16. Gruds in Space and Powerstar

by Garry Francis

 

Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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Okay space cadets. Don your space suits and check your oxygen tanks. This issue we're going for a trip around the solar system in not one, but TWO illustrated Adventures with a space theme.

The first is Gruds in Space. This is a collectors' item which deserves to be a classic and is featured this issue because of a request from a reader. The second is Powerstar. This has the unusual claim to fame of being the first and only Atari Adventure that has ever been released on cartridge although I consider it more an example of 'state-of-the-art' gone wrong!

Anyway, fasten your seat belts and get ready for blastoff...

Gruds in Space

Gruds in Space follows the traditional format of the disk-based illustrated Adventure. It was written by Chuck Somerville and Joe Dudar and released by Sirius Software. If these names are unfamiliar to you, then there is probably a good reason for it. It appears that Gruds in Space was originally written for the Apple (hence the authors' lack of fame in the Atari world) and translated for the Atari a little over two years ago. It only had a limited exposure before Sirius Software went out of business somewhere around November 1984. When that happened, all Sirius Software's programs instantly disappeared from the marketplace.

I tried to buy a copy of Critical Mass (another Sirius Adventure), but without success. (If anybody's got a copy I'd love to hear from you.) Fortunately, I was more successful with Gruds in Space and found a discount mail order house in the U.S. that still had a copy.

Gruds in Space turned out to be an excellent game in every respect and had not suffered in the transition from the Apple (unlike quite a few other games on the market). It's a big game with lots of rooms, several clever twists to the story-line, a nice blend of easy and hard puzzles and great graphics. The graphics include simple animation like blinking eyes, flashing lights and twinkling stars in almost every scene. I realise it's a very rare game and few of you will ever have seen it, but if you ever see a copy, BUY IT! You won't be disappointed.

Your own spaceship

The game itself starts aboard the privately owned spaceship USAC 9400. And you're the pilot! The instructions tell you very little about the game, but this is offset by a message received in the opening moves.

"...This is an urgent message to the pilot of the vessel USAC 9400 from USAC Command on Earth. Our battleships at the war front near Baranok have exhausted their fuel supply. The only cargo ship capable of returning for the fuel has also run out and is now stranded on Pluto. The fuel, Heliotropanite, is only available on Saturn. We believe that your ship is the only one in the solar system that can carry the fuel from Saturn to Pluto in time to prevent the defeat of our forces. We know that since your ship is privately owned, you cannot be ordered to accept the mission. We are prepared to reward you the sum of one million dollars on the completion of the mission..."

If you accept the mission, you may get your butt shot off. If you don't accept, you might as well remove the disk and turn the computer off! So what's it to be? One million dollars may sound like a pittance to the pilot of a privately owned spaceship, but it's better than nothing (and that's all you're earning at the moment). Obviously, you decide to head for Saturn.

Piloting your spaceship is remarkably simple. You just set the navigation coordinates and let the computer and the warp drive do the rest. The computer will tell you when you arrive and you can verify this by simply checking the navigation screen or looking out the window. You can then set the teleport coordinates and teleport down to the surface of the planet.

You will in fact do quite a lot of travelling throughout the game. It's essential that you get the coordinates right or you'll end up floating in free space where death is just a few seconds away. I'd suggest you draw up a table to record the navigation coordinates and teleport coordinates of each destination as they are revealed to you during the game.

Enter the Gruds

When you arrive at the mining camp on Saturn, you'll want to have a good look around. In doing so, you'll discover two things. Firstly, much of the mining camp is inaccessible to you for one reason or another. Secondly, the natives are far from hospitable. You see, Saturn is inhabited by Gruds and if there's one thing a Grud hates, it's a human. Before continuing, I should explain that a Grud is a short, fat alien with yellow/green skin, freckles and big ears. It was used as a company identification logo on all Sirius' products and appeared in several of their games. For example, if you've played The Blade of Blackpoole, you may remember the idol of a Grud on the island in the lake.

If you expect to progress very far, you'll have to find a Grud who's willing to help you. Maybe one that's rich. One whose greed for money is stronger than his dislike of humans. One who has a butler!

You'll soon learn that Gruds are not unlike humans. If you want information, you'll have to pay for it! In this case, your services are wanted more than your money. You'll have to deliver a note to someone on Venus and return with a counterfeiting machine. Sounds simple enough, but it turns out to be more than you bargained for.

By the time you return to Saturn, you should have collected enough items to allow further exploration of the mining camp, including a trip into the caves and a trip beyond the locked gate in search of the Arler. The Arler is a strange character. Your first confrontation with him will probably be a violent one, but he's really quite timid. You need only do him a favour to gain his confidence. A trip to the Arler's temple should put you on the right track.

At around this point, you'll be ready to visit the unmanned alien ship which is orbiting Venus. In order to fully explore the ship, you'll have to solve a real brain twister of a puzzle. This one's a beauty. I could best describe it as the sort of puzzle that you'd expect to find in Infocom's Zork or Enchanter trilogies.

