Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adventure of the Week: High School Adventure (1983)

I'm not really sure I want to go back to high school, but this week I am faced with SoftSide Adventure #26 (by my count), High School Adventure, published in 1983 in issue 43 of SoftSide Magazine's monthly compilation.  It's credited to one D. Pleacher, who refers to his or her adventure as High School Confidential internally, but for official purposes I'm going with the name listed on the SoftSide disk menu and intro display.  We'll be playing the TRS-80 Model I/III version here, using Matt Reed's excellent TRS32 emulator.

The plot is minimal -- the player is cast as a student at John Handley High School, where we must pass six subjects with three activities possible in each class.  There's some flexibility in the grades we earn, but we should try to complete all three in each subject to earn Straight A's.

High School Adventure is an odd one -- it's not buggy enough for me not to recommend it to interested old-school text adventurers, but the experience is not really worth the effort it requires to complete.  Most of the challenge lies in figuring out the game's convoluted and geographically illogical map, then coming up with the right phrases to apply to each class; while some puzzles are inventory based, many rely simply on parser guesswork, in-game hints, or (in my case) cheating by peeking at the code to see what the dictionary will tolerate.  So you may not feel like you've missed much of a High School Adventure, really, if you choose to proceed straight into the...

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

We begin standing outside the school, with movement possible in all cardinal directions as well as up.  Up seems like the most unusual path to take, and this brings us to the school's computer lab with five TRS-80 machines on hand (I presume the versions SoftSide released for other platforms feature the user's chosen machine.)  We can't EXAMINE COMPUTERS or TURN ON COMPUTERS, so it's not quite clear what activities we should be trying to perform here.  I try heading N out of the computer room and end up in Geometry Class, but I can't get back to the computer room afterward -- a sign of convoluted mapping to come, as it turns out.

In the Geometry room, I attempt to DO HOMEWORK -- but YOU NEED PAPER.  I check Inventory and find that we have NOTHING.  And we can't go back S to the computer lab, so I'll just keep exploring.

E takes us to the Library, where we have two options, EXODUS or MACBETH.  We can GET MACBETH, but when I try to READ MACBETH, YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO DO THAT.  Are we a seriously remedial student?  We can't OPEN MACBETH or STUDY MACBETH, nor can we do anything similar with EXODUS.  At least we can go back W to Geometry Class if we want.

North of the library is a corridor with exits in many directions.  Heading South takes us, not back to the library, but to Algebra Class.  South of algebra class is the Math Office, where we can acquire a pencil; walking west from algebra class returns us to the library.  So the map isn't quite consistent here.  Going Down from the math office reaches the Shop, where we can pick up a hammer, and south at that point takes us back outside the school where we started.

I'll try heading south here this time, into Typing Class -- we still need paper when I try to TYPE PAPER, and I travel west and north to reach the School Store, where it appears we could buy the paper here, if we had any money.  Once again we find we can't go back the way we came -- the hallway leads instead to History Class. 

I travel E from History Class into the bathroom, where the Assistant Principal walks in and suspends me because I don't have a HALLPASS, before I can even check out the graffiti on the wall.  I end up in Suspension Class for two days, though at least I can get a pen here.  Trying to leave Suspension Class to the north via the Commons Area just earns further suspensions, but wandering east and north through the library and clinic leads safely to the General Office.  There's a key here, and the Assistant Principal again, who warns us: "AVOID SUSPENSION CLASS."

We have a five-item inventory limit, so I drop Exodus to pick up the key.  Traveling east from the General Office leads back outside.  This map is nothing if not unpredictable, to the point that it almost seems random.

From outside, this time I go E and find myself in the Band Room.  East again brings us to Biology Class, with trays for (we presume) dissection on the tables, though we have nothing to DISSECT at the moment.  Heading east from the Biology Class leads to the Upstairs Hallway.

It's clear I'm going to need to draw a map on paper to make sense of this high school's crazy layout, so I spend some time doing that from a restart of the game.  I can't even begin to describe how this map works, so I'll just list the new locations and objects I discovered or confirmed in the process:
  • Commons Area with an apple, south of Typing Class
  • French Class U of the Commons
  • Guidance Office east of the Commons
  • Treasurer's Office south of the Guidance Office, with a hallpass available
  • Auditorium south of English Class, with a check
  • Locker north of English class, with a flute, some music and a cassette
  • A Gym west of French Class
  • Cafeteria down from Biology, with coins and food
  • Vault north of the Shop, containing Money
  • Dark Passageway above the Vault
The map is indeed very random, with many loops and connections that make little sense.  And I'm not really sure what we're supposed to be doing in any of these classes yet, but at least we can maneuver around now.

The Counselor in the Guidance Office offers random hints each time we enter, such as, "HAVE YOU TRIED TO CLOAD SOMETHING?"  Picking up the hallpass in the Treasurer's Office nearby should make life easier, at least.

Reading the graffiti in the bathroom suggests "TRY NOMIALS IN MATH," "HW COMES IN 3'S," "ENGLISH IS GREEK TO ME" and "I CAN COUNT THE TIMES I WAS SUSPENDED!"  I also find out that we can get suspended for spending too much time outside the school, so we'll want to keep our navigation inside the building as much as possible.

The Dark Passageway above the vault is a mini-maze, actually a linear set of three rooms though it's hard to tell where we are without dropping objects.  If we go U, then N from its starting point, we find a door leading to the west, though we can't open it without the key from the General Office.  This isn't the dead end it seems to be, though, as we can go down from this location back to the Shop.  Using the key to open the door leads us to another, final dark passageway, with a cap and gown available, and we can exit back to the Commons area from there.  We may need these later for graduation.

