Thursday, July 8, 2021

Game 419: Volcanic Dungeon (1982)

 
Ignoring the misspelling of "until" and assuming that "charmed" should be pronounced old-style, like "charm-ed," this is a decent example of a poem with no rhymes but relatively consistent meter ("bold sword arm" might give you some indigestion), which is better than the reverse.
      
Volcanic Dungeon
United Kingdom
Carnell Software (developer and publisher)
Released 1982 for ZX81; 1983 for Dragon 32/64 and ZX Spectrum
Date Started: 2 July 2021
Date Ended: 3 July 2021
Total Hours: 7
Difficulty: Hard (4.0/5) under intended rules; easy-moderate (2.5/5) with emulator save states
Final Rating: 17
Ranking at Time of Posting: 89/428 (21%)
      
Volcanic Dungeon is a fun little game with an interesting premise. I wouldn't call it an RPG--indeed, I started this entry as a BRIEF, rejecting it--but I enjoyed it enough to continue until the end. I've never played a game with quite the same set of mechanics.
        
It looks like Volcanic Dungeon was published in mid-1982. The manual announces a competition of sorts. There's a questionnaire at the end of the manual that players are meant to fill out and submit to Carnell Software in Surrey. The top 10 scorers were then selected to participate in a live-play session at the Earl's Court Computer Fair in June 1983. The winner of that session--the first to rescue the princess--was given a round-trip vacation for two to Florida. In case nobody turned in their forms and the contest is still open, I wanted to publicly offer my answers. 
       
Note that the box doesn't promise an RPG; it promises a "classic text style adventure." The game isn't really that, either.
      
1. Name the king of the dwarves.
  
Rindell. It's right there in the needlessly complicated backstory. I've seen Volcanic Dungeon described as a sequel to Carnell's Black Crystal (1982), an adventure game, but none of the proper names are the same and it doesn't feel like a sequel. The game is set in the Land of Lamhar, where the good forces led by the elf king, Fendhal, have just won a major victory over the evil forces led by Methzar, goddess of evil. King Rindell has been one of Fendhal's allies ever since Methzar drove him from his home under a mountain--the titular dungeon.
       
The game begins.
      
2. Name the Princess imprisoned in the Crystal Coffin.
   
This is also in the backstory. One of Methzar's allies was a witch named Magda. She kidnapped Fendhal's daughter, Edora, and imprisoned her in a crystal coffin in the volcanic dungeon. Clearing Magda and her forces from the dungeon and rescuing the princess is the last task remaining in the aftermath of the war. A hero emerges, unnamed, with 300 strength, a magic ring, and a sword. There's no character creation.
   
3. Name a Treasure/Weapon, not made of silver, that will destroy a werewolf.
       
The game takes place in a maze of over 300 rooms and corridors. A map comes with the manual and is a necessary companion to keep from getting lost or, worse, wandering into a fiery death (more on that in a minute). Somewhere in the dungeon, randomized for each new game, is the witch. In a separate room is the sleeping princess in an enchanted crystal coffin. As you explore, you not only fight monsters but find "treasures," some of which are weapons, some armor, and some special-purpose items. Each item has a unique letter: "S" for sword, "Z" for silver knife, "D" for magic sack, "G" for armor, and so on. These letters (and the four movement directions, NESW) are the only commands in the game.
   
The game map. Wandering into any of the "F" squares is instant death. You want to keep careful track of your position; the manual recommends tracing paper so you don't spoil the original.
    
The game's gimmick is that its monsters are only wounded or killed by certain weapons. Some are easy. Goblins will die from swords, clubs, silver staves, gorgon's heads, silver swords, silver knives, saintly staves, and hydras' teeth. The only weapons that won't work against them are spears, torches (alone), and stakes. Wraiths, on the other hand, will only die from saintly staves.
      
Entering a cavern. Lacking a saintly staff (U) for offense and a cross (N) for defense, I definitely do not want to fight the wraith.
    
The same is true of defense, although not to such a specific extent. Your defense items are crosses, armor, shields, and pentacle charms. Armor and shields (often in combination with weapons--see below) generally work against physical enemies, crosses against demons and vampires, and pentacle charms against magic-using enemies. 
  
