Wednesday 23 December 2015

Missed Classic: Dungeon Adventure - Won! (Barely)

By Ilmari

Looter's Journal, day 3 - I've found myself a new job - I am now the head executioner of the Dark Lord. Now I should just wait that some useful idiot finds the gem containing the mind of my Master, who shall rise again one day!

I am beginning to think that Level 9 got its name from the ninth level of hell, meant for betrayers of the worst kind. The game began with some clever puzzles, but then went quickly downhill with some really obtuse problems - and in the final stages I found out that at least the BBC version I was playing was bugged and I couldn't get the perfect ending. At least the graphical version corrected that fault, even if the silly puzzles persisted.

Where I was left in the previous post

Getting into the Black Tower was actually pretty simple - if the game would have just given any hints how to do it. Yes, I had to check the clues again. I knew that the stick I had been carrying could be blown and that it made a distinct sound. What I didn't realise was that I should have blown it near the Black Tower, which would then open up. Soon I found myself in the throne room of AGALIAREPT.

Déjà vu

The throne itself was an interesting thing, but let's leave that a bit later. East of the throne room was a viewing gallery, from which I could descend into a pit leading to the Central Dungeon (I'll tell you about that place shortly). The gallery was probably meant as a spot for orcs to laugh and see the futile attempts of people trying to get away from the Central Dungeon.

I just didn't think the orcs would peer at them through windows

Going north from the throne room, I got to the same secret passageways I had mapped in the previous game, but this time most of the caverns had been blocked. In a nice touch, the orcs who had left their position of guarding a certain passageway - thus letting me in to kill their Dark Lord - were now doomed to watch over that same passageway as ghosts.

You say he lives?

Going south from the throne room took me to very a familiar place.

Life on marsh

(Hey, if Level 9 can recycle their ideas,
I sure can recycle my bad jokes)

Marsh was as bleak and desolate as in the first game and I could still see skeletal hands rising, although this time they kept turning to dust. The game world ended with marsh, since the steps leading away from the marsh had crumbled.

The marsh also contained the new light source I had been looking for - I could take a wisp and put it on my helmet to provide light. In addition, there was a roc that randomly picked me up and took me to its nest.

I didn't manage this puzzle without a clue
Can you tell how to get out of the nest?
All the necessary items are visible

I won't blame you, if you didn't find out the solution. Let's just first say that it has nothing to do with the rock crystal, which is only a treasure. So, it has something to do with the caterpillar.

That's right, it's actually a silk worm! And you can squeeze or hug it to make a rope! I am kind of sad that this game is just a missed classic, since the whole silk worm thing could easily earn the title of the most ridiculous puzzle of the year.

Let's get back to the throne of the Black Lord, since that's at least a cool thing. Interestingly, the text-version of the game told me that it was made of granite, while the graphical version described it as a mithril throne. In fact, it was the final and the highest leveled teleport, which makes mithril somewhat more sensible choice.

But this wasn't the coolest thing. Black Lord apparently envied Captain Kirk, since he had decorated his chair with nine buttons. I bet neither Morgoth nor Sauron had their very own Captain's Chair. I had to try all the possible commands:

  1. A pit to the Central Dungeon opened up.
  2. The pit closed.
  3. The room filled briefly with light.
  4. Entire throne rose through trapdoor in the ceiling to an odd room, which contained violet and mithril collars, lapiz lazuli and onyx oryx.
  5. Nothing happened. Well, when I afterwards read the clue sheet, I noticed the button does something. You just had to press it in the odd room, when the room contained an odd number of objects - then the button would lower the throne back.
  6. Alarms sounded.
  7. Fire jets crossed the room.
  8. A voice told me: "Master: I beg to report that all internal eyes are dead and enemies are in the caves. Also, thousands of enemy orcs are advancing upon us."
  9. I found myself teleported in a pit.
The pit contained a gem. If I picked it up, I was told my mind was under attack, and after few rounds, it was sucked into the gem. I could also destroy the gem with my hammer. After that, the ghosts that had guarded the junction had gone - apparently the gem had contained the last remnants of AGALIAREPT.

Having now thoroughly searched the castle, I had nowhere else to go but the Central Dungeon, which was essentially a big adventure puzzle, meant to torture the prisoners of Black Tower. The aim was to collect nine different jewels before leaving - the Dungeon contained ten jewels so Dark Lord even gave a bit of leeway to his captives. I don't know what it says about Level 9 that they thought solving adventure games the best thing to make people lose their sanity. Central Dungeon isn't actually that bad, but what makes this lab experiment fail is bugs - the BBC version doesn't recognise all the jewel names, so the huge puzzle box becomes truly unbeatable.

Captain's Chair and adventure game puzzles:
Compared to Sauron, AGALIAREPT seems a bit nerdy

The Central Dungeon consists of two ramps, connected by a ladder. The lower ramp can be reached from the aqueduct, the upper ramp from the viewing gallery. Let's start with the lower ramp.

