Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Colossal Cave Adventure II: Victory!

In my last post for this game, I was lamenting about how difficult it is to put a successful run together.  The version I was playing had no save game feature, and with the number of random elements involved it was really hard to collect all the treasures without dying.  I managed it eventually, but I had to switch to a different version of the game to do it.

As I mentioned in my last post, the biggest obstacle to winning the game was the time limit imposed by the lamp.  After a certain number of moves it runs out of power, and once that happens it's game over.  This was a tight race in the original Colossal Cave Adventure, and with five more treasures to collect in the remake it becomes even tighter.  My plan was to write a walkthrough, so that I at least knew that on a perfect run I'd be able to do it within the rrequired number of moves.  In the end I didn't write a step-by-step walkthrough: there are too many random elements that can change where you need to go.  Instead I wrote a rough guideline, that looked something like the following:

Step 1: Get the platinum pyramid using the PLUGH and PLOVER passwords
Step 2: Get the lamp and the keys, unlock the grate, return the keys to the house
Step 3: Collect the nugget, diamonds, rug, coins, jewelry and silver bars (all unguarded)
Step 4: Step outside and have a drink
Step 5: Collect the tusk, chalice, crown, and orb.
Step 6: Step outside and have a drink
Step 7: Collect the golden eggs, trident, pearl, and ruby
Step 8: Step outside and have a drink
Step 9: Collect the golden eggs, golden chain, spices
Step 10: Have a drink
Step 11: Collect the vase, the emerald and the pirate's chest

That's a very basic run-down of my plan.  The various treasures are grouped by location: those in Step 3 are all near the entrance, those in Step 5 are all near the chapel, and so on.  I also had to make a plan that made getting the golden eggs efficient.  The eggs are needed to solve two separate puzzles (the troll and the giant), and each time you give them away you need to use a magic word to return them to their starting location.  All up you have to retrieve them from the same location three times, which can eat up a lot of moves if you don't do things in the best order.  I found that tackling the giant before the troll worked best.

You'll also notice that I do a lot of drinking, and that's because you can die of thirst if you're not careful.  The thirst timer is connected to the amount of stuff you're carrying: the more gear you lug around, the quicker you get thirsty.  Initially I was carrying a bottle full of water with me at all times, but I found that this was too limiting for my inventory.  Instead I started drinking from the stream on the surface every time I returned to drop some treasures off.  This was fine as long as I remembered, and it allowed me to carry more items, which in turn allowed me to get the treasures in fewer moves.

Knowing when to turn the lamp off was also key to winning.  I would always turn it off before teleporting back to the surface, because you only need it to see when you're below ground.  I would also turn it off whenever I had to enter multiple commands without moving out of a location.  For instance, if I ever had to pick up more than one item I would turn off the lamp first.  You risk falling and breaking your neck if you move from one location to another with the lamp turned off, but any other actions are safe.  (Except for killing the dragon, which I found out the hard way.  For some reason, the game treats it as though you've moved, and sometimes you'll fall and die.  After that happened to me I started leaving my light on for that bit.)  Every little bit helps to make your lamp last longer; it can be fiddly, but it's vital to success.

Even with my plan, I ran into all sorts of difficulties.  The dwarves would kill me (a lot).  I'd take too many moves to escape from Witt's End after dropping the magazine (doing this adds 1 point to your score, but escaping is by random chance, and can eat up a lot of moves).  Sometimes the pirate wouldn't appear.  Sometimes he would appear at the wrong time, and mess up the sequence to an irreparable degree.  Every now and then I forgot to drink, and died of thirst.  I even forgot to turn my light back on a few times, and died in the dark by accident.  Most frustratingly of all, the endgame would sometimes activate before I could get all of the treasures back to the surface; I could get a victory this way, but not with full points.  There are any number of ways to mess up in this game, which makes a successful, flawless run from start to finish very difficult to achieve.  I got frustrated with it, and switched to a version with a save game feature.  Life's too short.

(The version I switched to can be played on-line at, along with a lot of other classic adventure games.  It has a nifty map of the caves as well, which is cool if a bit spoilery.  Luckily for me I had already solved all of the puzzles.)

I collected all the treasures, but my lamp ran out of power before the endgame could start..

