Adventure 550: The (Dis)pleasures of Magic   Leave a comment

Partial map in progress.

So the most significant thing I’ve done since last time is make my way across the “breath-taking view”. In the original it was just a fancy description, but in Adventure 550 it holds a secret:

You are on the edge of a breath-taking view. Far below you is an active volcano, from which great gouts of molten lava come surging out, cascading back down into the depths. The glowing rock fills the farthest reaches of the cavern with a blood-red glare, giving everything an eerie, macabre appearance. The air is filled with flickering sparks of ash and a heavy smell of brimstone. The walls are hot to the touch, and the thundering of the volcano drowns out all other sounds. Embedded in the jagged roof far overhead are myriad twisted formations composed of pure white alabaster, which scatter the murky light into sinister apparitions upon the walls. To one side is a deep gorge, filled with a bizarre chaos of tortured rock which seems to have been crafted by the devil himself. An immense river of fire crashes out from the depths of the volcano, burns its way through the gorge, and plummets into a bottomless pit far off to your left. Across the gorge, the entrance to a valley is dimly visible. To the right, an immense geyser of blistering steam erupts continuously from a barren island in the center of a sulfurous lake, which bubbles ominously. The far right wall is aflame with an incandescence of its own, which lends an additional infernal splendor to the already hellish scene. A dark, foreboding passage exits to the south.
> wave rod

The earth begins to shudder violently, and smoke flows up from the gorge beneath your feet. With a violent >GLOP!<, the volcano belches out an immense blast of molten lava which flies into the air above the gorge and suddenly solidifies into a fragile-looking arch of wheat-colored stone that bridges the gorge.

I confess I had to spoil this part. In particular, the wall-of-text literally hid an important clue I missed (Across the gorge, the entrance to a valley is dimly visible.)

The rod in the original you could wave to form a bridge, but it was to a location that was accessible a different way. Most walkthroughs just skip it. This is the first case I’ve seen where Adventure 550 does repurposing, resusing an old item for a new purpose. There’s no way to know for certain if the rod will work without experimentation, but at least in this case it makes sense — the rod makes bridges, you’re in an area where a bridge would come in handy, the rod works to solve the puzzle.

Magic in adventure games can be a danger zone for puzzle design. It’s too easy to force the player to stand in random spot X and wave necklace Y to solve a puzzle; without strong hints it’s a matter of trying everything everywhere.

This game does give hints, even if they’re a bit jarring. Do you remember “Stand where the statue gazes, and make use of the proper tool” from last time? Also, the Donaldson reference with “Witt Company Tool Room — Melenkurion division”?

You are standing at the north end of the Valley of the Stone Faces. Above you, an incredible bas-relief statue of an immense minotaur has been carved out of the rock. At least sixty feet high, it sits gazing down at you with a faint but definite expression of amusement. Between its feet and the floor is a rock wall about ten feet high which extends across the entire north end of the valley.

> MELENKURION

Rock silently crumbles off of the wall in front of you, revealing dark passages leading northwest, north, and northeast.

Oof. This was sort of pleasing and displeasing at the same time. I honestly wouldn’t have zeroed in on “Melenkurion” as a magic word without the pop culture reference, but in retrospect the “tool” can’t refer to anything else.

On the top of the map you might notice some “catacombs”. That’s another maze with one of those all-or-nothing structures I wrote about in Adventure 500, where going the wrong direction takes you backwards, and there is only one right direction. Mapping it was tedious, and hidden inside I found this:

You are at the eastern end of the Audience Hall. There is a large dais rising out of the floor here; resting upon the dais is a strange-looking throne made out of interlocking bars and rods of metal.

Resting on the throne (“sitting” isn’t really the right word) is an incredible skeleton. It is fairly humanoid from the waist up (except for its incredible size and four extra arms); below that, it resembles the body of a giant python, and is wrapped in and around the bars and rods of the throne. Clutched in one bony hand is a long sceptre, ornately encrusted with sapphires!!

> GET SCEPTER

You pluck the sceptre from the skeleton’s bony hand. As you do, the skeleton raises its head and whispers “Remember — BLERBI!” in a foreboding tone; it then sags to the ground and crumbles into dust which drifts away into the still air of the cave.

(The magic word is not fixed — I went through the scene again later and got a different one.)

I might have thought the skeleton would put up more of a fight, and indeed it does if you try to take the sceptre back across the bridge:

As you reach the center of the bridge, a ghostly figure appears in front of you. He (?) stands at least eight feet tall, and has the lower body of an enormous snake, six arms, and an angry expression on his face. “You’ll not have my sceptre that easily!” he cries, and makes a complex magical gesture with his lower right arm. There is a brilliant flash of light and a vicious >crack<, and the bridge cracks and plummets into the gorge.

This was admittedly an excellent death. I have trouble describing why it made me laugh with delight rather than groan in pain, but it may have had to do with me realizing the likely solution.

You see, the magic word works to open a giant walk-in safe. (There is no indication why — this was a moment of random-necklace-waving, so to speak.)

> BLERBI

>ker-THUNKscreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech<

The (somewhat rusty) safe is now open.

Here’s the thing: there’s also an exact identical safe past the bridge, below the Hall of the Mountain King. I could see exactly where this puzzle was going, so the dramatic scene of the skeleton was simultaneously accompanied by the gears clicking in my head.

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Posted July 27, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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