5. Sands of Egypt

by Garry Francis, Australia



Issue 13

Jan/Feb 85

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Sands of Egypt was reviewed by Alexander Kells in Issue 10, so I won't say too much about it here. I'll assume that you've read the review or you're already familiar with the game.

However, I can't help commenting on the impressive graphics. Sands of Egypt has a very attractive split screen display on a narrow playfield. The top half shows a colourful, high resolution picture in ANTIC mode 14, while the bottom is devoted to text. Player-missile graphics fill the gaps at each side of the display (in the form of Egyptian hieroglyphics) and also provides the compass that shows the possible exits. As though all this isn't enough, most of the screens are animated! Clouds float across the sky, the desert scrolls when you move about, the camel blinks and chews its cud, the water flows through the canal and the whole room shakes when you return the sceptre. The secret chamber is particularly impressive and you'll probably have a good laugh when you ride the camel. And the most amazing thing of all is that it runs in only 16k!

General hints

The aim of the game is very clearly spelled out in the instructions, so make sure you read them before you begin. I don't think Sands of Egypt was meant to be easy, for you begin the game empty-handed in the middle of a maze! You can find yourself wandering around hopelessly lost for ages before you even find anything. This really puts beginners off (although beginners shouldn't be wandering the Sands of Egypt in the first place), so here are a few general hints.

When you begin the game, keep heading north until you reach the top of a cliff, head west until you find an object, then head north. From this point, you're on your own, but at least you've got an object to help you find your way around. Don't waste too much time drawing a map at this stage as you begin to get thirsty after 30 moves. After 45 moves, you begin to get very thirsty. After 60 moves, you start dying of thirst and after 75 moves, you're dead. The moral here should be obvious. Find water!

Once you've quenched your thirst (and it's not as easy as it sounds), you may like to collect all the objects you can lay your hands on, then return to the desert areas and map them out. Once everything is mapped, you'll feel more secure when moving around and you can concentrate on solving the puzzles. The puzzles themselves are all fairly logical, but finding the right words to use is sometimes a bit trying. The only other hint I'll give at this point is to make sure you examine every object and say HELP in every location.

If you type SCORE at any point during the game, you can see how many moves you've taken. When you eventually finish the game, you'll be told how many moves you took to complete it. The author claims to have done it in 101 moves, but I reckon he's having us on! My best is 111 moves and I can't see anywhere that it can be improved. If anyone out there can beat my score, I'd like to see your solution.

Incidentally, there are a number of one letter commands apart from N, S, E, W, U and D which you can use to save typing. These are H for Help, I for Inventory, L for Look, Q for Quit, P for Put (or drop) and T for Take (or get).

The curse of Ra

Unfortunately, Sands of Egypt is not without its flaws. There is one insidious bug in the program which had me stumped for months. It doesn't surface until after you've found your way into the secret chamber very late in the game. If you've made it that far and you couldn't get the ladder back through the crack, then lucky you! You've found the bug! (Perhaps this is the Curse of Ra?)

When David Will Henderson encountered it, he wrote to the CONTACT column in Issue 8 for help. I responded to David's plea in the Readers' Letters of Issue 10. At the time, I said that the bug occurred randomly and for no apparent reason. This is not true. After further testing, I now believe I know why the bug occurs and how to overcome it. So if you are interested, read on...

In order to make Adventures a little more difficult (and realistic), there is usually a limit on the number of items you can carry about. Sands of Egypt is no exception and limits you to six items. The Adventure programmer normally handles this by allocating a specific location in memory to keep track of the number of items in the player's possession. If the program is written in BASIC, then he may use a variable instead. In any case, for the sake of convenience, let's refer to this location (or variable) as COUNT.