Once back at Saturn, you may manage to find the fuel, but in doing so you create another twist in the story-line. This one entails another trip to Venus, then to Titan. If all goes well, you'll have the pleasure of blowing up a Baranok ship before eventually delivering the fuel to Pluto. Then it's back to Earth for a million dollars and a pat on the back for a job well done. Whew!

Hints

Coded hints for Gruds in Space are included with this article. To use the hints, just look for the area where you're stuck and match the numbers with the accompanying list of words to create a hint. If you're still having trouble, you'll find a full solution in 'The Book of Adventure Games' by Kim Schuette (Arrays, Inc.).

Gruds in Space hints

Spaceship

1. Don't know what to do?
17 57 30 54 28

2. Can't get to Saturn?
23 5 54 24

3. Can't use the teleport?
23 5 54 21 10 56 21

Saturn

4. Can't enter the guarded cave entrances?
52 42

5. Can't get the rope?
32 40 10 44 22

6. Can't see in the caves?
12 35

7. Can't buy any supplies?
12 33

8. Can't enter the Gruds' houses?
8

9. Can't enter the barracks?
8

10. Can't enter Lord Deebo's?
2 45

11. Can't read Deebo's note?
46 40 3 57

12. Can't open the gate?
12 51

13. Can't descend the pit in the caves without getting killed?
20 34 3 9

14. Can't see the significance of the green square in the cave?
36 57 19

15. Can't get past the large bat?
38 40

16. Can't unlock the chest?
12 51

17. Can't see the significance of the temple?
12 49 19 10 46 40 3 14

18. Can't stop the Arler from throwing rocks at you?
38 14

19. Can't get past the force field?
36 49 19

20. Can't lift the rock?
23 5 54 16

21. Can't get the heliotropanite?
37 11

22. Can't read the Arler's note?
46 40 3 48

Alien ship

23. Can't open the doors in the alien ship?
36 19 47 15 13 31 7

24. Can't find the blue and white orb?
52 42

Venus

25. Can't cross the river of bubbling lava?
52 42

26. Can't get past the Venusian?
38 40

27. Missing a gun?
27

28. Can't get out of the swamp?
20 34 3 55 29 50

29. Mr. Green shoots you?
36 26

30. Can't cross the river on the second trip?
23 5

31. Still can't cross the river?
38 55

32. Can't find Mr. Green on the second trip?
41 43 54 55

33. Can't revive Mr. Green?
37 1 39

Titan

34. Can't find it?
46 53 58 14 3 48

Baranok ship

35. Can't escape from the Baranok guards?
52 42

Pluto

36. Can't find it?
17 57 30 54 28 4 18 6

Earth

37. Can't find it?
17 57 30 54 28 4 25 6

1 OXYGEN
2 PAY
3 TO
4 AFTER
5 HELP
6 FUEL
7 SQUARE
8 KNOCK
9 STALAGMITE
10 AND
11 H-CONTAINER
12 FIND
13 COLOUR
14 ARLER
15 SAME
16 CAFETERIA
17 PRESS
18 FINDING
19 ORB
20 TIE

21 TELEPORT
22 AWAY
23 TYPE
24 NAVIGATION
25 DELIVERING
26 GUN
27 SWAMP
28 COMMUNICATIONS
29 NEXT
30 BUTTON
31 AS
32 STEAL
33 MONEY
34 ROPE
35 FLASHLIGHT
36 DROP
37 BUY
38 SHOOT
39 MASK
40 IT

41 INSERT
42 BAD
43 CARD
44 RUN
45 BUTLER
46 GIVE
47 OF
48 DEEBO
49 BLACK
50 TIME
51 KEY
52 TOO
53 NOTE
54 IN
55 TREE
56 GO
57 GREEN
58 FROM


Powerstar

Technically speaking, Powerstar is one of the most innovative Adventures to come along in a long time. Pandora Software have managed to cram the whole Adventure into a 16k cartridge! The biggest advantages of this are that it is simple to use (no need to muck about with backups of copy protected disks), it boots instantly and there are no lengthy pauses for disk access during the game. The biggest disadvantages are that the graphics are terrible and the vocabulary is too limited to allow for an enjoyable game.

Powerstar uses a split screen format with graphics at the top and text at the bottom. The graphics data for the various rooms has been compressed (to save memory) by defining individual elements such as tables, chairs, beds, windows, gratings, robots, etc. In this way, a room can be drawn by (say) starting with an empty room and adding a table, two chairs and a window at pre-defined positions. Each room is made to look unique by using different combinations of the individual elements and using different colours.

The graphics appear to be done in GRAPHICS 10. This allows up to nine colours on the screen (without display list interrupts), but because of its odd-shaped pixel, the pictures look rather 'chunky'. As the colours are very gaudy, I'd have preferred to see fewer colours and better resolution, but that's just nit-picking. It has no effect on the play of the game.

