Archive for the ‘creature-venture’ Tag

Creature Venture (1981)   13 comments

You have just inherited your UNCLE STASHBUCK’S MANSION but first you must rid it of the horrible creatures that have taken it over and find your uncle’s buried treasure.

Directing the computer with two word command such as ‘Go North’, ‘Get Key’, ‘Look Room’ ‘Punchout Boogeyman’,etc. You will need to explore deep into the mansion to finally find the Stashbuck Fortune.

— From the cover for Creature Venture

Art via the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

Butch Greathouse and Garry Rheinhardt so far have produced two oddities (Oldorf’s Revenge and The Tarturian) which involved the player controlling entire groups rather than single characters. They came off as interesting in a game-theory sense but slightly awkward to play.

Creature Venture is their third game, where they chuck most of the experimental ideas for a traditional adventure, except for substituting … well, I wouldn’t call it a new idea, exactly, but pushing a concept a bit farther than anyone else had.

The title screen is the only one in color, so I switched to black and white TV mode for the rest of the game. This means y’all miss out on the weird color bleed that happens rendering Apple II screens although you can see it on the screen above, with the purple vertical line to the left of the title and the green vertical line to the right (technical details at Jimmy Maher’s blog).

We can say the development of graphics in adventure games went through multiple phases, not really chronologically but overlapping all at once:

a.) scattered art (Zork, Stuga): a few occasional items have graphical renderings

b.) fully illustrated text adventure (Atlantean Odyssey): every location is illustrated, although the text is complete enough that the illustrations aren’t technically needed

c.) graphic adventure (Mystery House): gameplay is dependent on the graphics, and some items are only described by the graphics; however, if an item is picked up, it is described in inventory using text

and this phase I don’t have a good name for (graphic adventure, part II?), but really, nearly all pretense of giving names to rooms OR objects has been dropped.

Here’s the opening screen, which *does* include the “I’m in a field” boilerplate, but it ends up being rare.

On-Line Systems had plenty of rooms only described by pictures rather than words, but once an object is in inventory, it gets a name. Here, the objects are seen as images in the world and stay that way.

For example, peeking inside the mailbox (not described as such, you just have to recognize and LOOK MAILBOX) led to an item I originally thought was originally an ENVELOPE, but that word wasn’t recognized. It turns out to be a POSTCARD. Once picking up the postcard, it still is only shown as its graphic, and if you read the postcard, you’re shown it says SESAME without any text given outside the graphics window.

Once in inventory, here’s what it looks like. There’s batteries to the right, which *are* mentioned by name in the room description. The game no doubt thought they’d be a little too cryptic to puzzle out.

This is another raid-the-house hunt, but with odd creatures that I have yet to be able to deal with. If the blurb on the cover holds up I have to eliminate them all.

Like this elf. Maybe if I hand it a heavy enough item it’ll try to throw it and hurt their back?

The other curious thing about the graphics handling is the “zoom level”. We’ve seen this back in Mystery House — burning a hole in a carpet and zooming close to see a key — but here it feels a little more systematic. There is, for example, a kitchen:





This is far more extensive “zoom graphics” than any prior game I can think of, although having it be so extensive makes it more of a surprise when it doesn’t work (you can’t LOOK FRIDGE or even refer to it, for instance).

There’s one extra problem intrinsic to this sort of game of not knowing what to call rooms; I’m ballpark guessing, but if this map gets too large I could see myself not remembering what moniker I’ve given a particular place.

I described this room as “FIREPLACE” even though it appears you can’t refer to it. I think the letters FIRE are catching some other item in the parser you get later. Incidentally, the room exit is to the east, so you can’t depend that much on door positioning; I’ve just been testing every exit of every room, but fortunately diagonals are out, so I only need to test north/south/east/west/up/down.

I’m still getting my initial map written out, so not much more yet to report; hopefully I solve some puzzles next time and maybe put the kibosh on some on some monsters.

Posted May 20, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Creature Venture: Hidden Puzzles   2 comments



I figured after the sprawling explore-a-thon that was The Tarturian I’d have a lot of map waiting for me, and I assume I still do, but I hit the edge so far early. I assume what I’m missing are hidden puzzles. That is, situations where there were no obvious obstacles. I can make a list of puzzles, but it’s pretty short:

1.) handle the oozlybub above. The elf I mentioned last time will throw things to be in the room, so maybe it can be something explode-y.

… and that’s it. I did also find a nifty hint which indicated a spot to dig …

I didn’t find this before because I previously thought the visual which turned out to be a PAINTING was a window. I do appreciate this is a purely visual clue that even needs to be solved visually, by mapping the outside picture to the right location.

