Time Zone: 400MILBC   3 comments

On June 17, 2020, an important milestone in the history of Time Zone was achieved:

So the game is beatable given I have 38 years of time to work on it.

Given how gnarly it is supposed to be, I figured it wise to spend time with the manual first, in case there were any deft hints or fun facts. Here’s the first one (well, middle one, but I’m not doing them in page-order):

On our adventure we need to visit a variety of time areas (using the time machine from the screenshot earlier that appeared next to our house in 1982) in order to collect a variety of items to defeat Evil-Bad-Guy Ramadu in 4081 AD. The game helpfully lists not only what the time zones are but on what disks they appear in. (Wildly, in a meta-sense, this is so if one of your disks goes bad and you need to send for a new one, you can keep playing the game by exploring other zones. This is an open world game where the physical media you are exploring on at a given moment is important, which sounds like it should be an element of some bizarre art installation.)

Based on another manual hint…

…I knew that the timezones were essentially going to be “in order”. Perhaps some hopping around continents once reaching a particular time “level”, but since no items can go back farther, the only possibility for reverse-hopping would be from seeing, say, a secret area in a later time period that is buried in an earlier one, but can be unburied if you know where to dig. So the order should be

400,000,000 BC
10,000 BC
50 BC
1000 AD
1400 AD
1700 AD
2082 AD
4082 AD

where the two earliest periods and the last period only have one “location” to go to.

The “knowledge of technology” hint suggests to me we’re going to make gunpowder somewhere, because it’s always gunpowder.

Nothing too serious here, except the glaring emphasis on food suggests we’ll being doing that kind of puzzle more than once.

The second paragraph is quite notable. In the interview I linked in my last post Roberta Williams suggests the game being used in schools to teach history, but this paragraph definitely suggests something different, more of a Mystery-Science-Theater-3000-style romp (“If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes / And other science facts / Then repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, / I should really just relax.'”)

Now, even if you haven’t read my occasional random drops like the time I invoked late 1960s minimalist art or my discussion of US inflation in the 1970s you might suspect from the very nature of the All the Adventures project I am something of a history nerd, and you’d be right; however, I do tend to be a little more chill than my fellow nerdlings about inaccuracy and anachronism in media. As long as something recognizes it is a little gonzo I can roll with it, and this mention in the manual works for me. Maybe Ms. Williams (or by proxy, Mr. Williams) was just hoping to sell more copies to the educational market?

Also, this isn’t making excuses from a late printing. This is printed early enough that the manual advises players not to bother to send for hints until May 1982 (the game came out in March) “due to the large amount of information our support staff will need to absorb”.

It additionally helps the game starts with dinosaurs, and I’m always a sucker for dinosaurs–

After the dream of becoming savior of the universe you find a time machine in your back yard. Inside is a gas mask; be sure to remove it before going back in time, otherwise it will disappear (remember the manual!… and also welcome to 1982, where a softlock in a giant adventure game can happen right at the start).

There’s dials to set time and continent. For 400MILBC there’s no need to set a location.

My first experience was to get quickly chomped by a dinosaur.

You get a turn before this happens, so I assume there’s something you can do to stop it (that is, this isn’t just a trap).

Look: I know these things are unmerciful. You just have to approach with the attitude that you’re collecting deaths, like Pokemon. (I have seen an adventure game streamer once accidentally pick the correct option off a list and go back to try the bad one to not miss out on the death scene.)

Like this death, where you get swept up by a “pteridactyl” and the game gives up for you on the next move:

Well, I don’t see any way out of this mess. You are enventually going to be dinner for the pteridactyl, so I will spare you and end the game right now.

Oh, there’s a swamp too.

The only bright spots have been the only object I’ve gotten (a sharp stick) and a friendly brontosaurus.

So, rough start? I might think to DIG but that verb isn’t recognized (it might be recognized on other disks; the manual indicates that verb vocabulary can be inconsistent across time zones). So while I haven’t eaten up much time as of yet, I thought here would be at least a good moment to write the opening, because I suspect the next hour will involve a lot of banging my a head against a wall, or at least a dinosaur.

HOURS PLAYED: 0.25

Posted January 15, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Time Zone: 400MILBC

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  1. Hey Jason,

    I watched that 90 minute youtube walkthru in anticipation of your journey (and to refresh my memory from playing this in my childhood). I promise not to spoil anything specific in my comments but would like to provide the most gentle of guidance:

    Google translate from Chinese if interested :)

    我想建議您不要太認真地對待手冊。

    Also

    有些位置是不必要的 (but seem important)

    Good luck to you!

  2. OK, I am usually not a huge fan of adventure games, but I definitely want to know how THIS one will go. At best : Day of the Tentacle. At worse, King Quest meets Dragon’s Lair, given that beginning.

    The “make gunpowder on the spot using what you find in nature” may come from Star Trek, though I would not be surprised if there was an earlier occurrence : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxQqJbW-ohw

    • Over here in the UK, the BBC cut the “Arena” gunpowder making sequence… with the reasoning being they didn’t want younger viewers to emulate their hero, Kirk. :)

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