Sunday, April 19, 2020

Game 43: Enchanted Island (1979)

Sorry Greg, it only required a fraction of my cunning.

Okay, so I screwed up.  Remember a few posts ago, when I said that I had the order of the Greg Hassett games screwed up?  And that my next game would not be Enchanted Island but would instead be Sorcerer's Castle Adventure?  Well, I forgot to change my notes, so I ended up playing Enchanted Island anyway.  This is my completely nocturnal quarantine brain in action.

Enchanted Island is technically the sixth of Hassett's text adventures, and it's the fifth one that I'm playing for the blog.  They didn't start out all that great with Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure, but his later efforts like Voyage to Atlantis have shown signs of improvement.  All of them have scored pretty low on the RADNESS Index though, which makes me question why I have such an inordinate amount of fondness for Greg Hassett.  The fact that he's about thirteen years old around this time certainly has something to do with it.  But the more I think about it, the more I realise that he's pretty much exactly what I wanted to be when I was that age.

I went to uni to study IT (an ill-fated decision) with the intention of getting into the games industry.  I wanted to make games!  Unfortunately, I didn't want to make games in the system that was around in the late 90s and early 2000s: I wanted to be a solo creator, or part of a small team, not one cog in a huge machine.  So I dropped out, bummed around, and eventually picked up a job in a library archive.  The sad thing is, I could have had what I wanted in the 80s and maybe the early 90s.  I could have had what I wanted from about 2010 onwards.  I just happened to reach adulthood around the time where doing that was pretty much impossible.  (Eh, who am I kidding anyway, I never would have had the drive to be a success at it.  I just slept from 10am to 1am.)

What does my sad life story have to do with Enchanted Island, you ask?  Well, uhhhh, they're both set in Australia?  (That was a segue, folks. I didn't spend three years studying professional writing for nothing.)

So, Enchanted Island.  Like Hassett's other games, it was originally released through Mad Hatter Software for the TRS-80.  There was a later port for the Apple II, but I couldn't find it, so I'm playing the TRS-80 version.  If this post at Gaming After 40 is anything to go by, the version I found is a revised one that was written in assembly language rather than BASIC.  I'm not entirely happy with that, but I couldn't find anything else so this is what I had to work with.  (I did find something that I think approximates the original version, but more on that in Ports of Call below.)

As I mentioned above, Enchanted Island is set in Australia, or more accurately speaking, on an island off the Australian coast.  That's what the opening of the game says, anyway.  The description on the packaging says that it's set on an island in middle of the Pacific Ocean, which isn't quite the same.  For all that it matters, I'll go with what the game says.  The goal of Enchanted Island (surprise, surprise) is to scour the island for treasure.  It's a beacon of familiarity in these uncertain times.

Crikey mick, I'm on a flamin' island!

The game begins with the player standing on a beach.  There's a sign that tells you that dropping any treasure found here will increase your score.  I do appreciate a game that does this outright, rather than making me figure out where to drop things on my own.  Checking my inventory I discovered that I was carrying nothing, and typing SCORE I learned that I needed to earn 140 points.

There's also a warning not to go south, so of course that was the first thing I tried.  I ended up in the ocean, where I drowned.  (Wouldn't you think I'd turn back when it got to chin height or something?)

After a restart I headed north along the beach, and eventually to a thicket where I found some tasty food.  Remembering that just about every second puzzle solution in Hassett's games involves FEEDing something, I took the food with me rather than eating it myself.  East of the thicket was a rocky flat and a cave, but it was dark inside so I decided to go elsewhere to look for a light source.

East of my starting location I found a green bottle in the sand, but I couldn't open it so I took it with me.  Further east I found an oasis, with a single palm tree.  I climbed up the tree, and there I found a vulture guarding a golden feather.  The feather was denoted with + symbols, meaning that it was one of the treasures that I needed to find.  I fed the tasty food to the vulture, which flew away, and I was able to claim the feather and take it back to the beach.

I can't imagine that hand-feeding a vulture is much fun.

Heading south from the oasis, I found a dusty book half-buried in a sand dune.  Reading the book gave me the following clue: MAGIC BREAK WORD BOTTLE "BIMBO".  This looked like two clues jumbled up to me.  I tried breaking the bottle, only to be told that there was nothing hard enough here.  I also tried typing SAY BIMBO, but nothing happened.  The game definitely recognised BIMBO though, so I was on the right track.

I followed a winding path around from where I'd found the book, past a waterfall (with no secret room behind it, what a rip), and to the edge of a cliff.  There I found a lighter, which would definitely come in handy if I ever found a light source to use it on.  North and east of that I eventually came to a place called Spyglass Hill, where I encountered a deer.  Nothing I tried to do worked, not even KILL DEER, so I left this for later.

