Enchanted Cave (1982)   3 comments

Sometimes, writing a history is just a matter of rephrasing the only material that exists. I always feel awkward leaving details out, especially when a statement is very personal. For the intro here, to today’s game by De Crandell and Joe Peterson, I’m just going to let the web page kick things off.

When I was 15 or so, my cousin, De, and I were into playing adventure games, like the mother of all text adventure games, “Adventure”. We wanted to make our own, so we wrote a simple one, but it was hard-coded and was a pain to create. So we came up with the idea to make a program that could interpret adventure “game files” that were written in a kind of adventure “language”. So we both wrote programs in BASIC to do this on TRS-80 computers (wow, 1.77 MHz!), and we wrote adventures in separate text files. We later merged our work into this program, which was dubbed “Explore”. By the way, I was really bummed when a guy named Scott Adams (not the Dilbert dude!) came out with a commercial program that used the same concept! Just think of all the money we could have made!

We came up with three adventures that were written in the wee hours of the morning on three separate occasions listening to Steely Dan. It was kind of a mystical inspiration I would say.

De is no longer with us, but these games live on for me as a great memory of our friendship, and I hope that they allow a little piece of him to endure.

The “text adventure engine” that Joe made is up on his webpage

10 REM ** EXPLORE ver 4.4 ** Copyright (C) 1982
20 REM by Joe Peterson
30 REM Peterson Computer Services

…but the actual original TRS-80 files are not. The two options for playing are directly from the website, or an Android app. Both are kind of a pain compared to running a TRS-80 game, but I ended up going with the online option.

The Android version does have a respectable number of downloads and reviews!

There are four games, three by De and Joe: Enchanted Cave, Lost Mine, and Medieval Castle; the fourth is by a different pair, Matt Melton and Robert Braver, based on the movie Porky’s (“Your goal: get through Porky’s cathouse!! Identification necessary!”).

For Enchanted Cave, the goal is simply to “escape”, although the game doesn’t announce that at first, and really seems for all the world to start like a typical treasure jaunt.

In fact, I only found out about the objective once I reached it and the game told me I had escaped and won. Except there’s no reason to go in the cave in the first place; I guess let’s just say the plot is “have an adventure”.

You start, as is traditional, at the Forest outside the cave.

As is also traditional, there is a place you can find if you ignore the cave and go wander for a bit:

There’s a bit of a tangle with the above location though —

When you get a little farther in you can find a chair you can SIT on which spins and takes you to a secret room. The room has a lantern and a “metallic sheet”. The matches in the room description above? They only appear after you find the lantern. I’m not sure why. This seems wildly cruel. I happened to luck out and find the lantern first, but on another playthrough while testing things found the no-matches effect.

The “if you go down, you probably won’t be able to climb back up” is cribbed directly from Adventure; otherwise this is both a much tighter design in word count and a much weirder one. I (being fooled by the “look”) originally approached with the notion of Adventure Clone but that isn’t really the right attitude; remember this was originally a TRS-80 game, and has a room count limit so not nearly as much wasted space. Also, a vague sense of silliness:

I’m pretty sure none of the variants of Adventure had a Taco Room, but this would totally fit into an early Greg Hassett game.

The urn, incidentally, contains some magic powder. If you recall the message from earlier about it scaring animals, well, let’s find an animal.

Keeping with the slightly-off vibe, the egg contains a piece of paper, giving a hint that ashes can be used to find hidden writing. Even more helpfully, the paper itself can be burned and turned into ashes! (This took me a while to find and was a legitimately good puzzle.)

Wandering more I got stuck for a bit, until I happened to “drink” some water in a pool taking me to a new area.

I was going through my “test verb list”. It was pure luck I was doing so while located here. I still had a lingering mentality of Crowther/Woods Adventure where you should get a bottle first to deal with anything watery, rather than just try to drink from the source.

This led to a place of curious buttons: red, blue, green and yellow. Referring back to the poem from the hut, only the yellow one is helpful; it takes you to a locked door which turns out to be the exit to the game. The only catch is finding the key!

This is me pushing one of the wrong buttons.

I did get a new item out of the deal, since there was a shovel next to the door. I used the shovel on a nearby burial ground for dinosaurs (!?) and picked up a bone.

Referring back to the “moving bone” hint, I noticed that WAVE BONE, rather than giving an error message, just stated this wasn’t the right time. So, right action, I just had to test it everywhere in the time-tested adventurer-lawnmower fashion.

Back in the Rooms of the World there was a picture of a caveman; oddly the bone worked there to “bring the caveman to life”, netting me a slab he was holding. The slab apparently had faint writing, so I tried the ash on it, giving me a key.

The key I was then able to take back to the final door.

I suppose this was fun enough for what it was — the game wasn’t too intense about random deaths. I will confess I did a stab at this game quite a while back (July of last year!) and didn’t get far, and I’m not fully sure why. I think each new game universe it can sometimes take a while to get “in harmony” and feel like I’m doing smooth playing, rather than trying to communicate with a crazed antagonist of a parser. That, plus I’m always uneasy playing a game off a webpage; I don’t believe the authors are collecting data in this case, but it still feels like someone is watching my antics over my shoulder.

I have a feeling the authors in 1982 were developing a particular style which is worthy of more discussion, but I want to wait until after trying their other games to see if it holds out.

In the meantime, back to Ferret tomorrow; we’ve finally defeated the lake and might finally be in the end stretch.

One last shot. The key says to use “for higher purposes only” and there are two locked doors, the one shown here being on the lower floor. This sort of minor trap is the sort of thing I associate with gamebooks where turning to 17 kills you because you didn’t read carefully enough.

Posted January 4, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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3 responses to “Enchanted Cave (1982)

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  1. Pingback: Lost Mine (1982) | Renga in Blue

  2. DRINKing in the room of colored mist seems to be a one way trip. I don’t suppose you remember how you got back to the Rooms of the World with the bone?

    By the way, if you type HELP at any point during the game (or any game in this series), it does tell you that the only goal of the game is to get out alive.

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