Colossal Bus Adventure!

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

As a teenager with my first computer I played a lot of text-based games. They’ve stuck in my memory, maybe because I spent entirely too much time on them. The three main ones were Colossal Cave Adventure, Planetfall, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The Hitchhiker’s game, like the novel, was written by the late great Douglas Adams, and was extremely difficult, even for fans of the books. The most seemingly inconsequential actions at the beginning of the game, such as feeding a cheese sandwich to a small dog, could have consequences much later in the game. That small things can have a large impact and you should never pass up the chance to do something nice are, I think, two major tenets of Douglas Adams’ philosophy. Colossal Cave Adventure was an open-ended fantasy treasure hunt that I never really got into. Planetfall was the one I spent the most time on. For some reason its plot of saving a lonely castaway on a distant planet appealed to me. And I was thrilled to learn the robot Floyd–spoiler alert–has to die as part of the game’s solution and will never again ask if you want to play Hucka-Bucka-Beanstalk but that’s another story.

It occurred to me while riding home one day that public transportation would make a pretty good text-based game in itself. I don’t have the computer skills to write a game but I thought it would make a funny story. So I’m foisting it on you, the patient, intelligent, thoughtful people who drop in here regularly. Even if you’ve never played any of the games I’ve mentioned you might recognize a few details.

You are standing on a desolate area of sidewalk that stretches from EAST to WEST. In front of you is YON BUS.

>BOARD YON BUS

You board YON BUS. The driver is a surly looking peasant and demands payment before he will allow you to take a seat.

>PAY DRIVER

With what?

>INVENTORY

You check your pockets. You are currently carrying KEYS, a PHONE, a WALLET, and a small amount of LUCRE.

>USE LUCRE

You don’t have enough.

The driver scowls at you.

>LOOK WALLET

Inside the wallet you find PICTURES, ID, CREDIT CARDS, a TWENTY-DOLLAR BILL, a TAKE-OUT RECEIPT, and a BUS PASS.

>USE PASS

The pass slides effortlessly through the slot in the fare machine which rings merrily.

The driver grunts and closes the door. He tells you to take a seat.

>TAKE SEAT

The only available seat is across from a woman with a small dog in her lap. The dog growls menacingly at you. However the seat is currently occupied by a cold half-eaten CHEESEBURGER.

>TAKE CHEESEBURGER

The bus lurches forward. You’d better take a seat!

>TAKE SEAT

You sit down. Unfortunately you are still holding a CHEESEBURGER. Cold sauce of an indeterminate origin trickles onto your hand.

>DROP CHEESEBURGER

You don’t see any appropriate trash receptacles and you don’t want to be guilty of littering.

>GIVE DOG CHEESEBURGER

The small dog greedily devours the cheeseburger and gives you a look of intense adoration. You will be its best friend for the remainder of the journey.

>LOOK PHONE

Your phone is the pinnacle of modern technology. You can play games, listen to songs, perform calculations, send and receive emails, or catch up on the latest news. A small icon in the upper right hand corner indicates that the only thing you can’t do with it right now is make a phone call.

>SHUFFLE SONGS

Your phone begins to play a jaunty medley of ‘80’s one-hit wonders. You lean back and enjoy the ride.

You don’t remember exiting the bus but you now find yourself in a dark cavernous room. The word DING glows from the far wall in bright red letters. Looking around you see a BAG and a JAVELIN. A grue is also in the room and advances menacingly.

>GET JAVELIN

You now have the JAVELIN. The grue continues to advance menacingly. It asks if you want to play Hucka-Bucka-Beanstalk.

>PITCH JAVELIN

With stunning accuracy you throw the javelin. The grue disappears in a cloud of greasy green smoke.

>GET BAG

You now have the BAG. It’s full of copper ducats!

>LOOK ROOM

There are no exits. The word DING continues to glow on the far wall.

>DING

The sound wakes you up. Someone has pulled the cord to request a stop. You are still on the bus and have been dreaming.

