The Golden Apple

by Simon Wadsworth


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Unguessably hard retro 'fun', February 24, 2021
by ChrisM (Cambridge, UK)

Picture the scene: it is a Saturday afternoon in 1983. Thatcher has just won her second term in office, TV-AM has awoken a startled British public to the UK's first breakfast television service, and the Queen has bestowed a knighthood on Clive Sinclair for inventing the means by which Ant Attack and Manic Miner can be bought into being, at last. But you shun the empty calories of such vulgar arcade-stuff: you want something more wholesome and cerebral, something that will engage your critical faculties and lateral thinking skills. In short, you want to play a text adventure. Happily, you have such a thing to hand in the form of The Golden Apple, from Hull's illustrious 'Arctic Computing' software house. You pop the cassette in the tape recorder, adjust the volume to 7.5, and crack open a bottle of Panda Pops and a packet of Monster Munch while you wait for your afternoon's entertainment to load. You hope to have made good progress by tea time, maybe have it finished in time for Sunday dinner. You're not expecting it to be a walk in the park, but you're a clever young man and you've had previous form with these sorts of games. How difficult can this one be, authored as it is by a bookish A-level student with an interest in computer programming (perhaps one day you'll be just like him)? The tape has finished; you admire the colourful loading screen and then, with baited breath, press a key to begin...

I am on the road, near a mansion

Time passes...

You play for a while. Quite a long while. In fact, a very long while. 37 years later and the Panda Pops has run out, the Monster Munch has all gone. The Berlin Wall has fallen, electric cars are on the roads, your fridge-freezer has become quasi-sentient, and the Tories are back in power, again. You should probably have left home and had a family by now; you vaguely remember your parents moving out and leaving you to it. You've grown a Methuselean beard and you haven't looked away from the flickering TV screen in over three decades. And yet, you still haven't got all the treasures! How can the game be so difficult? The parser is a quite adequate two-word affair, the locations are concise, the map easily navigable, the objects more or less commonplace. And yet, somehow, from the mind of a 17-year-old youth has sprung a game so difficult, so utterly intractable, that it is formally impossible to complete without the aid of a walkthrough: mathematicians have proven that even an infinite number of monkeys pounding the rubber keyboards of an infinite number of ZX Spectrums could not do it. They would give up in frustration before even the final heat death of the universe had occurred. You type HELP, desperately, for the 10,000th time and still the same mocking message appears (how could it have changed?): a help sheet is available from (a residential address in Hull). Perhaps you should have bitten the bullet and sent off that self-addressed envelope after the first 6 months. Was three and a half decades leaving it too late? It must be worth a try. But maybe you'll do that tomorrow, after a final attempt. The answers must be here somewhere, you just need to look more carefully (although not much can be EXAMINEd, it is true). You've got the orb and the tin of paint, you've sung the glass case into fragments, the parrot is squawking Hamlet at you, and you've fed salmon to a crocodile. All you need is a little more time to figure it all out. Now, concentrate...