Archive for the ‘hamil’ Tag

Hamil (1982)   16 comments

The mathematicians of Cambridge have been a rich source of brutally hard games as written on their local IBM mainframe, including:

Acheton (1978)
Brand X / Philosopher’s Quest (1979)
Quondam (1980)
Hezarin (1981)

They formed their own ecosystem of sorts, where none of the games were yet visible to the commercial public. The were only played by the small group of mathematicians making them in the first place. 1982 is the year that self-containment changes, with works starting to be published by local company Acornsoft.

1982 was also the year that Johnathan R. Partington (who worked on Acheton) went on a prolific streak with three games in one year: Avon, Murdac, and our choice for today, Hamil.

This game is allegedly easier than the cranium-crushing puzzle-fests of the prior games, but given this is being assessed relative to the hardest quartet of adventures I’ve ever seen, “easier” might mean still on the medium-tough side.

Image from the Acornsoft version of the game, via Every Game Going.

While I’ll be sharing some images of commercial versions (the one by Acornsoft I’ve already mentioned, and one published later by Topologika) I’m playing the direct port of the mainframe version as ported into z-code. (Here’s a link for direct on-line play.) The major obvious difference between the earlier mainframe version and the commercial versions is in the intro, which in the original is short and enigmatic…

You have discovered that the outside world is dangerous. Pursued for many days and nights by hordes of hostile beings, you have arrived, breathless, at a sanctuary. It seems that you are trapped, as it would be foolhardy to venture outside again. However, there may be more to this place than you think…

You are at the western end of a primitive stone chapel. Light streams in through the windows, which are set high above your reach in the entirely featureless walls of the building. A plain arch leads northwards to the world outside which, as you know from experience, is extremely hostile.

…but the intro is rather elongated in the commercial versions, primarily to note that while you are the “rightful heir” of Hamil, and that “you have only just discovered your birthright.”

Silly things like “motivation” and “plot”, bah. Here, I like the enigma more. You start in a small, three room church, with just a bicycle lamp, a rod, and an ancient piece of steak (?) to keep you company.

You are in the middle of the chapel.
There is an extremely heavy stone slab set into the floor here.
It bears the name O’GRAM.

Knowing what I was up against, I went straight for my “try all the verbs off my standard list” method.

SHAKE and FISH seem to be referring to nouns, not verbs, but I marked them down anyway.

This was productive right from the start because (referring back to the O’GRAM slab) while you can’t GET SLAB, PUSH SLAB, PULL SLAB, MOVE SLAB, or HIT SLAB, you can LIFT or RAISE it. This is one of those “yes, I can see why you’d logically only take those two verbs, but you should still acknowledge the other ones” sort of moments.

You succeed in prising the slab from the ground with the aid of the metal rod. A flight of steps beneath is revealed, and you therefore prop the slab up with the rod, leaving a gap through which you should just be able to squeeze.

Going down leads to the rod snapping and the slab closing shut, leaving you underground in the world of Hamil.

A most definitely incomplete map in progress. Starting room marked on top, the “hub” is the marked oval.

The design reminds me of Acheton, with a hub of sorts that branches into a plethora of relatively self-contained areas. (The hub room itself contains a magic wand, which we’ll get back to later.) The overall effect is sometimes akin to a “jukebox” puzzle game like The 7th Guest where an area is self-contained and exists primarily to dispense a treasure. (Oh yes: just like all the other four games, there’s treasures, although it is unclear yet what happens to them. I would assume if you gather them you’ve proved your heirdom, hurray, but I don’t know for certain.)

Here’s three puzzles I’ve solved as examples:

The simplest maze to start. The game intentionally forces you to ditch your inventory.

As you leave the room there is a violent earth tremor and a mighty rushing wind, which between them force you to drop all your possessions. Moreover a large rock falls, narrowly missing you and cutting off the way you came in.

You are in the Maze of Hamil. Light streams in through many gaps in the rocks. There is the constant sound of rockfalls, distant and not-so-distant.