>INVENTORY

You check your pockets. You are currently carrying KEYS, a PHONE, a WALLET, a small amount of LUCRE, and COPPER DUCATS.

>EXIT BUS

You look out and realize you’ve passed your stop. The bus is now speeding along a desolate stretch of interstate. The woods are dark and likely infested with grues. Are you sure you want to stop?

>SHUFFLE SONGS

Your phone begins to play a lively medley of ‘90’s one-hit wonders.

The bus rolls into the DEPOT. The driver announces that everyone must leave the bus. Exits are BEHIND and FORWARD.

>LEAVE BEHIND

You exit the bus via the rear doors avoiding a scowl from the driver.

It will be at least fifteen minutes before the bus departs. You begin to feel hungry.

>LOOK DEPOT

You look around and see a VENDING MACHINE. Across the street is a COFFEE SHOP.

>USE VENDING MACHINE

The machine contains a delightful array of tempting snacks. Unfortunately it does not take LUCRE, TWENTY-DOLLAR BILLS, or DUCATS.

>GO COFFEE SHOP

There’s a long line at the coffee shop. You’ll have to wait and might miss your bus.

>WAIT

The line moves briskly. You get to the front and order a triple-espresso mocha topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, caramel drizzle, and chives. The barista hands you your DRINK and CHANGE.

>TAKE DRINK

You now have a DRINK. It weighs approximately six pounds.

>TAKE CHANGE

You now have CHANGE.

>GO DEPOT

You return to the depot with two minutes left before the bus leaves. A voice over the intercom reminds you eating, drinking, and smoking are now allowed on the bus.

>QUAFF DRINK

You guzzle the combination of coffee, sugar, and dairy in record time. You are now refreshed for the remainder of your journey!

>BOARD BUS

The driver insists you need to pay to re-board.

>ARGUE WITH DRIVER

Nice try bucko.

>USE PASS

Your pass is expired and there are no valid charges left on it.

>USE CHANGE

Luckily you received exact change at the coffee shop. You insert the correct amount in the fare taker. The driver scowls and tells you to take a seat.

>TAKE SEAT

The bus lurches forward.

>SHUFFLE SONGS

Your phone’s power is critically low and playing songs would be an unnecessary waste of power. You lean back and pretend to enjoy the ride.

Up ahead on the left you see your HOME.

>PULL CORD

You pull the cord. There is a satisfying “Ding!” An automated voice reminds you to remain seated until the bus comes to a complete stop.

>STAND UP

You are pitched forward onto your face as the bus comes to a halt. The driver cackles merrily as you pick yourself up off the floor.

>EXIT BUS

The driver scowls as you disembark.

You are standing on a desolate area of sidewalk that stretches NORTH and SOUTH. Behind you is an EERIE CASTLE. Ahead of you is HOME.

> GO EERIE CASTLE

The Eerie Castle has been bringing down neighborhood property values for years. With great sagacity you decide that midnight on a Tuesday is the ideal time to explore its premises. You enter hesitantly. The door closes behind you. Ahead you see two large eyes glowing in the darkness. You recognize the small dog from the bus, only now it is thirty-five feet tall and weighs approximately six-hundred pounds.

The dog recognizes you as the person who gave it a cold, rotten cheeseburger slathered with a sauce of pure salmonella extract and brown, slimy, rotten lettuce. It therefore considers you its best friend in the entire universe and stares at you with infinite adoration.

Obvious exits are FORWARD, BACK, and STAIRS.

> GO STAIRS

Because you forgot to activate the flashlight app on your phone you don’t see that large sections of the floor are missing. You fall into the basement and are eaten by a horde of zombie alien okapi.

You have died.