When the program begins, COUNT is initialised to the number of items in the player's possession. In Sands of Egypt, you begin empty-handed, so COUNT is zero. Every time you try to pick up an item, the GET routine tests COUNT. If COUNT is at its maximum, then you're told that you're carrying too much and you can't pick the object up. On the other hand, if COUNT is less than its maximum, then the object is added to your inventory and COUNT is incremented. When you want to drop an object, the DROP routine puts the object in the current room and COUNT is decremented.

So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Sands of Egypt has one special case for the DROP routine which (I suspect) hasn't been handled properly. If you have satisfied all the necessary conditions when you try to DROP SCEPTRE in the outer chamber, the program asks "Where?". If you respond correctly, the sceptre is dropped, but because this is a special case and not part of the general DROP routine, COUNT is not decremented! THIS IS THE BUG! COUNT should be decremented to reflect the new number of items. This means that you may now have (say) two items in your possession, but COUNT still thinks you've got three! Keep this in mind for a moment. Apart from keeping a tally of your inventory, COUNT is also useful for testing the validity of other actions. For example, you are not allowed to climb the palm tree carrying more than one item. If you say CLIMB TREE, the CLIMB routine will first ensure that COUNT is less than or equal to one. If COUNT is greater than one, you will be told that your load is too heavy to climb the tree. Similarly, you can't enter the crack to and from the secret chamber while carrying more than two items. Therefore, if you are carrying the torch and ladder (as you must) when you try to leave the secret chamber, but COUNT thinks you've got three items (due to the bug), then you cannot possibly take the ladder out of the secret chamber!

Fortunately, there is a way of defeating the bug. Apart from dropping individual items, Sands of Egypt also allows you to drop everything by saying DROP ALL. If you do this after putting the sceptre in its proper place, then everything is dropped and COUNT is set to zero. You can now GET and DROP items in the normal manner and COUNT will again reflect the correct number of items in your inventory. It is now possible to take the ladder from the secret chamber and ultimately complete the game.

Coded hints

If any of our more observant readers thought the hints for Original Adventure and Zork I were in a funny order, it was because Les got them all mixed up when pasting up the magazine. (This has been fixed in the online version. GF.) In order to avoid that happening in future, the hints are now numbered, but otherwise follow the same format as usual.

Incidentally, the word next to number 77 in the Zork I hints somehow went astray. It should have been a period (or full stop or dot or whatever you want to call it). The poor thing was so small, that it probably fell off the page! (Actually it was painted out on the negative by the platemaker who thought it was merely a nasty blemish! Ed.) (This has also been fixed in the online version. GF.)

Sands of Egypt hints

1) Can't get past the snake?
20 11 6 14 48 37 57 14

2) Can't get the snake oil?
31 37 25

3) Can't find a container?
18 1 33 20 14

4) Can't find any water?
18 15 21 43 21 47 21 1 33 20 32 52 20 29

5) Can't get to the pyramid?
7 20 41

6) Camel won't cooperate?
7 20 34 53

7) Can't get the palm fronds?
7 20 54

8) Camel still won't cooperate?
16 30 45 5 36

9) Can't get the sceptre?
4 26 39 30 51 20 14

10) Haven't found the underground canal?
4 26 2 20 35

11) Still haven't found the underground canal?
45 40 8 24

12) Missing a light source?
4 26 56 52 20 19

13) Can't light the torch?
4 26 13 20 17 52 20 29

14) Still can't light the torch?

15) Can't move the boat upstream?
45 12

16) Boat floats away when you enter the archway?
38 5 49

17) Missing a rope?
55 10 22 13 20 17 52 20 29 36

18) Can't find the secret chamber?
44 20 23

19) Can't get the ladder out of the secret chamber?
46 9 8 7 50

20) Can't get out of the underground canal?
16 30 55 20 42 36

21) Think you've done everything, but the game's not over?
18 27 37 41 3

2 BY
5 IT
13 AT
16 DID
18 GO

20 THE
21 ,
27 FOR
30 YOU
32 TOP
36 ?
37 A
38 TIE

48 IS
49 UP
52 OF