Timequest: 12 Out of 12 Treasures   2 comments

Thanks to comments from Matt and Voltgloss I trudged my way to victory.

My key sticking point was missing one of the game’s invisible norms.

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

Navigation in Scott Adams-inspired games is often not just by compass directions, but by “GO LOCATION”.

I’M STANDING ON A DIRT ROAD. VISIBLE ITEMS:

MARBLE BUILDING. STREAM.

SOME OBVIOUS EXITS ARE: WEST

For the room above, while you can just type WEST, GO BUILDING and GO STREAM are also possible. The game uses this relatively extensively, and it seemed like the norm was that whenever a location was enterable, it would always be mentioned as a separate object (as opposed to implied by the location line).

This was a false assumption.

I AM STANDING OUTSIDE OF A MOUNTAIN. VISIBLE ITEMS:

STRANGE MACHINE.

SOME OBVIOUS EXITS ARE: SOUTH EAST.

By the description above it looks like east and south are the only exits (if you try to GO MACHINE the game gives the explicit syntax GET ON). However, you can GO MOUNTAIN.

I suspect the author didn’t even think this was really a “puzzle”; one of the items you find up the mountain is a book. The book hints that TURN ON and TURN OFF are syntax for the flashlight and that spinning the brass ring (the one in inventory from the start of the game) could make something interesting happen. If you haven’t found the book, you’re almost guaranteed to run across the flashlight and try to use it. Why would you put a parser hint for the flashlight in the book if you didn’t expect it to be read first?

Invisible norms still haunt pretty much every videogame genre, but to stick with adventure games, consider the norm where the main player has items in their inventory that go unmentioned until INVENTORY is typed. I think most modern authors would not consider that aspect a puzzle, yet it is something players could clearly get stuck on.

I found the remainder of the game fairly satisfying, so if you’re interested, now is the time to veer away before I spoil the rest of the game.

The mountain also had a jade buddha treasure and a glove.

This was enough the make the rest of the game go smoothly. The glove I immediately knew was used to pick up the diseased raccoon, which I fed to the lion blocking the cave. This led me to a waterfall (hiding some coins) and a slab.

The SPIN RING worked at a the slab to teleport. Then I was frozen instantly, but already had a coat for that problem.

I ran across the only live human in the game. For time travel in 1235, most games would visit some European area. (I’m not sure how aware people in 1981 were of the word “eskimo” being offensive.)

The spear (from the screen above) was sufficient to kill the angry mole I was stuck on last time. Additionally, the ring/slab combination also worked in the future to get me to a computer room.

This led to a few more treasures, and victory.

So: was this really a time travel game?

Genuinely, I wonder what the author was thinking: as I’ve already mentioned, the compartmentalization of time zones made for a good structural organization, but in the end I was dealing more with teleportation than time travel. The far-future computer device uses a reel of tape; one of the treasures is some TECHNICAL MANUALS and the only other gizmo is one that turns sand into a copper bar (Which is sort of impressive but not something I’d time travel for).

The cover (from my last post) suggests some sort of wild trip to the far future, with an odd creature in the center, and this game had none of that. Maybe this was somehow a well-planned enough time travel trip that the protagonist knew not to meddle with areas containing people (paradoxes, etc.) I did enjoy myself, but it was curious to play in a genre that lacked nearly all the elements of said genre.

Posted September 24, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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2 responses to “Timequest: 12 Out of 12 Treasures

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  1. So, can we say that in 1981 text games started to be actually playable?

    • Assuming you mean commercial games, we have had Zork I and Local Call for Death, which are perfectly playable.

      I think we could say there is a creeping encroachment of professionalism in some quarters; none of the Programmer’s Guild content from 1981 has been as sloppy as Temple of the Sun. There has been both junk and junk in 1981, and Demon’s Forge circa 1981 was pretty bad, but the publishers that have had experience are starting to get their act together.

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