SCORE is quite useful here -- it reveals all the subjects we can try to pass: COMPUTER SCI, GEOMETRY, ALGEBRA, ENGLISH, HISTORY, TYPING, FRENCH, P.E., BAND and BIOLOGY.  We currently have F's in all of them, and the game suggests we try doing some homework as a starting point.

For that, we'll need paper, which we can get using the money from the vault, and the pencil from the Math Office.  We can DO HOMEWORK in Algebra Class to get to a D, but repeated homework doesn't elevate our grade at all.  The same applies to French Class and Biology Class, among others, though some classes don't work this way (e.g. P.E. and Band.)

We can TYPE PAPER in Typing Class to get a D there; this counts as passing, though it does little for our GPA.  We can bring the Macbeth book to English Class and RECITE MACBETH to get to a C (after doing homework to get to a D.)

We can bring the flute and music to the Band Room and PLAY FLUTE to get up to a D.  We have now passed six subjects, but apparently we have to pass all of them to graduate.  Computer Science, Geometry, History and P.E. remain to be conquered, and we don't seem to be able to DO HOMEWORK for any of these.

We can CLOAD CASSETTE, per the Guidance Counselor's hint, to pass Computer Science.  Trying to THROW HAMMER in Gym Class, though, gets us another day of suspension for tossing school property around.  READ EXODUS in English Class gets us a bump up to a B, improving our GPA (a hint I encountered later suggests that the English teacher likes Leon Uris' work.)  I try to DISSECT FROG in the Biology Class, just on a whim, and now we're passing that one also.

Ah!  The Guidance Counselor suggests, "HAVE YOU TRIED TO LEARN SOMETHING?"  But I can't seem to LEARN GEOMETRY or DRAW TRIANGLE.  He also suggests we work on a TERMPAPER, PAY YOUR DEBTS, and QWERTY, and recites part of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

Taking these suggestions to heart, I try to RECITE DECLARATION in History Class, as well as LEARN CONSTITUTION and LEARN INDEPENDENCE, to no avail. But RECITE PREAMBLE works!

In the Gym, I try to RUN LAPS, DO PUSHUPS, DO CHINUPS and PLAY SPORTS; nothing works, or is recognized by the parser, until I chance upon PLAY BASKETBALL as an attempt.  READ MUSIC in the bandroom improves our grade a notch, counting separately from playing the flute contrary to my assumption earlier.

I still haven't found a workable accomplishment for Geometry Class.  I finally try to LEARN THEOREM, and that works, and when I try to DRAW PROOF, I am told I can't draw one, so while the word is recognized I'm not using it as the game expects.  This correctly suggests that WRITE PROOF counts for something.

I've now passed all the subjects, but the game doesn't seem to recognize this; we're only 38% complete, so we must need to improve our grades.  I end up having to peek at the noun and verb lists in the BASIC code to get some hints, since I'm running out good guesses and the parser is picky -- COIN is not the same as COINS, for example.  This cheat accelerates my progress quite a bit.

LEARN DEFINITIONS gets us to an A in Geometry.  RECITE DIALOGUE gets us to a B in French, but while CONJUGATE VERB is recognized we don't get credit for it there or in English class.  We can PLAY BADMINTON and PLAY VOLLEYBALL to get to an A in P.E.

We're making good progress here when I get some bad news -- I've been in Suspension Class for too many days and have been expelled!  I really don't want to replay all of this, especially as I'm pretty likely to get suspended just as often on the next try by setting foot in the wrong places; even walking through the Suspension Class counts as a day of suspension.  So I opt for breaking out, forcing C = 1 and continuing, as I haven't been able to find another hall pass and this map makes it difficult to proceed without being expelled at some point.

SOLVE EQUATIONS helps in Algebra Class; we can't SOLVE TRINOMIALS or LEARN TRINOMIALS, but FACTOR TRINOMIALS does work.  We can LOOK TRAYS in Biology Class to learn we have both a frog and a worm available, and DISSECT WORM (along with DO HOMEWORK, which I hadn't done here yet) gets us to an A in Biology.

In Computer Science, I can CSAVE PROGRAM to cassette, but when I try to WRITE PROGRAM we are asked, "WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP IN WRITING A PROGRAM?"  I think back to my own early Computer Science studies, and am pleased to find that DRAW FLOWCHART works.

I still need A grades in English, History, Typing, French, and Band, it appears.  LEARN KEYBOARD helps in Typing, but TYPE TERMPAPER doesn't do anything.  WRITE STORY helps in English.  DRAW MAP helps in History, as does WRITE TERMPAPER (which didn't work in English class.)  The SCORE display is telling us we're on the honor roll now.

So have we done enough?  I take a gamble and just try to GRADUATE -- and we are told to report to the auditorium!  I'll grab the cap and gown from the dark passageway first; there's no WEAR verb, so we'll just carry these items along.

I go to the Auditorium, and GRADUATE this time indicates that we need to pay some fees.  I GET CHECK here (convenient), and while PAY FEES isn't recognized PAY FEE yields NOT HERE.  I go to the Treasurer's Office, where PAY FEE is accepted.

I return once more to the Auditorium, and this time my attempt to GRADUATE indicates my fees have not all been paid, even though further attempts to PAY FEE now return FEE HAS BEEN PAID.  Hmmmm.  Do we have some outstanding library fines, maybe?  I go to the Library and PAY FINE, using the coins I found in the cafeteria earlier, and this also seems to be accepted.

On my final attempt, we have 88% of the game completed as we successfully GRADUATE at last -- victory is ours!

I wasn't tempted to go back and try to get to 100% -- the parser guesswork required to complete the class assignments had become tedious by this point, and I had completed more than the minimum requirements, so I was just glad to be out of high school at long last.

Hmmmm... perhaps High School Adventure is the Most Realistic Adventure Ever!

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