Thursday, February 11, 2016

Voyage to Atlantis: Victory!

I tell you what, I'm loving these one- and two-post games.  The PLATO games (which I'm still mired in, I might add) were becoming a real drag, and sapping my will to keep going with the blog.  Now that I'm plowing through games in the TRS-80/Apple era, it feels really good.

So, Voyage to Atlantis.  When I last posted, I had located seven treasures and secured them in my submarine: a Platinum Pick, a pair of Gold Scissors, a Silver Key, a Golden Apple, a Jade Medallion, a Pearl, and some Coins.  There were two more treasures that I had found, but I had yet to defeat their guardians: a Platinum Plaque guarded by a Black Manta, and a Golden Fleece guarded by a Minotaur.

I defeated the Black Manta first, but doing so involved some accidental cheating.  I really wanted to find out how many treasures there were in the game, so I decided to open a walkthrough and skim the first paragraph or two.  I should have known better, because I've besmirched my honour as far as this game goes.  I didn't read anything too major in the way of spoilers: all I saw was that I needed to feed my Peanut Butter Cup to the Piranhas, which I had previously thought to be pointless.  I'll accept the tag of cheater, but I'm pretty sure I would have tried this eventually without being prompted.

The peanut butter causes the piranhas' teeth to fall out, and it turns out that the teeth are rare and valuable.  I stashed them in my sub, and after returning to the room I noticed that the Piranhas were still there, now described as "harmless".  I tried adding them to my inventory, and somewhat implausibly it worked.  As the last puzzle solution had involved feeding the peanut butter to the piranhas, I got the idea to feed the piranhas to the manta.  This worked as well, and the manta swam away with a full stomach.  I was able to take the Plaque, but I was careful not to read it this time; it contains an ad for Greg Hassett's other games, but it also causes the game to crash.

Getting the Golden Fleece from the Minotaur sounded like a more dangerous task, but it proved to be not difficult at all.  I took the long trek through the Hall of Mirrors and the Labyrinth (neither of which are all that difficult to navigate), and when I made it to the Minotaur he was guarding not just the Golden Fleece, but the Spear that I had previously used to kill the Octopus.  When you kill the Octopus the Spear vanishes, and I had assumed that it was gone from the game completely.  But no, it appears at the Minotaur's feet, right where you need it, and the Minotaur makes no attempt to stop you from picking it up and killing him with it.  (This is another instance of the somewhat sterile nature of the game.  It's almost like - dare I say it? - visiting the aquarium: full of dangerous creatures that can't do anything to you.)

After you kill the Minotaur, the Spear transforms into platinum, and becomes another treasure.  Together with the Golden Fleece, that meant I had found eleven treasures.  That still wasn't enough to grant me the full 200 points needed for victory, so I needed to find one more.

I suspected that the final treasure was the Iron Statuette that I had pried out of the inside of a giant clam.  As it turned out I was correct, but it took me a while to figure out what I needed to do.  I tried carrying the statue around to different areas, and I tried dropping it in various places that seemed otherwise superfluous.  I tried shooting it with the cannon.  I even tried mapping the game on a grid and looking for secret doors.  None of these worked, and I was getting frustrated.  That walkthrough was looking mighty tempting...

The key to solving this puzzle was the clue I had found in a book in the library: "WHAT IS THOUGHT TO BE ISN'T WHAT YOU SEE! NORI".  NORI is IRON backwards, so I was pretty sure that I was on the right track with the Statue.  I tried cutting it with the Gold Scissors, throwing the Spear at it, throwing Piranha Teeth at it, typing swear words.  You know, the usual adventure game solutions.  Eventually I hit on the solution, which didn't involve any other items: SCRAPE STATUE.  Scraping away the outer layer revealed that it was really gold, and I had found the twelfth and final treasure.

The C64 has a good sound chip.  Write some bloody music!  
Get Martin Galway on it!

Unfortunately, the version of the game that I have ends with a syntax error, so I didn't get the full ending.  I tracked down the source code of a TRS-80 version (labelled as Mod. I, Level II, so probably a revision of the original), and got the full text:  "Tum tum-tum tum...tum te tum te dum de tum... A real Adventurer Grandmaster...Boy oh Boy! Can I shake your hand?"  Totally worth it.

There are a few other things I discovered about the game through play, reading walkthroughs, and the source code:

  • In my last post, I had thought that there wasn't an Electric Eel in the Electric Eel Room.  There was, but I had killed it with the cannon.  That seems to be the cannon's only purpose: to kill the Eel so that you can reclaim any equipment sucked away by the whirlpool.
  • You can get killed by the Minotaur if you attempt to feed it.  It eats you instead.
  • In the TRS-80 version of the game, the Plaque didn't have an ad for Hassett's other games.  Instead it had a clue that said "SCRAPE IRON. NORI".  Seriously, I could have used this.
  • The game does have an inventory limit, I just hadn't reached it at the time of my last post.  You can carry up to seven items before the game starts making you drop things.
  • You can't kill anything with the spear other than the Octopus and the Minotaur.  It's not logical, but allowing it would break the rest of the puzzles in the game.  It's a design flaw.


Story & Setting: This is just a treasure hunt, so story isn't really a focus of the game.  The Roman trappings of undersea Atlantis make for a cohesive setting, but as with the other text adventures I've played on PC the space limitations mean that descriptions are sparse.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: It's just you, some fish and a Minotaur, I'm afraid.  Once again, the creatures in this game are more obstacles than living things. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: Despite the heady buzz of nostalgia I got from playing this on a Commodore 64 emulator, I can't in good conscience give this any more than the minimum rating.  It's a text adventure, innit?  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Mechanics: Although this game cribs a lot from the work of Scott Adams, it hasn't kept the split-window interface that keeps the room description on screen at all times.  It's possible that it was there in the TRS-80 version, but I can only rate the game I played.  The loss of this feature knocks Voyage to Atlantis down a point.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Challenge: There was only one puzzle that gave me any difficulty, so I can't rate this too highly.  It didn't give me any serious frustrations, either.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence:  I'm tempted to give this game the minimum score here, because it cribs so heavily from the work of Scott Adams, whose games are much more famous and influential.  I can't do it, though.  It gets one bonus point for being super-old, and another for being programmed by a twelve-year-old.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Fun: I didn't hate playing this, but it didn't really fire me up either.  Like a lot of games of this era, it's probably being scored leniently because it's so short.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

This game has nothing more to offer me, so it doesn't earn the bonus point.  The scores above add up to 15, which doubled gives a Final Rating of 30.  That puts it as the lowest text adventure on the list, just under Pirate Adventure, and the lowest game on the list.  That seems a little harsh, but it lost a lot of points for being derivative.

Final Rating: 30 out of 100.


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: I remember this game having a decent variety of simple puzzles.  The SCRAPE IRON puzzle was the only one that troubled me, a frustration exacerbated by the fact that the game originally gave an obvious hint for it. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 0.

Voyage to Atlantis's RADNESS Index is 28. That puts it 8th out of 10 games so far, and makes it the lowest rated adventure game.  It's not too far below Pirate Adventure though.

DND v8 Update!!!  I just cracked level 90, so I'm on the home stretch.  One episode of Raw and one episode of Smackdown should do it.  If this character dies, I may just end it all.  The game, the blog, my life, everything.

NEXT: I'll probably focus on finishing The Game of Dungeons v8, since I'm getting so close to level 100.  In the meantime I should have a single post up for Space Invaders, which will break the format a little, and won't take me more than an hour or so to do.  Then it's back to the wonderful world of Greg Hassett, with Journey to the Centre of the Earth Adventure.  I probably could have scheduled that better.

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