As of my last post I had gotten a bit stuck in Adventureland, but it turns out that the puzzles I was having trouble with weren't so difficult at all. To recap the puzzles I had yet to solve:
1) The sleeping dragon, which is the first puzzle you will encounter in the game. It will probably be the last one you solve, which is a structure that I often enjoy.
2) The bees. As I mentioned in the last post, I can capture the bees in a jar, but they suffocate and die when I try to leave the room.
3) Getting the mirror without using the honey. The magic mirror is guarded by a bear, and you can make the bear go to sleep by feeding it the honey. As I suspected, the honey is one of the treasures needed to finish the game, and this is not the correct solution to this puzzle.
4) The lava flow at the bottom of the maze. Obviously there's something inside it, but it's too hot for me to approach.
Okay then, let's tackle each of these one by one.
The Bear: The bear is found on a ledge over a chasm, guarding a magic mirror.
I was able to solve this without resorting to a walk-through, but in order to solve it I needed to fail it first. The hint I needed came from the magic mirror. I had mentioned in my last post that when I dropped the magic mirror on the persian rug, it gave me a hint: "DRAGON STING". Later I tried it again, and it gave me an entirely different hint: "Don't waste honey, get mad instead! Dam lava!?"
This provided me with help for two of the puzzles I was stuck on, but for the moment I'll stick with the bear puzzle. I restarted the game (with some minor grumbling), and played my way back to the bear. With the clue being to "get mad", I tried typing YELL.
Success! I had claimed the mirror without losing the honey, though I have to call foul on this puzzle. While it's not impossible to solve without failing it first, it's not exactly obvious either. The only way to really do it is to start trying random stuff, and see what works. I'll give it props for leading in to my favourite joke in the game though.
That "slightly woozy bear" gets me every time. I suppose he's lucky that he didn't land in the lava.
The Lava: Speaking of the lava, I was able to solve that dilemma with the other half of the clue I mentioned above. Using some bricks from a wall I blew up earlier in the game, and the command DAM LAVA, I was able to stop the lava flow. This revealed a glowing Firestone, which was initially too hot for me to pick up. Pouring water on it cooled it down, and I was able to claim my twelfth treasure.
The Bees: This puzzle was easier to solve than I had thought. I'd previously thought that the bees died as soon as I left the room, but it turns out that the length of time they survive is variable. It was enough time that I could use my magic rug to teleport to the dragon, which is where the bees come in useful. Oh yeah, remember to drop the mud before going to the dragon. You need the mud to survive the bees, but it makes the dragon wake up and kill you.
The Dragon: With some living bees in my possession, this was a simple matter of typing RELEASE BEES.
I say simple, but if I'm being honest this is the most frustrating past of the game. Forget the mud when you go to get the bees, and you're dead. Forget to drop the mud, and the dragon kills you. Sometimes the mud dries and falls off you before you get to the bees. Sometimes the bees die before you can get them to the dragon. All of these factors combine to make what can be an intensely irritating experience. Generally I'm against random factors in adventure games, and this one of those puzzles that suffers from it.
As you can see from the screen shot, the dragon flies away to reveal some eggs, which are the final treasure. All I had to do was take my ill-gotten gains to the room below the tree stump, drop them all on the floor, and say SCORE.
Underwhelming, isn't it? I'm not sure what I expected from a game of this vintage, but this is probably the most disappointing end game screen of the games I've played so far. But, I have finished it, and that means it's time for a final rating.
A Final Rating, you say? Yeah, I know, I haven't given ratings to any of the previous games I've blogged. I was reluctant to do so, given that I'm playing games from very different genres. But I've been reading a lot of The CRPG Addict, and The Adventure Gamer, and I decided to jump on their bandwagon. Besides, there's something fun about giving hard ratings to games, and comparing them against each other. At the very least, it's bound to make someone angry.
As I said, though, I have to rate both CRPGs and adventure games, genres with very different play-styles. The rating system I've developed is, by necessity, a bit more generalised than those used at CRPG Addict and Adventure Gamer. I'm rating games in seven categories: Story & Setting, NPCs & Monsters, Challenge, Aesthetics, Mechanics, Innovation and Fun. Each of these categories is scored out of 7, which is a lovely mythological number, and also has the added benefit of having an exact mid-point. I'll also award a bonus point based on whether I still feel like playing the game after I've completed it. This gives me a potential top score of 50, and I'm going to double it just so I an satisfy my obsessive-compulsive desire to make it a score out of 100.
Story & Setting: The story for Adventureland is barely there. There are thirteen treasures, and for reasons unknown (though we can assume pure greed) the protagonist is out to collect them all. There's no background, and very little in the game to give it context. I understand that the technical limitations of the TRS-80 would necessitate this lack of detail, but could it have hurt to throw a little something into the manual?
