Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adventure of the Week: Mummy's Curse (1981)

Recent forays into the Apple II adventure game library, with many early and exclusive titles,
has brought me to this week's subject: Mummy's Curse.  It was released in 1981 by a small publisher variously known as Highland Computer Services and Highlands Computers Inc. -- the company published several Apple II graphic adventures written by Butch Greathouse and/or Garry Rheinhardt in the early 1980s.

The intro explains that the scenes are DONE IN HIGH RESOLUTION GRAPHICS (not yet common in 1981, though the illustrations are fairly simple) and the game uses a two-word parser.  Our goal is TO RECOVER THE SOLID GOLD DEATH MASK OF KING RUTTATUTTUT WHICH IS GUARDED BY THE MUMMY.  We're also informed that we will encounter a number of amulets and must use their individual names for differentiation, and that we must bring the gold mask back to the Oasis to win.  Sounds straightforward enough!

As always, interested readers are encouraged to face the Mummy's Curse firsthand before continuing into my playthrough notes below.  I found the game fairly challenging -- the map is large and maze-infested, and while the puzzles are generally straightforward it's not easy to find everything that's important; I had to avail myself of some clues at the CASA Solution Archive to finish this one on deadline.  Beyond this point, for the sake of documenting these games, I will be detailing my experience from start to finish.  That is, there are sure to be...

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

As the game begins, we find ourselves at a Desert Oasis WHERE ALL TRAILS CROSS.  There appear to be a couple of palm trees near a pool here, but we can't LOOK TREE or LOOK POOL, or CLIMB TREE; we can't DRINK POOL, but we can DRINK WATER -- AHHH THAT WAS GOOD.  I try to DIG, but YOU HAVE NO SHOVEL, suggesting that we're likely to run across one at some point.

Heading north from the Oasis brings us into the Great Sahara Desert, with the sun beating down on the dunes.  Continuing north for the moment, we see some mountains in the distance, and North again brings us to a location with LUSH MOUNTAINS AHEAD and a stick lying on the ground.  We'll follow adventuring best practices and GET STICK in case it comes in handy later.

I'm just plowing forward here, seeing what the map looks like, and heading N once again we find a branch in the path through the mountains.  North again shows us the Nile river off to the west, and one more northward step is as far as we can go for now, as we encounter a Great Wooden Door that is locked.

I'll backtrack south to the Oasis again, and head South to see Shiek Mazurka's Small Palace.  Heading south again here loops back to the desert location just north of the Oasis.  I always like to map the world out before we get into the story, so now I'll head east from the Oasis to discover a Small Village on the edge of the desert.  It looks like the map is a little more constrained than it appeared to be at first -- heading east from the village takes us to Shiek Mazurka's palace again.  But we can go north into the village, where two stucco huts lie to the east and west.  A similar location to the north contains another pair of huts, and then loops back to the main Sahara desert location if we continue north.

Before I check out the huts' interiors, I want to map the desert a bit more -- we can go East from the main Desert to another similar location, then north to an Ancient Temple.  We can enter the temple to see an inscription on the ceiling -- it reads, "FIGURE ME SOUTH. ONLY TWO PITS = DEATH. FIGURE ME IN FIGURE ME OUT."  Hmmmm.  Cryptic!

We're still traveling light, inventory-wise, so let's see if we can find anything useful in those village huts.  In the village's south end, the small western hut is vacant but the large eastern one is a Trading Post.  It's operated by a stereotyped Chinese merchant named Woo Fooy, and he has... wait for it... a KNIFE AND SHOVEL FOR SALE.  We are prompted DO YOU WANT TO BUY THEM?..Y/N.  I'll answer Y -- after all, I do want to buy them -- but of course, WOO FOOY SAYS AW FOOY YOU NO GOT GOLD COINS and kicks us out of his establishment with its wonderful but limited wares.  At least we've learned something about the coin of the realm, and we can keep an eye out for some gold coins.

