Archive for the ‘kidnapped’ Tag

Kidnapped (1980)   11 comments

The kidnapper is elsewhere, busy counting the ransom money. Your only job is to escape from the building, floor by floor. You must beware of the kidnapper, and stay alive. Many traps have been set, so be careful!

According to a note in the source code, Peter Kirsch wrote Kidnapped in June of 1980. It was published as a type-in for Softside magazine in December of 1980. (Dr. Livingston and Mad Scientist, which we’ve looked at previously, were both from the same magazine.)

Unlike a lot of authors of type-in programs we’ve gone through lately, Peter Kirsch wrote more than one adventure game. The CASA Solution Archive credits him working on 23 of them because of his later involvement with “SoftSide Adventure of the Month” which went through over 20 games before Softside finally folded in August 1984. I’m not sure how many he ported versus wrote personally, but that’s still a tie for most adventure games I’ve seen associated with one person (the legendary C64 author Dorothy Millard also has 23 to her name). Despite being one of the most prolific adventure game authors ever, I’ve never encountered any interviews with Mr. Kirsch nor any mentions in history books.

Kidnapped came before the Adventure of the Month series started and is probably his first game.

Softside, December 1980.

The premise is: you find that you’ve been kidnapped and are on the top of a 9-floor building where you need to make your escape. You work your way down from 9 to 1, and every floor is separate, so Kidnapped could be considered a set of 9 distinct mini-adventures.

The mini-adventure concept ends up being a good gimmick! Structurally, the tiny areas give a (slightly) modern feel to the proceedings, in that you can essentially ignore map-making if you like, nor do you have to keep track of a large system of interlocking parts, nor do you have to wander through a maze (at least of what I’ve seen so far).

The first floor (floor 9) is shown above. There’s a key on a ledge outside that your fingers can’t quite reach, but there’s a nearby broom that lets you GET KEY. With that key, you can open a cabinet and find a flashlight and electrical tape. There’s also an elevator where the button doesn’t work, but if you drop a chair nearby, you can clamber up to a “crawlspace” with two live electrical wires. You need to wait until midnight (there’s a helpful clock in a different room) for a scheduled power outage, and then you can TAPE WIRE. (If you attempt this too early you get electrocuted.) After taping the wire you can finally use the elevator which takes you down one floor, and in the process you discard your items before entering floor 8.

In the department of nitpicks, note that:

a.) the item discarding doesn’t necessarily make sense here, but for ludic purposes I just rolled with it. Besides, at least two of the later exits are through windows, which definitely could be a situation where an inventory is impossible to have.

b.) somehow the power needs to turn on again after fixing the elevator, but the timing is unusual here. Time advances with each turn until midnight, but “freezes” just past midnight so you can fix the elevator. Then the flow of time resumes again after the elevator is fixed. This may sound terribly odd, but it isn’t too far off modern games with “plot timers” that don’t trigger until the player character has reached a certain location.

The next few floors are straightforward puzzles along the lines of: here is a broken step, you have a piece of wood and superglue, what do you do?

However, I have gotten stuck on Floor 6. The map has a gun, a balloon, a helium tank, and a vending machine which requires $1 to get a piece of string. There’s also a ledge you can walk on and reach a “vault” where you find the kidnapper counting money.

If you try to shoot the gun you find out it is only blanks and the kidnapper kills you. If you try to take a dollar and run the kidnapper spots you and kills you. There’s also a locked door but no sign of a key on this level.

What really doesn’t help is that there is no save game feature. I’m playing on the original TRS-80 version, and I suspected with one of the other ports (like the Atari) I could at least use save states, but the only Atari copy I’ve found gets me strange errors upon booting. Every failed attempt that kills me off sends me through all the steps to get from levels 9 to 6 before trying again, which doesn’t lend itself to lawnmower-testing of verbs or really any kind of typical adventure game experimentation.

Posted September 12, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Kidnapped: The Parallel Universes Problem   2 comments

I got past my dilemma from last time and finished the game; I had run into something I (now) call The Parallel Universes Problem.

Suppose you are a happy adventurer going from point X to point Z and manage to do so without any obstacles. However, you later restore a previous game (because you got eaten by a bear, say).

After restoring, you try going from point X to point Z, but get stopped in the middle at point Y this time. Something different happened! What changed? Perhaps you had picked up an item in universe #1 but didn’t realize it; perhaps there was some secret timing element that you lucked out on the first time. Either way, you ran across the frustrating situation of being in an alternate universe without being aware something had changed.

With Kidnapped, I was stalled trying to get by the kidnapper, who was in a vault counting money. I needed a dollar to get a string from a vending machine.

I had tried:

A. shooting a gun at the kidnapper; the gun turns out to be full of blanks and doesn’t work.

B. stealing the money; the kidnapper spotted and killed me.

However, I didn’t realize with action B that I wasn’t holding the gun at the time. If you are, then you automatically threaten the kidnapper with the gun (but don’t shoot it!) the same time you GET DOLLAR.

I’ll come back to the implicit action embedded in GET DOLLAR, but the important point is I didn’t realize the scenario of universe A was different from universe B. In contrast to my abstract X-to-Z scenario, at no point was the puzzle solved; I had done the correct action for solving the puzzle but only if the conditions that I thought held (that I was living in universe A, holding the gun) were true.

I’ve been stuck on games with this sort of issue multiple times without having a name for the problem, but I figured now is good a time as any to bestow some nomenclature.

The above wouldn’t have been a problem had the game let me WAVE GUN or POINT GUN or THREATEN KIDNAPPER or some such, but this is a typical BASIC 16K parser here; I eventually gave up and tried GET DOLLAR for the alternate result, even though I was sure I had tried it already.

The game also does implicit actions with keys and doors; UNLOCK is not understood. You just have to go straight to typing OPEN DOOR if you have the right key, and the game assumes it gets applied in the process of opening.

Having the implicit actions done for me tricked into a false sense of complacency when later jumping between floors while holding MARY POPPIN’S UMBRELLA:


I assumed OPEN UMBRELLA wasn’t needed since keys and guns are both used automatically. Oops. Back to level 9 for me.

(I incidentally never got save states working, but on the “upside” it means I experienced the game as originally intended. It did lead to a slightly longer game and some tension where I was worried I would wreck my game on floor 2 and have to repeat everything. Fortunately, the difficulty overall stayed low.)

Things only got wackier from there. You have to put out a fire with sprinklers but subsequently, your clothes get wet and you have to discard them. You then use KNITTING NEEDLES and a BALL OF YARN and end up with a FINE SUIT, which suggests to me the main character really IS Mary Poppins.

The reason you can’t just keep going naked is you need go in an office with a key and — I am quoting directly here — SEXY, YOUNG GIRL OFFICE WORKERS.


This is also the sort of game where you don’t know how to swim, but there’s a nearby BOOK you can READ on how to swim and immediately after you’re backstroking like an expert.

Near the end, you find out the fate of the kidnapper.

For the very last obstacle, the front door is locked, but no key is in sight. However, a piano is nearby, and if you make the leap and TAKE KEY while in the room…


…you can make it to victory. I admit to being very surprised here, since we’ve only seen wordplay shenanigans in one other game, Quondam, which is one the hardest games I’ve played, while Kidnapped (even without a save game feature) is one of the easiest.

Posted September 13, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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