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Reviews by jgerrie

Basic Text Adventuring

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The High Mountains, by Paul Braithwaite

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Multi-player Basic text adventuring, June 14, 2015
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
This game is very interesting, because, at least in my experience of Basic text adventures, this is the only multi-player game I have ever come across. Each player gets a number of turns to explore the world of the game, which is quite extensive. You can either be a baddie alien, in which case you go around trying to kill the humans you come across. Or you're a human character, in which case you have to collect various items and interpret various clues, in order to figure out how to thwart the alien invaders. The game allows you to play alone, but the story and puzzles are fairly simple (I've only played through as a human). I image the time pressure created by trying to complete your appointed tasks before the other player completes theirs (or "players"--it allows up to 5 to play), must add a nice element to the challenge. I can't imagine the game is much fun to play as just the alien character alone, as it would simply be an exercise in moving until you have run across all the human players and killed them. The combat seems somewhat random, although there are weapons that can be picked up at various locations in the game. I'm unsure if they affect combat. There might be opportunities as an alien character to interfere by seizing or moving objects with the other player's ability to complete the game. However, combat can make the players drop things, if you are willing to risk possible death, so there are ways for human characters to win objects back. I am unsure if, when played with others, it is recommended that they not be allowed to view the screen, but I suspect that this might be so (or an "option"). In that way, if you're an alien you can hide or move objects, and the other player will have a harder time finding them or knowing when they need to confront you to try to force you to drop them. If you're a human character, it would give you the opportunity to try to hide or use circuitous routes to get to objects unmolested. I suspect knowing the original book series would also add to game play (although I think names have been changed to protect the original author against a copyright challenge--for example the series is called "The White Mountains" series, not "High Mountains"). I played a version of the program ported to the TRS-80 MC-10 from a version for the VZ200. In the course of porting the program I slightly condensed some of the descriptions and fixed some grammar and spelling errors.

The Cavern of the Morlocks/La caverne des Morlocks, by François Coulon
Early Multiple Ending Adventure, September 7, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
This text adventure in the 8-bit Basic program category is unique in several ways. First, its design permits multiple narrative pathways to the completion of the adventure (despite the limits imposed on these possibilities by the 8-bit machine hardware it was developed on--the Matra-Hachette 'Alice' computer). Second, its single key entry decision and navigation system is a refreshing departure from the much more standard two word parser system, and is very appropriate for its multiple attempt variable ending play format. Third, it is based (very roughly) on a classic work of fiction. Although its single keystroke system is somewhat similar to other extremely simple early Basic text adventures, the number of rooms, the multiplicity of narrative arches (in which randomness, decisions and the objects and paths selected make a substantial difference), and the playful and well crafted scenarios make for quite an enjoyable hour or so of distraction. Although a game like this will be of no interest to hard core modern players of interactive fiction, it certainly will be of interest to those curious about early 8-bit computer systems and the Basic programming efforts of coders grappling with the inherent limitations of such systems.

The Alice was a French introductory computer system somewhat akin to the Sinclair ZX-81 or even the Spectrum, which shared some hardware elements with the TRS-80 Micro Color Computer from Tandy, upon which it was based. The version of the game I played was ported and translated by me from the Alice original program by François Coulon.

Lumpies of Lotis IV, by John and Jeff Klein
Killed by a Beverage Wielding Alien, April 26, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
I was killed by an alien wielding a #4 refreshment! This fact alone should reveal some of the completely alluring whimsy of this classic from the 8-bit age of Basic computer adventures. Apparently the game started out as an overhead view maze quest on a ZX-81/Timex 1000, but the Klein brothers kept working at it until it had morphed into a 3D perspective dungeon crawl on the PC, with a unique science fiction twist. The Lumpies are at the same time cute and somewhat terrifying, as are their choices of weapons. These range from the already mentioned #4 refreshment to 5/16th wrenches, to the more traditional, but not necessarily more deadly bombs. The game requires some skill at navigating and mapping a maze of passages and selecting when and when not to engage in combat with the Lumpies (with their incredible ability to turn anything to hand into a weapon). In the end you must free as many prisoners as possible and discover where the communications room lies, and then figure out what you need to do to get a distress call out to the people back on Earth. Along the way you must also find weapons and enough food to replenish yourself for more run'ins with the Lumpies. The mazes can become a little monotonous, but they demonstrate some clever use of the limited graphics capabilities provided by Basic on early 8-bit machines. You'll feel a satisfactory sense of accomplishment when that distress call finally brings rescue from Earth.

