Crystal Cave: Three Scenes to Victory (and Two Interludes)   7 comments

My theory as to Crystal Cave’s authorship got shot down (although in the process I discovered yet another undocumented Adventure variant). I have a secondary theory but it’s going to be harder to test; for now, this game will remain by Anonymous.

The usual “I’m going to spoil the finale” warning applies.

Another public domain picture for spoiler space. This one’s from Australia.

Scene the First

The source code refers to the Fell King as “Arthur”, which is kind of epic. (When William of Malmesbury brought up the possibility of Arthur’s return from the dead, I don’t think this is what he meant.)

> sw
You are being followed by a dragon, who whines “I’m hungry.”
You’re in crypt.
There is a black, finely wrought iron crown here.
There is a massive iron tomb here. On top is a wrought figure of the King…a fell figure of grim visage, wearing a mithril helm, and holding a mace.

> get crown
The tomb crumbles into dust. The graven figure on top rises. He is stalking you, swinging the mace!

Ah, yes, the dragon. Keep in mind he complains every single turn.

> ne
A dragon follows you, whining “I want my treasure back.”
The Fell King is striding after you!
The mace strikes the dragon, killing the poor thing.
You’re in corridor.
The body of a small white dragon lies nearby.
The end of a rope dangles from above.

Alas. This doesn’t have to happen if you do the following action right upon activating the Fell King:

> wave scepter
The Fell King disintegrates into a pile of dust, which rapidly blows away
His helm falls with a crash, and rolls to one side.
You are in a narrow, northeast trending corridor.
Near you is a small helmet made of mithril.
The body of a small white dragon lies nearby.
The end of a rope dangles from above.

I confess I did not figure this out on my own and had to source dive again. It’s vaguely interesting that I had to do so because I’ve been waving scepters to cause magic to happen for a while now. There’s no clue at all to the scepter’s behavior, but again: not unusual. I suppose what is rare is a combat use of “arbitrary magic”; the unwritten rule has been to use waving random devices as utility effects, but never as a direct method of stopping an aggressor.

There’s even sensible reason for this rule: imagine you are fighting an enemy that will kill you in one turn. You want to perform an action to stop the aggressor. Given you have only one turn, testing magic items one by one (and getting clubbed by a mace over and over) can get a bit aggravating. Whereas, if you’re simply wandering the landscape and wanting to try out some ideas, a set of “nothing happens” messages before you hit paydirt isn’t nearly as irritating.


Immediately after the Orca-Cola scene, the author(s) left open the floodgates of Wacky Stuff. This (entirely optional) bit starts off painful for multiple reasons but I think the last line redeems it.

> get toad
As you touch the toad, it starts to swell and shange shape. It’s — it’s — it’s turning into a dwarf princes! She — she — she’s — she’s — UGLY!
— VERY UGLY!!!!!!
She’s 3’6″ tall, and 180 lbs., with black, oily, snarly hair, and three large warts on her nose, which separates two beady red eyes that don’t track. She immediately starts to say, in a high-pitched nasal whine, “Trying to pick me up, eh sweetie? Where do you think you get off? I’m a decent broad, and won’t have any of this. Whatcha doing around here? You one of those weird explorers who rip off decent folks, taking their treasures out of the cave? I hope you haven’t found the vault yet . . .”

A cloud of white smoke and a wizard appear. He is garbed in green and violet robes, and says “I really must apologize about this. She has no business in this game; she escaped from another game in the next town. There really is no vault in this cave…she’s referring to the next cave. Sorry again.” With that, he takes her hand, and they start to vanish. As they fade out of sight, you note that she has taken his hat, and is beating him severely about the ears with it.

I want to play a game as the dwarf princess defending her vault from selfish adventurers.

Scene the Second

When the dwarves of Moria dug too greedily and too deep, they awakened a Balrog that slew great King Durin VI and became henceforth known as Durin’s Bane.

> w
The bridge is broken here! Above you, the other side of the break looms out of the darkness . . . Or is it something else?

