Thursday 18 January 2018

Missed Classic 50: The Saga of Erik the Viking (1984) - Introduction

By Ilmari

What’s Terry Jones got to do with adventure games? And what's bookware?

As unlikely as it may seem nowadays, text adventures were seen by many in the middle of 1980s as the next big trend in literature - it was thought that people buying books would eventually start buying huge amounts of text adventures. Trying to turn text adventures into proper literature meant that real writers had to be somehow involved in the process of adventure creation. We’ve already seen Mike Berlyn, a professional writer, take a very active role and himself develop games like Oo-Topos and Infidel, but a more ordinary solution was to buy rights to an existing work of fiction and turn it into an adventure game.

If you want to get more into this fad, known as bookware, I can highly recommend Digital Antiquarian’s article on the topic. This time I am interested of a particular British gaming company that specialised in bookware - Mosaic Publishing. The person behind Mosaic was Vicky Carne. Judging by her current Linkedin-profile, she seems to have had an extensive career in digital media of all kind, although she is nowadays active mostly as a dog coacher. Despite her involvement in computer gaming business, she appears to have been more of a marketing person than a programmer. Indeed, the business strategy of Mosaic was to obtain rights for some popular book or TV series and hire individual professionals or other companies to do the actual game.

And here Level 9 enters stage. The Austin brothers certainly weren’t the only interesting company cooperating with Mosaic, and we might return at some point in the future to cover some of the more notable Mosaic partners, such as St. Bride’s School. Still, the most lasting partnership Mosaic had with Level 9, probably because of their ability to churn out adventure games with great speed.

One of the books Mosaic wanted to turn into an adventure game was The Saga of Erik the Viking by none other than Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. I must disappoint all friends of absurd humour that the book is not really full of it. I haven’t had a chance to read the original, but my local library did have a Swedish translation of the book, and since every Finnish citizen has gone through some mandatory Swedish courses, I managed to get the general drift of the story. It is essentially a fairy tale aimed at children. The hero of the tale, Erik the Viking, has a dream of finding the land where sun goes every night. Erik’s wish is deeply personal, since his father had disappeared on a quest to find that land.

Erik’s own adventure in his ship, Golden Dragon, soon reaches the land of fables, when he and his crew meet the most fantastic creatures: sea dragon which the vikings avoid by making it sneeze with ticklish feathers, enchanter and his daughter who give Erik and friends gifts for surviving the arctic coldness, a race of dog-headed warriors who project fear for fear itself, and a whole dale full of talking animals, trees and stones. The most harm to Erik is done by the Old Man of the Sea, who has captured Erik’s father and tries several times to stop Erik from freeing him. Finally, Erik finds the land he has been looking for - after first literally guiding his ship over the edge of the flat Earth to an ocean underneath - but he and his crew cannot live there, because they disturb the peaceful green giants living in the paradisaical land. After returning to his home, Erik still has one battle to fight - a chess match with Death.

The manual of the game picks two stories from the book - the encounter with the sea dragon and the fight with the dog-headed warriors - so presumably these two events will have some effect in the game. Indeed, the game, which is set some years after the story in the book, tells that strange warriors attack Erik’s farm, while he is exploring the borders of his territory, and kidnap his family with them. The obvious task is then to get the family back from the hands of the warriors.

Let’s get on with it then

 Lay of the land

It has become a habit for Level 9 to make huge game worlds with realistic, but very empty geography and this game seems no exception. Erik’s farm is filled with such details like an ice house and sauna, which appear to play no role whatsoever in the game.

Can you name other adventure games that include or at least mention saunas? CAPs available!

I did manage to find things to fulfill my inventory:
  • In a barn I discovered Ash Bark Kindling and Whetstone for making some fire
  • In smithy I found Hammer, Nails and Scales
  • Kitchen contained Black Stewpot, with a picture of sea. Examining the pot, Erik had a sort of vision of a place somewhere at sea. Emptying the pot, I found some Mutton, and later on, Bear Sinews. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but bear sinews is one of the supposedly impossible things, used in Norse legends for making Gleipnir, a binding to hold Fenrir, son of Loki and wolf that was destined to kill Odin.

Fenris could have walked here…

...especially as there’s some wolf smell lying around.
  • Searching Erik’s bedding, I found Horn.
  • Hidden in rushes, I discovered Erik’s sword, Blueblade, which also had a picture of sea and invoked a similar vision as the stewpot, except the position on sea appeared to be different.
  • A trestle table made of Planks could be broken to pieces with a hammer.
The most important discovery I made was Golden Dragon, Erik’s ship. The problem was that the ship was in a boat house and Erik couldn’t get it to the sea by himself. After a while, I noticed that I could call with the horn Erik’s men, who would help me push the ship to beach.

