Okay space cadets. Don your space suits and check
your oxygen tanks. This issue we're going for a trip around the
solar system in not one, but TWO illustrated Adventures with a space
The first is Gruds in Space. This is a collectors'
item which deserves to be a classic and is featured this issue
because of a request from a reader. The second is Powerstar. This
has the unusual claim to fame of being the first and only Atari
Adventure that has ever been released on cartridge – although I
consider it more an example of 'state-of-the-art' gone wrong!
Anyway, fasten your seat belts and get ready for
Gruds in Space follows the traditional format of the
disk-based illustrated Adventure. It was written by Chuck Somerville
and Joe Dudar and released by Sirius Software. If these names are
unfamiliar to you, then there is probably a good reason for it. It
appears that Gruds in Space was originally written for the Apple
(hence the authors' lack of fame in the Atari world) and translated
for the Atari a little over two years ago. It only had a limited
exposure before Sirius Software went out of business somewhere
around November 1984. When that happened, all Sirius Software's
programs instantly disappeared from the marketplace.
I tried to buy a copy of Critical Mass (another
Sirius Adventure), but without success. (If anybody's got a copy I'd
love to hear from you.) Fortunately, I was more successful with
Gruds in Space and found a discount mail order house in the U.S.
that still had a copy.
Gruds in Space turned out to be an excellent game in
every respect and had not suffered in the transition from the Apple
(unlike quite a few other games on the market). It's a big game with
lots of rooms, several clever twists to the story-line, a nice blend
of easy and hard puzzles and great graphics. The graphics include
simple animation like blinking eyes, flashing lights and twinkling
stars in almost every scene. I realise it's a very rare game and few
of you will ever have seen it, but if you ever see a copy, BUY IT!
You won't be disappointed.
The game itself starts aboard the privately owned
spaceship USAC 9400. And you're the pilot! The instructions tell you
very little about the game, but this is offset by a message received
in the opening moves.
"...This is an urgent message to the pilot of the
vessel USAC 9400 from USAC Command on Earth. Our battleships at the
war front near Baranok have exhausted their fuel supply. The only
cargo ship capable of returning for the fuel has also run out and is
now stranded on Pluto. The fuel, Heliotropanite, is only available
on Saturn. We believe that your ship is the only one in the solar
system that can carry the fuel from Saturn to Pluto in time to
prevent the defeat of our forces. We know that since your ship is
privately owned, you cannot be ordered to accept the mission. We are
prepared to reward you the sum of one million dollars on the
completion of the mission..."
If you accept the mission, you may get your butt
shot off. If you don't accept, you might as well remove the disk and
turn the computer off! So what's it to be? One million dollars may
sound like a pittance to the pilot of a privately owned spaceship,
but it's better than nothing (and that's all you're earning at the
moment). Obviously, you decide to head for Saturn.
Piloting your spaceship is remarkably simple. You
just set the navigation coordinates and let the computer and the
warp drive do the rest. The computer will tell you when you arrive
and you can verify this by simply checking the navigation screen or
looking out the window. You can then set the teleport coordinates
and teleport down to the surface of the planet.
You will in fact do quite a lot of travelling
throughout the game. It's essential that you get the coordinates
right or you'll end up floating in free space – where death is just
a few seconds away. I'd suggest you draw up a table to record the
navigation coordinates and teleport coordinates of each destination
as they are revealed to you during the game.
When you arrive at the mining camp on Saturn, you'll
want to have a good look around. In doing so, you'll discover two
things. Firstly, much of the mining camp is inaccessible to you for
one reason or another. Secondly, the natives are far from
hospitable. You see, Saturn is inhabited by Gruds and if there's one
thing a Grud hates, it's a human. Before continuing, I should
explain that a Grud is a short, fat alien with yellow/green skin,
freckles and big ears. It was used as a company identification logo
on all Sirius' products and appeared in several of their games. For
example, if you've played The Blade of Blackpoole, you may remember
the idol of a Grud on the island in the lake.
If you expect to progress very far, you'll have to
find a Grud who's willing to help you. Maybe one that's rich. One
whose greed for money is stronger than his dislike of humans. One
who has a butler!
You'll soon learn that Gruds are not unlike humans.
