Friday, February 5, 2016

Game 12: Voyage to Atlantis (1978)

It's difficult to find any information about Voyage to Atlantis.  What's out there is sparse, but it had me eager to play it.  After all, how many commercial games were designed by a twelve-year-old boy?  Yes, apparently designer Greg Hassett was twelve when he wrote this game, and there are a bunch more by him to come in the next few years.  I'd love to learn more about Hassett, but a Google didn't turn up very much.

Released through Mad Hatter Software (which I'm pretty sure was set up just to publish Hassett's games), Voyage to Atlantis was originally on the TRS-80.  I wasn't able to find that version of the game, so I've had to settle for the Commodore 64 version released in 1983.  It's far from ideal, and I can't shake the nagging fear that I'm playing a version that's different to the original.  Nevertheless, there's a lot of nostalgia for me in firing up a C64, even as an emulator.  My very first computer was a Commodore, and it was on that machine that I had my formative gaming experiences.  I still have it, but I don't have a copy of Voyage to Atlantis, so there's no point in firing it up just yet.  Perhaps later.

But, I digress.  Voyage to Atlantis is yet another treasure-hunting text adventure, much in the vein of Colossal Cave Adventure, Adventureland and Pirate Adventure.  Indeed, one would be forgiven for mistaking this for a Scott Adams game: the instructions on the intro screen are almost identical to Adams' games.  Not only that, but the opening area features a sign that instructs the player to bring any treasures back there and say "score".  I doubt that Hassett ever saw Colossal Cave Adventure, but there's no doubting that he played at least one of Adams' adventures.

Is that you, Scott?

The game begins with the player in his submarine, having docked in the sunken city of Atlantis.  The goal is to find all of the treasures, and bring them back to the sub.  I wasn't able to find a copy of the manual, so I've got no idea how many treasures there.  I've located nine so far (some of which I haven't yet been able to take), but I'm certain there are more.

Having explored all of the areas that are open to me, I have to say that I'm a little disappointed.  Not with the game itself; it's perfectly well-designed.  But there's a certain expectation that comes with a game created by a twelve-year-old.  I was hoping it would be a little crazier, you know?

The version of Atlantis presented here is in the vein of Ancient Rome, and quite a few of the locations draw on Roman mythology: the Pillars of Hercules, Prometheus' Chamber in Olympia, and so on.  This is mixed with a bit of Jules Verne (the sub, some mentions of Captain Ahab).  It's thematically tight, with the only real incongruity being the presence of a rail station.  Admittedly that's a big one, but in this era of adventure games you expect at least one area that makes no sense.  At least I haven't wandered into the insides of a computer yet.

As the city of Atlantis is underwater, you have to carry an air tank around at all times in order to survive.  Drowning without the tank is the only way of dying that I've discovered so far.  I live in constant fear that the tank is going to run out, but so far that hasn't been a problem.  I also thought it might be annoying to have an inventory slot constantly taken up, but I've yet to hit a limit on the number of items that I can carry.

I do love a game that insults me when I die.

I've found a few treasures lying around unguarded, and returned them to the sub: a Platinum Pick, a pair of Gold Scissors, a Silver Key, a Golden Apple, and a Jade Medallion.  Treasures are denoted by asterisks, so there's no mistaking them.  Some are needed to solve various puzzles, as you'll see below.

I've located a bunch of other treasures that are guarded by various forms of hostile undersea life.  I'll run through these below:

  • A chest guarded by an Octopus.  The octopus can be killed with a spear that's found nearby, but you also need a spear-thrower that's a found a little further afield.  This was the first puzzle I solved (not that it was exactly a head-scratcher).  The chest contained a pearl (one of the treasures) and a note.  More on the note later, when I outline the various clues I've located.
  • A platinum plaque guarded by a Black Manta.  I don't have any ideas on getting rid of the Manta, but I haven't put much thought towards it yet.  The Manta doesn't let you take the plaque, but you can read it, and doing so gives you an ad for Hassett's other games.  Presumably this wasn't in the original version, as it mentions games designed well after 1978.  It also caused a syntax error that crashed the game, so I won't be trying this again.
  • A Giant Squid guarding a pile of coins.  There's a hint elsewhere in the game that the Squid doesn't like loud noises, and I was able to scare it away by typing YELL.
  • A Minotaur guarding the golden fleece.  I suppose the Minotaur isn't aquatic life, but it does fit the mythological theme.  The Minotaur lives at the heart of a maze, which is mercifully easy to navigate compared to those found in Colossal Cave Adventure

So I've returned seven treasures to the sub, and there are two more that are still guarded by nasties that I've yet to defeat.  I could be close to finishing the game, but honestly I have no idea.

