Inferno (1981)   16 comments

Let’s loop back just slightly to a game I missed from 1981. It is rather obscure; it wasn’t listed on any of my regular sources until after I had already locked my 1981 list into place. (An eternity ago, 2019.) This is perhaps understandable, as The Software Emporium hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma and this is their only game.

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

I don’t have author names or biographical information otherwise. The manual thanks Rainbow Computing, Inc. (an Apple II publisher out of California), Crowther and Woods (there’s a fair chance the authors only saw Adventure before writing this) and “our wives for their help and patience”. There’s also a phone number but I haven’t been brave enough to test out if a 42-year old phone number still works.

This is animated, with the little dragon walking by.

After the graphical intro, there’s a long scroll full of lore. If you want to watch it in real-time, I’ve embedded a video below.

In times of old, there was a “divergence” between swordsmasters and wizards, such that those who used one method of power could not use the other.

The greatest wizard at the School of Magic in the East, Cossa, became interested in the dark arts. A great warrior came to prominence at the same time, and due to the wizard’s cruel deeds, the two ended up in a showdown; the warrior came to the wizard’s palace, slaying foul creatures as he went.

The warrior and wizard went to blows, the warrior using an elven sword passed down from his ancestors that could defend against spells. The warrior approached for a final blow, but the wizard cast a last-minute spell while dying, opening the ground beneath the warrior and sending him into the Inferno.

You are not playing the warrior, but someone else who has been tossed into the Inferno.

Maybe he’ll be corrupted into a Dark Knight for a final boss battle.

The game, after various bits of instructions, tells you that YOU HAVE BEEN GRANTED 500 LIFE POINTS FOR THIS TRIP TO THE INFERNO.

The life points serve as the “lamp timer” for the game; they continuously go down as you walk around the environs. (This is, at least, somewhat fair in a verisimilitude sense, even if old-school game design.) Your life points can decrease by getting hurt for other reasons; most obnoxiously, there’s an orc that wanders about and serves and sort of the game’s dwarf/pirate. If the orc wanders in you have a chance to fight or run. I have yet to win a fight, but based on the screen messages (and a comment in this review) I know it is possible to win, but with your life points still having sustained damage.

Death results in another animation:

Other rooms can be deadly as well. For example, one room is Yog-Sothoth’s Chamber; there is a random chance the creature in question will be in.

While the game has a line that describes explicit exits, the game has quite a few “secret exits”, so you have to test all eight cardinal directions plus up and down in every single room. This is not fun combined with the random chance of orc-death. Red connections in the map below are secret:

Points of interest include:

– A bridge that collapses and kills you.

– A mirror that kills you if you break it.

– A “hexagonal cell” with a basilisk that kills you.

– A “ballroom” that asks you to join the dance. The dance, strangely, does not kill you, but says YOU FEEL VERY STRANGE! and reduces your precious life points by a whopping 150.

– Astaroth, who doesn’t kill you, just blocks your way.

– A creature being cooked in a vat that wants us to put the fire out.

I don’t have much to work with; there’s an IDOL that falls to pieces when I look at it, leaving DUST, HOOVES, and a HORN; there’s some rusty ARMOR on a shelf that I have been unable to de-rustify. That is everything.

So far the game has felt slightly gamebook-like, where each room has a special “encounter” to deal with, and the authors avoided the mega-expansive feel of their much-admired Adventure. Based on the review I mentioned earlier, the game also lacks in mazes, and only includes one “trick maze” not meant to be mapped. I hence expect further developments to be interesting, even if completely and totally unfair.

(Also, since the game is hard to search for, here’s a link to a playable version online. I’d recommend downloading it and trying on an emulator with speed cranked to high, but not to highest; if you crank it too far the death messages zip by too fast to read.)

Posted February 2, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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16 responses to “Inferno (1981)

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  1. Having Astaroth and Yog-Sothoth in a game from 1981 feels weird. Dude looked at some books but couldn’t really commit to either theme.

    Given that oil is specified as an item, wouldn’t putting the armor in it at some point work? Of course you probably have to get the creature out first…

  2. The review you linked suggests that [jurgure gur oevqtr pbyyncfrf vf hc gb enaqbz punapr] so perhaps an answer to one of the present problems lies after that.

    • I tried the bridge a ton of times with no luck. Maybe the author accidentally hit upon a solution without realizing it. On the other hand it is true also that Yog-Sogoth seems to be a greater than 50% chance of showing up. I’ve _never_ played an adventure game with those kind of odds, feels game-book-y again.

      • Found another room by experimenting with available items, although the new room’s usefulness isn’t immediately apparent.

        [Gel OYBJ UBEA va gur Vqby Ebbz]

  3. If the mirror is portable can you try using it on the basilisk somehow?

  4. sorry for slow update — been sick — hopefully back in the swing of things soon

    the game is in BASIC so I have ways of unsticking myself if this gets too messy

  5. this was a pain to extract (I’ll explain on my next post), and I’m mainly just posting here for my own reference, but here’s what seems to be the complete verb list of Inferno


  6. Pingback: Inferno: The Unreadable Library of Cthulhu | Renga in Blue

  7. So good to see you reviewing another Apple ][ game! I had given up hope that you’d ever return to them :)

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