Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Adventure of the Week: Sleazy Adventure (1981)

This week, we're embarking on a Sleazy Adventure from 1981 -- another Atari Program eXchange release for the 8-bit Atari home computers, using the same in-house BASIC engine as several other APX games released around the same time.  This one was written by Bob Smith, and features an unusual theme -- it charges the player with sailing a friend's new sailboat back from Thailand, knowing that you can use it to import contraband.  Apparently the contraband will be treated as treasure!

Interested readers are welcome to enjoy a Sleazy Adventure of their own before reading my notes below -- if anyone does and manages to reach a more concrete ending than I did, I'd be very interested to hear about it.  Everyone is of course welcome to read my about my playthrough experience in the remainder of this post -- just be advised that there are going to be plenty of...

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

We start out at Bangkok International Airport with nothing in inventory but a passport (though even this doesn't show up in our Inventory, so it must be a permanent item in our possession.)  The only exits turn out to be Down, into the Sewer, and South, to the Marketplace.

I'll check out the sewer first, just to see if the sewers are meant to be significant to the story.  We can travel east into More Sewer, and TAKE the waterproof FLASHLIGHT floating here.  We have immediate need for it as we continue walking east, where we must TURNON FLASHLIGHT to discover that we're in the City Cesspool.

The game gets a little buggy here -- it suggests we are going to have to contract typhoid before we leave the cesspool, and a re-Look tells us THERE IS A TYPHOID HERE.  We also see the initial descriptions of a Sleazy Nightclub and a Back Alley, though that's not where we are yet, so this disk image may be slightly corrupted or the data file is missing some end-of-data markers.

With no other grand plans or high stakes this early in the game, I TAKE TYPHOID and on the next move find myself in the Hospital, where we have been brought to recover.  We now have to cure ourselves of the typhoid before we can leave the hospital to the south; no other exits are available, though we are told There is a small amount of poison here and we can TAKE POISON (which fortunately just puts it in inventory.)

Fortunately, the game's strange logic here is consistent -- we can simply DROP TYPHOID, and You improve 100 percent, and feel able to walk again.  We are now free to go south, out of the hospital and into an Alley where tourists seek unsavory entertainment, though it doesn't seem we can interact with them.

We can walk south again to discover an Unconscious Sailor and TAKE his WALLET (unlike many adventure game protagonists, our character here is notably amoral.)  West of the Alley is a Sleazy Alley, fulfilling all of the stereotypes of 1980s Thailand -- open gutters, starving dogs, nightly killings.  North of the Sleazy Alley is a Back Alley, with a 2 baht coin lying on the ground for the taking, so we'll TAKE COIN.

The game world's descriptions are brief, but its map is fairly large -- we can travel further north to a Dirty Alcove, where we see a small, ragged waif, and smell a sweet odor coming from behind a doorway (apparently to the west -- as in the other games using the APX engine, we have to navigate experimentally and that's the only valid but blocked exit here.)  DROP COIN doesn't produce any effect; the waif is apparently not a doorman, or at least not one who can be bought for 2 baht.

The dirty alcove is otherwise a dead end, so we'll return to the back alley and travel west to a Sleazy Nightclub where a pervert in feathers makes crude offers in your ear.  We can visit the Backstage area to the south, where we see half dressed females and midgets selling drugs.  This area doesn't seem to serve any real purpose beyond atmosphere, and it links back to the sleazy alley to the east.

South of the sleazy alley is a Sleazy Bar, with a sign reading "SHANGAI HAVEN" and drunken sailors everywhere.  We can travel east back to the unconscious sailor; I notice that most of these locations allow us to go D into the sewer, but we always emerge back at the Marketplace, so we'll try to avoid that detour and backtracking cycle as much as possible.

Where haven't we been yet?  East of the drunken sailor is a River Bank.  This, we are informed, is the edge of the city.  Southward lies the forest, the ocean, and ADVENTURE.  Before we go there, in case we can't return, we'll check out anything obviously left undone here.  As it turns out, the waif in the dirty alcove won't do anything when we DROP COIN, but stands aside when we DROP WALLET.

Now we can access a Hovel, where a boy offers an aromatic package that he assures us is a rare, costly, and potent incense.  Incense, right.  But we'll TAKE INCENSE anyway.  And it turns out, probably due to design oversight, we can TAKE WALLET again on our way past the waif.

