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About the Story
Blackbeard's Island is the only commercial game released by Greg Miller. Eric Nelson helped design the game, and Greg's sister Pamela Dawn Miller drew the graphics.
Gaming After 40
Adventure of the Week - Blackbeard's Island (1984)
Tom Mix Software did not publish many graphic adventures, and this was a one-off by the creative team as well. It opens with a bit of historical information about Edward Teach, the infamous pirate Blackbeard, but then drops us into traditional adventure territory as we, as a ne'er-do-well rich kid, are challenged to hunt for his treasure and a way off the island, as its volcano threatens to erupt.
Blackbeard's Island is an old-school design with a sense of humor, and it's fairly challenging. I suspect playtesting was limited -- there's a major game-breaking bug at large, and the logic and parser are obstinate on numerous occasions. But it's playable and I enjoyed the experience, frustrating as it was at times.
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Most people will find this early (1984) Dragon game highly exasperating. It is the only adventure game the author wrote (he did write other programs), and he is going to make you work. You are marooned on a desert island, and though there is the mention of pirates and volcanoes, really it is more of a survival game. You have a limited number of turns before you die of thirst, and the solution to this is agonising trial and error, on a game map which is designed to confuse you quite a bit. Into the mid-game the game gets quite interesting, as you need to progress through undergrowth repeatedly, but the way you achieved this the first time is no longer feasible. Like the chap who wrote the walkthrough - (Spoiler - click to show)
- I struggled terribly to work out the puzzle. The answer was arguably not as creative as the ideas I thought up, (Spoiler - click to show) such as, commandeering the lifeboat, sharpening the axe, swinging through the trees with the grappling hook , but it was a reasonable solution, I guess. Like me, the guy who completed it also missed the answer, possibly because of parser limitations: (Spoiler - click to show)he had tried GET, MOVE but not PUSH SIGN (I tried PULL aswell). But then again if we had tried this, we might have missed the fact that you can TIE BELT TO SIGN . The deviousness of the puzzle was that a seemingly innocuous object held the key to progress in two different directions. I didn't feel so bad about reading this part of the walkthrough when I found out that the chap who had written it actually hacked the code and read the program in ASCII so that he could solve this part. The final annoyance in the game is towards the end, where there is an entry point which only accepts one command, when there are at least 11 or 12 inputs which are perfectly reasonable to achieve the action. But at least part of this puzzle was solved by the in-game HELP command. As for parser limitations (Spoiler - click to show) if you EXAMINE LOG it informs you that VOCAB gives a list of known verbs. You won't need any other verbs than the ones in the list to solve the game, plus you only ever need type in two-word commands. Call me masochistic, but I did actually enjoy all of the fiendishness... This early game has the seeds of future games in the genre which would test your braincells with the paradoxical puzzle: you know, the crowbar is in the box, you need the crowbar to force the door, but the key to the box is behind the door... That type. Also I always appreciate location graphics, however simplistic we might consider them today.
The guy who wrote the walkthrough had a very similar experience to mine, so rather than repeat the same review, it is worth a read. Incidentally, the author of the game also posted a comment in response to his solution, and it seems the game didn't receive much play-testing. It is clear if the author had followed-up with another game, he could have made something very nice, as this game has real promise. Taken from this point of view, it is not so bad as all that, especially if you like a challenge.
This is version 2 of this page, edited by Jeff Bannow on 7 January 2013 at 2:29pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item