Thursday, August 29, 2013

Game 113: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (1982)

"Sure, call it whatever you want. Just send us the check." -- TSR

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is a 1982 game for the Intellivision console, later renamed with the subtitle Cloudy Mountain to avoid confusion with 1983's Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin. It is a barely-passable action game, not under the most liberal of definitions an RPG, and having about as much to do with Dungeons & Dragons as Pac-Man. In a recent comment, Harland suggested that Mattel's policy was to cover its bases by "acquiring licenses from everyone no matter how tenuous the connection," but I suspect their motivation was less avoiding legal problems and more trying to fool D&D fans into thinking this game was in any way related.

Despite Cush1978's warnings about the game's lack of CRPG elements, I wanted to play it because it's really the first officially-licensed Dungeons & Dragons game for anything resembling a computer. Wikipedia's list of Dungeons & Dragons video games starts with dnd and Don Daglow's Dungeon, but these weren't licensed and if we're going to include them, we need to include pretty much every CRPG in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The next games, Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game and Dungeons & Dragons Computer Fantasy Game, both also by Mattel, are electronic toys. This and Treasure of Tarmin are the only other D&D titles that precede Pool of Radiance, and unless Tarmin turns out to be unusually good, it seems that Pool was the first game to remotely replicate the D&D experience on a computer or console.

The game takes place on a map in which you have to navigate between your house and the titular Cloudy Mountain, where your goal is to re-unite two pieces of the Crown of Kings. The trick is that only certain mountains in the ranges are navigable (randomized for each game). These initially appear as black, but as you approach them, they change color to gray, blue, red, or purple, indicating their relative difficulties. You must cleave a path through the right series of mountains to reach Cloudy Mountain.

Hewing through the forest with an axe, on my way to Cloudy Mountain.

Each navigable mountain, when "entered," turns into a moderate-sized labyrinth of caves. You explore, kill or avoid monsters, look for tools and arrows, and ultimately try to find the ladder leading out to the other side of the mountain. Then, you can proceed to the next one.

Making it to the exit. I honestly don't know what that skull is there for. There's at least one in every dungeon.

At some point, you'll probably have to navigate the river, forest, or gates (or all three), meaning you have to find a boat, an axe, or a key among the dungeon's treasures. I say "probably" because there is at least one potential path that avoids all of these obstacles but involves crossing more dungeons.

Finding a key.

The difficult gameplay all takes place in the caves. You have only one weapon--a bow--and you start the game with only three arrows. Since many enemies take two or three arrows to kill, finding more arrows is an immediate priority. If you run out of arrows, you have no options against the monsters, as most monsters cannot be outrun. You have three "lives" and each life has essentially three hit points, with the character proceeding from black to blue to red before dying.

Coming upon a quiver of arrows. I think the fuzzy creature above it is supposed to be a spider. They steal arrows.

The game is innovative in its use of sound. Most computer RPGs of the era either had no sound or were best played with the sound off. I can't think of any CRPGs from the 1980s in which sound was essential to the game. In this game, it is. You have to listen carefully for the sounds of movement or snoring to know if there are monsters in the corridors ahead. If so, you must either avoid the corridors or shoot arrows down them ahead of you. Arrows bounce off angled walls at 90 degrees, and mastering this banking is key to killing monsters before they're suddenly on top of you, at which point you'll almost certainly die. (Arrows bounce directly back at you when fired at flat surfaces, a mechanic responsible for more than one of my deaths.)

A snake and a blob north of me. Snakes are fast and deadly. Blobs are slow but cannot be killed.

Almost equally important is the need for sound to determine how many arrows you have left. The number never appears anywhere on the screen. Instead, when you press one of the commands, the game "bips" at you once for every arrow you have.

About to get killed by a dragon while near a piece of the crown.

If you make it to Cloudy Mountain, you must explore the dungeon until you find both halves of the crown. Each is guarded by a dragon that takes several hits to kill. If you manage to unite the crown, the game "rewards" you with an overland shot showing a crown sitting on top of Cloudy Mountain. The challenge is to then try again at the next-highest difficulty level.

Yay.

If the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge was an RPG, it would be the first console RPG. Since it's not, that distinction seems to go to DragonStomper for the Atari 2600, which I'll play eventually. Anyway, the cartridge only took me three hours to win--one to figure out the Nostalgia Intellivison emulator, one to master the controls, and one to win (albeit on the easiest level)--so I figured I'd write about it anyway. [Later edit: I was wrong; I actually won it on the second-highest level. I was forgetting that the numeric keypad keys are reversed.] There is honestly not the slightest reason to play this game today, especially if you first played it when you were four years old and remember it as the greatest game ever. Like trying to watch Knight Rider or Three's Company today, it will spoil your memories.

I never had an Intellivision as a kid and thus have no rose-colored memories about it. I was reading about the controller...


...and I have to say that I find it a bit baffling. My understanding is that you controlled the dial with the thumb of one hand while operating the keypad with the other. The dial is innovative, I grant, and a precursor to the left navigation sticks of modern controllers, but why on earth would they orient the keypad so that it was above the dial instead of to its right? I can't imagine playing with your hands on top of each other is very comfortable or intuitive. The emulator uses the arrow keys to maneuver, rendering 16 potential directions into just 4, but the keypad maps well to the numeric keypad, if upside-down.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is credited to Tom Loughry, who developed several games for Mattel before moving to Accolade in the late 1980s. Other than the sequel to this game, Treasures of Tarmin, we won't see him again, as he seems to have specialized in racing and sports games.

On my GIMLET scale, the Cartridge ties with Braminar as the lowest-rated game ever, at 9. It was hurt by 0s in the key "Character Creation and Development," "NPCs," "Equipment," and "Economy" categories. But at least it served to produce a blog entry during a few days when I didn't have time to play Champions of Krynn.

