The Secret of Flagstone Manor

by Brian J. Betts

Mystery
1981

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Elegantly Written BASIC Text Adventure, February 16, 2020
by jgerrie (Cape Breton Island, Canada)

The Secret of Flagstone Manor by Brian Betts of Mountain Valley Software is reportedly Australia's first text adventure from 1981. Or so reports Renga in Blue.

Renga in Blue suggested that the game had similarities Scott Adams early games, but I'm pretty sure it's not like the Adventureland parser. The BASIC version of that program is very complex (and slow) and uses lots of numeric arrays, probably because it is meant to be a generalized "engine" for multiple adventures. This one uses a more standard and simple cascade of IF/THENs to parse input for different verbs. It also doesn't read its locations into an array. There are only 18. So it just uses a sequence of IFs to print specific room info. Lot's of ELSE statements used that I had to disentangle. I'd say this game does not have a parser engine at its core. It just applies some common approaches to programing adventures that had developed from 1979-1981.

On the whole it is a very well debugged, basically elegantly written, BASIC text adventure program. Although the room count is small it is fairly complex. There is a timer aspect that can result in death, but it is basically fair. The puzzles make sense and there is a pretty interesting dynamic HELP command. So don't just accept the first responses of "LOOK AROUND" from that command. They eventually do change according to progress and context. The other sources of death are also fair, and there are clues to help avoid them too.