Adventure in Time: A Tour of History   14 comments

In a way, nearly all computer games are time travel games.

Even without saves and reloads, it is common to revisit the same places, to iterate on different paths, to send shadows of alternate selves into the tangled variety of possible universes. What happens if we go back and fight rather than flee? What happens if we choose different companions or equipment? What happens if we redo a level, with foreknowledge of the future?

It is the fantasy of time travel to expose the braids of causality, to correct failures of the past, to preview what is to come. For computer games, these are typical activities, almost mundane.

Time travel is well-embedded in the DNA of games, and it is not surprising the genre became popular for adventures. The tripartite separation of plot, character, and gameplay can easily come together with time travel, such that the act of gameplay itself reflects profound and lasting truths.

Having said all that, no, Adventure in Time is not embedded with profound truths, but: blasting through history is fun, and the structure of this game in particular — with a self-contained area for each time period — is enjoyable and coherent.

The time periods are visited by taking colored cards and inserting them in a time machine. The “present” of the game is 1984, represented by a brown card. The first card you start with from another time is blue, taking you to -5000, Stonehenge, in the time of druids.

Area 1: Stonehenge, 5000 BC, Blue Card

There’s no serious obstacles here; there’s a guard for the druids that will stop you unless you have a translator device, but otherwise it’s easy to find a green card, a potion, some seeds, a flute, and a notepad.

Because of the syringe/fingerprints debacle last time, I’m suspicious of the seeds. The game says they were recently planted by the druids, and I fear if I take them there will be a missing tree later. It may be you *want* the tree to be missing, or it may be the game is trying to trick you into ruining the game — either way, I’m leaving the seeds be for the moment.

The notepad also has some faint writing, and this is the first (but won’t be the last) chronological adventure where I do the “rub pencil to make the writing stand out” trick.

Area 2: Unknown, 1001 AD, Green Card

The first room has a snake you can charm with the flute from Stonehenge.

This is followed by a “dark maze” where going the wrong direction kills you. I first mapped it out tediously with save states, but then realized that a laser from back in 1984 lit up the room. It was, in fact, the first thing I tried, but I had my emulator speed cranked up high which means I missed the fact the game displayed the actual cave description for a short time. Slowing the emulator down to 1981 speeds made the puzzle solvable. Using this, I was able to find a bow and a yellow card.

Area 3: Rome, 30 BC, Yellow Card

(Nero pops up here, but he’s AD, not BC. 30 BC would be the year Anthony and Cleopatra die.)

Rome has a soothsayer giving out a charm to fend off evil, a “collosseum” with starving animals who are surprisingly not dangerous…

…and the 1st Legion, that made fun of me, wouldn’t let me pass, and softlocked my game (you can’t leave once you enter).

I reloaded, grabbed the charmed snake from 1001, and brought it to the Legion; dropping it caused them to scatter. I was then able to head north and visit Nero.

I was able to combine the bow I got from 1001 with the violin to make an obnoxious noise, but I haven’t found any use for it yet.

Area 4: Mesozoic Forest, 16,000,000 BC, Red Card

(16 million years ago time would land the player in the Miocene — specifically the end of the Langhian — with some semi-familiar mammals but definitely not dinosaurs or the Mesozoic.)

Here is where I’m fairly stuck — I can fall in quicksand…

…or get eaten by a T-Rex…

…but other than a herd of “hungry” dinosaurs I haven’t found anything else. I don’t have anything that seems like dino food so I’m assuming I’m missing something from an earlier era.

Posted March 19, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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14 responses to “Adventure in Time: A Tour of History

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  1. If the herd of “hungry” dinosaurs are herbivores, can you plant the seeds by them? Is the potion a potion of quick growing? And if this works and a dinosaur bends down to eat the grass, could you then maybe CLIMB DIPLODOCUS?

    I’ve no idea if this is correct but it’s the first thing that jumped to mind.





      I’ll test the seeds elsewhere, though.

      • The greenhouse (back at the HQ) works. You get PLANTS which the dinos eat. Nothing helpful from that yet though.

        The potion is distilled “from the mandrake root” and puts you in a deadly sleep. It may work on the dinos but I haven’t found a syntax that applies the potion to the plants.

      • Do POUR or EMPTY work as verbs? Can you somehow use the potion to “water” wherever you’re planting the seeds, in order to grow sleep-inducing plants? (This could be another soft reset situation if you need to apply the potion *before* planting the seeds.)

        The fact that the game recognizes CLIMB by the dinosaurs has me thinking that’s on the right track, and just needs a stationary dinosaur to do it.


        Attempting to pour at various phases of the plant-growing does nothing (including pouring before picking up the seeds).

        And yeah, I’m pretty sure CLIMB will work eventually.

      • Can you THROW the plants so the dinosaurs turn towards them before eating? (It could be easier to climb on a dinosaur ‘s back if it’s facing away from you.)

        P. Ingerson (solar penguin)
      • THROW is not a recognized verb, alas.

      • Random further ideas: can you …
        … Fill the syringe using the potion?
        … Shoot dinosaurs with the laser?
        … Tune the violin?
        … Annoy the herd into moving (maybe to the T Rex) via violin screeching?
        … Survive in the quicksand if you drop all items first?

      • Earlier PUT served to put things a specific place… could you use PUT to try putting the plant in the potion?

        Amusing that the BOW was the fiddle kind, not the one that shoots arrows. According to reviews of Werner Bachmann’s The Origins of Bowing that I can find on JSTOR, bowed instruments came to Europe around 1000, so that part is surprisingly accurate! The part with Nero having a violin is, ah, less so.

        The phrase “soft locked” always reminds me of this song.

      • Unfortunately, the PUT idea doesn’t work either.

        I’m OK with Nero having a violin insofar as we’re following in the footsteps of a Bad Guy; maybe they gave Nero the violin because they thought it was funny. (They must be using a time machine of their own, right? I’m a little confused on the setup, we’ll see if it clears up by the end.)

      • got it!

        >DRUG PLANTS


      • Finished the game. (I might not have time until Monday for the writeup, we’ll see — I was pretty close to the end.)

      • Well Nero having a violin is a well established trope so I can definitely forgive it. I think supposedly he had a lyre? If all you need to do is make a racket with a bow I suppose any stringed instrument will do.

        DRUG PLANTS… yeah, that’s one where you’d like to have a more flexible parser.

      • Whenever the “do you actually need more than two words in your parser” discussion ever comes up again, I’d tag Adventure in Time as a good example of things going badly without an indirect object or two.

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