Kidnapped (1980)   13 comments

The kidnapper is elsewhere, busy counting the ransom money. Your only job is to escape from the building, floor by floor. You must beware of the kidnapper, and stay alive. Many traps have been set, so be careful!

According to a note in the source code, Peter Kirsch wrote Kidnapped in June of 1980. It was published as a type-in for Softside magazine in December of 1980. (Dr. Livingston and Mad Scientist, which we’ve looked at previously, were both from the same magazine.)

Unlike a lot of authors of type-in programs we’ve gone through lately, Peter Kirsch wrote more than one adventure game. The CASA Solution Archive credits him working on 23 of them because of his later involvement with “SoftSide Adventure of the Month” which went through over 20 games before Softside finally folded in August 1984. I’m not sure how many he ported versus wrote personally, but that’s still a tie for most adventure games I’ve seen associated with one person (the legendary C64 author Dorothy Millard also has 23 to her name). Despite being one of the most prolific adventure game authors ever, I’ve never encountered any interviews with Mr. Kirsch nor any mentions in history books.

Kidnapped came before the Adventure of the Month series started and is probably his first game.

Softside, December 1980.

The premise is: you find that you’ve been kidnapped and are on the top of a 9-floor building where you need to make your escape. You work your way down from 9 to 1, and every floor is separate, so Kidnapped could be considered a set of 9 distinct mini-adventures.

The mini-adventure concept ends up being a good gimmick! Structurally, the tiny areas give a (slightly) modern feel to the proceedings, in that you can essentially ignore map-making if you like, nor do you have to keep track of a large system of interlocking parts, nor do you have to wander through a maze (at least of what I’ve seen so far).

The first floor (floor 9) is shown above. There’s a key on a ledge outside that your fingers can’t quite reach, but there’s a nearby broom that lets you GET KEY. With that key, you can open a cabinet and find a flashlight and electrical tape. There’s also an elevator where the button doesn’t work, but if you drop a chair nearby, you can clamber up to a “crawlspace” with two live electrical wires. You need to wait until midnight (there’s a helpful clock in a different room) for a scheduled power outage, and then you can TAPE WIRE. (If you attempt this too early you get electrocuted.) After taping the wire you can finally use the elevator which takes you down one floor, and in the process you discard your items before entering floor 8.

In the department of nitpicks, note that:

a.) the item discarding doesn’t necessarily make sense here, but for ludic purposes I just rolled with it. Besides, at least two of the later exits are through windows, which definitely could be a situation where an inventory is impossible to have.

b.) somehow the power needs to turn on again after fixing the elevator, but the timing is unusual here. Time advances with each turn until midnight, but “freezes” just past midnight so you can fix the elevator. Then the flow of time resumes again after the elevator is fixed. This may sound terribly odd, but it isn’t too far off modern games with “plot timers” that don’t trigger until the player character has reached a certain location.

The next few floors are straightforward puzzles along the lines of: here is a broken step, you have a piece of wood and superglue, what do you do?

However, I have gotten stuck on Floor 6. The map has a gun, a balloon, a helium tank, and a vending machine which requires $1 to get a piece of string. There’s also a ledge you can walk on and reach a “vault” where you find the kidnapper counting money.

If you try to shoot the gun you find out it is only blanks and the kidnapper kills you. If you try to take a dollar and run the kidnapper spots you and kills you. There’s also a locked door but no sign of a key on this level.

What really doesn’t help is that there is no save game feature. I’m playing on the original TRS-80 version, and I suspected with one of the other ports (like the Atari) I could at least use save states, but the only Atari copy I’ve found gets me strange errors upon booting. Every failed attempt that kills me off sends me through all the steps to get from levels 9 to 6 before trying again, which doesn’t lend itself to lawnmower-testing of verbs or really any kind of typical adventure game experimentation.

Posted September 12, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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13 responses to “Kidnapped (1980)

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  1. If you’re playing in an emulator, you can save and load the whole state of the game, I guess. Or I hope.

  2. I wonder if the solution is to show the kidnapper the gun, or try pointing the gun at the kidnapper… but that would involve some verb-guessing that seems seriously unenjoyable if you have to start over every time.

    Have you been able to glean a verb list by the old “try commands and see which yield a different error message” method?

  3. I’m not sure how many he ported versus wrote personally, but that’s still a tie for most adventure games I’ve seen associated with one person (the legendary C64 author Dorothy Millard also has 23 to her name).

    I list 24 at — though only a few of them were commercially published!

    • Is there a copy of Zonk anywhere? 1981 is coming up soon.

      • Sadly, no. Somewhere I have some sheets of fanfold paper with some of the TRS-80 BASIC source code, and printouts of some of the graphic screens we prepared. But nowhere near enough to run.

        I’d be honoured if you’d take on Magic Mirror when you get to 1982, though!

  4. For prolific authors, see Bonaventura di Bello – around 70 adventures in Italian for the ZX Spectrum.

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