The gimmick here is that there’s coins in each of the rooms, and you need to visit all of them before the end room (which I have marked as “fares please”). As you leave a room it gets destroyed, so you have to create your path to visit all the rooms before the exit.

You are in a small valley surrounded by unclimbable rocks. The only exit, to the west, is blocked. A mighty voice intones “FARES PLEASE!”

The whole purpose of this is to get a Crown of Hamil, a treasure marked with an exclamation mark (!).

You are in the Quaternion room. On the wall is scribbled a selection of obscure algebraic formulae, none of which seem particularly relevant at this juncture. There is a narrow exit to the south.
The ancient crown of the Kings of Hamil is here!

This one’s not hard once you realize the premise, but a second area that has a similar premise but ramps up the difficulty.

To get to the Lost World zone, you have to go back a sleeping T-Rex who then wakes up and starts chasing you.

As you pass the Tyrannosaurus, it stirs uneasily and then wakes, stands up and begins lumbering towards you. You run through the exit and find yourself on the slopes of the Lost World – a vast plateau criss-crossed by a network of boulder-strewn paths and populated by beings long thought extinct. From this point it is also possible to descend to the centre of the plateau, from which a large flock of pterodactyls is taking off in perfect formation. Meanwhile, the Tyrannosaurus is still galumphing towards you, having already caused a small avalanche which has blocked the path back into its cave.

There’s a specific number of pterodactyls taking off, and the idea is to kill enough time so that when you enter the center, it is pterodactyl-free. This means getting chased as long as possible, but this time the paths get filled up by earthquakes, not the rooms.

The T.R. follows, causing an avalanche to block the path you took.
You are in the Lost World.
A Tyrannosaurus Rex is lumbering towards you.

So our goal ends up being to visit every single path and return back to the center. In mathematician lingo the first puzzle is is a Hamiltonian path (visit all the rooms) and the second puzzle is a Eulerian path (visit all the edges connecting rooms). And yes, the name “Hamil” of the game does not seem to be coincidence.

Realizing the gimmick took longer than the solve, but still, this felt very much in The 7th Guest zone, of basically using the rooms like a giant board game with its own rules as opposed to being “in the universe” of the adventuring world.

Not like there still isn’t normal adventuring things — while you get a bust of Conan Doyle as a reward for solving this puzzle, you also get a whistle which helps solve a side puzzle off the hub.

You are in a small room which is furnished as a living room, though evidently for an inhuman being, to judge from the designs on the walls. These depict different ways of cooking human flesh. I hope you have more taste.
There is an antique silver goblet here!
There is an old lady here, sitting on a rock. Even in this light, there appears to be something odd about her.
An enormous alsatian appears, snarling and foaming at the mouth. It is about to set on you but sees the old lady as a worthier opponent and fights a fierce battle with her, eventually tearing her limb from limb. It then slopes off, exhausted.

There is an antique silver goblet here!
The mangled remains of an elderly female hobgoblin are here.

For the third area, it is a more “traditional” maze, and the old ultra-evil of the prior Phoenix games surfaces.

Specifically: going in any “wrong” directions results in meeting an enemy, like a dwarf with an axe, or a mummy. You then have a turn to react, followed by death.

You are in the labyrinth.
> N
You are in the labyrinth.
There is a mummy here, shambling towards you.
The mummy throttles you to death.

Oh dear! You seem to have passed away.
You scored 53 points out of a maximum of 300.
Do you want another game, oh heroic one?

It appears the majority of the enemies are entirely unkillable, and you’ll notice the pattern is to have two exits per maze room — you can drop items and do relatively speaking the normal mapping, except for having to die repeatedly as you test exits. (Also, the game disables saves while in the maze; fortunately you can drop items to help map it out, pop back out to save, then go back in again and nothing has happened to the dropped items.)

Where I got puzzled was the last room, which appeared to be a dead end — you could enter, but every exit had monsters, including a “kobold” which weren’t in prior exits. I vaguely suspected the usual pattern was being thrown off here, so I experimented with trying to kill the kobold, and notably using the wand:

> E
You are in the labyrinth.
There is an angry kobold here.
The kobold suddenly shows signs of terror and runs away from you at top speed!