A lot of people see similarities between this game and the old Adventure cartridge for the Atari 2600, particularly since this game was called Adventure before getting the AD&D license. I think the similarities are there, but slight. It's more interesting to compare it to the computer RPGs that came out in 1981 and 1982. By this year, we already had Wizardry and Wizardry II, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Ultima I and Ultima II, and Telengard (the latter of which most resembles this game graphically). Any one of them better exemplifies the AD&D spirit, offering a greater depth of gameplay, than the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge. We can debate when console RPGs finally caught up with computer RPGs, or if they ever did, but it's clear that in these early days, they had a long, long way to go.

106 comments:

  1. I used to play this on my cousin's intellevison system. It was fun but it got predictable very quickly. You are right in that arrow management is the heart of the game. Sometimes I had to reload because I ran out of arrows and had no where else to go.

    I did like the monster animations. While being solid color, they were drawn very well. I knew what I was fighting.

    I was going to ask if you would ever review Adventure or Haunted House by Atari. Neither are CRPGs. But they have early innovations that would be found in true CRPGS, though I have yet to see a theiving bat in any of these other games.

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    1. I agree with the monster icons, though by the time you can see them well enough to tell what they are and admire the animation, they were probably killing you.

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    2. That's another thing I liked about the game. It was pretty lethal. It did not pretend that you could face these monsters up close.

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  2. A buddy of mine had this - I never owned an Intellevision - but I thought it was a ton of fun a the time. Obviously history is probably not going to be kind to a title like this, and I haven't had the chance to play it again, so it was nice to read what your thoughts on it were, especially following up an actual detailed, deep RPG title like Krynn Great article. :)

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    1. I, too, thought it provided a nice juxtaposition.

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  3. Intellivision - the system that the kid down the street owns!

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  4. We of coursed owned an Atari but my cousin had an Atari AND an Intellivision (Captain Fancy Pants). Well, he had the Intellivision II, which had even crappier controllers than the original Intellivision (i.e. the buttons weren't spring loaded and hurt like hell to press).

    He purchased it when they were liquidating them at Silverman's. I think he got the Intellvision II and about 15 games (all new) for under $50. Anywho, the only game we ever really played was this one. Whenever I do break out my Intellvision today this is still one of the carts I'll play. I still find it entertaining.

    As far as Treasure of Tarmin goes, it is LIGHT YEARS beyond this D&D game. I think you will be very surprised at how advanced it actually is. It is essentially one of the first console dungeon crawls (unless you count TUNNEL RUNNER on the Atari 2600).

    There is a 3rd D&D game that came out later in the Intellivision's life and is called TOWER OF DOOM. That one expanded on Tarmin's upgrades and I think you will be REALLY surprised at just how intricate and sophisticated it is. No, that's not sarcasm.

    I'm not sure if you ever mentioned this game or not, but GATEWAY TO APHSAI is my personal favorite "first" CRPG. I think it has all the makings of a CRPG and you may want to possibly review it as a one off. The version I played as a kid was on the Atari 800 (again, at my cousins) but they came out with an excellent port on the Colecovision.

    I know console games aren't your bit, but thought you'd like to know in case you're looking for more early console CRPG fodder.

    As a sidenote, I found the Dragonlance "Krynn" games much more enjoyable than the Forgotten Realms games. I beat the series in a month's time a few winters ago. I just couldn't stop playing... then I got burned out after beating Gateway to the Savage Frontier and finding out that Treasure of the Savage Frontier was just awful and more of the same... horrible plot, they involved a relationship between players and it was just mundane fight after fight after fight. But anywho...

    Oh, and you slagged on Buck Rogers... I knew nothing of the Buck Rogers series or any of it's background, but I found the Sci Fi setting for the Gold Box engine to be VERY fun... I played the Sega Genesis version tho, so it was probably dumbed down a bit. I still think you'll have fun with it... Thanks again for this blog!!!!!!

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    1. It's good to hear your recollections. Tarmin and Tower of Doom are both on my list, and I might actually burn through them next so I don't have to remember how the Intellivision emulator works some time down the road.

      I did cover Gateway to Apshai as part of the Apshai trilogy, as one of my first blog posts, and then later in its Apple II form in a re-visiting post. I never played any console versions.

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    2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you reviewed Temple of Aphshai with mentions of Upper Reaches of Aphshai and Curse of Ra... Gateway to Apshai is a different beast altogether. It came later and was more advanced. I could be wrong tho...

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    3. Oh, yes, of course. I was mis-identifying Gateway as the first Apshai game. Sorry about that. I see that I have it on my C64 alternate list for 1983.

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    4. Treasure of Tarmin is much better, but is mostly a small-scale knock-off of Wizardry, released two years later. Tarmin does have merit in being the first console knock-off though.
      Back then, there was strong internal pressure within console gaming publishers to keep console games relatively simple and action oriented. Complex games were perceived to be the domain of PC games since PCs could supply far more memory.

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    5. Gateway to Apshai was also my first CRPG (aside from the Atari 2600 game "Adventure"). Played it on the Commodore 64, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing a review of it.

      I will also say that my limited experience is that Treasure of Tarmin is far superior than the one you just reviewed. Definitely approach it with an open mind.

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    6. I will. Thanks for the information.

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  5. Another interesting game I've never heard of. Probably because I never knew anyone with an Intellivision.

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    1. I had never even HEARD of an Intellivision until compiling my alternate-platform game list.

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    2. I'm in the same boat as someone else posted; we were an early adoption family always on the wrong side of the phone. First on the block with a portable phone that worked well within a 3-6 inch radius. Got the Intellivision in the early 80s. I finally got an Atari in the mid '80s. Had a Betamax VCR too. That was fun; going to the video store and choosing from at least 10 videos while the rest of the building was dedicated to VHS, whatever that was. Anyway, yeah, I heard of the Intellivision early on. It was the next electronic game bought after Pong.