… but as the game complains I don’t have a shovel, and there’s nothing I can proactively do to get one, I’m just going to assume I’ll run across one along the way. There’s nothing to “solve” really.

I did manage to find a flashlight laying on some stairs by LOOK STAIRS, and I’m still holding onto the words BEEZ and SESAME which don’t do me anything.

Beelzebub I assume. I’m hoping we get to meet Satan.

I assume I’m missing typing a LOOK at some item that will then yield me further information if I do the right verb, but I’ve tried to MOVE various objects to no avail (IT’S TOO HEAVY).

I’ve now twice combed over the map to make sure I haven’t missed any exits (although that’s not quite a guarantee there isn’t something I’ve botched up) but really, this game is lacking in things for me to try out.

The kitchen from last time where I can’t do anything with any of the items. LOOK ICEBOX (as suggested by Lisa in the comments) just says I SEE NOTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY.

With a modern point-and-click I can at least lawnmow everywhere as busywork while I accidentally find the next thing to do, but here I’m not even sure what that busywork would be.

I’ll still be succumbing to hints soon, as I know y’all prefer to read about making progress to not making progress. But I do think these moments of stuckness are important to document, as they can be an unfortunate part of the adventure experience, one that can be excised by a smooth narrative that makes a game’s plot seem smoother than it is.

Posted May 24, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Creature Venture: Accidental Magic   3 comments

I did manage progress without hints, but in an entirely unprecedented way.

As far as “normal” play goes I still wasn’t having much luck but I realized I hadn’t given Creature Venture my “try every possible verb” treatment yet.

There wasn’t much in the way of surprise (although I’m still not sure what TRADE is referring to yet) but where things got very curious indeed was the verb RESET. When I tested it, I was warped to a new room.

(You may see already where this is going. It took a while for it to dawn on me.)

This was an entirely different area. Rather helpfully, I ended up finding a passage that led me back through a “behind the mirror” room…

… to a room I recognized, with a fireplace. I never could work out what the rectangular thing above the fireplace was, so I figured it out by accident.

EXAMINE MIRROR notes there’s no reflection, so you can just ENTER MIRROR to reach the area I was in. This was a rather unorthodox way to work out what the item was, but having items be so cryptic you can’t refer to them seems more like a bug than a feature, to be honest, so I happily went along with it, even though I was still unsure why RESET was working.

I also noticed, after a couple mapping forays, that the RESET word changed my inventory to include a magic lamp marked with THREE TIMES. I baffled over if any clues I’d seen would indicate this would happen, but still did some tests where I would RUB LAMP in various locations to see if anything useful would come of it.

And then finally, it struck me: the game is only interpreting the first three letters of the input. The game is reading RESET as RESTORE. I was restoring a saved game that was previously on the disk I was using!

In all fairness, it was still using DAVE as the name (I switched from JASON based on suggestions from my comment crew) and because I’m not playing with authentic disk speeds there was no obvious delay. But that certainly counts as my first puzzle-solve via antique pre-existing save.

So, what’s past the mirror?

I’ve managed to eke out a few more puzzles. There’s a rebus puzzle on a pillar right when you come in…

…which gives a word which allows opening a door nearby. Behind the door is a bottle of water. You can use the water to grow a tiny tree into a big one.

Climbing the tiny tree gets up to a “Kybor”, and your guess is as good as mine as to what that is. I tested my ill-gotten lamp and the genie made short work, leading to a “Boogieman” guarding a “cage” I still can’t pick up. (There’s a bat elsewhere where if you try to pick it up the game asks where you cage is, so I assume that’s the next step after solving the puzzle.)

To be clear, the save game that’s on the disk has a flashlight that’s almost out of charge, so I’ll need to figure out where the lamp comes from for real. While I was testing the genie out, though, I tried it on the Mimic.

Things don’t turn out too well for the genie.

On the northeast corner of the map there’s some fireflies which you can pick up with the empty bottle (the one that had water). I assume the fireflies might substitute for the flashlight running out, but the problem is the cave-in has me trapped. I don’t have a way of digging myself out and after enough turns you run out of air and die.

So to summarize, I’m stuck on:

a.) the same oozlybub as last time

b.) finding the magic lamp, for real

c.) getting back out of the cave-in

d.) getting by the Boogieman to get the cage

Posted May 28, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Creature Venture: The Battle with Satan   5 comments


By some miracle, I still have avoided hints. I even technically “won” but there’s a master section I’ll explain at the end.

My first breakthrough was in regard to magic words. I had worked out SAY SESAME in an empty shed by the starting location opened a secret passage with a dagger, but I was stumped on BEEZ, from a diary in a bookcase.