Yes, despite all the other enemies being unkillable (probably) there’s one that isn’t, and there’s also no indication that this is the wand effect in particular and the only way to find out is to test the wand. While I did technically solve the puzzle about the best way one could (I had nothing resembling an offensive weapon, so honestly the wand was the only thing that occurred to me as a possible solution) I can still mark this moment as thoroughly, unrepentantly evil.

The reward for solving the puzzle is a golden crozier which may end up not being useful (other than for stashing in some room I haven’t found yet).

A crozier is a staff with a curved end, like the one shown. From the British Museum, licensed as CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

I’ve only prodded lightly at other areas, like a museum that has a statue of Michelangelo’s that is marked as a treasure but is too big to carry, and some woods with a mysterious location that temporarily puts you to sleep, so I’ll write about them next time when I have a better grasp of what’s going on.

Posted April 13, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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Hamil: Kept Deep in the Ground   5 comments

Erect and sublime, for one moment of time,
   In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
   While they waited and listened in awe.

From the original printing of The Hunting of the Snark.

To continue directly from last time, I need to do a slight correction, as Paul Ingerson pointed out I missed a hint. I thought the wand’s effect was unclued, but it is described as having “mystic runes”, and you can READ it:

The runes on the wand say:
    “Though bold in name
    They flee in shame!”

Since kobold has the letters “bold” in the name, that is supposed to hint at the wand’s effect being to make kobolds run in fear.

As Hamil is a game without an EXAMINE verb, I wasn’t thinking of getting more information off a particular object. (Also, “mystic runes” I usually don’t think of as English letters!)

Now, let’s rewind to the start, where I had found a slab written with O’GRAM, and dropped into a crypt…

From Stardot, via CMcDougall.

…as Paul (again) surmised, this was meant to hint at CRYPTOGRAM. (This is a puzzle I solved last time but I wanted to see where it was going before I reported in.) Specifically, the crypt looks like this:

You are in a crypt below the chapel, a dank and musty chamber. Sinister passages lead to the east and west, and there is a hole in the south wall. There are some steps up here, but they lead nowhere.

On the wall is scrawled the following legend:


That’s a rather short cryptogram to solve straight out (and I confirmed there was no simple Caesar shift going on) and in fact I ran about the map a bit before coming back to it, but I found that just to the east there was a major hint:

> E
You are in a short passage, which enters from the west and terminates in a large metal door with no obvious means of opening. The door bears the legend


This was a major enough hint I immediately realized the message had to be THE PASSWORD IS … something. Y was D, A was R, M was E, and N was A, so the word was DREAD, and saying it caused the door to open. This word is incidentally randomized on new playthroughs.

This led to a room where, oddly, the only thing I could find was a large tapestry (too big to carry, even) where picking it up opened a window to the sun outside.

You pull down the tapestry from the wall, exposing a small window, far above your reach, through which the sun is shining and a refreshing breeze is blowing.

Where realization struck is that not far off was a coffin with a vampire (the one depicted on the cover above).

You lift the lid of the coffin to reveal an elegantly dressed corpse.
Its eyes snap open and it smiles thirstily at you. The vampire (for such it is) then leaps from the coffin, drops something it was carrying, and moves towards you with fangs bared.

The vampire starts chasing you. The trick is to having the password-room open but have not yet pulled the tapestry; then get the vampire chasing, lead him to the sunlight room, and let him have the full blast.

A ray of light hits the vampire, who emits a ghastly screech and then literally crumbles into dust, which is dispersed by a draught from the window.

Heading back to the vampire’s coffin, I found some documents in a language my avatar couldn’t read, and the documents were notably not a treasure. I stashed them away and merrily did some more mapping / puzzle solving before running across their use more or less by accident. I happened to have them in my inventory when I was exploring an open court next to a “museum”.

