Burglar’s Adventure (1981)   7 comments

Burglar’s Adventure is the other sample “full adventure” that came with Bruce Hansen’s Adventure System, which was just the database system developed by Scott Adams with an independently developed editor.

From trs-80.com. According to the Australian magazine MICRO-80 the newsletter shown was put into copies of The Adventure System, with the notion of people subscribing quarterly and having adventures contributed by users, much like the Softside Adventure of the Month Club. As far as I can find there was only issue #1, so the whole project was likely another piece of early 80s vaporware.

Burglar’s Adventure was also quite a bit more enjoyable than Miner’s Adventure. The latter suffered from difficulty with guessing verbs and nouns; there are two bits in this game which are similar but it isn’t nearly as egregious.

The setup casts you as a thief, logically allowing for (once again) having a treasure hunt, this time searching for five treasures in a museum.

Most of the map, excluding the “home base”.

You start at a street by a car. I assumed for most of the game this was “your car” but it is not; you’ve apparently hiked it over here some other way, and can’t go back the same way you came in.

You can LOOK MUSEUM to notice that “It’s an ivy covered building” and CLIMB IVY to get up to an open window. I admit I was stuck here briefly but the need to use a second-order noun wasn’t too terrible just because there isn’t much to do yet!

Once inside, you find a sleeping guard.

If you LOOK GUARD, though, there is an important note that mentions that the “vault” will open at 9 am. Looking causes the guard to wake. You can HIT GUARD to knock him unconscious first. Alternately, you can use the power of magically knowing what the note has due to a previous run-through and leave the guard in peace. Hence, you can do the entire heist without messing with the guard at all. (This includes, at one point, running a chainsaw. Sound sleeper.)

The note also warns you that the red corridor has an alarm set, and indeed, if you try to go in, alarm bells go off. Interestingly enough, this is not an insta-loss. You can explore the “red area” a little bit — all the alarm does is set off a timer that eventually triggers. While I didn’t experiment, it is possible you might be able to get a “non-optimal” win where you grab one treasure while triggering the alarm and leave before getting caught. Sort of an alternate solution?

Even without that, the allowance for some exploration after triggering the alarm ended up being a smooth piece of game design, because it allowed seeing what obstacles were ahead and what items might be needed. One of the issues with adventure game design is having 10 items where items #5-#10 are all used for later obstacles, but because the player has no way of knowing that they spend a lot of wasted time trying to apply items #5-#10 on earlier puzzles. Here there’s a way to make those connections early, even if in the “diegetic universe” of the “final playthrough” the same sequence of items #5-#10 only being used later still applies.

One of the rooms past the alarm corridor. There’s an “ice block” that you can break with a tomahawk — suggesting the intended use of the tomahawk early — before solving the puzzle of how to avoid tripping the alarm.

Before dealing with the red corridor, let’s consider the other available places: there’s a “south of the border” area with beans and dough, a “wild west” area with some sticks, a “cowboy” holding a “LARRIET” and an “Indian” holding a “TOMAHAWK” and a “BOW AND ARROW”; there’s a lumberjack room with a chainsaw and some trees; a restroom with a mirror you can take, and finally a manager door that’s locked.

The sticks at the Wild West area can be rubbed to make a fire, which you can then use to cook the beans and dough and form burritos. I admit this is one of first puzzles I solved; I had run through my “standard verb list” and found that COOK worked so still had it in the back of my head when I saw the food and the fire. The game just says YUMMY so I was quite mystified what the effect was, but I kept playing (and found out the use later).

I tried to fiddle with the chainsaw and it told me it was out of fuel. I recalled in the last game extreme shenanigans with forming gunpowder and the like, so I expected I would distill home-made fuel somehow. What I wasn’t expecting was the solution to suddenly appear:

I don’t feel very good. I think I have GAS.

Yes, that’s from the burritos. Once you “have GAS” you can “START CHAINSAW”, and use it to break into the Manager’s Office.

