Archive for the ‘palace-in-thunderland’ Tag

Palace in Thunderland (1981)   4 comments

It’s time to head back to the Apple II for a big, messy, puzzle-box game.

From the Museum of Computer Adventure Games.

Palace in Thunderland is the sequel to Mad Venture, advertised as coming soon inside the game itself. As a reminder, that game featured a.) collecting treasures for no particular narrative reason b.) a very tight time limit and c.) wordplay-adjacent puzzles, or at least a game where words and the objects they refer to can become detachable. The authors this time are Dale Johnson and Ken Rose instead of Dale Johnson and Christine Johnson.

Mad Venture was quite up-front about the only objective being to collect treasures in a time limit; here’s it’s a little more cryptic.

THE OBJECT OF THE GAME IS TO CORRECTLY DECIPHER THE CLUES GIVEN TO YOU AND EXECUTE THEM APPROPRIATELY.

There really are treasures marked with ! symbols and room indicating to drop the treasures here, and a score that increases as you do so; therefore the instructions might be enigmatic for nothing, but I’m guessing there might be an extra catch.

You can’t interact with the peasants; I’m not sure if they serve any purpose yet, although you can get to the top of the castle and see the same peasants milling around.

The game starts unapologetically wide open, with lots of items to grab (quickly breaking a six-item inventory limit), puzzles to consider, and perhaps most interestingly, NPCs to have minor interactions with. Example, after finding a singing sword elsewhere:

Roughly, the map is divided into a basement, a Great Hall ground floor area, an upper area at a Landing, and an outside garden.

The basement includes the jabberwocky, Bill the maintenance man (hanging out near a rusted metal box I can’t open), a carpenter who states “In vino veritas” and a wine cellar with a hidden bottle which counts as a treasure. You can make friends with the carpenter by giving over the wine bottle …

I’ll be returning to the “getting very dark” message soon.

… but that destroys a treasure. Now, Mad Venture required destroying a treasure (you could get a duplicate) so that might still be right, but I think it’s fair to say I’m not off the hook here yet. The carpenter will then follow you, and you can lead them to a walrus at the upper level who will make friends, leaving some oysters. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the Carroll references are a little more direct in this game than in Mad Venture.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

The ground floor has a white rabbit

HE SAYS, “BE SURE TO VISIT PETER’S CELLAR, WHERE THE SPECIALTY OF THE HOUSE IS A DICKORY DAQUIRI, DOC!”

and a dormouse.

“THAT STUPID RABBIT PROMISED ME BUTTER FOR THE TOAST. THERE ISN’T ANY AROUND HERE ANYHWERE!”

The upper level has a walrus (as already mentioned) and Tweedledee and Tweedledum in toddler form with a rattle. The garden has the Queen of Hearts and a possible game over.

Elsewhere there’s a “MINGO MENDER” and scattered through the map are some pink items (pink drumsticks, a pink globe, a pink prybar) which suggest they connect up to a flamingo-themed mallet, but that takes up time, and I’ve been and busy getting fried by another phenomenon: a very tight time limit.

Remember the message early about it getting dark? Quite quickly in — 60 moves, not long enough to do much significant — there’s a lightning strike.

Ow. I believe one of the first orders of business is surviving the blast? (Will the boots from the jabberwocky help, maybe?) I certainly don’t feel like I’m stuck, just I’ve got a lot of puzzle pieces I haven’t organized by shape yet.

Posted February 10, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Palace in Thunderland: Shocked   2 comments

I’ve been mopping up a fair number of easy puzzles, but I’m still stumped by the overarching puzzle of the thunderstorm.

From an old eBay auction.

For the easy puzzles, I’ve found

a.) some jugs of strange liquid which substitute for the valuable wine, so I can bring the carpenter to the walrus without blowing one of my treasures; I’m still not sure what to do with the oysters I get as a result.

b.) a pink globe, pink drumsticks, a pink featherduster, and a pink prybar can be inserted into a MINGO MENDER to form a flamingo, who is presumably used to play croquet with the Queen of Hearts; I’m still lacking a substitute ball

c.) that I can just KILL JABBERWOCKY with the sword (I was apparently doing every verb but the right one) and the singing sword does short work of it

d.) the boots with the Jabberwocky are rubber and allow surviving the blast of thunder, but I’m still missing something in that respect.