You are at the western end of the court. There is a portal leading out at this side,above which are inscribed the words:


A lowered portcullis blocks the exit.
> W
The sentries see at once that you are carrying the deeds to castle Hamil, bow respectfully to you, and raise the portcullis.
You are in the entrance hall to Castle Hamil, which is filled with knights who greet you as their lord. To the north there is a passage into a small vault.

The vault is where the treasures go, although for some curious reason, there’s a garlic stashed there already (not a treasure, and I’ll explain where it’s useful later).

The whole court/museum area is pretty dense with interesting items and puzzles.

Location 1 has a huge egg which hatches into a dragon; there’s a forest area to the south with a cave blocked by “an impenetrable mass of undergrowth” and you can deposit the egg there, and find later the dragon has hatched (and burned away the undergrowth) but won’t let you by. You can alternately be there when the egg hatches and find the dragon wants to be friends with you, except that being friends is also fatal:

Suddenly the egg you are carrying gives a loud CRACK, the shell splits, and a baby dragon emerges. It purrs happily at you, unfortunately giving you third degree burns in the process. In fact the dragon’s attempt to make friends merely results in your demise.

My suspicion is that being at the cave with egg hatching is correct, but you need to survive friendship (at which point the dragon will let you by into the cave), but that’s only 60% confidence or so.

Location 2 has a talisman which says OBLIVION. OBLIVION is an understood verb but I haven’t gotten it to do anything (with or without the talisman). The talisman also has the odd effect of randomly being “left behind” when you go a particular direction, meaning you need to backtrack and pick it back up if you want to keep it. I’ve found two uses for it I’ll get into later.

Location 3 has a hard-to-pick-up treasure

There is a huge marble statue by Michaelangelo here!

where getting the statue indicates “You can’t take that!” I assume the hugeness is the issue here. Perhaps some magic will allow transport into the vault, or perhaps it can be shrunk down? I don’t think this is a puzzle I’m ready to solve yet.

Location 4 has a easy-to-pick-up treasure

There is a large curved object here, elegantly carved by skilled craftsmen from the wood of the sacred tree of Hamil!

and it may just be there for stuffing into the vault, but it feels mystical enough I get the intuition this doubles as a useful object somewhere. (It does not seem to be secretly a boomerang, or at least, THROW WOOD doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary.)

Location 5 has a jackdaw flying around with a shiny object. I haven’t been able to grab its attention. (Also, in my current playthrough it is in the east court rather than center, indicating either I made a mapping mistake or there’s something random about the positioning.)

Location 6 leads down to the Snarks.

You are in an east-west passage. There is a sign reading “TO THE SNARKS” and an arrow pointing east.
> E
The passage comes to a dead end here, but there is a hole in the floor.
> D
You are in a curiously constructed room. There are steep passages leading down from here in all eight horizontal directions, each labelled “TO THE SNARK”. There is also a hole in the roof, through which you will have no trouble returning.

The directions all lead to downward stairs, where a message is revealed slowly, Burma-Shave style.

You are in a steep twisting passage. On the wall is daubed the word “UNFORTUNATELY”.
> D
You are in a steep twisting passage. On the wall is daubed the word “SNARKS”.

etc., leading to UNFORTUNATELY SNARKS HAVE TO BE KEPT DEEP IN THE GROUND. Going down one more time is then death.

> D
In the room there is a Snark burbling frumiously to itself. As you approach, it roars like a Bandersnatch. “Oh no, it’s a Boojum!” you gasp, as you softly and suddenly vanish away.

(I like how my spellcheck understands Boojum but not frumiously.)

The only major observation I’ve made is that all eight directions seem to lead to the same set of downwards stairs. Normally I would have trouble being sure of that, because dropping items cause them softly and suddenly vanish away, but the talisman from earlier is an exception: if it drops on its own, it doesn’t count as regular dropping, and then you can confirm by hopping into other directions that you’re going down the same set of stairs to reach it. (That doesn’t mean there isn’t some weird flag set by doing some trick with the eight directions, but resolving whatever is happening doesn’t get fixed by just being in a specific set of rooms.)

