Archive for the ‘mummys-curse’ Tag

Mummy’s Curse (1981)   2 comments

Our journey with Highland Computer Services comes to an end. It was established in 1980 by Butch Greathouse and Garry Rheinhardt and was shuttered by the end of 1981. While Creature Venture did well by the standards of the day (an estimated 10,000 units) Mummy’s Curse only sold 1000-2000 and was their last game.

Now we get to the heart of the downfall of HCS. The people who answer the phone, package the orders, write the manuals, and program all day can’t be the same two people. We couldn’t create new products and do everything else so we just sort of starved ourselves out of business. All the money went right back into the business and we weren’t the greatest business people in the world.

The handwriting was on the wall (expenses greater than Income) so Garry and I went back to work at A.P.P.L.E.. [A computer club in Renton, Washington.] I was in charge of the Technical Hotline at A.P.P.L.E. for 3 years and talked to thousands of APPLE II enthusiasts from all over the world and answered their questions.

For the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities.

At least we can try to enjoy their last hurrah, where they transitioned from black and white to color.

The results are decidedly mixed. While I’m fine with some of the graphics, like the desert oasis start of the game…

“Fine” even though the trees look bizarre and the water has a strange blockiness. How does a pool of water look wrong?

…there are some pieces which I just find painful to look at.

There’s something … I wouldn’t call it “charming” exactly, but “more palatable” about the black and white equivalent from the prior games.

An encore performance by Count Snoottweeker, from The Tarturian.

You are tasked with finding the golden death mask of “King Rutattuttut”, and you start in an outdoor area in the desert near a village and a pyramid.

The game does the unfortunate schtick of prior Highland games of forcing you to test directions, but at least only N/S/E/W/U/D work this time. The geography is sanely and pleasingly laid out (see above) and I felt more like I was filling in a map of a real place as opposed to trying to catch up with the fever dream of a robot with graph paper.

In the village you get stopped entering a palace (see farther above), stopped buying a knife and shovel (nothing valuable at hand), and stopped visiting a “mysterious man” in a shroud.

In the mountains, there’s a part of the Nile you can drown yourself in, as well as a locked door (no key) and a stone shrine.

South of here is an AMULET (SMA) and the instructions are clear you can USE SMA to activate it. It glows briefly but I haven’t figured out what the effect is.

In the desert is a buried monument/pillar/ancient-looking-thing which I presume the shovel is for, and a temple with an inscription.

The “hint” from the inscription I assume is intended for the last section, by the pyramid, where there are indeed two pits you can fall into, but it’s so fast to just map things out I already had it figured out (and the entrance to the pyramid discovered) before seeing the inscription.

I’ve found mapping things out enjoyable so far, but I only scratched the surface of the inside of the pyramid, so I’ll get to that next time. I get the impression this may tilt easier than Creature Venture. Fingers crossed, because that one was a bear.

Posted August 29, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Mummy’s Curse: Lung, Strength, Snake   8 comments

Continuing from last time, the portion inside the pyramid turned out to be relatively straightforward. It’s starts off feeling like it’s going to be a maze in the “you need to drop objects” tradition, but I realized fairly quickly that something else was going on. I had already had a nagging feeling about the image on the back wall where the inscription was…

…so I tried matching it with what I had so far in my map, and found it worked as long as I turned the map upside-down. The small rectangles to the south and east are because going those directions “leaves the pyramid” but drops the player in a pit. (The one to the west is something else, which I’ll show off in a moment.)

What’s canny here is that the way the rooms repeat makes this a little non-obvious — there’s a “blue sky” room, for instance, that shows up at each of the three “entrances” (although remember two are just by death pits)…

…so that on my first foray (admittedly wandering randomly) I got befuddled by assuming there was only one blue-sky room, even though the map is pure N/S/E/W with only “extended connection length” fouling things up and no nonsensical connections; no loops or hidden turns. It is the first adventure game maze I’ve enjoyed in a while. (I think the key move here, in an author-conceptual sense, was to be unafraid to make things easy, and to add just enough of a wrinkle so to avoid the puzzle being simplistic.)

The maze has matches, a flashlight, gold coins, and a “full ewer” (which can serve as a water source and be refilled; there’s a “thirst timer” in this game just like Elephant Graveyard but it is much more generous on number of moves).

The flashlight lets you poke into a dark section the west side of the pyramid, entering from the outside. I expected another large area but instead got a clue.