If you want information, you'll have to pay for it! In this case,
your services are wanted more than your money. You'll have to
deliver a note to someone on Venus and return with a counterfeiting
machine. Sounds simple enough, but it turns out to be more than you
By the time you return to Saturn, you should have
collected enough items to allow further exploration of the mining
camp, including a trip into the caves and a trip beyond the locked
gate in search of the Arler. The Arler is a strange character. Your
first confrontation with him will probably be a violent one, but
he's really quite timid. You need only do him a favour to gain his
confidence. A trip to the Arler's temple should put you on the right
At around this point, you'll be ready to visit the
unmanned alien ship which is orbiting Venus. In order to fully
explore the ship, you'll have to solve a real brain twister of a
puzzle. This one's a beauty. I could best describe it as the sort of
puzzle that you'd expect to find in Infocom's Zork or Enchanter
Once back at Saturn, you may manage to find the
fuel, but in doing so you create another twist in the story-line.
This one entails another trip to Venus, then to Titan. If all goes
well, you'll have the pleasure of blowing up a Baranok ship before
eventually delivering the fuel to Pluto. Then it's back to Earth for
a million dollars and a pat on the back for a job well done. Whew!
Coded hints for Gruds in Space are included with
this article. To use the hints, just look for the area where you're
stuck and match the numbers with the accompanying list of words to
create a hint. If you're still having trouble, you'll find a full
solution in 'The Book of Adventure Games' by Kim Schuette (Arrays,
1. Don't know what to do?
17 57 30 54 28
2. Can't get to Saturn?
23 5 54 24
3. Can't use the teleport?
23 5 54 21 10 56 21
4. Can't enter the guarded cave entrances?
5. Can't get the rope?
32 40 10 44 22
6. Can't see in the caves?
7. Can't buy any supplies?
8. Can't enter the Gruds' houses?
9. Can't enter the barracks?
10. Can't enter Lord Deebo's?
11. Can't read Deebo's note?
46 40 3 57
12. Can't open the gate?
13. Can't descend the pit in the caves without
20 34 3 9
14. Can't see the significance of the green square
in the cave?
36 57 19
15. Can't get past the large bat?
16. Can't unlock the chest?
17. Can't see the significance of the temple?
12 49 19 10 46 40 3 14
18. Can't stop the Arler from throwing rocks at you?
19. Can't get past the force field?
36 49 19
20. Can't lift the rock?
23 5 54 16
21. Can't get the heliotropanite?
22. Can't read the Arler's note?
46 40 3 48
23. Can't open the doors in the alien ship?
36 19 47 15 13 31 7
24. Can't find the blue and white orb?
25. Can't cross the river of bubbling lava?
26. Can't get past the Venusian?
27. Missing a gun?
28. Can't get out of the swamp?
20 34 3 55 29 50
29. Mr. Green shoots you?
30. Can't cross the river on the second trip?
31. Still can't cross the river?
32. Can't find Mr. Green on the second trip?
41 43 54 55
33. Can't revive Mr. Green?
37 1 39
34. Can't find it?
46 53 58 14 3 48
35. Can't escape from the Baranok guards?
36. Can't find it?
17 57 30 54 28 4 18 6
37. Can't find it?
17 57 30 54 28 4 25 6
Technically speaking, Powerstar is one of the most
innovative Adventures to come along in a long time. Pandora Software
have managed to cram the whole Adventure into a 16k cartridge! The
biggest advantages of this are that it is simple to use (no need to
muck about with backups of copy protected disks), it boots instantly
and there are no lengthy pauses for disk access during the game. The
biggest disadvantages are that the graphics are terrible and the
vocabulary is too limited to allow for an enjoyable game.
Powerstar uses a split screen format with graphics
at the top and text at the bottom. The graphics data for the various
rooms has been compressed (to save memory) by defining individual
elements such as tables, chairs, beds, windows, gratings, robots,
etc. In this way, a room can be drawn by (say) starting with an
empty room and adding a table, two chairs and a window at
pre-defined positions. Each room is made to look unique by using
different combinations of the individual elements and using
The graphics appear to be done in GRAPHICS 10. This
allows up to nine colours on the screen (without display list
interrupts), but because of its odd-shaped pixel, the pictures look
rather 'chunky'. As the colours are very gaudy, I'd have preferred
to see fewer colours and better resolution, but that's just
nit-picking. It has no effect on the play of the game.
The text is Atari's default white on boring blue.
This always has a negative effect, but there are other aspects that
are more annoying. The text is allocated to a much larger area than
is necessary (about half the screen) and is cleared after every
move. In addition, the program's vocabulary is far too limited.
Playing the game becomes a frustrating exercise in guessing the
right word, rather than solving puzzles. In fact, in almost three
years of writing this column, this is the first game that I've
featured and haven't actually finished! And I blame it on the poor
vocabulary. More about this later. The only point I'll emphasise
here is that it doesn't matter how technically innovative a game is
if it's no fun to play!