Speaking of the talisman, let’s get down to the other use I spoke of, which is at the same forest area as the baby dragon that can burn the entrance to a cave.

To the south is a sleepy-time grove. I don’t know what it’s useful for.

You enter a luxurious grove in which the atmosphere is so heady that you fall asleep almost at once. You awake shortly afterwards with no (apparent) after-effects.
You are in a luxurious grove which contains an abundance of beautiful plants. The sun is shining, birds twitter, bees hum… in fact the whole atmosphere is soporific in the extreme. Now awake, you find it difficult to remain so. The only exit is back to the north.

To the east is the previously mentioned cave, and to the west is the nastiest maze of the game I’ve yet encountered.

Three spirits appear in front of you. They claim to be the servants of the Maize Goddess, Mecohuatl, and promptly bear you away as a sacrifice to their deity.

It’s a maize maze, and for a long time I kept getting attacked by spirits as shown seemingly at random. After a lot of experimentation I finally realized the oblivion talisman gave protection, as long as you either carried it or it was in the current room. That means if you’ve dropped the talisman, you’re safe as long as you can go right back to where the talisman was. The maze, unfortunately, is the irregular kind where directions back are not obvious, and you can’t even use the in-game command BACK (“I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how you got here!”).

It’s hard to convey how distressing the whole experience was. Some exits jump back in the “path” by two or more rooms, so you really want to be dropping extra objects in rooms so you can keep track of Room 1, Room 2, etc. Also, the only way to save is to backtrack out of the maze entirely.

Let’s just say an “enormous” number of clone bodies were sacrificed before I reached the end, which was just a treasure (a Van Gogh painting). Once you actually have it settled, the procedure is to try to walk through with the talisman, and every time you drop it, go back to the previous room and pick it up.

There’s still also a few other scattered puzzles through the map, either addressed or unaddressed. In one room an enchanter seduces (?) you, Odysseus style, but kills you in the process. The proper procedure is to eat garlic beforehand (remember from the vault?) so she is repulsed, and then you can grab the emeralds she leaves behind.

Other random bits and bobs include: a six-legged creature who is crying for their mother, and who you can pick up; a “fish room” with “pictures of fish of every description… turbot, halibut, you name it”; a wall of fire; a bottle with a “djinn” that offers to help “if it be in my power” when set free, but I’ve yet to see an effect; a pit with a “furry arm” that comes out and kills you if you try to jump over; a rocky plain that is “heavily cratered” and trying to walk in any direction results in the earth opening up and swallowing you.

Then there’s this bit, which quite irregularly has a bicycle wheel, and more ominously, has randomization:

> SE
You are in a small room with exits to the southeast and northwest. The whole of one wall is taken up with a large painted mural, which shows the explorations of Columbus and Peary.
There is a bicycle wheel here.
> SE
As you leave the room, a disembodied voice whispers ‘Do not pause!’
You are in the large orbicular chamber.

The mural in particular is randomized. It changes the explorers upon entering the room, or even just has one explorer; it could be, for example, Captain Scott and Marco Polo. In a 90s game I might think this was just a way to add flavor, but in a Phoenix game, this is most definitely some kind of hint, probably connected with “do not pause”. I’ve tried to connect this even with the snark but still haven’t had any luck.

Another Hunting of the Snark picture for good measure.

One last piece of irritation before I close out; it’s something I’ve run across since the beginning of the game, and have finally decided has no logic to it at all other than to kill me personally. If you stay in the same room too long you die.

While you are wondering what to do next, a giant centipede scuttles in and gives you a poisonous bite in the leg.

There are various other deaths, including via anteater. I thought things couldn’t be that simple and perhaps there were “safe zones” or the like, but no, this seems (as far as I can tell) to be a consistent effect found everywhere in the game. I guess the idea is to encourage moving forward, but usually when this was originally hitting I was just organizing my inventory or trying to test out room exits. I have learned now when checking exits (that is, double-checking going, say, northwest is really is blocked off, even though it’s not in the room description) to leave and come back to the room I’m testing every so often in order to stave off death by anteater.