Every combat round, you specify an item to use for attack and an item to use for defense. The game is brutal here. If you specify an item that you don't have for attack, you lose the round. If you specify a defense item that you don't have, you die. End of game.
   
There's also a decent chance that whatever you use will break and disappear from your inventory during a combat round. If you don't kill the enemy, and you don't have a secondary item that's also effective, you need to retreat. Fortunately, items are found liberally throughout the dungeon, and their positions are constantly changing (attributed to "spirits" in the manual), so you can march back and forth between a couple of empty rooms and eventually pick up what you need. Your inventory is constantly changing to represent each new acquisition.
 
At the beginning of the game, you don't know what items will be effective against what creatures. You have to take careful note of each attack and defense option and annotate which work and which don't against each of 20 monsters. Tradition partly guides you: vampires are predictably killed by anything silver, anything holy, and stakes. But some are weird. Spears only kill giant enemies, for instance--cyclopes, ogres, dragons, and giant dogs. Saintly staves work against most undead, but not zombies.
   
Anyway, werewolves die from anything silver or the saintly staff.
      
Proof.
     
4. Write down the names of the four treasures that can only be obtained by killing a monster.
   
There are four items that you won't find randomly strewn throughout the dungeon. You have to kill monsters to get them. Dragons drop dragons' tears (L), which are used as part of the sequence to free the princess. The gorgon's head (R) is a great weapon against living creatures, turning them to stone and ending combat instantly. Hydra's teeth (F) are magical items that summon warriors to kill any enemy, but can only be used once. Finally, the witch herself drops the star jewel (B), another item you need to rescue the princess.
     
Hell, yeah.
    
5. How would you defend yourself against a gorgon?
    
Here's an additional oddity of the game. Some items can be used in combination, as both attack and defense items. The four valid combinations are sword and shield (Y), sword and torch (O), silver sword and shield (Q), and silver sword and torch (K). Any of those combinations will hurt and defend against harpies, for instance, but none of them will work against harpies alone. So even though there are only 11 potential weapons, there are 15 potential attack options.
   
Gorgons only die from the sword and shield in combination. If you just use a sword to attack, you're out of luck, and if you just use a shield to defend, you die.
   
6. How would you kill the hydra?
   
This is another combo. Hydras die from either the sword and torch or the silver sword and torch. I'm sure the idea is that you're lopping off a head with the sword and searing it with the torch, before a new head can grow. I think hydras also die from the gorgon's head, but they don't leave their teeth if you use that.
  
7. How would you defend yourself against a cave full of snakes?
   
Some enemies--goblins, harpies, scorpions, snakes, tarantulas, trolls, wolves, and zombies--attack as big groups rather than single enemies. You have to go multiple rounds against them before you kill them all, and there's a really good chance that your weapon or armor will break before you get to the end of the battle. Most weapons kill snakes, but only the sword and shield or silver sword and shield defend against them repeatedly. There is a one-use item called a forceshield (E) that works against anything but disappears after one round. If I want to wipe out a bunch of snakes, I want to go into the battle with at least three swords (or silver swords) and at least two shields or one shield supplemented by a forceshield or two.
   
Fighting a group of goblins. My sword broke, but fortunately I have a backup.
    
8. Listed above are six Treasure/Weapons. Assuming you could use each treasure once, which of the above treasures would you use against the following monsters?
 
Torch - Scorpions
Saintly staff - demon
Stake - vampire (the stake is the most useless weapon in the game, killing only vampires)
Spear - dragon
Sword - skeleton
     
Since I haven't mentioned them yet, let me take this answer space to mention a few more things:
    
  • Killing monsters is the only way to replenish "strength," which is more like hit points than actual strength, since increases don't seem to affect your chances in combat. You lose strength with every movement.
  • You also have a "water" meter that depletes with every action. There are fixed watering holes (annotated on the map) at three locations in the dungeon. You need to keep careful track of where you are and retreat to those watering holes periodically.
  • If you wander outside the map--off the edges--you walk into rooms of fire and die. There are other rooms of fire annotated on the map. Again, you have to keep careful track of where you are.
  • Enemies respawn, but slowly. Rooms that you clear remain clear for a few dozen moves.
    
