Archive for August 2020

Mad Venture: The Key Is the Food to Your Problem   8 comments

Mad Venture is one of those games in split-screen format where room descriptions, objects, and exits are consistently displayed on the screen, so the command LOOK by itself (which makes sense in single-window games to reproduce the room description) is a little redundant. In Mad Venture it gives the message


and I suddenly had 20-year old memories flood in.

You see, this reminded me of Nick Montfort’s game Ad Verbum (2000) which I was a beta tester for.

Sloppy Salon
Simple social space, sadly spoiled. Some skewed situation’s sequel, surely. Seemingly, slovenly students sojourned — scraping, scratching, scuffing surfaces.

Stuff: … stainless steel stapler… sizable sofa.

This is a room where only words with the letter S work. To get by this point you need a word meaning “exit the room” which starts with the letter S.

This alerted me to that — at least to some extent — Mad Venture is a wordplay game, where the physical selves of objects are just as important as the words attached to them.

I had previously managed to get small by eating a sandwich, and pop in a rabbit until to an underground area. From there I was stuck; there was a nasty sandwich there, but if I tried to eat it, it ate me back. I was too small to pick up any of the items, including the lamp, so I wasn’t able to travel anywhere.

Previously, aboveground, I had found a book that read “THE FOOD IS THE KEY TO YOUR PROBLEM” that I used as a hint to eat the sandwich; since I sent everything underground, including the book, I decided to try reading it again and was surprised to find the text had changed:


Oho, what about EAT KEY?

This opened the map up much wider.

The left half of the underground, as I’ve mapped it so far.

To the west I found a “small, low chamber” that was “filled with dusty rocks”. You might be familiar with this location from Adventure. Keeping the wordplay in mind, I tried to CLEAN ROCKS:


The word “KATIE” in this particular word serves to teleport the player back and forth from the lobby of the movie theater where all the treasures need to be dropped.

I mostly haven’t had other progress. I did find a boulder I pried away with a crowbar, and a beggar who wanted one of my treasures.

I haven’t seen the beggar since; at the moment I’m assuming you get a hint later but not an optimal score if you hand over a treasure.

I got stymied by a guard who wants a gold coin, and found a very strange L I B R A R Y that didn’t let any of my objects in.

I also found a puzzle which utterly blew my mind.

Remember, in a wordplay game, words only connect tenuously with their corresponding objects, so–

Actually, let’s pause a moment. What can happen next?

I found a SMILING CHESSER CAT down one of the branches, but I don’t know what to do with him yet.

While FORK does refer to a fork in a road…

Notice the room description change.

…it can also refer to a utensil, so GET FORK works, and removes the fork in the road! This changes the map so rather than there being a northwest and a northeast exit, there’s just north.

Posted August 4, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Mad Venture (1981)   6 comments

Micro Labs published only two adventure games, both for the Apple II and both from 1981: Mad Venture (Dale Johnson and Christine Johnson) and Palace in Thunderland (Dale Johnson, again, and Ken Rose).

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History, although I’m guessing this is a picture from an old auction.

This is yet another pure treasure gathering game, although this time the game is very explicit about a time limit, as shown on the box art above. I suspect I will need to create myself a walkthrough to win.

Or possibly: cling helplessly to one. For I’ve known about this game for a while, where the one thing I’ve heard is the difficulty is really high. We’re talking another aspirant for Quondam’s throne of Most Difficult Adventure Ever, here. Of course, I can’t know how hard Mad Venture is until I try it, but I am still blocking out a few weeks.

While Palace in Thunderland is more explicit about the connection, Mad Venture has a vague sense of Alice in Wonderland to what I’ve seen so far. This led some people on the intfiction forums to speculate this was one of the first adventure games with a female character (Alice) but while I’d say the argument holds for Thunderland, I’m pretty sure the hero for Mad Venture is intended to be “you”. (Keeping an open mind, though, until I get deeper in the game.)

You start outside a movie theater where you are told to bring the treasures in 185 moves or bust. Nearby there’s a bunch of items, a rabbit hole (described as too small to enter), and a cave.

I moved all the items to this room to get them in one screenshot.

Going west:



The book has a faded cover which states “LE…CAR” and the inside notes “THE FOOD IS THE KEY TO YOUR PROBLEM”. This made me think the sandwich was somehow helpful but my first attempt at eating it while standing by the deposit chute led to death.


After some experimenting, I found that the sandwich has a better effect while eaten in the initial cave room.


(There’s some rooms where you die and some where you transform — I’m not sure the pattern.)

This lets you be small enough to pop in the previously mentioned rabbit hole. Any items dropped in the DEPOSIT chute await below.

Notice there’s a “nasty sandwich” that’s new. If you try to GET SANDWICH you die with the message “THE SANDWICH GETS YOU FIRST!”

If anyone is inclined to follow along, there’s an easy-to-use online version of Mad Venture at the Internet Archive.

Posted August 3, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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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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