Hezarin (1981)   24 comments

In 1978, Adventure and Zork arrived at the Phoenix mainframe at Cambridge University, and a small group of mathematicians made a custom language designed specifically for writing their own text adventures. So far we’ve seen Acheton (1978), Philosopher’s Quest (1979) and Quondam (1980). (While the first two had surviving mainframe source code that received modern direct ports, Quondam only exists as a port for the BBC Micro.) Each successive game tried to outdo the previous in terms of difficulty, culminating in Quondam actively describing items in a deceptive way and having a save-game feature that killed the player.

Hezarin backs up from this pattern a bit, and is outright nicer in places.

Drawing yourself up to your full height, you leap fearlessly out into the ravine, executing a perfect swallow dive, and smashing your head open on the boulders beneath.
Would you like to pretend you hadn’t done that?

Alright, but be more careful next time!

Yes, that’s a selective feature that lets you UNDO a turn. Mind you, the game is still known as extremely long and difficult (it has a whopping 1100 points possible, not quite as many as Acheton but still up there).

Hezarin was originally made in 1981 by Steve Tinney and Alex Shipp, but that source code is lost; fortunately, it received ports by Jon Thackray in 1990 to MS-DOS as well as the Acorn Electron.

From the Electron version. Mobygames also claims there are Amstrad CPC and Amstrad PCW versions but I haven’t been able to verify this with any primary source. (ADD: Gareth in the comments found some references, including a review of an Amiga version.)

Being a port means there are almost certainly some changes, but we’ll just have to cope with what’s available. The MS-DOS version is quite easy to get to (here’s a link to play online) so that’s what I’m using.

Now, a confession: I’ve beaten this game before. However, it was quite a long time ago (15 years or so) and fairly early on I started leaning very heavily on a walkthrough, with the result being I remember almost nothing other than the basic plot (you have to stop a tyrant/wizard/all-around-bad-guy named Anjith) and the fact things start out on a relatively expansive aboveground section. There’s also treasures to collect (appropriately marked with a ! symbol) but I don’t know if they’re required to defeat the game’s nemesis or just optional points.

Here’s the starting map, but I’ll need to describe a little of what’s going on.

Some of the “diagonal” connections (NE/SE/SW/NW) have been omitted because they made the map confusing to read.

If you head off north far enough you end up in a forest:

You are struggling through the undergrowth of a dark forest.
You are somewhat uncomfortably located near the top of a tree in the forest. Branches keep scratching at you, picking your nose and poking you in the eye. The view is completely curtailed by the dense foliage.

South is a marsh:

As you proceed the mist thickens and the ground underfoot becomes soggy and wet. Strange shapes loom in the mist ahead of you, and you are rather relieved to find that they are merely the stunted, blackened remains of trees. The mist has now become a real pea-souper, and with some trepidation you turn back and attempt to retrace your steps.
You walk for seemingly hours before realising that you have hopelessly lost your bearings, and you decide that the best thing to do is to sit it out until the mist rises. After a brief wait the mist suddenly rolls back, and you find…..
You are lost in the marsh.

West is an endless plain:

You are perched on an outcrop of rock in the middle of a weed ridden field. To the north you can see the dark, dark green of the forest canopy, while to the east and south a hotch potch of fields prawls across the countryside. To the west a featureless plain stretches to a horizon which is broken only by a solitary shimmering peak.
You are in a large field out which rises an outcrop of glistening white limestone. To the north lies thick forest, to the west an apparently infinite plain, and to the east a thick hedge.
You are on an infinite and entirely featureless plain. The sun beats down on the parched grass and a heat haze shimmers on the horizon.
You are on a featureless plain.
You are on a featureless plain.

(I quoted a little extra at the start there to note the “solitary shimmery peak” seen from the outcrop — I don’t know if it’s possible to reach or just a red herring.)

Rather than just trying to add every connection I cut the map off in each direction. The forest and swamp, in particular, are “random” mazes. As far as I can tell, the best you can do in the forest is wander, pick up a manhole on the way, and eventually get booted to one of the main rooms. The marsh is normally deadly but I found a “forked twig” where if I did HOLD TWIG I got helpful directions

The twig twitches sporadically, and comes to rest pointing in a southerly direction.

On the way out from the marsh, I found a treasure

There are some garnets here!

so that’s puzzle #1 down, out of ….? (A lot.)

In addition to the manhole and the garnets I’ve found a brass wheel, a plank, a broken lantern (with a map).