9. Write down in detail how you rescued the Princess from the Crystal Coffin.
    
First, I had to find and kill the witch. When you meet the witch, she summons enemy after enemy, which you have to fight individually. If you lack the weapons to defeat one, you have to leave, find them, and return. Supposedly, the color of the ring tells you when the witch is at her most and least powerful, but I couldn't tell the difference.
    
Meeting the witch. Fortunately, anything defends against a skeleton.
    
Eventually, the witch runs out of enemies and you can kill her. I honestly forget what I killed her with. Maybe the gorgon's head or hydra teeth. In any event, she drops the star jewel (B) when she dies.
       
Using the star jewel to free the princess.
     
Then I had to find the crystal coffin in a different room. Once there, I first had to quell the "eternal flames" around the coffin, which can only be done with a dragon's tear (L). Then I had to use the star jewel to open the coffin, which cost me 100 strength. The princess joined me, and we headed for the exit. Water depletes twice as fast with the princess in tow.
  
10. You move south into a cave with four exits: North, south, east, and west. The cave is filled with snakes. You have no treasures so you do not fight. In which directions could you move to leave the cavern?
   
If you don't have the weapon necessary to attack or defend against a monster, you can just leave the encounter. You have to be careful. If you enter a room from the north and you don't want to fight, you can retreat north or go east or west, but if you try to move south across the room, you die instantly.
    
If you really want to cross a room from north to south, it's easy. You just enter from the north, decline to fight the monster, and go east or west. Then you re-enter the room, decline to fight the monster again, and go south. In a successful game, you probably want to avoid most monsters this way rather than micromanage your inventory and deal with constantly-breaking weapons. You only need to fight a few monsters in the game to get the dragon's tear, learn which attacks and defenses work, and keep your strength up.
 
11. If your treasure list reads SHJBLV:

A. Which treasure could you use to destroy zombies? The torch (H).
 
B. Which treasure would defend you against zombies? I think this is a trick question. This inventory list represents, in order, sword, torch, pentacle charm, star jewel, dragon's tear, and spear. Of those, only the pentacle charm is a defensive item. I'm pretty sure I tried it against zombies, and it didn't work.
   
12. Why is it not possible for your treasure list to read ESHOUGIMB?

"O" is the code for "Sword and Torch." These are listed separately as S and H; the code never appears in your inventory.
   
13. Why is it not possible for your treasure list to read MFLWSFDJBGPHXZRC?

That's too many items. You're capped at 12.
  
14. If your treasure list reads THRFELADCH, which treasure could you not drop and why?

You could not drop the magic sack (D), because without it, the gorgon's head (R) would turn you to stone. Someone had recently watched Clash of the Titans (1981).
        
Trying to pick up the gorgon's head without a magic sack.
      
15. If your treasure list reads XGPHBCSJWZ, which treasure could you not drop and why?

You cannot drop the star jewel (B). As the game says, it's with you until death.
    
16. What's your fastest (average) time to complete the adventure?
   
Is that a trick? Do you want my fastest time or my average time? It took me 7 hours to explore the map, annotate everything, figure out the weapons and defense, and field a successful character. It took me 90 minutes with my final character.
  
I did abuse save states a bit. The ZX81 and Spectrum versions allow you to save the game to tape. The instructions, however, are arcane. There's no "save" command; instead, you have to wait until you can move, then do something involving connecting mic sockets. My favorite line is: "To load it again, use the usual procedure." Well, that's helpful. Since I never successfully save and reload from tape even when the instructions are clear, I didn't even try here.
   
17. Assuming the Princess had a sense of humor, what do you think she may say upon being awakened from her eternal sleep?
   
According to the contest instructions, the "wittiest" answer to this question would serve as a tie-breaker in the event of a tie during the live contest. I have a few ideas, but I figure we'll have a mini-contest here and see what my commenters come up with.
    
Whoops--lost track of where I was.
  
