Haunted House: Finished   6 comments

Last I visited Haunted House I thought I was done playing. Fate decided otherwise.

Before I go on, I want to preface: this game was written with *very* tight requirements. The TRS-80 was originally released with only 4K of memory space, and while the base model was swiftly upgraded to 16K it appears Radio Shack wanted Haunted House be playable on any of their systems, including the lowest end models.

Hence, the entirety of this game fits on two 4K cassette tapes, and not for a total of 8K; each cassette is a self-contained part of the game. For reference, Adventureland (which is legendary for extremely tight space requirements) uses the entire luxurious 16K of the newer model (that is, four times the size).

So in a way Haunted House is an impossibility, a marvel. It is still a deeply bad game.

We left off on holding a bucket of water, with no apparent way to apply it to a fire.

ragingfire

You can “pour bucket” but it just pours water on the ground and refills. Would you suspect a bucket of endless water is a useless red herring? (Well, maybe Joseph Nuccio would.)

ragingfire2

I want to stop for a moment and emphasize you can walk through the fire without carrying the bucket of water. The bucket of water is entirely unnecessary and its entire existence seems to be very specifically engineered to force players into an intentionally impossible game of guess the verb. Perhaps this doesn’t sound so frustrating with me just describing it, but I assure you in terms of actual gameplay this is possibly the worst maneuver I’ve ever seen. There is an analogous part in Crowther and Woods Adventure but that at least has the saving grace of no item that seems like a completely logical solution.

In any case, the part with climbing the rope which takes you to the second floor swaps you to “Tape 2.” (The version I was playing has the tapes merged so a tape swap is unnecessary.) The code on Tape 2 is entirely self-contained to the extent that some verbs that work on the first floor don’t work on the second floor, and vice versa.

To continue, I took the magic sword and went wandering:

ghostblock

Given your original inventory is all gone, and the verb set is even more limited than the first floor, the only option is to kill them all (“YOUR MAGIC SWORD ENABLES YOU TO KILL THE GHOST!”).

After slaying the ghosts, there’s another ghost, a … superghost of sorts?

KILL GHOST
THE GHOST IS IMMUNE TO YOUR ATTACK!

It won’t let you just pass by either. With only TAKE, DROP, direction commands, and KILL at your disposal, what to do?

Well, obviously, go off to another room and drop off the sword. (In another context, this might have been kind of neat, but here it is just random.)

This is followed by a “maze” of sorts with a bunch of identical ghost rooms, exploiting the fact that going in a direction just repeats the room description, beating out stiff competition for the award for Least Verisimilitude in Any Maze Ever.

ghostmaze2

Eventually, going south gets to a room with a sign.

ghostmaze3

Let’s just summarize:

  1. There are three exits: east, west, and south. Two of them will kill you. There is no hint as to which one.
  2. If you ignore the sign, by, say, wandering around the maze too fast, you will die because you have to read the sign in order to live (even if you went through the correct exit)
  3. If you carry the sign with you after reading it you will also die (even if you went through the correct exit).
  4. Dying for any of the reasons above requires a reset of the second floor. I am dearly hoping it didn’t require reloading the cassette.

Somehow I don’t feel bad about spoiling the end.

ghostmaze4

Of course, a game like this deserves a seriously impressive Amiga remake (thanks, Sean Murphy!)

Feel free to share any personal stories you have about this game in the comments. The back cover claims it is fun for the entire family. When is the last time you’ve played something that’s done that?

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Posted September 21, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “Haunted House: Finished

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  1. I have already had demands to know how to play this in the original form, so I’ll leave this link here.

  2. I think it would be quite easy to fit such a game into 8k. it’s likely that they didn’t even compress the text here, so that would be their problem.

    • Fit into 8K? Are you meaning fit into 4K? (Like, fit Haunted Houses’s two tapes in 4K?) Possibly, given the brevity of part 2? We are talking BASIC here; there’s only so much you can do with it.

  3. I understand it’s really two 4k programs. IIRC each part is on one side of the tape. 4K is enough for half a game. I’d develop it in C and cross compile. not in BASIC.

    • I’m still confused. There was no C compiler for TRS-80 back in 1979. If you comment simply is “it should be possible to write a TRS-80 program that compact *now*”, sure. Any comments about technical difficulty have to do with the era that these games are being written. There are certainly comparable historical achievements, like Adventure for the Atari 2600 being stuffed into 4K.

  4. if it could be done now, it could be done then. just that it would take longer to develop. now you’d cross compile, but back then you’d have to write machine code. time and money come into play. so back then, the same cost produced an inferior result. it was and is possible to write a better game in 4k x2, but they didn’t.

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