This turned out to be a helpful clue; HORUS, APEP, AND SMA are the names of the amulets in the game. I had found SMA and tried to use it and it did seem to “activate” but I wasn’t sure what was going on. It turns out in all the cases the amulets simply provide a “persistent effect” that gets applied later and then used up. (Again, I think the authors were really shooting for easier here — a more typical situation from this time period would be to require use of the amulet immediately before an obstacle.) There still was something of a twist to the setup, as it is possible to use the resource in the wrong place. Back to the mountains and the Nile river, I had drowned when I tried to swim across…

…but if you’ve used SMA, you survive (although your possessions are swept away by the water). This originally led me to suspect this simply meant I needed to be unencumbered, but past the river there was another deadly section.

The Mummy’s Tomb (seen above) is just past, but stepping inside you find the air is thin and pass out and die. This is where the SMA effect is needed, so if you use it too early you die right after. So the solution is to find a different route across the Nile. I liked this resource-being-used-up puzzle insofar as a.) the punishment for using the resource came right after, so there wasn’t a long period of walking dead b.) the loss of possessions was another hint maybe something was wrong and c.) it was genuinely pleasurable to hit the solution, as it required insight across time as well as space. (Shades of Hadean Lands, here.) That is, rather than thinking in terms of I-have-object-X-where-does-it-go (which this game does have a lot of) I needed to think more in a story sense about the events that happened.

Speaking of where does object X go, the gold coins go to the merchant selling a shovel and knife I mentioned last time, and fair warning, stereotyping ahead.

There’s some more Fu Machu style dialogue after making a purchase but I’ll spare you that. I’m not sure what Fu Manchu is doing in Egypt.

Relatedly, with the second stereotypical character, Abdul the palace guard from last time, you just get by by using SAY HI.

I came up for this by testing HELP to see what the verb would do and the game told me SAY HI was useful. It also said MAKE was handy, which will be important later.

The only other things in the palace are an empty room with a table (“BROTHER THIS GUY DOESN’T HAVE MUCH OF A PALACE.”) and a passage sealed with dirt and straw I haven’t gotten by yet.


We’ve certainly hit a few before, most egregiously in Earthquake San Francisco 1906, but what I find fascinating is the (relatively) low level of hostility in their use. The SAY HOW from Ghost Town raised my hackles…

I can also see: Indian ghost

I see
nothing special

Geronimo says: “Its easy! Happy Landings!”

…but it was intended as a joke based on Westerns, as opposed to Westerns using the stereotype “straight” giving the damaging impression of indigenous people having simplistic language. Geronimo responds to the joke in English and it could almost be a scene from Little Big Man if the context was tweaked slightly. I still hold it is Not Good, but at least it was trying. It’s a little bit how certain 1990s authors would write “strong women” while not quite shaking off old ways. (Guess the Famous Author: “Slender and barely taller than Mat’s shoulder, at the moment the Wisdom seemed taller than any of them, and it did not matter that she was young and pretty.”)

Getting by the friendly palace guard by just saying hi seems to play on the hostile-Arabian-region stereotype most famously explicated in the original opening song of Disney’s Aladdin. (It had the line “Where they’ll cut off your ears if they don’t like your face”, which was removed in all home-release versions.) Trying to attack him (or anyone else) has the game explain



Moving on with our bounty from the shop, the shovel can be taken to “something buried in the sand” in the desert to reveal stairs leading to a crypt.

Inside are a number of art pieces, and the HORUS (strength) amulet.

There’s also a “religious altar” next to an ax. You can take incense (laying in the open in the mountains) and light it to open a secret passage with the APEP (snake) amulet.

From here I was a bit stuck but thought back to the hint about needing to make things, and a locked gate in the mountains. I happened to have a stick (again out in the open in the mountains) and thought, well, if I got really lucky, maybe I could just make a key to fit. Lo and behold:

Behind the gate was a forest with some hemp. The hemp could be used to MAKE ROPE, the trees could be cut (with the ax) to get some logs, and the rope and logs combine to MAKE RAFT.

With the power of the raft I was able to go back to the Nile and get across without removing my lung power. Then I could get inside the mummy’s tomb, with SMA saving me:

I’m not sure what to do next. I suspect I need to enter stealthily, but I’m running low on items I haven’t used yet. My inventory is


and rather nicely, the game hasn’t shown any kind of inventory limit so the list is everything still available. But I’ve used all of it! (The knife was needed to carve the key.) That doesn’t mean there isn’t re-use, but the only puzzle remaining is the dirt-and-straw filled passage in the palace, and the shovel is being no help there, so perhaps I’m missing a room exit? I also haven’t encountered an opportunity to use the strength or snake abilities.

