The Mask of the Sun is an illustrated Adventure that
was originally written by Ultrasoft for the Apple II. It has now been
translated for the Atari and is distributed by Broderbund. The Atari
version occupies two double-sided disks. That's a lot of Adventure, but
is it worth the money?
The Mask of the Sun has the potential to be a great
Adventure. It has a strong plot cast in the same vein as 'Raiders of
the Lost Ark' and 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom', however,
it is let down by the worst mazes and the unfairest puzzles in all
of Adventuredom! Only the toughest, most hardened Adventurer will
finish this one without any help.
In The Mask of the Sun, you play the part of Mac
Steele – archaeologist, adventurer and not particularly honest
treasure hunter. Your arch rival Francisco Roboff, has stolen the
scrolls of Lhasa which you acquired in a previous expedition. In the
subsequent fracas with Roboff, you return his gesture by stealing an
Aztec amulet. During your later research on the amulet, you discover
that it may be linked to a more fascinating artifact known as the
Mask of the Sun.
Then disaster strikes. While probing the inner
recesses of the amulet, a tiny compartment releases a pale green gas
which knocks you out for two days. You awaken in hospital to find
that your body is undergoing a rapid degeneration. Fortunately, the
doctors have concocted an antidote which temporarily halts the
degeneration, but they cannot cure you. With your life-giving
antidote in hand, you set off to Mexico in search of the Mask of the
Sun in the hope that it holds the cure for your condition.
Your Adventure begins as the plane arrives in
Mexico. Unlike most Adventures, you begin with a rather large
inventory including a bottle of 100 pills. Needless to say, the
pills are the antidote for your strange illness and one is
automatically swallowed every four moves. This is signalled by a
beep from the computer. If you aren't carrying the pills on the
fourth move, you'll die. Therefore, never drop the pills. Similarly,
if you ever run out of pills, you'll die. This effectively means
that you have 400 moves to find the Mask of the Sun.
When you leave the plane, you'll meet Professor de
Perez and his assistant Raoul. The Professor will give you a jeep
full of supplies and a map. Before going any further, make sure you
examine and thoroughly understand all the items in your inventory
and in the jeep. When the time comes to use something, you probably
won't have much time to experiment with them. You won't need all the
items, but as there seems to be no limit on your inventory, you
might as well take everything with you.
Examination of the map gives you a rough idea of the
location of three ruins – a temple and two pyramids. It doesn't
matter what order you explore them in, although most people
unconsciously do the top one, then the bottom, then the middle. As a
matter of fact, by the time you finish the game, you'll realise that
apart from a subtle hint, two of the ruins were an absolute waste of
time in terms of your final goal. Nevertheless, these two are the
most fun to explore. (And I won't tell you which ones they are.
You'll have to find out for yourself.)
Once you've decided which direction to go, jump in
the jeep and head off into the jungle. Raoul will accompany you and
you'll grow quite fond of his companionship and dopey observations.
It's unfortunate that he won't make it through to the end of the
Adventure with you.
By this time, you will have noticed the 'travelling
sequences' whenever you move to a new location. This is a unique
feature of the game whereby several intermediate scenes are shown in
rapid sequence to give the effect of movement. This is quite a
novelty at first, but there are really only two different sequences
(i.e. driving in the jeep and walking through the tunnels in the
ruins) and it grows to be horribly boring before very long. I
suppose the nice graphics are some consolation.
You will also discover that there are two
directional schemes used in The Mask of the Sun. The first is the
traditional compass directions (including diagonals) and is used
when travelling in the jeep and in some of the ruins. The other
scheme is FORWARD, BACK, LEFT and RIGHT and depends entirely on
which direction you've just come from or which direction you're
facing. This is generally used when on foot in the ruins. There is
no consistency as to which system is used where, so make sure you
try every direction whenever there's any doubt.
There are a number of situations where your typing
speed is critical for your survival. You may need to type responses
quickly to avoid death, but you can sometimes give yourself time to
think by pressing any key to stop the timer. The snake is a notable
exception. Here you must type the whole command as quickly as
Sooner or later, you will find yourself facing the
hellish nightmare scene. And very aptly named it is too! For here is
the worst, meanest, rottenest, unfairest obstacle in any Adventure
that I've ever played! For those that haven't reached this far, let
me explain. You have just escaped death by the skin of your teeth.
Unfortunately, Raoul didn't make it. Your path is now blocked by a
river of lava. A single island of stone bobs up and down in the lava
in a seemingly random pattern. The program tells you that a fearless
Adventurer might be able to step across to safety. If you wish to
try, you must press the RETURN key. Pressing any other key will send
you back to the previous location where you will share Raoul's fate.
In other words, you've got no choice. You must press the RETURN key
to jump across the lava. And that's exactly what I did. And I died.
Now I considered myself a fearless Adventurer and I
wasn't going to let some lava beat me, so I restored a previously
saved game (which takes an eternity) and tried again. And again. And
again. And again. After two hours and forty attempts to jump across
the lava, I eventually gave up. A couple of months later, I lent the
game to a friend with strict instructions to save the game as soon
as he managed to get across the lava. He never made it. I tried it
with a group of people at an Adventure day. They never made it. I
tried it again by myself, but never made it. For me, this single
arcade-type element had ruined an otherwise good Adventure.