Any other areas to explore?  East of the marketplace are some Rice Paddies that continue for miles and miles.  East of the river bank is a Lumber Mill, containing a bundle of rare ebony; we can't TAKE BUNDLE but we can TAKE EBONY.

The lumber mill reconnects to the rice paddies to its north, and this looks like a maze so we'd probably better map it out and acquire any goodies within.  Except... it turns out this isn't really a maze, just a dead end location meant to suggest endless fields that we needn't (and can't) go exploring.  We can't TAKE RICE, either.

Well, we have some incense and ebony to smuggle home, so let's see what happens to the south.  We find ourselves in a Teak Forest -- but we are lost, and dare not go further.  All other exits are currently blocked, and the text helpfully informs us that "A pervert at the nightclub has maps."  Ah, those scandalous cartographers!

I go back to the sleazy nightclub and try to DROP WALLET, DROP COIN, and TAKE OFFER to no avail -- HINT suggests that we HUMOR IT (IT being used as a non-gender-specific pronoun, something the language is still struggling with three decades on.)  HUMOR PERVERT is indeed the right course of action -- a map appears in an outstreched [sic] hand, and we can now TAKE MAP.

We can't READ MAP immediately -- THAT HAS NO EFFECT HERE -- but if we do that in the teak forest, the exits open up; The way to go is still not obvious, but you are no longer lost.

East brings us to a Clearing, where a blind mendicant begs for donations.  DROP COIN prompts him to reveal himself as a monk from the Shrine nearby, and he teaches you a mantra to say.  Inside the Shrine to the east, a passage leads down; SAY MANTRA has no effect here, though.

I head down into the Meditation Room, a vast underground cavern, and find the way out now blocked by chanting monks.  There's a large gold disk here, suspended by wires, with a padded hammerlike affair nearby.  I can't TAKE HAMMER or TAKE INSTRUMENT or TAKE AFFAIRHINT suggests that if we don't know any mantras we should try SYSTEM RESET -- After you strike the gong, of courseSAY MANTRA clears the passage back the way we came, so we aren't trapped.  But now I'm curious -- saving the emulator state first (as the game has no SAVE function of its own), I STRIKE GONG -- and a gold Buddha appears at our feet.  We can TAKE BUDDHA, though it does seem to be heavy.

We can TAKE COIN from the blind mendicant as we exit -- there probably isn't any reason to do this, just a design oversight that allows us to.  I'll head west of the forest entry point now, before going any further south, to visit Sheena's Hut.  The Tanya Roberts movie version of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was relatively current when this game was produced, and we're advised against taking advantage of the woman in a leopard suit standing here.  HUMOR SHEENA causes her to sigh, and open the door, but I'm not sure that's meaningful.  We'll have to come back here once we think of something to do (and yes, I did try a few of the obvious verbs, but this Sleazy Adventure proved insufficiently sleazy to recognize them.)

There are no other exits here, so we'll go to the Dock south of the teak forest.  Here we see our sailboat moored a little distance off shore, and are advised: If you have everything you want, step into the dinghy on the south side of the dock.  This seems like a point of no return, so I'll save the emulator state here.

We can go D from the dock to find ourselves Overboard, splashing around, but can readily climb back up into the Dinghy.  We find ourselves rowing in circles around the sailboat.  I try to BOARD BOAT and GO SAILBOAT and COME ABOARD (per the location description) but finally figure out we can just go U to reach the boat's cockpit.

The first thing we should do, the game urges us, is to GRAB HANDRAIL.  Doing so informs us that aboard ship, we must navigate with Fore, Aft, Port and Starboard.  The first thing we're supposed to do is drop the mooring line, but we'll try to explore a little bit before we set sail.  We can't travel port or starboard here without falling into the water.  Aft is blocked, but we can move Fore to the Cabintop, the place to sleep in the sun after we're under way.  We can travel fore once more to reach the Foredeck, where a cleat for securing the mooring line exists in the bow of the boat.  I TAKE MOORING LINE and DROP MOORING LINE -- it disappears into the water, which was probably the wrong thing to do... ?  But I can TAKE MOORING LINE again, so maybe not.  I can't SECURE or TIE it up, at least.  And if I drop it elsewhere, the cleat seems to move with it, so this isn't a deeply implemented sort of puzzle.