I still suspect I’m nearing close to the end. The map ended up fairly large but the puzzles have generally gone briskly. There’s been a real sense of being an explorer (as opposed to crawling inch by inch trying to get to the next available part).

Posted September 3, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Mummy’s Curse: THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN BE KILLED   4 comments

I finished. As predicted, there wasn’t much farther to go until the end, although what I didn’t predict is how fascinating the ending was. As usual, you should read the previous entries on this game first before going on.

Part of an alternate cover of a version of Mummy’s Curse sold by Softsmith, from the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

So I was correct that the straw-and-dirt tunnel was necessary to pass for progress. I had made — or to be honest, the authors made — what I’d call a Scaling Error. This is where an object is described in world in such a way that you (the player) visualizes it in a different way than the author does, making solving the puzzle much harder. Alternately, it could be something slightly improbable is meant to happen based on the clearly-described size of objects (a refrigerator being toted in one’s pocket, for instance).

The way to get by an entire passage blocked up with dirt was to … POUR WATER from a normal-sized ewer. This loosens the dirt up enough to go through.

I mean, maybe? But it comes off more as the pitcher of water being turned into the generalized concept of water, and water is plenty to get dirt muddy, voila. It’s a little like wordplay puzzle, except the thing gets converted to a word which gets converted back to a thing of a slightly different type than the first thing but the same name.

Moving on! The ramp goes up to a “dome room” (nothing happens there) and you can go make a brief visit to the wicket Princess Fatima.

She does nothing and there seems to be no purpose to her being there, other than — kind of — to warn you about a bit shortly after where you can die by walking into a mirror.

Nearby is the trap door shown above, and the way through is to just try going DOWN at which point the game prompts you that you need a knife to pick the lock. ??? Okay, I have a knife:

The lock doesn’t stay picked, either. There’s no state to the trap door, PICK LOCK is just treated like a movement command. Also, the explicit giveaway to a puzzle (where someone could still get stuck if they didn’t think to just try going down as opposed to UNLOCK DOOR and other fruitless tasks) is vaguely curious. I’m wondering if this was a testing-situation where they decided to toss the comment in to make the puzzle “easy” but didn’t anticipate someone just not doing the action and seeing the hint.

This mirror is where going NORTH kills you, even though the game isn’t clear you are facing north. Nearby (heading south instead) there is a bottomless pit, followed by a three-headed serpent.

Strength (the HORUS amulet) is enough to jump over the pit, and snake (the APEP amulet) is enough to get by the snake. This leads to a room with a scepter, which turns out to be the last gizmo needed to reach the end — waving it or rubbing it causes you to float.

With scepter in hand I was out of things to do in the palace, so I went back to the empty room at the mummy’s tomb and tried using the scepter there.

I floated up to the object of my desires (see above) but was then confronted by THE MUMMY.

Trying to escape normally leads to messages like the mummy having his hands around your neck. I tried to DROP MASK and it said


and poking and testing out more directions for a long time was … enough to win the game? You die, but the game asks if you want to keep playing, and if you say YES you end up with the winning screen:

Was this intentional? Or was this a weird glitch like in Mission: Asteroid where you save the Earth only to have it destroyed by an asteroid if you keep playing. I’m honestly not sure, because the other ending (I looked up hints, which mentions both) is to take the “BEGONE WITH YOU” as instructions and type BEGONE ADVENTURER. (There’s sort of a clue with the blue-robed person saying BEGONE AMAHD causing you to get blown out of the room, but AMAHD doesn’t work here, it has to be ADVENTURER.)

This results in the exact same ending! Is this also an ending where the adventurer dies? What does typing the command even mean, given we aren’t SAYing anything?

I’ll still take it in the Win column as Beating the Game Without Hints, hurray. I’ll leave behind the existential crisis presented and offer some regret that we have, once again, a situation where someone — or in this case two someones — have a burst of energy in developing their skill at creating adventures, but bail out right when they start getting good. Alas, the market in 1981 was not a sure thing despite (or perhaps “because of”) the ability to start from zero, and it chewed up developers.

Next up: a TRS-80 game I was halfway through typing when the developer popped up recently and produced a newly revised version.

Posted September 4, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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