Saturday, 5 December 2015

Missed Classic 15: Dungeon Adventure (1983) - Introduction

By Ilmari

The Hygienic Adventure: Battle Against Bugs and Mould

Jubilation reigns in Minas Tirith!

With this interesting tidbit on late-Gondorian rulers begins the manual of the final game in Middle-Earth trilogy. The name of the new monarch of Minas Tirith seems rather un-Gondorian, but it does have a bit of a hobbit ring to. Think about it: Gamgee, Bilbo, Boffin, Chica Chubb, Jubilation. Yes, I am now convinced that a hobbit has ascended to the throne of the kings of West.

(Note from the editor: A concerned group of angry readers, led by a retired police officer, has protested that "Jubilation reigns" is in this context just a fancy way of saying that people of Minas Tirith are partying like hell. Yeah, could be, but I still like my theory better.)

Whatever that line means, the story begins right where the previous ended. The demon lord AGALIAREPT has been killed and all the Middle Earth rejoices. The nameless hero of the game gets some bright ideas:
  1. The Demon Lord must have been very rich
  2. If He really is dead, His treasures may be unguarded
  3. When the orcs marched south they cut a swathe of destruction through the countryside but they moved too fast to completely loot the area
  4. So, if I were to ride swiftly north, I'd have no problem in finding provisions and could probably reach the Black Tower in ten days. The wizards would never have repaired their teleport system by then, so I'd very likely be the first person there.
  5. This could make me incredibly rich.
I can see number of flaws and unreliable hypotheticals in this plan. What if other people have thought about same possibility? And what if some orcs or other monsters are still left to guard those treasures? Needless to say, the plan goes to pieces. When the hero is just riding through a forest, a sleep spell is put upon him, and when he wakes up, he is floating in a river and all his equipment has been stolen. Great place to start a game!

Looter's Journal, day 1 - I haven't felt this bad, since I took a pint too many of miruvor in the Rivendell Elf festivals. Face full of mud, I've been scouting the wilderness, and now that the sun is setting, I should probably find some shelter in that nearby cave.

The game begins unceremoniously in a mudbank - or at least the original version does, while in the graphical version I am already on a bridge above the mudbank. I think the reason for the change is pretty clear.

This looks reasonably awesome

This... not so awesome

With me on the mudbank, I had a piece of driftwood and a huge packing case. Now, it was only well into the game that I noticed that I could EXAMINE things and get a more detailed description of the items (well, at least the game tells me, if an item is valuable or enchanted), but I'll still tell it right from the start what these items were like. Driftwood was nothing special, but the packing case was supposedly bigger on the inside than on the outside. I think I know what show the Austin brothers watched as little kids...

The case was so big I fit in, and the similarities to TARDIS just multiplied. There was some obvious dimensional interference going on, since I was walking on ceiling.

Living on the ceiling

Interacting with the chandelier turned the room to its proper orientation. Moving within the packing case led me finally to a large store room, which was apparently an ideal place to leave all the treasures, so that I would get full score from them. Yes, it's going to be a classic treasure hunt, it seems.

The store room contained also a cube with a single red button. Pushing it didn't transport the packing case, but the cube merely scanned my body - I have no idea what that was all about. With nothing else to do I exited the case.

But the best thing is that this TARDIS-wannabe is portable - I can carry it with me anywhere I want. Since I can leave all my stuff within the packing case and just take the case with me, I can circumvent the four-item inventory limit, which I struggled with in the previous games. Great innovation Level 9!

Above the mudbank was a bridge, which led me into a dungeon, the entrance of which was a huge statue of the face of an orc. Few steps in, I saw a junction with a jet of flame and an entrance to a treasure vault. Entering the vault killed me immediately. A red herring or a puzzle?

Continuing my quest forward, I found a helmet, which had a lamp, but no fuel nor wick. I also discovered a crucifix. I know, this is a similar anachronism, as the cross in the previous game, but at least it will be useful against undead, the game says. Getting further in the caves, I entered dark caverns, and because I yet had no light source, I had to turn back.

I then mapped the countryside outside the dungeons.

Part of the countryside

Going counterclockwise from the stone bridge, I found:

  • A field of poppies. If I tried to go any further, I fell asleep and died. The field had also a dried seed pod. Waving, throwing or even just examining it let out seeds, which made loud explosions.
  • A circle of monoliths, which was occupied by Rakshasa (Indian demons - yes, the game is getting very far from Tolkien). Their leader challenged me to a dice contest. If I accepted, I failed and died. If I did not, I was killed anyway.
  • In the southern tip of the game was an infinite grass field, which led nowhere.
  • North of the grass field was a place where I was said to be below a tower, but there was no way to climb to the tower.
  • Below small mound was a nest, which was occupied by a bloated yellow bird
  • At the eastern end, there was a forest, which was apparently the same one the hero had went through in the manual. How do I know that? Because once I went there, I was zapped by another sleep spell. This time I got killed.
  • At one edge of the forest were two sleeping giants who blocked my way to a clearing. The place also had a large tree, which I could climb up. On a branch, I found a berry.
  • Finally, there were stepping stones to an island where a young girl was standing. When I walked to the island, the girl started to sing. Actually she was a siren, and I got killed.
I am happy to say that a number of these puzzles had quite logical solutions. I began by attempting to use those exploding seed everywhere. They managed to scare off the bloated bird, and in its nest I found a jade egg.

