6. The Golden Baton

by Garry Francis of Sydney, Australia



Issue 14

Mar/Apr 85

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The Adventures covered in the last three issues could only be played on a disk based system. I don't want cassette owners feeling left out of the fun of Adventuring, so this issue we'll take a look at a series of Adventures available on cassette. What makes them all the more interesting for most of you is that they are written and produced in the United Kingdom! I'm referring, of course, to Brian Howarth's Mysterious Adventures.


Brian Howarth had been playing Dungeons and Dragons for some years before being introduced to computer Adventures by a TV program called The Adventure Game. When he realised the potential for computer moderated Adventures, he raced out and bought the first computer he could find. Unfortunately, this happened to be a TRS-80, but we can't really hold that against him, as the Atari wasn't available at the time.

Howarth became obsessed with Scott Adams' Adventures before trying to write his own. He started writing an Adventure in BASIC, but concluded that it couldn't be done. We can probably put this down to inexperience, as many others (including Scott Adams himself) have proven him wrong. Nevertheless, he started learning machine language and after six months of excitement and frustration, he finished his first machine language Adventure. It was called The Golden Baton and made its first appearance in the Molimerx catalogue in 1981.

Molimerx were ecstatic about the game and persuaded Howarth to do a series like that of his idol. He put together some more scenarios and came up with The Time Machine and Arrow of Death Part 1. Thus, the Mysterious Adventures series was born.

Over the next few months, he developed an Adventure interpreter based along the same lines as that used by Scott Adams. This allowed him to write a new Adventure by merely changing the database. From Arrow of Death Part 2 onwards, all the Mysterious Adventures were written using this technique.

Howarth also decided to translate his Adventures for the newly released BBC micro. As Molimerx were not planning to support the BBC, Howarth set up his own company called Digital Fantasia. He had a mail order service and a software shop and recruited his family and friends to do administration, look after the shop, help with the programming and do the artwork for the packaging on his Adventures. Over a period of time, the series was translated for other computers such as the Atari, Spectrum, VIC-20, Commodore 64 and Dragon.

The Atari translations were done by Howarth and his staff and licensed to Channel 8 Software. Until recently, there were 10 Adventures in the series available only on a 16k cassette. The series has now been expanded to 14 and the earlier titles have been revised. The entire series should be available by the time you read this. The titles are listed below. Note that they are in a slightly different order to the versions available for other computers, so always make sure you order by title rather than number in order to avoid any confusion.

1. The Golden Baton
2. Arrow of Death Part 1
3. Arrow of Death Part 2
4. Escape from Pulsar 7
5. Feasibility Experiment
6. The Time Machine
7. Circus
8. The Wizard of Akyrz
9. Perseus and Andromeda
10. Ten Little Indians
11. Waxworks
12. Mid Winter
13. After the Fire
14. Beyond the Infinite


As The Golden Baton is the first in the series, it seems like the obvious choice to review.

When you first boot the cassette, you are presented with an animated title page. This is quite well done, but is the same on all the Adventures in the series and wears thin after repeated screenings. When the animation sequence is over, the main Adventure is automatically loaded. This whole sequence takes quite a while (especially for someone like me, who's used to disks), so you might as well have a cup of tea while you're waiting.

When the load is complete, you are asked if you would like colour. If you answer Y for YES, the screen is divided into bands of different colours. The intention is that each colour represents a different function, i.e. room description, visible objects, player's input, error messages and so on. Unfortunately, this isn't very well done. The boundaries between the colours are very flickery (particularly when pressing keys) and the distinction between some colours is inadequate. The overall effect is one of confusion. I'd suggest you type N for NO to the colour question and you will get a pleasant dark blue background. Alternatively, I discovered that you can turn the colours on from within the program by typing C [RETURN] or turn them off by typing O [RETURN]. You'll actually need the latter after saving a game, as this causes the colours to be re-enabled whether you wanted them or not. Incidentally, the save is very quick, as it only writes two or three records to cassette.

From this point on, the game's style, screen format and even the very structure of the code and the database (I took a peek) is a direct clone of the Scott Adams series. If you've played a few Scott Adams Adventures, then you'll feel right at home with the Mysterious Adventures.