Following the aqueduct to its end led me to a salt cellar, which contained a salt pig. It was impossible to get back from the cellar to the aqueduct, so I was forced to continue onward to a massive ramp. Going downwards, I soon reached shallow water, where the lower ramp ended, while a ladder connected it with the higher ramp. When I dropped the salt pig in the water, the salt melted and I found a pearl.

Fancy a swim?

Following the lower ramp upwards, I found a doorway, which led me to a treasury containing a topaz. This is pretty simple, Dark Lord!

One of the jewels the text version didn't recognise

Further up, I found the door I should take, when I had found all the jewels. Now, going in was deadly.

Still somewhat further was a room with an abstract statue. Turning the statue let me in to an ornate room with a rhinestone.

Going further up the lower ramp was deadly, since the ramp became slippery. Let's get then to the higher ramp and begin this time with the top. Right after a sign announcing my arrival to the Central Dungeon, I was faced with a diabolical scene.

A take on televised violence?

My soul was actually never captured by the wall, instead, I just insanely plummeted to my death by throwing myself off the ramp. Or then I could just use the simple solution and close my eyes.

North to the wall of agony was a small tunnel leading to a cave with a shield and an emerald, both guarded by a black sphere, which started to follow me. If I didn't do anything for it in few turns, it swallowed me.

Going down from the wall of agony, I encountered a number of different looking doors, few of them led to empty rooms, but most to rooms which contained some puzzle to solve and jewel to get. Starting from the top, the doors and the rooms were:

  • A red-gold door led to a red-gold room containing a deadly gold ring - if I tried to pick it up, the ring devoured me
  • A doorway with small holes led me to a room where spikes shot me. If I happened to carry a shield, they wouldn't hit me. The room also contained a gallows with a body, which carried a blindfold and a gauntlet, which was useful for picking up the gold ring from the previous room.
  • A dark doorway led me to a black room with another black sphere. If I led the spheres to one another, they destroyed each other and left me free. Room also contained a wooden wedge and a black pedestal.
    This made escaping the Central Dungeon a possibility
    even in the BBC version,even though I couldn't solve it properly
  • A round opening leading to an empty room

    The ramp contained also a wobbly section that triggered a boulder,
    but it was easy to avoid that by going into some empty room
  • A scratched door led me to what was called a crusher room. Instantly when I had entered, the door was barred and the walls started to collapse on me. Fortunately I had found that wedge. After the crushing walls had returned to their normal state, I could go to a treasure room and get an agate.

    The crushing walls seem a bit soft
  • A hand sign pointed to a room, where a hand killed me. If I instead threw the deadly ring I had found to the room, I could hear some noices of struggle, but these finally ended. Getting in, I now could see that the room was soft and had five round pillars. It took me a while to realise that this room didn't contain a hand, but was a giant hand. I also found a ruby here.
  • A doorway with an acrid smell led me to a room, in which I was sprayed with acid. Wearing the blindfold was the solution, because then the acid melted only it. I then found an elephant brooch with surprisingly vivid elephants.

    All of these doorways look a bit different. Here's a rubbery doorway
  • The rubbery doorway led to room surfaced with black glass, which contained an emerald.

    Some of these rooms feel like they should have more to do in them
  • A square doorway led me to a room with an ornate box. Opening the box revealed a deadly snake. If I dropped the box in water, the snake died and I could take an opal within it.

    This doorway looks like it's hanging in air
  • An opening into a pale room led me to a condemned cell with an amethyst and an executioner.

    Are these flames?

    The executioner killed me in few turns, if I didn't do something. It was time to use the elephant brooch.

    I have a feeling the producers do not know what an implosion means
    In addition to amethyst, I could now take the executioner's hood. If I put it on, I became the new executioner and game ended instantly.
All right, we are near the end of the higher ramp now. There was still an evil dark entrance, leading disappointingly to an empty room, and a ladder leading to the lower ramp. And then there was a sign saying "Just walk in and answer a simple question to claim your prize!" Eagerly entering, I found myself in a Skinner box.

Dark Lord sure likes big buttons

If you didn't already know, Skinner box is the contraption psychologists put rats in, letting them press buttons, which either zap the poor creatures or feed them. I know the game has loved its anachronisms, but this is by far the worst of them all.

I was asked to choose the best button and pressing wrong one heated the room and melted me. I wonder what number Level 9 would consider the best? (Hint: it rhymes with fine).

After choosing the right option, I was transported to a reward room with five choices for my reward. The correct choice was a mystery prize (sapphire), but others were more amusing.
  • Great wealth: Imps dressed me in golden armor and dropped me in the sea.
  • Eternal life: Searing flames leapt up and a demon cackled I could live forever by remaining in the fire. Of course, I couldn't.
  • World peace: A voice told me that while humans are divided, there will be war, so that it would unite them. It then took my body as a part of its zombi army,
  • Nothing: Well, I got nothing all right - no body, no life.
All right, we've had our fun here. Having collected all jewels (in the graphical version), I went through the exit and found myself in the house full of wights. Just like Dark Lord, letting his prisoners seemingly escape one dungeon, just to be eaten by some undeads. Lucky I had my cross and crucifix ready.

