Archive for the ‘blade-of-blackpoole’ Tag

The Blade of Blackpoole (1982)   9 comments

From the game’s manual at the Internet Archive.

Sirius Software, founded by Jewell and Terry Bradley, was one of the more prominent Apple II publishers of the early 1980s as they were joined early by the legendary Nasir Gebelli. Nasir was born in Iran and went to the United States in 1979 after the Revolution (his family was connected to the royal family) and ended up getting a reputation as the best Apple II programmer alive; he later went to Japan as a contractor with Square and worked on games like Ridge Racer, Final Fantasy, and Secret of Mana.

This game — and their three other text adventures from 1982 — have nothing to do with Nasir. Specifically, in 1982, Bob Blauschild cranked out Critical Mass and Escape from Rungistan, and Tim Wilson wrote Kabul Spy and today’s selection.

The Object of the game is to recover the magical sword MYRAGLYM and return it to the altar from whence it was stolen. Rumors speak of a secret chamber near Blockpoole in which the sword is said to lie.

There’s a couple remarkable technical things to comment on straight off the bat.

First, if you compare with, say, one of the On-Line games, or anything from Highland, you’ll notice the font/picture layout is somewhat different. This is because both the On-Line games and many others from the time used Apple’s built in graphics mode which naturally put four lines of the system-font text on the bottom. This made it hard to have much length to text. This game instead has a custom-created font that is displayed in graphics mode (rather than as raw text) to get more textual real estate.

Additionally, we’re finally at a phase where developers can be influenced by Infocom. It uses LONG and BRIEF as ways of changing room descriptions (to either always show a full-text room description each time, or only have a shorter version of revisits) and allegedly — according to the manual, at least — has a full parser system which not only allows for indirect objects but combination commands like GET ROCK AND SHIELD.

The game lays out a whole bunch of items to start with, five of them being from a shop (you start with 50 gold, and each item costs 10, so there’s no reason not to just buy all of them):

a rock
a hammer
a long staff
a jar of honey
some rope
an old lamp
a knife
a shield

One of the common themes through the game is a tight inventory limit (6 max. although in practical circumstance you have to leave some room to pick up more items) which constantly had me shuffling what I was holding; later, there is a “one way pass” where I’ve just been having to guess what’s useful. On one hand, the limit forces a little more thought as to what item goes to what puzzle, but constantly shuffling back to piles feels slightly less like having an adventure and more like being a delivery driver.

Attached to the shop is a tavern where you can get the plot, assuming you skipped the brief mention in the manual:

Any permutation I’ve tried of TALK TO MEN works. Despite the manual acting like there’s a lot of possible dialogue content, you can’t go Infocom-level deep and ASK MAN ABOUT (specific topic).

The opening otherwise has you pretty trapped in; the main way out is blocked by a carnivorous plant which will chomp you if you try to go through, and none of the items on that starting list work to get by it.

I thought for a while I’d be making one of my “intro to the game but I haven’t gotten very far” until I finally worked out what was going on with another obstacle, some quicksand.

I assumed the goal here was to escape in some fashion so I was trying to use a rope to lasso things, and crucially, the verb SWIM didn’t seem to do anything.


I finally realized that if you attached a direction to the verb SWIM, it would work; that is, you could SWIM WEST or SWIM NORTH to get out, or progress farther with SWIM EAST. (This is one of those stopping points I suspect the author didn’t even think of; the verb ROW shows up later, also with consistent use of direction, so with SWIM they likely didn’t even process what a misleading response there was when SWIM was used on its own.)

Swimming leads by a white potion (yoink!) and this place:

For everything in the game so far (and everything past this point) ever item or creature you can refer to is mentioned in the text description, but here the bees are entirely unmentioned in the text. You can only see them in the picture. Assuming you have the honey you can GET BEES, then take them back to the carnivorous plant and feed it (who will then be happy enough to let you pass).

Before moving on to the next section of the game, I should mention there’s also a.) a hermit looking for a particular jewel that you find hiding behind a tree, b.) a boat in a river that can only row back and forth and seems to be purposeless, although it is a setup for a nifty puzzle later and c.) the white potion shrinks you down and kills you.

Moving on past the plant, there’s yet more forest, and one place in particular which is too dark and you fall…

…but somehow in complete darkness can still tie a rope and climb up.

Once past the pit you can find a torch which then you can light a lamp with. This lets you return past the dark area and find an amulet, which turns out to be the jeweled item that the hermit was looking for.

The book gives a “dangerous” prayer (I still haven’t been able to use it yet, but I assume when I find either the magic sword of my quest or the shrine it goes to it comes into play) but the riddle is more immediately important: it indicates that there’s one spot (near a large bird nest) where you can SING and get picked up.

This is the “one-way” moment I mentioned earlier. I assume you eventually will be able to loop back to the main map, but for now I’m having to just guess what the character’s inventory ought to be.

There’s yet more forest and a cliff you can apply the rope (again) on — and yes, I didn’t have the rope the first time so had to restore my game — and then (after picking up a tuning fork I haven’t found a use for) comes a fairly neat puzzle involving a river.

The setup reminded me of the boat from the start which was stuck in a lake with nowhere interesting to go. However, the boat was too big to carry. What if the white potion which killed me earlier also worked instead on items?

Very slick! Taking the miniature boat in hand, I was able to drop it in the northern river — it popped back to regular size. I then discovered I forgot the staff (from all the way back in the shop) that I needed to use as an oar, d’oh.

Another restored game later, I had both the boat and “oar” at the river, and pushed my way up to a river monster.

