Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Volcano Island (1983)

I'm continuing with the later SoftSide Magazine adventure games this month, tackling what I believe is the 23rd game in the series: Volcano Island Adventure, published in 1983.  There's no author credit in the first few lines of code, and the style of this game suggests a different authorship than many of the SoftSide adventures -- it uses mixed-case text, unlike many of its TRS-80 predecessors, and the author conveniently capitalizes nouns so we have some idea which words matter to the parser.  This is a convention I wish more of these early games would have used.

Volcano Island follows a traditional shipwreck/escape-the-island plot, with the specific threat of a volcano on the verge of eruption.  The time limit seems generous at first, but it actually presents a fair challenge thanks to some moderately complex puzzles and a tight inventory limit.

I always encourage interested readers to go adventuring on their own before reading my playthrough notes, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this one -- it's a pure, old-fashioned text adventure with no major bugs and some interesting puzzles.  Beyond this point, I will be detailing my experience... so there are certain to be...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

We begin on a short beach at the water's edge, where we can travel east or west.  There are some seagulls flying over a lagoon, and some tall beach grass, but LOOKing at all of these potentially interesting objects fails to realize any potential.

The east edge of the beach adjoins a cave, with more seagulls perched above its opening.  We can GO CAVE or simply head E to enter its dim interior, where a dark pool of water is accessorized by a skeleton, an old diary and a seaman's knife, with a rock ledge high above. 

We can GO POOL to swim in it, DIVE into the deep waters, come back Up, and exit to the North.  I'm guessing a light source might help us find greater value in the deep dark WATERS.  In the meanwhile, we'll read the diary -- it tells of a shipwrecked French sea captain, who hid a valuable gift for his wife in a place the natives fear.  So we may have some additional objectives here.

Returning to the beach where we started, we can head W to find a tidal pool and rolling sand dunes.  The pool is too shallow to enter, which is probably for the best, as LOOK POOL reveals that There's an electric EEL trapped in it.  The dunes can't be explored in more detail, so we'll head south to a clearing.  Here we find a shack, a cliff to the south, and an island native, who carries a SPEAR and looks stubborn.

The volcano is already rumbling ominously; I expect my initial foray will be cut short by the eruption, but we need to explore the map a bit before we try to find an efficient version of this story.  We can GO SHACK to see bare walls and an opening to the east, which just takes us back outside.  We can't TALK NATIVE, or STAB NATIVE; we can GIVE KNIFE, but he just looks at it and drops it on the ground.  This at least suggests that we may be able to find something of greater interest to our new acquaintance.

South of the shack is... ah, the native won't let us pass.  So this is the first obvious puzzle we've encountered.  Can we GET EEL?  Not without dying of electrical shock, apparently.  Restoring, we try swimming in the lagoon by the beach; we can see a coral reef enclosing the lagoon, but can't seem to access it.  We can GET GRASS on the beach to obtain a handful of the stuff, but the native isn't interested in that either.

The bare grass walls in the shack don't succumb to GO WALLS, or PUSH WALLS, or TOUCH WALLS or FEEL WALLS.  I wander around poking at this and that, as the volcano starts belching steam.  I learn that we can apparently hold our breath indefinitely in the dark waters in the cave.  The coral reef continues to be in accessible as the ground begins to shake, and then I realize that I have not tried to DIVE in the lagoon.  Aha!

We can see an underwater cave to the east, and a sunken galleon to the north; we can return to the beach by swimming south.  The cave contains a large octopus, and if we are so foolish as to waste time by LOOKing at the OCTOPUS, the vicious cephalopod grabs us and we're dead.  We can't KILL OCTOPUS either, during our single-turn chance, at least with the simple knife we're carrying at the moment.

The galleon is largely rotted away, but we can pick up a wine bottle here, which is sealed.  We do eventually start to run out of breath, but the limit is quite generous with a convenient warning, and here at the galleon we can just go back UP.

