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
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
8. The Wizard of Akyrz
9. Perseus and Andromeda
10. Ten Little Indians
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
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
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
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
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.
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?
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?
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
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.