Klondike Adventure (1982)   8 comments

While ICL Quest remains a serious nightmare, I thought I’d pull something out that’d be a little easier: the next installment in the Softside Adventure of the Month series.

The cover is for the action game Space Rescue.

Just as a reminder, the Softside series is a long-running set of games published monthly based on adventures submitted by outside authors for publication. A six month subscription on tape was $27; on disk, $45. You could choose Atari, Apple, or TRS-80 as the platform, and the game each month was ported for all three systems.

Here, the TRS-80 version seems to be the original because James Bash’s other works are also for TRS-80. The usual setup with Softside Adventure of the Month games has been to scrub the name from any ports, but interestingly enough here, “James Bash” also appears in the Atari version (the Apple II version has been lost). I do get the impression there wasn’t an official Policy as much as a lackadaisical attitude.

(Incidentally, Black Hole Adventures from December 1981 — which we still don’t have credits for — might have been originally written for Apple II, except we don’t have that version to check. Alternately, the author may have decided they didn’t care about credit, or it was a game internal to Softside, even though the style and coding definitely mean it was by someone other than their usual person, Peter Kirsch. Despite my negative review of the game itself, it is a very early example of an adventure game with plot-based multiple endings, so I’d love to have the mystery resolved.)

James Bash’s other two works are both action games, so this will be yet another author who we only visit once.

I played the Atari version (more or less based on a coin flip) although the TRS-80 version seems to be more or less functionally identical, including the addition of a saved game feature (which is I think is the first time that’s occurred in a Softside adventure!)

Find the treasures again, fine. In this case, the game somewhat leans into the dubious aspect of the exercise, player as thief rather than noble adventurer, as you’ll see as we progress.

The first most obvious problem to resolve is the fact that you will slowly freeze to death if you go outside. Fortunately, the machine here gives out fur coats. Unfortunately, you have no money to buy one, so you have to use the five finger discount.

Just don’t push your luck!

Exploring a little, there’s a pan to the south; too high, and it says not the kind for cooking in.

To the east there’s a locked door. Stepping to the north goes outside.

I wandered a bit before I realized what would help here, but to shorten things down, typing HELP gets

Think of some other way to get help…

which led me to try YELL HELP

The huge snowbank collapses into a harmless pile of snow

This left a KEY and some SNOW. The key’s use was immediately obvious; I was able to get back inside the trading post and get inside the locked door to find a “tool room” with a scrap of paper.

I admit this is the first moment it occurred to me this game would be Slightly Askew. One might expect in a normal game to find a hammer or some other useful device instead of a Christmas wish list.

Moving on and wandering around a little, I found a pipeline and a frozen pond (more or those later) as well as a MOUNTAIN PASS with a KILLER WALRUS. Oddly enough, I was able to quickly realize I could go back to the SNOW I had left behind at the avalanche and MAKE SNOWBALL.

This opens a way to a frozen river, a hole in the ice, and Santa’s workshop. Now is a good time to show the overall map:

Dealing with Santa’s workshop first, you can find a FAT GUY IN A RED SUIT. This led to one of the most frustrating parts of the game.

GIVE turns out to do nothing here. Looking at Santa indicates he’s expecting something. A … bribe for Santa? That doesn’t make sense. I did a run-through of various possible verbs…

Pale purple means fake-out verbs — it only understand the first three letters, so THROW and THREAD (for instance) mean the same thing.

…and noticed the quite curious presence of SIT. It struck me maybe on I could SIT SANTA (not SIT ON SANTA, this is a two-word parser) but the game didn’t understand it. I finally had to check hints which came up with SIT LAP.

Grrrr. This is most decidedly a game about guess-the-noun in a few places. After SIT LAP I was still stumped waving the Christmas list (which wasn’t even mine). I had the thought Santa would be delivering the presents to the original author, Yukon Bill. But no: we’re just taking the stuff for ourselves. We need to ASK PICKAX (which gets us a platinum pickax, one of the five treasures we need) and … a mystery item? I’ll spoil things right now and say it is a bottle of ink, but it doesn’t make sense until a little later why you’d want one.