Getting out of the whole cave system, I ran into an army of orcs. Blowing my horn, I scared them away. I could then return to civilization with my bag of treasures. I scored 600, let's see what the game gets.

Session time: 3 hours
Total time: 11 hours


Puzzles and Solvability

Let's get the positives out of the way. Firstly, Level 9 seems to have got rid of all mazes, which is great. Secondly, they've certainly shown lot of creativity in creating a variety of different puzzles - making oneself temporarily deaf by loud noises, changing your size from lilliput to giant and closing your eyes to not see disturbing images are all great innovations and feel quite fresh in comparison to the puzzles of two previous games.

Problem is that often these puzzles misfired and were too intricate and even unsolvable. Some of them needed knowledge of common English sayings, some of them were insufficiently hinted at and some were just plain stupid. I mean squeezing a silk worm! Do you think it is a bottle of ketchup?

Still, Level 9 is slowly getting away from the old Adventure puzzles, so I'll give them a slight boost from their previous attempt.

Rating: 3

Interface and Inventory

Like Aperama said, it would have made more sense, if Level 9 would have just discarded the whole inventory limit. Still, I do like at least the attempt to make the game more flexible. Teleporting system was also much better than in the previous game. Slightly less visible, but important improvements were the addition of intercardinal directions and the EXAMINE -verb, which gave important hints as to the use and worth of objects. All in all, Dungeon Adventure shows clear development from the earlier game.

Rating: 3 (4 for the graphical version)

Story and Setting

The lack of story is a disappointment after the attempt for a real plot in the previous game, although the intricate setting does save something. Level 9 has thus far had a good sense of geography and Dungeon Adventure is no exception. It is not just a random cave system, with caverns going here and there, but a truly well-designed layout of interconnecting elements, where you often get to see same scene from different angles (like the giant orc face, which you'll experience both from the outside and from the inside). Even better is when you find places from the second game, making the whole trilogy geographically connected.

Rating: 3

Sound and Graphics

Nothing much has really changed from the previous game, so the same numbers will have to suffice.

Rating: 0 (2 for the graphical version)

Environment and Atmosphere

I am glad the producers threw the whole Middle Earth thing away, apart from mentioning the Minas Tirith in the manual. The hodgepodge of Indian demons, giant ants, undead and a Skinner box is even more ridiculous than in the second game, but at least they are not mixing Tolkien with it. The problem is that all has become a tad bit too silly. In the second game, Black Lord was a cliched evil figure, here he is far from cliched, with his Captain's Chair, but I am not sure that's a good thing, because he now seems just ridiculous. Just picture AGALIAREPT spending time with Morgoth and Sauron, talking about their respective fortifications:

M: Orcs, thousands of orcs! Dragons, trolls, balrogs, werewolves, vampires, all my design, just waiting to be spawned out of the hellholes of Angband,
S: All of them flawed inventions. Just look at your orcs and trolls, fearing sunlight. I've improved your formula with my armies waiting in Mordor.
A: I've been growing new mushroom types. I already have one that turns my armies giant and another that will make them invisible. But the most excited I am with the psychedelic variety, since my mushroom contacts assured me it will let my orcs soar high.
(Mordor and Sauron look upon one another)
M: Well, yes, what's everyone's favourite torture method? I am now experimenting with cursing the families of my prisoners and letting them see how their relatives screw their life,
S: I have this spider to which I feed all my captives---
A: Oooh, I know you are gonna like this! I've designed this giant puzzle box, where I am leaving all sorts of funny problems.
(Morgoth and Sauron decide not to invite the new Dark Lord for Christmas lunch).

Rating: 4

Dialogue and Acting

I think I could copy almost all that I said about the text of the previous game. There were perhaps a bit more of the memorable moments, like skeletons speaking in semaphore and the different prizes for the Skinner box, but it's still definitely far from proper literature.

Rating: 4

3 + 3 + 3 + 0 + 4 + 4 = 17, which divided by 0,6 gives 29. I don't feel the need to punish or reward the game for anything, so 29 it is (the graphical version gets 33)! I think this is quite fair, since despite the impossible puzzles, I never felt as fed up as with the previous game and its empty desolation.

But did anyone guess 29? No, but both Aperama and Laertes made close guesses, so both of them will be rewarded 10 CAPs at some point.

I think I'll be taking a break from Level 9 for a while. After all, I am about to start soon a regular game, Free D.C., some time after the holidays. But for the holidays, we have something different in store for you. First, Joe has some special surprise up his sleeve for Christmas, and then we'll be celebrating the beginning of New Year with a whole week of doing puzzles with Reiko and Dr. Brain!


  1. Back from holidays! 1st to comment!

    Anyway, am I the only one to think that those windows look like a pair of... uh...

    And that Crushing Walls pic looks like an orifice between a pair of... uh...

    1. Kenny, it's good that we can rely on you finding out all the possible innuendos.

  2. FYI your score for the game was 29, but your graphic says 28.