13. Dragon Quest and Stonequest

by Garry Francis of Sydney, Australia

 

Issue 22

Jul/Aug 86

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I estimate that there are close to two hundred Adventures available for the Atari. These range from simple BASIC listings in books and magazines through to multi-disk, machine language epics. Needless to say, the quality varies from lousy through to excellent with price usually being indicative of quality. Fortunately for Atari owners, very few Atari Adventures fall into the 'lousy' category, but those in the 'excellent' category tend to be a bit pricey.

Once in a blue moon, you find something out of the ordinary. Something that really makes you sit up and pay attention. Something that's cheap, yet holds its own with the most expensive commercial Adventures. Dragon Quest and Stonequest are two such Adventures. If you've never heard of them before, then I'm not surprised. These Adventures cannot be bought over the counter at your local computer store. They are only available by mail order from the U.S.A. and hence are not very well known although they deserve to be. Both are top quality games. Buy them if you can. I doubt that you'll be disappointed.

Dragon Quest
or
A Twist in the Tail

Dragon Quest is an illustrated Adventure written in BASIC and machine language by Ed Churnside. It is just one of the many fine programs available from the APX Classics in Antic magazine's software catalogue. Unfortunately, it is the only Adventure.

The game comes on a double-sided disk. You should begin by booting side 2 as this contains all the instructions. You will be given the option of printing the instructions to the screen or a printer. Choose the printer option if you've got one as the instructions are very lengthy certainly too much to remember in one sitting. They give a brief overview of the game, system requirements, loading instructions, very thorough playing instructions, technical notes, game playing hints and three appendices. It's a pity that instructions for all commercial Adventures aren't this thorough. The playing instructions make it obvious that the author has put a lot of effort into making the game easy to use. For example, you can save up to ten games on each data disk and this can be on a second drive to avoid disk swaps. You can format a disk or get a directory of the saved games and free space available from within the game, you can keep a record of your quest on a printer (a la Infocom) and even toggle the custom character set on and off (a la Scott Adams).

As if that's not enough, the author even has an answer to the 'sudden death syndrome' common in many Adventures. When you carry out some action that causes your demise, you may be offered a second chance. The program asks "Would you like to try that again?". If you answer "YES", you can continue on from the previous move as though nothing had happened. Great stuff! When you've finished with the instructions, flip the disk to side 1 and boot the main program.

Dragon Quest begins in a forest. Isn't it amazing how many Adventures start in a forest? I often wonder how you got there in the first place. Anyway, this particular forest and all subsequent locations are depicted by brightly coloured pictures in GRAPHICS 7. The resolution of GRAPHICS 7 is a little coarser than what you're probably used to in an illustrated Adventure, but it doesn't detract from the game. The pictures have been drawn using Paint (Reston/Atari) and Draw It! (APX/Antic), and have been saved in a compacted format so that they load very quickly. But back to the game...

It just so happens that a sign is roped to a nearby tree in the forest. Upon reading the sign, you find that the king is offering a large reward for some unspecified task. Now being the adventurous type (money hungry?), you set off to see the king for more details. When you find him, he reveals that he and the princess were once hunting in the forest when they became separated from the main party. Whilst wandering about by themselves, a dragon swooped down and carried the princess away. The king knows that the princess is dead, but wants you to find and kill the dragon and return with the princess' pendant as proof of your success. Only then will he give you your reward. However, he is good enough to give you 500 gold pieces to use in your quest.

Now that your aim is clear, you can set off and explore the castle and the forest and anything else that pops up along the way. Note that important items are sometimes shown in the picture, but not in the description and vice versa, so examine everything! Be careful in the forest. It is in fact a maze, but one worth exploring. Read the room descriptions carefully as each one is unique.

The game is absolutely riddled with hints and humour, but it's sometimes hard to distinguish between the two. It is sometimes only in retrospect that you realise a humorous line was actually a subtle clue. Therefore, don't take anything for granted. And don't be shy! Talk to anyone and everyone ... and listen too! Most importantly, this game is very logical. There is a reason for everything and nothing is random!

