I have played many video game RPGs over the years.
From modern games like the Elder Scrolls series to classics like Bard’s Tale, Temple of Apshai, and my beloved Ultima series.
But before any of those there was another digital dungeon that held my heart. There was only one hero to play who was not very customizable and certainly wasn’t well rounded, but that didn’t stop me from spending many hours playing the game. Gentle readers, I present my first video game RPG character!
The year was 1979 and the game was Adventure designed by Warren Robinette for the Atari 2600.
“An evil magician has stolen the Enchanted Chalice and has hidden it somewhere in the Kingdom. To object of the game is to rescue the Enchanted Chalice and place it inside the Golden Castle where it belongs.”
Adventure was an ambitious game for Atari and while the graphics were primitive the world was evocative. To my young imagination the world seemed vast, fantastic, and perilous. There are three castles spread across the world; the Golden Castle where you begin and end the quest, the foreboding Black Castle which lies beyond the Blue Labyrinth and contains the Grey Dungeon, and the mysterious White Castle hidden deep within the Catacombs and holding the Red Dungeon. Somewhere within this world is the lost Enchanted Chalice which must be returned to the Golden Castle. Scattered throughout the world are magical items with various properties such as the keys to the castles, the magnet and bridge, and the magical sword.
Danger roams the world in the form of three dragons; Yorkle the Yellow Dragon, Grundle the Green Dragon, and the fearsome Rhindle the Red Dragon who is the fiercest of them all. Your only protection against the dragons is the magic sword, if you can find it. Also loose in the world is the bat, a force of chaos who may help or hinder you by stealing or dropping off items. The bat has been known to steal the Enchanted Chalice out of your hands, leaving a dragon in its place.
Adventure was groundbreaking for digital RPGs. There are three levels of difficulty, each adding to the complexity of the world and the challenge of the quest. If you find yourself devoured by one of the dragons you can restart at the Golden Castle with everything as you left it, or you could restart completely. Difficulty switches allowed you to further adjust the challenge, making the dragons faster and more aggressive, or harder to kill by having them flee the magic sword.
Each dragon has its own behavior patterns. For instance, Rhindle will remain and guard the white key. Grundle will protect the magnet, bridge, or black key. Yorgle fears the gold key and will be driven off by its presence. Knowing the dragons’ preferences will give the player additional tools to help complete the quest.
The world of Adventure is the same each time, but on level three the objects and creatures are randomly scattered. Unlocking a castle may release the bat or a dragon. The Enchanted Chalice may be within the Black or White Castle, or in one of the lost rooms of the Catacombs. This gives the game a level of replayability that isn’t found in most other games of the time.
Adventure has another distinction in the history of video games, it contains the first Easter Egg. Easter Eggs are comments, jokes, or objects hidden inside a game by the programmer. In 1979 it was Atari’s policy not to credit their programmers for their work. Warren Robinette decided to hide his signature in the world of Adventure.
If you can recover the invisible dot, place it in the correct room, and add one of the correct objects to that room, it opens a hidden chamber. Within this room you’ll find Robinette’s name written in glowing letters.
I still love Adventure. The character is a square, the sword looks like an arrow, and the dragons look like ducks. But Adventure opened my eyes to the world of video game RPGs and gave me a fantastic world to explore, one with enough mazes to thrill my labyrinth-loving heart.
Adventure is available on-line and can be played in your browser. If you’ve never played it, go give it a try. You’ll get a kick out of its archaic graphics and gameplay. If you’re an old fan like me, go revisit your childhood friend.
Just remember, the bat is not your friend.
HEY! Bring that back!