In most normal play the death doesn’t come up, but my pattern of hanging out in a room and fiddling with each of my inventory objects in turn or just trying random verbs is usually what I do when I’m stuck, so the main effect of the feature is to throw me off my groove. Still, I’m managing to hang on without hints so far, but I suspect the latter half of the game will have at least a few demons as puzzle somewhere.

Posted April 17, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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Hamil: I’m Sorry I’ve Nothing Stronger to Offer You   9 comments

Well, you weren’t all that thirsty, but you take a long drink of water. I’m sorry I’ve nothing stronger to offer you.

I have completed the game, although I did need hints for the last handful of obstacles. My prior posts are needed for this one to make sense.

From Every Game Going.

Previously, I ended on a puzzle I was tantalizingly close to solving, although I had only theorized a connection: a room giving the names of explorers and trying to reach a Snark without being vaporized. The wall messages were randomized and there were eight of them:

Captain Scott
Marco Polo
Peary and Columbus
Peary and Marco Polo
Scott and Columbus
Scott and Marco Polo

Eight possibilities, and eight directions, where four of them list two things: this was listing north, south, east, and west with the combinations being NE/SE/SW/NW. I originally had looked at the letters of the names themselves, but I then realized the explorers were associated with particular directions. North for arctic explorer Peary, south for Scott, west for Columbus, and east for Marco Polo. So that message was just a code for a single direction.

You are in a small room with exits to the southeast and northwest. The whole of one wall is taken up with a large painted mural, which shows the explorations of Peary.

So the description above means: go to the Snark area, take the north direction, then go all the way down.

In the room there is a Snark burbling frumiously to itself. As you approach, it gives you an uffish look and then disappears completely. You are in a large cellar with walls of Lewis coral which has obviously been designed as a home for some exotic beast. There is a narrow exit upwards.
There is a box of sapphires here!

From The Hunting of the Snark.

Speaking of close-to-solving parts, I had last time theorized the piece of wood was a boomerang, but when the response to THROW WOOD was underwhelming I just assumed it wasn’t. I still decided, perhaps, I could attract the attention of a flying jackdaw which held something shiny, maybe it would try to play “chase the stick” or build something out of it (crows are known for using tools like sticks).

You are at the eastern end of the great court.
There is a jackdaw flying around in circles far above you.
Something it is carrying in its beak glisters in the sunlight.
The boomerang catches the jackdaw a passing blow, knocking it to the ground, dead. The weapon itself continues in flight.

Erf. Unexpected violence, but at least that’s resolved.

I poked around with more confidence at the remaining issues. I had a creature (a “baby hexapod”) that was crying for its mama, and pondering my verb list I had gathered, I noticed I hadn’t used FEED yet, so I decided to try it.

> feed creature
The hexapod gobbles up the steak greedily after which it calms down considerably, only occasionally burping and saying “Mama?”

I hadn’t specified the steak, the game did that for me automatically because I was holding it. (Sort of a minor variant of point-and-click adventures having puzzles solved by clicking in the right spot but not knowing beforehand want the action will be. Brief plug for Joey Jones writing about the slow evolution of verb-full to verb-less in Lucasarts games.)

I still needed to find Mama, and I was rather short on places to go. I had, in full:

  • a forest area that caused sleep
  • a cave blocked by undergrowth that a dragon was able to burn, except I couldn’t get by the dragon’s fire after
  • a regular wall of fire
  • a rocky plain where going in direction caused death
  • a pit with a “furry arm” that comes out and kills you if you try to go by
  • a “fish room” with pictures of fish
  • a room full of dust (I thought at the time it might be decoration, although it isn’t)
  • a statue too heavy to move

The only plausible location seemed to be the rocky plain, so I managed to get success on my first try:

You drop the hexapod to the ground. It runs off to the south.

