Asylum: Ripped to Shreds   11 comments

I don’t normally talk about my troubles in emulation; usually, it is as mild as “of the two emulators X and Y I could use for this, X doesn’t work but Y does”.

With Asylum, I’ve had issues that bleed over to the gameplay, so it’s worth a little detail this time.

Asylum’s initial release had both a 16K and a 32K version, and using both cassette and disk. (This refers to the memory capacity of the TRS-80 it loads on — 32K means double the text and code capacity over 16K.) This, combined with … magic, I guess, led to many variant files that currently exist.


My two most reliable TRS-80 emulators (Matthew Reed’s and George Phillips’s) died on almost all of them. I had blank screens, bizarre errors, and unrecognized keyboard inputs. The only exception was ASYLUM1G.CMD — based on the 32K version — which had a different “loader” at the front but also skipped asking if I wanted to restore a save game. It meant I could save but not restore a save file.

I had one other option: a cassette file of the 16K version. I was able to save and load with this version.

This led me to the scenario where I could either

a.) Play the 16K version, with saving and loading working properly.

b.) Play the 32K version, with no game saves, but with more text.

I’m currently going with the former, since the manual claims the gameplay puzzles are the same, just the text is terser. This might seem to be the more difficult game, but the 16K version has advantages. CHARGE from Deathmaze 5000 is retained in the 32K version…

…but is cut from the 16K. So I know CHARGE is a useless red herring and I shouldn’t waste time running into walls looking for secrets.

Of course, sometimes more text is clearer. Last time I mentioned a grenade where you needed to PULL PIN FROM GRENADE. Here is the grenade’s description in the 32K version…

…and the 16K version.

Notice the PULL verb is immediately suggested by the 32K version but not the 16K version. I may just swap back to the 32K version on occasion once I have a clearer idea of my route through the game. As things currently are going, I’m dying too often to go without save files.

I’m only made a smidge of progress, so my content update is going to be short. Last time I escaped a second cell with a silver key; I found two more doors that unlocked with the key, including one with the coat and grenade from the start of the game. I was then walled by trying to get past a guard.

I had tried TIPTOE as the game had previously mentioned the verb, but ATTACK GUARD led to me being torn apart. I finally checked hints and found out that PUNCH is considered an entirely different verb! (KILL and ATTACK are mapped together, HIT and PUNCH are considered a different set.)

A brief, general principle I’ve alluded to: if two verbs are understood differently, yet might plausibly seem to a user to be the same action, the text needs to be absolutely clear about what’s going on. It may just be the two verbs should be merged; even if there is technically a difference (punching a guard doesn’t necessarily mean you aim to kill) it isn’t worth the user-end suffering. In this specific case, I imagined ATTACK as using the player character’s fists; I’m not even sure how the game interprets it otherwise since the player doesn’t have a weapon.

I’ve only had a little time to explore past the guard. I found some more locked doors (and had to laboriously try my key on each and every one), some with inmates inside. You can hear giggling from one, see an ugly face from another (both of these are behind still-locked doors).

Two rooms I could unlock and also had inmates inside. One inmate was asking for a cigarette, and when I didn’t have one, called for guards (losing me the game). The other I immediately died via shotgun.

The last thing I did was SEARCH GUARD, yielding a BRASS KEY, a UNIFORM, and CIGARETTES, so next time I should hopefully be off and running with a bigger chunk of the game.

Posted April 1, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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11 responses to “Asylum: Ripped to Shreds

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  1. I used Jeff Vavasour’s Model 1 emulator which worked with nearly all of the Med Systems games, iirc (as well as both versions of “Asylum”).
    You can find it at
    It’s a bit obscure but very stable. Off the top of my head, it’s F2 to insert a disk and F4 for the save options – or maybe the other way around.

  2. Who could’ve guessed that allowing mental patients access to loaded shotguns was a bad idea…?

    • Given there are no doctors, only guards, and the player’s starting room has a hand grenade, I’m guessing this isn’t the kind of asylum meant to rehabilitate people.

  3. At least the people running the Asylum never included the sentient torture of being strapped to a chair and forced to watch the Father Dowling Mysteries box set (plus extras). There may be a streak of humanity in those guards.

    • There is a lobotomy room. The game never describes how it happens.

      I am not familiar at all with Father Dowling, but this line from the description made me laugh.

      “Assisting him is streetwise nun Sister Stephanie, aka Sister Steve, who knows the language of the streets and how to do things like hot-wire cars and pick locks.”

      She is streetwise and knows the language of the streets. Also, she has “street” written on her forehead and eats street for lunch.

  4. It makes Murder She Wrote seem like high art. There may well be a Sister Stephanie room in the game. If so I suggest SLASH THROAT. It’s one of those series that makes Hell lose its sharp corners in comparison.

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