Acheton: Darkness and death   3 comments

achetonoutdoors

> e
You find yourself surrounded by gently swaying silver birches which appear to change position when you’re not looking. Plenty of openings are visible between them, but these close up in some mysterious way whenever you approach them. The trees give off a heavy scent which becomes almost overpowering at times.
> dig
You start to dig a small hole with your hands. As you do so a strange high pitched musical laughter can be heard all around. The branches of the nearby trees shake, although there is no wind blowing. I think you must be tickling the tree roots!

Just like Adventure and Zork, Acheton features caverns in darkness; you need a lamp to see. Unlike the former, darkness is not immediately deadly.

You’re in the sandstone room.
> e
It is pitch dark.
> e
It is pitch dark.
> w
It is pitch dark.
> e
It is pitch dark.
> w
It is pitch dark.
> e
It is pitch dark.
> w
You fell into a pit and broke every bone in your body.

In other words, there is a random chance of death, rather than guaranteed immediate death via grue or falling in a pit.

One thing I remember from playing Acheton the first time around is that I ran out of lamp time but I was very close to the end of the game. So for about the 20 steps it took to walk to the endgame portion I was having to walk through darkness, saving every few steps and reloading if I died. Given I was efficient in that playthrough, the lamp has a VERY tight timer. I’ll try to be as careful as possible.

Speaking of death, there are plenty of instant deaths in Acheton. Modern gamers would call them “unfair” but many were clearly intended as “funny”. For instance, there’s keys and grate identical to the start of Adventure, except for one slight detail:

You are in the hallway of a disused farmhouse. Once there were doorways leading off into several other rooms, but these were all securely boarded up long ago. Outside is a road leading off to the west.
There is a small aerosol can of white paint here.
There is an empty bottle on the ground.
There is a bunch of keys here.
There is a brass lamp on the ground nearby.
It is off.
> get keys
OK.
> get lamp
OK.
> s
You are on the road near the farmhouse.
> s
You are at the bottom of a slight hollow, from which a path leads north.
There is a 3×3 steel grate set in the ground nearby.
The grate is locked.
> unlock grate
OK.
You are standing in the depression.
There is a 3×3 steel grate set in the ground nearby.
The grate is open.
> d
You fall into a well. The water is icy cold, and you rapidly die of hypothermia.

I’m afraid you haven’t got far enough to qualify for reincarnation yet.

A second tempting entrance (a tunnel into a deserted mine) also leads to instant death. Once finally locating the real entrance, followed by the first treasure (noted with a (!)), well–

> n
It is pitch dark.
> light lamp
The lamp is now on and burning brightly.
You are in a small room with a narrow counter running most of the way across it. At the end of the counter is a sign reading “CLOAKROOM” and there is a row of broken hooks on the wall.
The only exit is to the south. There is a mink coat (with bulging pockets) lying below the hooks!
> get coat
OK.
As you take the coat, a couple of ferrets leap out of its pockets and savage you. You die shortly later from loss of blood.

–that likely could have gone better.

Death really is the mildest thing the game can do, though. The problems are the points where the player can make the game unwinnable without realizing it (that is, Cruel on the Zarfian scale). I’ll talk about one of those parts next time.

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Posted January 29, 2013 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Acheton: Darkness and death

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  1. You can recharge the lamp – once. Even then, you don’t have massive amounts of time to spare, but it does become easier. The game can be finished with the lamp working.

    • I recharged the lamp last time I won.

      I chatting with Adam about the problem and I think I may not have turned the lamp off every point that I could have (notably, I left it on in the Wizard’s house).

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