Saturday, June 15, 2019

Game 332: Telnyr II: The Golden Chalice (1992?)

The title screen dives right into the backstory.
          
Telnyr II: The Golden Chalice
Australia
Independently developed and released as freeware; republished in Loadstar 192 in 2000
Released between 1990 and 1995 for Commodore 64
Date Started: 10 June 2019
Date Finished: 11 June 2019
Total Hours: 3
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 17
Ranking at time of posting: 61/332 (18%)
          
The Golden Chalice is the second Telnyr title written by Peter R. Boothman (1943-2012), an Australian jazz guitarist. He was in his late 40s when he wrote the Telnyr trilogy for an already-obsolete platform.
            
I covered the first game in 2014 and found it a passable Ultima clone but with an extremely short, limited gameplay. But the documentation indicated that The Stone of Telnyr was meant more as a demonstration project, and that Telnyr II would be the real deal, so I've been looking forward to playing it for a while. I'm guessing on the release date; none of the game files have a copyright date, and no web site seems sure of the real date. All we know is that it must post-date The Stone of Telnyr (1990) and that it must have come out before 1995, because the "crack" screen for my copy of The Stone of Telnyr mentions all three games and has a copyright date of 1995. I figure Telnyr II in 1992 and Telnyr III in 1994 must be close.
          
Starting Telnyr II on the main island. A dungeon entrance is to my north. A random item is to my left.
         
In The Stone of Telnyr, we learned that the isle of Telnyr is actually in the real world, somewhere in the southwest Pacific Ocean, isolated by a magical barrier. The inhabitants have the ability to call forth people from the rest of the world to help them solve problems, as they did in the first game, where my recovery of the Stone of Telnyr improved the kingdom's ability to teleport and trade with its neighbors.
             
Telnyr II begins with the dire news that Telnyr "has been overcome by monsters, footpads, and restless spirits" and that "demons have stolen the Golden Chalice and hidden it in the darkest dungeon." Enter the hero, called "Nova" by the locals (a name that the player is unable to change). He starts on the island with 250 hit points, 100 gold, 40 food, a "crummy bow," and no other items. Movement is with the joystick. The button is used to pick up items and enter buildings. Other commands use the keyboard and are listed when you hit the SPACE bar.

Alas, despite the developer's promises, there isn't much more to Telnyr II than the first one. The game consists of three small islands, all of them too small to get lost. The first island has two dungeons, one of which requires a bronze key and one of which requires a gold key. You find the bronze key in a shop on the eastern island and the gold key in a dungeon on the southern island. Once you return to the main island and use the gold key to enter the first dungeon, you find the chalice and the game is over. It took me less than two hours, making it about half as long as its predecessor.
         
The final dungeon in the game just requires you to climb up the ladders to the chalice in the upper-right corner.
        
The difficulty is staying alive through this process. You get attacked regularly by the game's seven enemy types: orcs, rogues, thieves, spiders, bats, ghosts, and demons (that's the rough order of difficulty; the menagerie is mostly the same as the first game). They attack in groups of one to four, and the combats randomly come upon you roughly every five seconds of movement. (Combat just pops up; you don't see them in the environment.) When combat begins, you have options to attack, cast a spell, take a potion, or run away. Whatever you choose executes, and if any enemies are still alive afterwards, the game fights the rest of the combat for you as if you'd chosen "attack." At that point, you have to hope that your hit points hold out against the enemies'.
             
Combat options against a couple of spiders.
          
To improve the odds, the game offers a number of spells: "Heal," "Confuse," "Teleport," "Strength," "Revive," "Kill," and "Banish." (Most of this list was also in the first game.) These are treated like inventory items and must be purchased or found individually. "Heal" and "Revive" both increase hit points and can be used out of combat, and I don't see any reason not to just cast them as soon as you find them, since there's no hit point maximum. "Confuse" weakens the enemy; "Strength" improves your attacks; "Kill" kills the first enemy automatically; "Banish" kills all the enemies; and "Teleport" removes you from combat entirely.
            