South of the deer I found a shady spot, where a warlock was guarding a silver key, the second of the treasures that I needed.  Much like the deer, the warlock didn't respond to anything I did, but he also wouldn't let me take they key.

This was all looking very similar in structure to Voyage to Atlantis.  That game had treasures scattered around the map, most of them guarded by creatures that served no other purpose than to act as obstacles to the treasure they were guarding.  Solving the game was a case of finding the solution to getting rid of each creature, and if memory served a lot of those solutions would involve food.  I'd already found one that backed that up.

The only other place to explore was east of the oasis, which led me a large rock with writing on it.  The writing read: "WARLOCK SLIP. HIT DEER".  The first part of that didn't look like something I could act on right now, but I went back and tried HIT DEER.  I was told "I've no weapon, so I'd rather not."  Something else to remember.

I went back to the rock and tried breaking the bottle.  The rock was obviously hard enough, because the bottle shattered and revealed a note inside.  The note read: "HOLY SMOKES, A TIGER! BARBS LIKE BAN..." The rest of the note was too faded to read.  I hadn't encountered a tiger yet, nor had I met a "barb", which I figured was short for barbarian.

North and east of the rock, through some tall reeds, I found a depression with a lantern on the ground.  This was the light source I was looking for, and with the lighter I was able to ignite the lantern and start exploring the cave.  Thankfully, the lantern doesn't appear to ever run out.

The caves were almost as big as the rest of the island I'd explored, but only a few locations had items of interest in them.  In a "sacred chamber" to the north and east I found a gold ring, the first unguarded treasure that I'd found.  West of that, in a dead end, I found an emerald embedded in the wall.  I mustn't have had the right tool on me though, because I couldn't get it out.

A little bit north and west of the entrance I found a cell, with a human skull on the floor.  South of that was another dead end, with a "mammoth ruby", another unguarded treasure that I gleefully pocketed.  I'd thought its implied size might cause me problems, but it didn't.

North of that I found a strange cave, where a medicine man was guarding a crate.  As with every other living thing in the game, he was non-responsive to all of my actions except trying to take that crate.

At this point, I'd explored every part of the island that I could find, and none of the inventory items I had were obvious solutions to the obstacles before me.  I needed something that could make the warlock slip, a weapon to hit the deer with, and a tool to pry the emerald from the wall.  As for the medicine man, I didn't have any clues as to how to sort him out.  There was nothing for it but to retrace my steps around the island and make sure that I hadn't missed anything.

I found the first clue to what I was missing at the top of the oasis palm tree.  The description there said that I could see a jungle to the south, but I couldn't see a way to get there.  This put me in the mind of the passwords from Colossal Cave Adventure and its variants, so I tried SAY BIMBO again.  This time it worked, teleporting me to a dead end in the cave.  This didn't seem all that helpful, so I tried it again, and this time it teleported me to the jungle I had seen from afar.

If I say this word one more time I'm going to get cancelled.

It took a little while, and another death, to figure out what I had done to make BIMBO work.  It turns out that you need the ruby in your possession.  There is a clue to this in the game, although I never found it: if you type OPEN BOOK rather than READ BOOK, a hollow voice tells you that "the ruby was Bimbo's".  I'm not sure why you'd try that once you've read it, but it's not the first game I've played where the two commands give different results.  Usually, it's that there's a note or something hidden between the pages.  Anyway, I worked out the solution through process of elimination, by trying the magic word every time I picked something up or did anything else noteworthy.

The jungle was a pretty small area. To the west, I found a hut with a barbarian guarding some rare spices.  To the north was a tiger guarding a priceless giraffe skin.  And to the east, I found a bear guarding some Cuban cigars.  I also found a bamboo pole, which I took with me, but nothing I was carrying seemed to have an effect on any of these three.  (For old time's sake, with Adventureland fresh in my memory, I tried SCREW BEAR.  Nothing happened.)

The only other avenue to explore was a dark marsh, this game's obligatory maze.  Since this was a marsh I didn't think that leaving inventory breadcrumbs would work as a mapping tool, as I expected them to sink into the bog.  That didn't happen though, and mapping this small maze was no hassle.  I found a bunch of potentially useful items in there as well: a jewel-encrusted coconut (another treasure), a glowing glass ball, a banana, and an iron pick.  I also wandered out of the swamp and into the ocean for another ignominious death, but in a game as small as this it was a minor setback.

