The Adventures of Maddog Williams in the Dungeons of Duridian

by Darren Albertson

Cave crawl

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Antiquarian saves world., January 15, 2024
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

Decades ago, the benevolent and righteous King Serak was corrupted by the foul influences of the Demon Lord Malthazar. Knights and Mages from across the land united to form the White Army. Led by the brave Lord Thaylor, they defeated the dark forces in a great battle. The once-good King Serak was incarcerated in a magical prison beyond space and time.

Recently, the Evil of Serak is rising once again. Escaped from his magical bounds, he has taken the now elderly Lord Thaylor and his daughter Leoria in captivity and threatens to overtake the fair lands of Malinor. This time, the grave task of saving the world falls upon Maddog Williams. An antiquarian. Alone. (Perhaps the knights and mages were on a tea-break?)

The Adventures of Maddog Williams in the Dungeons of Duridian is a curiously malformed chimera of a game, with elements of various styles of gameplay illfittingly wrought together. Nonetheless, it manages to rise above the awkward joining of its components to form an altogether enjoyable piece of IF.

At heart, Maddog is a traditional parser-based graphical fantasy adventure. In a pseudo-medieval setting with castles and dragons and magic, the player needs to guide the protagonist through a series of puzzles and obstacles to defeat Evil and save the land.
For the most part, the puzzles are straightforward and well clued, unlocking doors and secret passages with a variety of key-objects, figuring out when to use the magical properties of an item. It's a bit dissapointing that although Maddog Williams is introduced in the prologue as an antiquarian and a tinkerer (the opening scene shows his alarm clock to be a watersprinkling Rube Goldberg contraption), neither of these specialities play much of a role in the problems he faces during his quest.
The parser is of in-between quality, adequate and up to the task. It does allow for complex multi-word commands, but in practice it gets easily confused by anything more complicated than LOOK UNDER. Unless there is a clear goal for a complex command, it's best to stick with simple two-word instructions. LOOK and LOOK [object] need to be typed in full since L and X are not provided. INVENTORY, some other game functions and all meta-commands are handled through the F-keys, which took some serious getting used to.

The fantasy setting and Maddog's actions within it are conveyed in a gently mocking tongue-in-cheek tone, poking fun at the tropes of the genre without slipping into outright parody.
The locations are rendered in simple but pretty pixelated graphics, and the pictures are supported with lush descriptions in the text descriptions.
The writing as a whole seems to strive for a mixture of funny entertainment and heroic gravity. Its success at this is uneven, often it comes across as overwrought, but even then it's a joy to see the effort that went into the elaborate cutscenes and conversations.
Many futile actions and failed attempts are accounted for and met with a funny custom response, rewarding the player's playfulness at poking around the surroundings.
According to the Merlin-lookalike who welcomes you to the game, the player takes the role of Maddog's counsel and advisor. In this setup, "You" should refer to the player directly. Throughout the game however, the narrator is often inconsistent about this, sometimes using "You" in the plural for the duo of Maddog and the player-as-advisor, sometimes reverting to the usual 2nd tense adventure narration where player and PC are conflated into one agent, sometimes narrating events from Maddog's 1st person viewpoint, sometimes having Maddog speak to the player/advisor directly. Rather than being confusing or annoying, this adds to the loose and casual atmosphere of the game.
The overall pacing of Maddog's quest towards the inevitable castle dungeons at the end is pleasantly varied. Obstacle-heavy areas where the tension runs high alternate with more relaxed village-exploration with the obligatory visit to the local pub.

Exploration of the world of The Adventures of Maddog Williams in the Dungeons of Duridian is done by (here comes the first awkward hybrid-element...) walking around with the arrow keys. Typing N/E/S/W is not understood by the parser, the entire world must be traversed by wandering from location to location at a leisurely pace. Contrary to parser-players' expectations that everything in sight should be immediately accesible for taking or manipulating, it's necessary to stroll around inside the rooms too, otherwise PULL LEVER will be met with a dry "I'm not close enough."
This unfamiliar way of moving around was actually very cool. Not only does it give a very tactile connection to the game world, it also opens up a nice tactic to respond to tense real-time threats: you can pre-load a command into the parser and fire it by pressing the enter-key at the appropriate time.
Of course this means some exploratory self-sacrifice beforehand to identify said real-time threats. As a rule, Maddog in its entirety is not averse to unavoidable PC deaths. Sacrificing our curious antiquarian's life is on several occasions necessary to gain indispensable information toward puzzle-solutions later in the game.

On top of the keyboard-movement, Maddog's Adventures are further "actionised" by awkwardly grafting multiple gameplay elements from other gaming genres onto the main adventure trunk.
-On a regular basis, Maddog comes upon an enemy who must by defeated in a fight. This requires the player to press the F1 key to enter combat-mode, whereupon our protagonist and his foe square off toe-to-toe in a 2D fencing match which amounts to stepping back-and-forth along a line, taking turns bashing each other's head in until someone's life points are drained. (Play in EASY-mode and you'll be fine.)
-At a crucial point in Maddog's quest, he'll call the help of a friendly Dragon to cross the mountains to the Evil Castle. On the way there, they must engage in some 2D arcade-style dragon dogfighting, blasting unpredictably appearing hostile dragons out of the air. Lightning reflexes, furious button-mashing, and a good amount of swearing are prerequisites to complete this stage, especially for the player accustomed to the tranquil tempo of parser turns.
-Once inside the dungeons, it must have seemed like a good idea to mix things up a bit by incorporating a platfroming room as an obstacle. Jumping (SHIFT-key) from pillar to pillar (in something resembling 3D this time) with, ahem, less-than-accurate movement control is, ahem, challenging...

Although the jumping and fencing and shooting are clumsy and frustrating, I found these things ultimately charming. They never take too long, and mashing my way through these sequences felt a bit like a throwback to the NES-console days of yore.

I've used the words "clumsy" and "awkward", and I stand by my assessment of The Adventures of Maddog Williams in the Dungeons of Duridian as a somewhat illfitting and malformed chimera. Nevertheless, I immensely enjoyed the hours I spent playing the game. Highly recommended for those who wouldn't mind a bit of a disruption of their normal parser-gameplay expectations.

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Johnnywz00, January 15, 2024 - Reply
What an interesting find!
Rovarsson, January 15, 2024 - Reply
Every once in a while I dive into IF history, searching obscure sites for hidden gems. This one was already listed on IFDB, but I would never have found it by browsing the database alone. My previous such find was The Battle of Philip against the Forces of Creation. (I often go on the title to decide if I'll give such a game a try...)
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