The northern end of the village is similarly laid out.  In the small western hut, we find A MYSTERIOUS MAN WRAPPED IN A BLUE SHROUD who shouts "BEGONE AMAHD," and a great wind drives us back out of the hut.  Interesting.  We can also reach the same Trading Post here, it apparently spans the north-south length of the village.

Our map is filling in bit by bit -- now I'll explore the region west of the Oasis, where we see the PYRAMID OF SATSOP II on the horizon.  The map, which is never too straightforward, gets even more convoluted here, with two different rooms where it LOOKS LIKE A HUGE PIT AHEAD.  We can work our way around the pyramid's other side to the west, and fall fatally into the huge pits if we're not careful with our navigation.  It took me a while to figure out what's going on here -- it seems there are also multiple locations where THE PATH HEADS SOUTH AND EAST/WEST, and one of them leads to THE ENTRANCE TO THE PYRAMID, but this only seems to happen after we've circled the pyramid's western side without falling into the eastern or southern pit.

Anyway, we've reached the pyramid's entrance and can now attempt to explore it, which seems exactly the sort of thing one should do in an adventure titled Mummy's Curse.  We enter it by traveling south into an entrance/exit area, and the pyramid presents a substantial mapping challenge.  Immediately to the east of the entrance is the CONFUSED YET? room.  There's a long hall south of the entrance which leads to (I think) a different CONFUSED YET? room, but I die of thirst before getting too far and have to restore and visit the Oasis to rehydrate.

The map is designed (and maybe forced by limited disk space) to confuse the player by featuring multiple identically named and illustrated rooms, but the geography is generally consistent and naturalistic.  Our main objective here seems to be to find some useful items.  A dead end in the southeast corner of the pyramid contains some matches.  Another in the southwest area provides the gold coins we need for supply purchases.  There's also a dead end with a FULL EWER.  The pyramid maze is messy to map, but eventually I manage to find my way back outside so we can head into the village to buy some supplies.  We don't have to make any choices here -- we buy the knife and the shovel in one turn when we answer the prompt in the affirmative with gold coins in hand.

I don't have a use for the knife yet, but I spend some time digging in the various locations on the map.  This proves fruitless, but in touring the map I've drawn so far I realize I have not visited the Nile -- there's still nothing to dig up there, but we can try to CROSS NILE... nope... GO NILE?  Nope.  SWIMYOU GOT TO MIDSTREAM AND RAN OUT OF BREATH AND DROWNED.  Whoops!

I also see that I missed a northeastern part of the desert, where THERE IS SOMETHING BURIED IN THE SAND.  Eureka!  DIGging here reveals STAIRS LEADING DOWN INTO A CRYPT!  It's the only part of the game so far where traveling Down is an option, so there we shall go...

THE EYE OF HORUS IS PAINTED ON THE FLOOR here.  To the west we see a rather large portrait of Cleopatra on the wall, and there don't seem to be any other rooms we can explore down here yet.  I try to PUSH WALL and TOUCH WALL and EXAMINE CLEO and TOUCH EYE and KISS CLEO, but nothing seems to have an effect.  The ewer is full of water, but that doesn't suggest anything.  I try to LIGHT MATCH and LIGHT STICK, but the parser is obstinate: WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BURN THAT?  I poke around a little bit, but thirst sets in and I die on the way back to the Oasis before realizing I can DRINK WATER repeatedly from the ewer, as it's magically always full of water.

Anywhere else we haven't been?  The path that splits in the mountains has a westward branch that leads to a cliffside where we can see THE MUMMY'S TOMB.  We can't get to the tomb from here, but we can climb northward to the top of the mountain, where we find the AMULET (SMA).  Entering an old stone shrine here lets us acquire some incense, and we're told this was used as an alternate location when the priests couldn't find the crypt.

