< Wonderland Adventures - The Retro Connection

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Ultima IV - Quest of the Avatar
(Click for Wikipedia entry.)

Ultima IV was a computer role-playing game by Origin Software, released in 1985. It was groundbreaking for its massive world and complex storyline that went beyond the standard good-vs-evil narrative to involve elements of morality and even spirituality. It is a personal favourite, made the top of several “Best Games Ever” lists, and was featured in a previous Midnight Post retrospective.

Much of our early game designs were inspired by attempts to create a similar game. While none came close to being completed (although our early Atari ST games “Superstition” and “DungeonLord” were at least in the same genre), we at least wanted to insert a few references into Wonderland Adventures.

The most obvious to any Ultima player is the usage of the Ultima mantras: Summ, Om, Ahm, Mu, Ra, Beh, Cah, Lum. In Ultima, they are used to mediate on the eight virtues of the Avatar. In Wonderland Adventures, they are heard in the Labyrinth west of the Creepy Keep (and they make another appearance later in the game).

A more subtle reference is the name of one character, Jaana. In Ultima IV, she is a druid in the Forest City of Yew. In Wonderland Adventures, Jaana lives in Forest’s End and - revealed in dialog - states that the Wonderland Yew is a favourite tree.

Okay, maybe that was too subtle. :)

Forbidden Forest
(Click for Wikipedia entry.)

Forbidden Forest was a Commodore 64 action game, released in 1983. It was notable for its intense atmosphere - creepy, scary and violent - and its memorable music. While it will seem incredibly tame in comparison to today’s games, Forbidden Forest was one of the very first “survival horror” video games that led to today’s “Silent Hill” and “Resident Evil” franchises.

My goodness. What could such a game have in common with Wonderland? Well, the Forbidden Forest section in Wonderland Adventures is named after this game. To underline this point, one of the Stinkers at the entrance to the Forest warns you that you may find “giant spiders, followed by giant bees, followed by giant things falling from the sky”, which describes the first three enemy waves in the Commodore 64 game.

Of course, the Wonderland version is quite a bit friendlier than its counterpart, and contains no giant spiders, skeletons, dragons, or demogorgons. It is, however, home to a few grumpy Thwarts and their fortress on Lonely Top mountain.

Aztec Challenge
(Click for Wikipedia entry.)

Aztec Challenge was an Atari 400/800 game, first released in 1981, then converted to the Commodore 64 in 1983, where it became a major hit for publisher Cosmi. The Commodore 64 version of Aztec Challenge was also the second title by programmer Paul Norman, whose first game was - can you guess? - Forbidden Forest! Can this be coincidence?

Well, yes, it is coincidence, except for the fact that both of his games were childhood favourites, and made their way into Wonderland Adventures.

The reference to Aztec Challenge is rather subtle, but if you look closely at the icons found in “The Pyramid”, you will find that they resemble the masks that feature prominently in Aztec Challenge. Of course, the brooding evil frown of the original has been turned upside-down into a Wonderland smile!

The masks make another appearance in Mysteries of Fire Island. Perhaps there is a deeper significance to them?

Other Games

These are just a few of the many references to other video games in Wonderland Adventures (and the other Wonderland games). There are many other retro connections in our games - and we'll definitely delve into them in another issue of the Midnight Post. Until then, happy retro-Wonderlanding!

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