This is a good place to pause, not only because it makes a nice dramatic cliffhanger, but because I haven’t solved the puzzle yet (at least with the items I had handy). Despite my quibbles this game been a reasonably fun so far; the custom-font as opposed to system-font and at least slight nod to parser convenience has made the package feel more “professional” than many other pre-1982 games. This is a vague and hard-to-nail-down concept but I’ve often felt like I was playing a “straight from the coder’s bedroom” product — even when this wasn’t literally true — and a stray typo or graphical bug could happen at any moment (and they sometimes did). Here, even though I did spot one typo early, and even given the slightly crude art style, this feels like a game I could see come out of professional packaging.

Posted April 24, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

Tagged with

The Blade of Blackpoole: SPEAK NOT THE NAME MYRAGLYM UNTIL SHE IS HOME   8 comments

I’ve finished the game.

Ad from Atarimania.

With the exception of one very difficult puzzle and one slightly odd action (I needed hints for both) this wasn’t terribly hard; perhaps the most interesting thing about the game (other than the technical aspects I’ve already remarked on) is the main quest itself, which involves taking a sword only a small distance from one place to another. There is something sanctified about the act.

The comic writer for the ad is confused here: you’re not “bringing back” anything, just restoring the sword to its rightful place.

Continuing directly from last time, I had a monster in a river, and I was quite stuck.

Moving forward another hour, I was still stuck. The game has a built-in HELP feature so I tried it and the game told me to keep the monster smiling. Moving forward yet another hour, I was still (still) stuck. It was time to unleash outside-the-game hints.

I found out that I had missed one item. Back at the tavern at the start you can spend one gold coin to buy some ale. This means, incidentally, you can’t buy all the items in the shop (to recap, that’s knife, staff, lamp, pole, honey) but need to leave at least one off. Since I had already used the other items, I restarted and avoided buying the knife, and spent 1 gold coin on the ale instead.

The ale is still somewhat tricky to deliver — GIVE ALE TO MONSTER just has the game claim the monster is too far away. The trick it to simply pour the ale into the river, which works (!?).

I feel zero guilt about spoiling this puzzle.

Fortunately, the rest of the game went much smoother. I was able to get the boat out to a lake with an island in the middle. I still had the magic book and the prayer (SOLOCIN) I hadn’t used, so it was not hard to find the first right action.

The second right action which I did not find on my own — but I’ll just explain here to save time — is that you are also supposed to GIVE BOOK to the statue, and you’ll get a key in exchange. I’m not sure if this is unfair or not.

Going back to the clue from saying SOLOCIN, I think what it is cluing is a boulder not too far from the island which you can break open by hitting it with a tuning fork (found nearby the start of the river).

Dale Dobson somehow solved the puzzle by accident without realizing the tuning fork was causing the boulder to implode; he had just tried to GO WEST and the action happened automatically. This is interesting in a theoretical sense, since using the item automatically ought to be helpful and more friendly to the player, but if the jump is too much it could lead to a player having a puzzle solved for reasons they don’t understand, which is arguably a worse situation.

Inside the cave is a spot for a sword, and a maze.

Nearby there is a sign that says SPEAK NOT THE NAME MYRAGLYM UNTIL SHE IS HOME.

This is where the sword goes. I just had to find the actual sword, but it was not far away. I initially assumed it was in the maze, but random walking through the maze (not even mapping, I was tired) yielded a scroll with two magic words, and a longbow. (One of the words on the scroll, incidentally, causes all items to disappear — that is, it softlocks the game.) I thought maybe I still needed to search the maze and actually map it, but first I combed around the lake to make sure I hadn’t missed something, and I had.

Going DOWN (not SWIM or any permutation thereof) lands you in a place with a lizard.

One of the words on the scroll caused a magic arrow to appear. I dropped the scroll (as seen above) switched to the arrow, using it to SHOOT LIZARD.

With the lizard dead, I found the Sword of the quest, took it back to the shrine I had seen earlier, and spoke the word MYRAGLYM.

This teleports you outside, fortunately back to before getting taken away by the bird. You then are extremely hungry, and I hope you left your honey from the start of the game in a convenient spot, otherwise game over. (I had, by luck.) Then you need to return to the tavern which already knows of your achievement:

In an evaluative sense, the game went up to “pleasant diversion” but only had one really clever puzzle (the boat) which more or less got canceled by the terrible puzzle right after (getting drunk from river water). The most fascinating aspect was the quest itself, where a sword gets moved from one place to another, as it isn’t like some terrible wrong is otherwise being averted, or evil madman being thwarted. Temple of the Sun is the only other adventure of this era that I know of that has a remotely comparable arcane-ritual-as-quest.

Interesting on a secondary level is the number of influences. We can trace all these games back to Crowther/Woods Adventure, and Apple II graphics games to Mystery House — here specifically, the “biome journey” of Wizard and the Princess — but we also now have the third major influence of Zork. By late 1981 the sales of Infocom were starting to make them a serious force in adventure games; by contrast, in late 1980 they had only had a smattering of sales.

Despite roughly an comparable number of unexciting puzzles on a surface level to other games at the time, the slight edge of polish was enough that the game never felt “janky”, even when pointing out in an objective sense how verb difficulties like with the quicksand should never have happened in the first place. There is a sheen of professionalism from mimicking some of the aspects of Infocom that it gives sufficient warmth to override other qualities.

I have a decent notion of what I’m going to play for the next few games, but one thing I haven’t done lately is take requests. I can’t make promises, but if there’s a 1982 game that you really want bumped higher on the queue, I might consider it. (The reason Planet of Death and Inca Curse kicked off 1981 is because frequent commenter baltasarq requested it. I do pay attention, even to the people who keep valiant hope up that I might go back and do some more Eamon games.)

Posted April 28, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

Tagged with