Sunday, April 24, 2016

Zork: Agonising Progress

You may recall from my last post that this game had me snookered.  There were a number of puzzles I was stuck on, with little idea of what to do next.  To refresh your memory, those puzzles were:

1 - The Bank
2 - The Entrance to Hades
3 - The Machine at the Bottom of the Coal Mine
4 - Getting Down Aragain Falls with the Statue
5 - The Robot
6 - The Balloon

I've made progress on most of these, albeit painstakingly.  I am trying, desperately, to complete this game with no help.  I've been helped in that by vague memories of the commercial Zork trilogy, and I feel like I'm slowly getting there.

1 - The Bank: I figured this one out through dumb luck.  As I've mentioned before, in the bank is a portrait of the chairman, which is one of the treasures I need to collect.  The portrait can't be removed from the bank by the usual exits, but it can be taken through a curtain of light leading to the north.  In my last post I reported that this curtain took me to a small room with no exits.  If you wait long enough a gnome appears, asking you for something valuable to store in a deposit box.

I tried giving the gnome a treasure, and he teleported me to the waiting room.  You can exit the room to the south, which leads back to the regular dungeon.  This is one way of getting the portrait out of the bank, but it's not the best way.  You need to give up a treasure to do this, and as far as I can tell there's no way of getting it back.

If you don't give the gnome a treasure he eventually disappears, leaving you trapped in the room.  I spent a good long while in here trying every direction possible, searching for secret doors, praying, and even trying out the magic words from Colossal Cave Adventure.  Eventually I restored my game, and when I later returned I tried WALK THROUGH WALL, and got a message asking me which wall I wanted to walk through.  I typed SOUTH, and I was back in the bank, but I still wasn't abe to leave without the portrait.  Obviously I had missed something.

For some reason, walking through the south wall doesn't work after I meet the gnome.

I tried walking through the curtain again, wanting to find the gnome, but doing so didn't take me to the same room.  Instead I was inside the vault, with a stack of Zorkmids (the local currency).  I found out the hard way that hanging around in here results in a nasty death, so after a reload I tried again, scooped up the Zorkmids, and escaped by walking through the north wall.  Now I had two treasures, neither of which I could remove from the bank.  Walking through the curtain seemed to alternate between the room where 'd met the gnome and the vault.  I couldn't figure out what to do, so I left for a while and came back later.

When I did eventually come back, I found that walking through the curtain transported me to the waiting room, every time.  So I grabbed the portrait and the Zorkmids, walked through the curtain, and was able to escape the bank with both treasures.  I'm not sure what I did, but I'll take it.

2 - The Entrance to Hades: There's a gate to Hades, with spirits that block the entrance.  You may recall that I've had some trouble solving this puzzle.  I had the right idea, remembered from the commercial version: ring the bell, light the candle, and read the book.  And yet, no matter how many times I tried this it didn't work, and I was starting to get rather aggravated about it.

Rather than stoke my rage any further, I instead downloaded a different version of the game.  Previously I had been using the version found here, which had been written in Fortran.  The version I'm using now is based on the game as written in the MDL programming language.  I my have this wrong, but my understanding is that the game was written originally in MDL, and later translated to Fortran. Both versions were constantly revised through 1981, and although they are broadly similar there are some minor differences.  I've noticed some, like the MDL version having a welcome mat that says "Welcome to Zork".  The MDL version also responds to XYZZY and PLUGH (the magic words from Colossal Cave Adventure) by calling the player a cretin.

So, with a new version of the game at hand, the first thing I tried was getting into Hades.  Sure enough, when I rang that bell the spirits quailed, and I knew I was on the right track.  After I lit the candles and read the book the entrance was unguarded.  I have no idea why this didn't work in the version I'd been using previously, but it was gratifying to see that my memory had been correct.

