Adventure in Time (1981)   Leave a comment

EONS AGO A WEAPON WAS CONSTRUCTED WHICH COULD DESTROY THE HUMAN RACE AS WE KNOW IT. THE HIGH TRIBUNAL ORDAINED THAT HIS WEAPON BE DISMANTLED AND THE PIECES DISTRIBUTED THROUGHOUT MANY TIME PERIODS.

IT HAS SINCE BEEN DISCOVERED THAT THE FILE HAS BEEN STOLEN DOCUMENTING THE LOCATION OF THE COMPONENTS.

WHOEVER HAS POSSESSION OF THE FILE CAN CONTROL…OR DESTROY…THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.

— From the opening screen for Adventure in Time

We just saw Birth of the Phoenix; Adventure in Time was Paul Berker’s other adventure for Phoenix Software from 1981.

It’s given as a “Class 4” adventure — Phoenix had a very very (very) short-lived scheme where they ranked difficulty on a scale from 1-5, so this one’s supposed to be pretty tough.

Starting from the placid present, this text adventure takes you careening through history on the trail of a master criminal. You must hop from period to period, dealing with the traps and puzzles ready to confront you at every hand, so you can eventually nab the fiend and avert his evil plan for the Earth.

— From the 1984 Software Encyclopedia

This is already a mysterious opening. Clearly, we were trying to foil a Bad Guy, but are we the keeper of the time machine and it was stolen, or did we try to bust into their place? (Based on elements you’ll see in a moment, I think it’s the former, but for the start of gameplay I was briefly confused.)

The house you start in has a kitchen with a foul odor and a pencil, a dormitory with burned papers, and a cliff.

IT’S AT LEAST 300 METERS STRAIGHT DOWN TO THE BASE OF THE CLIFF. CIRCLING OVERHEAD IN THE STRANGE SKY ARE FIGURES TOO DISTANT TO RECOGNIZE. LOOKING BACK AT THE CAVELIKE ENTRANCE, IT DOESN’T LOOK SO ARTIFICIAL.

You may have noticed from the opening screen the scratched corner of the picture. This is a hint to MOVE PICTURE, which causes a robot to appear.

>GET ROBOT

THE ROBOT IS NOW PROGRAMMED TO ACCOMPANY YOU ON YOUR TRAVELS.

The robot has a STUD on the back that you can push, causing a ray to flash from the robot and the south wall to open.

This opens into a technological area with a computer room, a security room, and a laboratory with a microscope. The security room included a blocked exit:

>E
YOU CANNOT PASS.
CODE NAME, PLEASE?

There’s also a LASER and TRANSLATOR in storage. After flailing around a bit I tried PUT PENCIL with the microscope.

THE OVERHEAD SPEAKER COMES ON: ‘NO FINGER PRINTS SEEN.’
AND THE STAGE IS AUTOMATICALLY CLEARED AND AWAITING THE NEXT SAMPLE.

This one of those circumstances where a full parser (one understanding more than two words) would have definitely helped matters. Technically the syntax is workoutable, but I had a weird feeling of confinement that made the right command hard to find. The computer room is another instance of this:

>EXAMINE KEYBOARD

THE INSTRUCTION PLATE READS, ‘DATA MAY BE INPUT IF AUTHORIZED.’

It’s not entirely clear the player is “authorized” here so a few failed attempts can cause a wild goose chase; the right syntax is INPUT (NOUN).

Back to the microscope: I took every item I could possibly find and PUT them underneath; I finally had some luck with the SYRINGE from the first room…

…except not really. I did notice the CLOTH which is described as useful for picking up delicate things, but perhaps it could double as a fingerprint protector. I restarted my game and made sure I didn’t touch the syringe until I had the cloth (another two-word parser failing, I had to just guess the cloth was being used since there’s no TAKE SYRINGE USING CLOTH or the like).

>PUT SYRINGE

THE OVERHEAD SPEAKER COMES ON:
‘FINGERPRINT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS BEING THAT OF NOSTRADAMUS.’

(Just to be clear if you missed it, this means you can softlock from the very start of the game by picking up the first object you see.)

Nostradamus must be the game’s nemesis. I went back to the computer and tried INPUT NOSTRADAMUS.

I didn’t have much luck with other words I tested, but this is still a game in progress. I went back to the blocked exit at the security room and tried HUNTER.

It’s not that common, but I have seen adventure games where the player has to figure out something known to the in-game character like their name or code name. I can only suppose the syringe included a bit of an amnesia kick.

Aha, the time machine! This one’s a little unusual in that the entire opening map is part of the machine; when you jump to a new period the “Cliff” to the north gets a new exit.

I made a little more progress, but I’m going to pause here until I get somewhere more substantial. Despite the rocky opening the rest of the game is promising, and Paul Berker maintains his knack for room descriptions we saw in Birth of a Phoenix.

The first destination is Stonehenge circa 5000 BC. The druids are friendly.

Posted March 17, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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