SAY BEEZ did cause the bookcase to vibrate but nothing to happen. I knew (from my RES shenanigans, and an explicit message in the instructions) that the game supposedly only understood the first few letters of a word … but that turns out to be untrue in this case. On a whim (due to the paper being torn) I tried SAY BEEZLEBUB and was told by the game


Wait, what? Did the magical invoking diary misspell the word? A brief poke at the Internet yielded Beelzebub, and SAY BEELZEBUB caused the bookcase to move to the side and reveal a secret passage. This was bizarre-meta in both the defying the first characters of text rule on top of the computer … gamemaster? … acknowledging their own bad spelling, and how it somehow is reflected in the diary as well.

Past the passage was a maze.

Not much to say this time — only north/south/east/west directions but I also ran out of items for mapping, so I had to do the thing where I test an exit on a blank room to see if that behavior matches any of the blank rooms currently on my map. I didn’t even get to short-circuit my mapping, as I found the destination last.

This led to the long-awaited shovel.

You can KILL the creature as long as you have the dagger. This helpfully makes the dagger disappear.

The shovel I would normally then take back to the marked spot from the painting I’ve already mentioned, but it turned out to be too big to take back through the crack in the wall. The only thing I could do is hand it to the elf to through it to the room with the oozlybub.

I was horribly stuck and tried all the different improbable things I’m used to trying from adventure games, and by a miracle I came across


which caused the monster to disappear. I’m sure in other circumstances I would look it up and say “how could anyone solve that?” By dumb luck, apparently.

Shovel in hand, I could then finally find my long-awaited magic lamp.

If you rub more than 3 times, the lamp vaporizes you. This will be important later.

Now, I was still stuck, so I went back carefully over any game instructions I might have missed, and noticed that the text very specifically says PUNCHOUT BOOGEYMAN as one of its sample phrases. If you try to PUNCHOUT in the second half of the game (but not the first, it’s different BASIC source code so the responses to verbs are slightly different) the game says


(If you try it in part 1, the game just says NO.) Even more meta, this command is also mentioned on the cover of the game (I quoted it on my first post, if you go back and check)! So I was able to PUNCH BOOGEY guarding the cage and pick it up.

I could then grab a BAT nearby, and try releasing it in every room, finding it not very useful yet.

I also discovered that rubbing the lamp near the mimic _was_ safe … the first time. It needed a magic wand.

I had previously tested this when I didn’t even know RES was restoring a saved game. The player had apparently found the wand already, but it wasn’t obvious from the inventory display that there was a wand there, because is big enough it overlaps the wand picture. Another pitfall of the pictorial inventory.

With the magic wand I could open the cave-in at the fireflies. The fireflies turn out to be an unlimited light source, meaning you can drop the flashlight and batteries. (Also: technically optional, I’m fairly sure.)

I had finally chipped away all the puzzles I could find and was stuck on hidden puzzles again. The only remarkable-looking place I hadn’t fiddled yet with was a stump.

Trying to break the stump led to a custom message about needing a more delicate approach. I ended up ramming through my verb list and finding RUB worked as a teleporter (since the bark has been “rubbed off” due to people using the magic, aha).

The snake is easily defeatable via bat, so I was then able to go north, and run into our pal Lucifer, as shown at the screenshot at the start of this post. Fortunately, he doesn’t attack right away, he just blocks your passage.

After some thought, and realizing I didn’t have many items left to try anyway, I tried RUB LAMP (the genie wasn’t able to help). Going with an alternate approach of dropping everything, I typed DROP LAMP.

I wish I could say I was clever and thought of this — leveraging the don’t-rub-more-than-3-times rule to vaporize Satan, and I guess if anyone can do it, a genie can — but this was another accidental solve. Still, I’ll take it as a win.

(It also looks like it does this even if you haven’t used up the wishes, so I think the mechanic backstory may be more along the lines that demons aren’t allowed to use genies.)

And I really do mean a win — the game lets you quit out at this point if you want, but if you want to go for even bigger treasure, you can do the bonus master quest. It’s essentially a contained short story — you get reunited with the dagger, flashlight, and batteries, and have a short number of turns to win. I’m still not through that section so you’ll see my flawless(-ish) victory, or rampant use of hints, for my finale next time.

Sneak preview.

Posted May 29, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Creature Venture: The Battle with a Very Skittish Land Squid   10 comments


As with my finale posts in general, if you’ve arrived here from elsewhere, you should read my prior posts on Creature Venture first, even though this part is generally self-contained.

From the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

I assume it’s due to memory conditions, but the previous Highland games have all been split into “parts” with separate source code files where any “shared code” needs to be copied over. So for the “cutscene death” of The Tarturian the game just sends the information about what items have been acquired in the game and plays the ending appropriately.