The manager’s office contains a vault. Remember that the note said it opens at 9, and having done this kind of puzzle before, I went back to the central area which had a CLOCK and did TURN HAND to the right time. This let me nab a HOPE DIAMOND and a RUBY. (I guess that means we’re raiding the Smithsonian. Also, the Hope Diamond is now worth over $200 million, making this the biggest payday of any of our player characters so far, except I’m not sure where you would fence such an object.)

For the red corridor, I nearly got it solved on my own, but I had a smidgen of parser issues. I realized I could TIE LARRIET to a coat rack in the central area by the red corridor, and I was able to get the parser to TIE LARRIET to the BOW AND ARROW correctly, but somehow the setup didn’t work. More noun nonsense: the game lets you refer to the BOW and to the ARROW part separately. So while I assumed TIE LARRIET / TO BOW meant implied to the whole bow-and-arrow system, the game just had it tie to the shooting part, not the arrow part. You need to TIE LARRIET / TO ARROW instead.

With the rope so extended (and the guard still sleeping peacefully) I was able to climb over to the second area of the game without any alarm triggers. I’ve already showed off getting ivory tusks off a mastadon (at least we didn’t kill this one ourselves). There’s also a bit where you need to redirect some light with a mirror to get a Picasso and get into a CASE by referring to the GLASS.

This is the second-worst parser moment of the game, but the set piece does have a nifty aspect. You can BREAK GLASS instead to get in the case. The problem is that this sets off the alarm, again. But just like the alarm-setting-off before, it lets you “see ahead” in the plot and get a better run later. The CUT GLASS only works if you’re holding the Hope Diamond, and I cringe thinking of scraping that even if it is theoretically should be strong enough.

From the glass case you can nab a tiara; with the tiara, tusks, Picasso, diamond, and ruby you can then clamber your way back to the car, and drop your treasures off, and…

…realize that this wasn’t the protagonist’s car. I guess it makes sense if we are performing a high-profile robbery we wouldn’t be bringing our own vehicle, but I was still stuck because the only thing I could attempt was START CAR where I was told I didn’t have keys. I poked at a walkthrough and found out that (despite having no tools) the verb HOTWIRE works.

Given our payoff, I hope we’re upgrading our shack.

So, yes: despite some bumps like needing to induce you can refer to the GLASS alone of the “glass case” and it is considered a different thing, this was more fun to tromp through than Miner’s Adventure. I was particularly impressed by the alarm system allowing for “looking ahead” — it was never a true alternate solution if you actually wanted to “win” with all the treasures, but knowing what came ahead helped narrow down my puzzle solving options and know what to focus on. It also made the game less claustrophobic and linear overall.

I’ve mentioned the 1984 games explicitly saying they used The Adventure System. It is hard to know which others might have, given there is no “label” marked in the Scott Adams database if such a thing happens. There are some more random anonymous games that may have used the system for editing, or the authors may have just independently hacked the file on their own to figure things out. So I can’t say The Adventure System made a huge mark on history, but it at least gets some interest for being available so early in text adventure history.

Also, having a chainsaw powered by farts surely deserves at least a footnote in the grand annals.

Posted October 29, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Burglar’s Adventure (1981)

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  1. Yes, that’s from the burritos. Once you “have GAS” you can “START CHAINSAW”, and use it to break into the Manager’s Office.

    ….really? *sigh*

    This would be OK if it were otherwise presented as a comedy game or one that relies on wordplay (think Nord and Bert). But give me a break.

    • At least there’s a semi-comedic tone. If you shoot the bow and arrow without being attached you get

      I shot an arrow in the air….
      where it landed I know not where!

      and it changes as shown in the screenshot to

      I shot an arrow in the air….
      and it struck in the RED Corridor’s wall over there!

      (Also, I solved the puzzle, at least! I can’t defend the puzzle that much though.)

  2. in the grand annals


  3. Is this the second farting puzzle we’ve seen, after Deathmaze 5000?

    (Though rereading the Deathmaze 5000 posts, it seems as though that was part of a method to avoid soft-locking while retrieving an item that turned out to be a red herring, so I think it’s optional.)

  4. Pingback: Hog Jowl Mansion (1981/1982) | Renga in Blue

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