Adventure 550: Finished!   8 comments

If you’re at all curious about any of the Adventure variants from the 1970s, play this one. Other than David Long’s (which I haven’t played yet) I can definitively call it the fairest of the lot; for the most part I reasoned through the puzzles, tried actions that seemed logical, and found success. Even with two new mazes (and one not-really-a-maze) I got the buzz of feeling like I was Adventuring and not just jumping through abstract hoops.

However, if you do play, you should spoil the ending puzzle. It is absolute rubbish in a way I’ve never seen before in an adventure game and I am unlikely to see again. This is not an exaggeration.

(Note that below I will be spoiling more than just the ending.)

Via Everygamegoing. Even though the year is wrong, I like the comment about how the aim of an adventure is to “discover the rules.”

A lot of what I had left to wrangle was logistical. Let me detail an example, because this sort of thing happens rarely in modern games.

Just like 350 point Adventure, there is a limit to how long the lamp lasts; there’s also an inventory limit of 7 items. Each time I reached the well house and could turn the lamp off, it felt I had reached “home base” and could plan my next foray. As this game is larger than 350 point Adventure, I had to make lists, like this one which involved going up a large beanstalk on multiple occasions:

1st foray

leave axe at reservoir
bring keys, food, rod for 3rd foray, but drop off at nest

2nd foray

lamp
axe
ring
sculpture
opals
trident
pearl

3rd foray

lamp
axe
ring
keys
food
rod
eggs

The lists included items I knew I would need or predicted I would need for a particular section of the map. This particular plan turned out not be a perfect setup, because bringing the “eggs” on the 3rd expedition turned out unfortunate:

As you reach the middle of the bridge, the troll appears from out of the tunnel behind you, wearing a large backpack. “So, Mister Magician,” he shouts, “you like to use magic to steal back my hardearned toll? Let’s see how you like a little of MY magic!!” With that, he aims a tube running from the backpack directly at the bear and pulls a trigger. A spout of magical fire roars out and singes the bear’s fur; the bear bellows in pain and dashes onto the bridge to escape. The bridge shudders, groans, and collapses under the weight, and you and the bear plunge down into the chasm.

This also influences puzzle-solving. I ran across one puzzle where I quickly suspected I needed a certain item but didn’t get an opportunity to test my theory until several hours later. Also, a puzzle that was I had to solve early in the sequence involved eating a mushroom to get strength, allowing me to pull a sword out of a stone. The strength is temporary, but it lasted long enough it potentially was needed for a second puzzle. So in my puzzle solving I had to account for not only what items I currently had and which ones were in storage, but which ones were from the past.

Before I start ranting about the end game, let me set up a prior puzzle:

You are in a small room whose walls are covered with an elaborate pattern of arabesque figures and designs.

There is a small, tightly-sealed earthenware flask on the ground here. It has the words, “London Dry” written on the side.

I think the resemblance with a similar object in Acheton is just a coincidence, especially because the container doesn’t have gin:

The flask’s wax seal crumbles at your touch. A large cloud of black smoke pours out, solidifying into the form of a twelve-foot Djinn. “AT LAST!” he says in an earth-shaking voice, “I KNEW THAT SOMEDAY SOMEONE WOULD RELEASE ME! I WOULD REWARD YOU FOR THIS, MORTAL, BUT IT HAS BEEN THREE THOUSAND YEARS SINCE I HAD A SOLID MEAL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO STAND HERE CHATTERING WHEN I COULD BE OUT EATING A SIX-INCH SIRLOIN STEAK. FAREWELL.” With that, he somewhat rudely explodes back into smoke and drifts quickly out of sight.

