Archive for the ‘adventure-in-time’ Tag

Adventure in Time (1981)   Leave a comment

EONS AGO A WEAPON WAS CONSTRUCTED WHICH COULD DESTROY THE HUMAN RACE AS WE KNOW IT. THE HIGH TRIBUNAL ORDAINED THAT HIS WEAPON BE DISMANTLED AND THE PIECES DISTRIBUTED THROUGHOUT MANY TIME PERIODS.

IT HAS SINCE BEEN DISCOVERED THAT THE FILE HAS BEEN STOLEN DOCUMENTING THE LOCATION OF THE COMPONENTS.

WHOEVER HAS POSSESSION OF THE FILE CAN CONTROL…OR DESTROY…THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.

— From the opening screen for Adventure in Time

We just saw Birth of the Phoenix; Adventure in Time was Paul Berker’s other adventure for Phoenix Software from 1981.

It’s given as a “Class 4” adventure — Phoenix had a very very (very) short-lived scheme where they ranked difficulty on a scale from 1-5, so this one’s supposed to be pretty tough.

Starting from the placid present, this text adventure takes you careening through history on the trail of a master criminal. You must hop from period to period, dealing with the traps and puzzles ready to confront you at every hand, so you can eventually nab the fiend and avert his evil plan for the Earth.

— From the 1984 Software Encyclopedia

This is already a mysterious opening. Clearly, we were trying to foil a Bad Guy, but are we the keeper of the time machine and it was stolen, or did we try to bust into their place? (Based on elements you’ll see in a moment, I think it’s the former, but for the start of gameplay I was briefly confused.)

The house you start in has a kitchen with a foul odor and a pencil, a dormitory with burned papers, and a cliff.

IT’S AT LEAST 300 METERS STRAIGHT DOWN TO THE BASE OF THE CLIFF. CIRCLING OVERHEAD IN THE STRANGE SKY ARE FIGURES TOO DISTANT TO RECOGNIZE. LOOKING BACK AT THE CAVELIKE ENTRANCE, IT DOESN’T LOOK SO ARTIFICIAL.

You may have noticed from the opening screen the scratched corner of the picture. This is a hint to MOVE PICTURE, which causes a robot to appear.

>GET ROBOT

THE ROBOT IS NOW PROGRAMMED TO ACCOMPANY YOU ON YOUR TRAVELS.

The robot has a STUD on the back that you can push, causing a ray to flash from the robot and the south wall to open.

This opens into a technological area with a computer room, a security room, and a laboratory with a microscope. The security room included a blocked exit:

>E
YOU CANNOT PASS.
CODE NAME, PLEASE?

There’s also a LASER and TRANSLATOR in storage. After flailing around a bit I tried PUT PENCIL with the microscope.

THE OVERHEAD SPEAKER COMES ON: ‘NO FINGER PRINTS SEEN.’
AND THE STAGE IS AUTOMATICALLY CLEARED AND AWAITING THE NEXT SAMPLE.

This one of those circumstances where a full parser (one understanding more than two words) would have definitely helped matters. Technically the syntax is workoutable, but I had a weird feeling of confinement that made the right command hard to find. The computer room is another instance of this:

>EXAMINE KEYBOARD

THE INSTRUCTION PLATE READS, ‘DATA MAY BE INPUT IF AUTHORIZED.’

It’s not entirely clear the player is “authorized” here so a few failed attempts can cause a wild goose chase; the right syntax is INPUT (NOUN).

Back to the microscope: I took every item I could possibly find and PUT them underneath; I finally had some luck with the SYRINGE from the first room…

…except not really. I did notice the CLOTH which is described as useful for picking up delicate things, but perhaps it could double as a fingerprint protector. I restarted my game and made sure I didn’t touch the syringe until I had the cloth (another two-word parser failing, I had to just guess the cloth was being used since there’s no TAKE SYRINGE USING CLOTH or the like).