Gargoyle Castle, by Kit Domenico

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Handy Mobile Pits Helpful in Solving this Perplexing Puzzle, April 26, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
It's been a while since I played this game, but my recollections are that it was one of the more interesting 8-bit two-word-parser-under-16K adventures. Several versions of this program seem to exist. I think there is an original TRS-80 version, a port to the TRS-80 Color Computer and the MC-10 port that I did from the Coco source and possibly some others I think I recollect being mentioned in other retro-computer forums.

The scenario is ostensibly medieval, but the feel is more of a dream state (and a weird Freudian dream state at that, or perhaps an Alice in Wonderland Carolesque variety). The presence of a handy cigarette lighter, gives away the unreality of the Medieval landscape. Surreal elements pepper the landscape, although I have to admit I am still unsure whether they are meant to be there or whether some of them are simply programming errors of the type which are so common in early 8-bit basic adventures. (Spoiler - click to show)For instance, when you dig a hole it always takes you to the same generic room, meaning that if you drop items there you can, wherever digging is possible, dig them up again other places.

Despite its quirks, or perhaps because of them, this simple early Basic text adventure seems to have endeared itself to many.

Dracula's Castle, by Felix Software

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Early ZX-81 "Graphic" Adventure, April 25, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
I think the single feature of note in this game is its use of some fairly interesting graphics images presented in the ultra low res grayscale block graphics of the ZX-81. However, we're not just talking simplistic cartoon images or figures. The images are quite elaborate (and perhaps even a bit terrifying for, say, a 6 or 7 year-old). I wouldn't go so far as to call them "art" but in terms of the limits of the ZX-81's graphics capabilities, they're really quite impressive achievements. Besides these occasional images the game is a fairly standard primitive parser dungeon crawl. You are playing against the clock (the rising of you-know-who), which adds an element of tension. Death can come quite suddenly and the combat is fairly arbitrary. The interesting block graphics are probably the reason it was ported to other beginner low-ram machines like the VZ200 and the MC-10 (which also had the ability to input such block graphics directly via the keyboard). If you wish to experience some of what the earliest forms of "graphic" adventuring were like, this one would be a worthwhile example to explore.

The Shield of Oran, by Pierre Faure/Loriciels
Who is Oran? And Why is His Shield so Fantastique?, April 25, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
In the first installment of Loriciels' Citadelle series (which I ported from source code ported to the Sanyo PHC-25 from an Amstrad CPC port, which was taken from an Oric Atmos original, or so I believe) you will come up against a range of monsters, such as Bugbears and Orcs. The games is interesting in the way it combines the format of two-word parser with RPG combat. Not only must you figure out the puzzles--you must manage your dwindling strength in the face of the denizens of the (limited but coherent) world you are exploring. As mentioned, this is only the first part of a three part series. The next part is called "The Swordfish of Kranz" (if my French skills haven't failed me). I suspect the three part format is actually a legacy of the RAM limitations of the original platform that the game was developed on. I suspect that breaking the game into three parts allowed for a more comprehensive story to be "fit" into a machine with less than 16K. It's a creative solution.

Despite these limitations the author has managed to fit in quite a number of puzzles. Some of them are a bit tricky, but if you pay extremely close attention to every detail of the descriptions none of the solutions is completely beyond some possibility of recognition. All the rooms should be EXAMINED and SEARCHED and occasionally LOOKED at in detail.

