Pirate Island (1981)   18 comments

Can you get your treasure back to your ship ? Beware of the crocodile and the natives ! Don’t dig for treasure till you’ve read the map !

— Ad from Your Computer Magazine, January 1983

Paul Shave’s third release for 1981, like Atom Adventure, used his Create Your Own Adventure system.

Via Everygamegoing.

Also like Atom Adventure, the goal is to gather all the treasures, and many of the objects are randomly scattered. Unlike that game, it doesn’t have super-tight timing (although I haven’t gotten a full score yet, so maybe I’m wrong).

Most of the game is set outside, so a light timer isn’t really an issue. (There is a tinderbox you can light for the purposes of one room.)

There’s an initial “short-term” timer with a crocodile that eventually shows up and starts following you. The crocodile has a ticking sound (yep, it’s a Peter Pan reject). Eventually, the crocodile bites your head off, but if you have a knife, you can kill it and cut it open, revealing a clock.

Note that by bad luck you may run into the crocodile before you get the knife and just die on a particular run (this is another similar element to Atom Adventure).

A “long-term” timer is formed by “natives” that show up at random and shoot poison darts at you. There’s a village where you can buy antidote from other (different?) natives for TWO PIECES OF EIGHT and you can APPLY ANTIDOTE in order to avoid dying.

The antidote is not well described, so this is a likely result from first trying it out. I admit being more amused than frustrated, since this wasn’t far in.

However, the antidote only has so many applications, so you eventually will succumb to a poison dart if the game goes on long enough.

Additionally, the antidote is considered one of the treasures, and there’s a pirate that shows up at random that will swipe all your treasures and take them to his “lair” which is just a spot in the forest. It’s possible to have very bad timing and get the antidote swiped from your inventory right before getting shot with a poison dart, so the pirate inadvertently does a combo special with the natives conspiring to kill the main character.

As noted in the screenshot above, there’s a place marked GRUD OMASSI. If you say these words anywhere on the island you get teleported back to the GRUD OMASSI spot and have all wounds healed. This makes for a nice backup plan for getting stuck by poison where the antidote is too far away. (It works twice, but the third time kills via a lightning bolt, so it’s still an emergency-purpose-only situation.)

The natives that sell an antidote also have an idol which counts as a treasure, but if you try to steal it, they cook you over a pot.

I’ll save some extra commentary on this for the end of this post.

I mentioned getting a clock from the crocodile already. If you give them the clock they gather around it, fascinated, which distracts them enough you can steal the idol.

To win you need to sail away, but the catch is there are two ships. Observe on the map:

There’s a “ship” both on the north side and south side, with a shore and rowboat conveiently placed. You need to LAUNCH BOAT, ENTER BOAT, and ROW BOAT to get to the ship, at which point you may find the HISPANOLA (good!) but it may be the SANTA MARIA (bad!). If you board the Santa Maria you find pirates who make you walk the plank: game over. The placement of the two ships is random, so you have to check and may need to turn around to go to the other ship.

Assuming you do get on the correct ship, you can RAISE ANCHOR and SET SAIL to victory. (The game doesn’t tell you about RAISE ANCHOR; just like drinking the antidote, it expects you to step into a losing game once. “Dying from things that are realistic and logical but in gameplay terms unfair” is sort of a running gag for Pirate Island.)

You may notice a lack of 16 out of 16 in the screenshot above. Each treasure is 2 points, and I’ve managed to max out at 12 with a RUBY RING, GOLD NUGGETS, JEWELS, IDOL, ANTIDOTE, and SILVER BAR. (The first four are randomly placed, the antidote is always bought at the village, and the silver bar you get from a gorilla by trading a banana.)

I sometimes end these with “whelp, the game was too painful, that’s it” but for some reason, the missing points here really gnaw at me. I think it has to do with the advertising blurb I quoted at the top of this post, which you might notice mentions a map for digging. I have found a SPADE in the game and tried digging the ground in every location, so no dice at random luck: I think the map is necessary to find whatever treasures remain. But I have no idea how to get the map! In addition to what I’ve mentioned, I’ve found a PARROT (which perches atop the player’s shoulder), some WOOD SHAVINGS, a BOTTLE (which can be filled with WATER), and some CHEESE. I haven’t been able to make use of any of them. I had strange notions of “reconstituting” a map by combining wood shavings and water, but no luck (at least with the parser commands I tried).

