Although the game is huge, there does not yet seem to be a lot of logical progression. Why is the Bank of Zork connected to an artist’s studio? Why is a coal mine tucked behind a magic mirror? As I fill in more of the map, I hope to get a better sense of the internal geography but for now I will continue to describe discrete regions as I find them. As before, I will simplify my narrative a bit. While I will describe the puzzles that I solved in order, I switched back and forth constantly between areas as I searched for solutions. I hope I have struck a good balance between step-by-step narration and readability.
I ended last post just after locating an air pump to go with my inflatable raft. It’s time to pack my camping gear and explore the Frigid River!
|I’m on a boat! Again!|
I realize quickly that this is a one-way trip: we can paddle downstream or across, but not against the current. Since I know there is a waterfall downstream, this is a concern. Two turns in, there are beaches to the west and east. West leads to an alternate path back to the dam, while east is mostly featureless sand. A bit further, I find a warning buoy telling me to head back. It’s not nailed down so, I fish it out of the water and open it. There’s an emerald inside! Who would put that there? I have no idea, but it’s mine.
But the whole area is a dead end, at least for now. Just before the falls, I disembark to the west to find the other end of the rainbow and a barrel. Entering the latter and typing “geronimo” as it suggests results in immediate death but there may be more to do here later. I can almost backtrack by walking up the beaches, but the path in the east is too narrow to take the raft through and you can’t cross back without it. The trick seems to be the rainbow, but I have no idea what to do with it. I have no choice but to revert to an earlier save; the emerald will have to wait.
|Dungeon crawl like an Egyptian!|
An essential strategy in this game is to keep track of exits in each room, marking them off as they are explored. There’s just too much ground to cover to possibly keep it all in your head at once. Since there’s an area just west of the dam with some unexplored exits, I head there next. This turns out to be a strange section with three different “themes” all adjacent to each other: an Egyptian room, a volcano, and an ice-filled room. Let’s hit them in sequence:
- The Egyptian room is styled like an ancient tomb and contains an empty golden sarcophagus. It weighs a ton so I must drop just about everything to pick it up, but I hardly need to have bothered. There does not appear to be any way to travel more than a room or two without getting a message that the sarcophagus is too big to pass through an exit. My guess is that we have to solve the ice-filled room to get it out.
|Right near the start, but I missed it...|
- The Glacier Room is cold and ice completely covers the west wall, most likely concealing an exit. I immediately think of melting it and so I take the timber (from the coal mine) and try to set it alight… only to discover that in this game, timber doesn’t burn. Just to be funny, I try to melt the wall of ice with a match and… I drown in a torrent of meltwater. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be humorous or magic, but nothing I try works. I even try sitting in the boat while I do the burning, but I find no solution to removing the ice.
- The Volcano View is the final themed room in this area. It’s a ledge overlooking a volcano with other ledges in view on the far side. I have no way to get across and jumping just gets me killed.
|In honor of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary...|
Just when I thought I was getting somewhere, calamity struck: I deleted my save games. The version of Dungeon I am playing has only a single save slot and I have been doing some shell-tricks to save my state in various parts of the game. Unfortunately, I managed to overwrite my primary save with one from much earlier in the game. I had others recent ones, but I decided to take it as a sign that I should start over. Since I know where the torch is now, I should be able to save a significant amount of battery power that I might need later.
I won’t recap it all here, but the first thing that happens is that I get stumped on the Bank of Zork puzzle despite solving it “easily” the first time. Completely by surprise, I end up stuck in a different bank vault with a large pile of money. It took me some more time to work out that the direction you enter the safe deposit room from determines where walking through the curtain will teleport you. Once I understood that, the whole mess made sense and now I leave it with two treasures instead of one. How many more puzzles in this game am I leaving half-solved like this? No… don’t answer yet, but I am worried.
|I make it a rule to never trust Frobs.|
The banknotes give us our second example of ASCII art in the game. It probably won’t increase the graphics score, but it is a nice detail. We also advance the worldbuilding as Dimwit Flathead was also mentioned over in Flood Control Dam #3.
After that, it was just a matter of retracing my steps to pick up all the treasures that I know about, except… BOOM. Do you remember the sapphire bracelet that I found in the “Smelly Room?” The strange smell was coal gas and the “BOOM” was me being blown to smithereens by bringing in an open flame. It’s easy enough to use the lamp here, but it’s a fun obstacle and a detail that could be easily missed. I also came across what appears to be a bug: you cannot take the torch up the chimney. If you try, you get a “helpful” message that you are forgetting something any time you try to climb without the lamp. Because of that limitation, I have to do some gymnastics to ferry items up using the lamp after fetching them with the torch. Since the Thief is still out there, leaving any item unguarded is asking for it to be moved or stolen.
Some time later, I am right back to where I was before except slightly wiser and with one more treasure. Onward!
The Round Room
|Count the exits. I’ll wait.|
But… count the exits! The description says there are eight exits, but there are only seven destination rooms. Is there another room that you can only get to if you fix whatever is affecting your compass? I’m guessing yes! The trick may be in the Whirring Room. From there, you can hear the Round Room to the north, but there is no path back. Other than the Twisty Maze, this is the only place you can go from the Round Room without an immediate path back. I doubt it’s a coincidence, but I also can’t find anything to do here. I mark this puzzle to come back to later, pleased at least that all my mapping is paying off.
|A fine dam puzzle.|
My strategy of marking exits that I haven’t explored yet ends here: I have explored everywhere that I can. It only took three posts! More importantly, it means I have to solve some puzzles to open up new areas. The first puzzle that I return to is the dam. I remember a bit of this from when I played Zork as a kid, but not enough to solve it. In the maintenance room, there are four colored buttons: blue, yellow, brown, and red. Outside the dam, there’s a panel with a bolt and a green light which is currently off. I try the blue button and pipe bursts and fills the room with water. We get some humor as the water level gradually rises, but I restore before the inevitable comic death. I try the yellow one next and nothing obvious happens, but the green light is now lit on the control panel outside. I turn the bolt with my wrench and the sluice gates open! This wasn’t as tricky as I remembered it.