> jump
You just manage to catch the far edge of the bridge and swing up onto it. You are at the west side of the broken bridge, which quickly leads down to the west side of the fissure, and thence to the west side of the colossal chamber. There seems to be a faint, ominous gleam at the bottom of the fissure. Below you, on the side of the fissure, you can see a small ledge. You can get down to it, but you cannot see a way to get back up.
There is turquoise sand here.

> get sand

> d
You are stuck on a ledge on the west side of the fissure. You cannot go up. A strand of Grendl’s web, leading downward, is attached here.

> d
You are on a high, lonely ledge on the side of the fissure. Grendl’s strand passes here and continues.

> d
There is a loathsome balrog here.
You are on a lonely high ledge on the side of the fissure. Grendl’s strand passes here and continues.
The Philosopher’s Stone is here.

> throw sand
The sand spreads out into a fine, stinging cloud. Stricken, and taken off guard, the balrog stumbles back. . .back. . . and falls over the edge. . .down. . .down. . .down. . .and vanishes into the gloom.

Sand. The mightiest weapon of all. Clearly, that’s what the dwarves were lacking when they were driven from Moria. After:

> jump
You drop through an impenetrable gloom. Oppressive fear gathers, clawing at you. You are sinking into the depths of Hell, with no salvation in sight. The clammy, black air whistling past is the only sound filling your fear-crazed mind. You are tumbling endlessly, spinning over and over. Suddenly, you feel your descent slowing! With a rush, you finally come to a landing and find…
You are at the top of the Wizard’s Tower. Finely carved stone steps spiral downward. This chamber has a door on the east side, with the words
chiseled above.

Is it possible for something to be picturesque and memorable and bad writing all at the same time? The paragraph is dripping with modifiers in a way I haven’t seen since my 1980s Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and if this text appeared in a book I’d probably just close it and walk away, but in the context of this game (and having just taken out a Balrog with some sand yeah eat it Gandalf) my brain just went “neat!”

Another, More Annoying Interlude

After snagging the Philosopher’s Stone and a few other items I thought I had all the treasures, so I did the customary thing in Adventure-clones: find a place where I could leave my lantern off and type WAIT a lot. (And since four characters started to get annoying, I switched to typing I and took inventory a lot.) There normally is a “the cave is closing” type message, but after 100 or so turns I got nothing.

Another source dive, this time into the objects. And … of course I missed one. The very first one listed in cvobj.c, in fact.

{“several diamonds”, “There are diamonds here.\n”, 116},

I suspected, from the room number, that the diamonds were in the Timemaze, but I had mapped that area thoroughly. Resolving my dilemma took stepping through the maze map source code line by line until I realized what I was missing.

I’m not even sure how I would have done this! My guess is I thought I was in the room marked “D” when I tested the “past” exit but I was actually in “A”. One mapping mistake. Grrr.

Scene the Third, Whereupon the Cave Is Closing This Time for Real

The sepulchral voice intones, “The cave is now closed.” As the echoes fade, there is a blinding flash of light (and a small puff of white smoke). . . . You immediately feel the menacing presence of hundreds of pairs of unseen eyes upon you. As your eyes re-focus, you look around and find. . .
You are at the north side of an immense, high-walled arena. The center of the arena is occupied by a colossal jade idol. In the north wall, behind you, is a door.

Ah, the endgame. Where most large treasure hunts so far have fallen down. (Most atrociously in Adventure 550, which was otherwise a good game.)

> se
You are at the east side of an immense, high-walled arena. The center of the arena is occupied by a colossal jade idol, facing you. In the east wall, behind you, is a door.

> e
You are in the repository, where all of the implements and paraphernalia
of the cave expedition are stored! The only exit is to the west.
There is a little axe here.
There is a long sword here.
There is a broad sword here.
There is a spear here.
There is a short sword here.
There is a bow here.
There is a dagger here.
There is a quarterstaff here.
There is a halberd here.
There is armor here.
There is a “heater” shield here.
There is a round shield here.
There is a tall shield here.
There is a cuirass here.
Your reflection peers back at you from a mirror on the wall.

