Monday, January 6, 2014

"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin", Intellivision, 1983.

Hot on the heels of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CARTRIDGE (now retconned as CLOUDY MOUNTAIN), we got the AD&D franchise's second unrelated trot around the product tie-in track, Treasure of Tarmin. (Is Tarmin a person, ie. "I am Tarmin and this is my treasure"? Or perhaps Tarmin is a place: "Welcome to Tarmin; avail yourself of the treasure here"? Or maybe, maybe it's an exotic treasure type, like myrrh: "We opened the chest and there beheld a treasure of purest tarmin"? Maybe the game manual elucidated. Me, I'm lucid enough, thank you very much.)
Volume 1, the CLOUDY MOUNTAIN cartridge was only the beginning of the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS video game series for Intellivision. Now comes Volume 2, the TREASURE OF TARMIN cartridge. You want the treasure. And over 50 different creatures want you!
Any speculation as to whether it was just the video game industry crash and the plug pulled on Intellivision that kept this AD&D game series from becoming a longer-running phenomenon? One sequel already is unlikely; would additional ones have been any more unlikely? I like the list of trademarks at the bottom of the ad: ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is to be assumed, but they actually did their due diligence and trademarked TREASURE OF TARMIN and CLOUDY MOUNTAIN -- do you think those are phrases that ever again appeared in any TSR product? (You never know, maybe they will still turn up as the names of Magic: the Gathering cards someday.)

It looks like the screenshot is genuine, not reproduced-by-hand. (I like to believe that a drawing would have tried a little harder, though even as it is the 1st-person perspective must have been a pretty exciting development for players, however chunky.) Forget the screenshot art, though, because check out that wild ad art! Our intrepid hero remains a bow-wielding ranger (well, who knows if Gygax had written the ranger rules for his son yet) being menaced by a dragon (this one off-screen but conveniently posing before some light source to cast an almost-perfect profile silhouette on the ground.) Also on the scene are a transparent ghost, a pack of snakes, and the skeletal remains of a shackled prisoner, at least two of the over 50 different opponents -- and an instant evocation of a more multi-monster-filled fracas in the game environment. Also in evidence: whimsical half-cave, half-city architecture. We can further note that on the heels of the last ad, the AD&D logo has gelled to something quite familiar (I always felt that the dragonsbreath ampersand was somewhat of a stroke of genius) looking much as it would now for years to come: a logo for the future, vs. Mattel Electronics' logo which was instantly dated at least a decade past its best before date on the very first day it was unveiled. (The Intellivision logo occupies an uneasy retrofuturist position -- the only context I can envision that typeface being used again is on a console in Star Trek: The Next Generation.) They even got "video game" written with the same letter-shapes -- note the bottom openings in the lower-case "d"s and "a"s.

You might think that we've extracted all the superficial analysis there is to mine from this marginal product, and you may be correct -- but it has a second, considerably lusher print ad which we'll be looking at tomorrow.