L: A Mathemagical Adventure
by members of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics co-ordinated by Richard Phillips, including Derek Ball, Tony Corbett, David Rooke, Heather Scott, Alan Shaw, Margaret Stevens, Ruth Townsend, Jo Waddingham, Roger Waddingham, John Warwick, Alan Wigley, John Wood, and David Wooldridge.
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Perfect form., June 25, 2022
[I played on the BeebEm emulator]
In the early 1980s BBC Micro computers were getting widely distributed in English schools. A group of members of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (cool acronym -> ATOM) decided to use the Micro and its ability to play text games as a teaching tool.
While they were at it, they also managed to create a fantastic text-adventure.
The intro swoops you from a soothing pastoral outdoors scene (lying in the grass under a tree, your sister reading a book, birds chittering in the sun... my imagination may be filling in some details) to the halls and corridors of a puzzle-palace.
L: A Mathemagical Adventure came out in 1984. It has a two-word parser that sometimes left me scratching my head, figuring out how to phrase a command. Nothing that kept me for too long though. There is no VERBOSE option, so when you re-enter a room you need to LOOK if you've forgotten where the exits were. And forget about EXAMINE. What's in the room description is all you're going to get.
Despite these limitations, the setting and the writing do not feel sparse at all. Upon first entering a room, you are treated to a clear and sometimes elaborate description that paints an evocative atmosphere of a now-dark abandoned palace.
Abandoned? Not completely.
A Drogon Robot Guard appears! These adversaries come at you at random intervals and try to imprison you. Defeating them is one of the simpler puzzles of the game, but I urge you to at least let them take you to the cell once. Escaping is fun!
Spread across the map, there are a number of NPCs. These are of the cardboard cutout variety, but they are introduced in vivid descriptions. Some need your help, some offer to help you. Invariably, you will need to solve a math-related problem to obtain the clues or objects they have to offer.
As should be clear from the title and the creators, the puzzles are all in some way related to mathematics. There are a lot of different approaches though. There is code-breaking, geometrical puzzling, logical reasoning and some straightforward calculation. In many puzzles, your imagination is supported by colourful visual representations.
I found all the puzzles fair and solvable. I did however sneak a peek at Wikipedia for some of the mathematical terminology I did not know. (Perfect squares and cubes.)
L: A Mathemagical Adventure is a great game for the avid map maker that I am. Despite being a mathematics-inspired game, the map is anything but orderly or symmetrical. Upstairs, downstairs, indoors and outdoors, tunnels looping back, a small maze and an octogonal room with exits on all sides. I had a lot of fun with my coloured markers.
There is some kind of plot going on about rescuing a girl who knows the weaknesses of the Drogon Overlords. Even if you save the girl from captivity though, this plot is never quite resolved. Maybe ATOM wanted to leave room for a sequel? But the plot is not what drives this game. It's all about nifty puzzles and great atmosphere.
A real treat!