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Oldorf’s Revenge (1980)   Leave a comment

From the November 1980 issue of Micro magazine.

We’ve seen the name Highlands Computer Services (the duo of Butch Greathouse and Garry Rheinhardt) before; they published the graphical version of Goblins in 1981.

Oldorf’s Revenge was their first game (and unlike Goblins, they wrote this one themselves). It was originally called “Wizard” (and there’s a disk image floating around named that) but they changed the name to avoid clashing with On-Line Systems over Wizard and the Princess. Like Goblins, it’s for Apple II and has full graphics (“over 100 Hi-Res pictures”). Unlike pretty much any other adventure game I’ve seen, you play not a single protagonist but a full party of seven adventurers, each with their own special commands:

Via the Gallery of Undiscovered Entities. I’m not clear yet what the difference between a magician and a wizard is.

The gimmick is that you can change which character is active at any time with the command “C” (although you get a limit of five changes per character) and various obstacles can only be resolved via a particular party member; most obviously by their skills, but the manual does say “Sometimes the right person saying a clue word is all that is needed” so I assume it’s not always a simple correspondence between specialty and puzzle. The manual also says the WIZARD is the most powerful character and may “try and cast a spell at any time, but if the situation did not warrant it, he may not be allowed to or it may cost you considerable strength.”

Regarding strength, you start with a pool of 100 shared amongst all the characters, and while I haven’t thwacked it down to 0 yet, I assume that means YOUR QUEST IS OVER.

The “5” to the next of each character indicates how many times left you can switch to that charcter. I’m ok with a shared strength pool, but I don’t see any plausible in-universe explanation for the restriction to how often each character is used; I think the authors might have feared a “lawnmower” approach to puzzle solving but it still strikes me as clunky.

The first puzzle is a good illustration of the party system:

The door is locked, but you can either

a.) UNLOCK DOOR with the Thief, which uses 2 strength points
or
b.) CAST with the Wizard, which uses 12 strength points

BREAK with the Strongman seems plausible but it doesn’t work.

I think the downside of all this flexibility is that there might not be much object interaction outside of the skills, but I’ve only played for a short while so I don’t know yet. Onward!

Posted August 26, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Oldorf’s Revenge: Fifty Gold Coins   7 comments

After the initial puzzle I mentioned last time, there’s a fairly wide-open area bottlenecked by a toll bridge where you are asked to pay 50 gold coins.

The CAST action of wizards might be the “solve everything” spell, except the need for cold, hard, cash.

This is a way to force the player to explore the entire opening area, because there are exactly 50 (no more, no less) gold coins spread out amongst the map. In some cases they are in wide open places (in which case the game will say YOU HAVE FOUND 5 GOLD COINS with no fuss) and in some cases things are a little more secret.

Also note that, in general, there is no need to TAKE things; if the “party” finds something interesting they’ll grab it automatically. I do have to put “party” in quotes because of a very weird puzzle type in particular. In two places on the map there was an entrance “too small” for most characters to get in. If you switch to the Elf you can make it through:

However, the entire party follows along with the Elf. While you could suppose the crack scene above is just the Elf working solo, there’s another room which undercuts that idea:

You can’t reach this vault without the Elf. Then, if you try to say KIN, the game claims the character can only speak in their own language. The solution is to switch to the Cleric who can TRANSLATE and find out the word actually means GOLD, and if the Cleric then says GOLD, 5 gold coins appear and are added to the communal stash.

But how did the Cleric get in the vault? I can only assume that when switching characters, you really are “working solo” so to speak and you’re pulling them out from some magical reserve. Yet, this contradicts the idea of a shared inventory; later you get a magical sword, and while it makes sense to be held by the “party” it doesn’t make as much sense that the Elf is toting it around.

I think it’s possible the authors had two conceptual models going on at the same time but didn’t bother to resolve the tension. I’m going to assume it’s a traveling party still and the Elf somehow has the power to “pull in” the rest of the party. However, I’ve been stopped before in puzzle-solving by having the wrong visual image, so I have to keep in mind there really may be only one character in the world at a time.

This scene is the result of the Gladiator wielding a sword using KILL twice, once for each hand. It possibly is meant to evoke the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

For the most part, all the gold was easy to gather, but I was stuck for a long time at 45.

I had made a wrong assumption in thinking all the important clues would be textual, but there is one room where you need to refer to an item that is only in the picture (like Mystery House).

There’s gold in here! You need the Strongman to get it.

The fortunate thing is that the character skills in this game don’t seem to require nouns, so just LIFT works and you don’t have to play guess-the-noun.

After gathering all the gold, I made it past the toll bridge over to Oldorf’s underground castle.

This has been fun enough so far; I’m just hoping I don’t have to super-optimize my character swaps in order to finish the game (remember, you can only swap to each character 5 times at most).

