Since we might be going on a trip, I pause here to DIG SAND -- and discover an amulet.  EXAMINE AMULET reveals that it contains an emerald.  Further digging in the desert map so far uncovers a scimitar, a Dragon's Eye ring, and a slingshot.  Does Hassan want any of this stuff?  Nope.  I am starting to think his woven goods are a front for something else.  At least he's not one of those adventure game shopkeepers who won't let us take our own stuff back after it ends up on the ground in their establishments, so some experimentation here doesn't cost us anything.

Let's go check out the ship, which turns out to belong to Sinbad the Sailor, though he's not actually on board.  LOOK SHIP reveals that The SHIP has no SAILS!  So we probably need to buy one from Hassan, somehow.  I try to SHOW AMULET, but "You have no ammunition!" is the unexpected response from the parser (SHO = SHOOT, I think.)  I try to KILL SHOPKEEPER, just in case that's what's expected, but The SCIMITAR has no effect!  Hmmmm.  I try to GIVE AMULET to the seer, but he takes it and runs off, apparently never to be seen again, so I'll restore an earlier save.

Hassan is still holding out his palm, and I don't seem to have anything he wants (and no, GIVE FIVE doesn't do anything either.)  I don't stay invulnerable long enough after drinking from the Pool of Omar to get to where I can try anything dangerous, it seems.  We can't KILL SEER with the scimitar.  Does anything interesting happen if I WEAR RING and/or WEAR AMULET?  Not that I can discern, though doing so does seem to lessen the inventory burden.

HELP proves valuable -- "Two magic words you may need are: SESAME and AWAY."  Let's try those out -- SAY SESAMESAY AWAYNothing happens!  -- in the shop, at least.  But in the narrow ravine, SAY SESAME causes a large stone to move aside, revealing an opening in the rock wall.

Now we can access Ali Baba's secret cave, finding a bag of gold and a magic lamp.  We GET LAMP, of course, and GET BAG seems a good idea also.  Oddly, SAY SESAME doesn't close the cave back up, and neither does SAY AWAY.  Sorry, Mr. Baba!

The next events are interesting -- Hassan accepts the bag of gold, and offers us either canvas sails or a magic cloak in exchange.  I'm going to opt for the magic cloak, and when we WEAR CLOAK, we are now invisible!  That's got to be more valuable than some generic sails.

What about sails, though?  I step outside and RUB LAMP, and a blue genie appears, but admonishes us, "Wait until you really NEED me!" before vanishing.  He does the same thing on Sinbad's ship, so he's not going to magick up any sails for us.

Maybe this invisibility cloak isn't all that useful, either -- the Caliph's guards still escort us out of the palace, we can't STEAL anything, and stowing away on the boat doesn't seem to be an option.  So I'll backtrack to a pre-decision save and see what the more practical sails can do for us.

We SET SAIL, rigging the ship, and arrive at Roxor's island in two days -- apparently the Roc lives there?  We can visit Roxor's temple to the east, where a gong sits near large closed doors.  We GET GONG and HIT GONG, and with a BONG! the doors open.  We can acquire a golden goblet and a diamond here -- not bad! -- and SET SAIL for the mainland after finding the grotto to the north blocked by magically sealed doors.

Hassan doesn't want the diamond -- man, this guy is picky about his currency -- but he will give us the cloak in exchange for the goblet.  But I'm not sure I want to do that -- we can GET WATER with the goblet, and temporary, portable invulnerability might be valuable.

Let's check out the grotto some more on Roxor's island, then.  There are wet rock walls here, with no other detail to make them useful, and the sealed gates won't respond to either of our magic words, or the genie, or to PRY GATES.  Does the gong do anything here?  Ah, yes, HIT GONG opens the gates!

We can now access a rock passage leading to a closed stone door, guarded by a large dragon.  SHOW RING produces a strange response -- the diamond flies out and lands on the ground, so I think SHOOT [anything] assumes we want to use the diamond in the slingshot.  GIVE RING also fails to impress the dragon.  But this is a good time to RUB LAMP -- the genie appears, poofs the dragon out of existence, and then disappears along with the magic lamp.

When we OPEN DOOR, we are transported into Roxor's secret room, where a magic carpet is available and there are no visible exits.  I SAY AWAY -- and the carpet floats off without us!  Restoring, I confirm that we can GET CARPET, but that doesn't help; I finally realize we need to leave it on the ground and simply GO CARPET before invoking the magic word.

We are now magically transported to a huge mountain-top nest, where we see -- are we here already? -- A giant Roc EGG.  We can't GET EGG, as it's too big, but all we need is a piece of it.  With the scimitar, we can CUT EGG, and now it's a broken egg, but we can't GET PIECE, we have to GET SHELL.

We can SAY AWAY here for transport back to Roxor's secret room, but there's still no other exit available in either location.  As we GET OFF the carpet, Roxor (we presume) says: "I put a curse on thee!  You'll never get the egg shell to the princess!"  Why he couldn't have just hidden his magic carpet instead of having to go to all this trouble remains a mystery.