I rated the game "hard" under its intended rules because it's so easy to screw up and die. If you go the wrong way out of a room, you die (either from an enemy or because you accidentally wandered into a room of fire). If you specify the wrong defensive item, or a defensive item you don't own, you die. If you say "Yes" to the question of whether you want to fight a creature, then discover you don't have the right equipment, you die. You die a lot in the early game as you try to figure out what works and what doesn't. There are bridges that can collapse, requiring either a flying potion (A) or a magic carpet (X) to get over them; if you don't have them, it can lead to a "walking dead" situation. If you stray too far from a watering hole and don't have enough water to return, you die.
   
Succeeding in this game requires a lot of trial and error, then one final push in which you try to line things up in just the right order. It's a bit like a giant logic puzzle. It was challenging, but the challenge level was well-justified and interesting.
    
I got out with plenty of strength but almost no water.
     
It fails all three of my core criteria as an RPG, but here's the rating anyway:
   
  • 2 points for the game world. The back story isn't bad.
  • 0 points for character creation and development. There's really none of either. Yes, you get "strength" from killing monsters, but it doesn't really make the character stronger.
  • 0 points for no NPCs.
  • 3 points for encounters and foes. I'm being a bit generous here, but the very nature of the game is its "encounter" system and the attacks and defenses of the enemies.
  • 1 point for magic and combat. There isn't much strategy to it, just trying out different options.
  • 2 points for equipment, the most important aspect of the game.
  • 0 points for no economy.
  • 2 points for a main quest.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface. That's all for the easy single-character interface, since there are neither graphics nor sound.
  • 5 points for gameplay. I liked the challenge level and length, and it is "replayable" to the extent that it's short and you might consistently try to beat your time.
   
The final score is 17, but I encourage you to think of this more as a fantasy-themed logic puzzle than an RPG and thus put it closer to the "recommended" threshold. A game that rates high in "gameplay" but none of the core RPG categories is almost always mis-categorized.
     
Carnell's offerings in mid-1982.
       
Roy Carnell and Stuart Galloway, operating as Carnell Software, published a handful of games in 1982 and 1983, including Black Crystal (1982), The Crypt (1983), The Adventures of St. Bernard (1983), and The Devil Rides In (1983), all mostly action games.
    
I've found accounts of the Earl's Court Computer Fair in June 1983, but nothing about the Volcanic Dungeon contest, so for all I know those two tickets to Florida are unclaimed. Maybe Carnell or Galloway will stumble upon my blog someday and let us know for sure. I'll take my tickets to Pensacola. It's only a 3-hour drive from there to New Orleans.
   

65 comments:

  1. The contest gave this one a fun and refreshing twist on the game report. Good stuff.

    A grumpy Princess, just woken from a magical sleep, is most likely to say: I was just resting my eyes.

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  2. The instructions, however, are arcane. There's no "save" command; instead, you have to wait until you can move, then do something involving connecting mic sockets.

    It's been 30ish years since I last used a Spectrum but my memory is that unlike the C64 it didn't have a proprietary tape player; you could use any standard cassette player, connected via a headphone adapter.

    To save data you would have to swap the cable over to the microphone port in the tape player, although my memory is that our cable had multiple heads so both ports could be connected at once. Perhaps that wasn't standard.

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    1. I had a look at the save instructions; looks like straightforward stuff.

      It wants you to plug in an audio lead into the tape recorder to record sound from the Spectrum, hit the Record button so the tape is rolling, and then press Zero on your turn when asked for a move direction.

      As far as I can tell it writes a copy of the entire game program to tape - it uses the built-in SAVE basic command, saving to the same filename. To load the saved game again, you'd re-load this entire modified game.

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    2. So it's a blunt force save state. Whatever works!

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  3. "A real prince wouldn't need to save scum, cheater"

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    1. If the princess said this to me I might consider putting the lid back on.

      I probably wouldn't do it, but I'd certainly consider it. (Difficulty shaming is lame :P)

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  4. The number of early eighties entrys seems to be endless.
    Wow.
    I seem to have missed a lot when I started with my C64.

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    1. Seems like it's mostly because genre standards weren't established yet and our digital archaeologists keep tagging things as CRPGs that just aren't?