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    3. I'd heard of them, but you know, in the same way you hear of plates made with uranium, radium watches, computers the size of rooms, cars with fins and V8s, you know, stuff that happened in that nebulous 'before' time that is really cool, and you'd love ot own, but can't really justify buying (at least now that I know that the radium has undergone too many half-lives and doesn't cause the phosphor to glow anymore, at least not on any of the three examples I've seen)

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  6. I do hope you'll review Dragonstomper. I glossed over it because I didn't feel it had enough criteria for what I consider an RPG, but it does have the rudimentary trappings of one.

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    1. I definitely consider it an RPG. You have levels, and explorable world (at least in the first section of the game), equipment, and even rudimentary parties and multiple solution's to win the game. Of course, I've also spent way too many hours of my life playing it, so I may have a bit of a bias ;)

      -BelatedGamer

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    2. Bias is welcomed. Like I said, it didn't fit my prerequisites, but it was very close. I even gave it a longer than normal "this has been cut" post. It's too bad I haven't seen a recent release of it. Maybe it's lost in the world of "who owns the rights?" Unlike Tower of Doom, which is available on the Xbox 360, which is an easy way for Chet to play it although it strangely doesn't have a digital copy of the instructions.

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    3. Zenic, I read your "below the cut" post on the game. You (sensibly) apply a mores strict definition than I do, but I appreciate your RPP, which showed that it does meet my criteria. As the game usually designated the "first console RPG," I'll probably try it at some point.

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  7. The easiest level! Come on, the monsters practically crawl at you at that speed! There is only one way to play any Intellivision game, and that is arcade speed. Press the disc on the title screen and play for real.

    Yeah, I was the kid with an Intellivision. Story of my life. Technically superior, everyone agreed. But who else had one? Nobody. There was this one kid right next to the exit to the subdivision who had one, but his parents wouldn't let him trade games, so I was SOL. Between this and our Betamax, I was scarred for life. To this day, I am a late adopter, waiting to see what the market decides and getting the one that everyone has, just to be sure that it's compatible. No, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

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    1. At least you had something, I blame my game buying urges on my parents not letting me buy a console. My sister and I even saved up the money for a snes from our allowance our selves and they still wouldn't let us buy one. We had to save our allows for like a whole year too.

      I shouldn't complain to much when my dad got a 386 for work they let us get some games for it. Including my first CRPG Might and Magic which I think we can all agree is a pretty good place to start.

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    2. Harland, I just went back and replayed it on the ACTUAL easiest level, and I agree: it's pretty pathetic. If you've been following the other comments, apparently I had accidentally chosen Level 3 every time I fired it up, forgetting the keypad was messed up.

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  8. I hope you intend to take a look at Dungeons of Daggorath for CoCo/Dragon. If I recall correctly, sound works a bit to your advantage in that one too.

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    1. I'm sure I will. I actually got about 3/4 done with the game last year and just never finished or blogged about it.

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  9. I owned this game as a kid. Actually, that's not entirely true. This game owned ME when I was a kid!

    My dad bought my brother and I an intellivision around 1982 and I never questioned why no-one else I ever met had one. All I know is that I played games like AD&D, Burgertime, Utopia and Demon Attack over and over and over. AD&D might not look all that impressive these days, but my love of RPGs (yeah, I know it's not really an RPG) in some ways goes back to this game.

    What's this....lowest rated game ever....oh.... ahem....AD&D you say...no, I've never heard of it. Carry on!

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    1. Ha Trickster, we had an Intellivision in the same time period and played the same games to death. My mother was the reigning BurgerTime champ; she figured out patterns for every level and could get through all 9 levels 2+ times. Played many max rounds/max time Utopia games. Also played the heck out of this AD&D game. Used to scare me to death when the dragon roars and charges at you.

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    2. Lowest-rated as an RPG, keep in mind. If I was an action game addict, I might like it better (though I doubt it).

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  10. The Castle of the Winds dungeons look very similar to these. Man, I really need to play that game again. I can't wait till we get to that game, it's very enjoyable.

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    1. One of the few CRPGs that I've beaten. I got my butt kicked by it as a kid, but after playing some nethack in high school I found it on the old demo CD again, and dominated the shareware version, and then found it was now free online and won the whole thing.

      You are right, the layout is similar. So few games realize things don't have to be all 90 degree angles.

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  11. I grew up with an Intellivision, and this game used to fascinate me. The focus on sound was incredibly interesting, even if the actual gameplay wasn't so great. Treasure of Tarmin is a much more in-depth game, but also incredibly difficult (or at least it felt that way at the time.) If you happen to go on an Intellivision kick for any reason, I'd recommend Night Stalker ;)

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  12. Shooting arrows into corridors based on feedback from your character's senses, huh? Sounds to me like Hunt the Wumpus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_the_wumpus) could have been an inspiration.

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  13. Wow, I wasn't sure you were going to cover console games at all, much less one of the ones on my list! Let's see what I can contribute off the top of my head:

    - Spiders did indeed eat your arrows.

    - Bats were distractions; they couldn't hurt you, but their flapping did drown out the sounds of other monsters.

    - I think the only difference between difficulty levels is the number of arrows you get when you pick up a quiver and the speed of the monsters.

    - If you're using Nostalgia, it has the ability to display scans of the controller overlays. This will be almost required for more complicated games. I can help with that.

    - On the actual Intellivision, I accidentally discovered that you can move your party on the map to the far upper-left corner. If you press two keypad keys, you could warp to a random spot on the board. I don't know if this works on an emulator.

    - My take on the Intellivision controllers is that they resemble telephone handsets and thus accessible to someone new to video games. The controller did indeed suck and many a blister was developed on my thumb. The side buttons were nearly impossible to press. The saving grace of the Intellivision II is that the controller was removable, so you could buy a third party controller. None of those were much better.

    - Treasure of Tarmin is more of a traditional first person RPG. You have equipment, hit points, magic, etc. If you don't beat it, you can continue to descend down to level 255 before you end up on floor 1 again. It took me a few hours to find that out.