Dragon Quest comes close to the perfect blend of inbuilt clues, interesting puzzles, humour and downright fun. It even has an element of mystery that I've never struck before in an Adventure. Just like an Agatha Christie novel, there is a twist in the ending, hence the sub-title "A Twist in the Tail". There's even a twist in the sub-title! (Say it out loud and ignore the spelling. Get it?) I did find a couple of minor bugs, but even these were humorous. Can you imagine my surprise when a certain save/restore sequence gave me a picture of a dragon superimposed over the king?

Finally, just to top everything off, a successful completion of the game rewards you with a completely unexpected surprise. I won't reveal the surprise, but it did induce a great feeling of pride and achievement unlike anything I'd experienced with other Adventures. I'm just sorry that it's over. A sequel was mentioned in the instructions of another APX Classic called Draw It! Let's hope this comes to fruition. Anyway, if you want a refreshingly different Adventure with just the right level of difficulty, try Dragon Quest. It's the best game I've played for ages.

Dragon Quest costs just US$12.95 plus US$6.00 for return airmail postage. You can pay using VISA, MasterCard or an international cheque in U.S. dollars payable at a U.S. bank. Send your order to Antic Product Catalog, 524 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, U.S.A.

Dragon Quest hints

1. Can't enter the castle?
35 50 11 43

2. Don't know whether to trust the king?
35 50 11 43 35 33 11 36 22 31 4 17 58

3. Can't enter the inn?
67 47

4. Can't find the wizard's hat?
22 31 4 17 58

5. Still can't find the wizard's hat?
70 49 11 66 11 43

6. Don't know whether to trust the king?
64 34 12 11 7 18 31 2

7. Can't open the door to the dungeon?
22 30 4 17 58

8. Can't leave the castle without falling into the moat?
68 23 67 65 51 22

9. Don't know whether to trust the king?
16 34 9 11 43

10. Objects disappear when you drop them?
22 31 4 17 58

11. Can't find the disappearing objects?
70 49 11 66 11 43

12. Can't climb the tree?
45 29

13. Can't go west from certain forest areas without being killed?
22 32 4 17 58

14. Still getting killed?
45 42

15. Can't see in the cave?
64 34 41

16. Missing wood?
27 43

17. Missing flint?
57 34 56 28

18. Missing steel?
57 34 7 28

19. Who or what is Durin?
22 32 4 17 58

20. Can't get gold to Durin?
62 1

21. Missing a shield?
39 15 17 58

22. Haven't found the woodland shrine?
35 33 11 36

23. Still haven't found the woodland shrine?
54 4 34 58 37

24. Still haven't found the woodland shrine?
52 46 44 11 3 28

25. Can't cross the stream?
45 61 31

26. Can't enter the woodland shrine?
10 19

27. Can't open the safe?
15 28 25 28 40 28 24 58 28

28. Can't decipher the third scroll?
13 40 48 63

29. Still can't decipher the third scroll?
31 38 59 26

30. Can't get the shield out of the shrine?
62 21 11 6

31. Can't enter the pit?
24 50 11 43 28

32. Can't untie the rope?
62 53

33. Missing a sword?
22 32 4 17 58

34. Can't find your way IN through the maze of tunnels?
35 33 11 36

35. Troll kills you?
62 23 53

36. Missing a magic sword?
16 34 60 8

37. Can't afford the magic sword?
27 69

38. Can't cross the lava flow?
10 9 11 43

39. Still can't cross the lava flow?
5 14

40. Can't find the dragon?
24 20 11 56 28

41. Can't find your way OUT through the maze of tunnels?
35 33 11 36

42. Goblins kill you?
70 55 10

43. King throws you in the dungeon?
16 34 26

1 SHIELD
2 MOVE
3 WELL
4 BEER
5 RUB
6 GATE
7 DUNGEON
8 AGAIN
9 WOMAN
10 HELP
11 IN
12 DOOR
13 SUBSTITUTE
14 POTION
15 WINE
16 TALK
17 AT
18 ON
19 WIZARD
20 SCROLLS
21 GAP
22 DRINK
23 MAGIC
24 REMEMBER

