Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Game 16: Colossal Cave Adventure II (1978)

Colossal Cave Adventure never had an official sequel.  Although it was eventually released commercially, and became iconic in its own right, for whatever reason no-one ever decided to create one.  There's also the matter of the game having multiple creators and versions.  Who would the official sequel come from?  William Crowther, the game's originator?  Don Woods, the man who expanded it into its most widely known form?  The latter would probably have had the best chance of creating a sequel that would be accepted as such, but he never tried, and neither did anyone else.

What the game did have was multiple expansions.  As Colossal Cave Adventure spread across university campuses all over the USA, many people took the game and rewrote it, adding new areas to explore and puzzles to solve.  There are at least fourteen versions of the game, usually distinguished by the number needed to get a complete score.  I suspect there are many more, and that more than a few have been lost.

I'm not planning to play every expansion of the game, mostly due to the difficulty of identifying and tracking them all down.  They're an important part of the history of adventure gaming though, so at the very least I wanted to play Adventure II, the earliest known rewrite.

A familiar beginning.

Adventure II was developed by Peter Luckett and Jack Pike, who were working together at Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough, in the UK.  They started the game in 1978 (the original code is dated December of that year) and apparently worked on it up through 1981.  The game was missing up until 2001, and it was only through the intrepid work of a number of folks (Jack Pike included) that it can be played today.  You can check out the full story here.

I spent a few hours earlier today going through the game, mapping it out and reminding myself of the geography.  It's very much based on the framework of the original.  As far as I can tell, everything from the Don Woods version is structurally intact, and all of the puzzles have the same solutions.  Luckett and Pike have made additions rather than alterations.  You may want to check out my posts on the original Colossal Cave Adventure, but I'll do a quick refresher below.

The goal of Colossal Cave Adventure is to explore the Colossal Caves in search of fifteen treasures, and return them to a nearby building.  I finished the game (albeit with a little help from a walkthrough), and along the way I had to contend with the following puzzles and obstacles:

  • Hordes of knife-throwing dwarves 
  • A lamp that would eventually run out of power
  • A snake that I drove away by releasing a bird
  • A bridge over a chasm that only appeared when I waved a black rod
  • A dragon that I had to kill with my bare hands
  • Three magic words that I had to master: XYZZY, PLUGH and PLOVER
  • A troll that I needed to knock off a bridge by throwing a bear
  • A pirate who constantly pops up to steal your stuff
  • A maze of twisty little passages, all alike
  • A maze of twisty little passages, all different

The original Colossal Cave had the following treasures: a piece of jewelry, some bars of silver, a gold nugget, gold coins, a ming vase, a golden egg, diamonds, an emerald, a gold chain, rare spices, a trident, a pearl, a persian rug, a platinum pyramid, and a pirate's chest.

Adventure II includes all of the above, basically unchanged from the original.  The same treasures are there, with the same obstacles and the same solutions.  There are new areas and new puzzles, though, as well as a couple of differences in the way the game behaves.  I'll run through them below.

  • You can now die of thirst.  Eventually you'll get a message saying that you can't last much longer without something to drink  There are plenty of water sources around, so it's not to difficult to stay hydrated, but it means that you need to keep the water bottle on your person at all times.  Thankfully the bottle is found very early in the game.

Dying of thirst.  As in the original game, you can be reincarnated several times, 
although it lowers your score.
  • The version of the game I'm using doesn't recognise the RESTORE command.  I can SAVE a game, but I haven't figured out how to actually load it.  So I've had to do a lot of restarting from the beginning, which is getting a bit irritating.
  • The dwarves now move objects around the map.  Occasionally you'll see a dwarf with something stuffed inside its coat, and when you kill it an item from another location will appear.  This mirrors the behaviour of the Thief from Zork; I wonder which game implemented it first?

This Dwarf has stolen the Persian Rug.  Also note the fellow who pops up to provide a clue.

  • There's a fellow who pops up occasionally to provide clues (pictured above).  So far he's given me clues about the magic bridge, and mentioned something about a chalice.
  • There are spiral stairs leading down from a chamber just off the Hall of the Mountain King.  At the bottom is a chamber, and a cellar that is blocked by a rusted portcullis.  A crystal orb can be seen on the cellar floor, but not reached.  The portcullis can't be opened, but it doesn't matter because this area can be accessed from somewhere else.
  • "Somewhere else" is a basement, with an entrance that has a message stating that only Wizards may pass.  When I entered the cellar to claim the orb, a stone slab dropped to block the exit, and I couldn't figure a way out.  Eventually a grey-robed wizard appeared and teleported me out (along with the orb).  That was the good news.  The bad news?  He teleported me into one of the mazes, and I died of thirst before I could escape.
  • There's a chapel area to the south of the Antechamber near Witt's End.  In several areas near the chapel there's an owl who flies away with a HOOT when approached.  The owl can be summoned by typing HOOT, but it will only approach if the lamp is turned off.  I haven't figured out what the owl's deal is yet.
  • Also near the chapel is a crypt where the air is cold, and a stable with a large beast behind a partition of some sort.
  • North of the anteroom is a series of unsafe tunnels.  There was a shaft I could slide down, but going all the way to the bottom resulted in me drowning in a pool of slime.  One of the chambers here contains an ivory tusk, which is one of the treasures.
  • In the chapel's attic I found a Thieves' Den.  Lying unguarded was a crown, which was yet another treasure.  Some of them are not hard to find at all.
  • If you wander into the Living Quarters, a giant grabs you and drops you in his dungeon, where you will eventually be eaten.  I haven't figured out how to escape from him yet.

About to be eaten by the Giant.

  • Near the reservoir is a large cavern full of swirling mists.  The mists are difficult to navigate, especially as my usual tactic of dropping items doesn't work: any item dropped can't be seen.  It's a bit of a nightmare, and I'm kind of hoping that I don't need to do anything here.

The only other places that I haven't explored are the two mazes; both of these mazes are large, and as I recall a real bitch to map.  I'm not looking forward to tackling them again.

So I know where three treasures are, and they're not too difficult to retrieve.  I've read that this version has twenty treasures, so I'm not too far away from finding them all.  I don't think that will be too difficult. The real question is whether Luckett and Pike have altered the endgame.  I doubt that will have, as they've remained super-faithful to the original game.  Hopefully by next week I'll find out.

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