HINT suggests that we need to hoist the jib after dropping the mooring line, but when I try to HOIST JIB, I'm told that I DON'T SEE ANY JIB HERE.  Clearly my seamanship is lacking, as I'm not actually sure what a jib is, though I'm sure it is in dire need of hoisting.

We can go D from the cockpit to the Companionway below-decks area.  Aft is the Masters Quarters, our bunk for the next few weeks, and there's a suggestive woodcut on the aft bulkhead.  MOVE WOODCUT reveals a secret compartment, described as, erm, a damp, secret place here!  Ah -- this is where we are meant to hide contraband, it seems, as when we walk into the Secret Compartment, we are advised that It is downright wet in here, so you'd better wrap anything of value.  We are allowed to WRAP BUDDHA and WRAP INCENSE, but the others are apparently okay as-is or aren't contraband.  I drop these items in the secret compartment, hoping this will keep them away from prying eyes.  I try to MOVE WOODCUT again to close up the compartment, but that's not supported so I guess I'll just have to hope it's invisible. 

We'll go fore a few times now to reach the Galley, where a hole leads down into the Hold, and a passage fore reaches the Sail Locker, where we can TAKE JIB and TAKE MAINSAIL.  The hold is purportedly great for cargo, so I'll DROP EBONY here and see if that passes muster should we run into any authorities.

I return above deck and HOIST JIB at the foredeck, as the boat begins to move.  I can't find a place to HOIST MAINSAIL until I climb U from the cabintop to the Mast.

Now the sailboat is ready to sail, and I can access the Helm aft of the cockpit, where I am supposed to give steering instructions.  I have no idea where we're going, really, and trying to READ the large COMPASS here suggests only that The oceans are your gateway.

Aha!  The act of reading the compass seems to shift the game into a new mode.  We can no longer navigate aft/port/starboard/fore at this point -- we're stuck at the helm, and are only allowed to enter compass directions for steering the ship.  I discover this accidentally after seeing that Aft no longer works, and trying to go South instead, only to find the boat entering the Gulf of Siam.  I end up bumbling my way back to the San Francisco Bay, and south to a Dock.  Home sweet home?

As we dock, we are greeted by an IRS agent, an art dealer, a DEA agent, and Hunter S. Thompson, famous gonzo journalist and drug enthusiast.  So how do we deal with these folks?  HINT only tells us that if no one is here, the computer's SYSTEM RESET button will end the game so we can try again.  Is there any action we're supposed to take here, or is this in fact victory?

I can't seem to re-board the boat now that we're on dry land, in order to sell or get caught red-handed with any of my hard-smuggled contraband, so I restore to an earlier state and see if I can greet the welcoming party with more stuff in hand.  While exploring, I discover the Bilges aft of the hold, where the GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA lives.  (My research indicates that this is a 1924 Sherlock Holmes reference, though I personally first encountered this creature in the annals of The Firesign Theatre.)  We DROP POISON, and the creature nibbles it and dies in its sleep; we have to MOVE RAT before we can access the Secret Hold.  Interesting -- this boat is full of secrets!  We can WRAP EBONY here, where we couldn't in the secret compartment, and DROP EBONY.

I confirm my earlier, luck-driven route home on this second try -- S, E, E, N, S, S.  This time, we have added several eager cabinetmakers to the parties from before, so I'm going to assume that victory is ours:

I am still not sure this is the best possible situation, so I check one more time to see if putting the Buddha and incense in the secret hold instead of the secret compartment makes any difference, but it doesn't seem to.  I dig into the game's data files and the only person missing seems to be a US Customs agent suspecting I'm importing illegal wood.  But we can't seem to TAKE TEAK in the lumber mill or the teak forest, so that doesn't really seem to be something I'm missing, and the contradictory presence of other law enforcement agencies right next to customers with an interest in the same goods suggests the game's logic here is a little confused.

So I'm going to call this Sleazy Adventure finished -- it is giving us a traditional congratulatory message just for making it back here, and the only victory condition the ending suggests is that we have not been victorious if absolutely nobody is here to greet us.  There doesn't seem to be any more gameplay available, despite this engine's presentation of infinite prompts with no real ending implemented.  I'm calling this one done!  Next!

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