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet: what is the objective of the game? Even this far in, I have no idea. It’s not mentioned in the manual, nor the opening screen. Who is Oldorf? Am I supposed to be killing him or her? Just stealing stuff and running away? The advertising says you are “looking for treasure” but given the initial treasure search was simply to get by the opening toll bridge this isn’t following a classic treasure hunt style at all.

Posted August 27, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Oldorf’s Revenge: Followed by Snotgurgle’s Reprisal and Lynxor’s Vengeance   2 comments

I did finally work out the objective before finishing the game:

Step 1.) visit the residences of Oldorf, Snotgurgle, and Lynxor.

Step 2.) take all their stuff.

You never meet any of these … people? … wizards? … robots? … although you do reckon with a few security systems. Full spoilers ahead.

Upon arriving at Oldorf’s Castle, I found a wide-open area with no enemies or obstacles, just things to look at and secret passages to open.

Puzzles remained relatively simple. There was a room with “SHAZAM” on the floor, and while it didn’t do anything in the room it was in, saying SHAZAM in an adjacent room with suspicious footprints led to a skeleton key.

In a closet, going “UP” stated I wasn’t strong enough, but switching to the Strongman let me enter a secret room and find 5 gold coins.

Eventually, after looting everything I could find, I found my way down some stairs to “Snotgurgle’s Small Palace”.

You see a valuable cross upon entering the room, but need to realize that since your party isn’t automatically taking it, the cross must be out of reach. Using MOVE TABLE and MOVE CHAIR as the Strongman resolves the situation.

In addition to a talking pillar (where my Cleric’s ability to SPEAK came in handy) I found the surreal “Plains of Oxyxidies”.

Heading north, I had to do battle with a “Opthaplebian Eye-Sentry”:

I had to use the Wizard’s catch-all CAST ability here. It always felt uncomfortable to use since it can substitute for “real” puzzle solutions, but the manual does state there are scenarios where only the Wizard can succeed, and I’m pretty sure this was one of them.

After defeating the Eye-Sentry I found some magic mushrooms and took one. The game helpfully says “BAG LIMIT = 3: POSSESSION LIMIT = 1”.

If you come back here twice you can grab the other two mushrooms. However, if you’re holding more than one mushroom, later someone confiscates all of them, because you exceeded the possession limit. I guess this was meant to be a drug joke.

After the strange trip to Snotgurgle’s, I found my way to “Lynxor’s Caverns”. It was the only place of the three that felt properly protected. I had to use my gladiator to KILL a buzzard upon entering, and to take down some snakes later.

I had missed the “Sceptor” from Snotgurgle’s on my first playthrough.

There was only one place I got “properly” stuck, and that was a door requiring a tiny key. Scenarios where there is a puzzle to solve but it’s not certain where the puzzle might be can be very trying, although in this case I needed to just go to a “Merlinian Room” a few steps away and have my Magician cast MAGIC.

Having grabbed all that I could find, I went to “Sunshine” (the Wizard needed to CAST to pop open the last door) and made my exit:

For fans following the discussion in my last post, the Elf does get used one more time, but it’s in a way consistent with just sending the Elf solo to grab some gold in a small hole.

Without the character switching, this game would have been fairly bland; even though you could theoretically switch any time to test (say) if the Magician’s MAGIC skill does anything in a particular spot, the odd character restriction led me to only try it in appropriate places, and the game was set up in an easy enough way that it was never too difficult to work out what those places were.

I did also appreciate the solve-everything spell the Wizard had, especially since it didn’t *quite* solve everything (for example, at one point you encounter Lynxor’s “pets” which look like Egyptian cats, and while the Wizard can take down one of the pets, the Magician has to take out the other). I never did get close to running out of Strength; the game was relatively generous with it.

Weirdly, one thing I did miss was picking up items. While it seems like a convenience to dispense with needing to get stuff (and in general, why would your party leave behind treasure?) fighting my way to a ruby and then being denied the actual act of TAKE RUBY made the game feel slightly less like an adventure; less like I was “in a world”, so to speak.

Oldorf’s Revenge clearly had some grounding in RPG lore, and this game represents another “alternate universe” route that adventure game history skipped over. CRPG players are used to the many-characters-in-one aesthetic, but here it was a rarely-seen oddity. The good news is the same schtick shows up in the second game from Highlands Computer Services: The Tarturian. To get there, we’ll need to make it to 1981, and we are getting closer! I’ve got a challenge I’ve been putting off, but now is the time.

Je bent nu in je eigen huis. Er is een slaapkamer op het zuiden en een kleine hal oostelijk. Er is een deur die naar het westen leidt. De deur staat op een kier en een gure wind blaast zand en stof naar binnen. Door een raam kan je een bos zien.

Posted August 28, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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