We can GIVE BOTTLE to the native, who drinks the wine and retires to the shack.  Now we can access a high cliff, where we see surf pounding the rocks below and a large flat, stained rock.  LOOK ROCK reveals dried blood, so it must be a sacrificial altar of sorts, indicating this is a sacred spot

East of the sacred spot is a bamboo grove, where we can CUT BAMBOO to take some with us as we head north into a small valley containing a single tree.  We can't CLIMB TREE or GO TREE, but LOOK TREE reveals that it's a rubber tree.  We can CUT TREE to create a pool of rubbery sap, but it appears we'll need something to carry it in before we can GET SAP.

I try to go back to the shack, where I do find the empty bottle as I'd hoped, but by the time I return the sap is now a hardened pool of rubber.  I try to CUT TREE and GET SAP, or FILL BOTTLE, but it seems to be unsuitable for the purpose. 

Heading east of the rubber tree, we find ourselves at the base of the volcano!  There's a hole in the side of the mountain, and a steaming pool of water, neither of which looks particularly inviting.  But we'll try to GO HOLE anyway, and we discover a hot cavern.  We can travel east through an opening to find ourselves on the rock ledge above the cave pool, near the start of the game. 

There's a package here, and we can't learn anything about it by examining it, so we'll open it -- to find a string of PEARLS!  So the old sea captain's treasure appears to be claimed, though we're no closer to leaving the island.

We can JUMP from the ledge to return to the cave's dark pool, or take the long way around, which I do just for curiosity's sake.  The native is friendly now, but we see a decidedly less friendly shark fin in the lagoon now.  I test the obvious hypothesis by GOing LAGOON, and dying immediately, of course.

It's probably time to think about getting off this island, though to my surprise the constantly threatening volcano has yet to end my game.  I try to PUT PAPER -- In two words, tell me where? -- IN BAMBOO, to see if I can make a flare; this proves fruitless, but the ability to PUT things IN other things opens up some other possibilities.  And while I'm trying to PUT SAP in something, which doesn't work because I have to have whatever I'm trying to manipulate this way in hand, the volcano actually does explode, sinking the island and ending the game.

Starting again, I wonder if the pearls we found are the captain's gift for his wife, or a red herring -- the natives don't seem to particularly fear the ledge in the cave, at least.  Can we trade something for the native's spear, so we can defend ourselves against the shark and the octopus?   Yes!  If we GIVE PEARLS, the native gives us his spear and exits the shack.

The shark is back -- claiming the pearls seems to trigger its arrival -- but we can't SPEAR SHARK or SPEAR FIN or PUT SPEAR / IN SHARK, and if we THROW SPEAR it just sinks into the lagoon.  Ah -- maybe we can use the rubber to pick up the electric eel and throw it at the shark.  That doesn't pan out, in my attempt at least, but we can just SPEAR EEL; that doesn't help, though, as it's dead now, and THROW EEL just allows it to sink into the lagoon.

I try to let the rubber tree sap land on the wrapping paper, or get caught in the bamboo, with no luck.  We can't CUT RUBBER after it hardens, either.  I try asking for HELP, which usually doesn't do anything, but in this case yields, "You need some ink and a pen."

Well, the octopus ought to provide some ink if we can figure out how to deal with it.  A pen, though?  Hmmmm.  Some more experimentation may be in order.  PUT BOTTLE / IN SAP re-seals the bottle, interesting.  PUT HANDS / IN SAP is even more interesting, as the sap forms a pair of rough rubber gloves when it dries.

Safely insulated, let's see if we can GET EEL -- yes, we can -- and now THROW EEL electrocutes the shark just as it kills the eel, eliminating a couple of dangers at once.  And now we can SPEAR OCTOPUS, and LOOK OCTOPUS to find an ink bladder, which we can take with us.

Let's assume that we need the wrapping paper, the bottle, the ink and a pen of some sort to put a rescue note together... maybe?  This hardly seems like a timely strategy given the volcanic activity here, but we'll try it anyway.  Can we MAKE PEN?  Probably -- the response echoes the classic Scott Adams semi-hint, You can't do that...yet!  So let's try to do it with... maybe a sliver of bamboo and the ink?  Nope.  PUT BLADDER / IN BAMBOO and PUT BAMBOO / IN BLADDER don't do the trick either. 

