Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin", Intellivision, 1983. (Part 2)

Here we are, back at Treasure of Tarmin. You thought the previous ad had a lot going on, but that's just peanuts compared to this one:
THIS NEW INTELLIVISION VIDEO GAME HAS 4539 TUNNELS, 256 DUNGEONS, 1 HIDDEN TREASURE AND NO ROOM FOR ERROR.

TREASURE OF TARMIN cartridge is the newest video game challenge in the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS series for Intellivision. But beware, it is no game for mere mortals.

You must be more than clever. You must master the skills of mystic weaponry and sorcery. Or suffer destruction by over fifty different types of hideous creatures. And once you begin your quest for the treasure, there's no turning back.

So if you dare take on this video game, remember, you've been warned. These dungeons are going to give you the creeps. Getting rid of them is your problem.

Basically, this ad contains everything that was in the previous one, plus much besides: I see our skeleton friend, a grim spectre, a snake and a dragon. But here also we have a dour assembly of torch-bearing simian demihumans, a devilish Efreet, a second variety of revenant (wielding a head-scratching torch-with-chain), plus a Morlock with a harpoon. We're clearly in a dungeon rather than a cave, but that just seems to mean more room for prisoners. Just as well there's more here -- the previous ad boasted the over 50 enemies as this one does as well, but like some prepubescent Rain Man, it also tabulates the tunnels and dungeons for an encore. (Maybe it's just me, but that rings to me probably a few tunnels more than I want to play my way through. But of course I am merely mortal.) 4539 seems arbitrary, like a certain pile of leaves in Zork, while 256 is disconcertingly expected. Do you think Warren Robinett's Adventure on the 2600 would have sold more if it were billed as containing a hidden treasure?

This is from an era where I don't imagine the games expected players to be "clever" at all; cleverness helps you to bypass hard work, and hard work at this time is what masqueraded as gameplay. Playing a game "cleverly" would be like using the "Win Game" hotkey in The Secret of Monkey Island. Do I really have to master both the skills of mystic weaponry and sorcery? Can't I just master one? What about conventional weaponry? Does this mean that my player is a dual-classed fighter/mage? Are there even dual-classing rules in AD&D at this time? "Or suffer destruction by over fifty different types of hideous creatures". Or one knockout gorgeous one? Surely we would only be destroyed by one type at a time, unless they came to some (SPOILER ALERT) Murder on the Orient Express type arrangement, everyone taking one bite out of me.

Once I begin my quest for treasure, there's no turning back? What does that even mean? Does the game come with a little panel you glue over your Intellivision's power switch, preventing it from being turned off? Is it saying that my character can't retire from adventuring and return to farming mid-game? Frankly I would be surprised if he could. If I dare take on this video game... you know what, guys, you've nearly dissuaded me. I'm inadequately hardcore. I have not yet achieved a high enough level. I may have to give it a pass. Do you have a Basic Dungeons & Dragons Intellivision cartridge? PS, those over 50 hideous creatures you've set up as formidable opponents? You just dispersed all that juicy forboding by making a dumb joke refering to them as "creeps". That snake-headed spirit erupting from the lava pits is not "creeping", which denotes a certain intention for stealth. No, it's announcing that the Undead Pride Parade is here, and it's the Grand Marshal.

That screen shot looks familiar, but far more authentic here. Maybe this glossy Dragon Magazine paper stock allowed for a more high-fidelity print job, while for the loose comic art of the previous ad they just hired a kid to trace the screenshot to suggest, if not actually indicate, the gameplay's appearance.

Dig that small print: "This cartridge is approved by TSR, Inc., the publisher of the "Fantasy Role-Playing Games" sold under the trademark ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS." Yes, we will pay you money to use your brand, but we also want to buy with it the right to buy your endorsement of what we do with it. It reads a bit like the clumsy affirmations film companies used to suggest came out of the mouth of Alan Moore when they adapted his comic books into terrible films. Now that there's two of these games they seem really keen to refer to it as a "series", but we never got any more of them. (Or, who knows, maybe they made more of them but just quietly disengaged from the brand after licensing it became more of a liability than an asset. But more likely Mattel just got out of the video game biz when it crashed, and pen & paper gaming looked like it might be a more stable long-term investment... well, for the next five years they were not proven wrong. But then things started getting interesting again, and people began putting a little skin back in the game... but I am getting ahead of myself.)