Archive for the ‘inferno-1981’ Tag

Inferno (1981)   16 comments

Let’s loop back just slightly to a game I missed from 1981. It is rather obscure; it wasn’t listed on any of my regular sources until after I had already locked my 1981 list into place. (An eternity ago, 2019.) This is perhaps understandable, as The Software Emporium hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma and this is their only game.

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

I don’t have author names or biographical information otherwise. The manual thanks Rainbow Computing, Inc. (an Apple II publisher out of California), Crowther and Woods (there’s a fair chance the authors only saw Adventure before writing this) and “our wives for their help and patience”. There’s also a phone number but I haven’t been brave enough to test out if a 42-year old phone number still works.

This is animated, with the little dragon walking by.

After the graphical intro, there’s a long scroll full of lore. If you want to watch it in real-time, I’ve embedded a video below.

In times of old, there was a “divergence” between swordsmasters and wizards, such that those who used one method of power could not use the other.

The greatest wizard at the School of Magic in the East, Cossa, became interested in the dark arts. A great warrior came to prominence at the same time, and due to the wizard’s cruel deeds, the two ended up in a showdown; the warrior came to the wizard’s palace, slaying foul creatures as he went.

The warrior and wizard went to blows, the warrior using an elven sword passed down from his ancestors that could defend against spells. The warrior approached for a final blow, but the wizard cast a last-minute spell while dying, opening the ground beneath the warrior and sending him into the Inferno.

You are not playing the warrior, but someone else who has been tossed into the Inferno.

Maybe he’ll be corrupted into a Dark Knight for a final boss battle.

The game, after various bits of instructions, tells you that YOU HAVE BEEN GRANTED 500 LIFE POINTS FOR THIS TRIP TO THE INFERNO.

The life points serve as the “lamp timer” for the game; they continuously go down as you walk around the environs. (This is, at least, somewhat fair in a verisimilitude sense, even if old-school game design.) Your life points can decrease by getting hurt for other reasons; most obnoxiously, there’s an orc that wanders about and serves and sort of the game’s dwarf/pirate. If the orc wanders in you have a chance to fight or run. I have yet to win a fight, but based on the screen messages (and a comment in this review) I know it is possible to win, but with your life points still having sustained damage.

Death results in another animation:

Other rooms can be deadly as well. For example, one room is Yog-Sothoth’s Chamber; there is a random chance the creature in question will be in.

While the game has a line that describes explicit exits, the game has quite a few “secret exits”, so you have to test all eight cardinal directions plus up and down in every single room. This is not fun combined with the random chance of orc-death. Red connections in the map below are secret:

Points of interest include:

– A bridge that collapses and kills you.

– A mirror that kills you if you break it.

– A “hexagonal cell” with a basilisk that kills you.

– A “ballroom” that asks you to join the dance. The dance, strangely, does not kill you, but says YOU FEEL VERY STRANGE! and reduces your precious life points by a whopping 150.

– Astaroth, who doesn’t kill you, just blocks your way.

– A creature being cooked in a vat that wants us to put the fire out.

I don’t have much to work with; there’s an IDOL that falls to pieces when I look at it, leaving DUST, HOOVES, and a HORN; there’s some rusty ARMOR on a shelf that I have been unable to de-rustify. That is everything.

So far the game has felt slightly gamebook-like, where each room has a special “encounter” to deal with, and the authors avoided the mega-expansive feel of their much-admired Adventure. Based on the review I mentioned earlier, the game also lacks in mazes, and only includes one “trick maze” not meant to be mapped. I hence expect further developments to be interesting, even if completely and totally unfair.

(Also, since the game is hard to search for, here’s a link to a playable version online. I’d recommend downloading it and trying on an emulator with speed cranked to high, but not to highest; if you crank it too far the death messages zip by too fast to read.)

Posted February 2, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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Inferno: The Unreadable Library of Cthulhu   7 comments

To recap from our last visit to what appears to be the only game from the Software Emporium of Tulsa, Oklahoma:

We were tossed into The Inferno, a place where a legendary warrior had been spirited to years before, with the goal to escape. The basic problem was quite a lot of death, some of it random, like Yog-Sogoth’s Chamber where the titular creature may or may not be in, and I found the chances of dying to be more than 50%.

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

I combed quite a few times over the map with no luck other than:

a.) looking at a shelf twice; the first time got me some rusty armor, but the second got me a sundial (with markings from 1 to 12)

b.) blowing a horn that I had found at an idol, opening a new passageway.

Blowing the horn at the wrong place summons a moose:

I was stuck enough I was suspecting some sort of technical error in the game itself; while I’ve gotten a little farther I haven’t ruled that out. To investigate further I decided to dive more into the actual bytes of the disk, but my usual tool (CiderPress) fails to recognize any kind of regular disk formatting. Using a different tool (Apple II Disk Browser) revealed sectors that were frankly all over the place.

I originally thought I saw the telltale signs of BASIC code, but without a good way to extract the code I couldn’t read it; now I’ve tangled with enough sectors of the data I’m not so sure. Things aren’t necessarily stored in sequence; I found the verb list of the game, but in two parts stored non-adjacently, as if the disk has some sort of baroque copy-protect system.

Incidentally, the verb list is (excluding the usual words):


It looked like nearly all the game text was still stored as plaintext so I could painstakingly read everything, but I really do prefer to solve my adventure games the normal way (by thinking and experimenting in the game itself), rather than via reverse engineering.

So I took one more gallant whack at the game and tried, yet again, tackling the collapsing bridge. This was a bridge right to the east of the starting point that I could never get across; the review I referenced last time seemed to hint at something random…

…I had already tried roughly 20 times to cross without luck before finally concluding I needed to do something puzzle related. But as I was fully stumped, I decided to go for it another 10 times. On try number 30:

A miracle! Nothing happened! But why? I was carrying the “hooves” and “horn” from the idol but otherwise hadn’t done much to modify the parameters. I had switched the game system from Apple IIe to II+, but had died on II+ mode nearly has many times as on IIe. I still don’t know what’s going on here: maybe the programmers genuinely and legitimately wanted to put a game section that you only had a 3% chance of entering without dying?

The other side of the bridge is, strangely enough, not so deadly, and mostly contains interesting items: a basket you can latch, a rock, soot, some firewood, a workbench with a mold for a sword, a basin with some water, some books in the Library of Cthulhu I can’t read, and a cabinet with bottles.

Not sure if the parser is being broken or if this is a “research puzzle” where you need to specify a particular book.

At least one of them outright kills you. I’m not sure what the use of the bottles is but I’d like to take one with me to fill with water; however, they get smashed when you drink them, and the game doesn’t want me to just empty one out.

Despite one successful pass over the bridge, it is still possible to get killed by the bridge going the other way. Also, the orc still randomly whomps me.

I’ve certainly played games (both old and new) that locked some content behind RNG in such a way that it is possible to get unlucky repeatedly (see: Adventure 500) but I’ve never had such an egregious abuse happen before. I’m still suspecting maybe there’s a setting off in the emulator causing bizarro randomization settings.

I might pull through with a win on this using save states, but please don’t be shocked if I just move on to the next game.

Posted February 13, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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