What I found beyond the gate was weird, and the sort of weird that is very specifically rooted in 1978.  I've mentioned before that games of this vintage love to include self-referential stuff about coding and programmers, and this might just take the cake.  What I found was "The Tomb of the Unknown Implementer", with the heads of four game developers on spikes standing before the doors.  There was a pile of empty coke bottles, and a faded printout that revealed some code.  I haven't been able to figure any of this out yet, and it seems that I can't touch the heads or the crypt without being annihilated.  Something tells me that I probably need to come back here much later.

3 - The Machine at the Bottom of the Coal Mine: At the bottom of the coal mine is a machine.  It has a compartment where an item can be placed, and a start switch.that's too small to be manipulated by my fingers.  I suspected that I could place a lump of coal inside the machine, press the button, and it would be transmuted into a diamond.  To this point I hadn't been able to turn the switch, but I thought that perhaps something from my inventory would be useful.  The first thing I tried was the screwdriver, as it seemed the most logical option.  For once logic won out in an adventure game, and my suspicions were proved correct.  I had my diamond, and one more treasure to add to my list.

4 - The Robot: And now, to another machine, found in a series of rooms at the top of a magic well.  This machine has three buttons, and pressing any of them results in electrocution.  To the south of this room is a closet, and inside the closet is a crystal sphere (another treasure).  Taking the sphere causes a cage to drop, and the room to fill with deadly gas.  It's a predicament, but luckily there's a robot nearby that will follow your orders.  Getting the sphere is a simple matter of ordering the robot into the closet with you, then telling it to lift the cage once it drops.  From there it's a simple matter to take the sphere and escape.

I'm not sure what the purpose of the three buttons is.  You can tell the robot to press them, and they seem to change the intensity of the magnetic field in a room nearby.  I'm not sure if this is important, or if I've conquered this room already.

ADDENDUM: I figured out the buttons, mostly because commenter SyoShinozaki gave me a hint that they weren't related to retrieving the sphere.  One of the buttons (I think it was the triangular one) causes in increase in the magnetic field in the room closest to the machine.  After getting the robot to press it, I left to do some more exploring only to find that the Round Room (the one that sends you to one of seven random exits) had stopped spinning.  A box had also been jarred loose from somewhere, and inside it I found a violin.  Another treasure for my collection!

5 - Aragain Falls and the Statue: Near the top of Aragain Falls is a sandy beach, and digging in the sand with a shovel uncovers a statue.  Unfortunately, the only way to get to this location is via boat, and there's no way to sail back upriver.  The only other way on is over the falls (either in a boat or a nearby barrel), which results in a messy death.

The only other thing of note at the top of the falls is the end of a rainbow.  I had previously found the other end at the bottom of a canyon, and I was sure that the rainbow could be traversed somehow. 
In the commercial version of Zork I remember using a magical sceptre, but that item is nowhere to be found in this game.  The closest thing I had found to that was a broken stick, so I picked it up and waved it.  A message came up that said "Very Good", so I felt like I was on the right track.  I took the stick to the end of the rainbow  at the bottom of the canyon and waved it once more, and this time it caused the rainbow to become solid.  Now I could traverse it from the canyon to the falls, and it was a simple matter to get the statue back to the house where I store my treasures.  I even found a pot of gold on the way back, just lying on the ground.

The presence of an "NBC Commissary" on the rainbow is an odd one.  It can't be interacted with in any way, so I gather that it's an in-joke or a reference of some sort.  The NBC logo is sort of like a rainbow, I suppose, but beyond that, I got nothin'.

6 - The Balloon: There's a hot air balloon at the bottom of the volcano, but I hadn't figured out how to get it flying.  Obviously I needed to put something flammable in its receptacle, but none of the items I had tried so far worked (coal, timber, guano).  This honestly proved much simpler than I had expected.  I tried a newspaper, thinking that it couldn't possible produce enough fire to inflate the balloon.  But, real-life logic be damned, it worked, and I was soon rising up into the volcano shaft.

Trying to fly out the top of the shaft results in death, but there are two ledges you can land the balloon on.  You need to be careful to tie the balloon to a hook when you land though, or it will float away and leave you stranded.

