King of the Jungle (1981)   4 comments

I’ll be frank up front: this is not Roger M. Wilcox’s finest hour.

For some side nitpicking before the main event, “king of the jungle” doesn’t even make sense as a phrase since lions prefer savannahs (or at least dry forests). However, the photographer Bruno D’Amicis recently (2012) caught some photos in Ethiopia at the Kafa Biosphere Reserve of lions in a rainforest. Back in 1981 when Wilcox wrote this, there were no known actual lions in jungles.

This is his fifteenth adventure game, after The Staff “Slake” and Medieval Space Warrior, and this one really comes off as throwing out ideas and puzzles at random, even moreso than his prior games. That is, while In the Universe Beyond was triply weird, at least it was a weird with a good sense of humor where you can attach some plants to your spacesuit for oxygen and the CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE is an item you can pick up.

As explained in the intro above, your goal is to hunt a lion. Nearby there is a dead native with a note explaining the lion “is actually a mutation of a lion due to nuclear testing” and is “his projected image in material form”.

Additionally, there’s a load of inventory items to scoop up, like a medicine kit, a bucket and cow (you can milk the cow and churn the milk to get buttermilk), a shield, a sparker, a rod of cancellation, and an ancient scroll.

>READ SCROLL
A silvery line extends from your finger, and ignites a fireball in midair.

If the last two made you go wait, what? they did for me as well, because fantasy elements get tossed in here; the scroll and the rod are from a “wizard’s hut” and there’s a “held portal” you can TOUCH while holding the rod to unlock it and reach a “pool of oil” and a “fine cloth”.

Other than finding a shovel and digging a rope I got stuck for a good long while on the map portion shown above. There’s also a river with dark liquid that I wasn’t able to interact with, a bamboo forest, and a hole with snakes where GO HOLE leads to death.

I finally realized I could BREAK TREE in the forest to get a piece of bamboo — which sounds ok in retrospect, but I had tried lots of verbs with that similar idea with no luck, and assumed I needed a tool of some kind — and then trying to TIE ROPE / TO POLE led to:

Sorry, it slips off.

I had to look up a walkthrough to realize that you can TIE ROPE / TO BAMBOO, just not to the POLE, even that it is described as a “bamboo pole” so obviously the real noun here is pole and aaaaargh.

With the rope-tied-to-pole in hand I was able to GO HOLE without dying (after fruitlessly attempting actions like dropping the bamboo and typing CLIMB ROPE) where I found snakes in a pit. Nothing I tried helped so I looked up help again, and found that the scroll I already mentioned (“A silvery line extends from your finger, and ignites a fireball in midair.”) is the key.

Yes, you need to AIM DOWN (POINT DOWN also works). Yet another new verb! Even moreso, this is a “preparation verb”, which sets up to “hold a pose” for action after. I admit I’m struggling to think of examples of this that were anything other than confusing; there just isn’t enough feedback to know the basic READ SCROLL message is being affected by player state, or that even would be a mechanic that would work.

The same construction happens shortly after with a snake that shoots laser beams and your shield (which you need to have POLISHed first using the cloth, and that’s the only verb that will work).

Also note how in the first instance the point/aim mechanic indicates a direction while in this case in indicates what object is being pointed.

There’s then a small area with a lion statue holding a piece of a cheese (??) and you can use the rod of cancellation to get the cheese (???? cryptic but I got it anyway).

Then there’s a force field that kills you unless you’ve drank the water from the strange river (which turns out to have been lead?) However, to drink it and not die, you need to have drink anti-toxin first from the medicine kit. But if you drink the anti-toxin:

You got heartburn! You’re dead from an ulcer.

The way to resolve that, of course, is to drink the buttermilk first, which is sufficient to survive drinking the anti-toxin, which is sufficient to survive drinking the lead, which will then let you go in the force field.

Look, I don’t know anymore. The lion is behind the force field, who is easy to defeat because of course it likes cheese.

This wasn’t tough to solve since I was out of items and the stone lion had the cheese, but it doesn’t make the experience any less surreal.

Again, teenaged author, not even attempting to publish these, just a series of private games which lets us peek in on what people were writing for fun, etc. so I’m not going to linger. But as a small piece of analysis, he tried out a new mechanic (POINTing as affecting a command after) without much prompting, mashed sci-fi and fantasy together in way that led to incoherence rather than a plausible setting (Medieval Space Warrior at least had a structural transition) and even when the puzzles were easy they were along of the lines “oh, I guess that worked” as opposed to being pleasing moments of logic or plot.

Posted August 16, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “King of the Jungle (1981)

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  1. The way to resolve that, of course, is to drink the buttermilk first, which is sufficient to survive drinking the anti-toxin, which is sufficient to survive drinking the lead, which will then let you go in the force field.

    Look, I don’t know anymore.

    Milk or buttermilk (which given that you got it by churning milk, I suppose is the “separated whey” meaning of buttermilk, rather than the version that is a cultured product similar to thin yogurt) is a folk remedy for stomach ulcers, so that part at least is vaguely logical if one knows about it. (Although actually it can aggravate ulcers rather than soothe them.)

    Lead shielding against radiation (if we can consider a force field to be “radiation”) obviously is sensible but I don’t think one is usually meant to take it internally!

  2. I liked that the locals built a temple in a hurry just to peace the spirit of the giant/nuclear/mutant lion.

  3. Actually, I think that the scene pointing the polished shield to blow up the snake was amusing.

    This kind of gesture actions are bold, but amusing once they work.

    • I’m a fan of the snake scene in principle, it had the early-80s-fantasy-movie awesomeness to it, the mechanics of the puzzle just needed a bit of polish (and maybe a verb or two other than just POLISH).

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