Mad Monk (1982)   15 comments

From the Centre for Computing History.

Fans of my previous posts may remember a mysterious individual, Mr. A. Knight, who wrote Galactic Hitchhiker, a surprisingly decent riff on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while using the vanishingly small 8K available on the UK101 computer (shown above).

A. Knight was listed in 1980 as living at Simonside Walk, Ormesby, Middlesborough, Cleveland.

By the end of 1981 he mentioned another game, Mad Monk, that he had ready for sale; at least one person ordered it in March 1982 and never received it, and for a while it was thought perhaps the game was vaporware, until it appeared recently, recovered by baldwint from a stash of UK101 tapes on the Stardot forum. It seems to have taken until mid-1982 before it actually came out. Quoting from the August 1982 catalog:

A graphics Adventure program, all in machine code. We’re sorry about the delay in finishing this one but when you see it you will understand why it has taken so long. It is now receiving its finishing touches and, honest injun, it’ll be ready for mid August….yes, 1982. If you already have this one on order, please be patient just a little longer, as it really is worth waiting for. Again, apologies for the delay.

The catalog is incidentally for “Merlin (Micro Systems) Ltd”; while Knight originally sold software as a personal venture with no company name at all, by 1982 he had branched into a selection from multiple authors with the aforementioned Merlin attached, and later switched names again to Knight Software.

Unlike his previous game, it is fully in the roguelike-adventure mode, like The 6 Keys of Tangrin, Lugi, Mines, and a few others games we’ve seen. Nearly all room placements and exits are randomly generated, and all objects and foes are also placed at random.

The adventure starts with you in the entrance hall of the Mad Monk’s Monastery and your missions is to find and rescue one Lord Magnil the Magnificient, who is being held ranson by the Mad Monk and his acolytes.

Not a princess! Good job, Merlin (Micro Systems) Ltd.

You always start in an Entrance Hall, as shown above, and just to the south of Entrance Hall there is an entrance to a maze, which switches the game to 3D mode (!).

The text adventure part of the game contains a “magic map” and a “compass”. Having the compass will have the game always display what direction you’re facing; having the map will let you press M to get an automap.

While it isn’t clear from the instructions or the game itself, the 3D maze is the exit should only be entered once Lord Magnil is rescued; if you successfully pass through when he hasn’t been rescued, the game asks WHERE’S MAGNIL THE MAGNIFICENT? and ends.

The 3D maze is generated in such a way the right-hand rule works, so it honestly isn’t too distressing to have it in the game (even if the compass and/or map turn out to be elusive); if it was in the middle of the game it would be much worse to go through the effort, as the text adventure portion is quite deadly.

The way enemies work is they start “agitated” when you enter a particular room, and the longer you stay there the more likely they are to get angry and start hitting; other than CEREBUS as shown above you have to deal with THE SANDMAN, POTTY PRINCE YUSUPOV, CRAZY COUNT PAVLOVICH, IGOR THE INSANE, GREENY THE ERRANT INVADER, and the MAD MONK himself. The anger level seems to be a fixed increase, so you strategically only have 5 turns or so with an enemy to either eliminate it or skedaddle. Enemies can block exits so sometimes they have to be killed, although it is possible for them to also show at dead ends (meaning in such cases they can be ignored).

Some of them you can just stab with a dagger, assuming you have one (that’s a big assumption).

Others I have no idea what to do with and I just die. Greeny is only killable with a “zapper” as the instructions indicate, but he’s hard to hit.

The instructions hint that there’s some sort of mini-game to train your zapper ability: there’s an ARCADE GAME and a COIN and assuming you have them together (see animation below) you can put in the coin to get a Greeny Zapping session in with special controls. You need to (at least) entirely beat a wave in order to get enough accuracy, a feat I have (as of this writing) yet to manage.

The room description engine isn’t dense but it works out; most rooms are just “Monastery”, and sometimes with an environmental effect that is either permanent (“THE WALLS ARE COVERED WITH MOSS HERE.”) or temporary (“SOMETHING SLITHERS AWAY IN THE SHADOWS.”). Some rooms have special names like “Alcove” or “Pantry”; in a few cases the special rooms have fixed items. The Bathroom, if it appears, will always have a rubber duck. The bell tower, if it appears, will always have a rope you can pull.

Notice I said “if it appears”; I’m unclear about this for certain, but I think the map generator is busted. Sometimes it works, but sometimes you get one generated like so:

It is faintly possible I’m missing some trick but in this case the only thing available to reach was an arcade machine (and no coin, so I couldn’t test out the minigame). A much better generated map is something like this one:

There’s a bottom floor and a top floor; the top floor is constrained within a 5 by 5 section, and I think that’s in general the game’s default. That would imply the bottom floor also does the same, and it may have done so correctly, but my mapping was cut short by CEREBERUS THE SALTY DOG, and if an enemy is presenting as an obstacle, you can’t just sneak by.

I was able to get a DAGGER and stab both IGOR and the SANDMAN, but the parser just gets confused you even think about stabbing the dog. There’s a message (that has appeared only on a few iterations) about the dog being an “old softie” so I tried things like dropping a bear and a rubber duckie and some sausage in the room, but no dice. The verb list is heavily constrained, so I might be typing the wrong words.