The endgame for Colossal Cave Adventure II is exactly the same as that in the original game.  After you've found all the treasures, a voice tells you that the cave is closing soon, and that you should leave by the main exit.  At this point the magic words that teleport you to the surface stop working, and the grate exit is locked.  There's no way out, and you have to pass the time until you are taken to the endgame  The trick is to pass that time without running out of lamp power, and dying in the dark; I did it by going to the room where the emerald is found, as it's one of the few rooms that has its own light source.

When the endgame activates you're taken to a storeroom containing many of the items and monsters from the game, including lots of sleeping dwarves.  If the dwarves wake up you'll be killed.  The solution here is that the room contains some black rods that are actually sticks of dynamite; you use the dynamite to blow up the dwarves, and escape.  I complained about this puzzle in the original game, because there's no foreshadowing or clues about it at all.  Pure guesswork is the only way to solve it.  Luckett and Pike had a chance to solve that problem here, but they left it as is, unfortunately.

Sweet victory

You'll notice above that I only got 436 out of 440 points.  That's a big part of what delayed this post; I would have had it up last week, but I spent far too long trying to find the last four points.  I have no idea how to get them.  I visited every location in the game, I took every item, I tried everything I could think of.  I even scoured the source code looking for the solution.  I couldn't find it, and I also couldn't find a walkthrough with a comprehensive point list.  So I had to give up on 436, which I'm not all that happy about.  If anyone knows the solution, I'd really appreciate it.

Scouring the source code usually turns up some fun things in text adventures, and this game was no exception.  I discovered a rather baffling sequence of events that happens if you drink from the reservoir using the chalice.

As far as I can tell this serves no purpose at all.  The chalice gets destroyed in the process, so even if you drink then refuse to help the princess it's a bad idea.  As pointless as it is though, it's more interesting than anything else the game has to offer.  There are all sorts of hints and implications towards an epic story here, but there's nothing else in the game that lives up to it.  I wonder if Pike and Luckett intended on expanding the game, but never got around to it?  Like I said, it's baffling, but oh so intriguing.


Story & Setting: The setting is exactly that of Colossal Cave Adventure, with a bunch of new locations bolted on.  The story is also the same, only with more treasures to collect (and an intriguing sequence that's pointless but far more interesting than the main quest).  There's more here, but it's more of the same, and not interesting enough to rate any higher.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

EDIT: I noticed that my rating in this category for Colossal Cave Adventure was a 2, mostly due to superior writing and the realistic caves. Given that Colossal Cave Adventure II has the same level of writing, adds a bunch of new things and doesn't take anything away from the original game, it should have the same score in this category. Actual Rating: 2 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: As in most text adventures of the era, the creatures you meet are more obstacles than actual characters.  The dwarves' can move items around now, which I guess gives them a bit more complexity, and there's the addition of a giant, an owl and a spider.  None of it's very inspiring though.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: As usual, this being a text adventure gives it a distinct disadvantage in this category.  The writing is decently evocative, but it's not really on the level of a ZorkRating: 1 out of 7.

EDIT: Again, this game should have the rating here as Colossal Cave Adventure. Actual Rating: 2 out of 7.

Mechanics: This has all of the good and bad points of the original.  The parser is solid, but combat is clunky, and I feel like there are too many random elements.  Rating: 3 out of 7.

Challenge: I'm tempted to give this a score of 1, but I don't want to be negatively influenced by the hard time I had because I wasn't able to save my game.  That said, it still has the dynamite puzzle, which I hate, and random deaths are abundant.  There are also two new mazes added (albeit small ones).  I have to mark it low, for being difficult in ways that aren't fun.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Innovation & Influence: Given that this is an expansion to an existing game, it has to rank low here.  Still, the thirst timer might be the first of its kind in adventure games, and the way that the dwarves move items around could be a first as well (depending on this game's release relative to Zork).  Rating: 2 out of 7.

EDIT: This is also the first expansion of Colossal Cave Adventure, something which becomes a sub-genre in its own right. I feel like that deserves an extra point.  Actual Rating: 3 out of 7.

Fun: I derived little more than mild enjoyment from this one, but that's from the perspective of having already played the original.  I would have enjoyed it much more coming to it fresh, but I can only rate it on the experience that I had.  Colossal Cave Adventure II adds some new things, but more often than not they're frustrating rather than enjoyable.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Sorry game, no bonus point for you: I won't be playing you again.  The above scores total 13, which doubled gives a Final Rating of 26.