The first ledge has a priceless Zorkmid coin on the ground, and a passage leading to a library.  There are four books in the library, each of a different colour, but I wasn't able to read any of them.  Instead I gathered them up and dumped them in the balloon's basket.

The other ledge you can land on leads to a bare room with a metal box embedded in the wall.  The box has a hole cut in it, but for whatever reason you can't reach inside, or take a peek.  I didn't figure this out right away, but I got there eventually.  You might remember that the house on the surface contained a brick made of soft clay.  Well, it isn't made of clay, and I found that out the hard way, by burning it with my torch.  One messy explosion later, and I had discovered that it was a plastic explosive.  It seemed that I needed a fuse if I was going to use it safely, and this came in the form of the wire coil found near the stream.  Thus armed I set about blowing up all sorts of things in the dungeon.  I even tried to blow up the Thief, but the timing on that proved to be too difficult.  Eventually I hit on the idea of blowing up the box, and that dislodged it from the wall.  Inside I found a crown, and a card warning me that the area was unstable.

What followed was a comedy of errors, because there are a few ways to die here.  First the room collapses.  Then the ledge outside collapses.  I died in both of those.  I also died because I forgot to untie my balloon from the ledge, and got pulled down.  After many saves and restores I made it to the bottom, but I think I messed up anyway.  The balloon gets destroyed she you land, and the four books that I had left in the basket were still in there.  I'll probably need to go back and replay this section again, because I'm certain those books are there for a reason.

Some Other Things I Worked Out:

Earlier in the game the Thief had opened the Jewelled Egg for me, revealing a clockwork canary inside.  I hadn't twigged initially, but when I was wandering around outside I heard some bird calls, and it all came flooding back to me.  I retrieved the canary, took it into the forest, and typed WIND UP CANARY.  Sure enough, it summoned a bird which dropped a brass bauble at my feet.  I'm convinced that this puzzle lay dormant in my memory because of the extreme mental anguish it caused me in my younger days.  It's a logical puzzle, and I think enough clues are there, but it took me forever to figure it out the first time.  It's almost the perfect adventure game puzzle: obvious in retrospect but so hard to figure out beforehand.  Well screw you canary, I won this time!

After finding the sphere, I tried looking into it, because what else is a crystal sphere for?  I honestly didn;t think it would do anything, but it gave me a vision of a Dreary Room, with a red glow and a door with a key in the lock.  I have no idea where this is or how to get there.

So far, I've found the following treasures:

A priceless zorkmid coin
A crown
A ruby
A burned-out ivory torch
A beautiful brass bauble
A clockwork canary
A trunk of jewels
A jewel-encrusted egg
A chalice
A huge diamond
A white crystal sphere
A statue
A pot of gold
A jade figurine
A sapphire bracelet
A pearl necklace
A grail
A platinum bar
A crystal trident
A gold coffin
A stack of zorkmid bills
A portrait of J. Pierpont Flathead
A painting
A bag of coins

That's 24 treasures.  Dare I hope that I only need 25 to win?  I have 481 points out of a possible 646, so it seems unlikely.  It's back to searching, I suppose, but I am somewhat out of ideas.  Hopefully next week's post won't just be a gif of me slamming my head through my keyboard.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Zork: Stumped

So, I'm stuck on Zork.  Stumped.  Bamboozled.  Stymied.  Confounded.  Snookered.  Writing synonyms for stuck because I don't really want to acknowledge how stuck I am.  This game has me buggered, and I have no idea what to do next.

That said, while I don't know what to do I have a fair idea of where I'm supposed to do it.  So, in the interests of clarifying my problems, I'm going to run through all of the things that are giving me trouble.  Perhaps writing and thinking about them will yield some answers.