The text is Atari's default white on boring blue. This always has a negative effect, but there are other aspects that are more annoying. The text is allocated to a much larger area than is necessary (about half the screen) and is cleared after every move. In addition, the program's vocabulary is far too limited. Playing the game becomes a frustrating exercise in guessing the right word, rather than solving puzzles. In fact, in almost three years of writing this column, this is the first game that I've featured and haven't actually finished! And I blame it on the poor vocabulary. More about this later. The only point I'll emphasise here is that it doesn't matter how technically innovative a game is if it's no fun to play!

Aboard the Powerstar

Powerstar takes place in the 21st century when all electrical power in the U.S. is generated by a single nuclear reactor aboard an orbiting space station called (you guessed it) the Powerstar. It seems that the Powerstar's one man crew has had a bad bout of cabin fever. The only message from him in the last week was a fax of the label from a bottle of Jack Daniels. As the alternative engineer for the Powerstar, it is your job to save the space station from this nut before he does any damage.

The Adventure begins at a government field station somewhere on the U.S. coastline. Your spaceship stands waiting on the airfield behind you, but it won't start without the key. While you're searching for the key, you might as well have a good look around to see if there's anything else of interest. Movement is achieved using the traditional N, S, E and W, but you can also use the cursor keys or even a joystick! As you move about, you'll discover that each room generally has four views one for each of the cardinal compass directions. Thus the first rule for the successful completion of Powerstar is to make sure that you turn 360 degrees in every room! If you don't, you'll very likely miss something.

Once you've collected all your goodies from the field station, you can take to the skies in your spaceship. Mapping the sky is a real pain. It's like a maze, but the four pictures for each room really add to the confusion. Read the room descriptions very carefully and you'll see that they're all unique. Your spaceship cannot climb above 100000 feet without the correct fuel, but that'll be no problem if you remembered to fill 'er up before you took off. (You DID remember, didn't you?)

Once in orbit, you'll find yourself in another maze. This time you're surrounded only by stars and have no distinguishing landmarks to guide you. Be persistent. It IS mappable and before long you'll find yourself in the docking bay of the Powerstar.

The Adventure begins

Here is where the real Adventure begins. IF you can get out of the landing bay and IF you can pass the various doors and other obstacles and IF you can map the whole mess, you'll find that the Powerstar is a miniature version of the classic torus-shaped space station made famous by Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey'. Imagine it as a spoked wheel. The docking bay is the hub at the centre of the wheel. Nearby are ladders extending down the spokes to the rim of the wheel. If you continue heading north (or south) around the rim, you will eventually arrive back where you started from. Keep this in mind when drawing your map.

The space station is full of obstacles to prevent you finding your way around. As you gradually overcome these obstacles, more and more of the station will become accessible to you. When you find the telescreen room, a face flashes up on the screen and a voice booms out from a loudspeaker. "I now have control of this space station. The nuclear reactor will be destroyed. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Go back to your ship and go away now."

Oh boy, as though you weren't having enough trouble, now you have to find a bomb as well! If you stick with it, you'll eventually find the bomb and if you're particularly clever, you'll also discover a way to destroy it without destroying the space station. Before you can celebrate your success, another loudspeaker comes to life. "I have left the station in a shuttle. You have failed to stop me. I cut the main reactor controls and the nuclear reactor will run away and blow the Powerstar out of the sky." Aaaaargh! The loony crewman always seems to be one step ahead. What now?

You discover that the crewman has dropped an amulet during his flight. On the back of the amulet is the word AMUZOZ. Hmm...

Back to Earth

At this point, I was stumped. I decided to fly back to Earth and discovered that I was able to enter a previously inaccessible room. This turned out to be the emergency control room of the Powerstar. On the control panel was a keyswitch. When I turned it on, the equipment came to life and a voice said 'Enter password'. The only thing I'd encountered that resembled a password was AMUZOZ, but no matter how I expressed it, the program would not respond. Talk about frustrating! I blamed the program's poor vocabulary for this, but maybe that's not the problem. Was I on the right track? Is AMUZOZ the password? Have I done something wrong somewhere? Would someone please help me out!

Hints

It would be unfair of me to try and supply hints for a game that I haven't finished as I might tell you the wrong thing. My apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced by this. If you're really desperate, I believe a hint sheet for Powerstar is available from Pandora Software at the address in the instructions.


Coming up

I eventually finished Asylum, but this is such a HUGE game that I think I'll save it for the next Adventure special issue. That should give you all plenty of time to try and solve it for yourselves. In the meantime, I'd like a bit of feedback on a question of ethics. I'd like to publish the map for Asylum. Do you think this is the right thing to do or is it unethical? Please let me know what you think.

Next issue, I may take a look at one or two Adventures from Level 9, but then again I might not. It all depends on what comes up between now and then.

If you have any special requests, questions, criticisms, etc., please feel free to contact me at the address below. However, if you expect a reply to your letter, please include a couple of international reply coupons to cover the return postage. Merry Christmas to you all and may Santa bring you some beaut new Adventures for the New Year.

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