Atom Adventures (1981)   9 comments

So, I ended up teaming up with Margaret Thatcher to beat Tom Thumb with a shillelagh that I looted off the dead body of Elvis Presley. How was your day?

The cover just says “Adventures” but the inside of the cassette liner gives the title “Atom Adventures” so I’m rolling with the more distinctive of the two. The Atom in the title is of the machine, the Acorn Atom. The Atom was the main rival to the ZX series in the early British computer market. Acornsoft was the software branch of the same company. (Veterans of my backlog may recognize their name from Quondam; they published the commercial version of that in 1984.)

That makes this another candidate for First Commercial Britventure (along with Planet of Death and City of Alzan) but I don’t know exactly when it was published. There are ads in Your Computer magazine from Acornsoft that seem to list their entire catalog, but I don’t see Atom Adventures in any of them, including in December.

Does this mean Atom Adventures came early in 1981, and Acornsoft already stopped selling the product later the same year? It’s possible, but adventures (even bad ones) sold pretty well in 1981, so I doubt it. (1981 is directly in the source code, so we at least have the year right.)

This is technically three games (Dungeon, House, Intergalactic); they all use a common interpreter and run relatively the same, so I thought it wise to group them.

The opening screen of Dungeon.

Nominally, what we have here is just wandering a map with a very sketchy combat system.

There aren’t any actions possible other than movement, attacking, picking up items and a SAY command that lets you use magic words. Various “monsters” wander a map. Sometimes they are neutral, sometimes they attack you, sometimes they attack other monsters, sometimes they drop items.

The three games are chaotic and hilarious and unsettling all at the same time.

For Dungeon (and the other two games) the goal is to simply gather enough treasures that the VALUE is high enough that typing VALUE at the “home” room wins the game.

The above screen is of Intergalactic, which starts with what’s marginally a puzzle (at least, it stumped at least one player). The puppeteer has a COMPUTER LOCK BREAKER; once you murder him/her/it, just holding the lock breaker lets you leave the opening room.

The map has a bunch of famous sci-fi locations, like Arrakis and Ringworld. Each “room” represents an entirely different “world”, so that Pern, Planet of the Fire Lizards and Holiday Planet Haven are one step away.

There are no other puzzles; the game is just navigating the map while murdering everyone in your path and taking their stuff.

The title of “most unsettling” must go to House, which might be a Spooky House or Wacky Inheritance story if it didn’t involve getting treasures via celebrity murder spree.

The room connections are “normal” but the wandering NPCs consist of

IDI AMIN, FELIX THE CAT, PRINCE CHARLES, TOM THUMB, RONNIE RAYGUN, ELVIS PRESLEY, LIZZIE BORDEN, COUNT DRACULA, LADY DIANA, BASIL FAWLTY, SUPERMAN, REGGIE PERRIN, MAGGIE THATCHER, ATILLA THE HUN, FARRAH FAWCETT, A BENT PRIEST, A BLACK CAT

and the same behavior seems to apply to all of them, so you may have a peaceful Count Dracula and a Superman that immediately starts attacking you and then you find Lady Diana just wailing on Prince Charles.

Oddly, House is probably the best of the three games — the map is semi-coherent (it does feel like a house, albeit one with mazes in the cellar and upper floor) and the gonzo effect is at least original. In one of my playthroughs, Ronnie Raygun dropped a stash of heroin which counted as a treasure worth 100 points. There’s not much in the way of “strategy” although it is possible to die from combat.

This scene indicates that SAY OUT will teleport you to the starting area. The magic words are just for ease of transport.

If it weren’t for the blazoned title including “Adventures” and the fact none of these qualify as an RPGs or strategy games, I’d have quietly tossed these back on the discard pile. Still: if you remain intrigued and want to try Atom Adventures on your own, you’ll need an emulator (Atomulator is good) and the software installed to the right place (you can find instructions for that here).

Posted May 13, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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9 responses to “Atom Adventures (1981)

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  1. What exactly is THE MULE MYSTIFIED MNEMENTH even supposed to mean? Is it a magical mule? Is it just that Mnementh is like “man, I’m a telepathic dragon and even I don’t know WTF is going on here”?

    • MYSTIFIED is one of the attack names. (I think sometimes you do it too no matter what weapon you’re using.)

      I don’t think there’s any real difference with the messages, but I didn’t trawl through the source code close enough to be sure. The game does claim if your inventory is overloaded your combat is less effective, so there’s a smidge of thought to the combat system.

      (Also, The Mule is a person — he’s from the Foundation novels, and he does have some manner of psychic power from what I remember.)

  2. Yeah, the earliest listings in advertising that I can find for the Atom Adventures packages is in Your Computer and C&VG from January 1982. Given the publication dates (and lead-in times) for UK magazines, and the fact that one of those adverts is for a reseller, I would feel fairly confident that around about an October/November 1981 release date could be assigned to the Acornsoft compilation.

  3. Pingback: The Time Machine (1981) | Renga in Blue

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