Here, the authors have a “traditional” parser but didn’t bother to transfer over the same commands between parts. This is why in Part 1 trying to PUNCH a random item just said NO whereas using it in Part 2, PUNCH gave a hint. This difference extends to verb vocabulary, meaning that words understood in one part aren’t necessarily understood in another, and vice versa.

I fortunately sussed this out before approaching the master quest of Creature Venture, so I caught that, for example, KISS now worked as a verb. However, I still needed quite a few more hints, with a mixture of absurd actions I feel no remorse at spoiling and reasonable puzzles I was just too tired to get after wrestling with the absurd puzzles. What I will do here is narrate the rest of the game straight, without solving difficulties listed, then go back and explain how far I got on each puzzle.

After the warning on the top of this post, about needing a magic word, you are dropped in a new place with a dagger, flashlight, and batteries. The batteries have a limited life, and your inventory limit is changed: you can only carry a maximum of five items.

This means the best way to start is to leave the starting ring behind while you clear some puzzles. To the west there is the promised chasm, and with no hints in particular, you’re supposed to SAY SHAZAM. This makes a bridge leading to a room with some cake (it’ll make you briefly large if you eat it, you’ll need to save it) and a strange tree that you can nevertheless CHOP and get some rubber, even though CHOP never worked in the game prior to this.

Down below there’s a pick in a wall; pull it out and some water start flowing, which you can plug by typing PUT RUBBER.

Heading back to the starting area (ignoring a cup and a tack that are both there, which are complete red herrings) there’s a locked door next to a pool of oil. You can try to BREAK DOOR but it says you need more delicacy, so the thing to do is THROW DAGGER which somehow bounces off a rock creating sparks which then light the oil which sets the door on fire.

Headed north you get trapped by a cage, but fortunately you can EAT CAKE to temporarily get large and bust it open.

Further north there is a complete dead end. The trick is to DIG while holding the pick, which lets you tunnel through the wall. This leads further to a rug and a pencil, although the best thing to do after scarfing them both is to head back to the entrance (assuming you ditched the pick, you you have enough inventory room to grab the ring, too).

To the north there is a “mimic” chest which turns into a medusa.

The right answer here is to KISS SERPENT, and not, as one might fully and logically expect, KISS MEDUSA. This is sufficent to get the mimic/medusa to move revealing stairs going down, where you can find another dead end, where quite naturally, the obvious thing to do is use the pencil to DRAW a DOOR.

Past the door is a key; you can then head back and find a chasm that you can FLY the rug over, a large snake where RUB RING charms it…

…and a locked door where the key can be applied. Then: the final obstacle.

Which you can defeat via…. you know what, let’s save that. Maybe you (as in reader you, not you visualized theoretically playing the game) can come up with it before I spoil the puzzle in a few paragraphs.

So I was doomed from the very beginning — I did suss out from the hint in the instructions (that I planted at the top of this post) that I was going to need to guess at a magic word as oppose to extract one from the game in any way (noteworthy: it understands SAY XYZZY, even though nothing happens) but I just couldn’t summon up SHAZAM as a possibility and had to look it up.

The tree, rubber, and cake section I worked out on my own. Then I hit the dagger being thrown making sparks, and pretty much lost all willpower. My first impulse on the initial dead end was to use the PICK which was correct, but I couldn’t find the right syntax of DIG (I tried HIT WALL and the like). I did know to FLY with the rug, and my first impulse with the pencil was to DRAW stuff (including drawing on the snake, as shown) but I was far past patience and sanity to work out DRAW DOOR. I did KISS MEDUSA quite early and needed hints for KISS SERPENT. And finally, RUB RING on the serpent was totally reasonable (even if totally random magic) but I was too weary to work through my items by that point.

In an abstract way, there is something weird and refreshing when all the rules of fairness get broken, but it doesn’t feel as much fun from the inside. The master game portion really harkens back to the ludicrous endgames of works like Adventure and Warp, where I get the feeling it might start to be fun as a group — if 5 people are playing with notes, maybe one of them randomly will try throwing the dagger. I doubt there’s any sane ratiocination process to arrive at throwing the dagger, but that doesn’t mean someone won’t solve it (I hit upon YELL BOO myself last time, remember).

Oh, and the octopus? You’re supposed to TICKLE it. Anyone work that out?

With this kind of puzzle, yes, I suppose there is a theoretical path to what happened, but it gives me an avant-garde feeling, like words and causality have been deconstructed.

Endgame aside, I did enjoy this the most of the Highlands library so far; the goofy humor settled into a rhythm, the janky art was at least consistently so, and the puzzles before the endgame were tricky but not impossible. (According to the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities, this was the best selling of their games, briefly reaching the top 10.) We only have one more game to go to finish with Highlands (Mummy’s Curse) and at least I can say they’ve all been interesting to talk about.

Posted May 31, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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