Let me give the exact sequence:

20 turns: IT IS GETTING VERY DARK OUTSIDE!

40 turns: IT IS NOW PITCH DARK OUTSIDE!

When this happens, the “outdoor” areas — the garden and the start place — are “lit by huge floodlights”.

60 turns: A NOISY THUNDERSTORM RAGES OUTSIDE!

This is sufficient to kill an NPC: Bill, the maintenance man, who was previously fiddling with wires near a fuse box. The box is rusted shut and there’s no way that I can find at the moment to open it.

80 turns: CRAAACK! LIGHTNING HITS THE PALACE!

If you’re indoors when this happens, and you are not wearing the boots, you die. Either way, the power goes out, and the only way to see is with a flashlight, but the flashlight has a very short life (6 turns). Also, the 80-turn mark is when the metal fuse box gets entirely melted.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to save Bill before the lightning strike somehow, or do something in between turns 60 or 80, or do something after the full strike happens. My suspicion as that the melted box is a “loss state”, but I’m lacking in gear to do much else. I can’t give the boots to Bill (unless I’m missing some verb wrangling) The only items I haven’t used are some pink medicine, two treasures (an ermine robe and a family “hairloom”), and the oysters. I also haven’t wrangled the rattle from Tweedledum and Tweedledee yet (I suspect it might be round enough for croquet but I’m uncertain based on the description), or made the dormouse happy (the dormouse wants butter, and there’s a churn, but I haven’t found a way of using it).

I do find the lightning storm fascinating in a structural way. As I said in my last post, the game starts wide-open; it feels like one of the typical “simulationist” games like Zork or Adventure, but by having a full scripted event that the player can’t control, there’s an imposed plot point overlaid the freeform puzzle-solving at the same time it is happening. This allows for having both simulationist and cinematic ideas running parallel to each other in the same game.

I’d be happier being past the puzzle, of course. I still feel like I’m making forward progress, at least.

Posted February 14, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Palace in Thunderland: Pennies From Heaven   12 comments

My biggest breakthrough of late is that the singing sword is much more interesting than I originally realized.

I had previously found I could KILL JABBERWOCKY to chop it down, and I could also SING to get a special message.

THE SWORD RUNS THROUGH THE SCALES, “LA,LA,LA,LA,LA,LA,LA,LA…”

I was testing if the sword would calm down Young Tweedledee and Young Tweedledum, and got the LA,LA,LA message again. For fun I tried wandering around singing at other things, and realized many of the rooms of the game have a unique message when the singing sword is used. At least some of the messages seem to be hints for solving puzzles, and in one room singing nets a treasure!

Let me work through this area by area, starting with the basement that has the melting metal box:

Workshop:

THE SWORD SINGS, “JUST LIKE ME, I WANT TO BE…CLOSE TO YOU!”

This clearly is a reference to the carpenter in the same room wanting to be friends with the walrus.

Laundry Room:

THE SWORD CROONS IN A TERRIBLE FRENCH ACCENT, “MAY WE, MON SEWER, C’EST SEEBONE ENDEESH LOKAY SHOWN!”

I don’t know what this is. The Laundry Room is suspiciously random and empty, and this is a tight enough game that might mean something. If you speak the French with a lisp does it come out as some phrase in English?

Dusty Corridor:

THE SWORD SINGS, “DUM, DUM, DRINK TO ME ONLY WITH THINE EYES, PUSH ON, PRESS ON, FOR A BIG SURPRISE!”

This is a hint for the room adjacent, as you can move the wine rack to find a wine bottle that is a treasure.

Music Room:

MAGICALLY THE INSTRUMENTS BEGIN TO PLAY, AND THE SWORD SINGS THE PROLOGUE TO “PAGLIACCI”. THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE IS HEARD AND A GOLD RECORD DROPS AT YOUR FEET!

I maybe should have found this one earlier, eh?