So rude. In a different section, you find a room with a pentagram, which allows for a much more helpful answer:

> THROW FLASK

You have set the flask down in the center of the pentagram.
> OPEN FLASK

The wax seal breaks away easily. A cloud of dark smoke pours up from the mouth of the flask and condenses into the form of a twelve-foot Djinn standing in the pentagram. He pushes experimentally at the magical wall of the pentagram (which holds), and nods politely to you. “MY THANKS, OH MORTAL,” he says in an incredibly deep bass voice. “IT HAS BEEN THREE THOUSAND YEARS SINCE SOLOMON SEALED ME INTO THAT BOTTLE, AND I AM GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE RELEASED ME. IF YOU WILL OPEN THIS PENTAGRAM AND LET ME GO FREE, I WILL GIVE YOU SOME ADVICE THAT YOU MAY ONE DAY WISH TO POSSESS.”
> OPEN PENTAGRAM

The pentagram’s magical barrier sparks fitfully and goes down. The Djinn stretches gratefully and smiles at you. “AGAIN, MY THANKS,” he says. “MY ADVICE TO YOU WILL TAKE THE FORM OF A HISTORY LESSON. WHEN RALPH WITT, THE ARCHITECT AND CONSTRUCTOR OF THIS CAVE, WAS VERY YOUNG, HE BECAME VERY INCENSED THAT HIS NAME WAS AT THE END OF THE ALPHABET. HE FELT (FOR SOME REASON) THAT THE LETTER W BELONGED NEAR THE BEGINNING OF THE ALPHABET, AND THAT ALL OF THOSE “UPSTART LETTERS WHICH UNFAIRLY USURPED THE BEST PLACES” SHOULD BE FORCED INTO EXILE AT THE END OF THE ALPHABET. HIS INSTINCT FOR MATTERS MAGICAL AND MYSTICAL LED HIM TO APPLY THIS STRANGE BELIEF INTO THE CAVE’S STRUCTURE WHEN HE EXCAVATED IT. YOU HAVEN’T YET BEEN AFFECTED BY HIS STRANGE HABITS, BUT YOU SHOULD REMEMBER THIS. FAREWELL, AND GOOD LUCK.” With that, the Djinn evaporates into a cloud of smoke and drifts rapidly away.

That second portion is a hint for the endgame. It’s not even a bad hint for what to do; the absurd bit we’ll get to in a moment.

After getting all the necessary treasures, the endgame starts like every other variant: an announcement the cave is going to close, and then:

The sepulchral voice intones, “The cave is now closed.” As the echoes fade, there is a blinding flash of light (and a small puff of orange smoke). . . . As your eyes refocus, you look around and find…

But then things vary:

You are in a small cylindrical room with very smooth walls and a flat floor and ceiling. There are no exits visible anywhere.

So, when given this much minimalism, the general approach is to try everything, including magic words:

> xyzzy

Nothing happens.
> plugh

Nothing happens.

The magic words are the key, and the Djinn’s hint really is enough to suss out the necessary trick. You need to recite all the magic words in the game, in backwards alphabetical order.

Still not at the howler yet: in normal circumstances it’d be possible to run across the solution organically; when stating the correct word last in alphabetical order, the game says “Ok.” rather than “Nothing happens.”

However, you need to recite all the magic words in the game, and not just all the magic words that have appeared in the game. From my last post, I mentioned getting a magic word with a sceptre, and as an aside I mentioned the word was not fixed. The word is in fact drawn from a set of five possible words, and you only get one, but you need all five in the endgame.

So you need to save and restore the sceptre scene at least five times (probably more due to random chance) to try to extract every possible magic word, because all of them will appear in the endgame. (I gather from Arthur O’Dwyer’s notes — the person who ported the game version I played — that the original version set the word at the start of the game so you would need to play the game through to that point at least five times.)

To add even more pain, the first word needed — ZORTON — is one off the random five list. So, unless you got that word in your play-through, you aren’t going to see the “Ok.” message at all. At least if XYZZY (the next reverse alphabetically) had started the set there would be a hint of the correct action path.

This is so staggering I deep-searched the source code just to make sure I wasn’t missing something. The best I can figure is: at the time mainframe games tended to be group activities. You can imagine an entire math department tackling the game at off hours. The group has all reached the endgame, and word of mouth has spread that the number theorist in room 602 got a different message than everyone. People confer notes and realize the effect of ZORTON. Compiling together the efforts of 10 people, they manage to realize a full magic word list and finally lead the way to triumph.

