Archive for the ‘xanadu-adventure’ Tag

Xanadu Adventure: Finished!   5 comments

I was planning on calling this post “The Hard Part” but it really wasn’t? I’m not exactly disappointed but I feel like I might have missed something, despite getting a hearty “congratulations” and the hand of a princess. (Also, be sure you’ve read my prior posts on this game for this one to make sense.)

Anthony Hope has an entertaining play-through video on Youtube here that lasts nearly 2-and-a-half hours.

First off: the amount of available torch light (that’s Brit-torch, so “flashlight”) was not at all a problem. A good chunk of the area is well-lit/outdoors and there’s even some leeway there. I’ll call the batteries the shop sells at the start to be essentially useless, I never needed to touch them, and you can even travel through darkness to an extent (just you can’t interact with objects in darkness, but you can still move around).

Second, the game really is forgiving in terms of transport-options. You get one magic word (GREZON) that gives you a one-shot teleport back to the treasure room, MINH works on two parts of the map, and if all else fails you can just walk (again, darkness is ok!)

I had nearly already solved all the puzzles last time. One that I missed was going up a bell tower to where a vampire bat resided, but there’s some garlic hanging around that lets you easily grab a treasure there.

I also missed going down a well to an oyster, where a “bivalve opening tool” served me well to pop it open and get a pearl. (I also, according to Anthony’s Hope walkthrough I checked after I finished, missed my only 5 points here by failing to eat the oyster. Not my first choice of gourmet, I’m fine leaving those points behind.)

I mentioned, offhand, defeating a cockroach with ITHURD; this does appear to be “correct”, or at least the way the walkthrough does it.

Where my playthrough different from the walkthrough is with the Troll. There are two ways through and there seems to be randomization here. One is to toss it the colorful postcards you can buy from the shop.

However, on my “final run” the troll wasn’t taking the cards and kept throwing the cards back, so I tried my lunch instead and it took that. (No hunger timer I could find, so it didn’t matter!)

The only other tricky part happened upon finding the last treasure. A voice announced the cave was closing and I needed to book it back to the shop at the start of the game. If you take too long you get squished.

One other thing that helped is the only threat that mattered, the second dragon, I met out in the middle of the forest, so I was able to run away from it and ignore it entirely. I was otherwise utterly unable to kill it with my sword.

Assuming you are efficient (and you don’t need to be that efficient) you have time to teleport back to the pagoda, deposit all your treasures, and book it for the shop and your reward.

I really was expecting something off-the-wall hard akin to Atom Adventure since Anthony described this game as an expanded version of that one. I never had any of the same effects, where the torch and inventory issues were so pronounced they essentially produced a whole new set of puzzles that needed to be solved on top of the regular ones. I did have to think somewhat about my movements, but I never felt pressured enough I had to reload every time I went a wrong direction.

The funny thing is, of course, that isn’t really a bad thing! This is essentially the most playable of Paul Shave’s games. It mimics Adventure a little too much for me to call it top-tier, but I did enjoy seeing how randomization fiddled with gameplay possibilities, and I’m guessing there are some emergent stories that I’ve missed based on, say, possibly having a sword break at an inconvenient moment. (Weirdly, in my final run I didn’t meet any dwarves — I wonder if that has something to do with me trapping the dragon in the forest.) I’d say the adventure-roguelike aspect (which I’ve chronicled a number of failures of) actually works here; just the right elements are randomized in just the right amounts so the game at least felt a little dangerous, but not unmanageable.

So, my sincere apologies for all those hoping for five more posts of struggling and pain on my part. If you’re nostalgic you can always re-read my series on Madness and the Minotaur, which does have a sequel in 1982 that uses the same engine, so eventually the suffering will come.

Posted May 21, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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Xanadu Adventure: The Easy Part   2 comments

My map in progress; incomplete, but probably not terribly so.

As I mentioned last time, difficulty for Xanadu likely points in a very different direction than Quondam. According to the ad copy for the game there are “over 100 rooms” and I have 95 or so of them mapped, so it feels like I might already have most of the layout of the game. There have been some puzzles along the way but they have all had a very cribbed-from Adventure feel that made them easy to solve. For example:

You’re at the South end of the vaulted chamber. There are no openings in the walls, but there is a six foot diameter hole in the ceiling through which the light shines.