I’ve found two ways to get “underground”. In one method, I fall into a river, see a magic word (“SKCITSHOOP”) and then SAY SKCITSHOOP to teleport into a Fountain Room adjacent to multiple rooms that are dark.

You are in an immense hemispherical chamber with exits in most directions. Dominating the cave is a massive stone fountain from which columns of water jet up almost to the ceiling before spraying back into the ornamental pool beneath. Light filters in from a hole in the roof, and refracts in strange fashions inside the water columns, sending dazzling blobs of colour scampering across the cavern walls. The floor is covered in a springy moss-like substance, which hampers walking, especially as watching the psychedelic kaleidoscope is making you dizzy and nauseous.
It is pitch dark.

In the other method, I go down a passage with magical torches until they cut off appearing.

You are at the top of a long tunnel which dips steeply down to the south, while to the north the passage quickly turns round on itself and is lost to sight. The walls and floor are perfectly smooth, as if the passage has been constructed by melted away the offending bedrock, and it is difficult just to keep your balance.
High up, a row of torches cast a dim flickering light along the tunnel.

(…down a few rooms…)

The line of torches comes to an abrupt end here. To the south the passage widens into a large cavern, while to the north the passage continues up for a short way before leveling out.
It is pitch dark.

Either way, my enemy here is darkness. I don’t have a light source. I’ve tried GET ALL in various dark rooms I’ve poked at (remembering that Philosopher’s Quest put a lamp in a dark room) but no luck. There’s not even a LIGHT OR EXTINGUISH or BURN verb available so I suspect magical shenanigans will be required.

Posted January 14, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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24 responses to “Hezarin (1981)

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  1. Thought I’d give this one a good old-fashioned play-along attempt.

    So far I’ve discovered that trying the verb “fill” causes the game to crash to the DOS prompt. Good start?

    • Indeed!

      UNTIE alone crashes too.

      • My Infocom habits led to a surprising result:


        What do you want to do with the zirconium?”

        (no zirconium has yet made an appearance, but I guess it’s something to look forward to)

      • I’ll discuss this on my next post, but that might be a few days, so a hint on getting a light source if you haven’t yet

        lbh pna “pyvzo jnyy”

      • Yup, I made the same discovery last night. It doesn’t survive a river trip intact, but I’ve enjoyed wandering around the other dark area and finding new and interesting cats to get killed by.

  2. “Mobygames also claims there are Amstrad CPC and Amstrad PCW versions but I haven’t been able to verify this with any primary source.”

    There seem to be a few primary source references for the Amstrad versions (by Locomotive) of Hezarin which, like on the other platforms, came as a freebie with The Last Days of Doom.


    Amstrad PCW review in 8000 Plus magazine…. https://archive.org/details/8000_Plus_Issue_048_1990-09_Future_Publishing_GB/page/n43?q=hezarin

    NCE news reference https://archive.org/details/NewComputerExpress078/page/n15?q=hezarin

    Amstrad Action bundle reference https://archive.org/details/amstrad-action-063/page/n69?q=hezarin

    Topologika Advert from the time… https://www.cpc-power.com/index.php?page=detail&onglet=pub&num=9852

    Game manual… https://archive.org/details/vgmuseum_acornsoft_lastdaysdoom-manual/page/n1?q=hezarin

    Hezarin was also available for the Electron/BBC successor, the Archimedes. The Adventure & Strategy Club magazine also lists an Atari ST version… https://archive.org/details/vgmuseum_advclub_asclub24/page/n7?q=hezarin and there is a review for an Amiga version https://archive.org/details/CUAmigaIssue008Oct90/page/n77?q=hezarin

    I’m going to do a little more digging on other versions of this game as we don’t have them all listed on CASA either… There is mention of a Spectrum +3 version in a few places, which wouldn’t be that surprising as Locomotive converted many of the other Topologika games to +3 disk… but it’ll be extremely rare if it exists.

    One of the issues with these being preserved online, and one of the reasons that there are many ports, is that Topologika was an educational publisher that was trading for many, many years, way beyond the 1980s. There games tend to be badly preserved online, in general, as they weren’t allowed to be posted on the reputable archive sites because they were considered an active company still selling those games.

    • This price list mentions BBC, CPC, PCW, IBM, Atari, RISC OS (Acorn Archimedes) and Nimbus (another one I don’t know anything about!)


      Interesting that even that list isn’t comprehensive!

