Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Adventure of the Week: Wizard's Gold (1981)

I intended to play something more substantial while I was on vacation, but instead I've spent my time with another Atari Program eXchange adventure circa 1981, author uncredited, called Wizard's Gold.  Our goal is to find a hidden bar of gold and return it to "its rightful place," presumably the other thing we'll have to find. 

This game uses the idiosyncratic Atari BASIC text adventure engine, and a lot of the text is misformatted with line breaks in strange places.  It seems to have been written in-house, perhaps by Dennis Koble, given a number of references to internal Atari code names of the time.

Interested adventurers are encouraged to retrieve the Wizard's Gold firsthand before reading my notes below; it's not a difficult game at all, though I lucked out by guessing the right verbs the parser expects in a few spots.  As always, my goal here is to document these games for the record, and there are sure to be...

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

We begin in the bedroom of a wizard's house -- it isn't clear how we got here or gained entry, and that may be better left unspoken, but we're apparently following up on rumors concerning a hidden bar of gold hidden in the catacombs below.  The APX games don't generally list available exits, so we'll have to use some trial and error to discover that we can go West to the Kitchen or Up to the Rooftop Garden.

The kitchen contains a bubbling pot and some spell ingredients, but we can't interact with any of these items.  We can travel south to the Living Room, or up to the rooftop garden, from here.

We might as well check out the rooftop garden, then -- there's a book here, but if we try to READ BOOK, THAT HAS NO EFFECT HERE, which past experience with this engine suggests means we need to read the book in a particular location in order to make use of it.  We can explore in all directions within the rooftop garden, but everything loops back to the same location, except for Down which takes us back to the bedroom.

Continuing our mapping, we discover that heading down the stairs in the living room leads to a dark area requiring illumination, so we'll head east into the Observatory instead, where we conveniently find a battery-operated lamp.  We'll TAKE LAMP (the traditional GET LAMP doesn't work due to the limited parser dictionary) and since there are no more viable exits here, we'll head down from the living room again and TURNON LAMP (the game's built-in HELP is useful here, spelling out this non-standard command used by most of the APX games.)

The light reveals that we are in one corner of a Large Room.  This is a bit of a puzzle, although it doesn't take long to figure out that we've entered in the southwest corner of a 4 x 4 area, making every room a corner.  The only new exit is one heading down from the southeast corner, to the Misty Room where fog blocks most detail but a downward path appears to be available.  However, SOMETHING IS IN YOUR WAY if we try to move in that direction, so we'll have to see whether there are any other exits here.

North of the misty room is a Chemical Storage Room filled with empty, broken bottles.  Below is the Blank Room, intentionally left blank in the classic IBM manual tradition.  The map is pretty linear so far -- the only available exit from this point leads west into the Armor Closet, where we find a slightly used magic broom we'll take along.

We can travel up or down from the armor closet -- below is the Magic Broom Repair Shop, where the parser won't grasp the meaning of FIX BROOM or REPAIR BROOM, so we'll hope it's in good working order.  Above the closet is a Mushroom Garden, where we can acquire an ugly black mushroom.

Continuing south of the mushroom garden, we find the Library, where an empty stand reads, "This Book Holds the Secret Words."  We can READ the BOOK we found earlier here, revealing cryptic letters: "STELLA" (surely a reference to the working name for Atari's popular 2600 videogame console.)

I try to SAY STELLA, and to my surprise it works right here -- a magic wand appears and we're advised we can Use it to go where fog leads, probably a reference to the misty room.

Before leaving the library, I explore downward to find the Egg Room, filled with rotten eggs as a voice says, "GLEEK."  I try to SAY GLEEK, and am greeted with a vintage 1981 pop culture reference as Mork from Ork leaps out of a large egg saying "NANOO-NANOO," and here in 2015 I am sadly reminded of the untimely departure of Robin Williams.  But this event seems to have no bearing on the plot, so we'll assume it's just a semi-literal easter egg.

We can continue downward from the egg room into the Wizard's Psychedelic Room.  There's a black light poster here which we can't TAKE or initially READ -- it isn't until I TURNOFF LAMP that we can make out the word "COLLEEN" (code name for the Atari 800 computer) using the ultraviolet illumination that remains.  SAY COLLEEN has no effect here, however.  (We can also note that the Wizard's cultural era probably parallels the author's -- the other posters on the walls are for Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, in the days when the tiny computer game industry freely cited brands and intellectual property from the real world, with nary a thought or worry about approval or licensing.)

We can't go back up to the egg room, and the only available exit seems to be further down, into the Boiler Room.  From here, we can go north into the Computer Room, with an ATARI 800 on display.  We can travel one-way Up from here to return to the Magic Broom Repair Shop, so we're not forever stuck down here, though I'll make my way back here for now.

East of the computer room is the wizard's Wine Cellar, with one available exit, to the Crossbow Firing Range above.  A sign reads, "No Crossing on Foot," which is probably why we have the broom -- and yes, while we can't walk south, we can RIDE BROOM to reach the southern end of the range (actually, this action just opens up the southern exit of the room -- the implementation is an artifact of the parser's approach to map puzzles.)

Now we can visit the Aquarium Room, where a fish tank full of hungry piranha dominates the view.  The piranha appear to block a downward path, and DROP MUSHROOM doesn't feed, poison or otherwise satisfy them, though the item isn't lost either and we can just pick it up again.

So let's check out the misty room again -- as expected, WAVE WAND dispels the fog, and now we can visit the Art Gallery and acquire a large rusty key.  There are no other exits from this location, and we're told that all the art on display is counterfeit and valueless.

What about the piranha, then?  The puzzles up to this point have been very straightforward.  SAY COLLEEN does nothing here or in the computer room.  But the game's HINT command comes to my rescue -- it gives us rather more of a nudge than we really need, however, as it gives away most of the rest of the game, suggesting that we need to eat to be strong to move the tank, and then we'll need a key to unlock the trap door.  So we're probably close to the end here.

And yes... EAT MUSHROOM improves our strength, MOVE TANK now works, and then UNLOCK DOOR reveals yet another downward passage leading to the Treasure Room.  Skeletons strewn about the room suggest there may be a trap here, but we'll try to OPEN the treasure CHEST anyway.  That fails, but not fatally -- It will take more than a simple word to open this chest -- which is a bit of a misnomer, as a simple SAY COLLEEN works, revealing a glittering bar of gold.  We can't TAKE BAR, but we can TAKE GOLD.

Mission nearly accomplished!  Now where are we supposed to store it?  I return to our starting point in the Wizard's bedroom, per established tradition, and HINT here confirms that we're on the right track as it reveals a table with a sign, not otherwise visible, reading: "GOLD to be put here."  We DROP GOLD, and victory is ours!

Wizard's Gold seems to have been intended as an introductory text adventure -- there aren't actually many puzzles, red herrings are few, and the map is neither particularly large nor very convoluted.  But it provided a pleasant, brief excursion into the Atari archives, perfect for a summer afternoon's adventuring.

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