Thursday, June 11, 2015

Colossal Cave Adventure: The Joys of Cave Exploration

I can't express how refreshing Colossal Cave Adventure has been after months of primitive RPGs, and especially Moria.  I love RPGs, but sometimes they can devolve into repetition, following patterns in order to increase the numbers that drive your success.  I don't mind this style of gameplay, as long as I'm able to continuouly explore new areas and find interesting things.  Colossal Cave Adventure is nothing but exploration and finding cool things, and I'm really digging it.

At this point I think I've mapped most of the game.  It's always hard to be certain of this in text adventures, though.  There are often directions you can go that aren't mentioned in the area descriptions, and I'm paranoid that I've overlooked some.  I try to test all of the directions in every location, but they can be easy to miss.  On top of that, the directions of the exits don't always match up between locations; just because you got somewhere by going north, doesn't mean that going south will take you back to where you came from.  So yeah, I have more trouble mapping text adventures than I do RPGs.  I doubt that's going to change.

Mapping problems aside, though, I've been finding lots of cool areas, locating some of the treasures I need to complete the game, and running into some puzzles that I haven't solved yet.  Here are a few of the more interesting things that have happened.

  • There are a number of treasures that are lying around unguarded, not far from the entrance.  Near the Hall of the Mountain King I found some jewellery, some gold coins, and some silver bars.  A little farther away from that I found some diamonds.  These items are all easy to get, and easy to return to the building so that I can claim points for finding them.  I don't think I'll need these to solve any puzzles, except for the coins.  I might need those to buy batteries, but I'll discuss that later.
  • North of the Hall of the Mountain King is a room with a rock inscribed with Y2.  Sometimes when I enter this room, a hollow voice says "PLUGH".  I tried typing the word myself, and it works the same as XYZZY: it teleports me from Y2 to the outside building, and vice versa.  It's really useful, far moreso than XYZZY has been.  I don't know why this word didn't become the iconic one.
  • In my last post I mentioned a gold nugget that was too heavy to get up the stairs.  The solution to this problem was simple, as I was able to carry it to Y2 and use PLUGH to take the nugget to the surface.
  • Deeper in the caves, in the "Oriental Room", I found a vase.  This was one of the treasures (you can tell which items are treasures, because they're marked with an exclamation point), but every time I tried to drop it, it smashed on the floor.  The solution was to take a pillow from a room nearby and drop that before dropping the vase.  I like the puzzles in this game so far; they make sense, and lack the obtuseness that adventure games often suffer from.
  • At the bottom of a pit there's a small beanstalk that cries out for water.  The game gives you a bottle of water at the beginning, so this is an easy puzzle to solve, although you do have to water the beanstalk twice before it's large enough to climb.  At the top of the beanstalk is a Giant's Room.  There's no giant to be seen (thankfully), but there is a nest full of golden eggs.  There is also a sign that says FEE FIE FOE FOO, and after a bit of experimentation I discovered that typing all four words (one at a time) returns the egg to the nest in this room.  I think I know which puzzle this will help me solve.
  • Near the Giant Room is a huge door with rusted hinges; I needed to fill my empty water bottle with oil so that I could get this door open and find the trident inside.  The trident is a treasure, but it's also needed to open a giant clam elsewhere in the caves.  The clam has a pearl in it, which rolls several areas away when the clam is opened.  You wouldn't believe how long it took me to find that pearl, when all I had to do was go Down twice.
  • Quite deep in the caves there is a tight tunnel that I can only squeeze through by dropping all of my stuff.  There's an emerald in there, and I'm able to retrieve that with no trouble.  There's also a dark tunnel, and I'm afraid to explore it without my lamp.  I suppose that I need an alternate light source, or perhaps an alternate path into the room, but I'm yet to find either.
  • There's an area in the maze that is called Witt's End.  I stumbled into it during my first few hours playing the game, and I was completely unable to escape.  Every direction I took just led me back to Witt's End, and none of my items were able to help me.  I've avoided it ever since, but I get the feeling I'll have to return there eventually.
  • Near Y2 is an area with a window overlooking a chasm.  Across the chasm I can see a figure waving at me from another window.  I haven't been able to figure out what purpose he serves yet.  I've been able to get to the opposite window, but when I looked out the figure was on the other side, near Y2.  I've got no idea how I'm going to corner this bugger.
  • I've also found a dragon sitting on a persian rug.  The rug is a treasure, but of course I need to remove the dragon before I can take it, and so far none of my items have worked.  Thankfully the dragon doesn't try to kill me, but I'm also unable to kill it.  I have no clue about this one.
  • There's bridge guarded by a troll, who demands a treasure every time you try to cross.  I've worked out how to get across the first time, by giving him the golden egg and then using FEE FIE FOE FOO to make the egg return to its nest.  I haven't been able to work out how to get back across without losing another treasure, though.
  • There are two treasures to be found across the bridge: some exotic spices, and a golden chain.  The spices are unguarded, but the chain is around the neck of an angry bear.  I was able to calm the bear by giving it food, but the chain was locked.  Suprisingly, the keys found at the very beginning of the game are able to unlock it.  I had thought they wouldn't be useful aside from unlocking the grate, but they work here as well.  Still, even though I know where these two treasures are, I'll need to solve the troll situation before I can claim them.
  • The lamp is invaluable, as without it you will be exploring in the dark, which inevitable leads you to fall into a pit and break every bone in your body.  Of course, the lamp eventually runs out of batteries, and once that happens it's effectively game over.  There's a battery vending machine in one of the mazes, and I guess that I'll need to use a coin to buy a replacement.  I've tested it, and the coins disappear when I do this, so I'd like to avoid it.  I'm pretty sure that I can complete the game before my lamp runs out, once I know all the puzzle solutions.
  • The game provides you with food and water at the beginning, but at no point do you need to eat or drink.  I was half expecting to deal with this, but it turns out they are just puzzle items.
  • I spent a good deal of time visiting areas and waving the rusty rod around, just to see what it might do.  I was pleased to discover that it creates a crystal bridge across one of the chasms, but in reality it's a pointless shortcut that saves very little time.
  • The knife-throwing dwarves that I mentioned in the last post can kill you, but you get the option to be reincarnated.  I tried it out, and it sent me back to the beginning and subtracted some points from my score, as well as emptying my inventory.  I'm trying to get the full score of 350, so I won't be bothering with this again.
  • There's a pirate who occasionally appears, steals my treasure, then boasts about how he's going to hide it in a chest in one of the mazes.  I haven't fully explored the mazes yet, so I have no idea where the chest is hidden.

I feel like I'm about halfway through the game. I've successfully returned ten of the treasures to the building, and I've found two more.  I also know where the rug is, even if I don't know how to get it.  My score is around 180, which reinforces the feeling that I'm about halfway done.  My next move will probably be to explore the mazes, which remain the areas of the game that I've steered clear of thus far.  One of them is a maze of "twisty passages all different", and the other is a maze of "twisty passages all alike".  I don't look forward to exploring either, though I have developed some tactics in this regard from playing Zork.  I'm enjoying the hell out of this game, and can't wait to finish this post and get back to playing it, so forgive me if I end things here.  I got caves to explore.

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