Thunder Road Adventure (1980-1981)   3 comments

To set the mood, here’s a clip from Smokey and the Bandit from 1977. (Basic plot: Burt Reynolds makes an illegal beer run from Georgia to Texas and back whilst being chased by Jackie Gleason.)

It’s been a while since we’ve checked into The Programmer’s Guild (whose wares included Death Dreadnaught and Temple of the Sun) but they kept busy in 1981.

IN THIS ADVENTURE YOU TRY TO DELIVER WHITE-LIGHTNING (MOONSHINE) FROM YOUR FARM IN GEORGETOWN THROUGH THE HILLS AND HOLLOWS TO KNAWBONE — BUT WATCH OUT FOR THE REVENUER’S AND THE SHERIFF. THIS IS YOUR LAST RUN. IF YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL YOU WILL HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO GO TO COLLEGE. YOU MAY ONE DAY BECOME PRESIDENT. BUT REMEMBER, IF THE LAW DON’T GET YOU THE MOUNTAIN WILL.

Don and Freda Boner — a father and daughter team from Indianapolis — published four games through them, starting with Thunder Road. I believe the ad below (January 1981) is the first time this game is mentioned in print, but given magazine lag time, I felt it appropriate to include 1980 in the date.

This is an unusual game for more than just the premise. For most of the game, you and the car are essentially equivalent.

You start by getting some spare tires from the barn, then ENTER CAR at which point all regular directions (NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST) move the car, rather than yourself.

This plays more like a choose-your-own-adventure style rather than a regular adventure game. The branch shown above is the first reached. Going NORTH ends the game, reaching a dead end (where the LONG ARM OF THE LAW gets you), as does going SOUTH, where you crash in FOG at the DEAD MAN’S CURVE.

There’s no puzzle here. You just went the wrong way.

If you go west, you end up at a ROAD BLOCK manned by DUMB OLD DEPUTY ERNEST HARDLEY. You can RUN ROADBLOCK to get through. (I didn’t find any other parser command that worked.)

Other hazards include engine trouble, a A CUTE BLOND LADY HITCHIKING, tire damage, and a missing bridge.

There’s a secret road here you can find by leaving the car and moving the trees.

There’s a church with an organ inside which has KEYS. (I don’t think this is meant as a metatextual in the same way Kidnapped did the joke, where the key from a piano literally turned into a key. The organ has keys, but the organ also just happens to have keys.)

The keys unlock a gate at a bear.

You’re supposed to just ignore the bear; you can fight the bear and “win” but then the law catches up with you.

After the bear, you have one more three-way exit where only one of them is correct.

You knew there had to be a bridge-jumping scene somewhere.

Past the ridge jump is Knawbone, and victory.

The lack of a save-feature made the game a drag — especially when paired with the worst feature of CYOA books, that of blindly bad endings. There is no way to know whether EAST, SOUTH, or WEST is best at a particular juncture other than trying it and dying.

I’m not sure if a proper UNDO feature (or even a saved game feature) would fix things. When bad endings for CYOA do appeal, it’s in them being amusing and/or theatrically written. There’s even a blog called YOU CHOSE WRONG that ran from 2012 to 2016 dedicated to bad endings.

From Choose Your Own Adventure #17: The Race Forever.

Compare with the “moonshine gone to waste” ending earlier in this post — it aims at the same sort of feel, but Adams-style minimalism isn’t enough to make the death edifying rather than annoying.

Still, if you want to decide for yourself: you can play Thunder Road Adventure online here. (Click on “Emulate edited program” to start.)

From Be an Interplanetary Spy #1: Find the Kirillian.

Posted April 13, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Thunder Road Adventure (1980-1981)

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  1. Oh wow, presumably Freda Boner is the one (how many could there be?) who went on to be the drummer for the Blake Babies! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freda_Love_Smith

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