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The Bianco Mansion

by Clive Gifford

Espionage
1984

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Buggy, But a Lost Treasure of the 8-Bit Era, February 19, 2019
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)
I stumbled upon a text adventure in a PDF of a book on the Color Computer Archive. I couldn't find any information about it on any of the text adventure databases and forums I know about. Asked folks on Facebook if they had ever played "The Bianco Mansion" by Clive Gifford and had one response by Gareth Pitchford that it seemed similar to another game by Gifford for the Commodore 64 called "The Nielson Papers." He felt that some of puzzles were the same. Unclear which version came first, although Gareth felt the Dragon version, published in More Games for Your Dragon 32 by Virgin Books, might be first. He noted about Gifford that:

He did a few "enter & retrieve" type-in adventures... I imagine the Nielson Papers is probably the recycled version, if anything... fleshed out a little for the C64... Seems a smart move to use the same premise multiple times and just tweak things for books for different machines.

Garry over on the CASA Solution Archive also typed in the code, using a TRS-80 Color Computer and found it to be a pretty standard adventure for the time. In other words, difficult, not overly impressive and annoying. He noted in the "Classics" forum:

It's really badly written. There are lots of bugs. There are lots of guess-the-verb scenarios, at least two situations where you have to use multi-word input with the two-word parser and at least one situation where you have to refer to an object that is not mentioned. The game has potential, but suffers from juvenile inexperience and lack of testing. (The author was still at school when the book was written.)

In my MC-10 version I have fixed many of the bugs that Garry mentions. In debugged form it is a pretty fun game to play. The deaths are not completely arbitrary and there is a coherent set of puzzles that have to be worked through to achieve final victory. If you can get past the confusing illogic of its map, it is really quite enjoyable. In fact the illogic adds something to its challenge and it classic 8-bit charm. You are not given directions for exits to rooms, except for locked doors, so you must try all directions. It's certainly worth the effort if you are into 8-bit computer adventures written in BASIC. And it might be a particular obscure one for those craving lost treasures from that era.


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