It was not shocking to find a beanstalk was needed.

Backing up a little, one of the things I did in Madness in the Minotaur that I now believe was a mistake was to keep iterating on new random layouts for too long before settling on a “final map”. This time I saved my game immediately on my first attempt and kept going to that save, with all the objects already in their places (there’s still at least a little randomization done mid-game, which I’ll get to). This meant I could treat item locations as normal and immutable on making a map. I may still find something in the layout is impossible to reckon with later, but for now I feel like I’ve had a lucky draw, especially given the dragon from last time. Remember I died in two steps? This time I bought a sword and tried my luck, and managed to slay it.

MINH, when used in a nearby “Magic Room”, teleports treasures to the aboveground, and if no treasures are at hand, teleports yourself to the aboveground. It also works to teleport back again. It is, in other words, good for optimizing steps, although I haven’t got to that phase yet.

Nearby the dragon corpse was a small chasm, but help was nearby (at least in my iteration):

I think the ladder doesn’t have many places it can go, because you get stopped trying to take it down passages going the “wrong way” (it’s described as too big to carry), I assume with the intent to avoid breaking some puzzle later?

The chasm area incidentally had some keys which unlocked the grate I found at the start, so there’s yet another passage to the surface.

Shades of The Hermit’s Secret (except in that game nothing needed to be optimized).

There’s a shockingly tame maze; nothing much to say about it other than I found a “growbag” (needed for that beanstalk earlier) and a “dulcimer” (needed shortly for a different puzzle).

Just past the beanstalk, exactly like Crowther/Woods, there is a door that needs oil. Going even farther, there’s a troll demanding a treasure, although we finally have one deviation, since I haven’t found the FEE/FIE/FOE/FUM eggs and I’m not sure how to toss a treasure to the troll without losing it. I can still preview the rest of the map, though.

Past the bridge is a castle, with an interesting “trap room” with two phials were one of them says “poison” and the other one says “transporter”.

As far as I can tell, if you drink the poison or not is random, so if you get it wrong you just need to restore a save and try again.

There’s also a giant (…again similar to Adventure, although you never meet the giant in that game…) which can be lulled to sleep.

The magic word you get here can be one instead that teleports you back to safety aboveground. I have one puzzle I haven’t solved yet via “normal” means — a giant cockroach with skin too tough to break through — by using ITHURD instead. I don’t know if that’s “wrong” or just one possible approach.

So far, so standard. If I didn’t know better I think I’d wandered into the most standard Adventure clone we’ve seen yet, but unless various commenters of the past are playing a very long con, things are about to get very sticky as I try to liberate all the treasures I’ve seen. I suspect there’s a lot of under-the-surface difficulties that don’t manifest until I’ve started sending up cargo.

Let me give an example of what might come up. There’s a very short side room trip that’s needed to fill a bottle with water for beanstalk-watering.

Oh yes, there’s a dwarf that fixes broken swords. I have yet to break a sword. The several times I encountered a second dragon (randomly, after the first one with the paper) I straight-up died, with no chance to break anything.

Technically, going in the Chamber With Pool and filling-up takes three precious turns of torch light. Original Adventure let you fill a bottle outdoors, but it’s not possible here because the stream is dried up. But what if there was a puzzle to refill the dry stream, not for any holistic benefit, but just to save the three moves it takes to get water underground? That’s the kind of evil contortion I’m keeping my eyes out for.

Posted May 17, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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Xanadu Adventure (1982)   12 comments

Paul Shave (see previously: Atom Adventure, Pirate Island) went for broke with his last adventure, moving from the Atom to the more capable BBC Micro. Back in 2014 he was contacted by Anthony Hope (one of our regular commenters); Paul helped Anthony beat Xanadu Adventure, and as Paul himself stated in this interview:

I’m pretty sure he [Anthony] was the first.

In other words, at the time of release, it was too difficult for anyone to beat. Will it dethrone Quondam as the most difficult adventure ever?

From Every Game Going.

