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"Adventure" could be the first computer role-playing game, or at least the first visual one, since there had been many text-based games of the genre. Not surprisingly, the premise involves an "Evil Magician" hiding "The Golden Chalice." All you have to do is find the chalice and return it to its home in "The Golden Kingdom." Standing in your way will be three mean dragons, a thieving bat and a slew of mazes to navigate.
The basic gameplay involves your character, a small block, exploring the kingdoms where you will find tools such as a bridge, a magnet, a sword and keys. You'll need the keys to enter different castles, which lead to mazes which in turn lead to more castles. Once you find the chalice you have to make your way back to the beginning of the game, assuming you can remember the way.
One of the strangest things about this game is the fact your character does not have a name. The instruction manual is written in the second-person perspective, and refers to the protagonist simply as "you" and not as any kind of cliché knight or warrior (I call him "Mr. Block"). Usually, games of the sword-and-sorcerer fantasy genre are full of details like that, so it's surprising they are absent here.
PLAYER 1 - READY!
The true challenge to "Adventure" lies in your ability to get through the mazes because the field of play is spread out over a wide area and isn't linear. Since you're only able to carry one object at a time, you'll constantly find yourself backtracking to grab the objects you need. This is especially true when the bat suddenly swoops down and swipes a useful tool out of your hands and now you have to explore the entire kingdom trying to find it again (and when you do, it's usually carrying a different object meaning you have to find where it dropped the one you need).
Some of the mazes employ a limited perspective where you can only see in a small radius around Mr. Block. This gives the game a nice feeling of mystery and suspense because you're never quite sure what's around the next corner or if you're heading in the right direction. It also forces you to pay close attention to the detail and the location of the objects (the fact everything looks so similar certainly doesn't help).
There are three separate quests of increasing difficulty to the game, which means this is something of a 3-in-1 cartridge. The first quest is a practice run while the second quest is more of a true challenge. The third quest is basically the same as the second, only with some of the minor details changed. I was genuinely disappointed at how the second and third quests were so similar. It took me upwards of an hour to complete the second quest but I was able to finish the third in less than 10 minutes since it followed the same basic setup.
Because this isn't a game of dexterity, play control is a fairly negligible facet to "Adventure." For what it's worth, Mr. Block moves pretty quickly and the controls are receptive and surprisingly smooth.
There are a few moments of annoyance such as when a bunch of different objects are all in close proximity to each other and you want to drop one and pick up another and the game won't let you. Also, in order to kill a dragon, you have to touch it with the tip of your sword - which can be frustrating when the dragon comes at you from any other direction than which your sword is facing (which means you have to drop it and re-position yourself, usually resulting in your own defeat).
SPRITES & PIXELS
To call this game's use of graphics iconic is a major understatement. Because the overall premise is so simple, it's forgivable for everything in this game to be so bland. The fact the main character is nothing more than a block is shocking. Why the game designer didn't feel the need to give this character any kind of image or to even name him is laughable. When we also consider that the sword is nothing more than an arrow and the dragons look like ducks, we realize the game's graphics are nothing more than arbitrary symbols.
The majority of the gameplay is completely silent with the only sound effects occurring when Mr. Block picks up or drops an object, "slays" a dragon and when he finally returns the chalice to the Golden Kingdom. At the very least, the sounds are listenable, unlike so many other Atari 2600 games whose acoustics were harsh.
INSERT COIN TO CONTINUE
Atari 2600 games were mostly of the Sisyphus format, that is, of a challenge that infinitely repeats with increasing difficulty. But in the case of "Adventure," it's a game that's actually able to be finished and completed. It's entertaining to play the first time, but lacks appeal to make you want to play it again.
As a puzzle game, "Adventure" is pretty novel for its time and even after all these years it's still an interesting and challenging game. Its hook comes from the player's initial effort with it. If it had the capability to change the mazes and the layouts of the kingdoms, it would be a game with true replay value. Certainly, it's a game worth playing, but it's pretty disposable.