With the gates open, the reservoir has dried up and we can cross it on foot. I expect to find a new area to explore, but instead we find a trunk of jewels half-buried in the mud and a faster route to the “Atlantis Room”. If I didn’t name it last week, this is the room on the other side of the magic mirror that contained the crystal trident. You don’t care but this completely screws up my maps. I had been envisioning the other side of the mirror room as being further south since the mirror was on the south wall. Wrong! That means the coal mine, the slide, and everything else on the far side of the mirror is in the northeast part of the maze rather than the southeast. It will take me some time to clean up my map.
|Just pretend it’s a cyclops, okay?|
When I said earlier that I had explored all of the exits, I had actually missed a few: I still have not conquered the Maze of Twisty Little Passages. Last time, I gave up mapping at sixteen discovered rooms (fewer with all of their exits checked) as the thief kept taking my stuff. I do not have a better strategy this time, only a brute-force determination that I need to get farther in. My hope is either to find a solution to the Round Room or some other items that will let me advance a different puzzle.
It took me several tries and multiple loads of treasure, but I was able to push to nineteen rooms including one very important one: the underside of the grate! If you’ll recall from the beginning, there was a locked grate in the forest. We could not unlock it from above, but I have no trouble doing so from this end. I now have a path to and from the surface that doesn’t involve lugging treasures up a chimney one at a time! I wish I would have discovered this earlier because I could have saved some lantern batteries but it will help me in the future. But unfortunately, that is it. No matter what I do, I’m not able to finish mapping with the thief running around. There could be one or a dozen more important rooms in the maze. I honestly hope I don’t need to keep pushing on this because I doubt I can get much farther. This is a huge maze.
|Eighteen tons and what do ya get? A diamond!|
Next, I revisit the Coal Mine. Last time, I explored the mine maze and had discovered a path down a ladder leading to a room with a tight squeeze. The path was too tight for me to pass while carrying any items-- even the lantern or torch-- and I would immediately get eaten by a grue on the other side. There was also a mysterious well in the mine that I didn’t work out what to do with. Putting them side-by-side like this makes the solution pretty obvious, but I found that I could lower a light source in the basket and it would be conveniently on the other side of the squeeze when I got there! This required juggling two lights and so we probably couldn’t have solved this without the torch. I didn’t have that yet the last time I was here.
That leads to an air-conditioned room containing something that looks like a clothes dryer. We can place something in the machine and there is a button labeled “start” that is too small for human fingers. I restore back and bring a screwdriver along-- passing it down using the bucket-- and that is tiny enough to activate the machine. But what do I put in it? I try the brick first, but it just is destroyed with the message that it must not have been very valuable. I try a couple more items, but it doesn’t take me too long to find one that works: coal! It emerges from the machine as a diamond. Another puzzle solved and another treasure found!
|Playing at the beach.|
Before I close out for today, I want to cover just a few more odds and ends. These are things that I am working on or solved but which do not warrant a whole section, at least not yet.
- Completely by accident, I was able to work out how to get the emerald out of the river without crossing the rainbow: the stick and the gunk. If you pick up the inflatable raft while carrying the pointy stick, you pop the boat. The first time that happened, I just restored, but I soon realized that you can use the gunk (found in the dam) to patch the holes. I also work out that if you keep the stick in the brown sack (found in the house), it doesn’t pop the boat. With all of that, I build a strategy where I sail down to get the emerald, pop and fix the boat to pass through the tight spot on the east bank, and then re-inflate it to get back to the rest of the maze. Is that the correct solution? Probably not, but it works.
- The back of my brain is sure that you have to wave a magic something or another by the rainbow to make it solid. This is probably a reference to a similar puzzle in Colossal Cave or else I’m confusing this game and that one. I thought for sure it was the crystal trident but that doesn’t do anything. I hope I work this out because there’s almost certainly a pot of gold around here someplace. How do you have a rainbow without a pot of gold?
- I’ve been carrying around a shovel for a while; I found it and some bat guano near the river. As I’ve been going, I have been looking for places to dig. The ground is usually too hard, but I finally hit “paydirt” on one of the beaches accessible by raft. A statue was buried in the sand just west of the buoy! I deliver it to the trophy room using the same trick that I used for the emerald.
- I went through a bit of a pyro phase and pretty much tried to burn everything I owned. A shocking number of things burn! None of them seem to help me in any way though except one: the brick. In fact, the brick doesn’t just burn, it explodes! My assumption is that it is supposed to be C-4 or similar. I can also combine the brick and the wire to make a fuse that I can light to give me a turn or two to get the hell away from whatever I’m blowing up. I try that on just about everything that seems like it might be bombable (there’s a room with a crack, the “granite room”, the room filled with ice, etc) but none of them are solved that way. Whatever room you destroy with the bomb becomes inaccessible afterward due to a cave in, but I don’t see any case where that is helpful.
Treasures Found: 16 (Egg, Painting, Portrait, Pearl Necklace, Coins, Platinum Bar, Grail, Sapphire Bracelet, Jade Figurine, Crystal Trident, Ivory Torch, Stack of Zorkmids, Trunk of Jewels, Diamond, Emerald, Statue)
Time played: 6 hr 25 min
Total time: 13 hr 40 min