    - Tower of Doom is kind of between the two. From what I recall, the combat is action-based, but your character does have stats and equipment. It was one of the last Intellivision games released and represents the pinnacle of the system's abilities.

    Glad to see you gave it a shot and a fair review. It doesn't hold up well at all, but I sure enjoyed it as a kid. I suffer no delusions of grandeur, but I think you'll find a surprisingly sophisticated product in Treasure of Tarmin.

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    1. Thanks for your contributions, Cush.

      Don't ask me why, but I fired it up again and verified that your upper-left-hand-corner teleport trick does indeed work in the emulator version. Also, playing on the ACTUAL Level 1 is a breeze.

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    2. Must be a pretty good emulator to emulate all the quirks in the INTV ROM. And yeah, the game was pretty easy on easy. Makes sense I suppose. Oh well, I used to have a blast as a kid, but it is a pretty simplistic game and doesn't hold up well these days.

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    3. It would have been better for Pong or Akraknoid then a NES though, since it has an actual paddlewheel instead of a d-pad.

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    4. There is an arcade wheel controller (the Vaus) for the NES, specifically built for the Arkanoid NES port. Apparently the controller also works with Chase HQ, but that only got a Famicom release.

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    5. Sure, but that wasn't by Nintendo. There were lots of weird 3rd party addons.

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  14. Another "rpg" for the 2600 was Crypts of Chaos. It has hit points, 2 weapons, 8 or so critters and very rudimentary 3D dungeon exploration. Not a very good game but it may predate Dragonstomper (which was much better and a true RPG)

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    1. Interesting. I haven't found any other site that lists it as an RPG, but if it is, as you say, it may predate DragonStomper. If I can get a 2600 emulator working, I may check it out.

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    2. For what it's worth, I don't consider it an RPG. It's more of a... survival dungeon crawler. You get a set amount of weapon power, there aren't any character levels, and no combat stats. The goal is to survive as long as you can and rack up points. I didn't get into the game too far, and couldn't find any of the stairs down described in the manual, so maybe there's something more.

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    3. It'd be nice if you played Crypts of Chaos, Chet, because it was programmed by a good friend of mine that I know through tabletop D&D, Warhammer, and other games. I could easily get him to come on and comment about it after you put up a post, too.

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    4. No promises, but I"ll keep it in mind.

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  15. Regarding controllers, I think the first breakthrough was by Nintendo.

    They were being credited with making the classic Left/D-Pad+Right/Buttons configuration controllers that all modern console controllers still employ today.

    There's a nifty website chronicling the history of controllers if any of you are interested. http://www.videogameconsolelibrary.com/art-controller.htm#page=mid

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    1. Breakthroughs are relative.

      You see, technology (incl. game tech), like biology is evolving. There are designs that aren't successful (like the Intellivision controller disc) and get lost and there are designs that are successful for a period of time and then, sometime, get replaced by something that works better. "Works better" means "sells better" with consumer electronics.

      Back in the eighties the Atari joystick was *the* standard. From the VCS right to the Amiga many platforms supported (or needed) one. It was incredibly simple & cheap to make with not even "real" switches inside but small metallic pad covered by transparent plastic film. They died way quicker than high quality switches which of course opened the door for many competitors.
      You could say, that the Atari joystick was a breakthrough at the time.

      The design of the NES controller was better - they used a rubber mat with integrated contacts instead of a plastic film but this also wasn't an expensive design: They got rid of the stick and let the user press the buttons directly! Those clever Japanese designers!
      This design proved successful despite (or perhaps because of?) its limitations and then everybody stol^d^d^d "adopted" it - including Sony for the first Playstation.

      The Nintendo introduced the analog stick to the console world with the N64 controller! Or so the magazines and websited of today claim constantly.
      Well, that's not entirely true as back in the eighties there were already several cartridge-based consoles with analog-only joysticks, mostly with one or two fire buttons. The "Interton VC 4000", however, had an analog joystick with a keypad of 14 buttons - compare this to the first Playstation controller which had 14 buttons - but no analog controller.

      Sony then adopted the little joysticks (now called "thumbsticks") for the Playstation and called the pad the "Analog Controller".
      When Nintendo offered the RumblePak as an add-on to their N64 controller Sony replaced the Analog controller that had no "rumble motors" inside with one that included them.

      This blatant copy of tech was another breakthrough - as now pretty most controllers offer built in rumble tech.

      Who knows what comes next? Will we even use gamepads in the future?
      Nintendo tried to replace them years ago with the "Power Glove" and we know where that thing ended: In Youtube-videos...

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    3. There's these brainwave scanning shitty headgears on the market for people who are too lazy or couldn't move.

      Then there's the Omni and Occulus Rift for those who can't wait to move.

      Maybe they can combine all three and make a Jean Grey/Phoenix open-world game where you could burn things at a thought and fling trucks to demolish skyscrapers with a flick of the fingers as you run and fly around the landscape?

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    4. Also motion technology is something a lot of people are trying, with mixed success (So far Wii has had some good uses of it, Move seems dead and the Xbox creepy camera is only good for yelling Shouts at in Skyrim)

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  16. Great to see an Intellivision review! I personally love the game -- and not out of nostalgia: I was an Atari kid growing up, and never played AD&D:CM until 4-5 years ago. But I think it really needs to be played on a high difficulty level to shine. Then it becomes a hair-raising experience, since you never really have enough arrows to survive, and the monsters are insanely fast. Inevitably you have to make calculated gambles about when to fire into the next room, and risk losing one of your much-needed arrows. Sound is crucial since you can use it to triangulate, but then the bats become a real problem.

    At easier settings, especially the lowest difficulty level (IIRC there are four levels of difficulty), it's much more mechanical. It's the kind of game that really needs that edge of desperation.

