Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Colossal Cave Adventure: Walking Through

There comes a time in the life of every gamer when he must hang his head in shame.  That time has come for me.  It's not that I'm doing badly with Colossal Cave Adventure.  On the contrary, I believe that I'm very nearly done with it.  No, the problem is that I have broken a sacred tenet of the blog, and resorted to a walkthrough for help.  I'm not sure if I ever said so in a post, but one of the rules I set for myself when starting the blog was that I wouldn't cheat to beat a game.  I've gone back on that rule, and so I hang my head in shame, and hope that my readers can forgive me.

It could be worse, though.  I only used a walkthrough to spoil one puzzle, and I had another one spoiled for me by accident.  I've figured out the rest of the game for myself, and I intend to complete it in the same fashion, unless I become hopelessly, desperately stuck.  After all, I don't want to be bogged down in one game forever.  This time I capitulated too easily though, and I don't intend to do so again.

With that confession out of the way it's time to talk about the game, and I suppose I'll begin with the two puzzles that I had help with solving.  If you recall from my last post, I had encountered a dragon that was sitting on a Persian rug.  The rug is one of the treasures I need to recover, but nothing I tried could move the dragon.  I poured water on it, I poured oil on it, I threw an axe, I threw a trident, I threw a canary.  None of it worked, and I doubt that I would have ever come across the solution on my own.  This is the puzzle I mentioned above, that I spoiled by accident when I saw the solution on the Wikipedia page.  I was reading it for research purposes, and thought I would be pretty safe from spoilers, but that was not the case.  Here's the solution below:

Yes, that's it.  It's clever, and it's certainly funny, but I don't think it plays fair.  The message that displays when you type KILL DRAGON - "With what? Your bare hands?" - is exactly the same message that appears if you try to kill a dwarf, or a troll, or any other creature in the game.  In those instances, if you try to answer the question posed the game will act as if it doesn't understand.  How does the player know that this situation will be any different?  Perhaps I'd be happier about it if the wording had been slightly different, as a way of flagging to the player that this could be the solution.  As it is I'd never have tried this option with the dragon, because it didn't work anywhere else, or even acknowledge that it could work.

The other puzzle I had trouble with, and the one for which I had to consult a walkthrough, involved the room with the emerald shaped like a plover's egg.  I mentioned in my last post that the entry to this room was narrow, and that I had to drop all of my gear to squeeze through.  This included my lamp.  The Plover Room (as it's called) is lit, but there's a dark passage leading away that I was unable to explore.  I figured that there must be some other way into the room, but after exploring every area in the game I was unable to find it.  The solution, as I discovered when I capitulated and looked it up, is one that could only be arrived at by dumb luck and sheer frustration.  It turns out that PLOVER is another magic work, like PLUGH and XYZZY.   Typing it while in the Plover Room will teleport the player to a cavern closer to the surface, and vice versa.  Armed with this knowledge I was able to teleport in with my lamp and explore the dark passage, which led to a room containing a platinum pyramid, the last of the treasures I needed to locate.  Of all the puzzles in the game so far, this is the only one I have genuinely bad feelings about.  At least the KILL DRAGON puzzle is amusing in the way that it trolls the player.  With the PLOVER puzzle there are no clues at all, and it doesn't feel clever or funny.  It just feels cheap.

And now, on to the puzzles that I figured out on my own.  One of those was the troll guarding the bridge, who demanded a treasure for every time I wanted to cross.  Getting across the first time was no problem, as I could give him a golden egg, then use the magic words FEE FIE FOE FOO to return the egg to its original location.  It was crossing the second time that was giving me grief.  I tried giving the troll a gold coin, thinking that I would perhaps only give him a single coin, and therefore not lose the treasure.  No such luck there.  In the area past the troll was a volcano, some rare spices, and a bear locked up with a gold chain.  The spices were a treasure, and giving them to the troll had no apparent effect.  The same went for the gold chain, and the volcano - despite having a pretty cool description - seemed to serve no purpose.  I was at a loss until I figured out that I could TAKE the bear, and it would follow me.  This was obviously the solution, and although it took me a few goes to figure out the correct command I was able to defeat the troll.

THROW BEAR.  Seriously.

The last treasure that I had some difficulty locating belonged to the pirate, who occasionally jumps out and steals all of your treasures, as shown below.

The pirate hides your treasures in the maze, as he says.  This game has two mazes, one with twisty passages all different, and one with twisty passages all the same.  The pirate hides his treasures in the latter.  Mapping that maze was time-consuming, and involved dropping items in each location so that I would always know where I was.  Unfortunately I never had quite enough items to cover every location, but I was able with difficulty to map the whole place out, and I found my stolen treasure in a dead end very deep in the maze.  I also found the pirate's treasure chest, which is another of the items that are needed to complete the game.  I would have liked the chance to put an axe between the pirate's eyes, but I suppose I'll have to settle for stealing his stuff instead.

With the treasures all located and safely deposited in the building on the surface, I started getting a cryptic message.  I can't remember the exact wording, but a voice kept announcing that the cave was now closed, and that I should leave via the main office.  I tried to get out using the magic words, but those no longer worked, and I was starting to panic because my lamp was running out of power.  Eventually, the following occurred, and I was transported to a new area.

This new area seems to be a repository of all the objects used in the game.  It's all a bit meta, and I'm surprised to see such blatant breaking of the fourth wall in a game as old as this one.  I explored around a bit, grabbing various items in case I would need them again.  I should have paid more heed to that warning about not waking the dwarves, though.  In the next area I went to there were loads of snakes, and loads of birdcages.  I released one of the birds, just to see what would happen, and sure enough it chased a snake away as I expected.  Unfortunately, it also woke the dwarves, and they all got up and riddled me with knives.

ADDENDUM: Though I had thought I was nearly finished with the game, I've run into a problem.  I can recover all of the treasures with little difficulty, but for whatever reason I'm not being sent to the final part.  I don't know what I did to trigger the endgame, and none of my wanderings after recovering the treasures have helped.  All of my games are ending with me fruitlessly roaming the caves until my lamp runs out, and I'm not sure what to do.  I guess I'll just keep plugging away at it, and hope I stumble into the solution, because I'm determined not to look up the answer.


  1. I know this is an old post, so you probably won't see this comment but...

    When I first played, I solved the Plover puzzle by accident. IIRC I was coming back with the emerald, but when I got to Y2 I got distracted or had a sudden fit of absent-mindedness or something, and typed Plover instead of Plugh. I was surprised to be back in the Plover room again!

    Maybe a lot of people could've done that back in the day, so it's not as unfair as you think.

  2. At random times, particularly in Y2, you get these two messages:

    A hollow voice says "Plugh".
    A hollow voice says "Plover".

    So once you've figured out plugh is a magic teleportation word, it makes sense to try plover at the same location... which works.

    1. ... in fact, I made it to the plover room that way BEFORE discovering the actual "tight crawl" entrance. So I knew how to get the pyramid, but I couldn't figure out how to get the emerald -- because every time you cast plover it moves the emerald back to the Plover room...