The Golden Baton: A Renowned Hero   5 comments

I wasn’t too far from the end, but there was a fair amount of parser struggle to get there.

Via Mobygames.

Let’s take care of the raft first. I went as far as searching for synonyms for RIDE (not the first time I’ve whipped out a thesaurus to play an adventure game), but I still had to look at hints; the elusive verb was SAIL.

I then found a lake with nothing useful on it — it turns out the lake is the final destination of the game. I went back to whacking at the places of the castle I was still stuck on.

First, a chunk of glowing quartz in the “sorcerer’s lab”. The quartz is non-portable (I didn’t quite understand if was “stuck” or just too big). I had a staff with runes around it, so it felt magic-ish enough to try WAVE STAFF.

There’s a helmet that also has runes on it, and if you’re wearing the helmet you can then examine it (which previously had “unreadable” runes that you can now read) to get a magic word. Say the magic word…

…and you are finally awarded with the quartz, and no other assistance. Well, drat. (The glowing doesn’t even substitute for the lamp, unfortunately.) I succumbed to the lure of the hint sheet, because, rather arbitrarily, you have to wave the quartz at the adjacent room, with a lizard man.

It wasn’t an unsolvable puzzle, surely — there wasn’t much left to work on — but I still felt all manner of grumpy after finishing this part. It’s quite standard for magical items in text adventures to have arbitrary effects only discoverable by experimentation, and in theory that should be fine, but in practice stumbling into an answer by chance rather than some thought process just isn’t that satisfying.

Moving on! SEARCH LIZARD yields a jeweled knife. The only other part of the castle I had yet to solve was the gorgon, and I once again reached for hints, because I had the right idea (use the small mirror) but the wrong action. You have to HOLD MIRROR before entering the room with the gorgon.

I suspect the vast majority of players, including myself, thought of using the mirror here, but where stymied when the desired effect didn’t happen automatically. I can conceptually see how HOLD MIRROR might be, to the author’s eye, declaring action in a way that isn’t otherwise present, but for the player who visualized this as already happening, it is intensely irritating.

The parchment with the gorgon gives the final steps for getting the baton. I already knew how to get to the lake, and I had the horn at the ready.

I guessed THR was THROW, but what was I throwing? Well, by process of elimination, the only major item I hadn’t used: the jeweled dagger I got from the lizard man.

The Golden Baton was hurt by two elements I’ve observed before: 1.) it’s hard to include undocumented magical items without a lot of guesswork and 2.) without complex daemons and/or characters, difficult puzzles arise from amping up the obscurity of verbs and arbitrariness of action. Also, the fantasy world is fairly drab compared to the lore-dense opening. I honestly can’t recommend this game except for completionists.

Don’t worry, Howarth fans: this is only the first out of eleven games. There’s still time to improve! (A review from 1985 notes “Later titles in the series appear to be far more intriguing.”) In fact, I have started Mysterious Adventure #2, and it’s already better than #1, so look forward to that for my next post.

BONUS READING: Dale Dobson played the C64 version and wrote about it, so you can see what the game looks like with pictures.

Posted October 13, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “The Golden Baton: A Renowned Hero

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  1. Lol… I’ve never actually played the Golden Baton, but I did unknowingly use exactly the same puzzle (albeit using a polished baking tray) in a comic, spoof text adventure of my own… In my game you had to CLOSE EYES, HOLD TRAY, and then go WEST into the location with the gorgon. As an author, I didn’t think that HOLD TRAY would give anyone any issues… I thought it would be pretty obvious to a player that they would need to HOLD the TRAY up in front of them… but perhaps it was more obvious an input in the context of what was a more complicated game, rather than a simple VERB NOUN adventure like Golden Baton. Or perhaps it was just as bad in my case. ;)

    • Honestly, it could be a touch fairer with a tray – with the mirror one could easily assume it is being held in such a way to hit the gorgon without explicitly doing anything, while a tray in “mirror position” feels a little more intentional. (I would have to see the exact spot in the game to know for sure!)

  2. BTW another British “Golden” adventure from the eighties needed the player to HOLD MIRROR before encountering Medusa. (I won’t say which one.)

    • Yes, indeed. That one will come along fairly soon. There are so many games with gorgons in. It would be rude not to put in a shiny surface puzzle. It’d be like having nothing hidden behind a waterfall.

      • Yeah, I think I’ve seen that puzzle played both ways, with HOLD and without.vI would say that in both ways out worked for me.

        In level 9’s Dungeon Adventure the mirror works automatically when carried. And it felt like a nice surprise.

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