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    1. I just noticed that the cloudy mountain is red in his screen shots. That implies that he's playing on the 2nd hardest difficulty. From the manual:

      The COLOR of Cloudy Mountain reflects the skill level of the game:
      GRAY - Easy
      BLUE - Medium
      RED - Medium Hard
      PURPLE - Hard

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    2. Hey, good catch! His text says he beat it on the easiest level, but it looks like he must've pressed keypad button #1, logically assuming that'd be difficulty level 1 or Easy. But button #1 is actually mapped to Medium Hard, and is numbered "3" on the overlay. Button #2 is Medium and also gets a "2" on the overlay, but #3 is Easy and gets a "1". (Pressing anything else defaults to Hard, IIRC.)

      Obviously that's totally counterintuitive; why they chose to map them in reverse order is a mystery to me. But hey, CRPG Addict, you actually beat the game on the second-highest difficulty level!

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    3. Yep, that's exactly what I did. I forgot the keypad was reversed and kept hitting "1" when the game loaded. Hah.

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  17. I just found this... it's the single person version of Neverwinter Nights. Apparently you can't save your game, which I find odd... although I know it was an online game at the time of it's release. It still might hold some interest for Gold Box fans:

    www.myabandonware.com/game/neverwinter-nights-183

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    1. I was planning to mess with it when I came to the appropriate year. The idea of an MMORPG using the Gold Box engine is very interesting; I'll be interested in hearing if anyone played it when it was live.

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    2. I played The Shadow of Yserbius on the Sierra Online Imagination Network way back in the day. I imagine the experience is somewhat similar (and therefore awesome)

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  18. The only thing I had for entertainment back then was a pitcher of salt... and some garden snails.

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  19. TSR itself published at least a video game (officially based on their products of course), possibly earlier than that (around 1980): Dungeon!, for the Apple II.
    I probably still have it somewhere, in case asimov.net doesn't (which would be surprising).

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    1. Yeah, I don't know about this one. It's from 1982. I looked it up on Virtual Apple, started playing it, and won it in about 10 minutes. This is because it's a computer version of a board game, meant to be played by multiple people competitively.

      There's no character development. Combat IS based on probabilities, but only the most basic sort. There's a kind-of inventory in that you can find four unique treasures that make life easier. You can't die in the game, only get defeated and return to the beginning.

      It's hard to call this an RPG, but in any event it's not a D&D game. TSR may have published it, but it was based on a board game released in 1975 and developed concurrently with D&D. D&D isn't mentioned anywhere in the manual, and it's hard to detect any D&D influence on the game except its vaguely medieval theme and the choice of classes (though even one of these, "superhero," is foreign to D&D). I think we still have to give Cloudy Mountain the credit as first licensed D&D game.

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    2. Superhero did exist in the original version of D&D, actually, I believe it was level 8?
      *Ahem* The more you know!

      -BelatedGamer

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    3. To clarify: In old versions of D&D each level had its own title (Like Nethack, at least version 3.4.3). Hero and Superhero were two of the level titles of the fighter class.

      Delete
    4. Very early D&D did not have classes as such, today we would say "you can only be a fighter" (but of course we didn't say that, back then). Only later were magic-users introduced.
      Characters did have titles however, based on their level, and both "hero" and "superhero" were among those.
      This was retained in D&D for a long time, and was still even in AD&D first edition (a hero was a 4th level fighter, a superhero an 8th level one).

      As for Dungeon! being a RPG or not, I'd say it was about as much as contemporary D&D. It depends on one's definition really, and anyway most RPG folks claimed from the start that you couldn't have a RPG on a computer. They insist that it should be called "adventure game borrowing RPG mechanics" or some such. Given that I never could see the point of pen-and-paper RPG myself, but on the other hand fell immediately in love with the computer thingy, they may have a point.

      Are you sure about 1982? I thought I had played it at an earlier date. But I could be wrong, it was so long ago.
      Releasing something like that in 1982 sounds silly, at that point TSR could have made a Wizardry clone with the actual AD&D license. But of course TSR wasn't above silly decisions.

      About this Dungeon! game, indeed it was only multiplayer, so it wasn't a matter of winning but of WHO would win. The characters were purposefully unbalanced in terms of power (like I said, a hero was 4th level and a superhero 8th level, and I think there were even wizards? those were 11th level in D&D).
      But the more powerful your character, the more treasure you had to amass to win. So players who chose weaker ones could manage to win.
      In fact, people lucky enough to get the "first draft pick" didn't necessarily go with the strongest characters.

      Delete
    5. The copyright date on the manual says 1982, as does the opening screen. That's the best evidence I can supply.

      Delete
    6. I'm looking at the 1976 printing of Men and Magic right now, which I'm told is very similar to the 1974 edition, except for saving throws. It lists 3 classes on page 7: Fighting-men, Magic-users and clerics.

      Hero was 4th level Fighting-Man, Superhero was 8th level.

      Delete
    7. One of the things I love about this blog is when I say something minor that isn't technically true and 75 people correct me.

      Delete
    8. I hate doing this, but

      :-)

      because otherwise people will misread that.

      Delete
    9. Technically that should be ;-) not :-)
      Also, people still use the -? Huh.

      Actually I was trying to correct Anonymous not you: Superhero is a level title not a class, so you are in fact technically correct.

      Delete
    10. I'm old. When I was a kid, our emoticons had noses.

      Delete
    11. Correcting me about what, Canageek? can't see a difference between my
      "a hero was a 4th level fighter, a superhero an 8th level one"

      and your
      "Hero was 4th level Fighting-Man, Superhero was 8th level".

      Those were both level titles AND an indication of the class. An 8th level, say, magic-user, would not have been a "superhero", but a "warlock".

      So, in the context of Dungeon!:
      "Hero" meant "4th level fighter"
      "Superhero" meant "8th level figther"
      and "Wizard" meant "11th level magic-user".

      Delete
    12. About the date: the disk image on

      ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/adventure/dungeon.nib.gz
      Says 1980 in the opening screen. It also says 1982 in a further screen, but it could be a later version.

      http://www.emuparadise.me and several other rom sites that have the game all list it as 1980, but this kind of site is hardly a reliable source. And they may very well copy info from one another, so all of them agreeing means little.