Jumping off Santa, we can head over to some Stables and find Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and our goal is to gank his nose. Seriously.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer … HAD a very shiny nose …

It took a while for enlightenment to hit but it is the only thing in the game resembling a light source. If you LOOK NOSE the game informs you it is ’45 watts’.

This is fully into the range of jerkface-adventurer, like one of those Euro point-and-clicks from the 2000s (Deponia or Runaway). Anyway, the magical glowing light bulb is enough to get into a dark hole in the ice (that’s to the northeast on my map) and find the frozen corpse of Yukon Bill, he of the trading post and the Christmas wish list we just stole.

I’d say “rest in peace” but we have to steal his boots. Also, a little farther in we can dig and get a silver nugget, another of the five treasures.

Heading back to the pipeline I mentioned a while ago, it turns out you can climb in and crawl around until you find an oil rig. There you can find an old parchment which will let you claim an oil rig if you can manage to sign it.

This is what the bottle of ink is for, but you still need to put the bottle in something. It turns out you can dive into a frozen lake (with DIG), find it is strangely warm…

…go all the way to the bottom, dig again to find an old rusty pen. The pen can then be filled with the ink (from Santa) and used to sign the deed, which finally turns into treasure #3.

For treasure #4, you need to go back to the trading post, and the pan I said was too high. That machine that you really don’t want to kick twice? You can still push it, then climb to the TOP OF THE VENDING MACHINE in order to reach the pan. (This was admittedly clever and I am annoyed I didn’t think of it! Just the game’s physical modeling isn’t that intense, so it never occurred to me it would even let me move a large object around.) With the pan and the boots stolen from Yukon Bill’s corpse we are able to enter a frozen river and pan for GOLD FLAKES.

For the last treasure, well, we’re back to guess the noun. Rather, something I worked out at the start of the game by typing LOOK COAT, the one from the vending machine:

I had to check hints: the only way through here is to LOOK LABEL. Then you find out it is *GENUINE MINK*, that is it, turns into treasure #5.

This game was a near miss for me; if it didn’t have guess-the-noun moments I likely would have found it one of the strongest of the Softside games. It does manage to be compact in a modern way, and put some unusual object uses out there, and the comedy means the slightly odd physics don’t really matter (unscrewing Rudolf’s nose, say). The morality is an interesting factor, and as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t mind an amoral protagonist as long as I’m clued in to the fact; what’s startling is being a paragon of Good and then having to steal some child’s last dollar. While the game doesn’t tip its hand that quickly, my danger sense was alerted with that Christmas wish list, so at least at a conceptual level the puzzles went smoothly for me.

If nothing else, I appreciate this is another “re-formulation” of the Treasure Hunt; we’re deep enough in now that games like Program Power’s Adventure and Hog Jowl Adventure have started to play with the very idea of obtaining all the stuff being your one end goal.

Posted August 13, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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8 responses to “Klondike Adventure (1982)

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  1. It do actually seems to be an interesting game. A real shame that it sports a “guess-the-verb” syndrome twice.

    • This is one of those games I might suggest Jim Gerrie do a port of — he tends to fix up the more janky corners of games when he does (Gargoyle’s Castle, for instance, went from having bug-crashes to be one of the better games of 1980; he also did some QOL stuff for Galactic Hitchhiker).

      • That would be great. However, my experience is that ports or updates/upgrades of older adventures are an ungrateful task. If he likes to do it, then terrific.

  2. Unscrewing Rudolph’s lightbulb nose gives the feeling he’s not a live reindeer, but some sort of robot.

  3. An east-west connection between the North Pole and the glacier???

    (OK, so maybe this is the rotational pole while compass navigation uses the magnetic pole, or vice versa. But it still looks odd!)

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