(If you’d like to take a crack, download the Atom Software Archive here, the program Atomulator here, drop the archive files in the “MMC” directory, then start the emulator and pick shift-F12, which jumps to a menu that accesses every available Atom game, including PS3A, Pirate Island.)

Oh, and the natives. They are definitely just old-timey cartoon stereotypes. I especially felt uncomfortable stealing the idol. The pieces of eight (which you use to buy the antidote) incidentally count as a treasure, so it’s possible to get a full point spread you need to steal the antidote in addition to the idol. This makes me tempted to just bail out early for story purposes like I did with It Takes a Thief. But really, where is that map?

ADD: You can see in the comments I missed a location, so I found the map and an extra treasure. No idea on the last treasure; I still have to spend the pieces of eight to get the antidote, and haven’t found a way around that.

Posted August 2, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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18 responses to “Pirate Island (1981)

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  1. At the risk of just tantalising you more, the C+VG reviewer said that 16/16 was possible…


  2. Now this is going back a while so I don’t have all the answers (my Dad wrote this game when I was about 8 years old and my brother and I used to play test it. I think we got 29p for any bugs we found!). The wood shavings I’m pretty sure are to make some sort of tinder box. A light to help you down the well perhaps. The cheese is to give to a Ben Gunn type of castaway in exchange for treasure or a map. I can’t remember where he is though (perhaps down the well). There is indeed a map and it gives you a location to dig. You won’t find it by randomly digging though.

    • The parrot talks but I can’t remember how or why and the bottle if I remember correctly can also hold antidote?

    • Trying to go down the well gets me THE WELL IS 130 FEET DEEP. I FALL ON MY HEAD.

      I haven’t found a rope or the like?

      I feel like I’m missing one of the “obvious” rooms on my map because occasionally a critical item will just flat-out be missing even after I have checked every place random items seemingly land in.

      • oho, yes: you can go south of the Sandy Beach. This leads you to the cave where you can give the cheese to the man.

        That gets the map. Unless the treasure is two items I’ll still be short one, but let me try finding out what happens first.

    • 14 out of 16 (took a bit of work with all the random bits).

      Dunno on the last treasure other than somehow stealing the antidote without using pieces of eight.

      I’ve used every item now. You need the well to fill a bottle with water that you must drink to take the treasure chest.

      • With good luck and tight play, is there a way to get the clock before getting shot twice?

      • Yeah, I’ve managed it — clock distracts enough to take the idol but not the antidote (I assume the antidote is “behind the counter” so to speak so a little more obvious when you steal it).

        I could still see the clock playing a part in the theft (assuming it’s even possible, of course!)

  3. You did miss one important area. Take a closer look at the room description of the Sandy Beach. You can go south from there. (On your map, you have the line to the ship going south from there by mistake)

  4. I will put some clues to the last treasure followed by the solution, all in ROT13.
    1. Vg vaibyirf fbzrguvat V thnenagrr lbh unir nyernql vagrenpgrq jvgu.
    2. Or n cnpxeng yvxr zr naq gel gb trg rirelguvat.
    3. Qvq lbh frr nalguvat gung fbzrbar zvtug ghea vagb snapl obbgf?
    4. SOLUTION: Gel gb trg gur pebpbqvyr fxva.

    • Huh, how did you logic that one out? You have to be pretty intentional about it.

      (and yes, I’ll post a finishing post at some point)

      • I’m just a packrat who picks up everything in a game. There could be a steaming pile of dog turds, or a maggot ridden corpse, and I’ll take it. I’m just wired that way. :-) As for knowing the exact noun to pick up, I pretty much just guessed.

      • I did try carting around the crocodile a bit, but you have to explicitly want to get the skin.

        I mean, it’s logical, it’s just interesting though-process-wise.

        (The finished post has been written and scheduled.)

  5. Add this to the end of clue #1 for clarity:

    ohg unir arire gevrq gb cvpx hc

  6. Pingback: Pirate Island: Finished! | Renga in Blue

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