>PUT SYRINGE

THE OVERHEAD SPEAKER COMES ON:
‘FINGERPRINT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS BEING THAT OF NOSTRADAMUS.’

(Just to be clear if you missed it, this means you can softlock from the very start of the game by picking up the first object you see.)

Nostradamus must be the game’s nemesis. I went back to the computer and tried INPUT NOSTRADAMUS.

I didn’t have much luck with other words I tested, but this is still a game in progress. I went back to the blocked exit at the security room and tried HUNTER.

It’s not that common, but I have seen adventure games where the player has to figure out something known to the in-game character like their name or code name. I can only suppose the syringe included a bit of an amnesia kick.

Aha, the time machine! This one’s a little unusual in that the entire opening map is part of the machine; when you jump to a new period the “Cliff” to the north gets a new exit.

I made a little more progress, but I’m going to pause here until I get somewhere more substantial. Despite the rocky opening the rest of the game is promising, and Paul Berker maintains his knack for room descriptions we saw in Birth of a Phoenix.

The first destination is Stonehenge circa 5000 BC. The druids are friendly.

Posted March 17, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure in Time: A Tour of History   14 comments

In a way, nearly all computer games are time travel games.

Even without saves and reloads, it is common to revisit the same places, to iterate on different paths, to send shadows of alternate selves into the tangled variety of possible universes. What happens if we go back and fight rather than flee? What happens if we choose different companions or equipment? What happens if we redo a level, with foreknowledge of the future?

It is the fantasy of time travel to expose the braids of causality, to correct failures of the past, to preview what is to come. For computer games, these are typical activities, almost mundane.

Time travel is well-embedded in the DNA of games, and it is not surprising the genre became popular for adventures. The tripartite separation of plot, character, and gameplay can easily come together with time travel, such that the act of gameplay itself reflects profound and lasting truths.

Having said all that, no, Adventure in Time is not embedded with profound truths, but: blasting through history is fun, and the structure of this game in particular — with a self-contained area for each time period — is enjoyable and coherent.

The time periods are visited by taking colored cards and inserting them in a time machine. The “present” of the game is 1984, represented by a brown card. The first card you start with from another time is blue, taking you to -5000, Stonehenge, in the time of druids.

Area 1: Stonehenge, 5000 BC, Blue Card

There’s no serious obstacles here; there’s a guard for the druids that will stop you unless you have a translator device, but otherwise it’s easy to find a green card, a potion, some seeds, a flute, and a notepad.

Because of the syringe/fingerprints debacle last time, I’m suspicious of the seeds. The game says they were recently planted by the druids, and I fear if I take them there will be a missing tree later. It may be you *want* the tree to be missing, or it may be the game is trying to trick you into ruining the game — either way, I’m leaving the seeds be for the moment.

The notepad also has some faint writing, and this is the first (but won’t be the last) chronological adventure where I do the “rub pencil to make the writing stand out” trick.

Area 2: Unknown, 1001 AD, Green Card

The first room has a snake you can charm with the flute from Stonehenge.

This is followed by a “dark maze” where going the wrong direction kills you. I first mapped it out tediously with save states, but then realized that a laser from back in 1984 lit up the room. It was, in fact, the first thing I tried, but I had my emulator speed cranked up high which means I missed the fact the game displayed the actual cave description for a short time. Slowing the emulator down to 1981 speeds made the puzzle solvable. Using this, I was able to find a bow and a yellow card.

Area 3: Rome, 30 BC, Yellow Card

(Nero pops up here, but he’s AD, not BC. 30 BC would be the year Anthony and Cleopatra die.)

Rome has a soothsayer giving out a charm to fend off evil, a “collosseum” with starving animals who are surprisingly not dangerous…

…and the 1st Legion, that made fun of me, wouldn’t let me pass, and softlocked my game (you can’t leave once you enter).

I reloaded, grabbed the charmed snake from 1001, and brought it to the Legion; dropping it caused them to scatter. I was then able to head north and visit Nero.