Following the hexapod leads to the parents:

The baby hexapod runs into the arms of a much larger isomorphic creature, obviously its parent. In a similar high-pitched voice this creature squeaks “We thank you for seeing our little Alpha Centauri home safely to us. Pray accept this reward – such baubles are of no interest to us but we understand that they are highly regarded by humanoids.” She then drops a string of pearls at your feet and the two of them disappear down a hole in the ground, which at once closes after them.
You are on the rocky plain.
There is a string of pearls here!

Again, another very self-contained puzzle. So self-contained, that the overall game meta structure was starting to look like this:

This doesn’t hold completely — the vampire had documents which led to the vault, for instance, and the egg/dragon setup has a second part to completely solve the puzzle — but the generally flat structure made still made me suspicious about one item in particular, a bottle with a djinn.

A huge djinn appears from the bottle with a WHOOSH. He says sonorously “Many thanks, oh effulgent one! I will help thee if it be in my power.” He then vanishes and reappears after a short while, saying “I have done thee service to the best of my powers, oh lustrous one! Farewell!” The djinn then vanishes for good.

I had been trying in various places to use the djinn in the bottle as the solution to a puzzle, but maybe the djinn doesn’t really do anything at all other than provide the bottle it was in! Thinking in those terms, I burned the djinn somewhere random (I did mark my save game with an X as a branch in reality in case this was wrong) and then used the bottle to scoop up some water. This is sufficient to defuse both the dragon and the wall of fire. (ADD: Paul points out in the comments that the djinn moves the tapestry from the start of the game to the vault. I didn’t even notice that! I will gladly still take a right solve for wrong reasons.)

You are in the forest. There are paths to the west, northwest and southwest. To the east is the entrance to the cave. There seems to have been a fairly large fire here recently.
There is a baby dragon here, breathing fire towards you.
You throw the water at the baby dragon, whose flames are thoroughly quenched. It gives you a reproachful look and then flies off into the distance.

The wall of fire quenching led to a jeweled helmet (another treasure) and getting past the dragon led to a cave with a first folio of Shakespeare (yet another treasure) and nothing else. The flat structure arises again.

This left me rather stuck. I really didn’t have anything for the statue, but I could try the creature in the pit some more.

As you reach the edge of the pit a large furry arm reaches out and pulls you into the murky depths. There are horrendous sounds of snarling and your body is wrenched to pieces and then eaten.

I was able to throw it things and have them get eaten, so I strongly suspected I needed to poison it somehow, but I didn’t find anything on the map that remotely seemed like poison. I’m still honestly a touch puzzled here — did I miss a clue? — but the key was the room of “dust” which I guess is something a bit stronger:

You are in a small chamber the floor of which is covered by a thick layer of white dust. There are exits to the west and southeast.

You can poison something (I tried the bird I had killed earlier with the boomerang) and toss it in.

You throw the jackdaw into the pit.
There are sounds of roaring and threshing in the pit.
Suddenly there is an almighty screech followed by silence.

This lets you get by and pick up some “dilithium crystals”, another treasure, and yes, another “dead end” in terms of structure.

Going back to my list, this left

  • a forest area that caused sleep
  • a “fish room” with pictures of fish
  • a statue too heavy to move

The forest and statue are connected. Specifically, you’re supposed to eat a piece of cheese that I had been toting around, thinking I’d give it to an animal. Somehow the cheese causes a dream in the sleepy area.

Well, you weren’t really hungry, but you eat the cheese all the same. Don’t blame me if you get indigestion.
> S
You enter a luxurious grove in which the atmosphere is so heady that you fall asleep almost at once. The cheese you ate so recently gives you terrible nightmares, from which you are glad to awaken. The most vivid one is about a stone statue and a man calling out “NOMET”.

I’ve never had food-induced nightmares before, but I’ve heard it is a Real Thing. What was interesting here is how it played against my adventurer tendency to Avoid Consuming Items — that is, having something disappear by eating it is often the wrong move. Someone less experienced in adventures would be more likely to come across the solve early here.