I admit a bit of fascination with puzzle games designed to be solved with groups, either intentionally (as in the case of The Black Watchmen) or unintentionally (as happened with the adventure Blue Ice, which was intended to be part of a contest that never happened and required a whole forum to solve it). With Adventure 550, though, it’s just a broken puzzle. This is a pity, because after saying the last magic word there’s a section with an existential vibe I found satisfying. You are sent back to the start of the game, but the wellhouse is now empty. The world feels lonely. There’s only one last task:

At your feet all the water of the stream splashes into a 2-foot slit in the rock. Downstream the streambed is bare rock.
>D

You plunge into the stream and are carried down into total blackness.

You find yourself sitting on the edge of a pool of water in a vast chamber lit by dozens of flaring torches.

The floor is covered with thick layers of precious Persian rugs!

Rare coins, bars of silver, and lumps of gold and platinum are strewn carelessly about!

There are diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, opals, pearls, and fabulous sculptures and ornaments carved out of jade and imperishable crystal resting on display shelves, along with rare Ming vases and ancient Indian turquoise beads!

A flotilla of ruby-encrusted toy boats is floating in the pool of water beside you!

A network of golden chains supports a fantastic Iridium crown!

There is a display case on the wall filled with a fantastic selection of magical swords, which are singing “Hail to the Chief” in perfect pitch and rhythm!

There are a dozen friendly little dwarves in the room, displaying their talents by deftly juggling hundreds of golden eggs!

A large troll, a gigantic ogre, and a bearded pirate are tossing knives, axes, and clubs back and forth in a friendly demonstration of martial skill!

A horde of cheerful little gooseberry goblins are performing talented acrobatics to an appreciative audience composed of a dragon, a large green snake, a cute little bird (which is sitting, unmolested, on the snake’s head), a peaceful basilisk, and a large Arabian Djinn.

Everyone turns and sees you, and lets out a heart-warming cheer of welcome!

You have scored a total of 550 points, out of a possible maximum of 550 points. During this game of Adventure, you have taken a total of 476 turns.

All of Adventuredom gives tribute to you, Adventurer Grandmaster!

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Posted July 31, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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8 responses to “Adventure 550: Finished!

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  1. Blue Ice really is a fascinating and also impossible game. There’s even still a puzzle nobody knows the answer to!

    Blue Ice walkthrough

  2. Nit: You’ve misspelled magic word “ZORTON” as “ZOLTAN” in the current version of the post.
    I would take issue with your contention that the flask marked “London Dry” doesn’t contain any djinn; I think it clearly does!
    I suspect that the specific combination of “earthenware” and “London Dry” is an indication that Dave Platt *did* play “Acheton” and decided to one-up the authors of that game by including the same setup with a punnier puzzle; but I don’t know. When did the custom of earthenware gin bottles go out of style? is it something that would have plausibly occurred independently to Platt and to the “Acheton” authors?

    • The main issue is Acheton was completely restricted to the Cambridge University mainframe at the time. It had a custom program that didn’t appear elsewhere. The commercial release came much later.

      I guess word of mouth is possible? It’s an interesting possibiity.

    • By the way, one possible bug in z-code a550 — I never was able to go north from Bedquilt to get to the portion of the map that includes the stalactite that drops into the maze. I know it’s possible in the Fortran version. It’s possible I got super-unlucky but I made about 15 attempts.

      • I just saw this comment. It’s possible! But it’s only a 35% x 25% = 8.75% chance. I just tried it and managed to hit it on the 22nd try, after getting the large low room 4 times and “crawled around in some little holes” 17 times.

      • Thanks for checking. I think that’s not so bad here, in that the section is entirely optional in a550.

  3. Yes, the thing where you have to restore 5 times (at least) to get 5 magic words is annoying. especially since you won’t find out until many turns after you solved the puzzle in question, which means you have to do all the things over again after you’ve restored.

    You’re not the first to be annoyed by this. Someone’s even “corrected” this: In the 770-point version (and the 660 too, if I remember) there’s a way to learn all of the possible words that open the safe – and in fact one of the words does something else in those versions. Of course, when you get to them, you’ll probably still have your notes for this one on you, but still, it is nice to at least know someone fixed it.

    • I did at least have a save game near the catacombs, but I didn’t know about the meta-trick until I looked up outright spoilers anyway. It doesn’t surprise me that a later version would change the puzzle.

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