25 NUMBERS
26 DRAGONS
27 SEARCH
28 ?
29 WEAPONS
30 THIRD
31 FIRST
32 SECOND
33 POSTERS
34 TO
35 READ
36 COURTYARD
37 KEEPER
38 WORD
39 BUY
40 LETTERS
41 SKULL
42 VALUABLES
43 FOREST
44 COINS
45 DROP
46 ARE
47 CASTLE
48 FOR

49 LIVES
50 SIGN
51 DON'T
52 WHY
53 SWORD
54 GIVE
55 CAN
56 SHRINE
57 BEEN
58 INN
59 IS
60 DURIN
61 EVERYTHING
62 USE
63 SYMBOLS
64 LISTEN
65 OR
66 TREE
67 EXIT
68 FIND
69 ROCKS
70 MAGPIE


Stonequest
or
The Quest for the Great Stone of Prosperity

Stonequest is an all-text Adventure written by David Strelitz. It is again written in BASIC which proves that this language is more than adequate for a fast executing, complex Adventure when placed in the hands of a competent author.

The six double-spaced pages of instructions for Stonequest are nowhere near as thorough as those for Dragon Quest, but adequate just the same. They consist of a title page, a lengthy background story and helpful playing instructions. The background story tells how a struggling alchemist created a stone that magically gave prosperity to whoever owned it. He gave this to the king of Parnidell, hoping that the kingdom would prosper. And it did. Unfortunately, the king did not give credit to the alchemist, but claimed that he'd invented the stone himself. The alchemist became angry and bitter and soon turned to evil. When the king died, his son Weesey took over the throne. Weesey was a good king, but "not well endowed in the brains department". The alchemist was able to trick Weesey and steal back the stone. Without the stone, prosperity left the kingdom and "the Parnidell stock market crashed". King Weesey summoned the greatest adventurers in the land to try and recover the Great Stone of Prosperity (as it had become known), but none were successful. In desperation, he offered "the greatest reward imaginable" for the recovery of the stone and this is where you enter the picture.

Stonequest is actually three games in one. When you first boot the disk, you are presented with a simple title screen which asks you to enter a codeword or press RETURN. The first time you play the game you won't know any codewords, so just press RETURN. However, when you later complete part 1, you will be given a codeword which you should write down for future reference. It will disappear when part 2 has finished loading. Whenever you reboot the disk, you can enter this codeword to skip directly to part 2 without having to replay part 1. Similarly, when you complete part 2, you will be given another codeword which allows you to skip directly to part 3. This is a novel idea which not only works well from the user's point of view, but no doubt allowed the author to squeeze a lot more Adventure out of the machine than would normally be possible in a single BASIC program.

Part 1 starts outside the royal palace. From here, you can explore the countryside of Parnidell including the forest (not another one!) and the township of Gree. There aren't many locations, but the descriptions are very lengthy and full of atmosphere. Once you've mapped the area and found the only object lying around, you may be left wondering what to do next. I should warn you that magic is commonplace in this kingdom. The puzzles you need to solve and the objects needed to solve them are very cleverly concealed all around you. Give it some thought and you'll find that the solution to part 1 is actually fairly easy. The last puzzle very cunningly forces you to drop all objects so that you can squeeze through a trapdoor. This leaves you empty handed when you start part 2.

Part 2 is set completely underground. Here you will meet two particularly nasty characters and some equally nasty puzzles. Magic again comes to the fore in more ways than one. At one point you find a small metal canister. If you pick it up and repeat your actions, you find another metal canister. If you take one of them to another room, then return and again repeat your actions, you'll find yet another metal canister! Ad infinitum. A cynic would say there's a bug in the program, but I know magic when I see it! Anyway, with a little persistence, you'll eventually find the whirlpool hinted at in the game's instructions and get sucked into the third and final part of the game.

Boy, this game gets harder and harder! Part 3 is set "on a dark and foreboding island". The dominant feature is a huge maze. It's really easy to map as all exits obey the laws of real life physics instead of Adventure physics, but it's HUGE ... almost 200 rooms! Make sure you map it all or you may miss some important items. The closing chapters of the game include some more magic and a couple of riddles before entering the Black Fortress for the final showdown with the Evil Alchemist and (hopefully) the recovery of the Great Stone of Prosperity. Phew!