The first thing I tried after scooping up all of this stuff (which required multiple trips due to this game's six item inventory limit) was to break the glass ball.  This caused yet another death, but one that came with a vital clue.

This isn't necessarily a game over, you can BIMBO your way out of the
Land of Lost Adventurers. You can't win without the glass ball though.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  Should vital clues come from failure?  On the one hand it breaks the narrative immersion.  On the other hand, playing an adventure game isn't really like experiencing a narrative at all, particularly in these early days.  It's more like unravelling a puzzle, and repeated failure is a part of that process.  I can see why people have a problem with this sort of thing, but I think I'm okay with it.

I was pretty sure at this point that I had the tools I needed to solve the game.  I started by feeding the banana to the barbarian, who took off and left the peel behind.  I took the spices and the peel, and went to the warlock.  GIVE didn't work as a command, and THROW gave me the message that I could only throw the ball.  So I tried DROP, and sure enough the warlock slipped on the peel and vanished.  (I assume he teleported away out of embarrassment.)  I took his key, and went to deal with the medicine man.  Trying BREAK BALL here results in yet another death, but when I tried THROW BALL the wizard instead took his wrath out on the medicine man.  With the key I was able to unlock the crate, and inside I found another treasure, a golden chain.

"I had the cure for the plague of the 20th shentury and I losht it!"
That's some obscure Sean Connery for you oldies out there.

From there it was a simple matter to pry the emerald out of the wall with the pick, and hit the deer with the bamboo pole.  This causes it to bound away, leaving golden antlers behind.  How this is done by an explicitly female deer is anyone's guess.

So far I'd gathered the following treasures: a golden feather, a silver key, golden antlers, a ruby, a gold ring, an emerald, a golden chain, some rare spices, and a jewel-encrusted coconut. There were two other treasures to be procured - the Cuban cigars and the giraffe skin - but both were guarded by the bear and the tiger respectively.  Based on earlier clues I guessed that the cigars would get rid of the tiger, but that meant I still had to deal with the bear, and nothing in my inventory looked helpful.  The only item I had that hadn't served a purpose yet was the skull, but the bear wasn't interested in eating it, and I wasn't able to throw it either.

This is where I got stuck for the longest, and I considered hitting a walkthrough for the solution.  This time my patience held out for once.  I just kept trying different things on the bear until I hit on the solution.  It ended up being a little bit annoying.  Trying HIT BEAR gave me back a message that I didn't want to, because the bear might hit back.  But when, in desperation, I tried FIGHT BEAR, I got the following result.

And I did it *bear*-handed.  That's it. That's the joke. Wacka-wacka.

So I'd already found the solution, I just hadn't worded it properly.  The same thing happened to me recently with Mystery House, where CLEAN ALGAE hadn't worked but WIPE ALGAE did.  At least in that game, it happened with a verb that the parser didn't recognise.  With Enchanted Island, it recognises HIT, FIGHT and ATTACK, which are ostensibly the same action, but only the latter two let you kill the bear.  (Incidentally, trying FIGHT or ATTACK on the deer gets you killed, even if you have the bamboo pole.)

With the cigars now in my possession, I went to the tiger and typed LIGHT CIGAR.  This didn't work, but SMOKE CIGAR did, and I was able to claim the giraffe skin.  These were the final two treasures, and I took them back to the beach and claimed the full 140 points.

I won, I guess?

Somewhat disappointingly, there's no victory message when you win.  I wondered briefly if there was perhaps something else that I'd missed, but my score suggested not.  I confirmed later by playing an earlier version of the game that I'd found everything, so it seems like Greg Hassett either didn't want to congratulate the player or just forgot about it.

This is the full treasure list, and the amount of points that each one is worth:

  • Golden Feather - 15 points
  • Ruby - 10 points
  • Gold Ring - 15 points
  • Jewel-Encrusted Coconut - 10 points
  • Rare Spices - 10 points
  • Emerald - 15 points
  • Silver Key - 10 points
  • Golden Chain - 15 points
  • Golden Antlers - 15 points
  • Giraffe Skin - 10 points
  • Cuban Cigars - 15 points

And this is my Trizbort map of the game:

Wooaah, the clicks'll make it bigger.

Enchanted Island isn't bad, but it's a pretty slight experience.  Much like Voyage to Atlantis, it's a perfectly competent game that does what it does in the most adequate manner possible.  I didn't love it, but it's a perfectly fine way to fill in an hour or two.