The setting isn't overly large, and it's similarly low on detail and description. The text sticks solely to the items and scenery that are important, and leaves out extraneous details. This makes the puzzles a lot easier to solve, but it doesn't do a lot for the game's atmosphere. The areas above-ground feel particularly disjointed, with the protagonist moving from meadow to swamp to lake to quicksand with no transitional areas between. Again, it's a deficiency born of technical limitations, but I can only rate what's there. Rating: 1.
Characters & Monsters: Adventureland doesn't have a lot of characters to meaningfully interact with, but there are a few monsters around. Let's see, there's the sleeping dragon, the chiggers, the bees, and the bear. It's not a lot, though I do have to give it props for the ability to blow up the dragon, and the bit with the woozy bear. Rating: 1.
Aesthetics: This category covers the game's graphics, sound and general atmosphere. Adventureland, being a text adventure with no sound, is not going to score very highly, though I'm willing to stretch higher for text adventures with particularly evocative descriptions. Adventureland is not that game. Rating: 1.
Mechanics: This category measures how well the game functions. For RPGs, that will include things like character creation and combat. For text adventures, it will include how well the parser works. Adventureland has a simple two word parser, and only recognises the first three letters of any word. (This has resulted in amusing situations, such as SCREW BEAR working to startle it from the ledge, as opposed to SCREAM BEAR.) That said, the basic nature of the parser puts a limit on the number of actions you might think to try, and I found that I was rarely in a situation where I was searching for the exact phrasing needed to solve a puzzle. I also came to like the split-window interface (with my input in the lower window and the room description at the top) the more I played it. Having the room description visible at all times is really very handy.
I thought about knocking the game down a point for its random elements, but on further thought they're not so bad. They're restricted to the mud and the suffocating bees, and really only affect one puzzle, so I'm going to be generous. Rating: 4.
Challenge: This is a good game for text adventure beginners. The puzzles aren't overly difficult, and the game is full of clues in the form of signs and the magic mirror, not to mention the HELP command which can be used if you get stuck. There's only one puzzle that I thought was unfair, and that's the bear. Even so, that one gives you a clue after you fail. This makes for a mildly challenging game. Rating: 4.
(A note about the above rating. It's not so much about rating how difficult a game is, but rather how well-balanced it is. A super-hard game won't necessarily score a 10, and a super-easy game won't always score a 1. Indeed, games that are too easy or too hard will no doubt get low scores here. Games that are challenging without becoming frustrating will score high.)
Innovation & Influence: Adventureland is the first ever text adventure game on a home computer, so I have to give it a high score here. It's very derivative of Colossal Cave Adventure however, so it loses points for that. Rating: 6.
Fun: And now, the most subjective rating of them all: how much fun did I have playing this game? Adventureland was a mild distraction. I enjoyed it, but it was short, and it didn't have a lot of jokes (I like text adventures that have a sense of humour). I'll bump it up a point for the ability to blow up the dragon. Rating: 4.
I didn't award the bonus point for Adventureland, as I doubt I'll ever play it again. The above scores add up to 21, which gives me a final rating of 42 out of 100. That seems a bit high, but it did score very highly for innovation, and given its limitations it achieves its goals quite well.
FINAL RATING: 42 out of 100.
I'm going to go back and rate the other games I've finished; expect that to be done within the next few weeks. Then I can set about making a leader board, and give you the definitive, not to be questioned rankings of every significant CRPG and adventure game.
Somewhat later in this blog I made the decision to overhaul my Final Rating system, so I'm going back through and fixing all of the games I've already played as of March 2020. I've ditched the Innovation and Influence category, and replaced it for adventure games with a category for Puzzles. I've also changed the purpose of the bonus points, saving them for games that are important, innovative, influential, or have features that are otherwise not covered by my other categories.
Also, the Final Rating is a boring name. The CRPG Addict has his GIMLET. The Adventure Gamers have their PISSED rating. Data Driven Gamer has his harpoons. So I'm ditching the generic name and calling my new system the RADNESS Index: the Righteous Admirability Designation, Numerically Estimating Seven Scores. It's a pretentious mouthful, but I'm going with it.
Puzzles: The puzzles to this game are a mild challenge, and pretty much all of them play fair. There are hints via the magic mirror, and a HELP command for when you get stuck. The only really obtuse puzzle was the bear. I'm also tempted to ding this for the randomness of the bees; failure by random chance in an adventure game is usually bad design, and it's one of the few genuine black marks on this game. Overall, though, this does impressively despite its limitations. Rating: 3 out of 7.
Bonus Points: 1. It's the first Scott Adams game, and the earliest significant adventure game on a home computer.
Adventureland's RADNESS Index is 37. That puts it fourth so far, just one point below Colossal Cave Adventure. I think that's fair actually. It's a smaller tighter game, with fewer bugs and loose ends, and puzzles that play a little fairer.
NEXT: Beneath Apple Manor!