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    2. I'd imagine part of it is also that this was the era of bedroom coders, where it was considerably easier for a single person to make a game and get it distributed, with the end result being a ton of games getting published

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    3. Coding your own game on these early systems that used BASIC could literally only take a couple of days, and for many of the systems if you had the tech literacy to buy the system and load software, you were probably halfway to coding already.

      The barrier to entry wasn't writing a game, it was distributing it widely enough that it's still preserved somewhere today - and it's not that much of a barrier, so we're effectively trawling through reams of what (in another era) might be people's year 12 programming assignments, Newgrounds hobby projects, or itch.io experiments.

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    4. These are Adventure games, in a space between text adventures and real CRPGs. Mr Carnell was fond of giving text adventures a little more action and replayability.

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  5. I imagine the princess asking for coffee (defense) and a cigarette (offense). They should have a combination hotkey.

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    1. I can now only imagine the princess being played by Sylvester Stallone and the scene playing out exactly as it does in Demolition Man.

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  6. Swordquest came out on the Atari 2600 in 1980. The contest aspect of this game has me wondering if contests were a common marketing gimmick back then.

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    1. They were and filfre had some great articles about this, though focusing on British examples: https://www.filfre.net/2016/05/kit-williamss-golden-hare-part-1-the-contest/ here's probably the main one, along with the follow up, but I think he gets into some contests elsewhere too.

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    2. Still are. Look at Advent Rising, a million dollar contest that was cancelled.

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  7. Hydra's teeth (F) are magical items that summon warriors to kill any enemy, but can only be used once.

    I think this is a homage to the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. In one of the trials to obtain the Golden Fleece, Jason had to plant dragon teeth in the soil, warriors would come out of them, and Jason used a magic stone to have them fight each other.

    Someone had recently watched Clash of the Titans (1981)

    Or maybe he simply went to school. A little bit of Greek mythology is taught in many European countries. It is an exercice in reading, writing, and storytelling. Is there no ancient literature in American schools? No offense meant, I am honestly curious.

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    1. Or Cadmus sowing the teeth of the dragon at the founding of Thebes.

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    2. Abacos, my comments on my blog 32 years after I attended public school is not a very good gauge of what is and isn't taught in American schools.

      I made the Clash of the Titans reference because I don't remember Perseus putting medusa's head in a magic bag in the original legend, but he does in the film. Maybe he does in the legends, too. Either way, the film had been released one year prior, so even if the author did "go to school," it's not a stretch to think he might have been influenced by contemporary popular culture.

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    3. Americans mostly only learn things about America in school. American history (only the good parts), American literature, American geography, American math. As the greatest most important best number one country in the universe, why would they ever bother learning about anything else?

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    4. Screw off. That isn't even remotely true.

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    5. Anonymous is right, American school only teach the pledge of allegiance and about 4 July, the rest of the time is spent shooting at things while eating hamburgers and harrasing nerds. This is because American school is sponsored by McDonalds and Smith & Wesson.

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    6. I gotta back the Addict on this one. I have major issues with the American government school system, but it is not even close to the warped parody being pushed by Anon&Anon.

      I certainly had world geography and world literature taught to me in high school.

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    7. There's definately reasonable complaints to be made about US schools focusing too much on the US, but it's definately nowhere near an "All America all the time" sort of thing.

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    8. I think second Anon was making fun of the first, and I honestly had to laugh.

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    9. "American math"? LOL, how is that even a thing?

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    10. To answer the original, earnest question: Is there no ancient literature in American schools?

      I was born in the early eighties. When I was in elementary school I dug out a stack of forgotten books, each one a slim volume on a different Greek myth. That was my only exposure to Ancient literature within a formal education system.

      In America the "Ancients" are usually taught only as names and dates to memorize. There's little to no exploration of the civilizations or their cultures until you get to university and by then it is optional unless you're majoring in something that requires it.

      So no, ancient literature was not taught in the twelve years I was at school and, so far as I can tell, it isn't taught in my daughter's school either.

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    11. I attended public school in the US around the same time as the Addict, and we read the Iliad. I was going to snark about how Medusa doesn't appear in the Iliad, but looking it up there are two mentions of a shield with a Gorgon's head, first born by Athena and then given to Achilles. No Perseus or sacks though.