The shop on the main island sells the weaker spells; one on the southern islands sells the more powerful ones.
        
You also have the option to take a potion at the beginning of combat. Potions can have multiple effects, all positive, but you don't know the effect until after you take it. Effects include increasing hit points by 80, turning you into a giant, improving your dexterity to the point that enemies never hit you, and making you invisible (with the same result). Any of these effects greatly improves the odds in combat.
         
A potion has made me a giant for this combat.
       
As you wander the islands, little question marks randomly appear on the ground and offer random spells, potions, gold, and food. You also get these items as combat rewards. The trick is to make sure your hit points and stock of potions and spells stays ahead of the enemy difficulty. I found that the eastern island was a good place to grind, as treasures seem to pop up on the ground more frequently there and the enemies seem to be easier.
          
My growing inventory about one-third of the way through the game.
         
You start on the main island, where all you can do is fight and improve your inventory, first by purchasing a short bow, then a long bow, from the general store, and also by purchasing spells at the nearby magic shop. When you're strong enough and have enough money, you can go to the general store and pay for passage to the eastern islands. There, you wander through a few screens to a potion shop, where you can buy random potions, and the proprietor gives you a quest to find some nightshade. As you leave the potion shop, someone slips a bronze key into your pocket.
            
Arriving on the eastern islands.
           
The bronze key opens one of the dungeons back on the mainland, and I guess it's optional since all you find is an improved weapon--a crossbow--at the bottom. The dungeons in the game are odd: the side view and ladders make them look like Donkey Kong-style platformers, but the gameplay is the same as if they were top-down: move, get attacked regular intervals, find random items. The first two dungeons are three screens each, but the final dungeon is only one screen.
       
Entering the bronze dungeon. Notice the random item generated in my path.
      
When you've developed a little more, you purchase passage to the southern islands, where a series of passes and bridges brings you to a screen with a more advanced magic shop and a dungeon. That dungeon has the gold key at the bottom.
             
The southern island with its shop (right) and dungeon (left).
The bottom screen of the southern island's dungeon.
        
You can also go to the southern tip of the islands, find the nightshade, and take it back to the potion-seller on the eastern islands for five potions and a magic bow.
          
Solving the game's one side quest.
        
Back on the main island, the gold key gets you into the last dungeon. It's a single screen of up and down ladders, and you get attacked by demons regularly as you approach the chalice. By this time, I had plenty of potions and spells to help out. If I got attacked by one demon, I used "Kill"; more, I used "Banish."
           
Banishing a couple of demons.
            
Once you pick up the chalice, the screen fills with chalices and then you get the endgame text in which Telnyr's mage congratulates you. After you acknowledge this screen, you find yourself back in the dungeon and can keep running around the islands, but no enemies attack.
           
I'm glad the game didn't make me pick out which of these was the "golden" one.
The final text.
           
Telnyr II is slightly bigger than its predecessor and slightly more complex in its mechanics, but it lacks the libraries and buried treasures of the first game, and the overall progression of the game is faster and easier. In a GIMLET, it earns:
         
  • 1 point for the game world and its bare-bones story.
  • 0 points for character creation and development. There is no creation, and development is all inventory-based.
  • 0 points for no NPC interaction.
  • 1 point for its foes, which are distinguished only by strength and hit points. They have no special attacks and defenses. There are no other puzzles in the game.
  • 2 points for magic and combat. The combination of available spells creates a few tactical considerations, but otherwise it's pretty basic.
               
Fighting a couple of orcs.

           
  • 2 points for equipment, mostly the selfsame spells and potions.
  • 3 points for the economy. There's no complexity, but it remains relevant throughout the game.
            
Potions never stop being valuable.
           
  • 3 points for the main quest, one side area, and one side quest.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are fine if uninspired, there are some fun spell-based sound effects, and there are no issues with the controls. 
  • 2 points for gameplay. I can't complain about its length, but overall it's too linear, too easy, and not replayable.
           