  • The Bank.  There are three things of interest in the bank.  One is a curtain of light that seems to be impassable.  The second is a huge stone block that seems to be some sort of magic vault.  The other is a portrait of J. Pierpont Flathead, the bank's chairman.  This portrait is one of the treasures I need to collect (I assume so, as picking it up increased my score), but an invisible force prevents me from taking it out of the bank.  ADDENDUM: I've been able to walk through the curtain by typing WALK THROUGH CURTAIN.  I emerged in a room with no exits.  A gnome appeared, then got impatient and left when I couldn't figure out what he wanted.  I wasn't able to find my way back out of this room, so it looks like I'm stuck again.
  • The Entrance to Hades: There's an entrance to Hades that is blocked by spirits who won't let me pass.  I don't know what's going on here, because I know what to do: ring the bell, light the candles and read the book (all items found in the nearby temple).  I remember it from the commercial version, and I've even looked at a walkthrough (while carefully avoiding hints for other puzzles).  It has to be correct, but none of this works when I try it.  Perhaps I can't do this yet, or perhaps the version of the game I'm using is bugged.  Either way, it's seriously irking me.
  • The Machine: Deep below the coal mine there's a machine that has a compartment and a switch.  I seem to remember from the commercial version of Zork that I can put a lump of coal in here and the machine will turn it into a diamond.  I have the coal, and it fits in the compartment, but I can't operate the switch.  The description makes it seem as though my fingers are too big.  I've tried eating a cake that shrinks me, but that didn't work.
  • Aragain Falls: After riding an inflatable boat down the Frigid River, I dug up a statue on the beach (one of the treasures).  The trouble is that I can't get the statue back upriver, as the current is too strong.  Aragain Falls is nearby, but dropping over the edge is a fatally bad idea.  There's a barrel at the top of the falls, and I was able to ride it down the falls, but that killed me as well.  I wonder if I can put the statue inside the barrel and push it over?  (Nope, no luck there.  I can drop the statue in the barrel, but I can;t figure out a way to move the barrel.)
  • The Balloon: At the bottom of a volcano there's a basket.  Attached to the basket is a large cloth bag, a braided wire, and a receptacle.  Obviously, this is a hot air balloon, but buggered if I can get the thing to launch.  I would think that I need to put something flammable in the receptacle.  I've tried a lump of coal, some timber, various pieces of paper, the torch, a match, and even a lump of bat guano.  None of these items fit inside, and I'm otherwise out of ideas.
  • The Robot: This one will take some explanation.  In one of the more remote dungeon areas there's a machine with three buttons.  These buttons are electrified, and touching them kills you.  To the south of this machine there's a closet, and inside the closet is a crystal sphere.  Taking the sphere results in the activation of a deadly gas trap.  The logical answer here is to use the robot, which will follow your commands.  The robot can survive pressing the buttons, and they seem to activate a magnet or something in another room.  None of them deactivate the trap, that's for sure.  I need to explore this more, but nothing I've tried as yet has worked.
So that's where I am, stuck on six puzzles that all have me scratching my head.  I'll keep plugging away at it, and hopefully by next week I'll have made some sort of breakthrough.  I might download a different version as well, just to see if the bell/book/candle do anything at the Entrance to Hades.  Otherwise I'm not sure what I'll do.  I was enjoying this game, but now it's edging into frustrating territory.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Zork: The Importance of Details

As I was preparing to write this post in my head, I expected it to be a very short one.  Basically, the gist of it would have been that I explored a bunch, found a couple of new areas, and made no progress whatsoever.  I was stuck for the better part of the week, with seemingly no way forward.

Admittedly, this is not uncommon for me when playing adventure games.  There will invariably come a time when I have no idea where to go or what to do next.  And when I figure out the answer (or look it up in a walkthrough, as I am known to do) it's usually something that seems dead obvious in retrospect.  I had that experience just a couple of hours ago.

But first I should write about what I did before I got stuck: exploring the maze.  There's a tried-and-true method for exploring and mapping mazes-of-twisty-little-passages-all-alike: dropping items to mark each location.  It worked wonders in Colossal Cave Adventure and I figured it would work here.

