Madness and the Minotaur: The Two Manuals   7 comments

As I alluded to in my last post, there are two manuals to this game, one for the original TRS-80 Color Computer version and one made a year later for the Dragon computers (for the European market, similar hardware to the Color Computer).

From World of Dragon.

I’ve already squeezed most of the juice out of the original manual except for a few tidbits:

  • The sprite (which I’ve met on the first floor) moves items randomly, but can’t do this in the “first floor room with music”. I have yet to find a first floor room with music.
  • JUMP can be reduced in effectiveness if you are carrying too much.
  • The lamp runs out of oil and is refillable.
  • The spell CROM can help if passages are blocked (and it is possible for an earthquake to block you in entirely).

However, the second manual includes different information! It reads as if the porters (Dragon Data Ltd.) decided the game was too ridiculously hard as-is and added some more pointers.

  • Spells are learned in rooms that “crackle with enchantment”. You learn the “first spell” by taking the food and the mushroom to the enchantment room on the first floor.
  • Actions, even important ones, can sometimes only randomly work, although important actions should only need repeating a few times.
  • Some passages will send you to random rooms “depending on circumstances”.
  • Monsters are killed by typing KILL MONSTER while holding the right objects (the object information comes from the Oracle).

There’s also a complete verb list; in addition to the standard ones there’s


The vast majority of gameplay centers around movement and getting items, so it’s good to know the exceptions like PLAY or TIE that might come up.

Having said all that, other than mapping part of the third and fourth floors, I still haven’t made much progress. Here’s what I have of the third floor:

Assuming everything is lined up the same as the previous maps, I’m missing the first row. Exits from the fifth row going south all led to a Maze (I think, all to the same Maze, but I’m not certain, so I haven’t mucked with that part of the map yet). I managed to make a full circle to a Lair of the Minotaur…

…but otherwise didn’t run across much. Going of a different direction rather than entering the lair led me to a room where magic kept pushing me out.

Usually when I’ve been told “a magic spell has pushed you back” I’ve been able to enter a room with enough persistence; trying to re-enter enough times and the magic doesn’t trigger. However, in this case, I tried many, many, times with no luck — I suspect a spell may be absolutely necessary to enter here (but possibly only on this random iteration of the map!)

It is also possible for magic to “greatly” push you, in which case you get teleported and not just pushed back, and usually lose an item while you’re at it.

Down from the minotaur lair I made it to a level that was just Maze, so I decided now was a good time to try mapping it (especially since I suspected I was dropped into a “regular” section and not randomly dropped somewhere).

The “long passage” to the right indicates things are likely a bit off, and the layout is made doubly weird by the southwest corner, where I realized when going south I wasn’t walking in a new location but rather teleported to an old one (I could confirm by dropping objects in those places and looping back around). More than that, the teleporting happens to at least two different rooms! The “depending on circumstances” from the manual about passages going to different places is coming to bite me here, since the circumstances as to why it goes to destination X vs. Y are very unclear; even if it turns out the choice is made by some object I’m holding, is that choice of object itself random, or is there some clear system of navigation I can use here?

Here the property wasn’t too painful, but on a later attempt to loop back to the minotaur lair I found one exit that had given me progress before suddenly teleported me instead.

That is, going east from the Dark Chamber normally is the path to the lair, but I got zapped to the maze instead for no apparent reason.

I decided before trying to finish my play session I needed to try getting the first spell, that is, getting the food and mushroom as suggested in the manual and finding the spell room on the first floor. I failed even at this.

You see, I first made reloaded my save game where I made it down to the maze with a mushroom. I had found that you could JUMP PIT in the northwest corner to escape, and after some more convoluted pathing ran back up to the first floor. I didn’t have the food yet, but it had already generated on the first floor so I’d figure it’d be an easy matter of grabbing it and finally getting a puzzle solved. No dice.

I had lingered too long mapping: now nearly every passage I tried was blocked! The earthquakes that had been happening as I was playing, in real time, slowly were closing the map off, and it was impossible to continue. The earthquakes mean that the game is completely real-time, not just semi real-time; that is, it isn’t just speed in individual rooms that matters (like outrunning the fog) but over the entire game. Typing fast is going to be required.

I took another run, this time grabbing the food quickly and making a beeline for the third floor (which seems to always be where the mushroom is) but then I couldn’t get out! This was a variant where I couldn’t enter the lair (for reasons I already explained) and another passage going up that seemed to be a straight shot to the first floor had a “strong magic” that kept pushing me out. I eventually could get to the first floor but not while also holding the mushroom (as the magic knocked it out of my hands).

Even using an explicit hint from the manual as to what to do first, I haven’t yet been able to accomplish the task! I’m still going to avoid looking at the walkthrough (I need to try mapping the stranger parts of the maze first) but I predict it will almost be inevitable at some point.

Posted July 13, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Madness and the Minotaur: The Two Manuals

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  1. In the text adventure design justice system, real-time-based offenses are considered especially heinous…

  2. Is this the earliest example we’ve seen of an adventure running in real-time? A fairly rare feature, but I can think of at least one other example (the obviously much later Border Zone).

    • In single player games the only instance I can think of is a single puzzle in Mystery Mansion (Wolpert, 1978) which was of the semi-real time localized type.

      (I think the end of Kadath may be like that too but I never checked the source code to be sure — that’s just asking you to type a particular line quickly enough, not really do mainstream adventure playing.)

      There’s MUD1 which I played a little of and is real time, but multiplayer. Zyll (1984) also has real time but it was two player (meant to be on a single keyboard).

      It also isn’t rare at all with graphic adventures (King’s Quest III being an early strong example), but I assume you mean just text ones.

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