Commodore User


Asylum

Author: Keith Campbell
Publisher: Screenplay
Machine: Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Commodore User #33

Asylum

Way, way back in 1981, when the Vic-20 was a new-born babe, a game called Asylum was released by Med Systems, a US software company. It ran on the popular home computers of the day, the TRS-80 and Apple. After all those years, it's now available on the C64.

Asylum featured crude but effective straight line graphics, showing perspective views through a maze. The objects were all contained in boxes, presumably to accommodate the limitations of the graphics available. But there were pictures of guards, stationed at strategic positions, and doors within the maze were shown, either open or closed.

Movement forward was effected by pressing the up arrow; changing the direction faced was carried out by pressing the left, right or down arrows. Thus, as the player moved through the maze, the could see the far wall moving towards him, and the side exists appearing, all at machine code speed. It was a very effective system.

Asylum

The clever part, which made the game an adventure rather than a mere maze game, was that pressing any alpha-character key initiated a text-input mode, and the command entered was overprinted with a response in the normal adventure fashion.

The objective was to escape from the Asylum, and even though I reviewed the Apple game back in July 1982, I have still not heard of anyone who actually got out! I did once bump into a couple of lunatics who had been stuck behind the exit door for about a year!

Not only was the Asylum vast, there were some extremely difficult problems to deal with, involving inmates, guards, and surgeons. Many a time was I forcibly invited in for a pre-frontal lobotomy, after which I felt very calm!

Asylum

Not only ago a game called Asylum for the Commodore 64 and Atari was recommended to me by an American student. I wondered if it was the same game in a different package. It loaded from disk under a hi-res colour picture of an unfortunate who definitely looked 'disturbed' to say the least. I soon found myself in a room with a bed and a credit card, and an unlocked door. Not the same game after all, for the old Asylum had a couple of unlocking problems with a hand grenade and a newspaper.

However, once outside the room, the perspective maze appeared, but this time in hi-res graphics, albeit in different shades of grey. Movement smoothly scrolled forward than jumping forward, and when a character was encountered, the disk started spinning, producing a colour image full of detail.

Soon I came across an electrician, bearing a sign saying 'LOOK UP'. All my instincts warned me not to, warned me that I would meet a musical end! Of course, I had to check it out, and it happened - the piano fell on my head. What else would you expect?!

Asylum

In fact, Asylum for the C64 is a completely new adventure written to the same format at the original. A few ideas have been carried over, but the maze layout and most of the problems are different.

The new Asylum is no easier, nor any less enjoyable, than the original. As far as I can tell, the map is even bigger, and far more complex. The new implementation has taken full advantage of the improvements in hardware capability, since those early computers.

If you like 'em hard, with no help other than a full vocabulary listing, and are prepared to be painstaking about plotting the maze, then this is the game for you!

Keith Campbell

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