Stonequest is another great game for the price. It's a bit harder than Dragon Quest, but takes an equally light-hearted and humorous approach which makes it all the more enjoyable. If you like text Adventures, give Stonequest a go!

Stonequest costs US$14.95 plus US$4.00 for return airmail postage. It is available from LotsaBytes, 15445 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 10G, Sherman Oaks, CA 91413, U.S.A. Unfortunately, LotsaBytes will not accept credit cards, so you'll have to send an international cheque in U.S. dollars payable at a U.S. bank. (You can obtain an International Money Order at any branch of Barclays. Ed.) I notice that LotsaBytes haven't had their usual advertisements in recent issues of Antic and ANALOG, so you might be well advised to write a letter before sending any money, just to make sure they're still in business.

Stonequest hints

Part 1

1. Can't get past the mad lumberjack?
1 24 46 13

2. Can't find anything to trade with Ibid?
3 6 12 64 53 51

3. Still can't find anything to trade with Ibid?
3 65 37 3 66 20

4. Can't find anything to trade with Ivan?
8 64 69

5. Haven't found the trapdoor?
33 33 10 7 22

6. Can't open the trapdoor?
19 45 67 1 68 48 58 15 47 21

Part 2

7. Can't make sense of the inscription?
5 1 64 25 34

8. Can't get the knife?
5 1 62

9. Still can't get the knife?
41 45 30 55

10. Still can't get the knife?
41 25 34 70 31 66 22

11. Can't open the bird cage?
36 43 3 59 35 5 13

12. Can't get past the ogre?
54 5 49

13. Can't get past the octopus?
41 3 59 39

14. Can't keep the matchey dry?
41 29 3 40

15. Can't find anywhere else to go?
44 1 50 13

Part 3

16. Want a quick way out of the maze?
30 3 18

17. Can't find anywhere else to go?
27 42 15 17

18. Can't answer Ethnor's first riddle?
60 56 26 32 52 38

19. Can't answer Ethnor's second riddle?
9 1 45 11 63 22 1 45 16

20. Missing a gold coin?
41 3 42 17

21. Still missing a gold coin?
69 2 28 64 57 14

22. Can't read the tapestry?
8 64 69

23. Can't open the great wooden doors?
41 4 49

24. Can't defeat the Evil Alchemist?
41 3 42 17 58 15 61 46

25. Can't find anywhere else to go?
41 29 3 23

1 IS
2 POTION
3 THE
4 READING
5 IT
6 BIRD
7 SILVER
8 HAVE
9 SUN
10 MAXWELL'S
11 DAY
12 HAS
13 ?
14 TOUCH
15 YOU
16 NIGHT
17 WELL
18 PARCHMENT
19 KEY
20 IDEA
21 PEACE
22 ...
23 FURNITURE
24 HE

25 MAGIC
26 EYES
27 HERE'S
28 FOR
29 MOVING
30 USE
31 CENTRE
32 MOUTH
33 BANG
34 WORD
35 DO
36 HOW
37 HAD
38 NOSE
39 FIRST
40 RUBBLE
41 TRY
42 WISHING
43 DOES
44 WHAT
45 TO
46 HUNGRY
47 DIG
48 FOUND

49 SOMETHING
50 FLAMMABLE
51 EGG
52 AND
53 PRECIOUS
54 GIVE
55 MAGNET
56 OF
57 MIDAS
58 IF
59 OGRE
60 THINK
61 ARE
62 METAL
63 AS
64 A
65 LUMBERJACK
66 RIGHT
67 THIS
68 EASILY
69 DRINK
70 TOP


Next issue

I haven't made any firm plans for next issue although I'm tentatively thinking of a trip to outer space. I've completed several Adventures recently, but most of them are the sort of rare and obscure titles (like Dragon Quest and Stonequest) that I really relish, yet most people haven't heard of. As usual, if you've got any criticism, comments or suggestions for future columns, feel free to contact me at the address below.

Finally, my thanks to our regular Adventure reviewer, John Sweeney, for helping me out with Asylum (Issue 20). Your free disk of Adventures is on the way!

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