Krakit (1982)   16 comments

For my 1981 sequence of games I played Alkemstone, a treasure hunt with clues hidden in an Apple II game where the treasure has never been found. While we made some progress, most notably extracting every single clue from in the game (not a trivial task) it remains an open historical mystery.

Alkemstone was odd insofar as it was made in the United States, and the place in 1981 that really had been hit by the puzzle-contest bug at the time was the UK, where Masquerade-mania was at its height. 1982 had a bit of a let-down with the solution more-or-less cheated (see the link for the whole story) but there was still a sense in the air of the possibility of more “contest games”, perhaps in computer medium.

The most famous of these games (which is, genuinely, an adventure game) awaits a future post; as preparation, I thought I’d tackle Artic Computing’s entry into the ring. Artic Computing had an ongoing adventure series (so far I’ve written about Planet of Death and Inca Curse); however, Krakit is not oriented as an adventure and is a pure puzzle game. (ADD: Looks like Artic was only the publisher in the UK, International Publishing and Software was the original maker.)


a.) it fits into the history to enough an extent without the game I’d feel like there was a gap

b.) it allows for audience participation of you, the one reading this right now

c.) it allows me to do some more game-design-theoretical ramblings about this sort of thing

d.) just like Alkemstone, it appears nobody has ever solved it, which makes it too tantalizing to ignore.

For (d.) I am reliant on a report in Sinclair User (December 1983) which claims that the game has been “withdrawn” from advertising in the UK, with a quote from the director Richard Turner:

A number of people decided not to buy the cassette because their friends told them how difficult the game was.

From zx81stuff.

The 10,000 pounds from the cover (see above) had by that time been upped to 14,000. In the United States the game was pitched as possibly winning the player “$20,000 or more”. (See Computers & Electronics, March 1983.)

The game then seems to vanish from records. The British Newspaper Archive has no post-1983 mentions and I haven’t found any other reference digging through magazines. My suspicion (although I’m only in the 80%-90% range on confidence) is that the contest was quietly shelved with no winner.

So, with a group of smart people reading this and the power of the Internet, can we solve it now?

It does seem to be easier than Alkemstone. It’s simply a matter of 12 self-contained puzzles following a very particular set of rules; unlike the original Masquerade (or the adventure game I’ll be getting to) there isn’t buried meaning amongst a superfluous narrative. There is a very brief narrative of sorts, but I’m fairly sure it has nothing to do with the main game. Your father was a international courier, and has left you some money in a bank, and to get at the money you need to solve the puzzles.

I’ll be giving screenshots, but if you’re wanting to “play” the game, here’s a link to access it online.

Just to summarize, each puzzle contains a clue that will have a country, city, and number. (The number may or may not be a date.)

There’s a “warm-up puzzle” that the game gives with a complete solution worked out.

I will save the explanation for the comments so you can try to solve it yourself; the actual software leads the player through the solution via a series of multiple choice questions (essentially creating a mini-Socratic dialogue), which is pretty fascinating in itself.

In order to avoid overwhelming people, I just have the first three clues here for now. I do get the sinking feeling there might be some “ambiguous puzzles” where the answer isn’t nailed down securely for each (which might explain why it went unsolved) but I feel like we can at least get a few.

Posted April 30, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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16 responses to “Krakit (1982)

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  1. Number 2 is definitely New York–the fruit is an apple so The Big Apple, the train is Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train” (written by Billy Strayhorn but the theme for Ellington’s orchestra). I’d guess the date is either 1941 when “Take the A Train” was released, or a date associated with the Statue of Liberty which could be the Lady. Assuming the lady isn’t Billie Holliday.

    • this sounds right to me, and also hits the ambiguity thing I was mentioning — I’m not sure if there’s a good way to nail down if it means the statue of liberty arrival date or the 1941 one. I think we’ll likely just going to have to list a couple and be satisfied with that, although I’m hoping there’s more confirmers than I’m expecting.

  2. I’m going to put a clue sequence for the sample clue encoded in rot13.

    In general, do _not_ use rot 13 — let’s leave the discussion open, to make it easier for everyone to participate.

