Archive for the ‘pyramid’ Tag

Pyramid (1980)   14 comments

Rodger Olson returns, he of Deathship, Escape to Mars, and a parser system written for the Ohio Scientific brand of computers that only understands the first two letters of each word.


The parser is a little better on this one; I’ll discuss that in a second, but first, you may be asking “wait, weren’t the previous games all text, why is there a picture?” Good question, Hypothetical Reader! While the original 1980 version of Pyramid is text-only, a later TRS-80 Color Computer version added pictures (and as far as I can tell so far, didn’t change anything else, but I’ll swap back and forth between the versions for a while to confirm).

While picking up items still doesn’t give any feedback, the game’s parser is now courteous enough to say if you didn’t pick something up correctly.




Dramatic! But in all seriousness, even this alone makes playing the game more comfortable.

Also, you can LOOK KNAPSACK to see what is inside and GET each item individually.





This may seem a bit underwhelming as a “feature” but compare to Escape from Mars where I literally had to test every verb in order to get at what was inside a pocket. Really, the game almost feels “normal” relative to 1980 now.

Also typical: a pyramid-themed game with a tricky opening where it’s easy to get stuck early. In addition to the starting items in the hut, I managed to find an AARDVARK, MONKEY, and BANANA in a desert as well as some VINES by a locked HEAVY DOOR at the front of the pyramid. I eventually was able to DIG to a new location:

To escape here I had to TAKE ROCKS, followed by PUT ROCKS; it asked


Doing so caused the cavern to flood; I was able to hop onto the boat and sail it south to an ancient cave. From there I headed up to an “Empty Treasure Room” with a SWORD and an ALTAR, and what appears to be the end of the road.

I can stand on the ALTAR and I assume there’s a secret lever or some such but I haven’t triggered anything yet. I am holding a SWORD, BANANAS, FLASHLIGHT, SHOVEL, AARDVARK, TIN, VINES and PISTOL. Also, I’m being followed around by the MONKEY although various permutations of FEED MONKEY or THROW BANANA do not yield any results.

The sword also says it is PROP. OF ALI BABBA. Anyone with an idea of what to do next?

(The C64 version of this is online, if you want an easy way to try it out.)

Posted November 21, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Pyramid: XBMMT IBWF TFDSFUT   7 comments

I managed to reach the “end” as far as the game’s bugs would let me; the typical spoiler warnings apply, and if for some reason you reached this post without reading my previous one about Pyramid, go do that first.

I had previously found a sword that was the property of “ALI BABBA” and Matt W. suggested I try “OPEN SESAME”. That led me being teleported to “TWISTING PASSAGES”, a mostly headache-free maze.

The room marked in red has a floor that “feels funny” and is a deathtrap, but only triggers if you pass through from north to south or vice versa; if you enter from one side (north or south) and leave from the same side you stay safe. This is interesting in a theoretical sense in that it implies position and movement for the player; usually in text adventures the avatar is assumed to entirely “fill” a room, but this is a scenario where the center of the room is assumed to be avoided unless the player explicitly “passes through”.

A brief aside on mazes: now that I’ve experienced many a text-adventure maze from the 1970s through to 1980, other than being an easy puzzle to copy, I’ve found they can serve a purpose akin to “grinding” in a CPRG. On a traditional CRPG, when one is “stuck” on a puzzle or difficult fight, as long as there are random encounters, there is always the possibility of revisiting old encounters and getting experience points. Even if the grinding turns out to be useless on balance, it gives some sort of activity to do that still feels like “playing the game”.

On an adventure game, it’s easy to get into a “hard stop” scenario where there is nothing to do, but when there’s a maze, it’s possible to go back and do “busywork” — check and re-check to make sure nothing has been missed. This was especially true here given an early message, given in the title of this post and the image below.

The black isn’t an error; the main part of the maze uses this as the graphic.

If you shift all the letters back by one you get “WALLS HIDE SECRETS”, so I was testing out lots of “invalid” directions in the hope of finding something.

What I wasn’t doing was trying to “PUSH” or “PULL” things because the verb “PU” had already been used by “PUT” earlier in the game. (Remember, only the first two letters are understood!) However, Matt W. observed that PUSH WALL seemed to get a unique message, and I tried it out in multiple places before finding it useful at a dead end.

In the Ohio Scientific version of this game the room is a “Twisting Passage” still, and of course didn’t have the unique graphic, so it originally was a slightly harder puzzle.

PUSH WALL at the dead-end opened a passage to a locked hole. So the exact same verb was overloaded by the game and given two different meanings! (I confirmed it really still only understand the first two letters.) This is absolutely wild and I’ve never encountered such a trick in a game before (and I would say I probably won’t ever again, except there’s still more games from Aardvark to play after this one).

If you LOOK HOLE you see a LOCKING MECHANISM. Now, I had found a KEY elsewhere in the maze, so I just assumed it was useful here, but since no permutation of UNLOCK HOLE gave me any luck, I assumed I was hitting another verb issue and checked a walkthrough.

This was a mistake — it turned out to be a pretty neat puzzle. You see, one of the items in my inventory was a PISTOL, but just Pyramid of Doom and nearly every other adventure from this period, the pistol was useless as a shooting device. You can OPEN PISTOL to find BULLETS and then OPEN BULLETS to find GUNPOWDER. (Note that opening a bullet normally requires at least some pliers, but maybe they’re really old off-kilter bullets; trying to SHOOT anything doesn’t work so that might be why.)

There’s also some matches in a TIN in the starting knapsack.

Combining the two, you can PUT GUNPOWDER in the HOLE and LIGHT MATCH followed by LIGHT GUNPOWDER to cause an EXPLOSION.

(Ok, maybe not that neat a puzzle, as I probably would still have gotten stuck even had I found the gunpowder; the last bit of verb tomfoolery is very specific. If you BURN GUNPOWDER it says WON’T BURN.)

Going down the hole the explosion made leads to a chasm. Typing LOOK CHASM yields:


Getting the dagger was pretty rough too, but it follows the time-honored tradition of making animals solve puzzles for you. If you TIE BANANAS to the VINE from last time, then:



In addition to getting a treasure, I was able to >JUMP CHASM.

Naturally, all throne rooms have killer ants. Fortunately, I had an AARDVARK stuffed in my knapsack the whole time, as adventurers often do.



(As far as I know, aardvarks eat termites, not ants, but who am I to question the zoological knowledge of a 1980-era adventure writer?)

This let me reach a door, which I was then able to unlock and reach the outside, and then I hit the most terrible problem of all: a game-killing bug.

For whatever reason, on the TRS-80 Color Computer version, my inventory capacity got reduced, so when I went back to get my treasures and return them to the starting place, I found that even though I was only holding a flashlight, my hands were “FULL !”

Ah well, no problem. This is a short game, I can just redo my steps with the Ohio Scientific version of the game, right?

Oops. I guess not. I made a second attempt and got a bit farther, but still had a crash. According to the walkthrough I did find all the treasures (four of them: the sword, the dagger, and an amulet and gold deathmask in another part of the maze) so I’m fine closing the case here.

Posted November 25, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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