Journey: The Deathtrap Legacy   5 comments

Quick recap: Journey was a game by Steve Baker from 1979. Roberta Williams mentioned as an influence before embarking on writing Mystery House; it seemed to be entirely gone from the internet, but with the help of Howard Feldman it’s now on both The Internet Archive and if-archive.

The manual for the game.

Note the use above of “DESCRIBE” instead of “EXAMINE”; it looks like Steve Baker’s only previous experience was 350-point Adventure, which didn’t have an examine command. (I find these early variations on common norms fascinating, like peering into alternate universes. Mystery Mansion had LIST instead of INVENTORY. Empire of the Over-Mind not only eschewed compass directions but required you to >HOLD an object before you could do anything with it. Warp tried adding conditional commands to the parser.)

WELCOME TO JOURNEY

YOU ARE STANDING BEFORE A SMALL, BRICK WISHING WELL. THE WELL HAS AN OAK WINCH WITH 25 FEET OF ROPE.

In any case, a few steps away there’s a house:

YOU ARE AT THE END OF A GARDEN PATH. THERE IS AN OLD, VICTORIAN HOUSE TO YOUR IMMEDIATE EAST. A SMALL CREVICE MARKS THE ENTRANCE TO A GRANITE ROCK WHICH LIES TO THE WEST. IF YOU ENTER THE CREVICE YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO CLIMB BACK OUT!

Inside the house:

YOU’RE IN THE NORTHERN HALL OF HOUSE

MANY PORTRAITS OF ADVENTURERS HUNG HERE LINE ALL WALLS. OAK DOORS MARK THE ENTRANCE TO A SOUTHERN HALL.

THERE’S ARE SOME MATCHES HERE!

The goal, as the instructions indicate, is to find all the treasures and store them in the *SAFE* EST place possible (there’s a safe in the house). Every once in a while (assuming you’re playing the Applesoft version) you get attacked

THERE’S A VERY LARGE THREATENING RODENT IN THE ROOM WITH YOU!!!!!!!

HE LEAPS FOR YOUR THROAT! AND BITES YOU!

The rat is are essentially like the dwarves from Adventure; they will appear randomly throughout the adventure and you have to use a KNIFE found in the mansion to fend them off.

>THROW KNIFE
THE RODENT SHRIEKS AND VANISHES IN A *POOF* OF SMOKE!!!

RODENT:0 PLAYER:1

Earlier the game mentions “a small crevice” which is described much like one of the cave entrances of Adventure. However, things take a turn rather quickly:

IT SEEMS TO BE A PRETTY TIGHT FIT!…
YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A GRANITE ROCK. THERE IS A HOLE IN THE FLOOR OF THE ROCK. AN EEERIE, RED GLOW DIMLY LIGHTS THE WAY SOUTH.

>S
BY JOVE! THIS PLACE LOOKS LIKE DOWNTOWN HOLLYWOOD. RED LIGHTS SEEM TO PAINT A DRIVERS NIGHTMARE. “ROCKY” IS PLAYING NORTH OF THE INTERSECTION AT YOUR PRESENT LOCATION. THE 12TH DISTRICT, POLICE STATION LIES SOUTH.

At this point, my brain had to entirely shift what time and place the game was happening at. The map might assist (click to enlarge):

The west side is the “city” area and includes an underground sewer. The right side is the mansion, and there’s a very small “cave” area connecting the two up top (“Below Granite Rock”, “Dimly Lit Cave”).

This was, in the end, a fairly short game, but I wanted to mention three more things:

1.) I rather liked the feel of this scene, a horror movie in miniature:

YOU ARE IN THE STREET. THERE IS A NARROW SEWER GRATE IN THE EASTERN CURB

SOMEONE IS STARING UP AT YOU FROM INSIDE THE GRATE!

>DESCRIBE SOMEONE
I THINK IT’S YOU!
>>> SHAZAM <<<

YOU ARE LOOKING THROUGH A NARROW, GRATE ONTO A DARK STREET. THE STREET IS DESERTED. THE SEWER CONTINUES DOWN.

2.) The treasures are scattered at random and will change if you reset and restart the game. I didn’t work out the entire system, but I should note this was pretty unusual for the time and the only comparable game I can think of from that era is Lords of Karma.

3.) There are a few ways to die, and two in particular are noteworthy.

YOU’RE IN THE ATTIC. THE A-SHAPED, OPEN BEAMED ROOF IS LACED WITH COBWEBS. A THREE-LEGGED CHAIR IS UNDER THE MAIN BEAM.

THERE’S A ROPE TIED TO A BEAM HERE!

>UNTIE ROPE
THE ROPE IS TOO HIGH TO REACH!

>DESCRIBE ROPE
THE ROPE WOULD UNTIE VERY EASILY IF YOU COULD STAND ON SOMETHING TO REACH IT.

>STAND ON CHAIR
YOU ARE NOW STANDING ON THE CHAIR!

>UNTIE ROPE
WHILE TRYING TO REACH FOR THE ROPE, YOU LOST YOUR FOOTING, AND WERE HANGED!

Now, it’s not like we haven’t seen our fair share of death in prior adventure games, but for the most part death has been either a sudden consequence for failing a puzzle or a straight-up arbitrary event. In this case, there’s a long wind-up, like setting up a joke, and the player is essentially complicit in their own demise. (Compare to participatory comedy in Mystery Fun House.)

Here’s another instance:

YOU ARE IN A SMALL, NARROW ALLEY BEHIND THE POLICE STATION. THERE IS A LARGE IRON MANHOLE COVER INLAID INTO THE GROUND. THE ALLEY HEADS NORTH AND SEEMS TO OPEN UP. A SMALL GARAGE IS TO THE WEST. THERE IS A PECULIAR ODOR TO THE AIR AROUND HERE.

>OPEN COVER
OK!

THE MANHOLE COVER IS OPEN!

So far, so good. This place happens to be next to the police station, so if you later get arrested, and try to get out:

YOU ARE IN A SMALL, DINGY JAIL CELL. THERE’S AN OPEN WINDOW JUST OUT OF EASY REACH ABOVE YOU.

>JUMP WINDOW
YOU BARELY REACH THE LEDGE OF THE WINDOW, AND SCURRY OUTSIDE INTO…….

AN OPEN MANHOLE!!!!! SOMEONE HAS CARELESSLY LEFT THAT DARN COVER OFF AGAIN! PANCAKES ANYONE?

Death as both obstacle and amusement is essentially one of the trademarks of the Sierra adventure style; one could argue it was exactly here where it started.

With the manhole death I could see the little EGA figure falling.

Posted December 7, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Journey: The Deathtrap Legacy

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  1. Re: the typed instruction sheet, the raised circle (Spanish ordinal “o”?) where I would expect an apostrophe/single quote mark is rather curious. I wonder if there was a fault with the typewriter or what.

    • I wonder if *asterisks as emphasis* is a more recent thing and people were winging it on typewriters back then when they couldn’t underline or boldface.

    • The raised circle for an apostrophe in the possessive “its” seems particularly poignant.

    • I’m pretty sure all of these are apostrophes and not plain emphasis. “Don’t” and “it’s” (where it’s being used incorrectly) are definitely so. In the other places they are scare quotes, which I guess is a kind of emphasis, but still. But the key being missing from the typewriter entirely seems unlikely, so I wondered if maybe it just didn’t work, or something.

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