So the story is not quite over, it appears.  We can't SAY AWAY with the carpet in inventory and jump off or anything, it just floats away if we're not standing on it.  If we GET OFF the carpet at the Roc's nest, Roxor doesn't make his announcement, but we can't go anywhere else from here either.  (Actually, Roxor curses us if we stay in his secret room for any length of time, we don't have to disembark from the carpet to trigger this event.)

I try to SHOOT a few objects, but it seems the diamond is the only ammo available, and it always just shoots out and hits the ground.  I finally return to an earlier save and bring the gong along -- and yes, HIT GONG in the secret room opens up a passage to the south, leading back into the temple through a hidden, one-way door that vanishes after we use it.

When we come back to Sinbad's ship, we see a SEA SERPENT that's probably going to be troublesome.  We can't SHOOT SERPENT, nor can we SET SAIL while he's here.  We can take the magic carpet out of the secret room, but when we SAY AWAY it just takes us back to the Roc's nest again and then back to the secret room.  We can't KILL SERPENT with the scimitar, either.

Can we dispatch these beasts using a goblet of poison?  The dragon and the serpent refuse to drink it.  RIDE SERPENT returns a surprising O.K. but nothing really seems to happen.  I try to RUB RING -- and It glowsRUB AMULET is more interesting -- the serpent screams and disappears!  (I go back and check -- we can also use the amulet to dispatch the dragon, but it disappears like the lamp did, whereas it seems to survive the serpent.)

Let's see if we can get back to the princess now.  It won't be that easy -- the giant Roc now occupies the beach back in Baghdad.  But we can KILL ROC with the scimitar; one more menace down!

A giant cyclops now blocks our passage through the narrow ravine -- SHOOT CYCLOPS finally puts the slingshot to good use, though our diamond disappears after use as ammunition.  We can use the amulet a second time to get rid of a seven-headed snake in the desert, but then the amulet disappears too.  We are running out of weapons here!

Next, we encounter a flock of vultures, and I decide to backtrack and try the Dragon's Eye ring on the dragon, since it hasn't proved useful anywhere else -- this seems to work, saving the lamp and the amulet for later.  I return to the vultures with the lamp intact, and the genie appears and dispels the flock.

The city gates are magically sealed -- and the gong comes in handy once again.  Next, a red genie blocks our way through the bazaar -- so close! -- and we can GIVE him the GOBLET (full of poison water) to dispatch him.

This makes me wonder if I might want a little invulnerability on hand going forward, so I return to the Pool of Omar to refill the goblet.  The next creature in our way is a living skeleton, standing just outside the palace.  And I'm out of lethal magical items, it seems... GIVE GOBLET doesn't work with the skeleton, no matter what it contains.

But!  Since I'm pretty sure I no longer need the goblet for anything else, I can now GIVE GOBLET to Hassan the shopkeeper and obtain the invisibility cloak, allowing us to sneak by the skeleton.

Now Roxor's voice rings out again, telling us he's made himself invisible too, so he can see us and we can't get past him (I'm not quite sure how that is supposed to work -- visibility is not commutative -- but we'll accept it for the sake of a dramatic finale.)  He won't let us past the waiting room to the Caliph's chambers, so we'll have to dispatch him somehow.

HIT GONG does nothing.  I can't come up with any other options either.  I am starting to think I should have saved the Genie for this moment, somehow.  Maybe I can find another way to dispatch the vultures?  Peeking at the BASIC code, I conclude that they're not vulnerable to the amulet or the scimitar or the ring.  Playing the game again, I verify that shouting or yelling or trying to RUN past them doesn't work; only the genie has any power over them, as far as I can tell.  Maybe I can get the emerald out of the amulet and use it as additional slingshot ammo?  Nope.  I re-confirm that the lamp disappears if we use the genie on the vultures. 

So I start digging through the code to find alternatives -- the vultures are object number 38, but I'm not seeing anything else that appears to affect them.  I ultimately restored to an earlier save, broke out of the BASIC interpreter and set D(38) = 99 to meta-remove the vultures, instead of wasting the magic lamp.  Not really a solution, but it will let me try some more possibilities.

And yes -- though I had to cheat to try this, the genie succeeds in dispatching Roxor, and now we can enter the throne room and deliver the egg shell.  Victory (of a predominately honest variety, I swear) is ours!

Thanks, Mr. Caliph, but, while I respect your traditions, perhaps we should wait for the princess to wake up before we decide whether we actually want her hand in marriage, or she wants ours.

Arabian Nights Adventure is one of the more challenging SoftSide adventures -- the puzzles are relatively straightforward, but the final journey back to the palace requires quite a bit of trial and error and I'm not actually sure it's solvable without cheating, though I'd be thrilled to learn what I've missed.  We still have a few more of these SoftSide adventure games to tackle, and they will be coming up soon I expect.

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