Maybe we can BURN INCENSE somewhere in the crypt?  I try this at the entrance -- SMELLS LIKE HIPPY HOLLOW.  YOUR INCENSE IS GONE.  Well, dang, that didn't do much.  But I do notice that we can go further down into the crypt, to a room with a picture of Isis and the AMULET (HORUS) available.  Another passage leads south to an image of the Phoenix, and west is an OLD RELIGIOUS ALTAR with an ax for the taking.

Can we use the ax on the big wooden doors?  Nope -- CUT DOOR just returns PUT YOUR AX AWAY UNTIL YOU REALLY NEED IT.

Standing on the southern bank of the Nile again, trying to find a way to the Mummy's Tomb, I try to MAKE BOAT -- YOU HAVE NO ROPE, but it seems this might be possible if I have the right elements.  I try to CHOP TREE at the Oasis, but am advised to LEAVE THESE TREES ALONE.  Have we seen any other wood or rope around?

Maybe I need to explore the pyramid more, its confusing map may be hiding some more artifacts.  I find a flashlight in a linear passage west of the entrance, and I think I've exhausted the pyramid now.

Can I BURN INCENSE at the old altar in the crypt?  Aha!  The altar opens and reveals a hidden room behind it.  The AMULET (APEP) is here, and a painting of Nefertiti.  I also visit the Temple again, and realize that the drawing on the wall is a rough map of the Pyramid.  Yes, it does look like I've cleaned that place out.  I try to LEARN MAP and MEMORIZE MAP but it seems to be a visual reference only.

What now?  Can I... MAKE TORCHMAKE KEYCARVE IT.  Really?  Wow.  CARVE KEY produces a wooden key!  Maybe we can open that massive gate now... and yes, we can!  The only thing behind it is the end of the path, a forested area with some strands of hemp.  I try to BURN HEMP, but fortunately the game won't cooperate, and I try to MAKE ROPE instead, which works.  Can I MAKE BOAT now?  No -- YOU HAVE NO WOOD.  But I can CHOP TREES right here -- clearcutting the whole area, apparently -- and GET LOGS.

MAKE BOAT now allows us to make a raft -- can we carry it all the way to the Nile?  Apparently so!  USE RAFT allows us to cross the Nile, and we are now standing at the threshold of the Mummy's Tomb.

The game warns us that there's only one way in and we won't get out the same way, so this is a great time to SAVE (the game provides a single save/restore slot, but I'm using the AppleWin emulator so I'll just save the entire machine's state instead.). Immediately upon entering, I have difficulty breathing, and shortly YOUR LUNGS EXPLODED IN FLAMES AND YOU DIED ON THE SPOT!  That's pretty strong stuff, whatever it is.  I try to HOLD BREATH, but that doesn't work.  Maybe these amulets are supposed to help?  WEAR HORUS isn't recognized, the parser thinks we are trying to WEAVE something.  When I USE HORUS, the amulet glows and vanishes AS YOU FEEL ITS EFFECT ON YOU, but I can't really tell what effect that's supposed to be, so we'll have to use a little trial and error here.

USE HORUS doesn't help us breathe, but USE SMA does and the parser confirms we have been saved by THE POWER OF SMA.  The next room seems to be a dead end -- we are told that "MUMMY DEAREST" was here but hid when he heard us coming?  The other amulets don't seem to reveal his whereabouts, and we can't DIG here, nor can we LIGHT FLASHLIGHT to seek him out.

What have I missed?  Ah -- thanks, CASA!  I never entered the Sheik's Palace, and didn't realize I could due to the map layout -- we go south to reach the Palace, then north to enter it, and I hadn't actually tested navigation in that direction. Inside, we meet ABDUL THE PALACE GUARD.  We can't LOOK GUARD or TALK GUARD, but if we SAY HELLO he lets us enter.

