Katakombs: The Not-So-Ultimate Rope   5 comments

Zoom in on the cover art, which I think is meant to depict a specific location in the game. “You are among the ruins with hints of alien arches and weird spires. You can see a sharp sword.”

To continue directly from last time: I mentioned offhand this is one of the games where every exit of every room needs be tested because they aren’t mentioned. As you might guess, this is a recipe for everyone’s “favorite”, missing the existence of a room exit, in this case from the early outdoors section of the game:

Southwest of the camp is the missing connection.

This ended up being an important room: it had a rope. Not only that, a rope with multiple uses! Yes, it is going for what at least used to be the ultimate challenge in interactive fiction coding. For emphasis, allow me to quote Emily Short:

The Ultimate Rope: This is one of those things that has received so much attention that it almost seems pointless to recount the variety of the challenges associated therewith. First of all, a rope has two ends, so you have to remember the state of each (and disambiguate between the player’s references to them, of course.) Then there’s marking what the rope can be tied to; the possibility of cutting the rope in the middle, making multiple ropes of new lengths; the problem of using the rope as a fuse, of tying it to something in one room and then carrying the other end, of tying the ends together, etc., etc., etc. Ultimately I think the very trickiest part of all this is the disambiguation problem, ie, figuring out exactly what the player means when he says >TIE ROPE TO X (which end? Do we untie something that’s already tied, if both ends are in use?) But it’s all pretty grotesque, frankly.

To start with, the rope is used rather traditionally: you tie it to a tree and then can extricate a locked pirate treasure from a cave. Then you can move the same rope over at a well which has a platinum key (which unlocks the aforementioned treasure).

I also discovered while doing my rope shenanigans that the red berries I wasn’t sure about should be eaten. They give you strength, which has at least two side effects; one is to increase your inventory capacity by two, and the other is … we’ll, I’ll get to it, but it isn’t necessarily a useful effect.

Now, despite the berries bumping up inventory capacity, there is still now the problem of too many inventory items before jumping underground (which still seems to be a one-way trip). You need to cart

an old parafin lamp, a platinum key, some matches, a sharp sword, a white candle, one green bottle, some tasty food, a padlocked treasure chest, and a coil of rope

but if you count, that’s nine items, one over the max. You can’t just use the platinum key on the chest and then ditch it, because the key counts as a treasure. This ended up being highly logical but still hard to work out. If you want to take a beat to think about it, stare at the verb list from last time.


Here’s some educational cover art from Golem to fill space and keep you from seeing the answer right away.

The trick here is to WEAR the rope! This will take it out of your hands and lets you now tote 9 items. In a way, this feels odd and arbitrary — you clearly can’t really juggle what you’ve got even with 8, so it’s more a weight thing — but I still found it gratifying to see some extreme rope coding in use. (Too bad the coding in so much of the rest of the game is sloppy! The parser consists of the binary states of You’re Right and I Didn’t Quite Understand That with nothing in between.)

Having resolved that and jumping underground, I realized while I was tied to the rope, I might be able to put it to another use. There is a “blue room” with a lever where pulling the lever causes a wall to fall on the player’s head, but what if we used the rope instead?

What I like here is that the tie-a-rope-to-yourself trick gives a hint, in a way, for this maneuver. Also, the rope is now neatly disposed of, so I hope it doesn’t get yet another use elsewhere!

Past the fallen wall is the place where treasures of the game get stashed. Oddly, you don’t have a score change from stashing — that is, you get a score by picking a treasure up, and that same score is preserved as long is the treasure is dropped in the crypt — so the only real reason to do so is to clear inventory space for solving other puzzles (also, there are 9 treasures total, meaning it’d be impossible to hold all of them at once anyway).

You are in a dark Crypt
You can see a GOLEM (with a small dent in his forehead)

I am not yet certain what goes in the dent.

I did manage to resolve one other issue: the “beans” I found randomly I decided to try to PLANT, given the beanstalk seems to be the thing all adventure ripoffs must have. PLANT didn’t actually give any kind of prompt, but a null prompt is something different so I assumed it had to work. But how to get water? You might logically note the green bottle being toted around and the two rivers we’ve passed by, but no, FILL BOTTLE (or GET WATER, or any other variant) doesn’t work. The real answer is much stranger:

Water in hand, you can get the beanstalk going and find a hole with a silver axe. This may be the only thing that needs to be done, as if you try growing the beanstalk a bit larger, the result is fatal:

Of course it may be possible to hide from the giant, but I’d also consider it equally likely this scene is just a trap.

Overall, this makes the treasure count 5 (I think? I haven’t rigorously tested for score increases). So I’m more than halfway and will hopefully have a win scene by my next post.

One last scene before I sign out: the berries that make you stronger also let you kill a dragon. But I think that might be wrong:

Doing this makes you completely unable to access the ice wall the dragon was trying to burn down. I’ll test out Roger Durrant’s theory the salt might help and then fiddle with things from there.

Posted September 12, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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5 responses to “Katakombs: The Not-So-Ultimate Rope

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  1. If the salt problem proves unsuccessful, maybe you can put the mirror on the ice (if that is possible) and the dragon sees his reflection. If you recall Zork II a similar solution led to the dragon attacking his reflection and melting the ice, thus drowning.

  2. The axe by the beanstalks certainly suggests luring the giant and chopping the stalk, but I don’t know how to do it or what that would accomplish.

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