After the colour question, you are asked whether you want to use a previously saved game (as per Scott Adams), but I'd prefer to see this utilised from within the program itself using a RESTORE command.

After answering both questions, your Adventure is underway. Location descriptions, things you can see and exits are printed at the top of the screen, but are not disturbed by your input or the computer's responses which scroll independently in whatever space is left at the bottom of the screen (as per Scott Adams). You'll probably notice some bad spelling and grammar (as per Scott Adams) and an illogical habit of capitalising some words, but not others. However, unlike Scott Adams, the response time is very fast.

Each of the cassettes comes with playing hints and instructions (which are very good) and a background storyline for each of the Adventures in the series. These are common to the whole series, so if you buy one, you can read about the rest. As for The Golden Baton, the story goes something like this...

The Golden Baton is a priceless artifact which is believed to hold a life-force that maintains an equilibrium between good and evil. As a result, your homeland has suffered no wars, droughts or famines for centuries. (What about unemployment? It sounds like Maggie Thatcher could do with one of these things!) The Golden Baton has been stolen from King Ferrenuil's palace and he fears for the future of his people. Your job is to recover the missing baton.

You begin your quest in a dense SPOOKY forest (the capitals are the author's, not mine). You have no idea where the Golden Baton is hidden, so you must begin by exploring your surroundings. As you do so, examine every object in every location and you should find some interesting clues. There are puzzles at every turn, but these are not hard and can usually be solved with a little thought and the right objects. Some solutions are a little obscure, but the game has a fairly good vocabulary, so just try everything you can think of. You will also encounter various nasties such as a savage wolf, a huge yellow crab, a knight in dark armour, a gorgon and an ugly lizard-man. (If you don't know what a gorgon is, then borrow a book on Greek mythology and read about Perseus and Medusa. I suspect that the knowledge you gain may also be helpful if you play Perseus and Andromeda at a later date.)

The game uses quite a deal of magic in different forms, e.g. wearing or otherwise using magic items and saying magic words. The HELP command will often give you hints when magic is required.

The Golden Baton suffers from a number of minor flaws in its storyline and its logical consistency, but no more so than other fantasy-based games such as Zork I and Adventureland. You must also remember that it was Brian Howarth's first attempt at an Adventure. Later titles in the series appear to be far more intriguing. All in all, I enjoyed playing it and could recommend it for beginning to intermediate Adventurers, especially if price or lack of a disk drive is a consideration.


As usual, look through the list of questions until you recognise the area where you're stuck. Match the numbers with the attached word list to get a hint. DON'T look ahead to questions referring to parts of the game that you haven't reached yet or you may spoil the game.

The Golden Baton hints

1) Can't climb the tree?
32 38 20

2) Can't see in the dark beneath the cabin floor?
54 38 13 50

3) Can't get past the wolf?
53 4 43

4) Can't cross the moat?
29 12 41 33

5) Can't open the portcullis?
18 1 4 45 43

6) Can't get past the knight in dark armour?
46 22 47

7) Can't unlock the huge door?
44 8 38 7 10 35 14 8 38 36

8) Can't get past the gorgon?
6 14 11 44 4 28

9) Still can't get past the gorgon?
52 40

10) Can't dry your matches?
42 38 7 25 18 21 16 25

11) Can't take the glowing quartz?
18 21 16 25 52 40 25

12) Can't read the runes?
42 38 34

13) Can't kill the lizard man?
18 21 55 43

14) Lamp out of fuel?
19 31 43 31 28 48 5 30 28

15) Can't get past the huge yellow crab?
52 40

16) Can't get the slugs?
51 26 23 49 2

17) Can't enter the lake?
37 24 3

18) Can't undo the padlock?
18 24 39 38 9 15

19) You're on the lake, but don't know what to do?
17 38 27 43

4 IT
10 AS
14 DID
18 TRY

23 ALL
25 .
28 ?
30 RAG
31 SOD
38 THE

41 A
43 !
44 DO
48 OIL
52 SAY

STOP PRESS: The Mysterious Adventures have now been taken over by Adventure International and should now be available again. More titles and a complete hint book are planned.