Oh, there are seagulls around here!  Maybe a feather would be a better basis for a pen.  It won't be as simple as heading to the beach to GET SEAGULL, though.  Can we BUILD a CAGE from bamboo?  Nope.  Maybe lure a bird in with some dead octopus?  Ah!  On the way to try to retrieve some octoflesh, we now see a school of small fish in the lagoon, and we can SPEAR FISH to get one of them.  But we still can't GET SEAGULLHELP tells us... with impeccable timing... that we should Trap a SEAGULL.  TRAP SEAGULL doesn't work directly, but we can try to MAKE TRAP... though I can't do that yet, especially because the volcano has again exploded.  Time is more of the essence than I had thought!

Let's see if we can MAKE TRAP now, with some bamboo and the dead fish... Not here!, in the bamboo grove, but by the cave where the seagulls are perching... we can't do that, yet.  We must need some other component.  Maybe some grass, to make a pit trap, even though our p?  Yes, that seems to work, but we also have to PUT FISH / IN TRAP to catch a seagull, then GET SEAGULL and finally GET FEATHER.  As I DROP SEAGULL, I notice it's dead -- not quite what I had in mind, but at least I have a tail feather now and can MAKE PEN... no, PUT FEATHER / IN BLADDER... no?

LOOK BLADDER indicates that the ink has dried, coating the inside of the sac.  Hmmmm.  Can we steam it back into viability using the hot pool by the volcano?  Sorry, you'd burn your hands.  With the gloves back on -- I dropped them earlier to free up an inventory slot -- we can PUT BLADDER / IN POOL to restore the ink.  But PUT FEATHER / IN BLADDER doesn't produce a pen like I thought it would, and neither does MAKE PEN.  We can't GET INK to put it on the feather, either.

I try to PUT INK / IN BOTTLE, but the parser doesn't consider us to have the ink even though we have the bladder.  PUT BOTTLE / IN BLADDER and vice-versa are also unproductive.  Ahhhh.. we have to MAKE PEN first, using the feather and the knife in combination, without the gloves on to avoid clumsiness, and then we can PUT PEN / IN BLADDER.  Finally!

Now what?  We can WRITE NOTE... which writes a rescue note on the wrapping paper.  And PUT NOTE / IN BOTTLE, hoping that an unlikely solution will eventually pan out.  And then we can THROW BOTTLE into the lagoon... where it sinks without a trace.  Ah, maybe this is why we can re-seal it with the rubber tree sap.  This last bit gets tricky because we can only carry five items at once, but we can use the shortcut to come back to the beach more quickly than taking the long way around.

Now we THROW the sealed, note-containing BOTTLE into the lagoon... and now that it's sealed, it...  Drat.  It just washes back to shore.  Hmmmm. 

The pools aren't good places to throw it either.  We can throw it into the surf from the cliffside at the sacred spot -- and, by a fortunate coincidence, there's a ship visible on the horizon.  But now we've defiled the sacrificial waters with our littering, and the natives are attacking from the north!  We'll use the volcano-to-cave shortcut again to try to elude them... they stop chasing us outside the cave (maybe they are afraid of this location), and as we return to the beach once more, we are rescued!

Apparently we feel no inclination or obligation to rescue the indigenous population, who remain scant turns away from death by volcano, but we also don't know that's going to happen if we escape in time, so I guess we can give ourselves a moral pass on this one.

Volcano Island is a tautly-plotted little adventure, more involved than the usual escape tale thanks to quite a few construction tasks that are logical but not necessarily obvious.  I had fun playing this one.

1 comment:

  1. The mixed-case makes it far more readable. Trying to play text-based adventure games on my Atari 800XL gives me a headache after awhile, either due to the font being all upper-case or in the case of Scott Adam's games, custom and barely legible.