Microworld (1981)   8 comments

Let’s start with the smooth dulcet tones of William Shatner.

This educational film (originally recorded 1976, revised 1980) about the still-fresh-and-mysterious world of microprocessors has, as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing to do with the game Microworld (1981, by Arti Haroutunian, published by Med Systems, same folks as Asylum) but sometimes I have to just share things.

Amidst my review period for games to add to my list, there’s been the occasional reject for non-adventure status, like Dungeon of Htam from 1980:

YOU DISTURBED A MONSTER IN THIS CHAMBER
AND HE SPEAKS

HALT I AM LUM

YOU MAY NOT PASS THRU UNTIL YOU ANSWER THIS MATH QUESTION

WHAT IS
4 x 1 = ?

Other than that, Nellan is Thirsty has been “an adventure for children” but not really an “educational game”.

With those caveats out the way (and the note I’m not done with 1981, although I’ve poked at most of what’s ahead) Microworld seems to be the first adventure game specifically designed as educational.

From 80 Micro, October 1981.

I do not have the “12 page booklet containing a glossary and explanations of the electronics inside the TRS-80”, so I’ll just have to wing it.

I’ve seen the line about “the object of this adventure is part of the mystery you are to solve” elsewhere, including in the game I just played, Timequest. It was truly odd in that one given treasure collection was the obvious goal; here, it might possibly be as well, since I’ve found one item already (a crystal radio) with asterisks around it.

The original version was for TRS-80 but I played the Atari port (by the same author) instead; I’ll compare with the TRS-80 version when I’m done. This is in reverse of what Will Moczarski did when writing about the game; I figure it’ll give a different perspective.

I’m not sure who the game is targeted at. A 1982 review claims it is for an “intelligent child” or an “adventure gaming beginner” but it is designed too annoyingly for either one.

The above exchange is somewhat typical for educational games, which randomly have to toss in trivia questions (What year was Texas admitted to the Union?)

(You have to DROP CALCULATOR to move on.)

I haven’t run across much in the way of puzzles; gameplay so far has mostly been wrestling with a gigantic map where almost none of the directions make sense.

In progress. I’ve marked rooms where I’ve checked every exit; did I mention the game only occasionally mentions which exits go from a particular room so testing all of them is required?

I have run across a great many puns and strange in-jokes, and that’s honestly been the thing keeping me going so far. Some samples:

There is, as you might expect, a maze. The maze has more than five rooms and you have an inventory limit of five items, so there’s some “move one of the items to somewhere else mid-mapping and hope you don’t get confused” aspect to the whole process; the sort of thing you’d give beginners only as a cruel joke.

Also, the only reward has been a “column address room” where nothing seems to happen.

The items have been truly odd: a spinnifax, a crystal radio, a “lonely” clock pulse, a glass cube that looks like a “red IC chip” when you’re holding it (??), a surfboard, a refrigerator (???), and a “dielectric coin” which says “Go PLUS on display error.”

Regarding the last item, that’s a hint for a particular puzzle.

This is the “display error” — the only way out is GO PLUS. This incidentally suggests to me the glass cube/red IC chip thing might not be a bug but a puzzle.

I suspect more META will happen before the game is through. I’m just happy this game is something other than a generic manor or fantasy cave.

Posted September 28, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “Microworld (1981)

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  1. Wow, I never actually got the Texas Union puzzle! I figured it was some sort of copy protection and I think the manual is considered lost, so I looked at the code to find a four-digit number and came up with 1845.

    Apart from that, I kind of enjoyed this one because it felt like a fresh approach. The maze wasn’t too bad and there were some puzzles I genuinely liked.

    If you considered “The Human Adventure” a sort-of adventure game, that would probably be the first educational adventure game (it came out in 1980) but of course that’s highly disputable. It’s probably as much an adventure game as most of the Wumpuses (Wumpi?), however.

    • The Human Adventure also is on my rejects (although I’ll mention it before my last post).

      I did write about Wumpus but in my Before Adventure series.

      • Yeah, I remember you tackled the Wumpus at some point. As a stepping stone it’s of much more historical importance than The Human Adventure, of course, so I can see why you wrote about it in a “prototype” section but rejected the other one. My personal definition of adventure games is rather broad (invite them all in, I say, the more the merrier) but I can fully understand that you need to stick to the actual adventure games and exclude most hybrids to maintain your sanity with a project like this.

      • It’s to some extent just arbitrary, but I should note if you go too far and you get Steam’s “Adventure” category. https://store.steampowered.com/tags/en/Adventure/

        I am planning a “narrative strategy” series at some point just because I’ve come across some very interesting games that haven’t been written about.

        Other than the calculator, did you have to look up any other puzzles? I’m going to make a mid-way post probably tomorrow. (I have green, white, and grey; I’ve seen blue but can’t figure out how to get it back, and red is still in the cube. I don’t need hints yet, though.)

      • No, that was the only one I had to look up. There is no walkthrough I know of anyway but if you get stuck drop me a mail at the obvious gmail and I’ll come up with a hint (chances are I won’t see it here in due time).

        I overlooked some room exits the first time around – I remember that was some issue.

  2. Also, I didn’t find that many version differences but as a recovering completionist I naturally appreciate your reverse approach.

  3. Oh, and it’s not a treasure hunt per se if I remember correctly. You’ll need some items to achieve your goal but I think that was not “drop items and SCORE”.

  4. Btw, what is it with Med Systems and their teleporting calculators?

    (sorry for spamming, I’ll leave the comment section alone now!)

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