Archive for the ‘jack-and-the-beanstalk’ Tag

Jack and the Beanstalk (1982)   2 comments

This is a direct continuation of my recent post on Victory Software games, so you should read that post first before this one.

(And yes, I’m still doing Cain’s Jawbone, but this is a very short and simple game as opposed to an impossible hard one.)

From Launchbox.

I mentioned last time an Adventure Pack consisting of Computer Adventure, Big Bad Wolf, and Moon Base Alpha. My working theory is that when Big Bad Wolf got published by Commodore in a collection, the author Bruce Robinson did a switch. This is entirely a guess, and on Bruce Robinson’s own page where he discusses the company (“At its peak, Victory Software employed 8 people at the main office”) he doesn’t talk about this at all, other than to say Commodore “licensed” both Big Bad Wolf and the action game Treasures of the Bat Cave, and neither show in later ads for Victory. (It is, to be admitted, one of those minute things that only a tiny group of people care about, although Gareth Pitchford did some investigation.)

Putting all that aside, it should also be noted that there were at least two C64 versions. While the VIC-20 file no longer exists, checking the source code indicates the 1982 C64 version is almost certainly a direct copy of the BASIC from the VIC-20.

A 1983 C64 version beefs up the text.

There are a few other changes I’ll discuss later.

Honestly, there’s kind of a charm in not trying to add much more? At least with this game the puzzles were genuinely solvable even with vanishingly small space to work with. Just like Big Bad Wolf the game is restricted to five rooms.

The goal is to make and climb a beanstalk, then steal a egg-laying hen from a giant. The bean part is pretty straightforward; you go in the TOWN and there’s a SHOVEL and BEAN just sitting there to scoop up, you don’t even have to negotiate for low prices. You can then plant the bean in your yard and water it (using the pitcher from the house), getting the titular beanstalk, which can then be climbed directly into the giant’s castle.

Typing LOOK HEN finds some GOLDEN EGGS you can take (oddly, not the objective of the game) and LOOK GIANT yields a RIFLE. The giant fortunately is very tired through all this and only awakens if you try to grab then hen, which squawks, but even then the giant just boots you out of Castle-land and down to the surface before falling asleep again.

(In other words, merciful game design! It would have been easy to put a GAME OVER but it feels in character for the giant to not feel threatened enough to go that far.)

Back in the house there was a RUG. You can take that to reveal a trapdoor, but it is locked, and even though it’s your house, there’s no key.

You can look at the rifle to find bullets, and at the bullets to find gunpowder, and then stuff the gunpowder into the keyhole of the trapdoor.

This took a little effort to solve, but it’s mainly just a matter of making sure to LOOK at every item and keeping in mind the PUT verb works.

This reveals a basement with an AX. If you try to chop the beanstalk with it the game says


Before this I admit I was happy with the gold eggs I already stole and not sure why I needed the hen too, but hey, more money in the end I guess. Going back to the squawking hen, I put my thinking cap on and came up with what I confess is an admittedly clever solve. The rug that covered the trapdoor in Big Bad Wolf was solely there to cover the trapdoor; the same is true of rugs in other text adventures like Zork. Jack and the Beanstalk takes what normally is a throwaway item and makes it the solution to a puzzle all on its own:

By covering the hen with the rug, you can mute the sounds long enough to make an escape. The giant still follows, but with ax in hand you can have a happy ending:

Honestly decent! It’s about as good as can be done with the byte space available on the unexpanded VIC-20 (other text adventures tended to use expansions; Scott Adams games required 16K of memory).

The 1983 C64 version which uses more capacity adds around the edges of the basic game.

The rifle you don’t get from the giant, but rather have to purchase it in town. The hen isn’t right next to the giant and you have to travel through a top-down maze to get there.

Not much more to add; we’ve still got more Bruce Robinson games to go, but they’re kicked down a bit further down on my list. If nothing else, this well-illustrates the principle I’ve mentioned of unexpected re-purposing being a very strong puzzle type: taking what seems to be an informational sign and moving it, turning a location into an object that can be picked up when the player is strong enough, and for this game, taking what would normally be scene decoration whose only purpose is to hide one object and making it the essential element for solving the main puzzle in the game.

Posted May 26, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

Tagged with