Parlor:

TUM TUM TUM TUM
CATCHA BEASTIE WITH A SEINE, WOVEN STRANDS THAT FIT THE BRAIN…
TUM TUM TUM TUM…

This is in the room with the “FAMILY HAIRLOOM” and sure sounds like a specific hint for what to do with it.

Arboretum:

THE SWORD SINGS, “EVERY TIME IT RAINS, IT RAINS PENNIES FROM HEAVEN….

This has a reflecting pool and counts as “outside” the palace. I haven’t seen any rain.

Maid Quarters:

THE SWORD SINGS IN A COLURATURA SOPRANO VOICE, “WHO WILL TELL THE QUEEN HOW REVOLTING WE ALL ARE?”

Butler Quarters:

THE SWORD SINGS IN A BASSO PROFUNDO VOICE, “BOOM, BOOM, THE QUEEN MUST MEET HER DOOM!”

“How revolting we all are”, heh. >LEAD REVOLUTION

Small Hallway:

…MOOD TLOVER, WIDER THAN A MILE…

I don’t know. It’s between the Maid and Butler rooms.

Lavatory:

THE SWORD SINGS, “HONEY DON’T LET ME RUB YOU THE WRONG WAY…’CAUSE I GET THEM PINKS IN THE NIGHT.”

There’s a vial with pink medicine here. I haven’t found a use for it yet, but you can’t eat it without dying, it’s meant to be applied externally.

Pink Guest Room:

THE SWORD WHINES, “I SAY, INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU! THERE’S TREASURE TO BE HAD BUT THE CHABLIS HAS GONE BAD!”

Yellow Guest Room:

THE SWORD SINGS, “…’ROUND THE OLD OAK TREE, IT’S BEEN THREE LONG YEARS, DO YOU STILL LOVE ME…”

Blue Guest Room:

THE SWORD SINGS, “SONG SUNG BLUE EVERYONE KNOWS ONE…”

Green Guest Room:

THE SWORD SINGS, “IN THE VALLEY, HO-HO-HO, GREEN GIANT!”

The pink message (invoking the movie The Pink Panther) seems the most likely to be a hint of these, as opposed to a song reference or advertising jingle.

Guest Bathroom:

THE SWORD SINGS, “I GET MISTY…JUST HOLDING YOUR HAND!”

The walrus to match the carpenter.

Top of the Turret:

THE SWORD SINGS, “SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL…”

Probably a clue that the Tweedledum and Tweedledee rattle can be used as a ball in croquet, but I already suspected that.

Formal Garden:

THE SWORD SINGS, “BE PREPARED…”

This is right next to the encounter with the Queen of Hearts.

So, I still need to ponder over these and get some plan of action going. I think I’m close to the end because based on the point system there are 8 or 9 treasures to find, and I have 4 of them; at the very least I doubt there’s much more in the way of new locations, if any. I’ll try to push for a victory post next time.

One last thing: I got the dormouse to run up the clock as shown in the screenshot, which makes it dead as a dormouse. I still feel bad, though, and I haven’t had anything useful come from this scene.

Posted February 16, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Palace in Thunderland: Hedgehog Croquet   10 comments

Not quite at the end, but two quick updates.

First, I figured out what the pink medicine does. It’s rather subtle, and exploits the fact the player is “looking through the eyes” of the main character as opposed to seeing them from the outside, like a standard third-person point-and-click game.

After growing the pink hair, referring back to this song the singing sword

TUM TUM TUM TUM
CATCHA BEASTIE WITH A SEINE, WOVEN STRANDS THAT FIT THE BRAIN…
TUM TUM TUM TUM…

I used the shears to cut my own hair off, then did USE HAIRLOOM to form a PINK HAIRNET. I am not sure what to do with it (you can’t even wear it).

Second, as a team of commenters figured out, the singing sword’s message of

THE SWORD CROONS IN A TERRIBLE FRENCH ACCENT, “MAY WE, MON SEWER, C’EST SEEBONE ENDEESH LOKAY SHOWN!”

while in the laundry room was a hint to “say” (“c’est”) the word “seebone” “in this location” (“endeesh lokay shown”).