It did, to an extent, but there's an added wrinkle that makes mapping the maze in Zork a bit more difficult: the Thief.  Not only does the Thief wander through and steal your valuables occasionally, but he'll nick any treasures left unattended as well.  One of the earliest things I learned during this process was not to use any treasures for location-marking, because they inevitably get stolen.  The Thief doesn't restrict himself to stealing treasure, either.  He'll quite happily pick up other items and drop them in another location.  Basically, he's a bastard, and as of 1978 he's probably the all-time greatest villain in gaming.

The first thing I found in the maze was the skeleton of a dead adventurer, along with a rusty knife, a burned-out lantern, a set of skeleton keys, and a bag of coins.  I had never realised it before, but this is probably meant to be the protagonist of Colossal Cave Adventure; the equipment fits, especially the dagger, and he is in the one area of Zork that's an almost direct lift from its predecessor.  You can take all of the gear, but taking the skeleton is a bad idea: a ghost pops in, appalled at your desecration of a fellow adventurer, and curses you so that all of your valuables are sent to the land of the dead.  (I assume that this means they're in Hades, but as I haven't found my way in there yet it's hard to say.)

Also in the maze is a way back to the surface: a dead end with a locked grate in the ceiling.  The dead adventurer's skeleton keys unlock the grate, and then you can climb up into the forest. This is probably the exit that I use the least, as it's just too inconvenient to find my way through the maze every time I want to enter the Underground.

Much deeper in the maze, and quite difficult to find, is the lair of the Cyclops.  The Cyclops is a hostile fellow, and wouldn't let me pass.  I tried fighting him a few times, but he was a lot tougher than the Troll.  Perhaps at a higher level I'd be able to defeat him, but at my current level I was no match.  Instead I fed him my sack lunch, which he ate greedily.  Upon finishing he declared that he was thirsty, so  gave him some water.  (It seems like every adventure game so far has involved the feeding of some animal or monster.  It's become my first tactic whenever a creature is blocking my path.)

I passed through the room by climbing a flight of stairs, and found myself in a most unexpected place: the lair of the Thief!  With all of my stolen stuff!  Alas, the Thief was there as well, and he killed me very, very quickly.  Still, finding the Thief's hideout felt like a real achievement, and it's going to be so satisfying when I can come back here and jam a sword through his neck.

With the maze done, and seemingly every location that I could access mapped, I spent the next couple of days butting my head against three puzzles: the Entrance to Hades, the Dam, and the Gold Coffin.

The gold coffin is a treasure found in the Egyptian Room.  It's heavy, but you can pick it up.  The problem comes when you try to move around: it's too big to fit through certain exits, so you can't get it to the surface via any of the means I had yet discovered.  I seem to recall using a sceptre to solve this puzzle in the commercial Zork, but it ain't here in this version.  I figured out the solution eventually, but not until I had opened the Dam.

As I mentioned in the last post, there's an Entrance to Hades, with the gate guarded by evil spirits.  I'm positive that the bell, book and candle I found elsewhere are used here, but no amount of faffing about with these items has produced any sort of reaction.  I still haven't figured this out, and it's starting to eat at me.

Finally, the Dam, which is the "obvious-in-retrospect" thing I mentioned earlier.  I spent a long time trying to manipulate the control panel to open the dam, using every tool I had found, but nothing worked.  I was sure that I needed to turn the bolt on the panel, and the wrench seemed to be the likeliest item to use, but nothing worked.  Eventually I stumbled across the solution, and it really made me feel like an idiot.

Here's the problem: when I'm mapping a text adventure, I often play in SUPERBRIEF mode.  You can set Zork so that it doesn't give you the room descriptions, and only mentions the important items in the room.  I had skimmed past the dam's Maintenance Room without reading in detail, and I had missed that the room has four buttons, each with a different colour.  They're only mentioned in the room description, and in SUPERBRIEF mode they aren't flagged at all.  I was undone by my own haste in mapping, and I felt like a right twit when I discovered my error.

