< Wonderland Adventures - The Retro Connection

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Wonderland Adventures:
The Retro Connection

Here at Midnight Synergy we have a healthy (?) obsession with all things retro - especially video and computer games from the 1980's and 1990's. The office is home to a collection of various retro games and machines, most of our games were heavily inspired by a variety of classic games, including Chip’s Challenge, Sokoban, Zelda, R-Type, Klax, and more, and a retro spotlight has been a regular feature in the Midnight Post newsletter.

Classic games have also made an appearance in more subtle ways. We thought it would be of interest to look in detail at one of our games - Wonderland Adventures - and examine some of the homages and references to retro gaming contain within. Here then are six classic games - from major hits to little known gems - and their influence on Wonderland Adventures.

(Click for Wikipedia entry.)

Zork was the first text adventure game from Infocom - a legendary software company of the 1980's. The text adventure genre was a favourite of ours, with many days spent on such classics as Zork, Spellbreaker, and the Guild of Thieves. As a result, it should be no surprise that references to Zork have made their way into our games.

One of the mazes in the first Zork game consisted of a series of indistinguishable rooms, connected by corridors. What made the maze difficult to master (or draw a map of), was that rooms were not simply connected side-by-side, but rather through an arbitrary maze of connections that needed to be explored one by one. ”You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”.

This type of “all alike” maze has made an appearance, in one form or another, in several of our games. In Wonderland Adventures, the layout of “Forbidden Forest” is based on such a maze. In Mysteries of Fire Island, the adventure “Mystery Island” is such a maze in disguise, and in Wonderland Secret Worlds, “Cloud City” follows a similar structure. Even an early game of ours, Operation Carnage, contains a twisted corridor maze. Finally, there is one game where such a maze makes another appearance, but - hush - that’s a secret.

We should also note that the “Grue”, another notable aspect of the Zork universe, makes an appearance in Wonderland Adventures. Every once in a while, if you walk into a dark room without a light, the usual “it is dark” text would be replaced by “you are likely to be eaten by a Grue”, the dire warning that would tell a Zork player to find light, quickly, or perish.

Colossal Cave Adventure
(Click for Wikipedia entry.)

Along a similar vein, Colossal Cave Adventure was the very first computer text adventure game. It was the predecessor to the Zork games by Infocom, as well as the inspiration for the Atari 2600 classic “Adventure”. In fact, the “twisty passages” maze had its first appearance in Colossal Cave Adventure, although most people tend to remember the version from Infocom’s Zork.

In Colossal Cave Adventure, “xyzzy” is a magical spell that allows the player to teleport between two locations. The Xyzzy also made an appearance in Wonderland Adventures (and Mysteries of Fire Island), albeit not as a spell, but rather as an unattainable object of great monetary value.

We’re of course not the first to put a reference to Xyzzy into a computer product. Xyzzy makes an appearance in the code of several operating systems, as well as games as diverse as Diablo II and Microsoft Minesweeper.

Master of the Lamps
(Click for Wikipedia entry.)

Let’s get some music going! Master of the Lamps was a 1985 release for Atari and Commodore computers. It was notable for including one of the first music-based computer games. While one half to the game consisted of a thrilling magic carpet ride through a series of magical gates (accompanied by a wonderful musical score), the second half of the game was a musical puzzle that required you to play notes to match a tune given by a genie.

A similar mechanic was of course used earlier in the classic Milton Bradley game “Simon”, but we definitely had “Master of the Lamps” in our minds as we created the Shard puzzle in Wonderland Adventures. In both games, hitting a shard/bell three times initiates the puzzle, and in both games the musical sequences increase in length with each try.

Click to continue to Part 2 of the Wonderland Adventures Retro Connection.

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