Joel Mick is another young entrepeneur, like Greg Hassett or the trio of Viggo Eriksson, Kimmo Eriksson and Olle Johansson. In all these cases (including Joel himself) the authors were about 13 when they started.
I do wonder if I missed my fame/fortune window by being born 10 years too late. I wrote Night of the Vampire Bunnies at roughly the same age, but by 1990 the market for slightly dodgy text adventures in BASIC was long closed. It’s currently 2 1/2 stars on IFDB, which might be a little overrated, but it’s still much better than Burial Ground Adventure.
1.) Just like many other games from the era, there is no plot: your only objective is to collect treasures. Also unfortunately like some other games of the era, the setting is pretty random: you’re on an island that happens to have a catacomb and a house with treasure. The house, of course, must include every room possible:
2.) There’s a “pit” you fall into and can’t get out without the right item. This is par for the course for the era, but things ratchet up a level in that even when you *do* have the correct item, it’s difficult to figure out how to use it:
What I think Mr. Mick was running into was the adventure game problem I call “implicit action”. He really seemed to visualize: a.) forming a lasso with the rope b.) throwing the looped end of the rope and c.) catching it on a rock which is not described anywhere in the room. The actions needed to be boiled down to a single two word command (having an intermediate state would have been more complex than the coding here could handle) so he went with THROW ROPE which is puzzling on its own. If you imagine the literal action, it’s just throwing the entire rope; you have to have the other parts to it for the command to make sense.
3.) A portion later suffers the same problem, even worse.
This time I confess to checking Dale Dobson’s walkthrough, but he admits he had to check the source code himself, so it’s faintly possible nobody in the world other than the author figured out this puzzle without help.
Again, implicit action seems to be to blame, although in a different sense. The author seemed to have in mind raising the trapdoor by pushing it up with the bamboo, but couldn’t figure out how to express it in a two word parser. He could have gone the route of PUSH DOOR working as long as the bamboo was in the inventory, but that would allow the implicit action of utilizing the bamboo to do it. This would lead to a puzzle likely being solved without the insight, so he settled on the nonsensical PUSH BAMBOO instead.
So in first case, the puzzle was confusing because it allowed the implicit action; in the second case, it was confusing because it disallowed the implicit action. Implicit action still bedevils adventure games to this day, where in games that involve a single-click interface the character does some action that turns out to be useful but never actually occurred to me until the game did it for me.
4.) After obtaining a key by feeding two types of meat to some dogs, you can break into the catacombs which I presume are the “burial grounds” of the title. The catacombs are connected to a maze which in several directions will inexplicably drop you in the upper rooms of the house. This is an easy contender for the most nonsense piece of geography I’ve seen in an adventure.
I guess we’ll just say it’s “magic”, right?
There are two elements that I found interesting and different, so I’ll switch from numbering to lettering:
a.) There’s not only a gun object, but ammunition you can find later; when taking the ammunition the gun will automatically be loaded. However, the gun is a complete and utter red herring. You can attempt to use them on the previously mentioned dogs (the ones you feed meat to) but things don’t turn out well.
This suggests both a game design finesse (having a weapon be useless really is a nice red herring) and possibly some sort of social commentary on violence.
b.) Right before the catacomb, there’s a dark room. The only light source is a match, but the source lasts very briefly.
There is way to “see” the room, but it turns out to be totally unnecessary. While I’ve played text adventures while fumbling in the dark that mostly due to trying to preserve battery life; here there is a room that is meant to *never* be seen, which makes for a nice moment.
So here, again, I find a common experience for this project: authors still fumbling with a new art form, with faint glimmers of possibility. Did I really need more than that?