Final Rating: 24 out of 100.

EDIT: With the alterations I made above, the Actual Final Rating is 30 out of 100.

That's the lowest score for an adventure game on the list so far (and the lowest score for any game).  For comparison, the original Colossal Cave Adventure scored 44, which is significantly higher.  A score of 24 seems rather low; it really isn't the worst game I've played.  I think it suffered because it's so similar to the original.  My rating was mostly based on what's been added to the game, and that material is largely uninspiring.

EDIT: It's no longer the lowest-rated adventure game, but it's not far off. The new score seems a little fairer to me. Don't worry though, this is the only game I'm going to reassess. Everything else is set in stone.


I guess everything wasn't set in stone.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: This game keeps many of Colossal Cave Adventure's puzzles, and adds plenty more of its own. Most of those were either too difficult for me to figure out, or involved a lot of frustrating backtracking and rigmarole. A lot of that frustration came not so much from the puzzles themselves, though, but other random elements, like the dwarves.  Even so, I can't quite bring myself to rate this as highly as the original Colossal Cave Adventure.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 1. I'm giving this a bonus point for being the first significant expansion of Colossal Cave Adventure, something which became something of a genre all its own.

Colossal Cave Adventure II's RADNESS Index is 31.  That places it 8th so far, and 4th out of eight adventure games.

NEXT: I'm still working on finishing The Game of Dungeons v8, and I've also started A3, a sci-fi text adventure created using the Wander system.


  1. You were intrigued by the Unicorn, and wondering where the missing points are. I never got this far in this precise version, but Mike Arnautov's Adventure 770 on is the only game in the world that I know of that took this and ran with it. There's more you can do with the Unicorn in that game, altho riding it still kills you like it does in this version. So i'm not sure if the more you can do with it results in your missing four points or not.

    I don't recommend continuing in 440 unless you have a save game with everything else done and could just try it out for two minutes, but rest assured this line goes further in the 770 point version. Note I believe in both versions, unlike the original, the food gets replenished. Actually, I am only certain of that in 770.

    another adventure fan

  2. I am amazed to find so many links for a 40-y-o text game ADVENTURE which I first played in 1981 on an office screen having just installed an online app to run on company's IBM mainframe. I never got to the endgame when I stayed late in the office maintaining the IBM OpSys but remember others giving hints after they had read thru' the BASIC script.
    Anyway, 36 years on, and I found this excellent Euclidean map (i.e. straight lines) :-
    So played adv (V1) again and actually got to endgame to win on 6th attempt.
    Then played it again using someone's optimal guidelines - just like yours at top of this entry - and won again !
    So, then decided to play ADV II after finding the port and exc. map on
    Thanks to your hints and tips, I feel I may be making progress towards magic 440 points and old endgame with dynamite (masked as rods w/o rusty stars).
    Unicorn saga appears to have cost you 4 points, so might try visiting reservoir but not riding unicorn into Hell.
    Incidentally, if you ever wanted to play ADV II again :-
    a) When visiting circular cellar to "get orb", "drop chalice" will summon the wizard thru' portcullis to banish you with both treasures.
    b) Only way to get Tusk out is to visit Sea View at low tide; then up pipes to maze (MTPS) and then north to BedQuilt with treasure.
    c) I got the golden eggs for the 3rd time from Giant Room with FFFF, and then decided to visit him (Giant) in his Living Quarters expecting to be thrown into his dungeon !
    There he was sitting on his couch eating the 1st lot of eggs that I had gotten !
    d) Anyway, you can escape from his dungeon with "get flagstone" which lifts part of the flooring and sends you to the bottom of the dry well underneath the Well House (building). Then "climb" gets you up through a magical slab back into the safe building.

    What game would you now recommend to a non-gamer who enjoys the challenge of text-based adventure games? Perhaps top-of-the range ADV 770 ?
    Thanks again for your hints and tips.

    1. Hi Lloyd, thanks for checking out the blog. If you're looking for a text adventure to play, you can't do better than Zork if you've never played it. The original mainframe version is currently the highest-rated game on the blog; it's genuinely great.