I was able to combine the bow I got from 1001 with the violin to make an obnoxious noise, but I haven’t found any use for it yet.

Area 4: Mesozoic Forest, 16,000,000 BC, Red Card

(16 million years ago time would land the player in the Miocene — specifically the end of the Langhian — with some semi-familiar mammals but definitely not dinosaurs or the Mesozoic.)

Here is where I’m fairly stuck — I can fall in quicksand…

…or get eaten by a T-Rex…

…but other than a herd of “hungry” dinosaurs I haven’t found anything else. I don’t have anything that seems like dino food so I’m assuming I’m missing something from an earlier era.

Posted March 19, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure in Time: The Diabolical Machine   16 comments

I have saved the world.

Before proceeding to victory, let me nerd out briefly on the Miocene. The earliest horses emerged during this era, including the Eohippus, which was the size of a cat. (Image from 1920, public domain by Heinrich Harder.)

I had some hungry dinosaurs to deal with. Voltgloss correctly theorized that the seeds from Stonehenge would be useful, although it took me some experimenting before I realized I could go back to the greenhouse at headquarters to plant them.

HEAVILY FRONDED PLANTS QUICKLY GROW TOWARD THE INTENSE RADIATION OF THE ULTRAVIOLET LIGHTS.

The plants didn’t help with the dinosaurs, but I had a sleeping potion that seemed like it’d match, but after some flailing (and some crowdsourcing from you, the audience) I tried PUSH STUD on the robot while at the dinosaurs.

The exact phrasing of the hint made me realize that DRUG PLANTS was the right verb to use.

THE FRONDS ARE NOW COVERED WITH AN OILY LOOKING SUBSTANCE.

Going back to the dinosaurs with DRUGGED PLANTS at hand:

CLIMB doesn’t work here, but GO DINOSAUR does:

I was out of cards to try to jump to other places, and I was nearly out of objects that I’d used on puzzles: I only had the violin, bow, and a hammer.

HIT VIAL with the hammer got me nowhere, but PLAY VIOLIN did the trick. The sound caused the vial to bust open revealing a microfilm.

Typing L99AV into the computer (the one that only so far accepted NOSTRADAMUS and HUNTER) gave me

READY TO RECEIVE MASTER CODE. SEE T1 DATA FOR FURTHER INFORMATION.

The time machine has two dials marked T1 and T2. T2 so far only gave destinations of the cards while T1 was locked at 1984; after this computer input the T1 readout changed to 2396. Using the computer one last time:

If this was a Cambridge mainframe game, we’d be up for a big fortress infiltration, but Nostradamus is just right there at the cliff on the north side of headquarters, ready to conquer the world. Here’s what happens if you just hang out and let it happen:

The last remaining useful object, the hammer, is all you need to win.

This is also the last adventure game we’ll see “written” by Paul Berker, although he did “programming” on a game we’ll see in 1982 (Queen of Phobos).

This strikes me as a beginner-with-promise sort of game. Berker’s room descriptions remained strong throughout, and the various actions needed to proceed were colorful and interesting, but in addition to the weak parser, the plot as a whole made little sense. The author tried to invoke heist-tropes (the master criminal leaving his “calling card” at every theft) but the events only made sense on a micro-level. If Nostradamus was going through time stealing parts, why was he leaving the exact cards behind needed to follow him? If he was somehow leaving this trail intentionally, why did he not expect us coming at the end? (He didn’t even give a long and rambling speech about how we fell right into his trap.) How was Nostradamus himself traveling through time? Why did he inject us with the syringe in the first place — was he stealing a portable time machine or some such? The design of the headquarters doesn’t make it seem like there was more than just the single time machine.

Paul Berker has uploaded the source code for his adventure games to the Internet.

While I still need to finish my writeup on my new discovery, I’m generally not sure where I’m going from here; if anyone knows a 1981 game that they want to nominate, I’ll consider dragging it up the queue.

Posted March 20, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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