Total points: 171

Boons acquired:

‘80’s one-hit wonders medley

‘90’s one hit wonders medley

Copper ducats

Extremely large small dog

 

12 Comments

  1. Gilly Maddison

    You have the basis for a Stephen King-esque novel there.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Really? I haven’t read very much Stephen King but more and more it seems like he and I are simpatico. Especially at this time of year. I’ve always loved his statement that he writes the way he does because, ” I have the heart of a small boy…and I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    Best game ever–now can you make one for the subway for me? My favourite computer game was always Myst–I wish beyond wishing that they would bring out a new version, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I think I’m showing my age here when I say I was too old for Myst when it came out. Well, you’re never really too old for video games, but I got my first computer in 1986 and it wasn’t a Mac, so I couldn’t have played Myst on it anyway.
      Anyway I’ll work on one for the subway. Actually the Eerie Castle could contain its own subway system. And funny enough Planetfall had a subway train in it. I can’t tell you how many times I wrecked it.

      Reply
  3. Arionis

    This is a great post Chris! Brings back memories. When I was a teen my uncle gave me a 5 1/4 floppy disk with a program called Zork I on it. He said I could have it because it was weird and he didn’t like it because it was just words. The first time I played I was hooked. Didn’t matter that it was just words, I saw the story in my head. From then on I devoured any text based adventure I could get my hands on. By far, Planetfall was my favorite. I can remember my eyes getting misty when Floyd came out of that radiation lab all beat to hell and died in my arms.

    Love your bus game. I can see some of the elements of all the classics in there; Zork, Planetfall, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and more. This totally put a big smile on my face. Did you ever play Stationfall? It was one of Infocoms last titles and while it wasn’t quite as good as Planetfall it was still worth playing to be able to save the day again with Floyd.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I had a funny feeling you’d appreciate this and I’m glad at least one person who played those old games read this. And I say cruel things about Floyd but the truth is I had a soft spot in my heart for that little robot. I did play Stationfall a few times but never got very far into it–as I recall I had trouble getting the right form I needed to advance to the next phase.
      By the way if you click the link above you can play Colossal Cave Adventure. This might also bring back a few memories.

      Reply
  4. Arionis

    Yea that does bring back memories. A few years ago I found an emulator with all the old classic text adventure games on it and went on a several month journey through them all. I found it funny that while I was playing Planetfall I was still falling for some of the game ending blunders even though I had solved this a long time ago. I crashed the shuttle, I put one of the access cards too close to the magnet and scrambled it, and I forgot to turn down the laser intensity and blew the relay in the computer to smithereens.

    One of the ones I never solved but really loved was Suspended. Did you ever play that one? You were in suspended animation but you had several robots at your command that each functioned as your individual senses. It was fun to play but I never solved it before men in white jumpsuits showed up to disconnect my life support for doing such a bad job.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve never even heard of Suspended. How did I miss that one? I remember moving on to ASCII games like Larn and Rogue, but even after I got those I kept going back to Planetfall. And performed many of the same game-ending blunders you’ve described. I also have no idea how many times I fell down from exhaustion somewhere and was eaten by a grue.
      By the way if you follow the link to Colossal Cave Adventure above it’ll take you to the game.

      Reply
  5. Ann Koplow

    Hi Chris! When I first started working in high tech in the 1970s, one of these games was all the rage. I think the game was called “Adventure.” It involved a dwarf, an amazingly difficult maze, and many elements that you’ve included in this clever and funny blog post.

    THANK CHRIS

    Chris accepts your thanks and eventually leaves you a reply.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      This comment is a real treasure. The game you’re describing is “Colossal Cave Adventure” although most people did just call it “Adventure”. I feel like we’ve both won now.

      Reply
  6. Kristine @MumRevised

    I loved this! I remember playing a text-based game set in some house with lots of locked doors. Don’t remember the name but am clear on the frustration. I missed hanging out here 🙂
    BTW love the pic of you and the dogs. >HUG DOGS

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Wow, that does sound insanely frustrating. I think a text-based game in a house with a lot of locked doors would make me claustrophobic. Even when it’s strictly text-based I still want freedom to move around.
      Welcome back, by the way. I’ll hug the dogs for you. They’ll be very happy.

      Reply

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