We last saw Lance Micklus in Treasure Hunt (1978) which was only sort-of what we’d recognize as an adventure game. This one is a clear Adventure-based game including a parser with the distinction that it is the first of its kind printed in a magazine: the May 1979 issue of SoftSide.
To be clear, this was a “type-in”, meaning it was intended that to play the game you’d have to first type in the source code. I used to do this all the time. When I was young (7 or 8 or so) I spent weeks typing in an adventure game from a book (this one, maybe) but somehow the source code was too large and the entire disk crashed as I was putting in the last lines. I was disconsolate and crying. My mother, being sympathetic, bought me a copy of Zork 1. This was my first Infocom game.
When typing an adventure it tends to be obvious in the process of typing what all the puzzle solutions are. Fortunately, Dog Star Adventure later got published under the Adventures International “Other Ventures” line, and there are plenty of copies besides (8 versions, at least). I do predict at some point in the future I will have type in a type-in, but not today.
Let’s quote the plot directly from the ad copy:
The evil General Doom and his Roche Soldiers are preparing to launch an attack against the forces of freedom led by the beautiful Princess Leya. Th Princess has been captured by Doom — and it’s up to you to pull of a daring rescue and save her and the royal treasury!
It’s not even trying to disguise its Star Wars origins, although science fiction adventures are still rare for this time period. Also note, even with a plot that really doesn’t demand it, there’s still a treasure hunt tossed in (at least if it’s the royal treasury you’re not trying to steal it for yourself, right?)
I ended up playing the commercial port; if you really want the classic type-in experience (complete with having to fix a typo in the source code) check out Jimmy Maher’s playthrough. Early on, there is a very significant gameplay difference:
The original supply room just states it has “all kinds of things” and you are literally supposed to just guess what the room contains, and then try to take it. I would call this “breathtakingly unfair”, even compared with games that actively strive to be unfair.
You can’t get that far without the supply room either. There’s no dark rooms, so no time limit as far as a limited light source goes; however, every once in a while a security guard will pop up (in some versions you can call them “stormtroopers”) …
… which you can take down with the blaster from the supply room. The blaster has a limited number of shots (and can only be refilled once, with the ammo that’s also in the supply room).
The game is otherwise fairly straightforward as far as puzzles go; you grab stuff mostly in the open and cart it back to the ship. At two points you need to use “key words” found elsewhere in the game (SECURITY to get into a vault and SESAME to open the space station doors). There’s also an infamous puzzle involving a hamburger:
Much to my own surprise, I figured out what to do with it. There’s an attack robot you find later, who is … hungry? Clearly instead of activating the clones in Star Wars Episode 2 to stop the droid army, the Republic needed to cook up some fast food.
Also of note: if you wait too longer the hamburger will get cold, and the attack robot won’t take your offering; it’s game over. This happened to me the first time I played.
In any case, the game ends by the player collecting as many treasures as possible (including Princess Leya, who you pick up like any other item), and then launching the ship to escape. Due to the primary tasks of rescue and escape you don’t need all the treasures to get a “win”, which I found to be a nice design finesse. For games that are pure treasure hunts, this often doesn’t come across as an option.
I still can’t recommend this one for modern players. The puzzles are either too hard (hamburger, original supply room) or too easy (most everything else) and the experience of making it to the end felt more grinding than insightful. Still, it is surely important in being the first readily available source code to people who wanted to write their own adventures. I am curious: does anyone know of any works in particular that specifically mention they were based off the Dog Star source?