Pyramid: XBMMT IBWF TFDSFUT   7 comments

I managed to reach the “end” as far as the game’s bugs would let me; the typical spoiler warnings apply, and if for some reason you reached this post without reading my previous one about Pyramid, go do that first.

I had previously found a sword that was the property of “ALI BABBA” and Matt W. suggested I try “OPEN SESAME”. That led me being teleported to “TWISTING PASSAGES”, a mostly headache-free maze.

The room marked in red has a floor that “feels funny” and is a deathtrap, but only triggers if you pass through from north to south or vice versa; if you enter from one side (north or south) and leave from the same side you stay safe. This is interesting in a theoretical sense in that it implies position and movement for the player; usually in text adventures the avatar is assumed to entirely “fill” a room, but this is a scenario where the center of the room is assumed to be avoided unless the player explicitly “passes through”.

A brief aside on mazes: now that I’ve experienced many a text-adventure maze from the 1970s through to 1980, other than being an easy puzzle to copy, I’ve found they can serve a purpose akin to “grinding” in a CPRG. On a traditional CRPG, when one is “stuck” on a puzzle or difficult fight, as long as there are random encounters, there is always the possibility of revisiting old encounters and getting experience points. Even if the grinding turns out to be useless on balance, it gives some sort of activity to do that still feels like “playing the game”.

On an adventure game, it’s easy to get into a “hard stop” scenario where there is nothing to do, but when there’s a maze, it’s possible to go back and do “busywork” — check and re-check to make sure nothing has been missed. This was especially true here given an early message, given in the title of this post and the image below.

The black isn’t an error; the main part of the maze uses this as the graphic.

If you shift all the letters forward by one you get “WALLS HIDE SECRETS”, so I was testing out lots of “invalid” directions in the hope of finding something.

What I wasn’t doing was trying to “PUSH” or “PULL” things because the verb “PU” had already been used by “PUT” earlier in the game. (Remember, only the first two letters are understood!) However, Matt W. observed that PUSH WALL seemed to get a unique message, and I tried it out in multiple places before finding it useful at a dead end.

In the Ohio Scientific version of this game the room is a “Twisting Passage” still, and of course didn’t have the unique graphic, so it originally was a slightly harder puzzle.

PUSH WALL at the dead-end opened a passage to a locked hole. So the exact same verb was overloaded by the game and given two different meanings! (I confirmed it really still only understand the first two letters.) This is absolutely wild and I’ve never encountered such a trick in a game before (and I would say I probably won’t ever again, except there’s still more games from Aardvark to play after this one).

If you LOOK HOLE you see a LOCKING MECHANISM. Now, I had found a KEY elsewhere in the maze, so I just assumed it was useful here, but since no permutation of UNLOCK HOLE gave me any luck, I assumed I was hitting another verb issue and checked a walkthrough.

This was a mistake — it turned out to be a pretty neat puzzle. You see, one of the items in my inventory was a PISTOL, but just Pyramid of Doom and nearly every other adventure from this period, the pistol was useless as a shooting device. You can OPEN PISTOL to find BULLETS and then OPEN BULLETS to find GUNPOWDER. (Note that opening a bullet normally requires at least some pliers, but maybe they’re really old off-kilter bullets; trying to SHOOT anything doesn’t work so that might be why.)

There’s also some matches in a TIN in the starting knapsack.

Combining the two, you can PUT GUNPOWDER in the HOLE and LIGHT MATCH followed by LIGHT GUNPOWDER to cause an EXPLOSION.

(Ok, maybe not that neat a puzzle, as I probably would still have gotten stuck even had I found the gunpowder; the last bit of verb tomfoolery is very specific. If you BURN GUNPOWDER it says WON’T BURN.)

Going down the hole the explosion made leads to a chasm. Typing LOOK CHASM yields:

DAGGER – JEWELED HANDLETHRONE ROOM BEYOND

Getting the dagger was pretty rough too, but it follows the time-honored tradition of making animals solve puzzles for you. If you TIE BANANAS to the VINE from last time, then:

>PUT VINE

WHERE? CHASM
MONKEY CLIMBS INTO CHASM-WIDE AND SURROUND ME AFTER BANANAS
MONKEY BRINGS BACK DAGGER – JEWELED HANDLE

In addition to getting a treasure, I was able to >JUMP CHASM.

Naturally, all throne rooms have killer ants. Fortunately, I had an AARDVARK stuffed in my knapsack the whole time, as adventurers often do.

>DROP AARDVARK

GOBBLE

(As far as I know, aardvarks eat termites, not ants, but who am I to question the zoological knowledge of a 1980-era adventure writer?)

This let me reach a door, which I was then able to unlock and reach the outside, and then I hit the most terrible problem of all: a game-killing bug.

For whatever reason, on the TRS-80 Color Computer version, my inventory capacity got reduced, so when I went back to get my treasures and return them to the starting place, I found that even though I was only holding a flashlight, my hands were “FULL !”

Ah well, no problem. This is a short game, I can just redo my steps with the Ohio Scientific version of the game, right?

Oops. I guess not. I made a second attempt and got a bit farther, but still had a crash. According to the walkthrough I did find all the treasures (four of them: the sword, the dagger, and an amulet and gold deathmask in another part of the maze) so I’m fine closing the case here.

Posted November 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Pyramid: XBMMT IBWF TFDSFUT

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  1. Oh, what a pitty… Also the error does not seem obvious to fix…

    • I suspect the c64 version might be fine. (Matt, are you out there? Is that the version you were playing?)

      • I was playing the C64 version but I never got the monkey to follow me so I would’ve been stuck by then anyway! Also, I never bothered to map the maze, and when I tried to tab back and forth between the game and your map I encountered something weird with the archive.org emulator where when you tab back in, it starts making spurious M’s after every keystroke. Basically I don’t have enough patience with these old-school games most of the time–I consider having helped solved two puzzles in comments to be an absolute smashing triumph by my standards.

        I did find the parser improvements described in the first post to be very helpful. I would’ve had no clue on the walls if there hadn’t been a helpful parser message for “PUSH WALL” in the wrong place. Also the guess-the-verb for “LIGHT FLASHLIGHT” would’ve been pretty frustrating without an error message for the verbs that don’t work.

        Inventory handling was really annoying though, especially with the things that would mysteriously wind up on the floor when you tried to put them in the knapsack. But that’s kind of a quibble for what really looks like a big improvement over Olson’s previous stuff.

  2. OM ERROR is apparently an out-of-memory issue on those systems, so I’m not sure that you’re running into a programming bug with the game there.

    • I assume “OM” is a straight-up abbreviation for “Out of Memory”, but I find it amusingly reminiscent of Amiga “Guru Meditation” (or, I guess, chronologically, the other way around).

  3. Using a walkthrough, I played through the C64 version. While the monkey doesn’t actively appear to be following you in that version, the whole “put banana vine in chasm” solution still works – the monkey magically appears the moment you need it.

    Sadly, I got the same error when I tried to drop treasures at the end. Specifically when I went to drop the dagger.

    Studying the code, there doesn’t appear to be any “congratulations” or other game-ending message even when you retrieve all 4 treasures (and those are, indeed, the 4 treasures). The game doesn’t even end properly. Looks like the game would instead just tell you your score is 100 out of 100 and then bumble on into the next command subroutine – which, near as I can tell, is SHOOT.

    At least Deathship had a satisfying ending.

    • To clarify: I got the same “out of memory” error at the end as in the Ohio Scientific version (though I think the C64 called it “out of data”).

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