Let’s continue on the next post! Meanwhile, don’t forget to guess the score for the game

Quick guide for Level 9 Games

Games already played on The Adventure Gamer:
  • Colossal Adventure (1983, PISSED-score 25): Almost a direct copy of the original Adventure, with an extended end game.
  • Adventure Quest (1983, PISSED-score 25): A sequel to Colossal Adventure, which is also supposed to continue the tale of Lord of the Rings by introducing yet another Dark Lord that is threatening Middle Earth; Tolkien would have loathed the game, because it mixes extraneous elements to his creation; it could have definitely been a smaller game.
  • Dungeon Adventure (1983, PISSED-score 29): Final part of the "Middle-Earth -trilogy", although the connection to Tolkien's work is even more non-existent; a very traditional treasure hunt, but with occasional intricate puzzles.
  • Snowball (1983, PISSED-score 31): A sleeper ship has been hijacked and about to crash into a star, unless an undercover agent can fix things; a game with an interesting background story and a female hero, Kim Kimberly, but it has some lackluster puzzles and fails to keep a serious face throughout the game.
  • Lords of Time (1984, PISSED-score 24): Evil Timelords are plotting to destroy the fabric of time and you must collect several objects from various historical periods to magically stop them. Underneath the plot is a basic treasure hunt with too many mazes and unfair puzzles.
  • Return to Eden (1984, PISSED-score 28): Sequel to Snowball, which continues the story of Kim Kimberly, who has been declared an enemy of Snowball. The plot meanders through various disparate situations and boring puzzles and ends abruptly with an improbable conclusion.
Games still to be played:
  • Emerald Isle (1985)
  • Red Moon (1985)
  • The Worm in Paradise (1985)
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ (1985)
  • The Archers (1985)
  • The Price of Magik (1986)
  • Knight Orc (1987)
  • The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole (1987)
  • Gnome Ranger (1987)
  • Lancelot (1988)
  • Ingrid's Back: Gnome Ranger 2 (1988)
  • Scapeghost (1989)
Compiled trilogies:
  • Jewels of Darkness (1986): Colossal Adventure, Adventure Quest and Dungeon Adventure (all the Tolkien references have been removed)
  • Silicon Dreams (1986): Snowball, Return to Eden and The Worm in Paradise
  • Time and Magik (1988): Lords of Time, Red Moon and The Price of Magik


  1. I have no idea about this series of games, score 27 ?

  2. Can you name other adventure games that include or at least mention saunas? CAPs available!

    Not too many come to mind, but a sauna plays a pretty critical role in (rot13) gur Uvgpuuvxre'f Thvqr gb gur Tnynkl

    1. That said, if you try to open the field a little bit, you find all kinds of "escape the room" and hidden object games including sauna use.

    2. "In Skip Around the World: Finland, the first installment of Carmel Games' point-and-click adventure series, Skip, as you might surmise from the title, is a world traveler who winds up in Finland. And hey, visiting Santa's Village is fine, and sure those Northern Lights are all breathtaking and whatnot, but what Skip really wants is to meet Oiva Vasta, the "sauna guru", who apparently shares Skip's passion for sitting around wearing towels and sweating with strangers, which is basically my nightmare scenario."

    3. (Ironically, one tab over I have a connection to Steam going...)

    4. The first one is definitely correct and second... what a great find! I'd never even heard of the game before. So 10 CAPs in total.

    5. I don't need any more points, but I thought that the escape room was a funny scenario:

  3. "Can you name other adventure games that include or at least mention saunas? CAPs available!"

    Well, Urban Runner starts in a sauna, I think. Tried to look using the latest ScummVM and apparently my files must be corrupted cause there is a blue tint on the video.

    1. Yep, so it starts, 5 CAPs for Niklas.

      I'm still wondering when one obvious Sierra game will be mentioned.

    2. Leisure Suit Larry 6. I haven’t played it, but I figured there would be a sauna somewhere in that series.

    3. That's it! Since Trickster and Alex Romanov both got the answer at almost same time and Alex also gave more of the context, I think 5 CAPs to both are in order.

  4. In LSL6 there's a sauna directly above from the mud pool screen, if you enter in your leisure suit (TM) you die !

  5. 40 as a score guess.

    And, after a quick googling (if that's allowed) Qrcbavn Qbbzfqnl

  6. I assume you are aware of this then?:

    1. Yeah, I noticed it in Wikipedia entry of the book. It was published later than the game, so I didn't really mention it.