Arrow of Death Part 1: The Edge of an Awesome Precipice   11 comments

(Continued directly from my last post.)

The VIC-20 Digital Leisure version of Arrow of Death Part 1, which was cut by the author into 8K, half the size of the original. Howarth was “persuaded somewhat against his will” into doing the arrangement and “felt he was cheating the people who were buying the games”. (Source.) Source from Gareth Pitchford, picture via @AgentReyes2 on Twitter.

A bit of progress over last time. I carefully re-re-re-checked each room and found that in the opening courtyard in the game if I did LOOK COURTYARD I would find a rope. This happened in the Kitchen as well (with a hook) but rather frustratingly, the actual syntax doesn’t even work elsewhere: LOOK THRONE in the Throne Room gives an error-type message, the same as LOOK VAULT in the Vault. It came off as a pointless bit of bad UI — someone could easily have “trained” themselves that the syntax didn’t work at all before finding any items — moreso than a well-hidden secret.

I was able to use the rope with the hook and attach them together, put the hook in at the top of the ledge, climb down to the armor, tie the armor up, and then drag it up by pulling the rope back at the top of the ledge.

This let me go into the dark cave (shown above, even before it gets revealed in the game) with armor on, and able to survive walking into darkness. After some thought, I retrieved the orb that showed the cave and rubbed it again while inside the darkness, and it lit up showing a serpent. Multiple whacks of my sword were sufficient to take the serpent down, and I was able to retrieve an arrowhead after the fight. I assume this is a piece of the titular Arrow.

Nearby the cave location in the TRS-80 version is this precipice. It doesn’t serve any puzzle-solving purpose so I can understand why it was cut from the more minimal remake, but I still liked the cinema of it.

I thought I’d have opened up more areas by solving what I did, but I was at a dead end. Another combing through all the rooms, and this time, while in the forest and frustrated…

…I decided to try out the hint that the beggar had earlier (“when all seems lost, WAIT”). I assumed previously this clue meant WAIT was intended to be tried out in some location that felt like a dead-end (like the Cave which had the serpent) but apparently it was really intended for the forest. Using WAIT teleported me to a new location, where there was a riverbank and a barge with a ferryman. The Ferryman held his hand out — and the amulet I found off the Messenger had a picture of a barge — so I GAVE AMULET which was sufficient to get passage.

This led me to a new area with a ruined forest, a chained slave in a clearing (who can’t talk to or interactive with via any verbs I’ve tested, an apparent dead end at a rock wall, some toadstools, a large boulder (I’m not strong enough to carry it), a “cookhouse” for some giants, and a giant building.

If you try to enter the giant building you “trip” and give yourself away to giants living within.

The “cookhouse” has a cauldron with broth. You can take the toadstools and POISON CAULDRON (not any verb referring the toadstools themselves, which would be the usual thing) leave, and then somehow in the interim between leaving the cookhouse and going to the main giant building the giants have quaffed the poison so you can safely walk in.

This leads to an upper level with a log and a log flume. Any attempts to drop the log on the flume and ride it or otherwise get it moving have been denied by the parser.

So to summarize, I’m stuck on:

a.) the log/flume part, which may just need the right verb to get the two to do anything together

b.) the chained slave part, which may just need the right verb to interact (I don’t otherwise have a key or something helpful in breaking a chain)

c.) a heavy boulder, which I might assume I need to enlist a giant for except I knocked them out already (was that a mistake?)

d.) and a dead-end rock wall which I again have found no luck with

At least progress is progress, but it is frustrating knowing what might be stopping is getting the right phrasing (POISON as a verb took me a while, for sure).

Posted September 27, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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11 responses to “Arrow of Death Part 1: The Edge of an Awesome Precipice

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  1. Here’s another case where you’ll have to backtrack – the key point is that you do need to do something to the slave, who will then help you to do something else…

  2. it is nice to see those graphics. Probably is brain induced nostalgia, but I like those lines and colours XDDD

    Anyway, if you decide to play more on Spectrum, I would advise to set the speed of the emulator to 150% in case the parser typing speed is slow for your tastes. Probably you will suffer from those when you arrive to Quill and PAW games.

    • I think the one that’s worked best so far is the forest, the slightly alien colors and glitches feel more like an intentional art style than the artist just getting all the lines in and calling it a day.

      The big problem with the art has been more UI related — the completely static nature. Because there is only one picture that can’t change, some of them are very ambiguous about certain locations. For example, the scene with the beggar has the beggar still displayed in the art after they’ve disappeared. The cave with the serpent doesn’t even draw the serpent, just the cave, I assume so the depiction works before and after killing it. Etc.

      • The forest illustration was giving me strong Matisse cut-outs energy.

      • I think Spectrum Adventurers are not so fond of dynamic graphics, so probably all this is about what kind of the games we grew up with.

        In time, we got our hands in some of them, like Gremlins, but it always felt like a gimmick to me. (Very cool gimmick, in that particular game).

        So… how curious that you felt that as a UI related problem!

        Anyway, I think that that line-art lends itself to some perspective graphics, that I adore since The Hobbit.

      • It can be legit confusing if you are wandering the map in graphics mode (which you _should_ be able to do after getting the initial map). For example, you might think the beggar has come back because the picture still displays (which the beggar does do in a different part of the game, so that isn’t improbable).

        If the text had full enough description of what was going on without having to constantly swap between modes it wouldn’t be as much a problem.

  3. About the bad UI of “Examine room” gimmick as to discover secrets. Yeah, it is really a very lame mechanic, because then the player just has to “examine the room” ad-nauseam for every location in the game.

    Some later games fixed the current problem of the non-heterogeneous response of the parser, and they used a unique command for the action: “look around”. You can find an instance of this in 1986 Rod Pike’s Dracula.

    When I did the remake, I had to integrate the mechanic by hiding the objects organically in the environment, because such mechanic has no sense in the XXI century.

  4. One of the issues modern players have with the Howarth-engine games is not realising that if you hit ENTER it toggles between the proper location description and the graphics. :)

    • Yeah, playing graphics-only would be … impossible. There’s still a strong sense of being “locked in” one mode that the other graphics games haven’t had, reinforced by the death screen only being visible if you die while in graphics mode (just hitting enter doesn’t work otherwise to swap).

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