This opened a secret passage going up, leading to a tower with a hedgehog. I could pick the spiky hedgehog up, and importantly, the description matched that of the queen having a hedgehog playing croquet. I had previously got a flamingo but was missing a ball: now I had both of them! So it was time to take both flamingo and improvised ball over to the queen and take her up on her offer to play croquet.

I admit I was heavily anticipating this moment — I have been whacking at the game for a while and kept wondering what the croquet game would be like. This made what happened next even more comical:

With Fortress at Times-End when I was talking about a good trap? This was a good trap. It hit the “participatory comedy” marks — it required the player to act to cause their own demise, it was possible to foresee ahead of time, and it had a long anticipation period beforehand. It is also kind of hilarious.

Unfortunately it also means I’m stumped! I’m willing at this point to accept ROT13 hints of any kind for the remaining treasures, how to handle the power outage, and how to handle the Queen.

Posted February 19, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Palace in Thunderland: Finished!   9 comments

250 out of 250. One of my jokes turned out to be prophecy. This won’t make much sense without reading the prior posts first. Complete spoilers follow.

I had gotten killed by the Queen of Hearts while playing her game of croquet.

I had noticed that the nearby red and black cards seemed slightly discontented, and also, based on this clue

THE SWORD SINGS IN A COLURATURA SOPRANO VOICE, “WHO WILL TELL THE QUEEN HOW REVOLTING WE ALL ARE?”

I had made a joke the command was to >LEAD REVOLUTION. I was, in fact, quite close.

The odd thing about the above is this won’t work unless you have the flamingo and hedgehog. I suppose the narrative explanation is that the peasants aren’t really paying attention to you until you are set for a game of croquet. At least I solved it, and there is a second clue:

…MOOD TLOVER, WIDER THAN A MILE…

(read the first part backwards)

With that resolved, I realized I still wasn’t getting anywhere without finally working out the power outage issue. If you wait until after the lights go out there’s a “busted fuse” but I didn’t have any luck replacing it; Voltgloss provided some handy hints which led me to the suspiciously empty Arboretum. (I mean, in a lot of 1981 games it wouldn’t be suspicious, but this is a game where nearly everything gets used somewhere.)

THE SWORD SINGS, “EVERY TIME IT RAINS, IT RAINS PENNIES FROM HEAVEN….

For some reason I had failed to EXAMINE POOL and find out the light was too bright to see in the pool. The key was to wait until the lights go out entirely, then use the flashlight.

The goal then is to take the penny down and use it as a fuse. (A Google search for “use penny as fuse” attests to this being a real thing, including this strange Forbes article which uses replacing a fuse with a copper penny as an analogy for businesses on economic life support.) Unfortunately, the flashlight doesn’t quite have enough life left to make the full trip.

Not quite far enough!

I had fortunately had in mind a previous scene with a dormouse which I already wrote about, but let me jog your memory with a screenshot.

The Great Hall with the grandfather clock happens to be close enough to reach with an active flashlight (just west, southwest, then south) so I tried it and had the exact same message as before appear. However, secretly, this extended the flashlight life.

This was enough to make it all the way to where I could insert the penny and get the lights back on. Phew. This is incidentally the only timed event in the game, and you can play at your leisure after, but note in the process of rushing it’s possible to solve a puzzle with an unfortunate shortcut.

It was a shortcut I was suspicious of; it was back with the Jabberwocky where it was trivial to use the sword to kill it. That was the wrong move. The “pink hairnet” I had made last time can be used to catch the critter, which makes me sad, because I had tried to THROW HAIRNET there already and the right syntax is instead CATCH JABBERWOCKY.

Grr, right solution, wrong verb. At least another singing sword hint does signal the intent quite strongly:

TUM TUM TUM TUM
CATCHA BEASTIE WITH A SEINE, WOVEN STRANDS THAT FIT THE BRAIN…
TUM TUM TUM TUM…

Part of the catch to all this is THROW is mapped as a synonym for DROP. With that decision made, there’s a design dilemma, because the author has to either

a.) ignore a perfectly reasonable way to phrase an action

b.) cause a verb which normally behaves one way to switch behaviors in a special circumstance

I’d say b.) is clearly the lesser of the two evils, but it genuinely has been confusing in some games for the Project where a verb takes special dimension and meaning in one circumstance where it takes an entirely different one elsewhere. For example, the HAIRLOOM I utilized last time only worked with USE HAIRLOOM, but the game otherwise acts like it doesn’t even understand what you are talking about with the verb USE (often in text games, this means “please be more specific”).

