Forbidden Planet (1981)   7 comments

… a desolate planet where only your skill and your talking computer will help you survive. (80 Micro, December 1981)

We’ve seen William Demas with Timequest (published by The Programmer’s Guild) and The Golden Voyage (with Scott Adams, published by Adventure International); his next two games, Forbidden Planet and Forbidden City, were published by a third company, Fantastic Software.

Fantastic Software (run by Al Loose) and the author William Demas were both located in Las Vegas. Al had come across a piece of software by Dick Barker that could provide voices to the TRS-80. According to William Demas, Al Loose “thought that it would be a great addition to an adventure game” so William went on to write two games that used voices. (Source 1, Source 2)

I’d like to say the voices make a positive addition, but it’s pretty much just the same voice over and over again asking what you want to do next. Let’s just say the sheer novelty does not overcome the annoyance. (I’ll try to get a recording so you can hear it, but I’m having technical difficulties.)

The author later ported both Planet and City to Macintosh, using the names Utopia and Futuria. From what I’ve gathered hopping back and forth between the two games, dropping the voice and adding graphics (with Mac-style tweaks to interface) are the only changes.

I think it ends up being a pretty good trade; the graphics aren’t stellar but aren’t irritating either. They pass the bar of the clunky vector-graphics into an aesthetic.

As the screens above hint, you awake from suspended animation on a spaceship in trouble, and (after some puzzle-solving) end up crash-landing on a planet.

The “puzzle solving” was a pain: you find a key that unlocks a cabinet with a rag, a tube, and a screwdriver. The screwdriver lets you get into a crawlspace with a CHARRED TUBE, as depicted here. The wires are purely a red herring and kill you if you try to take them. I tried various permutations of PUT TUBE and REPLACE TUBE but the right action is to USE RAG. This smashes the old tube (!!) so you can put in the new one.

Upon crash landing, the map opens up quite a bit more; you can see the city of Utopia right where you land (which is apparently the goal for the game).

Exploring a bit, the game oddly went into fantasy mode. I found a amulet which glowed when worn …

The forest is a small maze, but I found nothing useful upon mapping it.

… a crossbow (and some bolts), a rope (which you can tie to one of the bolts), a book that talks about “summoning” something to get to our destination, a shovel (I’ve tried DIG everywhere with no luck) and some small creatures and ogres.

One ogre is guarding a cave; you can kill it by shooting it with the crossbow (but it falls on top of you) and it ignores blasts from the disruptor (which came from the ship).

Another ogre gets mad enough to punch a wall and start following you if you shoot it.

This turns out systematically interesting, because the ogre chases you across the map. I’m not sure where to take it.

I can go through the hole it just punched, there’s a conch shell (blowing it collapses the cave, you die) and a boulder (I can’t do anything with it). However, you can also run around outside, although I haven’t found anywhere useful to go.

This phase of the game has enough open possibilities that I don’t feel like I’m stuck in a “use object on puzzle” mode (possibly with an obscure verb to boot). Maybe I get the two ogres together somehow? Can I set up a trap before hand with the crossbow and the rope? Can I survive a collapsing cave? I’m not sure yet, but it’s interesting enough to keep trying things out.

Posted April 20, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Forbidden Planet (1981)

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  1. Surprisingly, I remember this one but I don’t know why. It’s mostly good memories, though. I’d play along with you if I had the time but right now I’m kind of swamped. Good luck!

    • Did you play the TRS-80 version or the Mac one?

      • Must have been the TRS-80 version – neither the interface nor the graphics seem familiar. Only the title of the game and some of the text. Maybe it was on one of the adventure game disks for the TRS-80 that someone compiled (where I got some of the Med Systems games from as well) online.

  2. The Mac version is beautiful and pragmatic…

  3. I agree, the Mac graphics are really very nice.

    the right action is to USE RAG. This smashes the old tube (!!)

    Maybe it’s so charred that it’s nothing but carbon?

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