Forbidden City (1981)   3 comments

Here is the finale to William Demas’s very busy 1981 (see: Timequest, The Golden Voyage, Forbidden Planet), just squeaking in at the end.

From the January 1982 edition of 80 Micro. I’m considering the magazine lag time to be one month, and copyright on the game itself lists 1981.

Just like its predecessor, this one talks in its TRS-80 original incarnation, and the talking is absolutely terrible.

(If the audio player doesn’t show above, click here to listen. The sounds are “Welcome to Forbidden City”, “Password Please”, and “OK”. I cut off there, because the gameplay is followed by “OK” about 10 more times.)

Additionally, it also had a conversion to Macintosh several years later, under the name Futuria. I’ve having some emulation troubles with both the TRS-80 and Mac versions (can’t save my game in the former, can only play an online emulated version of the latter because Diskcopy on my virtual Mac doesn’t want to recognize the file) so I’m muddling my way through with both versions the best I can.

The action continues directly from the previous game, as (after crash landing on a planet) we arrive at a mysterious city. I assume the object is to find some sort of space vehicle and escape (although who knows, maybe we can become God of the Robots and settle down).

After some minor opening shenanigans involving a codeword to open the front door (“The Password is: 3 15 19 13 9 3”) and a long tunnel, you arrive in a city where the doors will kill you.

The map is pretty tight here; there’s just a few buildings, one guarded by a robot, and a monorail. The robot is unfortunately of the same type of enemy NPC in the previous game that attacks when a random roll hits, which means it can attack and kill you on sight (since you need to get by the robot once before taking it down, this means you can have “unwinnable” randomness).

Just past the robot is a cube with a red button that explodes on a timer.

I was stumped for a bit on the electrocuting doors until I tried “FEEL BEAM” with the beam of light just outside — this caused the door to open.

The steps are FEEL BEAM, ENTER DOOR. Don’t try to enter the door without using the beam first or you’ll die. This seems unnecessarily hazardous, but there might be some later backstory that explains why the doors are trying to kill you.

I managed to collect a BEAKER, CHEMICALS (that explode if you try to mix them)…

…a PLASTIC ROD (that lets out deadly gas if you break it), a STRANGE DEVICE (“It’s glowing / light / green”), a COIN, and some OIL from the exploded robot (into the beaker). I was able to use the coin in the monorail and the oil on a lever inside to get it to move. It eventually slowed down and stopped in a tunnel that was entirely dark.

I tried valiantly to get a light to come on, but failed; however, I missed the fact that the lever could be moved another time to get the monorail to another destination, this time outside of the tunnel.

Nearby the new monorail stop are a green key, a magnetic card, and a laser pistol just lying around, and some robots that appear to be building a nuclear reactor…

…but since the monorail asks for a coin to move it again, I’m stuck here. I do have some strong suspicions about what to try next but this felt like a good place to stop. I will say, despite the frustrating amounts of death (I’ve forgotten to open doors and subsequently died three times now) the design has been relatively smooth (I especially liked the obviousness of “just move the monorail past the dark place” which still took me a few beats to get), and the map is constrained enough I haven’t feel the despair of sprawl I sometimes do on these games.

Posted August 1, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Forbidden City (1981)

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  1. Some unhelpful comments:
    I like to think that the box is whining like Marvin the Paranoid Android, and when you throw it at the robot it explains its view on life and the robot commits suicide.
    If this were Alkemstone or Quondam, the “strange device” would be Excelsior!
    Maybe the doors electrocute you because the local inhabitants run on electricity? I guess that doesn’t explain opening the door by triggering a motion-sensing beam, though.

  2. That 1982 cover image is pretty low on comprehensibility. It looks like the robot is shooting at the guy, though it’s vice versa. It’s unclear whether the guy is soaring from a height or just onto a patch of grass a foot below. And the guy’s contorted body is hard to read in any case. Still, the overall effect is not unexciting.

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