The city is strewn with various papers, books and journals that provide clues.  Here are all the ones I've found to date:

  • There's an area designated as "Captain Ahab's Quarters", and his journal is found there.  It contains this cryptic note: "LEE SAID POW AND DIED".  So far this is meaningless to me.
  • Inside the chest there is a note, as I mentioned above.  It says "PUT SHOT IN GUN".  This is easy to figure out.  There's an old cannon in an Atlantean fort, and elsewhere on an Olympic Field there's a shot put.  I've been able to load the shot put into the cannon, and I've even fired the cannon, but it had no discernible effect.
  • An old newspaper found in a dark cave had a number of cryptic messages for me: "USE CRUST TOOTHPASTE FOR SHARPER TEETH (SNAP!)  SQUIDS HATE LOUD NOISES (W O P T O N).  The bit about squids and loud noises helped me obtain one of the treasures, but I don't know what the rest is about.  Toothpaste?  W O P T O N?  I'm baffled.
  • A book in the library contained the following: "WHAT IS THOUGHT TO BE ISN'T WHAT YOU SEE! NORI".  Again, baffled.

There are a few other mysteries and things of note that I want to point out as well.

  • I found a giant clam, and I was able to prise it open with my platinum pick.  Inside was an iron statuette that I've yet to find a use for.
  • One room contains some Fierce Piranhas (and kudos to Greg Hassett for getting the spelling correct; old text adventures are usually terrible for this).  They don't do anything, and are seemingly pointless.
  • There's a gate between the Rail Station and the Jail that can be unlocked with the silver key.
  • I've found an area that's at the top of a cliff, and the text indicates that there are signs of life below.  I haven't been able to figure out a way down yet.
  • One room has walls with figures on them that look as though they've come to life.  I'm not sure if this is important, or just flavour.  It's right next to an area with mirrored walls, so it could just be foreshadowing.
  • There's a street with a post in the middle of it, and I can climb to the top of the post.  There's nothing up there, though, and the view doesn't reveal anything useful.
  • As well as the air tank, the submarine also contains a peanut butter cup.  I haven't found a use for it, and the thought of eating peanut butter is too horrible to contemplate.  I may not have the necessary cruelty to force even my digital alter ego to consume it.  Perhaps if I pretend that it's Vegemite.
  • One area is a whirlpool, and if you enter it all of your inventory items are sucked away, except for the air tank.  The items are thankfully not gone forever, and you can find them in the "Electric Eel's Room".  Curiously, this room doesn't have an electric eel in it, and you can just take your gear back with no trouble.  It does only have one exit, though, and that leads to the Jail.  And if you end up here without the key, and the gate still locked, there's no way out.  Unless I haven't found it yet.

I guess I can do this underwater?

So that's my progress through Voyage to Atlantis.  I've enjoyed the initial exploration phase, but I am finding the game to be a bit sterile.  The descriptions  are very sparse, and none of the creatures interact with you outside of preventing you from taking the items they guard.  It's all well and good to describe the octopus as "fierce", but it doesn't come through when all it does is sit there.  I'm hoping that I can have this one done by next week.

DND v8 UPDATE!!!  I've been grinding diligently while WWE programming plays in the background, and my character Strider is riding high at Level 70.  Not long to go now...


  1. Eat that peanut butter! Seriously, peanut butter cups are delightful. Chocolate and peanut butter is awesome.

    This game is a bit wacky, but like you I think it'd have more mileage if it upped the crazy quotient. There's something appealing about a mishmash of influences that doesn't take itself too seriously. I'm looking forward to how this one wraps up.

    On a side note, I may be the only American who actually likes Vegemite/Marmite.

  2. Good timing from you sir, I'm working on the follow-up post right now.

    Peanut butter is gross. Just vile, horrible. Marmite is also a blight on civilisation. Vegemite is food of the gods.

  3. You, sir, might just be responsible for precipitating the first ever Australi-American War!

    Or not, since my three-year-old loves The Wiggles too much for me to do anything about your terrible taste in food ;)

  4. On "LEE SAID POW AND DIED" -- my first instinct was that there are a lot of repeated letters in there, so the form of the words may be more important than the meaning. Could it be instructions for the directions to take through a maze? lEESaiDpoWaNDDiED = EESDWNDDED

  5. I thought you might be interested to hear Voyage to Atlantis was a type-in listing in the "The Captain 80 Book of BASIC Adventures" :-)

  6. “It's far from ideal, and I can't shake the nagging fear that I'm playing a version that's different to the original.”

    If you still want to do this for the sake of comparison (and authenticity) there are a couple of versions over at (even playable online if you prefer that) as well as some other sources (pretty easy to find, mostly missing the “Voyage to...” part of the title but crediting Hassett).

  7. I'm reading this way after the fact, but the note with w o p t o n might mean don't say POW, i.e. not pow is wopton backwards.