Anyway, with that resolved, it wasn’t too hard to work out what to do next, as there were very few unresolved problems. Time to unleash the power of a horrible beast on some infant children.

I’m sure they’ll be fine.

With this, I nearly had all the treasures. (I skipped talking about opening an oyster — it’s another “you can blow an item too early” situation — you just need to keep the pink prybar before making a flamingo out of it and OPEN OYSTER to get some pearls.)

GOLD RECORD
PEARLS
CHATEAU LAFEET
ERMINE ROBE
JEWELED SCEPTRE
PLATINUM CROWN
FAMILY HAIRLOOM

I was clearly missing just one, but at a loss as to where and here I confess to blowing through an entire set of Voltgloss’s carefully-constructed clues all the way to the end. Yet another singing sword clue shows up:

THE SWORD WHINES, “I SAY, INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU! THERE’S TREASURE TO BE HAD BUT THE CHABLIS HAS GONE BAD!”

You can SAY INSPECTOR at the wine cellar downstairs to cause a “PINK PANTHER DIAMOND” to appear. Bah. It’s sort of cryptic crossword style, where you’re supposed to omit the “I” from the “I say” and just take “SAY INSPECTOR CLOSEAU” as instructions.

I mean, this puzzle is in line with many of the others, like leading the peasants to revolt, but somehow I still found it totally arbitrary. At least the “seebone” puzzle had the clue in the location it was used, and the clue essentially gives exact directions if you read it correctly. Here, while I understand what’s going on at an intellectual level, this felt like a random kick at the player for fun.

Nevermind, all eight treasures found and safely stowed where the game explicitly says to:

Going up you can see peasants below asking WEAR IS THE RULER?? I had some clothing loot (crown and sceptre) which seemed sufficiently royal.

Oops, not quite. The “ermine robe” is also royal (and I remembered being wearable).

I still hadn’t used one singing sword clue, where it sang “SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL”.

>SHAKE
THERE’S A CROWD OF PEASANTS BELOW WAVING AT YOU, JUMPING AROUND,
AND SHOUTING, “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, COME ON DOWN AND GET SOME MORE!”

This is just indicating you can go back to the start and collect big winner kudos.

This is going to make it my “personal enjoyment” list for 1981 but not my general recommendations. It has been a sort of game I’ve been lacking for a while: dropping the “maze” nonsense, making a compact map, and leveraging the era’s comfort with dead-end puzzle solutions and slightly obtuse hints to make a raw puzzlefest that was, for the most part, fair. It’s something that I know has been in the technical capabilities of the computers in question — even as a TRS-80 type-in — but very few had quite struck the mark, not being able to shake off the cruft of Adventure and Zork.

Also, the extra “dimension” that opened up by realizing the singing sword had unique songs was far more memorable than just a single secret door; it’s as if all the rooms in the game suddenly gained potential secret doors.

We’re not done with Dale Johnson; just like Mad Venture contained a promo for Thunderland, Thunderland contains a promo for his next game.

>READ BOOK
THE COVER IS VERY FADED. ALL I CAN MAKE OUT IS “WIS ROLL”
>OPEN BOOK
THE BOOK IS NOW OPEN.
>READ BOOK
IT READS, “LOOK FOR THE NEXT ATTRACTION, MYSTERY IN MADNESS” AT YOUR LOCAL COMPUTER STORES SOON!”

It eventually came out in 1982 under the name Madsquerade, and involves tracking down a hit man. Sounds rather different from an treasure hunt, so I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, I’m going to stay with treasures a bit longer, because there’s a newly unearthed game — one that nobody in the history of adventures, as far as I can find, has ever written about — to dive into next time.

Posted February 20, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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