This leaves out BLOW, which works because of a whistle which summons a police officer. The police officer is no help against the dog either.

I’ve done quite a fair number of tries, but it look the game’s logic force-makes Cereberus into a necessary-to-win obstacle, so I have to get by to succeed.

The only other aspect I’ve figured out (partially?) is the mad monk. The monk plays by its own rules and can “teleport in” to a room you’ve previously been in, as opposed to staying in place. Unfortunately, the monk stays put after, so if he’s blocking you (likely) you might be entirely stuck. The only way by I’ve found is to right the bell tower; for some reason this summons the monk away and you no longer have to worry about him at that location.

Despite the frustrations I was rooting for the game to work — or at least get me enough luck somehow I could ignore the dog — but after a significant number of lives wasted trying to find any verb that might be helpful (with the occasional “impossible” map) I’ll need to throw in the towel for now. If anyone is keen and giving it a whirl themselves, head over to here for a copy and instructions.

Neat concept, generally, but the game just didn’t work out. Hanging over it all was the lack of a saved game feature, which made experimenting very frustrating; I had the situation like Lugi where I wanted to test a theory about an object combined with a particular enemy, but I had to wait multiple restarts until the next situation rolled around only to find out my idea didn’t work. Having fatal puzzles combined with making it hard to test theories drains all the energy out of an adventure game.

We’re technically not done with the UK101 yet; the Merlin catalog I quoted earlier also has two games by David Harrison, Dragon’s Lair and Lost in Space, both cited as adventure games. It’s hard to know if they’re “really” adventures (as opposed to action games with a light skin) but tapes for neither have surfaced, so we’re left for now wondering unless another tape cache turns up.

Posted June 16, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

Tagged with

15 responses to “Mad Monk (1982)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Having enjoyed Galactic Hitchhiker, I had wondered what Mr Knight would do if he ever made a second game, so was very pleased when this game was recovered. I hadn’t quite expected such an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to game design!

    Both a 3d-maze section *and* a Space Invader arcade game… all in 8K and fighting some severe limitations of the hardware… It’s no wonder that the game, first advertised in December 1981, took until at least August 1982 to come out!

    It a shame that what would’ve made the game quite different back then makes it virtually unplayable by a modern audience. I would’ve just loved a more refined Galactic Hitchhiker… but I guess the author was just trying to push the boundaries of the (at the time, fairly loosely defined) genre in his own way.

  2. A forum thread discussing the game’s discovery (at https://stardot.org.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=6108&start=180) includes a couple of further insights (which I’ve ROT13’d):

    1. Lbh pna BSSRE fbzr (aba-jrncba) vgrzf gb gur inevbhf vaunovgnagf, juvpu vs npprcgrq zrnaf gurl fgbc vzcrqvat lbh. Guvf nccneragyl pna jbex ba gur qbt (nf jryy nf fbzr bs gur bgure sbrf), nygubhtu gurer zvtug or fbzr enaqbzvmngvba vaibyirq va jung tvsgf gurl’yy npprcg.

    2. Nccneragyl lbh pna CHFU CNARY va n “jbbq-cnaryrq ebbz” gb “frr zber bs gur znc.”

    • Well. That’s a new verb for the list.

      Will try it out.

    • I updated with an animation of the space battle. Unfortunately, you have to beat an entire wave of the invaders level to get by Greeny, and Greeny is fixed as being an obstacle, so I haven’t got much farther yet.

      • On my Atari 2600, I think I used to shoot a column up through one of the shields and then snipe from behind that–it’s a lot easier for you to get your shot through the hole than for them to.

      • That trick doesn’t work unfortunately on this version :(

        I might go back to it — the mini-game isn’t _that_ hard — but there’s a long work up to get some attempts to play, and it seems to be you have a limited number of goes before you get booted out of the game. So it’s a little bit of a pain.

        I still have done the occasional whack at it, and if I break through I’ll make a follow-up post.

  3. Is there any sigificance to the fact that Magnil is lingam spelt backwards (that being a phallic fertility symbol)?

  4. It is a challenge run this game! I hope it worth the work.

    • It might not be the easiest computer to emulate… but, given it’s a pretty obscure (but important) early British “home” microcomputer from 1979… that was aimed at hobbyist and sold just around 5,000 units in “built it yourself” kit form… it’s pretty cool that not only is there a workable emulator for it, but also that games for it are still being rediscovered, preserved and shared.

      I’ve found that the people over at Stardot are always really helpful if there are any issues getting UK101 software up and running. There’s an overlap between the communities of UK101 and Acorn/BBC Micro machines… which both appealed to the more “hands-on” and technically-minded microcomputer users.

  5. Late and tangential, but that drawing of Merlin on the letterhead looks remarkably like Gimbal the Wizard on the title screen of David Jones’ 1985 graphical adventure “Spellbound” : https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/4744/ZX-Spectrum/Spellbound . I wonder if it was circulating in a collection of clipart or something at the time?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: