Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Adventure of the Week: Adventure in Time (1983)

This week, we're embarking upon an Adventure in Time, written by Paul Berker for the Atari 8-bit home computers and published by Phoenix Software in 1983.  This was the second in an intended series that appears to have stopped after this game's release.  Berker's style uses a basic two-word parser, but his text is evocative and his puzzles tend to be fair and logical.  I recently enjoyed his first adventure game, Birth of the Phoenix, meant for novice players, so I wanted to try this ostensibly more challenging adventure next.

The title page informs us that a file has been stolen which documents the hidden components of a deadly, world-destroying weapon.  Our part in this story, then, is likely to involve recovering or destruction of said file and/or weapon.

Interested readers are, of course, encouraged to have an independent Adventure in Time before proceeding into my playthrough notes below, and I can wholeheartedly recommend giving this one a spin.  I didn't find any published walkthroughs for this game, but I was able to solve it honestly with a little head-scratching and quite a bit of backtracking.  Beyond this point, as always, be aware that for history's sake, there are certain to be...

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

As the story begins, we find ourselves in a living room, feeling WOOZY, AS IF YOU'VE BEEN DRUGGED.  Taking Inventory establishes that our PACK IS EMPTY (which seems less appropriate to this game than its predecessor), and there's a suspicious syringe lying here. 

A picture of a spaceship on the wall almost covers an area of heavily scratched paint; the picture is securely fastened to the wall.  We can GET SYRINGE, and I try to SMELL SYRINGE to ascertain what we might have been drugged with, but that's not recognized.  We can't MOVE the CARPET here (we can, actually, but nothing seems to happen), and the game sidesteps that old trope, but EXAMINE CARPET reveals a worn area near the south wall, where there's no obvious exit.

PUSH WALL surprises me by actually working, and a robot emerges from a hidden access door.  GET ROBOT seems an imprecise approach, but THE ROBOT IS NOW PROGRAMMED TO ACCOMPANY YOU ON YOUR TRAVELS.  We can't order the robot to do anything, it seems; at least, ROBOT, GET PICTURE is not recognized by the simple parser (I DON'T KNOW HOW TO 'ROBOT', it explains, so this parser must have been woefully embarrassed at 1980s dance parties.)

We can explore north, east, and west of the living room, so we'll do that with our robot companion.  A dormitory to the east is filled with badly worn military cots, and there are burnt scraps of paper on the floor.  A surviving fragment reads, "BURN AFTER READING."  Or is this a whole piece of paper?  I DON'T KNOW HOW TO 'BURN' so I'll assume this is just a fragment.

West of the living room is a kitchen, where we can acquire a pencil.  The walls are filthy and the cabinets are empty; a rat sees us and dives into a hole which we can't interact with, as HOLE is not in the parser's dictionary.  We're told that the rat looks at us HOPEFULLY, though, before it scampers to safety, so maybe we should try feeding it later on.

We'll head north of the living room now, into a north-south entryway that leads to... a cliff?  It's a lot like the one in Birth of the Phoenix, with the same 300-meter height.  We can acquire a hammer here and observe some birds, vultures most likely, wheeling through the sky at a distance.  The pencil is a DIXON TICONDEROGA 1386 NO. 3, a nice bit of detail.  I have to try to SAY PHOENIX here, but of course nothing happens in this game.

What now?  We can see a stud on the anterior surface of the robot.  PUSH STUD provokes the response: "I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANY HELP HERE."  So at least we know the robot might be helpful elsewhere, and in fact the game's HELP command refers us to the robot.

It turns out that PUSH STUD in the living room causes the robot to open up the south wall.  We can now explore the Security Room, which has exits leading east, west, south and southwest, opening up the map quite a bit.  The security monitors are dark, some apparently kicked in -- and there's dried green blood on the floor.

We can't go E yet -- CODE NAME, PLEASE? -- so we'll head south into a Laboratory, where it appears an alien skeleton has been under examination.  We'll take a soft cloth here, as IT COULD BE USED FOR PICKING UP DELICATE THINGS.  The microscope has nothing on its stage at the moment, but we'll likely be back to examine something later on.

The lab allows further exits east, south, and west.  Heading east, we discover a Library with rotting books, in an alien language with metallic bindings.  We can pick up a brown card, a blue card, and a manual, but I'm running into the game's six-item inventory limit so I'll have to drop the paper to pick up the manual.  The manual is badly mutilated and contains only a few apparently blank scraps of paper, though its title, A.I.T. 1984, might mean something.  I'll leave the cards here for the moment.

Southwest of the library (and south of the laboratory as the map begins to connect back to itself) is a Storeroom containing a translator and a laser.  The translator doesn't seem to help us with reading the manual, and I DON'T KNOW HOW TO 'TRANSLATE', either, if we try that.  But it will likely be useful at some point.

West of the storeroom is a greenhouse, lined with hydroponic tanks but nothing else of note.  West again leads us back to the storeroom, and going east from the greenhouse takes us all the way back to the security room; this seems like a mapping implementation error more than an intentional bit of strange routing, as it doesn't really take us anywhere new in any direction.  Northwest of the storeroom is the Computer Room, neatly filling in the last obvious hole in this section of the map as it adjoins the security room and laboratory with geographic consistency.

The computer room walls are covered in dials and gauges, with a smell of ozone in the air.  There's a computer keyboard here, with an instruction plate: "DATA MAY BE INPUT IF AUTHORIZED"; we don't need the translator to read this, so I'm not quite sure what has happened here yet.  Are we in an alien facility, or a domestic one?

I try to PUT MANUAL on the microscope's stage, and at least we learn how this works -- a speaker comes on and says "NO FINGER PRINTS SEEN," then the stage is cleared, dumping the manual onto the floor.  I try a bunch of items here, and the syringe provokes a more interesting response: "FINGERPRINT CANNOT BE IDENTIFIED, HAS BEEN SMUDGED."  So I probably should have picked it up with the cloth instead of my bare hands to avoid that problem.  Before I restart, I EXAMINE LASER to learn that we must SAY "F" TO FIRE THIS LIGHT LASER -- and we don't actually SAY F, we just use F (an efficiency whose value will become apparent later.)  I try Firing it a number of times without apparently running its power down, so we may be able to play with it freely; I do so, but find no obvious targets in the map we've discovered so far.

Let's restart and see if we can identify those fingerprints.  They belong to... Nostradamus!  We are clearly in for a bunch of vague quatrains that people of the future will consider prophetic in nature.  So were we drugged by Nostradamus?

This gives me an idea, and I head into the security room to SAY NOSTRADAMUS -- the security system comes on, and blasts us out of existence.  Whoops!  On the retry, I establish that saying other random words does not have this result, so we must be on the right track but missing something.  Having the brown and blue cards in our possession doesn't make any difference.


SAY HUNTER in the security room appears to confirm this, as now we can travel east into the Control Room, where a sign near the Time Machine Console advises against operating the device without qualifications based on the A.I.T. manual.  If only it weren't mutilated!

Well, we'll try to use the time machine anyway, after we SAVE GAME to a formatted disk (or more conveniently, just save state in an emulator.)  The time machine's console featuers a dial labelled T1, another labelled T2, and a card reading device along with a lever in the UP position.  I INSERT BROWN, PULL LEVER... and die.  Dang.  The same happens with the blue card.

I try to READ T1 and READ T2 and learn that both dials are set to 1984, so perhaps that's part of the problem.  The cards don't seem to change these settings, though, and we can't TURN the dials directly.  The lever only has two positions, and apparently returns to the up position immediately, so we can't PUSH it past its current location.

I try to F the laser at the manual to no avail, but then it occurs to me that the U/V lights in the greenhouse might reveal any invisible ink -- and they do!  INSERT CONTROL CARDS, PULL LEVER, and RETURN WITHIN 40 are all we can make out, but that should help.

Taking the plural "CARDS" to heart, I INSERT BLUE, INSERT BROWN, PULL LEVER -- and I don't die, at least.  What can we accomplish in 40 turns, whenever we are?  We'd better get cracking!

Some exploration and retrying will likely be in order -- it appears we've traveled into the future, as the cave entrance leading from the cliffside back into the house has deterioriated, with plaster falling away to reveal wire mesh underneath.  I don't find anything else novel, so I return and PULL LEVER again, though it doesn't seem I've gone anywhere.

I try reversing the order of the control cards -- INSERT BROWN, then INSERT BLUE -- and now I seem to go back to -5000 (anno indeterminio, apparently.)  The entryway is still crumbling, but now we can travel down from the cliffside using a path.  This leads us to the Druids' Woods, and heading northwest we find the legendary Stonehenge, where we see a potion and an imposing stone altar.

There are exits north, south, east, and northeast.  North of the circle of monoliths we find some marsh seeds; northeast, we encounter a guard.  Fortunately, if we try to travel past him, the translator kicks in with a greeting that allows us to pass.

North of the guard is a meadow where some Druids are gathered.  We can pick up the flute here and PLAY FLUTE, creating pleasing music though nothing special seems to happen.  Heading south for a few moves and then northeast, we find a notepad with a faint indentation that we can almost make out, but we can't FEEL or TOUCH NOTEPAD to reveal its content.

Can DRINK POTION help us read the notepad?  Nope -- it's DISTILLED FROM THE DEADLY MANDRAKE ROOT, and we fall fast asleep and then die.  It seems we've explored the woods here now, so after a quick restore we'll head back up the cliffside.

I'm worried about the RETURN IN 40 admonishment, as I'm pretty sure I've wasted some time.  But I'm not sure what I should be doing next, anyway.  Examining the time machine console, I see that the blue card is in the slot and the screen depicts an old man with a knife in his hand at Stonehenge?  Is that a future version of us?  Someone we managed to avoid?  An ad for a stone-fired steakhouse?

I return to Stonehenge to investigate, and EXAMINE ALTAR suggests it can be moved; MOVE ALTAR reveals a small hole, with a green object in it -- a green card!  I'm off to ply my trade in the US, before I realize that it's probably another control card for the time machine.

I'm beginning to get the hang of this -- I INSERT GREEN, PULL LEVER, and now the cliffside leads down to a cave entrance, where a venomous snake is poised to strike.  F SNAKE is not useful except as verbal catharsis, and I die while experimenting; KILL SNAKE with the hammer works, though, on the retry.

Heading north of the snake, I find the cave dark, and I don't have a light source at the moment... oh, wait, I do!  F fires the laser long enough for us to get our bearings before the room goes dark again, a nice concept Scott Adams used a few times that works well here.  The cave is fairly large but not convoluted, consisting mostly of narrow passages, and I manage to find a yellow card, and a bow... the kind used to play a violin, upon closer EXAMINEation.

As I'm finishing mapping out the cave, I get a warning that the time machine is starting up... must be that 40-turn limit!  When I return to the house, I discover that the whole thing is gone, replaced by a large open field full of matted-down grass.  So I need to retry and pick these things up more quickly; it seems like we're okay if we make it back inside the building, as we'll travel with it even if it does fire up, so that makes this a little more manageable than I was thinking it would be.

Returning in good time this time, I INSERT YELLOW and see where we're going next.  I finally figure out that the console shows us possible hazards where we've arrived -- it showed the snake from the green zone earlier -- and now it depicts a burly guard.  I'll take the hammer, and the potion in case we can poison him, I guess, and definitely bring the translator.

The cliffside now leads down to a paved, tree-lined road, and we can head east here onto the Appian Way, the road used by the Roman Legion.  It leads east and then north to the Colosseum, where people jostle and shove to enter the building.  We can walk right in -- if we want to get eaten by a group of lions, that is.  That's a funny thing.  (Wait for it...)

I'll explore downward on our next life, finding a path west to the Forum. We're prevented from traveling north by the Men of the 1st Legion, who point and laugh at us, and we can't get away from them to go back the way we came.  I try to KILL MEN, but that's unsuccessful and fatal, as I expected.  They continue to guffaw after a restore, and I'm stuck again, and beginning to suspect that I am the funny thing happening on the way to the Forum.

Trying again, I head the other way and find the Alcove of the Soothsayer, acquiring a foul-smelling charm from this elderly Lord of the Sooth.  This allows us to enter the Colosseum (which I do without meaning to as I explore) without being attacked by the lions kept here in the animal holding area.  There's also a red card here, which we'll take before making our hasty retreat.

I don't find anything else to do here, so we'll use the red card in the time machine to visit the prehistoric era of the dinosaurs.  I am impressed by this game's substantial map!  The cliffside in this era takes us into a Mesozoic forest, and it only takes me a few turns of travel to die in a quicksand bog.  More exploration takes me past a dinosaur herd, only to die in the teeth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  I don't find much here beyond these two fatal hazards.

The dinosaur herd appears hungry, though, and I do have those marsh seeds.  I try planting them in the meadow, but conditions are not good and they rot and disappear as we watch (is time somehow accelerated here?)  But I don't find a better place to plant them, though the ground near the quicksand seems more suited to marshy plants.  The seeds are small; if we go into the bog with nothing else in inventory, can we survive long enough to plant them there?  Nope.

Can we play the flute for the dinosaurs?  It doesn't appear to do anything.  Can we rub the pencil on the notepad to reveal the writing?  Yes!  It brings out the note, "BACK OF DIPLODOCUS..."  Does that mean we can CLIMB DIPLODOCUS?  The parser doesn't think so, but we can try to CLIMB DINOSAUR; unfortunately, the wandering herd steps on us and ends the game. 

Do we need to plant the seeds in a different time and place to produce some feed for the dinosaurs?  I try going back to the Druids' forest where the plants originally seeded, but I neglect to bring the translator and get killed by the guard when I fail to return his greeting.

I think I need to be a little more organized -- I have left some useful objects all over the map at this point, and I'm not sure where to reclaim them in case I need them here.  The robot's absence is particularly missed, so I'll restart and try to leave everything in the control room.  (Along the way, I discover a bug -- if we MOVE ALTAR at Stonehenge, the green card is whisked back to its original location in the hole underneath.)

Can we impress the Roman Legion outside of the Forum somehow?  I bring the laser, and the flute, but neither does any good.  I do have the robot, however, and PUSH STUD says, "SENSORS INDICATE EXTREMELY LOW FEAR THRESHOLD TO CERTAIN ANIMAL LIFE."  Hmmmm.  The dead snake doesn't do anything for us.  How about the rat from the kitchen, if we can get it?  We can't lure the starving rat into our clutches yet, as far as I can figure out, anyway.

Let's see if the robot can help us with the dinosaurs.  Near the herd, he tells us, "ANALYSIS INDICATES REPTILES ATTRACTED TO UNUSUAL PLANT FRONDS AND ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO CERTAIN DRUGS."  So maybe the potion, plus something else?  Oh, we have a greenhouse, don't we?  Let's try PLANTing the SEEDS there!  Yes!  Now we have some plants, and the potion. DIP PLANTS doesn't work, but DRUG PLANTS does the trick.

Now we can GIVE PLANTS to the dinosaur herd, and all but one falls asleep, while one remains upright, and sounds like it's... humming?  Ah, it's a machine, we discover after we CLIMB DINOSAUR, and there's a storage compartment in its back.  We can OPEN COMPARTMENT, obtaining a small vial.  But no card?  Maybe we're out of new eras to explore and need to do some backtracking now.

Uh-oh.  It occurs to me that perhaps the live snake is what I'm supposed to use to scare the Roman Legion, and I've killed it instead of, say, stunning it with the flute.  I restore to a much earlier save and PLAY FLUTE -- yes, it puts the snake in a trance, and we can carry it around with us now.  Hmmmm.  Let's see what happens.  (I end up leaving the flute in the cave so I can pick up the yellow card, so I hope I don't need it again.)  And yes, we can DROP SNAKE and it chases the Romans away so we can enter the Forum.

Inside, we find the Emperor Nero, and a violin, so he probably wants the bow... or maybe not, as GIVE BOW produces no reaction, perhaps because Nero is just cowering in a corner.  If we try to PLAY VIOLIN, we're apparently not nearly as good as we are with the flute, producing a TERRIBLE UNMUSICAL SOUND.  That may come in handy for opening the vial, methinks...

And yes, the shrill sound cracks the vial, and now we have a piece of microfilm; we don't even need a reader to see that it says, "MASTER CODE IS L99AV."  Now we're getting somewhere!  I return to the time machine facility's computer room and I INPUT L99AV.  We're asked to SEE T1 DATA FOR INPUT INFORMATION, and we can return to the time machine control room to check; READ T1 yields 2396, so is that what it wants?  INPUT 2396 does look promising -- we're told that Nostradamus has been located and transportation is in progress, and we're supposed to PROCEED TO EXIT, which I presume is at the cliffside.

And yes, we discover Nostradamus at the cliffside, finishing reassembly of the Ultimate Weapon.  But I don't have a weapon of my own with which to stop him -- I try to PUSH NOSTRADAMUS off the cliff, but that's not possible, and my attempt to KILL NOSTRADAMUS with my bare hands results in a struggle that accidentally sets off the weapon and destroys most of the known universe.  Trying again with the hammer in hand -- fortunately there's not a strict time limit on this and we can go grab it before stepping outside -- we succeed at last!  The universe is saved, and victory is ours!

Adventure in Time is a well-designed, moderately difficult adventure that's a lot of fun, and in my opinion it should be better known than it is.  I enjoyed working through its logical puzzles, and when I realized I'd taken the wrong path I never felt like the game had misled me or omitted a critical piece of information.  The text is well-written, and all the required clues are present if we're careful to explore, experiment, save often, and restore when things go wrong.  I wish Paul Berker had written more of these games, as I've enjoyed the two I've played, but all good things, as they say.  Onward!

No comments:

Post a Comment