Wrr, is this going to take the Acheton approach and have you fight a bunch of enemies, needing to choose the right weapon each time?

> w
As you step out the door, your image also steps from the mirror, and follows you! Armed and armored exactly as you, *YOU* are your exact match, except that your good nature is reflected as *YOUR* evil nature. *YOU* will kill you, unless you destroy *YOURSELF* first. *YOU* are circling yourself warily, looking for an opening to attack.

Nope, just the one enemy. The resolution is fairly simple, so feel free to hit pause on your podcast device … er …. I mean stop reading for a moment and try to figure out how to win before I share the conclusion.

Bermuda Crystal Cave again, because it’s pretty and now I want to go there. Via Andrew Malone, CC BY 2.0.

> break mirror
The mirror shatters explosively, destroying *YOU*! You are thrown backward, throught the dorr, into the arena, where your screaming fans flock down around you, pick you up, and carry you off to a month-long revel honoring the glorious cave conqueror. . .

You scored 487 out of a possible 515, using 493 turns. You have reached “Junior Master” status.

I am not sure what’s with the score, and while the game was fun (despite the Timemaze) I don’t feel the dying need to work out where the missing points are.

For those waiting to get to try The Public Caves, it’s up at (just search for “Public Caves”) but I haven’t been able to get the “play online” feature to work. I’ll let y’all know as soon as I’ve resolved the issue.

As far as what I’m playing next, I have no idea. I still have Star Trek to get through (and I promise I’ll get something up about it next week) but there’s still a wide range of targets to hit in 1980, including our first non-English game that I need to play in its original language (since it has never been translated). It’s a language I know (well, knew) nothing about. Yes, folks, I am learning a language just for your entertainment.

Posted June 22, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Crystal Cave: Three Scenes to Victory (and Two Interludes)

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  1. “there’s still a wide range of targets to hit in 1980, including our first non-English game that I need to play in its original language”
    What about Stuga?

  2. Well, I mean, are you ever going to finish Stuga?

    • Funny you should ask.

      I did redo the map recently (and cleared up one of the things about it that always confused me). It shouldn’t technically be hard — I have seen (and basically written about) all the puzzles, it’s just the game is so actively hostile to the act of being played I haven’t put together a final run yet. (You’re not missing anything content-wise so I wasn’t in a rush, it would just be the experiential aspect I’d need to write about.)

  3. I wonder if the author was somebody who later worked on the Monkey Island 1 development team.

    There are a couple of puzzles that remind me very much of MI1: the two ropes used to get down to the Fell King’s tomb (much like the two ropes used to find the oars on Monkey Island), and the subversion of Adventure’s bear puzzle where you get the bugbear drunk to get past it (like getting the rat drunk on LeChuck’s ship, and an apparently similar cut puzzle in Governor Marley’s mansion involving drugging an aardvark or anteater).

    Also, Monkey Island 2 had a Sears-catalog/privy joke also (by the outhouse near the tree on Booty Island).

    Some meta-textual analysis of the sand/balrog puzzle: the sand is turquoise, like the blue color of the spice melange in Dune. A lot of Dune covers back in the day had a blurb from Arthur C. Clarke comparing it to Lord of the Rings. So this may be a puzzle intended as a parallel with blowing the spices at the dragon earlier.

    • Something else just occurred to me: the cut Monkey Island 1 puzzle with the aardvark/anteater in Elaine’s mansion apparently involved using a Ming vase to carry grog from the SCUMM Bar to get it drunk.

      A Ming vase is one of the 15 treasures in the classic Crowther/Woods Adventure. And Crystal Cave’s beer keg used to subdue the bugbear is described as being intricately carved, so it looks like a treasure itself.

    • I guess someone can straight-up ask Ron Gilbert sometime if he’s heard of this.

      Your spice reference sounds very plausible.

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