Secret Kingdom (1982)   1 comment

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

We’ve only had the Sharp line of computers here twice before, and only glancingly; once with the Japanese game Mystery House (with a Sharp MZ-80B port I never could find) and once with the British game Quest (or Fantasy Quest) which originally was for the Sharp MZ-80K but I played for the Oric-1 instead.

This time we have a game that was only for Sharp computers, so we get to dive in for real. It was originally for the early computers MZ-80A, MZ-80K and MZ-80B, and later had a port to the MZ-700. The MZ-700 is essentially portable with the MZ-80K, so likely the only addition was color, as the original systems were all monochrome.

The publisher was Sharpsoft out of London, which as the name implies, was dedicated solely to Sharp machines, and published a “User Notes” newsletter which gives the feel almost of a fan-run user group (like the Toronto PET Users’ Group we just saw with Fantasyland).

The cover of Issue 3, the last User Notes of 1981. The illustration is by one of the readers, John Trippick.

Here’s a clip from issue 3 just to give an idea:

From your feedback it appears that software, which you can run on the MZ-80K, is an aspect of these User Notes that readers find helpful and stimulating. Last issue we introduced “Tiny Pilot”; P.L. Birch wrote to us with his comments and suggested changes to this package. Mr Birch’s comments are presented in the letter section of this issue. Our thanks to all those readers who have donated their ideas and software. If you have hints and/or software you would like to share with other MZ 80K owners drop us a line at SHARPSOFT.

Through the 80s they came up with a respectable catalog of software, including at least five adventure games. Escape From Colditz from 1981 does not seem to be available (no relation to the TRS-80 version … I think?) so we’re starting with G. Clark’s Secret Kingdom.

According to their advertising they were “specially commissioned by Sharpsoft”.

From Personal Computing World, Jan. 1983. By the rule of magazines being off their date by a month, this puts these games in the tail end of 1982, although there may be earlier ads.

Nothing fancy plot-wise here: we’re supposed to “find treasure and put it in the correct place to score”. Will we finally get a “proper” Adventure clone here, or will the British pull a weird trick again?

HELP is not recognized as a command. Maybe they forgot about it.

Well … maybe? I made a bit of progress, enough that I’ve not up for cracking open the source code right away (it’s just BASIC and the listing is easily accessible) but I still have quite a bit of game to go.

It does seem so far to want to nail highly traditional fantasy without any odd side-turns into comedy or surrealism. I will say the “flavor” is yet again its own thing; that is, it still feels different than any of the 1982 works we’ve tried so far in a gameplay sense. I’ll try to nail down why more concretely in a later post.

The first part of the map is just a 3 by 4 grid of barren moorland. There’s “fireworks” lying around as well as a “well” (which I have done nothing with yet, but responds to ENTER WELL with YOU CAN’T DO THAT AT THE MOMENT).

There’s also an IRON LADY where LOOK LADY states LOOKS LIKE IT HAS A HIDDEN SECRET. I was baffled on visualization for a while; I thought maybe it was a statue, possibly even a parody of Margaret Thatcher (like the DICK NIXON statue in Escape From Traam). PULL LADY gets the message


I tried to create a verb list. The game fairly consistently rejects nonsense verbs with a specific message…


…so I went through every verb on my “standard list” and marked every verb which gave a response other than the “I MUST BE STUPID” one.

This certainly was a help, but there were some verbs I was dubious about testing in action. I realized that for some reason, the I MUST BE STUPID happens on some verbs _only_ when there is also a noun. I’m unclear why the behind-the-scenes parser would do this, but I took another run through my verb list and crossed out all the verbs where VERB LADY gives the STUPID prompt.

In the process I found out what the iron lady was really referring to. Witness: ENTER LADY.

Ow! That does suggest the action is right, just preparation is needed.

In the process of this verb-searching I discovered that noun-searching works as well; for example GET NONSENSE has the response I DO NOT THINK THERE IS ONE OF THOSE whereas GET TORCH says I DO NOT SEE IT HERE.

Moving on to the top part of the map:

Straight out of the moorland you find a lake with a wizard standing around who LOOKS LIKE HE WANTS SOMETHING. The wizard is entirely static, but if you are in the north part of the map a wolf starts to follow you around.

The wolf I have not been able to get any reaction from; he doesn’t kill you, he just follows. You can try to KILL WOLF but the game then asks how (by saying, for instance, USE FISTS) but nothing has had an effect. Maybe the wolf is actually helping us and will jump in at the right moment?

Back to the wizard, I did figure him out. Going by the assumption this was a Tolkien reference, I did GIVE FIREWORKS and he left behind a STAFF.


I figured out the staff’s primary use, but let me get back to it in a moment. Exploring clockwise around the lake I found some RAGS, followed by a CANNONBALL, and then an UP exit which led to a slightly busy place:

You can CLIMB the tree or ENTER it. If you ENTER you can find a cedar box and some flint which I assume is useful for lighting things on fire (like the TORCH I know exists somewhere). If you climb the tree you end up directly above the man in armour.

Wolf buddy! Or at least I hope he’s my buddy.

You can then DROP CANNONBALL and go back down to find he is now a HEADLESS man in armour. I do not know the reason for this. I suspected (due to the iron lady) I was supposed to take the armour, but TAKE ARMOUR indicates that’s not even a noun the game recognizes! I’m also unclear based on all the verbs I’ve tried if the man is even, technically, dead (yes, no head, but I mean, fantasy?)

The bird is incidentally holding something shiny. I haven’t gotten it yet.

Rotating a bit more around the lake, there’s an exit north to some snow. Travel too far north and you die from cold. I suspect the fire is useful again, too bad I don’t have anything I can get burning.

Finally, to the east there’s a small hollow leading to a stair with three orcs.

This is where the staff is handy. You don’t even need to be in the room; just USE STAFF and it will leave behind some oil (that “smells like a fierce fish”) but the orcs will also be turned to stone.

Ripped from the Hobbit, maybe?

Going up further gets a sealed stone door. I suspect the bird’s item will be useful.

That would normally seal up everything I’ve solved, but in the process of testing a couple verbs in the process of writing this post, I ran across something by accident. You see, I have no idea in the MZ-700 emulator I am using how to backspace. I was going to check something with ENTER TREE but realized, mid-typing, that I was next to the lake rather than the tree. So I hit enter on my keyboard with just ENTER showing (expecting it to be an error so I could move to the place I intended), and:

Trying to get the sword results in death:

However, I haven’t tried yet making a beeline for the island or using the staff and seeing if the “fish smell” oil distracts the monster. So I’ve got more to work on, but this is still a good stopping point.

Posted April 17, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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One response to “Secret Kingdom (1982)

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  1. This really seems an advanced adventure for the time, at least in the carefully taking care of answer beyond “you can’t do that”.

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