Jungle Adventure, Part II: King Solomon’s Mines (1982)   3 comments

I was captivated. Writing adventures was more fun than playing them! I immediately started plotting other adventure stories.

Interview with the author in Syntax magazine

This is a direct sequel to John R. Olsen’s game The Elephant’s Graveyard as published in the December 1981 edition of CLOAD (a TRS-80 “tape magazine”), and was published in the month immediately following. This might normally mean it could squeak into 1981 via the “publications tend to be out a month before their newsstand date” rule, but keep in mind CLOAD is direct-mail by tape and doesn’t follow by the same rules; also, in the preface the editor-in-chief (David Lagerquist) apologizes for the issue being late (“January’s issue should come out in January, don’t you think?”)

Also, I’ll be honest, despite John R. Olsen’s Frankenstein Adventure being solid enough to hit my recommended list last year, I was stalling. Part I of this game (“based on the jungle settings of the Tarzan novels”) has a bit with pygmies and a “witchdoctor”. It managed to avoid being terrible and certainly avoided the original book’s section where Tarzan massacres the Africans, but hovering around this subject matter always makes me concerned.

Based on the title, instead of Tarzan, King Solomon’s Mines is instead nominally based on the book by Sir H. Rider Haggard, part of the Allan Quatermain series. (Think Indiana Jones as written by an actual 19th century Victorian.)

The game picks up the day after the previous one ends. Not only does it continue the story, it uses the same rooms, setting, and objects to start with. (I don’t think we’ve hit this sequel-continuity in any game so far! Savage Island was in two parts but didn’t re-use rooms. The same is true of Arrow of Death.)

This seems to be a true Treasure Hunt this time with multiple things to find.

The last game started us at the trading post as in the screenshot above, where we went west past a village and a swamp to a temple, found a map at the temple (with a sealed door and some snakes we ran away from), then used it to go east from the trading post to the elephant grounds.

This time, east is almost entirely sealed off by a rockside, so our mission seems to be west. The temple that we only briefly visited seems to be our real destination, and the snakes (which were previously a red herring puzzle) now have to be reckoned with directly.

Unfortunately, I’m stuck fairly early! The trading post has the IVORY we found from the last game, a REVOLVER with six bullets, and a BAG that will hold water (the same one as the previous game, and I looked up my post to check the syntax: PUT BAG / IN TROUGH). The game has the same tight water timer as the previous one (maybe even tighter) and regular visits back to the trading post are needed to keep from dying of thirst.

The only thing I’ve found going east is a charging rhino, who comes if you hang out for more than one turn. Your revolver works to bring it down in two shots (if you try to run away you just die). I think the rhino might be useful later if I can find a cutting implement (CUT RHINO: “You can’t do that…yet!”)

Going west you pass by a now-abandoned village (although you can pick up a skull), a field of grass (if you need grass, for some reason) and some rocks that work as flint. If you go back and LIGHT GRASS it starts a large fire and you die.

Other than a tree you can climb and get a good view (but no items from) there’s the temple with snakes. There was no way past the snakes before, and I’m unclear what the player has new now that will help. (The revolver, flint, grass, and skull all seem to be the same as before.) If you try to shoot the snakes you get one of them but the rest take you down.

I checked and Dale Dobson played through this already so I have something to fall back on if I need to. He claims the game is rather hard and involves intricate timing.

This is a fairly difficult adventure — there are time pressures of various kinds to deal with, and once a puzzle is figured out it’s often necessary to restore, go back and re-execute as efficiently as possible. The game does have a functional SAVE feature, but it allows only one slot and using it seems to count as a move, so some care is required even there.

I at least have the advantage of using save states, giving me more than one save slot and immunity to the time-passing-by-saving problem.

Posted April 28, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Jungle Adventure, Part II: King Solomon’s Mines (1982)

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  1. I enjoyed John’s Frankenstein a lot; he used some clever programming tricks in the later Quilled version which I really began to appreciate when I was working on an unofficial port of that as a personal project. I should really get around to playing more of his other games, although I had deliberately been steering clear of both this one and the earlier instalment (which were combined into one later Quilled game that perhaps will be more familiar to C64 users than the original releases)… games set in Africa rarely date well.

    John is one of the authors that I’d love to find out more about. As the Syntax interview mentions, unlike some of the early TRS-80 authors, John was actively writing text adventures for over a decade, with many of his early 1980s BASIC adventures being re-written and released commercially using the AdventureWriter (Quill) for C64 in the mid-1980s, and many also getting late 80s and early 90s releases for MS-DOS. John’s last adventures seem to be the ones written for Amiga with TACL/Visionary (the Syntax interview is actually just John’s first introduction from his Visionary handbook, which he allowed to be reprinted as an interview). I’ve always wondered if he did anything beyond that.

    • (I guess it would be an interesting exercise to look at how John mashed these two “Africa” games into one, so perhaps that’ll be my incentive to give the Perils of Darkest Africa a go at some point.)

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