Exploring the dam in Superbrief mode

The buttons were coloured blue, yellow, brown and red.  The blue button causes a pipe to burst, which slowly floods the room.  You'll die if you stay in the room for too long after this, and I haven't figured out a way to shut the water off.  The brown and red buttons are seemingly useless, though I'm not ruling out the possibility that I'll need to press them later.  The yellow button produces a simple click, but when you return to the main chamber of the dam after pressing it you'll find that the control panel is activated.  With that done you can easily turn the bolt with the wrench, and open the dam.

With the dam open, the reservoir is drained, and you can cross over it on foot.  The first thing to be discovered is a trunk buried in the silt at the bottom of the reservoir: it contains some jewels, and is one of the treasures you need to collect.  There's a small air pump on the far bank of the reservoir, which solves the problem of inflating the boat that can be found at the base of the dam.  (I left the boat until much later.)  The next chamber north, the Atlantis Room, contains a crystal trident, another treasure.  Opening the dam felt like a great achievement, and that was only enhanced by the instant rewards I was given for it.

The next thing of interest that I found across the reservoir was a mirror.  I had found a similar mirror on the other side, not far from the entrance to Hades, and naturally I figured that the two were linked.  I tried breaking this one, staring into it, and walking through it, to no avail.  Finally I touched it, and a rumbling let me know that something had worked.  Sure enough, I had teleported from one mirror to the next.

This teleporting trick proved to be the solution to getting the gold coffin to the surface.  I was able to drag the coffin across the reservoir to the second mirror, teleport to the first, and then make my way into the temple.  Another thing I had discovered earlier was that praying at the altar transports you to the forest, so it was a simple matter to take the coffin and put it in my trophy case (which must be bloody ginormous).

Another thing I found on the far side of the reservoir was a slide that goes all the way back to the Cellar, the first area you see when you enter the Underground.  One of the things that elevates Zork is the way that it foreshadows various things.  The slide had been visible when I first entered the cellar, but had been too steep to climb.  I've been wondering about it for a while, and sure enough I found the top of the slide later in the game.

I also found a room that contains a jade figurine being guarded by a Vampire Bat.  The bat will grab you when you enter, and deposit you in a different location (usually somewhere in the coal mine, I found).  It's not hard to figure out how to keep it at bay, though: if you have the garlic it won't come near you, and you can claim the jade figurine.

Nearby is a  Shaft Room that has a hole covered by a grate, with a basket that you can lower into the depths.  It seemed useless at first, but like everything in an adventure game it became vital later on.

There's a room that smells of gas, in which I found a sapphire bracelet.  I suspect that if I had come in here with an open flame I would have been in trouble, but with the lantern I was able to take the bracelet with no danger.  (ADDENDUM: Yes, entering this area with the torch is fatal.)

The coal mine is probably the most annoying part of the area over the reservoir.  It's another maze, though it's mercifully smaller than the first.  There's nothing in it except a ladder leading down to another area.

In the area below I found a lump of coal, some timber, and a passage that was too narrow to enter.  I could squeeze through if I dropped all of my inventory, but that meant leaving my lantern behind, which left me trapped in the dark on the far side.  The solution involved the aforementioned basket: by placing the ivory torch in the basket and lowering it, I was able to illuminate the area beyond the narrow passage.  I'm not sure how useful it is to do so.  What I found there was a machine, with a compartment I could open and some controls that looked too small for me to manipulate.  I suspect (or perhaps remember, it's always difficult to say with games I've played before) that I need to put the coal in here so that I can transform it into a diamond, but I haven't been able to get the machine to work.

That was where my post was going to end, but I just recently figured out a few more things, so if you can stomach a few paragraphs more I'll continue.

I found the time to inflate the boat, and float downstream on the Frigid River.  You can land the boat at any time, but if you head downstream too many times you'll go over Aragain Falls to a nasty death.  There are beaches on the east and west banks.  I never found anything on the east bank, but on the west I was able to dig in the sand with my shovel and uncover a statue.  It also leads to the top of Aragain Falls, where there is a barrel with the words GERONIMO written on it.  I tried getting in the barrel and going over the falls, but it was a bad (and fatal) idea.  There's no way back upstream, so I haven't figured out how to get the statue back to the trophy case.

