Stoneville Manor (1981)   5 comments

Welcome to Stoneville Manor. The dream mansion can be yours, all yours, once you have obtained the deed. To get the deed, you need only open the safe. To open the safe you need only… Well, we’ll let you find that out for yourself.

Stoneville Manor is another type-in, this time originally in Applesoft BASIC. Shockingly, this is not a spooky house story, but just a wacky inheritance story (see: The Mulldoon Legacy, Hollywood Hijinks).

WEALTHY MR. STONE DIED AND RUMOR HAS IT THAT THIS ECCENTRIC MISER HAS LEFT HIS ENTIRE ESTATE TO WHOMEVER FINDS AND OPENS HIS SAFE

It appears to be Randy Jensen’s only game.

Despite requiring a full 16K of space on the Apple II, the game is quite minimalist.

While I got most of the way through with the Apple II version, I had to switch to the PC version to finish, so the screenshots will change right at the end. I suspect a typo in the source code but I didn’t have the motivation to diagnose it, and the PC version is nearly the same besides.

Going south leads to a WOODED AREA with TREES. Typing CLIMB TREE leads to a flashing

YOU FELL OFF

message followed by landing the player in the hospital.

This strikes me as even more minimalist than Scott Adams.

As you can likely predict, the parser of this game is terrible. It can help to approach with a different philosophy of gameplay; imagine playing a Dodgy Old Game akin to playing Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Heads or Tails of It. In that game (by Infocom) you sometimes needed to type exact phrases to indicate spoonerisms or proverbs in the text. From the sample transcript for that game:

>GET OUT OF BED
Your foul mood requires a more specific strategy.

>GET UP ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED
You do a slow roll off the left side of the bed, which in this case is actually the right side of the bed since the right side of the bed is awash in a sea of jagged glass and alarm clock parts.

So, for Dodgy Old Games, think of actual communication is a puzzle of sorts. For example, to get your inventory in Stoneville Manor, you have to type TAKE INVENTORY in full, and no, that isn’t in the instructions. It’s a fun extra challenge, and here I am with my smiling face and slightly twitching eye. FUN. WE’RE HAVING FUN.

I formulated this Nord and Bert connection before reaching Stoneville Manor, but this first puzzle feels very close to something from that game. I was stuck for a while until I decided to use sheer willpower.

NOW WHAT? GET WELL
RECOVERED

Ah, medicine by fiat. It doesn’t work for the game itself

NOW WHAT? WIN GAME
DON’T UNDERSTAND

so we’ll just have to play normally from here.

The game is structured around having three “hidden areas”, each which contain a number. When all three numbers are applied to the safe in Stoneville Manor, the safe opens and you win the game. Here’s the map without the hidden areas:

AREA #1: USING THE HOT AIR BALLOON

There’s quite a few items laying about both inside and outside Manor Stoneville. In the library of the manor there is a BOOK with explicit instructions:

All of these items indicated are out in the open. It’s just a matter of going and finding the “appropriate place” to launch, which is helpfully labeled with a sign.

SIGN SAYS : AN APPROPRIATE PLACE

Then you can use INFLATE BALLOON or BUILD BALLOON and all the steps required in putting the thing together just happen.

After flying, you land on a plateau with a shack, and inside the shack is a table with the first number.

ON TOP IS A NOTE WITH THE NUMBER 12

(The number is randomized, so you can’t just skip doing this altogether on a second playthrough.)

AREA #2: UNDERWATER

To be able to get to the underwater area, you first need to get inside a VENT system in the manor. The vents appear in multiple locations; if you try to go in while holding an item, the game claims SOMETHING IS TOO BIG. If you try to go in holding nothing, it claims YOU WEIGH TOO MUCH.

The solution here is a local store with some JOGGING SHOES. I guessed some exercise would be involved, but I needed hints to find the one and only way of communicating it:

The vent leads down to a wine cellar with a burlap bag containing a snorkel, and a serval (a wild cat kind of like a leopard). I’ll come back to the serval with AREA #3 in a moment.

With the snorkel, and a swimming mask and inflatable raft that are out in the open, you can dive in the lake to find an underground tunnel.

The bat is just a random environmental effect that only happens sometimes when entering the room, it’s not a “real” thing you can refer to. Environmental effects elsewhere include a “primate” in the trees, a frog jumping over water, a maid with a pack of bloodhounds, and a butler holding sticks of dynamite. The latter two I assume are supposed to be former staff that are now hunting the treasure.

The lake also has a trout, which you can catch with a fishing net, which lets you get to…

AREA #3: PAST THE SERVAL

You can feed the trout to the serval, which lets you get to another part of the wine cellar with a goblet and the third number.

With the third number, you can find the safe (behind a picture, of course) and enter in the numbers. (Their order is also randomized, but there aren’t that many combinations to try.)

The will is inside…

…and no, this wasn’t a great game. The author had some grand ideas but the implementation was incredibly rough; it’s likely everything was custom-made from scratch. Here’s a sample of source code to illustrate what I mean:

We now have a giant passel of languages customized to write text adventures, but in 1981, technical issues — like not even bothering to interpret a verb and noun separately — were still a major barrier.

Honestly, the bit in the hospital was the most creative part; what if the whole game were like that, leaning into the weirdness?

Stoneville Manor was on one of those “let’s grab some BASIC games, sell them, and hope nobody cares we don’t own the rights” compilations for C64.

Posted May 11, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Stoneville Manor (1981)

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  1. A definitely crude source code.

  2. NOW WHAT? WIN GAME
    DON’T UNDERSTAND

    Drat! Well, it was worth a shot, eh? ;)

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