      Also, earlier in school, I think we must have done a unit on Greek myths, and we definitely watched Clash of the Titans. So there's a synthesis for you.

      We also watched the Ray Harryhausen Jason and the Argonauts, which would've taken care of the hyrda teeth.

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    12. Greek and Roman myth was heavily showcased in all of my school's literature text, and the graduation test I took in high school relied on analyzing excerpts from Antigone.

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    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    14. I was born in the early 1970s in rural, upstate NY. My parents read the Greek (and Roman) myths to me as bedtime stories. They read Aesop's fables to me as well. In elementary school I was in an advanced reading group during which we read the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales and ancient mythology. In junior high I wrote a 5 page paper for English class on, you guessed it, Greek mythology. In high school I took an advanced English class in which we read all of college level translations of Greek myths along the Illiad and the Odyssey. I now read Beowulf, Bullfinch's Greek mythology, and Eastern European fairy tales (the Russian ones are some of the best) to my kids at bedtime.
      So go f*ck your trolling self Anon 1 and your sock puppet. Come back when you have something clever to say.
      @Matt Weiner IIRC The shield with the Gordon's head on it was the Aegis. It belonged to Athena and it struck fear into any enemy who saw it. It didn't turn them to stone.

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    15. It's important to remember that there is no "America" when it comes to public education. There are 50 states.

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    16. Yeah, depending on where you live in the country your education can be anywhere from being comprehensive and ensuring you know everything you need to, to being borderline propaganda to make you think of the US as the best nation ever, and everything in between, and that's just the public schools

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    17. I think Anon&Anon were trolling me.

      Let me stress this out: I meant no offense, I was really curious about this detail in the American school system(s). For all I knew, if in Europe we learn Greek myths, North Americans might learn Native and Aztec myths instead (it would make sense, right?).

      When I was younger, I met a man from New Zealand. I asked him if they print maps with South at the top. I am weird that way.

      Thanks for the nice answers... and even for the trolling! Now I am super-curious about American Maths :D :D :D

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    18. Any self-respecting Kiwi would have answered: "Of course bruh, don't you?"

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    19. "In Europe we learn Greek myths" is quite a generalisation, too. That really depends on the country, the state, the school, and sometimes even the class you're in. I don't remember learning much about Greek myths in school. History focused on Greek history and society, Literature was mostly German classics, and I don't know where else it would have been taught. Might have been different if I had gone to a school with a humanistic focus instead of a natural science focus.

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    20. I taught (music) in an Arizona school for the last 5 years. In the main classroom ancient myths were taught from Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Greece, as well as traditional stories from a few native cultures from the area. I can't speak for any other school, but at least one school has it in the curriculum.

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    21. What gets taught (and how well) in the US also really depends on the greatly variable resources of the individual school, not just the state. The tax base for schools here is very localized, so you have places like the rural town where I grew up which was an absolute mess, and you have places like the snobby suburb with the high school I attended where I was able to study myth in Latin and advanced lit classes as well as join a school trip to Greece & Turkey (including what's left of Troy). Both schools in the same state.

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    22. In Italy, for my generation (1978), we learnt really a lot of classical mythology and culture. However, this was done at the cost of a much weaker technical and scientific education (not to mention foreign languages), as time is not infinite. Overall, this is one of the reasons why the Italian educational system is considered outdated. What is the point of having the best schools of the country teaching you classical Greek and then study old myths in original language? Wouldn't this time be better spent in learning advanced math or Chinese? Difficult to decide, in my opinion.

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    23. I have to assume this joker is being facetious, but for a high school Social Studies course I did a book report on Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. This was at a bog standard suburban public high school in the early 90s. We read Aeschylus and Euripedes, in addition to Shakespeare. For US literature, we read things like Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, Miller's Crucible, and Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, which are about as far as you can get from American triumphalism as you can get. Of course, in history we had the obligatory units on slavery, desegregation, etc. I am certain the curriculum is even more developed and diverse now. Where do people get their warped ideas of the American school system?

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    24. "Wouldn't this time be better spent in learning advanced math or Chinese? Difficult to decide, in my opinion."

