Can You Escape the Evil Wizard in This Random ZX81 Adventure?

SLR Venture is a simple text adventure that relies on random chance.

Closing out September, it is time for a little adventure. SLR Venture is my attempt at creating one using the ZX81’s tiny memory footprint. Although I went on to write some more complex text games, this random game does a decent job.

Good for a quick romp.
In many respects, SLR Venture is a nicer version of my old random games. There is no real strategy here. You pick an action and hope the engine gets you there. Fight, stay, sneak, what ever you do it moves you forward. Some actions gain you points. But try not to die before escaping.

The game has enough going for it that it feels more than it is. Using a few different room descriptions, it tries to make each move unique. You won't see monsters, but you can fight them. The game is usually short enough that it feels like you made it. During the rare chance that it goes long, its repetitive nature shows in spades.

Long, but not long enough.
Although SLR Venture is a bit longer than many of my ZX81 games, it masks the flaws of the program. The code acts more like a chose your own adventure where you pick a page without looking at the book. The saving grace is the number of different rooms and actions. There are enough combinations of each to make it interesting.

A unique aspect of the code is that it uses a string array A$ for two purposes. One purpose is to hold the action message. The other is to tell the game what to do with that action. For example, if you kill the sniper the game displays that using A$(A, TO 30) where A is set to 4. It then uses an IF to check what is in A$(A,31 TO). In this case, it is “VP” which awards you some points.

SLR Venutre, by Steven Reid 1984,2019SLR Venutre, by Steven Reid 1984,2019

I thought the room descriptions were interesting. All rooms start by noting the exits and then the game choose one of three descriptions. The goal was to make it seem that you had a choice. But in reality the descriptions hold no weight in the game. They are garnish.

The real meat is the action code. And that is all random. There are no state variables, no maps, no objects. This adventure game is all window dressing. To its credit, it works well. But, after a few plays, its hard not to notice there is nothing you can do to win or lose.

Improving upon it all.
In all honesty, it wouldn’t be hard to improve the game. Much of the foundation is solid. Using the random generating to instead create a map with movement would help. Instead of random tips, the game could set snipers and such within the map. You could then decide how to proceed with varying success.

Another idea I had was that the game could use a card system. That is, the game could generate a deck in advance. each move would be car made up of a random element. You could then apply a drawn action to either negate the card or escape by it. If you can complete the deck, you escape.

In retrospect.
Altogether a good showing, I wish I’d dug more into this as a kid. My adult self enjoyed playing it, but after about 5 minutes the novelty wore off. Adding one of the improvement options would help. I’m starting to like that card idea. Hmmm.

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