Having built up that hype, I should add the caveat that “difficulty” is not really a linear spectrum and has lots of elements mashed inside. Judging by Atom Adventure (which Anthony Hope claims is sort of a mini-version of Xanadu) the difficult aspects go in a rather different direction.

Quondam involved paying attention to extreme object micro-interactions, and was tightly packed with nearly every action requiring some sort of puzzle to be solved.

Xanadu’s difficulty is in randomization and optimized timing. Regarding the latter, most games — even the evil Phoenix mainframe ones — gave a lamp with a relatively generous lifespan that doesn’t require watching every step. The Paul Shave games all have, on the other hand, given exactly the amount of light needed, and not a step more; this gets to the level of being cautious what entrance to take into a cave as one entrance uses up a precious extra move of light and will eventually cause failure.

The randomization I’ve seen places some objects at random, so despite the absolute optimization condition above, you still have to deal with improvising a path (and Atom Adventure, at least, occasionally gave a literally impossible layout).

Absolutely tight limits and randomization make for an incredibly high-pressure experience. The closest comparison I can think of is Madness and the Minotaur (which I played last year) but while Madness and the Minotaur arguably had even more randomization, it at least tried to provide ample opportunity to “refresh” decaying health and light sources, going as far as randomly spawning a new refresh after one gets used up. I don’t expect any such niceties here.

As is usual for authors still under the shadow of Crowther/Woods, the objective is to gather treasures. As is slightly unusual, the instructions state you need to DEPOSIT the treasures rather than DROP them to get points. The instructions don’t give how many treasures there are or even a maximum possible score.

Before embarking further, I should also note this odd portion from the instructions:

There are lots of dwarves and dragons about. To kill them, you need weapons (you can kill them without, but it’s very unlikely). A sword has a weapon count of 10, an axe’s count is 5. To kill a dragon outright, you need a weapon count of 20; for a dwarf it’s 15, but if you throw an axe at a dwarf you always kill it. Your chances of killing monsters are proportional to your weapon count.

It sounds like all the weapons being carried contribute to your weapon “count” (as opposed to just using your best one), so if you have a sword, an axe, and a ??? you can outright kill dragons, but only have a probability of doing it with a sword. This feels weird and uneasy and I suspect there’s a trick hidden here somewhere.

The “1 or 2 Adventurers” question is interesting, but I’m going to ignore that feature for the moment.

You start in an “adventurer shop”, and no, you can’t just buy two swords right away for some dragon hunting action; the shop runs out. I’m unclear what’s optimal here but I’m the “messing about” portion of my gameplay so far so I’m trying everything out, including the postcards.

Speaking of postcards, I did my usual process for ultra-hard games and created a verb list right away. MAIL is not on my usual-test list but I thought it might work on the postcards.

CLIMB, SWIM, READ, BREAK, OPEN, CLOSE, DRINK, EAT, KILL, FILL, LIGHT, THROW, HIT, UNLOCK, LOCK, POUR, PAY, FEED, PULL, SCARE, USE, INSERT, KICK, BUY, STAB, PLAY, FIGHT, SING, CROSS, MEND, MAIL, DEPOSIT

A few to keep in mind as I move forward: MEND is quite out-of-the-ordinary (only previously seen in Hezarin) as well as SCARE (which I’ve seen maybe twice?) I also wouldn’t immediately think to SING anywhere, and USE being in play means I’ll need to test it in lots of places. Some of the typical magic-item manipulations like WAVE and RUB are out of play, but there’s always magic words.

After shopping, you go out to find a locked grate, Adventure style, and no keys; your first treasure, a ruby ring; and an empty bottle.

There’s a mostly unmappable forest (I tried, you can see my attempt above, but items started getting moved around and some exits shift at random); the only purpose of going in is to finding a pagoda.

Thankfully for maze-mapping, the “diagonal” directions of NE/NW/SE/SW are not allowed.

In addition to the outside being a treasure deposit area, you can go IN and then DOWN into darkness for what I assume is a random experience. I only got two moves in before getting wrecked by a dragon.

I’m assuming the dragon’s placement is random, and I’d get something less aggressive on a second playthrough. I’ll have to keep throwing dead bodies at the cave and return with a report.

Posted May 16, 2022 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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