      The topic about that game on hackzapple says "Dungeon (TSR, 1980-1982), Another D&D game from TSR HOBBIES".
      http://www.hackzapple.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=294

      But since this site only deals in copy protection, there are no details about the game or its history. So perhaps the topic creator found himself in our situation and decided to list both dates.

      I've found this about the TSR boardgame it's based on:
      "there were 4 versions of Dungeon released [...] the original 1975 version, then the 1979 or maybe 1980 release called simply Dungeon. then [...] "The New Dungeon" and finally "The Classic Dungeon" as I believe it was called. Those were all the same game with some modifications or additions through the years".

      So possibly, TSR updated the video game to follow the original game.
      Unfortunately, the Apple II did not have date-stamping for files until ProDOS (ie 1983), so even if I fetch my disk from back then, it won't help.
      Perhaps there will be some other clue though (like the diskette brand or something), so I'll try to unearth it.

      Had I suspected this would still interest me (and other people) after more than 30 years, I would have kept a diary of these gaming days...

      Delete
    13. Okay, so perhaps the versions I found at Virtual Apple and the Museum of Computer Adventure Gaming History were re-releases. It doesn't change the fact that it's not a D&D product, so it doesn't take the "first!" prize away from the Intellivision game.

      Delete
    14. Anonymous: D&D had classes right from the start, except possibly if you were playing proto-D&D with Dave Arneson before he started using Gary's rules.

      Delete
    15. Canageek : Yes, that's the period I was refering to - before magic-users were introduced and all characters were de facto fighters (and hence the concept of 'class' had no meaning yet. Much like everyone was human, at first, and so there were no 'races' yet.)
      That's why I used the words "very early D&D" - I did mean "very".

      CRPG addict: I know TSR released other Apple II games in the early 80s, so if you're interested in "first D&D videogame" you should look those up, because what you're looking for might be there.
      Unfortunately I can't provide reliable info because unlike Dungeon!, I never had those myself, but I do remember one had "minotaur" in the title.

      Delete
    16. I'm not looking for the first D&D video game. I'm completely satisfied that this game is, in fact, it.

      Delete
    17. That Intellivision game, you mean? but it's not even D&D, it's AD&D.
      There have been video games under "proper" D&D license (ie not Advanced), like Stronghold (though Stronghold is unlikely to be the first one, because it came out so late).

      Delete
    18. The Intellivision game turns out to be the first licensed computer game of any D&D edition.

      Jesus, this thread. Let's recap:

      1. I repeat the conventional wisdom that this Intellivision game is the first officially-licensed D&D game for computer or console.

      2. The fist anonymous challenges this with a non-D&D game published by TSR.

      3. Everyone jumps on my response which still doesn't change the fact that Dungeon! doesn't have the D&D label.

      4. Another anonymous suggests that I check out "other TSR games" released in the early 1980s but offers no titles. I Google around and find only one, Theseus and the Minotaur, which is also not a D&D game.

      5. You come in with a pedantic distinction between D&D and AD&D but the only evidence you can offer for a D&D licensed game is from 1993, 11 years after the game we're talking about here.

      Unless someone can offer specific evidence of a licensed D&D OR AD&D licensed game that pre-dates this Intellivision cartridge, there's really no point in continuing the discussion.

      Delete
    19. D&D and AD&D are two different games, which co-existed for a long time in TSR's lineup.
      They're so different as to be mutually incompatible. For instance, D&D treats races as character classes (ie you can be an elf OR a thief, but not an elven thief), D&D clerics don't learn spells until they're second level (and don't get bonus spells from wisdom, so first level AD&D clerics have more spells than their 3rd level cousins), most characters have fewer hit points per level, and so on.
      And more generally, AD&D has a lot more content than plain D&D.

      So, there is a distinction - I ran a wargaming club in the 70s and 80s and had to include in the guidelines "players setting up D&D games should make sure whether they'll use Advanced rules or not, to avoid disappointment" after players complained they had started games but found they could not play together due to this.

      As for it being "pedantic", I would call it common knowledge, myself. I never even played pen-and-paper D&D or AD&D, yet am fully aware about this (due to the experiences related above, and playing CRPG based on both games). And I've heard pundits use the term "OD&D" for plain D&D to avoid ambiguities.

      That's why I didn't "offer evidence" of the two games being different, because it didn't even occur to me that any was needed. As for Stronghold being a 1993 game, why this only would reinforce my point: as late as 1993, TSR (and SSI the publisher) still made a distinction between D&D and AD&D (SSI also released AD&D-based games at the time).
      And you can't blame me for going with THEIR way rather than yours... they're the ones who made the stuff, after all.

      If you choose to treat D&D and AD&D as the same, (which is weird because apparently, what's written on the box is what matters for you - I mean the Intellivision game could have had either license, or anything really), maybe you should call them (A)D&D or D&D/AD&D or something. Or put a disclaimer stating than on your blog, they're assumed to be the same thing.
      Or else, I'm afraid you're bound to have other people who come to your blog for the first time point out they're different games.

      About "no point in continuing the discussion", I agree and will now stop bothering you, and take my leave (so don't invest anymore time and patience into answering this).
      Sorry for any inconvenience, I was only trying to help...

      Delete
    20. I'll answer it for other people who choose read this thread. Since you know so much about D&D, you know that "Dungeons & Dragons," while in some uses describes the specific basic set rules, is also an umbrella term used to describe all rule editions. It isn't necessary to put "Advanced" in front of the term when describing a game that uses that specific rule set unless you're specifically trying to make a distinction between rule sets. Hence, this cartridge is both the first licensed ADVANCED D&D game (specifically) and the first licensed D&D game (generically).

      This whole thread is about people trying to poke at the statement--well-researched and repeated everywhere--that the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge is the first D&D-licensed game. It's like I made some innocuous statement like "Rome is the capital of Italy" and I got a dozen comments saying things like:

      -CRPG Addict, you must not be much of a history buff! Salerno is the capital of Italy if "is" is in 1944!