You can take this word over to the statue — fortunately there were so few puzzles left this seemed like an obvious choice — and speak it, and this will cause the statue to come alive and walk its way over to the vault for you.

Finally, there’s the fish room, which seems to follow no logic at all to this solve, and I just had to have the hints tell me what to do:

You are in a square room whose walls gleam with pictures of fish of every description… turbot, halibut, you name it. A passage leads back to the north.
On the western wall the word SWAMP seems to stand out from the surrounding blackness, as though produced by a thousand glow-worms.

I guess this happened in Acheton once — you had to turn the lamp off in a room — but here it really seems completely unclued. Again I wonder if I missed something.

Unfortunately getting SWAMP gets you nowhere, there’s a second trick. SWAMP indicates a magic word, but it is in code: encoded by the same code as THE PASSWORD IS (something) from much earlier.

R      I   SEA H  OT  P DW

At least the O’GRAM bit signaled the code being significant, but SWAMP is a word and the “decryption” isn’t:

A concealed exit in the south wall silently slides open.
> S
You are in a small cupboard south of the fish room.
The lost ruby of Hamil is here!

Not a fan. But that’s the last of the treasures, so it’s on to the endgame, which is one turn exactly.

You are in the vault.
There is an elegantly carved boomerang here!
There is an antique silver goblet here!
There is a richly bejewelled helmet here!
There is an enormous tapestry here!
There is a diamond ring here!
The ancient crown of the Kings of Hamil is here!
There is a platinum bust of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here!
There is a string of pearls here!
There is a box of sapphires here!
There is a first folio of Shakespeare here!
There is a huge marble statue by Michaelangelo here!
The lost ruby of Hamil is here!
There is an oil painting by Van Gogh here!
There are some emeralds here!
There are some priceless dilithium crystals here!
There is a golden crozier here!

Suddenly a narrow crack in the wall begins to widen. You rush for it and manage to squeeze through, leaving your possessions behind in the vault, before it closes again. On looking at your new surroundings, you find that…

You are in the departure lounge for Valhalla, a spacious room filled with riches of every kind. There are a dozen dancing maidens standing in one corner of the room, looking expectantly at you. Heavenly sounds fill the air. On the wall there are three notices, which read ZPNT NAM TPMHA SAYMAL? ZPNT ZNL TPM WPANLM? and ZPNT HL TPM LMT, LSATMY?

The encrypted messages (same system as before) are asking


and I sort of had to right idea and set to work trying to anagram the letters R I SEA H OT P DW. I had reached 299/300 points by now so I was past my patience point. It is possible if I hadn’t been anxious I might have realized on my own there was an alternate perspective: to list out the plaintext letters and write what the corresponding encrypted letters are (rather than the other way around).

N  YM  PH     SW ALT  Z

So to win you have to type NYMPHS WALTZ.

The nymphs burst into a round of applause, a hidden orchestra plays the Blue Danube, and you waltz the night away. After this you all embark on the ship for Valhalla and set sail, watched by a cheering crowd of hobgoblins, orcs, hexapods and many other exotic beings.

You scored 300 points out of a maximum of 300.
Perhaps you really are quite clever. Well done!

This game was fascinating as a sort of mini-version of all the evil Phoenix games that had come before. Simplified in structure, condensed in size, smoothed out in difficulty, with a few rough edges (like the fish room, which I still don’t understand) remaining.

I can’t say I “immersed myself” in a world the same I did with, say, Deadline. The narrative is clearly not the point; attacking this was definitely more akin to tackling a puzzle from a magazine or newspaper which happened to give feedback to actions. This clearly fed to something in the British taste because these games allegedly sold quite well for their time, and we have, of course, a plentitude more to look forward to.

I can say while this certainly didn’t have the ambition of the prior games, even given the “don’t stay in the same room or you’ll die by aardvark” timer, it was in its own way the most pleasing.

(Incidentally, I did finally find a safe zone — you can hang out at the fountain at the court as long as you want without getting killed. Makes a decent base for storing objects so you can sort through inventory and think without getting gutted.)

Posted April 19, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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