    1. Gur jbeq “GBHE” vf abg va Ratyvfu.
    2. Vg vf va Serapu.
    3. Fcrpvsvpnyyl, “yr gbhe”, gbjre.
    4. Jung vf gur zbfg snzbhf gbjre va gur Serapu-fcrnxvat jbeyq?
    5. Vg vf ersreevat gb gur Rvssry Gbjre.
    6. Gur Jura yvar vf gur ahzore — gur qngr bs gur Rvssry Gbjre svefg nccrnevat.
    7. Gur ynfg gjb yvarf ner zrnag gb uvag ng “Senapr” orvat n eulzr sbe Qnapr (jvgu gur Gbjre whfg jbexrq bhg ervasbeprq ol orvat n eulzr sbe ubhe).
    8. pvgl, cnevf, lrne, 1889, pbhagel, Senapr.

    • I had a go at the sample question before reading its solution. I got the country, I possibly got the city (by accident) and didn’t get the year. Certainly everything was screaming France to me, but Tour stuck in my head as the Tour De France, and then I completely forgot “Tour” means tower. So much for topping French in high school.

      • My brain went to the same place!

        I think there’d almost be a legit alternate solve there (first running of Tour de France) except I don’t think there’s a definitive city answer in there if you read it that way.

      • The Tour de France ends in Paris every year so I would have gone with that.

      • One thing really suggests the Tour Eiffel rather than the Tour de France to me: the line about “no rhyme for hour”, which puts forth the idea of pronouncing “tour” as if it rhymed with “hour” by both its content and its placement in the poem. And if you pronounce “tour” that way, it sounds like “tower”.

  3. re: the “Gallant Action” quote for clue 3

    On 20 Feb. 1942, Lieutenant O’Hare, who was on the USS Lexington near Bougainville, ended up having to face off against 9 Japanese bombers alone and ended up getting 5 kills.

    The full quote is:

    “As a result of his gallant action — one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation — he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

    I’m not sure what “Hyde Park Byrd” is referring to.

    • Hyde Park is a neighborhood in Chicago; it’s where the University of Chicago is. Not sure about Byrd. (And of course Chicago’s larger airport is named after O’Hare.)

      • “byrd” might be a pun for an airplane? I think based on the sample question putting quotes puts some special significance in that the text shouldn’t be read “straight”

      • I find it a little suspicious that Hyde, Park, and Byrd all have four letters, as does the next word in the quotation, Most.

      • Here’s a big stretch: Arrange those four words in a grid, like so:
        Reading down the diagonal gives us HART, as in Roxie Hart, the main character of the musical Chicago.

  4. Oh, I’ve got the first one.

    Hint: the number is 7464.

  5. Two updates that will be going in my new post but I should say now: I have confirmed the contest got phased out with no winner, and I found the answers later got released and I have a list of them all I have not looked at yet. So we can take our best shot on answers and then find out how well we do against the intended real contest answers.

    • Yeah, I was going to point you towards the official solution document, but didn’t want to spoil the fun prematurely. ;)

      As you’ve mentioned in the post, competitions for computer puzzle games & text adventures went through a phase of being quite popular over here in the UK, thanks to Masquerade… Indeed, the GoldHare itself went on to be involved in yet another (controversial) competition connected to what some regard as the worst videogame ever made. Not an adventure, thankfully, so you don’t need to suffer through that one.

      I think I know where you’ll be going next on the prize-giving text adventure front… the tales about that company, its founder and his games/art could fill an entire book. Or two.

      There will be plenty of other, slightly smaller prizes. mentioned on your journey through the next couple of years of games, that’s for sure… the main ones being the Ket Trilogy in 83 and Eureka in 84. Even at the time there were comments about whether everything was above board… for every TV or video recorder that was actually given away there seemed to be a handful of other cash prizes that were never mentioned again, after the initial advertisements and marketing push. Iirc, at the time of Krakit, HoldCo were running a couple of competitions with prizes of £1,000 around their text adventures for the ZX81… unfortunately, I don’t believe those titles are actually archived.

  6. Pingback: Krakit: The Most Daring Single Action in the History of Combat Aviation | Renga in Blue

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