The combat system allows for a number strategies in facing and, hopefully, defeating your opponents. (Spoiler - click to show)In the version I ported the monster's have a a random number of hit points, armour class and strength assigned at the beginning of each combat, so retreating might not be a good idea. Retreating takes you back to the previous room you were in. When you re-enter the room all the conditions for the monster will be reset. This might be a good thing if the monster is really strong and you’re getting pasted. Going and coming back in might make for a weaker monster. However, it might be worse! Choosing Defence rather than attack reduces your chances of being hit, but also reduces your chances of hitting the monster. Spells are powerful but fickle. The monsters are deployed in a fixed locations. (Spoiler - click to show)However, if they don’t "disappear" at the end of combat random monsters will be spawned at random in one of the rooms. If you have the sword and the armour, the monsters are pretty easy to defeat.

In terms of criticisms my only major one is that the "treasure hunt" component of the game seems a little underdeveloped. Also, there is little provided in the way of background to give the situation or characters (Oran?) much depth. I suspect, again, that this is likely a result of RAM limitations and was probably offset in the original by a helpful manual with background story. This game has a reputation as being a favourite of early French 8-bit basic adventurers. I can understand why.

Uncle Tays' House Adventure, by inexorabletash
Who is Mad Uncle Tays?, April 9, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
The source code for this game seems to be standard Applesoft Basic code put up as an example program for a Javascript version of that Venerable 8-bit computer language. The source code is very well written and the game is very challenging. The parser is able to handle two-word commands and also some more complex sentences for more complex tasks. Some things to be aware of: It doesn't accept short-form commands except for the directions--So "INV" wont work for INVENTORY, for example. Also it uses the convention of "TAKE" instead of "GET" and does not support many synonyms, although "READ" and "EXAMINE" will do much the same things. The clues are very thorough and there are no instances of completely arbitrary deaths. All risks can be foreseen if clues and descriptions are read carefully. A very interesting concept that leaves you wondering--who exactly was uncle Tays?

A walkthrough is available at:
Basic Programming on the TRS-80 MC-10

Teeny Tiny Text Adventure, by Tim Ekdom
IF Simplicity, March 31, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
This game lives up to its name "Teeny Tiny Text Adventure." Its size is probably due to the fact that it was developed on the TRS-100 Model 100, one of the first truly portable computers and a favourite of journalists around the world. Despite its size it provides a solid feeling of adventure. The main puzzle is a bit vexing, but can be solved with some diligent searching.

Lost Dutchman's Gold, by Bob Liddil and Teri Li
Brush up Your Miner 49er Lingo, March 31, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold, like so many Basic 8-Bit adventures relies heavily on stereotypes and clichés. Some of these are directed towards native people, but in the overall scheme of the well-worn plot and old-west scenario they are to be expected. Such concerns aside, the plot actually holds together quite well. The most appealing aspect of the adventure is the pseudo miner-49-speak that "yer" guide uses to convey information about your progress. It's kinda half way between pirate-speak and cowboy-lingo, both of which most people are proficient enough in such that it's not likely to present many problems of comprehension. There are no completely arbitrary deaths. You'll have to make some fairly obvious misjudgments to get yourself "dun'in." The puzzles are challenging and coherent. The game would definitely benefit from a game save feature. The MC-10 version I ported and played from a PC version didn't have one, but other versions apparently have them. My version fixes what I believe are some problems with the "mule" interactions of the PC version.

The House of Seven Gables, by Greg Hassett
Beware the One-eyed Ghoul, March 31, 2014
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
Related reviews: Basic Text Adventuring
Greg Hassett was a prolific maker of 8-bit Basic text adventures. This entry into the category of "haunted house crawl" has some of Hassett's signature features, including a countdown timer which unleashes random appearances of some deadly adversaries. The game provides a wide variety of locations, which does provide a good sense of exploration, but there is such a disparate variety of plot elements drawn together that it becomes extremely difficult to maintain one's belief in the narrative.


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