Zodiac: Not Bottomless   4 comments

Due to a hint in the advertising copy (?!) I was able to trudge up to seeing 11 out of 12 Zodiac rooms. I’m fairly thoroughly stuck past, but at least I’ll give everything I know if anyone wants to take a shot at finishing this. Having read my prior post is essentially for understanding this one.

As unearthed by Strident:

You’re on a frozen glacier. The Ice giant attacks you. You survive. A giant dragon confronts your path. The knife will kill it. Can you find it? What’s inside the Houses of the Zodiac – Aries and Virgo are but two. Can you find the magic potion, will you ever reach the House of Immortality – the only safe place, or is it?

Maybe they had too many questions about the dragon? Nevertheless, that’s where I was stuck last time, and I had in fact tried at one point KILL DRAGON / WITH KNIFE (that second one is after prompting “what with?”), found it not to be understood, and decided to move on. The right syntax was to use type KNIFE alone (without the word “WITH”, as done in Scott Adams and other two-word parsers).

As this was a marginally improbable solve, I wandered by the right thing to do without knowing I was close. That combined with the fact the dragon eventually wakes up (causing you to have to start over — no save game feature) is what made me stuck. Knowing it had to be the dagger led me to think about the syntax a little more.

The axe which I had retrieved from a maze last time I then used to swiftly dispatch an ice giant.

The body here disappearing game me a hint, as the dragon’s body did not disappear. That led me to suspect I was able to do something else with the dragon, so I went back to the dragon room and tried CUT DRAGON:

Past this I reached a “hungry lion”, and given I just came up with dragon steaks, I knew what to do.

The geography still being slightly ice-themed but also random, past the lion there was a ramshackle hut with a “floor covered in snow”; I was able to DIG down to get a room covered in “loose earth”. Adjacent there was a “silver box” which let me go back and TAKE EARTH.

Notice the earth is not given as an item. I knew to do this from my eyeballing the text dump of the game’s file. This is special-case coded and I haven’t found anywhere else in the game where an item is “hidden in the description” as opposed to being on its own line.

Immediately after the earth came the most ignominious death in the game.

The magic ring I had got from melting ice here finally came in handy; I was able to RUB RING right before entering the walrus room, which turned me invisible long enough to get by. The dragon, no need for a ring, you just stab it; the walrus, be afraid. Bilbo clearly had his priorities wrong.

The map has the obstacles — and the zodiac rooms — laid out in a quite linear way structurally, even though the directions twist and turn. Also, you only have two turns to escape the walrus, so the first time through while invisible I died because I tried “north” and then “east”, neither direction which worked. Remember, room exits are generally not described!

The next room, Libra, appropriately had some scales, which I was able to BALANCE to unlock a secret door. (Again, I can’t take solving credit, the command was in front of me in the text dump of the game’s file.) Then I used the key that I got back at the Gemini twins to acquire a spellbook to go with a wand. I waved the wand and it opened another secret door, to a room with a potion.

The potion teleports you to an “ice fortress” with a CRYSTAL BALL.

This is where I’m stuck. There’s a guard blocking one direction, the zodiac room in the screenshot above, and a “bottomless pit” which isn’t actually bottomless.

Might just be a trap.

KILL doesn’t work on either the guard or the centaur, nothing I’ve tried to GIVE has helped, and I can’t operate the crystal ball with everything I’ve tried (wand waving, rubbing, etc.). The only other item I’ve got no use out of is an EMPTY URN which breaks if you try to drop it anywhere. What makes this really hard to test is not only the lack of a save feature but the potion-transport moment of the game: it goes one-way. So any objects not being carried are left behind, and there’s a four-slot inventory limit (really three-slot since the torch must be carried in one slot; a ring can be worn, but that’s the only leeway). Testing any new theory requires restarting from the beginning and entering all the commands of the game so far.

An option might be using save states, but Atomulator doesn’t have them, and I haven’t got MAME Acorn to work. However, if you’re really keen on taking a shot, the Atom Software Archive is here (for Atomulator, unzip the file into the MMC directory, then hit shift-F12 on booting to get to a select-a-game menu).

Posted January 2, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “Zodiac: Not Bottomless

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  1. Building from the progress you’d already achieved, I’ve now managed to see this all the way through to the end and reach the winning screen. Had to review the text dump myself in order to do so, and still wound up restarting several times in the late game when I realized something or other was missing. A few general tips for getting past the final hurdles:

    1. The only verbs you do *not* need to win are UP, INVEntory, DESCribe (which repeats the room description), QUIT, and READ. All other verbs (which are shown in the text dump) are required. This includes, not only those you’ve used so far, but also (rot13’d): ERZBir, YRNIr, naq URYC.

    2. The crystal ball is referenced as CRYStal (not “BALL,” which the game won’t recognize).

    3. The five items you need to have with you when you drink the potion are (rot13’d): gbepu, evat, xrl, obk, naq hea.

    4. You will also need five items when you enter the pit – but they won’t all be the same items.

    5. To avoid a stupid death right at the end: when you’re ready to leave a place full of bones, don’t go south.

  2. Pingback: Zodiac: Elementary Gifts | Renga in Blue

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