      Based on the sales of Spysnatcher, by this point in the company’s history it’s possible they had “bespoke” items — that is, the Atari ST version didn’t exist unless someone mail-ordered it and then they copied their files and slapped on a sticker.

    • Any updates on tracking the +3 version?

      Also, do you have any thoughts if Alex should be Ship (as in the manual) or Shipp (as on the RISC OS title screen and various disk labels)?

  3. Does “poohsticks” do anything?

    • No, alas. (The bridge is called Poohsticks bridge and you do get to cross it, though. Post still in progress.)

      • Typing “Poohsticks” (or just “Pooh”) provokes the response, “I don’t know how to get to Poohsticks bridge.”

        Unless you are actually in a room adjacent to it (not in the river), in which case the game moves you onto the bridge. (This isn’t required. You can just use regular compass directions to move onto or off the bridge.)

        No, I don’t know why this feature exists (yet).

      • Ah, I was asking because it’s the magic word spelled backward.
        Voltgloss–sounds like a general navigation aid?

  4. Pingback: Hezarin: The Crowd Are Delirious, the Judges Can’t Believe It | Renga in Blue

  5. I’ve not had much chance recently to catch up and I have only just worked out how to get ejected from the hole. I initially tried removing the tunic before I entered downwards but was subsequently arrested by the Hezarin police for indecent exposure. A small bug too; if you wear the invisibility cloak and look in the mirror it describes the cloak as laying on the ground. You get the same response if you drop it. You can also turn the cloak and the crown over in your hands and examine them. Perhaps I have morphed into Ray Milland from “The Man With X-Ray Eyes.”

    • Thanks for the update! I was curious how your run was doing.

      I’m up to getting all four panels but I’m short enough treasures I need to do a restart before I can make it to the endgame showdown with Arijith (you need most of them for reasons I’ll explain when I post — probably not until tomorrow though).

      • If you don’t mind including a list of treasures you’ve found so far when you next post, I’d be interested to see it. Might help with narrowing in on those last lousy point(s).

      • Sure, that’d be fine. I managed to squeak through missing (I think!) 2 treasures (I know where they are now but they are impossible to reach with my current save file). So there’s a little leeway but not much.

  6. You’re miles ahead of me! Have you found a way to throw the manhole cover into the river or is there a chance to come back for it later? Always presuming you need it in the first instance of course.

    • Yes.

      Lbh pna’g guebj vg va gur evire — lbh unir gb whzc va. Lbh’yy or znxvat n frpbaq cnff guebhtu gur nern, fb lbh pna gnxr vg gura. Gurer jvyy abg or n guveq cnff fb znxr fher rirelguvat vf erfbyirq gur frpbaq gvzr nebhaq.

  7. Many thanks. I seemed to remember coming back for it when I first tackled the game but that must have been before George Burns started shaving it was so long ago.

  8. I believe that at least some of the original Phoenix source code for Hezarin still exists in hard-copy form: some years back I heard from Adam Atkinson that Alex Shipp possesses a dot-matrix print-out of it. Scanning it and turning it back into text would be a major challenge, though.

    • Neat!

      If nothing else, I’d like to hear a verbal description of what got changed in the commercial version; maybe Alex could talk about it sometime. (For example, Acheton commercial is very close to Acheton mainframe, except the weapons in the endgame are scattered across the map in the commercial version. I don’t know if it’s anything that simple in Hezarin though.)

  9. I guess I won’t be carrying any tables around as the command TAKE TABLE elicits the response “You can’t see any tablet here.”

    Incidentally is there a rigid structure to tackling the lower, middle and upper sections of the game or does the lift become impossible to enter after x visits to each level á la Warp? I have completed the coloured maze section and wonder whether to tackle the minotaur section or the moors north of the shifting halls next.

    • You can re-use the lift. The colored maze can only be gone through once, but you’re able to go back and forth to the top level and the fountain room if you need to.

      The moors you can pretty much do whenever (it’s not that long a section) although it does require an item you might not have yet (if you give me your inventory I can let you know without being specific).

      The minotaur path will take you guebhtu gur bcravat nern bar zber gvzr, ohg lbh’yy bayl or noyr gb qb vg bapr, naq gurer’f bar rffragvny vgrz sebz gung nern lbh pna bayl trg ba gur frpbaq ybbc; whfg xrrc va zvaq vs lbh svavfu gur frdhrapr naq unir nalguvat “yrsg bire” sebz gung sybbe.

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