Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 13, 2014

Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure is a 1978 text adventure by Greg Hassett (who was, as I understand it, only 12 years old at the time) for the TRS-80. I played the Commodore PET version, ported by S. Prenzel.

When the game begins, you find yourself in a ship which has crashed. A computer screen informs us that ship’s “fribulating gonkulator is burned out.” I hate it when that happens.

What follows is a rather standard exercise in exploration and treasure-gathering. The game’s map contains about three dozen rooms, including two–thankfully very small–mazes (with a reference to the Colossal Cave Adventure: “I’m in a maze of twisty little passages.”). The game uses a two word parser, with only the first three letters of a word being significant.

Wandering randomly around in the game are bugs. If you encounter one before you have found the sword (which is very likely), you’ll be killed, and have to load a saved game. Bad luck for you if you saved in a place where you’ll inevitably be killed.

The game is completed when you have found both a replacement fribulating gonkulator and the tools with which to install, but there are over a dozen treasure to collect, some of which are necessary to progress, and others which only add to your final score. I managed 170/175 points, and I cannot imagine what I must do to get the last five points.

The world is a bit incoherent. You’re apparently deep underground, so rooms like the ice cavern or cobblestone hallway make sense, but others, like the Arabian Room or Al’s diner (!) just don’t fit. In addition, the game is very poorly written, with many spelling and usage errors (“I can here chirping nearby.”, “and fall into the lava ??? Fat chanche !”). On the positive side, the game does include some unique responses for flavor. For example, attempting to eat ruby results in “I think that a large ruby would give me indigestion, and I don’t have any Pepto-Bismol.”

Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure doesn’t measure up to many of its contemporaries, and it certainly can’t compare to modern interactive fiction, but it’s still an interesting part of the history of interactive fiction.

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2 Responses to “Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure”

  1. unwashedmass said

    On the positive side, the game does include some unique responses for flavor. For example, attempting to eat ruby results in “I think that a large ruby would give me indigestion, and I don’t have any Pepto-Bismol.”

    Is that really unique to the ruby or is it possible the game just uses that as the error message for “x isn’t edible”?

    Huzzah for getting the blog mojo working again! If only I could pipe my forum activity to my blog, I’d be in business.

    • Tracy Poff said

      Most items say that, though some have special responses. For example, attempting to eat the Hydra that I’ve just burned to death (with a cigarette lighter, no less) gives “Well…it’s cooked now, but it still looks kind of gross.” Some other actions also have a few special responses. I was mostly just impressed that it didn’t say “That doesn’t make sense to me.” for every unproductive action.

      As for the blog: I’m just not very good at juggling my various projects. Game-related activity is irregular because of book-related activity, and both suffer when my computer time is spent on programming or something. And, of course, at this time of year I have gardening and other things distracting me. It’s a miracle I manage to write anything at all!

      I’ll try to balance things a bit better, this year. I truly would like to play the Spring Thing games and at least a good selection of past ifcomp games before this year’s ifcomp. I’ve got a few months, but the time does slip past more quickly than one would wish.

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