Inside the palace there are stairs going up and a hallway to the north.  The room to the north is empty -- BROTHER THIS GUY DON'T HAVE MUCH OF A PALACE, the parser comments -- and the upstairs room contains a STRANGE MIXTURE OF DIRT AND STRAW.  Mud?  Brick?  MAKE BRICK doesn't work, nor does MAKE MUD.  I try to POUR WATER -- and the mixture somehow softens and provides access to a new room, a north/south passage with a ramp heading upwards.

This map is a lot bigger than I expected for a single-disk game -- the ramp leads to stairs, leading up to The Dome Room, though there doesn't seem to be any reason to come up here.  The north/south passage connects to an east/west passage, where we meet the WICKED PRINCESS FATIMA of legendary mirror fame to the east, and find a trap door to the west.

I try to GO DOOR and OPEN TRAP to no avail, but when I try to simply go D the parser suggests that we need to pick the lock with a knife.  PICK LOCK does work, and now we find ourselves in a room with a mirror?  We can't BREAK MIRROR, but if we go N we walk into the mirror... and die.  It's safer to go S, into another east/west passage; a shimmering blue wall to the east takes us back into the palace's upper level, but we should probably restore and explore to the west first.

There are some traps down this hallway -- first, a small but bottomless pit.  We can't JUMP PIT, but if we go N, then THE STRENGTH OF HORUS kicks in and carries us over.  I realize that I must have USEd HORUS earlier when I was experimenting, as I no longer have any of the amulets in hand; fortunately, the effect is long-lasting, and so is the power of APEP that subsequently protects us from a three-headed snake.

We've reached an orange room, where we find a scepter that we should probably take along.  After finding our way back out the way we came in, it seems like a good time to go see if we can deal with the mummy yet.

In the room where the mummy is hiding, I WAVE SCEPTER -- and we rise to a location where the parser opts for minimal drama and punctuation: YOU HAVE FOUND THE GOLDEN MASK BUT SOMEBODY IS HERE TO SEE YOU.  HEY ITS THE MUMMY.

KILL MUMMYYOU UNFORTUNATELY ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN BE KILLEDBURN MUMMYWHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BURN THAT?  Hmmmm, there go all the obvious ideas.  I try to leave the room, but I can't escape and after a few turns of my fumbling about THE MUMMY JUST DID YOU IN.

Something unusual happens here, though.  After I die, I'm given the option to keep playing -- and when I do, I find myself back at the Oasis, with a victory message!

Apparently, when we reincarnate we don't lose any of our inventory items, and we've been given the Mask when we entered the room!  So even though we died in the process of reaching our objective, the game thinks we've won fair and square.  But this doesn't quite seem right, so I check the walkthrough and learn that I was supposed to explore an area west of the Pyramid to learn a magic phrase to use against the mummy.  Apparently if we have the flashlight and travel east from one of the LARGE PIT AHEAD rooms, we enter the pit -- and find graffiti on a wall in the passage reading, "HORUS = STRENGTH, APEP = SNAKE, SMA = LUNG," which we've already figured out by trial and error.  The text also tells us that AMAHD means ADVENTURER, so that's what the folks in town have been calling us.  Ah!  The mysterious man says "BEGONE AMAHD" and we are whisked away.  Does that work when we try it?  BEGONE AMAHD yields CLOSE BUT NO COOKIES, but BEGONE ADVENTURER sends us instantly back to the Oasis, with exactly the same victory message.  Basically, dying whisks us back to the Oasis, and so does employing the hard-won magic phrase, so either way we come out a winner if we've made it into the heart of the Mummy's Tomb.

Mummy's Curse is a more involved experience than I was expecting for a game of its vintage -- the map is very large considering the number of illustrations included, and the puzzles are intertwined and reasonably challenging.  The tricky layout sometimes feels like a bit of a design cheat, but the game is fair enough in its way if we're careful to draw an accurate map.  I'll have to try the other Highlands Computers games, if I can track them down -- these small, obscure companies often produced interesting adventures that are well worth playing, even if they're not well known.

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