      -Are we talking about the REPUBLIC of Italy or the KINGDOM of Italy? Because if we're talking about the latter, it's definitely not Rome; it's Milan.

      -Technically, it's "Roma" and "Italia"

      -CRPG Addict, are you still trying to figure out the capital of Italy? I heard some where that it's Paris. Why not just check Wikipedia?

      If you were really "only trying to help," I apologize if I was rude, but it annoys me when my blog comments descend into this nitpicking.

      Delete
    21. AD&D and D&D are only midely incompatible: My Dad, and a lot of other people, played hybrids of the two, as they couldn't get all the books for one system.

      Chet is also right that D&D is normally used as a umbrella term for both of them. AD&D only ever existed to screw Dave Arneson out of royalties.
      AD&D and D&D have also since merged back into one line, with D&D 3rd edition using the AD&D version numbering.

      -----

      Anonymous: That is pre-D&D. That was Braunstein, using the chainmail rules for combat, and the D&D name hadn't even been invented yet. Level titles also didn't exist yet, so there was no point at which Superhero was in the game that classes weren't.

      Delete
    22. Oh wow, Dungeon was one of my favorite board games as a teen/tween. Wasn't as good as Talisman though, that game was amazing.

      Delete
    23. I first played Dungeon when I was 6, and misnamed it Dungeons and Dragons, and didn't really understand the red box when I ended up getting it for Christmas. Dungeon is a weird game. I think, played competitively, it is over very quickly, and it is very random. Talisman has a bit more going on, but is also super imbalanced (not that that stopped me loving it as a kid).

      Delete
    24. My favorite memory of Dungeon! was shouting in a chorus of "Purple Worm!Purple Worm!Purple Worm!" whenever someone is flipping an Encounter card.

      Delete
  20. "Like trying to watch Knight Rider or Three's Company today, it will spoil your memories."

    I have no defense for Knight Rider, but I've rewatched Three's Company recently (this year) and it's still a funny show. Maybe a little dated, but it had some great cast chemistry.

    It's a lot better than WAY too much of the drek that passes for TV sitcoms these days. Which is part of why I've almost completely given up TV for video games.

    (As always, thanks for playing these ancient games so that we can experience them vicariously.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. > It's a lot better than WAY too much of the drek that passes for TV sitcoms these days. Which is part of why I've almost completely given up TV for video games.

      If you use your TV only to watch sitcoms then you miss out on a lot of great stuff, IMHO.

      Delete
    2. Did you watch that one episode in which two of the characters were talking about something innocuous in another room, and a third character standing outside thought they were talking about sex?

      Delete
    3. I have to admit that made me laugh, out loud

      Delete
  21. Skimming these comments I have come to the conclusion that nobody on Earth actually owned an Intellivision. Everybody played on someone else's console, and these someone else's were clearly Changelings who were impersonating real people and sharing their magical game boxes with gullible humans, who would awaken from a trance to find that hours had passed while they played the game, enchanted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Enchanted" is the right word, I think.
      Back in the day absolutely *nobody* in my neighbourhood or at school had an Intellivision and, yes, it *was* available in Germany! ;)

      Of course we didn't have rich parents either so the only way to get the "Intellivision Experience" was to play at local department store. Yes, a *department store* as back then there were no big outlets for entertainment electronics like today (which are gone in a few years thanks to online stores...).

      The only electronics stores indeed sold electronics components like transistors, resistors and the occasional integrated circuits but it wasn't even the era of computer components. These came a few years later when PC compatibles took off.

      The other option would be a toy store but there was only one toy store large enough to offer live systems to play on and it was nearly always crowded with 5-year-olds. No decent 13-year-old would've went there... ;)

      So we went to the best department store of that time and the Intellivision stand practically always had either one of the sports games or Nightstalker on it.
      None of that fancy D&D stuff!

      My verdict?
      I liked the fluid movements of the player characters and the generally higher resolution of the graphics.
      The color palette was worse than on the Atari VCS but the general impression was that it felt more polished. Yes, even a 13-year-old could see that.
      However, the control disc was difficult to operate - because it needed *practice* which we couldn't really attain in the store.
      What it also lacked was an extensive game library - at least at the time (or in our country?) - so the system despite all of the marketing glitz like "The first 16-bit console!" - got a loser image.
      The available games and the controllers have always been the most important aspects of game consoles, not graphics resolution or available RAM (the Intellivision had more than three times the RAM of the Atari VCS - which meant that it still had a horribly low amount...).
      Also: The next console that was available was the ColecoVision - and that one blew it out of the water.

      But back then my friends and I discovered the wonderful world of home computers and got ourselves all kind of (incompatible) systems like Atari 400, VC20 and later the C64, the TI 99/4A and the tiny Sinclair Spectrum. These were paid by our parents of course and were easier to get (the "educational aspect", of course...).
      I never got a console at the time and it took 16 years (early 1998) to buy my first console, the original Playstation - because there was a shortage of really well done 3D games on the PC at the time.

      And then, around 2005, I got bitten by the retro bug and got myself several of the classic games consoles from ebay, like a VCS, a NES - and of course an Intellivision, complete with a few games! Yes, I do indeed own one and it still works after all those years, even though the discs feel a bit used.
      They are still hard to use, though, and I have yet to spend enough time to truly master them but when I do, the "enchanted" cloudy mountains await me...
      ;)

      Delete
    2. The idea of kids going to the department store, excitedly playing on the demo Intellivisions, is almost too heartbreaking to contemplate.

      Delete
    3. I don't remember the demo Intellivisions, but Sears always had games for Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, etc. My friend next door had an Intellivision, while I had the Atari, and I can only remember playing a handfull of games. Most of the time, it seemed like the games got boring quickly and we would find ourselves at my house playing the Atari.