Story & Setting: The treasure hunt set-up doesn't earn it any favours, but I was intrigued by this game being set on an island off the coast of Australia.  It doesn't follow through on that at all though, featuring a number of things that do not exist in or near Australia at all.  We don't have tigers (although we did have Tasmanian tigers, but those are different); we don't have bears (although we do have koalas, even though they aren't really bears; and I suppose there are always the dreaded, deadly Drop Bears); and according to the internet we don't even have vultures.  I'll give Hassett the warlock, but "medicine man" isn't really a title that gets used for our country's indigenous elders.  It's much more of a generic hodge-podge of jungle stereotypes, and not all that interesting. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Characters & Monsters: As with Hassett's other games, Enchanted Island doesn't have living creatures or even the digital representation of such: it just has obstacles.  Rating: 1 out of 7.

Aesthetics: Silent, text-based, terse. Rating: 1 out of 7.

Puzzles: The puzzles are simple, and not all that clever.  Only two of them presented any difficulty, and the solution to the bear puzzle is really not solvable without simple trial-and-error. Rating: 2 out of 7.

Mechanics: The parser is a basic two word affair, which has its own set of strengths and limitations.  It does pretty much everything it sets out to do adequately, and there was only one place where I had real parser trouble. Rating: 3 out of 7.

Challenge: A game that I can knock off in under two hours definitely gets lumped into the too easy basket, but it didn't present me much in the way of frustrations.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Fun: There's not a lot of enjoyment to be gleaned from this one, but as I've said before I always have time for a short game.  Rating: 2 out of 7.

Bonus Points: 0.

The above scores total 12, which doubled gives it a RADNESS Index of 24. That puts it equal 34th overall, and equal 20th out of 27 adventure games.  It's sitting level with Burial Ground Adventure and Hassett's own House of Seven Gables.  In terms of the other Hassett adventures I've played, Journey to the Center of the Earth and King Tut's Tomb are two points below, and Voyage to Atlantis is four points higher.  That's probably because I ranked it pretty early into the blog, but then again it does allow you to shoot a manta ray with a cannonball, which is definitely worth some points.


I couldn't find the Apple II version of this game, nor could I find a version for the TRS-80 that was earlier than the one I played above.  But on this web-site I found a web-based implementation of Enchanted Island that has a number of differences.  I'd say it's pretty clearly based on the game's original release, or at least something a lot closer than the TRS-80 version that I played.

I'll run through the differences below:

  • There's no warning at beginning of the game about heading south into the ocean.
  • In the same location where you find the tasty food, there is also some green liquid.  I never found a use for it.
  • Opening the book no longer gives you a clue about the ruby belonging to Bimbo. That clue comes from the skull in the cell, and is given to you upon entering that room.
  • The warlock doesn't just disappear when he slips on the banana peel, he slips and breaks his neck.
  • The clue in the book is slightly different, and comes with a plug for Hassett's five previous adventures.  Instead of saying "MAGIC BREAK WORD BOTTLE BIMBO", the clue after the advertising reads: "BRE BOT MAGIC WORD: BIMBO".
  • The clue written on the rock is also different.  Instead of "SLIP WARLOCK. HIT DEER", it reads "SLIP WAR. HERACLES' THIRD LABOR". This is hitting some pretty obtuse territory, requiring the player to have some outside knowledge of Greek mythology.  The third labor of Heracles was to "capture the Ceryneian Hind", a deer so fast that it could outrun an arrow. There are different versions of the story, with different accounts of how Heracles caught the deer, but in none of them does he take a swing at it with a bamboo pole.  It's no surprise that Hassett changed this one in a later revision.


Probably the best difference, though, is that this version of the game actually has an ending.  I got my congratulations after all.

I do love the old-school TV aesthetic on this site.

I can't really rate this version on the RADNESS Index, because I'm not sure where it's sourced from.  I think it's authentic, but there's no way to know for certain, and I don't know what release of the game it represents even if it is genuine.  It's not quite different enough to get a changed score anyway.

NEXT: I've been checking in on Futurewar periodically to see if my problem has been fixed, but no luck so far.  The next game on my list promises to be a more substantial undertaking than some other games I've played recently.  It's time to drop back to 1978 and play the 430-point version of Colossal Cave Adventure, which I see was written by Don Woods himself.  I suppose that makes it an official sequel of sorts, or perhaps even the definitive version of the game.  It'll be interesting to check out.


  1. Just a minor nitpick but shouldn't this be game 44 as your priority adventure #1 was technically game 43?

    1. Technically it would be game 45, because I'd have to count Akalabeth as Priority CRPG #1 as well. I decided to track the lists separately. I'm not really sure why, but it made sense at the time.

    2. True, I forgot that Akalabeth came first on your priority list. You could always skip a number when the priority game comes up on the regular list, so your total count would be corrected at least every gaming year.