      The question is whether students will retain these things and whether there will be much of a demand for them in their future careers. My experience (as a linguist and a college-level instructor of world languages) is that students don't retain much of language instruction from primary and secondary schooling unless they have the means and the motivation to use their language skills on a regular basis. I studied Latin (which I rarely use, frankly) and Italian (which I use more frequently), as well as subjects like Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus. I never use these latter subjects because there's just not much call for them in my line of work. STEM courses are pretty much the gold standard for "relevance"(whatever that means) but higher education's dirty little secret is that the vast majority of students who major in STEM at the college level don't actually go on to careers in STEM fields (in the US, these are about 6% of the labor force total).

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    25. STEM stands for ShooT (&) Eat haMburgers

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    26. From reading the Internet, the impression I get is that most people remember maybe 5-10% of what they were taught in school. That doesn't indicate to me that the education system is failing -- the point of education is to teach people how to learn and to expose them to a variety of things worth learning, not to stuff them full of rote facts, IMO -- but it does result in a lot of people making confident but false declarations about what they do and do not teach in schools.

      Anyway, Perseus does get a magic bag to safely hold Medusa's head in the original myth, but despite being familiar with that myth I wouldn't have been able to tell you that without Wikipedia.

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    27. Agree with stepped... education should be about broadly learning how to learn and developing a framework to know how to critically analyze new ideas later in life. Guilty as most of us are, but the problem is when you don't check out your false declarations because you "know" the answer.

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    28. I may be a bit older than most here, but I took World History and World Literature in Elementary school (Mid to late 70's), and a more detailed World History in High School. As I lived in NJ and then Texas, seems to me that it was at least covered a little bit in both places.

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    29. Hey Anonymous, go wait in the truck.

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  8. Why are my hands so wrinkled? Wait... did you take a 400 game detour before rescuing me, oh wretched knight?!

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  9. "Aren't you a little short for a hero?"

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  10. This game reminds me of "The Oracle's Cave", another ZX Spectrum game. "The Oracle's Cave" is tagged in the Moby database as an "adventure", but it has no puzzles. Instead it has some RPG elements plus a random generation of the dungeon, so it is more akin to a RPG/rogue-like.

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  11. Thank you, Mario! But our princess is in another volcano!
    Is that a gorgon's head in your sack, or are you just happy to see me?

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  12. "why am I still not allowed to rescue myself"

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  13. Yeah, tough to suss out what the ring is doing, based on the screenshots. Three states are depicted: red, black, and missing.

    Is red a "danger" state? But it's inconsistent. I see examples of being in "choose your item" state as well as "enemy dead" state with same colors, etc. No real pattern. Does the ring UI state update independent from the text or something?

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  14. This is the first Spectrum game that manages not to totally disgust the Addict. It's a sort of achievement...

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  15. "Hang on, you aren't Link"... I may have had Zelda 2 on my mind recently. Anyway, it's a bit odd seeing a fairly positive review of a Spectrum game here, even if it's not really an RPG.

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  17. "Alright, that's the last time I've had six gimlets at Mardi Gras!"

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  18. You can make a case for "bane" rhyming with "reigns". Though it would be stronger if there were a comma after "reigns".

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  19. The name of the evil goddess Methzar sounds more like the title of a Russian drug smuggling king.

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  20. The bold sword arm line feels fine to me, since the previous line is clearly pronounced charm-ed, not charm'd :)

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    Replies
    1. My issue was that the meter is mostly iambic but that there's a natural stress on "sword" even though in the meter, it's where an unstressed syllable should fall. In other words, "sword arm" should be an iamb but is actually a spondee. If you put "left" in there instead of "sword," the writing becomes sillier but the scansion improves.

      Delete
  21. "I swear, if you ask me to pee through a dozen matresses..."

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  22. "Why am I wearing all these bead necklaces...?"

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  23. "Woah dude, I sure didn't expect YOU to come save me in a non-CRPG."

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  24. So this comic is what I thought of when I read about what the princess first says when you wake her up.

    Disclaimer! Link is NSFW
    https://www.oglaf.com/morning-breath/

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