      Delete
    4. I had a couple friends who had Intellivisions, though I think I only played it with them once each, and (strangely enough) not until long after the crash, ca. 1988-1989. One lived down the road and had mostly early first-party titles; I only remember playing Boxing with him, and I thought it was pretty mediocre (which it is).

      The other one, though, had some of the late INTV releases including Tower of Doom, and I was quite impressed and intrigued. I think I even had the NES at that point, and hadn't seen anything on the NES that had the same "Oh, this is like those computer RPGs I could only read about!" quality. (When it came to "proper" computers we only had a Tandy CoCo when I was a kid, so it was Daggorath or nothing.)

      So by preferring an older system -- or at least putting it on an equal footing with the current gen -- I guess that's when I became a retrogamer. Of course the Intellivision was still commercially available then, but...

      Delete
    5. Having had an Intellivision and most of the games, growing up, I can say that seeing those INTV games later on (when I was gaming on the Atari 8-bit and "too old" for console gaming) was mind-blowing. They drive home how the Intellivision was a next-gen console in its own generation. I picked up a bunch of them (including Tower of Doom) when they went on sale.

      Tower of Doom is basically a Rogue-like with super graphics on a console. The basketball game had player stats and a primitive draft mechanic. Then there was Thunder Castle, a maze game with great music, and the trippy Hover Force...

      Delete
  22. Regarding use of sound in an 80s rpg, Tunnels of Doom (1982, TI-99/4A) had a neat feature that allowed you to Listen at doors before entering a room. The game would emit the sound that the monsters inside (if an) would normally play when you were in combat with them. I hope you get to try this game as it is one of my childhood favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  23. No, this isn't an RPG, but I'm okay with that. This game was pretty mindblowing for 1982, and looking back it comes off as a sort of "proto-Zelda". I can't say if Miyamoto ever played this, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had.

    Anyway, this was pretty much my favorite Intellivision game, though I never played the other D&D and most of the games we had were ...ugh... sports games that my dad bought. This game certainly had the most depth of any of the other few games that I got to pick (mostly space themed shooting games, oh and Donkey Kong).

    ReplyDelete
  24. It's not really fair to compare this game to Wizardry. It's an action adventure game, back in the days before games like Arena and Diablo formed hybrids of CRPG's and action adventure.

    IMO it's a descendent of Adventure, and an ancestor of Gateway to Apshai. Maybe a great, great, great grandfather to something like Diablo.

    If you didn't have the ability to get the axe, the boat, and the key, this game would more in common with Pitfall than with any of the early CRPG's. It was a fine early 80's console game, but it's being rated out of its element here.

    BTW, most Intellivision games didn't use the directional button and the calcuator buttons at the same time. They liked to use those little buttons on the side as fire buttons. Not that I liked the side buttons, either... it wasn't a very good controller for the kinds of games they were releasing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My comparison to Wizardry was meant to illustrate the absurdity of a game with an official "D&D" label so laughably underperforming other games in D&D-style mechanics. That the developers of this game set out to create an action/adventure is fine, but it was asinine to slap it with the D&D name.

      Delete
  25. I love this game. It holds up well today and is still remarkably fun. It was a solid game and well known because of the AD&D license. The game was shamelessly copied and expanded upon in the Japan only NES game, Dragon Buster II. I know it doesn't fit your criteria, but am.still sad it got such a low score when it was a fun, innovative game (creative sound design, randomly generated dungeons).

    ReplyDelete
  26. Late to the party. But here goes:

    Advanced Dungeons & Dragons on the Mattel Aquarius Home Computer System.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvmkpx9is1A

    It's a completely different game. More your traditional dungeon crawl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh... that's 1982 according to the title screen. I remember playing this for a bit is some department store.

      Delete
    2. That's the "Treasure of Tarmin" cartridge. I reviewed it here:

      http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2014/12/game-170-advanced-dungeons-dragons.html

      Delete
    3. It's confusing because the subtitles of the games don't appear anywhere on the title screens.

      Delete
  27. I figured I'd pipe in just to mention that the bones you couldn't sort out the purpose of, I think, are one of the clues to particular types of monsters lurking nearby. That, tracks are like the sounds and such, helpful for gleaning what kinds of beasty are about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that makes sense. Thanks for chiming in.

      Delete
    2. Ah, I should have caught that. Yes, on higher levels it's extremely useful to use bones, footprints, and droppings to triangulate where enemies are, since each color of cave will spawn the same set of three stronger foes: gray caves have two rats and a snake, red ones have two snakes and a demon, etc.

      Between the game's use of sound and scatology (in the literal sense), it ends up being a bit like Hunt the Wumpus -- especially since on the highest level, dragons move very fast and it's often necessary to shoot them "blind" at least once, since you don't have enough time to get multiple shots off once they see you.

      BTW very glad to be reminded that Tower of Doom is indeed on the list. I've put loads and loads of time into that cryptic roguelike over the last couple years, and figured out a great deal about it. It's 100% an AD&D game, with monsters that can only come from that universe. I think your colorblindness (assuming you do play Tower of Doom, that is; I realize with console games it's strictly at your discretion and/or whim) will have a significant but not game-breaking impact.

      Delete
  28. Finally got a copy of this for my Intellivision, and will be able to give it a go. :D

    Not hoping for much, of course, given the age and limitations of the system, but it's nice to have this little bit of history.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hello, all! I really enjoy reading the reviews and discussions on this blog. Thank you to CRPG Addict and the cast of regulars who contribute.

    I just had a technical question, as this is the only place that seems to have ever talked about this game. I've been trying to use the Nostalgia emulator to run AD&D, but the game only flashes up for an instant before closing again. Did anyone else have this problem? I know CRPG Addict used Nostalgia for his review, and since it's been agreed that no one has ever actually owned an Intellivision, I thought perhaps one or two others might experience with it.

    Anyway, thanks for any help! Sorry again for adding nothing to the discourse. It's just my dream to play through every D&D game.

    ReplyDelete

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