Near where I found the coffin is a room with a large glacier blocking the western exit.  I tried to melt it with the torch, and much to my surprise the glacier transformed into a torrent of water and swept me to my death.  Forewarned, I went back and tried throwing the torch instead.  This time the glacier melted without killing me.  I found two things on the other side: a ruby (one more treasure, huzzah), and what appeared to be a hot air balloon.  I can't get the balloon to work.  It has a receptacle, where I assume I have to put some fuel.  I've tried the coal and also some timber, but neither of them fit.  Perhaps the bat guano might work?

I also managed to go back to the Thief's room and give him the jab in the neck that he deserves.  As you score points from gaining treasures your rank increases, and so does your combat ability.  I had about 200 points when I killed the Thief.  Aside from an immense feeling of satisfaction, there are a few benefits from killing him.  The most obvious is that he doesn't roll through and take your stuff anymore.  It also allows you to reclaim any treasures that he has stolen; in addition, he has a silver chalice in his lair that you can take.  And finally (something I discovered by accident) the Thief opens the jewelled egg, to reveal a clockwork canary inside.  The egg and the canary are separate treasures, so if you kill the Thief before he does this you can't finish the game.

An ill-fated attempt to kill the Thief

Finally, I found a new area that can only be accessed from the Round Room, which sends you to certain random locations when you exit.  In this new area is a door, and you need to answer a riddle before it will open:

"What is tall as a house,
Round as a cup,
And all the king's horses can't draw it up?"

I had no trouble with this one: the answer is a WELL.  Beyond the door I found a pearl necklace, and a bucket at the bottom of a well.  The bucket was too large to take, but I was able to get inside it.  I tried filling the bucket with water, and lo and behold it rose into another area.

The rooms at the top of the well felt weird even by the standards of this game.  The first was a Tea Room, which had four slices of cake on a table: a red slice, a blue slice, an orange slice, and a slice that had EAT ME written on it.  The orange slice made me explode, so I ruled that one out.  The blue one caused me to grow too big for the room, which crushed me to death.  The red one did nothing.  I figured that the one marked EAT ME would cause me to shrink, but buggered if I could figure out how to eat the thing.  The only descriptor it had was EAT ME, and typing EAT EAT ME CAKE was - unsurprisingly - not a command that the game understood.  I managed to eat it by taking all of the other slices into another room (which allowed EAT CAKE to function as a command) but that left me without access to the cake that would return me to normal size.  I eventually hit on two solutions.  The first was to put the other cakes into the sack and close it.  The second was to use the command EAT EATME CAKE.  It's not the most intuitive thing to type, is it?  There are other ways around it, thankfully, but there's little worse in a text adventure than knowing the solution but not being able to find the correct words.

Eating the cake shrank me down, and I was able to enter some cracks and find a vial of poison.  Eating the blue cake returned me to normal.  I'm not sure what the poison is for, or whether I'll need the remaining cakes, but I'm holding on to them anyway.

The next chamber contained a robot, with instructions for bossing the thing around.  The room beyond that had a huge machine, with three buttons.  Pressing any of the buttons resulted in my electrocution, so I probably need to use the robot.  Nearby was a dingy closet containing a crystal sphere, but taking the sphere activated a trap that killed me.  Investigating this bit is next on my agenda, but I haven't had time to figure it out just yet.

So, I'm still having a grand old time with Zork.  It's undoubtedly one of the best games I've played so far, and definitely the best text adventure on my list.  I also haven't spent much time being stuck: so far I've been making constant progress.  I'm not sure if it's that I'm getting better at adventure games, or if my subconscious memory is guiding me, but I feel really clever.  I hope the next few days don't do anything to discourage me.

I have about 250 points out of 585, which suggests that I'm about halfway through the game.  That's a bit disheartening, actually.  Given that I've found fourteen treasures, I had thought I was almost done.  Either there are more than the assumed twenty treasures, or there's more to the game than a scavenger hunt.  Hopefully by my next post I'll know.