Never trust a poppy field

Giants were also easy to handle. If I just dropped something on them from the tree, they woke up and started bickering among one another who had teased the other. Leaving the place, they left the road to the clearing free, and I could find a belt there. Wearing it made me apparently stronger.

For the next puzzle, I had some help from my daughter. You see, she has this lovely tendency of sneaking behind my couch, when I am playing, and then suddenly jumping up and blowing a whistle or shouting straight into my ear, just for the fun of it. Yes, loud noises do make ears ring for a while, I thought, and I then remembered the story of the sirens. Could the loud noises made by explosive seed make my ears ring so much that I couldn't hear siren's song? Indeed they could. Having temporarily deafened myself, I could walk to the island, and siren ran away, leaving behind a mirror that could reflect anything.

The game doesn't want me to go to river, since there's piranhas in it

Within the island, I found a willow tree that I couldn't approach, because its branches backed me away. If I threw anything at it, it would catch the item with one of its branches. All I had to do then was to use enough items to occupy all its arms.

Near the tree, I found an axe. When I tried to use it to cut the willow down, a beautiful dryad appeared and asked me to spare the tree. Well, actually she needn't have done that, since the axe was too blunt to cut the willow down. Anyway, I agreed and she gave me a beautiful carving, while at the same time asking the willow to drop my stuff down.

It doesn't really look like a willow
Note that I have changed the font colour to red

Next puzzle I figured out more through luck than anything else. I happened to walk into the forest with the vandalizing sleep speller, when my newly gained mirror reflected the spell back to its source. The bandit ran away and left behind some coins, a magic wand covered with Z-symbols (probably the sleep spell wand) and loaded dice.

I am going to fool some demons

The use of the dice was pretty obvious. I went back to the circle of monoliths and challenged the leader of Rakshasa to a dice game, which I obviously won. The demons then strengthened the flame of my soul, whatever that means.

Interestingly, now that I had dealt with the sleep inducing bandit in the forest, I could continue my way beyond the forest. I soon encountered a voice of a referee telling me that taking this road would return me to civilization and end the game. My score was still a bit low, so I decided to continue my investigations.

I had now done all that I could think of in the countryside, and the sun was starting to set. My next target would then be the dungeon itself, but that's something that will have to wait for the next post.

It's still a bit early to say what the score will be, but I am still in a fairly positive mood. The plot is once again non-existent and we are back to a bare bones treasure seeking, but at least the puzzles have been quite fun to solve now. True, the game ignores Tolkien even more, but I actually like it when it tries to distance itself from this tenuous source. If the dungeon just is as fair as the outside has been, the game might well improve on its predecessors.

Session time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. I'll go with 28 just for the inventory TARDIS box. (I don't perceive it as actually being that positive a change overall, given they could have just as easily given an infinite inventory couldn't they? I mean really.)

    1. I don't really know. I do know that Level 9 wasn't alone in this, since at least Infocom also didn't go straightaway to infinite inventories, but supplied in some games the players with bags that could hold infinite objects etc. I am not sure if it would had meant just too much of a fuss to make an interpreter that allowed infinite inventories.

    2. Programming-wise, it should be much easier to have an infinite inventory than a limited inventory. Adding containers (particularly if they can be nested) makes the programming even trickier.

      Overall, I dislike inventory limits, but there are a couple positive things they can do:
      - they encourage the player to think more about puzzle solutions rather than resorting to brute force. If it takes twenty moves to go back and forth from your item stash, you're less likely to just try to use everything
      - they can allow for interesting inventory management puzzles. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a cute one: lbhe pbagnvare vgrz jvyy zntvpnyyl nccrne ng lbhe pheerag ybpngvba n srj gheaf nsgre lbh yrnir vg oruvaq, fb lbh pna hfr vg gb fzhttyr vgrzf va/bhg bs n ybpngvba lbh jbhyqa'g bgurejvfr or noyr gb pneel gurz guebhtu

    3. In general, Inventory limits achieve nothing but annoying people.

      It's impossible to know what you'll need until you need it. Even with limited inventory, you end up trying everything when you're stuck anyway. It just makes you do 20 steps back and forth each time, adding to the annoyance factor. And if you can't go back to the place where your items might be, well that's just mean.

      I remember a game with an interesting inventory system. Instead of having you unrealistically carrying everything you find, with large items instead of taking it you say something like "That's too big to carry around with me, but I'll remember it if I need it later"

      I'm pretty sure it was Moebius.

  2. 35 because. . . No reason, really

  3. 26, for "slightly better than the previous two in the series"

  4. 25. Because I don' even know what race the protagonist is.