That gives us a final score of 17, just slightly better than the 15 I gave to The Stone of Telnyr, but still quite low. I feel more positively about the game than the score indicates, but I think that's just because I was able to deal with it in a single entry.

Thus, the "huge playing area" promised in Stone of Telnyr did not come to pass, but perhaps it will in Telnyr III: The Four Runes, which I've slated for 1994.
           
As I mentioned at the top of the entry, Peter Boothman is an interesting character who seems best known as a jazz guitarist who worked the clubs and concert halls of Sydney starting in the late 1960s. He also taught at the Sydney Conservatory of Music in the 1970s. He issued two albums--For the Record (1975) and Nightshade (1990), neither of which I've been able to get a copy of.
             
Peter Boothman on his 1975 album.
           
It's anyone's guess when he picked up programming. For some reason, starting in the late 1980s or early 1990s, he became involved with an Australian distributor of public domain software called Brunswick Publications, and he wrote at least half a dozen titles for the company, including the original Stone of Telnyr, a side-scrolling shooter called Galaxy v23, a space trading simulator called Galaxy Trader, and a program to help people choose lottery numbers. By the time he wrote The Golden Chalice, either Brunswick was out of business or Boothman had disassociated himself from the company; either way, the rest of his titles bear no publisher's name.
          
Why couldn't he have put a year on this screen?!
      
There's no evidence that he wrote any more software after the mid-1990s, although he did offer his earlier games to Loadstar magazine in 2000. He continued playing jazz for the rest of his life, and in his final years contributed to many Wikipedia articles on Australian jazz and its musicians. He died in 2012 at the age of 69. As he was a living fusion of the two major interests of my life, I'm truly sorry I never got to interview him.

13 comments:

  1. I hope you never run out of Ultima clones to review, this sub-sub-subgenre is fascinating to me even if the games themselves aren't. It's like a parallel universe to all the terrible Mario clones for PC that came out during the NES's life.

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    1. I might not even call Telnyr II an Ultima clone. It feels like there might be more of a console inspiration.

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    2. From the screenshots, this one looks less like an ultima clone and seems to have some console influences. The combat screen kind of reminds me of the original final fantasy and the dungeons with ladders resemble donkey Kong or some rooms in the Gameboy version of zelda.

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    3. The only thing that vaguely resembles a console game is the side view in battle. The battle mechanics, though odd, do not seem to take any inspiration, and side views such as the way dungeons are presented here are ancient - Donkey Kong was released in arcades in 1981, and isn't the first game (that would probably be the 1980 flop Space Panic) with that sort of view.

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  2. I see a magick shoppe... but can it really be an Ultima clone without a healthy portion of thees, thous, doths, and verilys?

    I agree with Alex above, these smaller almost unknown games are just fascinating to read about!

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  3. That looks like the Alternate Reality font. Was it a common font to C64 games? I don't remember it on any of the other games that I had back in the day...

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. That certainly helps with the rate of getting through 1992.

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  5. Both his records are for sale on Discogs.com. Here's the one you pictured.

    https://www.discogs.com/sell/release/2163437?ev=rb

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  6. Lovely piece, Chet, and a nice piece of gaming history. It's stuff like this that keeps a lot of us coming back, I think.

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  7. The snippets on the games' authors and how their career/life evolved after that is one of my favorite parts of the blog.

    There seem to be an amazing variety of life stories, from those who would become true giants in the industry but you would not normally associate with CRPGs (John Romero!) to those who simply scratched a teenage itch and then went for completely different paths...



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  8. Enjoy:
    http://bentenlaughing.blogspot.com/2010/01/interview-with-peter-boothman.html?m=1

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    1. And here is part 2 of this interview:
      http://bentenlaughing.blogspot.com/2010/08/part-two-interview-with-australian-jazz.html

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