In the end, I patiently examined the program with a
sector editor and made some interesting discoveries. Each location
in the game has its own logic routine which is stored on disk as a
DOS 2.0 file. If you've got DOS 2.0, you can easily examine any of
these files using the following procedure:
1. Insert your BASIC cartridge (if appropriate) and
boot your computer with a DOS 2.0 disk. Note that it must be DOS
2.0. Nothing else will do.
2. When BASIC's READY prompt appears, type POKE
3822,255 [RETURN]. This will allow you to use inverse characters in
3. Type DOS [RETURN].
4. When DUP.SYS has loaded and the menu appears,
remove your DOS 2.0 disk and insert one of The Mask of the Sun
5. Type A [RETURN] [RETURN] to get a disk directory.
Notice that all the filenames are in inverse.
6. You can now use the copy function to view a file
on the screen by typing C [RETURN] FILENAME.EXT,E: [RETURN]. Make
sure you type the filename and extender in inverse (including
inverse blank spaces where necessary) and everything else as normal.
If you follow this procedure, you'll notice that the
data files for rooms aren't binary data or machine language as you'd
expect, but are in a sort of high level language and are therefore
very easy to interpret. For example, if I use a double slash to
separate the instructions, then the sequence .ID:0//.T S B=B+6 means
"if the variable D equals zero, then set variable B to B+6".
Similarly, the sequence .I Q#141//.T P "Chicken!//.E J+17 means "if
the variable Q is not equal to 141, then print the string
'Chicken!', else jump forward 17 instructions".
I soon realised that this was a really sloppily
written Adventure. I was amazed that it ran as well as it did. Had
it been written in a more elegant manner, it could probably have
been fitted on one double-sided disk instead of two and hence been
cheaper to buy. Nevertheless, the sloppiness proved to be an
advantage when it came to fixing the rock bobbing logic.
When I drew up a flowchart of this logic, I realised
that it wasn't random, but ran in a 13 step cycle. The rock was up
only long enough to see it. Once you'd seen it, it was too late to
press the RETURN key because the time it took you to react and
depress the key was longer than the time the rock was visible on the
screen. You'd have to be extremely lucky to predict the rock's
position in advance.
I wanted to alter the logic so that pressing the
RETURN key would always cause you to jump successfully across the
lava regardless of the position of the rock. Everything else should
remain unchanged. As it happened, working out the logic was quite
easy, but working out where to put the patch without a major rewrite
was quite tricky. In the end, I was saved by the sloppy coding. The
programmers had set R=0 twice in the program, but it was never used
for anything. The second R=0 was in an ideal spot for my patch, so I
changed this to D=1 and everything worked fine.
If you want to make the same changes as I did, you
can accomplish this in one of two ways. If you've got a sector
editor, take a look at sector $23A on side C. Change byte $6F from
$D2 to $C4 and byte $71 from $B0 to $B1 (assuming bytes are numbered
from zero and all values are in hexadecimal). Alternatively, you can
run the short BASIC program at the end of this article. Just be
careful not to make any typos and be very careful with lines 210 and
220. The 'R=0' and 'D=1' on these lines must be in inverse video.
Once you've passed the hellish nightmare scene, the
Adventure gets even harder. I won't give any more away, but if you
need any help with this part, then try the hints below. These are in
the normal format. Just scan the list of questions until you find
the area where you're stuck, then match the numbers below the
question with the words in the attached list to form a hint. Good
luck and beware of the inescapable mazes!
the Sun hints
1. Can't get past the snake?
2. Still can't get past the snake?
14 27 71
3. Can't get past the debris in the blocked tunnel?
4. Can't find your way around the bottom of the pit?
5. Missing a carved jade bowl?
76 42 10
6. Missing a gold bowl?
76 42 17
7. Can't move the teetering boulder?
8. Missing a blue glazed bowl?
31 1 8
9. Can't get the silver bowl?
10. Still can't get the silver bowl?
58 42 41
11. Can't open the door between the pedestals?
14 24 75
12. Jeep won't go?
72 42 52
13. Can't get the flute?
40 42 22 36
14. Can't get the potion from the peddler?
15. Can't get past the spider web?
16. Can't unlock any of the doors in the pyramid of
14 42 46 67
17. Can't find the black key?
76 42 56
18. Still can't unlock any of the doors?
14 42 23 67
19. Can't find the copper key?
31 1 8
20. Still can't unlock any of the doors?
14 42 44 67
21. Can't find the silver key?
76 42 4
22. Still can't unlock any of the doors?
14 42 47 67
23. Can't find the gold key?
76 42 43
24. Don't understand the reflections?
65 40 73 70
25. Still don't understand the reflections?
31 28 27 61 48 46 5 59 27 61 48 68 5
26. Can't survive the pale green gas?
27. Still can't survive the pale green gas?
14 69 53
28. Can't save Raoul?
29. Can't jump across the lava?
20 42 11
30. Can't find the exit from the area of total
31. Can't map the first maze?
65 8 50
32. Don't know the password?
30 42 52 2
33. Can't leave the temple of the sun?
9 42 51
34. Still can't leave the temple of the sun?
30 42 25 2
35. Still can't leave the temple of the sun?
29 42 61 48 42 68 5
36. Can't answer the first riddle?
42 3 28 27 19 33 42 55 37 39 73 42 13 33 42 13 28 45
37. Still can't answer the first riddle?
65 27 21 7 73 26 42 45
38. Can't answer the second riddle?
74 42 32 54 39
39. Still can't answer the second riddle?
65 35 59 64
40. Can't answer the third riddle?
18 28 77 12 66
41. Still can't answer the third riddle?
34 28 22 62
42. Can't get to freedom?
65 27 57
43. Can't map the third maze?
29 42 61
44. Can't get past the jaguar?
30 42 22 36 2