Archive for the ‘in-the-universe-beyond’ Tag

In the Universe Beyond (1981)   Leave a comment

This is my fiftieth game for 1981. My list of games is in flux; one time it did make exactly 100, and I’ve added a few since, but I’m still comfy saying I’m roughly halfway.

Cape Canaveral picture from NASA.

Given Roger M. Wilcox wrote 9 of those games, and I’ve only done 1 so far, I really should knock down some more so I don’t cram them in at the end. As a reminder, he wrote a series of “private games” in high school that were generally not distributed (although he got Vial of Doom out in the 80s) and they only got exposed to the world in 2012 when he put the games up at his website.

This is his 10th game overall, giving him vastly more experience than a lot of the “professional” effort we’ve seen sold in a box (or at least a Ziploc bag), and Interstellar War (his game #9) was decent, so I was game to try this one.

I played the original TRS-80 edition, in order to preserve the typos that all of you readers out there love and enjoy. (The Windows port changes the spelling to Cape Canaveral. Spoilsport.)

If you look at the guard HE BARELY SEEMS TO HEAR YOU! so that was a hint to YELL:

THE GUARD MISINTERPRETS THE DIRECTION OF THE SOUND, AND RUNS OFF LEAVING THE ENTIRE COMPLEX UNGUARDED.

That’s easy to explain quickly, but note in real time that took me two sessions and about 15 minutes of gameplay to work out; no direction commands work, and you can’t GO CAPE or GO INSIDE or anything like that (after the guard moves there’s a GATE); it isn’t even 100% clear the guard is stopping you.

Inside, there’s GREEN PLANTS (you can take them), a SCIENTIST, and a SPACE SHUTTLE. If you LOOK SCIENTIST you are given a mission.

We were both barred from entering, and expected as savior of the universe. Odd. I guess the guard just missed a memo. I hope the other universe we are questing to destroy doesn’t have any people in it. Also, “you will be richly rewarded” sounds like a king giving a mission, not a scientist at NASA.

Typing SAY QMY$ zips us inside the space shuttle.

The first thing I tried was pushing the blue button.

THE SPACE SHIP DESTROYS THE PLANET BELOW WHICH IN TURN BASHES IT TO DEATH AND YOU DIE INSIDE IT.

That sounds bad. Perhaps we should have been given a user’s manual before attempting to save (checks log) the entire universe.

The white button launches you to THE MILKY WAY GALAXY, the blue button then punches you to the “other side”

THE STARS BECOME SMEARED AS YOU CRASH THROUGH THE LIGHT BARRIER AND THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE.
YOU TRAVEL IN COMPLETE DARKNESS FOR A WHILE, THEN RE-ENTER AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT UNIVERSE.

and pressing the white button again puts the ship near a planet.

I wasn’t able to get farther than that with just ship controls, but going west in the ship, I found a helmet, a large belt (with a hook), a maser pistol, and a canister which produces weak gravity. I worked out I could HOOK CANISTER, assumingly creating an “anchor” so I wouldn’t float off wherever I went.

I then found I could SAY QMY$ to leave the ship while in space, but this just sucked me in the void. I was extremely stuck and had to check Dale Dobson’s walkthrough; there are multiple other spots of absurdity where I had to use it later.

This turned out to be one of those puzzle where the information in the command HELP is almost completely and totally necessary to make progress.

THE SPACE SHIP’S ON-BOARD COMPUTER IS NAMED SCOTTY.

This indicates — for no in-game reason I could find — that BEAM is a verb in the game. However, this is universe where things are reversed, so if you BEAM DOWN you still die. You need to BEAM UP.

THE AIR IS NOT BREATHEABLE. YOU DIE OF SUFFOCATION.

…and you also need to WEAR PLANTS, which provide sufficient oxygen for you to survive.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Yeah, I had to look that one up too. This does make me wonder, in a most extreme Mythbusters-build sort of way, if there was some way to make it work. Nevermind you’d think NASA would have provided us with a proper space suit.

Moving on, I dug up a BLACK CYLINDER and a CAN OPENER. The can opener worked on my large canister to unearth a smaller canister inside with even less gravitational pull, and I have no idea how the belt hook managed to stay attached. The cylinder has a switch on it (you have to SWITCH CYLINDER, and that was walkthrough use #3) and it lets you cut down a forest. Why the forest itself wasn’t helping with my oxygen problem, I don’t know.

The cylinder “EMITS A WHIR” when you switch it on but it’s not clear what it does until this happens.

The lower-gravity cylinder unearthing was all there to help jump over a ravine just past the forest.

The “piece of slate” is just north of here and throws off sparks when you hit it, and the “radium power source” comes from opening the pistol.

I was stuck yet again, but on an easy one this time — I needed to examine the trees after I cut them. This led to a HANDLE WITH GAS NOZZLE. I could then LIGHT NOZZLE with the piece of slate (from the screenshot above), and then CUT POST, revealing a secret entrance to a cave.

Here you had to DIG ROOF to find the key. I confess I was just clinging to the walkthrough for dear life now.

Going in, you can make creative use of the shovel to find a KEY (see above) and then find a dead end with a LEAD WALL WITH PEEPOLE NOTCH. The key lets you UNLOCK the WALL and then PUSH WALL to move it out of the way. It falls down to become a SIX-SECTION LEAD PLATE and reveals a passage to the east.

Well. That’s an object you don’t often see. I tried to TAKE CENTER but was told my inventory was full, so I had to drop some items (really).

That “six” on the “six-section lead plate” was intended as a hint — you can FOLD PLATE into a LEAD CUBE. With the LEAD CUBE in hand the center can be safely taken.

Fortunately, 1 move = 1 second, so that gives you time to run back to the starting point, BEAM DOWN back to the ship (BEAM UP kills you, of course) and fly the ship back to Earth Prime.

LEAD BOX CONTAINING CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. Wow. For the finale, you just need to drop it, and the scientist is suitably impressed.

OK, I think it’s safe to say 1981 Wilcox had at least a little awareness of how goofy this one was.

Much older Wilcox, too:

But seriously, folks — now that I think about it, the planet also sported a forest of trees. Why didn’t those trees make oxygen? [Thinks of an excuse] Oh, of course, silly me! Any oxygen they produce should have fallen off into space, what with the reversed gravity and all. Yeah, that’s it, that’s the ticket. (“So why does the planet have ANY atmosphere at all, in that case? And how does your lit-nozzle blowtorch burn?”) Um … hey, look over there, it’s Scott Adams! [ducks and runs]

Posted October 29, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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