Cavern of Riches

By | 9 March 2023

Cavern of Riches was one of four adventures on the Adventure Pak release from Keypunch Software. Keypunch was one of the first shareware distributors and ran from 1985 to 1993, also releasing commercial games during that time. They did other ‘Paks’ (Fantasy Pak, Challenger Pack, etc) and yes, sometimes they were ‘Paks’ and sometimes they were ‘Packs’!

Cavern of Riches started life as a PET game in 1980 written by John O’Hare.

I guess this should come under ‘C’ really, but it is listed as Adventure 1 – Cavern of Riches in the GB64 catalogue, which was its original title on the PET I believe, so comes under ‘A’ in my self-imposed rules. The others, I think, are listed properly under their titles so I will come to them at some stage down the line.

So Cavern of Riches starts off on a dusty path in a clearing and tells us you can see an ‘old cabin’. The aim of the adventure is to find 12 treasures, all with a ‘*’ in their name so we know they are treasures, of course (such as *trident*). We know little else at this stage, but we do know there is a cabin so it seems logical we should go inside and take a look around.

Here we learn that this cabin is where we are to deposit our treasures once we have found them, and there are a couple of useful objects here for us to pick up too.

On leaving the cabin and wandering around you’ll quickly come to a typical dungeon-like maze in a Forest – one of the ones where it matters very little which direction you moved in. You basically don’t move, unless you go in the correct direction that is. These sorts of mazes drove me mad as a kid trying to map them out, as you’re never quite sure if you’ve moved or stood still!

From here on in full spoiler alert.

Once you find the first and easiest treasure, the Trident, you’ll enter this maze-like Forest and as long as you stick to going West you’ll end up where you need to be. At the end of the road is a building containing several items, one of which is an empty bottle to be filled with something no doubt. This is the first simple puzzle and it should be clear by now where some water is to fill our bottle up.

Once that’s done follow the road back to our ‘old building’ where you can find the trapdoor and enter the underground cavern. Now we’re talking! This is already the best text adventure by far I have played from the list, it’s fun, and I already have a true sense of the buildings and the forest with really quite minimal descriptions. That’s the skill of the adventure writer, I guess, and a good lesson to learn.

One thing to remember is you can only carry so much stuff, so tactical dropping and taking of objects is required.

Exploring underground and picking up treasures as you find them, you’ll come to a Deep Chasm where seemingly you can not proceed. But have wand will travel! Once you find your way over the chasm there is more magic to learn. Words that when said out loud will reveal treasures! Where you say these words is not clear at all, so you’ll need to experiment.

After some more exploring it becomes obvious what the water is for, and the bird you have been mysteriously carrying around too! Both are used to open up more areas of the underground caverns where more treasures can be found. You’ll eventually find a harp and harps are made to be played, so like the magic words, experiment on where to play the harp. If you find the right place you’ll come across another treasure, the plaque, which also contains a cryptic clue so make sure you read it.

There is a lot of exploring and a map is essential here – see below for my full map! I make this sound like a quick and easy game, but I have deliberately left out a lot of detail as I do recommend you play this through, and you’ll enjoy working out the exact order to do things and the rooms to say the magic words in. On that note, you’ll find soon enough that you are stuffed so full of treasure that you’ll need to dump some off back at base. Thankfully, one of the magic words we discovered transports us straight there from a certain location and transports us back again when ready. A nice touch.

Depending on what order you locate the treasures you’ll need to zoom back and forth between the underground cavern and the old cabin. There is no location-based score here, you just earn points for each treasure dropped back in the right place, so it’s very possible to score the maximum 120 points to beat the game. So once you drop the final treasure just say ‘score’ and you’ll be congratulated and classed as an expert no less.

I really enjoyed Cavern of Riches and it totally reminded me of playing these games when I was younger. Armed with snacks, fizzy pop, paper and a pencil to draw the map, this was a true, old-school 80s text adventure. Change the fizzy pop to a bottle of wine and the pencil and paper to an online map creation tool, and nothing much else has changed.

The puzzles are all logical and solvable, nothing is a red herring so if you come across an object you will have to use it somewhere and it is nearly always obvious where that is, or what you need to find. What is less obvious is where you say the magic words. That, as far as I can tell, is only apparent through trial and error. I wouldn’t say that was a frustration as such, but it did increase the time it took me to complete the game. As mentioned above, the world we explore is created wonderfully, with very little wasted text. I think the length of the game helps to conjure up the universe we play in – quick and small games don’t really give the player time to immerse themselves into the story, but Cavern shows that minimal text and saving that precious memory for the story really works. It’s a balancing act.

I got the file from GB64 and the full database ISO images, but it is available elsewhere too. Be warned that some C64 versions have a scoring bug, but mine did not, so if you can do use the one on GB64.

I’m looking forward to playing the rest of this Adventure Pak now but have to say, the bar has been set pretty high with Cavern of Riches.

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