Powerstar takes place in the 21st century when all
electrical power in the U.S. is generated by a single nuclear
reactor aboard an orbiting space station called (you guessed it) the
Powerstar. It seems that the Powerstar's one man crew has had a bad
bout of cabin fever. The only message from him in the last week was
a fax of the label from a bottle of Jack Daniels. As the alternative
engineer for the Powerstar, it is your job to save the space station
from this nut before he does any damage.
The Adventure begins at a government field station
somewhere on the U.S. coastline. Your spaceship stands waiting on
the airfield behind you, but it won't start without the key. While
you're searching for the key, you might as well have a good look
around to see if there's anything else of interest. Movement is
achieved using the traditional N, S, E and W, but you can also use
the cursor keys or even a joystick! As you move about, you'll
discover that each room generally has four views – one for each of
the cardinal compass directions. Thus the first rule for the
successful completion of Powerstar is to make sure that you turn 360
degrees in every room! If you don't, you'll very likely miss
Once you've collected all your goodies from the
field station, you can take to the skies in your spaceship. Mapping
the sky is a real pain. It's like a maze, but the four pictures for
each room really add to the confusion. Read the room descriptions
very carefully and you'll see that they're all unique. Your
spaceship cannot climb above 100000 feet without the correct fuel,
but that'll be no problem if you remembered to fill 'er up before
you took off. (You DID remember, didn't you?)
Once in orbit, you'll find yourself in another maze.
This time you're surrounded only by stars and have no distinguishing
landmarks to guide you. Be persistent. It IS mappable and before
long you'll find yourself in the docking bay of the Powerstar.
Here is where the real Adventure begins. IF you can
get out of the landing bay and IF you can pass the various doors and
other obstacles and IF you can map the whole mess, you'll find that
the Powerstar is a miniature version of the classic torus-shaped
space station made famous by Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space
Odyssey'. Imagine it as a spoked wheel. The docking bay is the hub
at the centre of the wheel. Nearby are ladders extending down the
spokes to the rim of the wheel. If you continue heading north (or
south) around the rim, you will eventually arrive back where you
started from. Keep this in mind when drawing your map.
The space station is full of obstacles to prevent
you finding your way around. As you gradually overcome these
obstacles, more and more of the station will become accessible to
you. When you find the telescreen room, a face flashes up on the
screen and a voice booms out from a loudspeaker. "I now have control
of this space station. The nuclear reactor will be destroyed. There
is nothing you can do to stop it. Go back to your ship and go away
Oh boy, as though you weren't having enough trouble,
now you have to find a bomb as well! If you stick with it, you'll
eventually find the bomb and if you're particularly clever, you'll
also discover a way to destroy it without destroying the space
station. Before you can celebrate your success, another loudspeaker
comes to life. "I have left the station in a shuttle. You have
failed to stop me. I cut the main reactor controls and the nuclear
reactor will run away and blow the Powerstar out of the sky."
Aaaaargh! The loony crewman always seems to be one step ahead. What
You discover that the crewman has dropped an amulet
during his flight. On the back of the amulet is the word AMUZOZ.
At this point, I was stumped. I decided to fly back
to Earth and discovered that I was able to enter a previously
inaccessible room. This turned out to be the emergency control room
of the Powerstar. On the control panel was a keyswitch. When I
turned it on, the equipment came to life and a voice said 'Enter
password'. The only thing I'd encountered that resembled a password
was AMUZOZ, but no matter how I expressed it, the program would not
respond. Talk about frustrating! I blamed the program's poor
vocabulary for this, but maybe that's not the problem. Was I on the
right track? Is AMUZOZ the password? Have I done something wrong
somewhere? Would someone please help me out!
It would be unfair of me to try and supply hints for
a game that I haven't finished as I might tell you the wrong thing.
My apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced by this. If you're
really desperate, I believe a hint sheet for Powerstar is available
from Pandora Software at the address in the instructions.
I eventually finished Asylum, but this is such a
HUGE game that I think I'll save it for the next Adventure special
issue. That should give you all plenty of time to try and solve it
for yourselves. In the meantime, I'd like a bit of feedback on a
question of ethics. I'd like to publish the map for Asylum. Do you
think this is the right thing to do or is it unethical? Please let
me know what you think.
Next issue, I may take a look at one or two
Adventures from Level 9, but then again I might not. It all depends
on what comes up between now and then.
If you have any special requests, questions,
criticisms, etc., please feel free to contact me at the address
below. However, if you expect a reply to your letter, please include
a couple of international reply coupons to cover the return postage.
Merry Christmas to you all and may Santa bring you some beaut new
Adventures for the New Year.