Reviews Aquarius AD&D Tarmin Complex, ChallengingAdvanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin - Aquarius Computer Version
, July 31, 2008Rating:
In 2005, a programmer who goes by the nickname James the Animal Tamer developed a superb emulator for the game capabilities of the long-defunct Mattel Aquarius Computer. The Aquarius has not been sold commercially since the early 1980s. Despite its vintage graphics, the 1982 Aquarius version of the Treasure of Tarmin is, like its counterpart Intellivision version, a rigorous, complex, and challenging game.
The Virtual Aquarius Emulator has brought this venerable game back to life for fans of the role playing genre. This guide is intended for users who come to this game via the Virtual Aquarius Emulator. Computer Emulation lends proof to the proverb that while computers may come and go, great software, especially game software, never dies. The Virtual Aquarius Emulator may be found at the following link:
The Aquarius Computer version of Tarmin has every reason to be a great game. It was originally designed by Tom Loughry, described by legendary programmer Dave Rolfe as "the best game designer I've ever worked with." What Erwin Rommel was to war, Tom Loughry was to early video games. In addition to Tarmin, Loughry created the additive Intellivision Beamrider and Worm Whomper games.
Given the stirring and elaborate graphics available to gamers today, it is difficult to recall the effect these early role playing masterpieces once had. After you get past the antique look and feel of the Aquarius Tarmin, however, you're in for an amazing treat.
In Treasure of Tarmin, Loughry's intricate, seemingly endless mazes are filled with unpredictable twists and turns, fierce monsters, eerie potions, hidden ladders, and powerful spells. The better-known Intellivision version is widely acknowledged as a golden age video game classic.
The AQU Tarmin, as we will now call it, is practically unknown compared to its bretheren Intellivision version, on account of the dismal sales Mattel's Aquarius Computer system garnered. Visually, it is not quite the equal of the Intellivision, contains fewer features, and has cruder, blockier graphics.
Nevertheless, in playability and intellectual challenge, the AQU Tarmin matches up well, featuring a larger maze at every level, more difficult strategies, and tougher battles with the monsters that infest the Island Fortress of Tarmin.
BASIC GAME PLAY
At level 1, you begin your invasion in search of the Dragon King, to slay him and claim the treasure. There are 99 levels, each more treacherous than the last.
Starting out with 30 Physical points and 15 Spiritual points, a single bow and shield, you have your work cut out for you. The walls and floors are blue, the doors are bright green, and most of the objects on the floor are bright red, at least to begin. Your pack holds six objects, which you may rotate at will. Your hands also hold two more objects, usually a shield and a weapon.
Below is the table of keyboard commands you'll need to penetrate the maze:
K - move forward
M - Turn left
> - Turn right
; - Glance right
J - Glance left
< - Retreat
N - Attack/use object
D - Go down ladder/levels
H - Open door
W - Pick up item on floor or put back on floor
S - Rotate pack
R - select new object for your right hand
E - Switch Left and Right hands
Here are the other key commands you'll need to know, concerning game difficulty:
3 - Easy
2 - Medium
1 - Hard
4 - Well nigh impossible
It is strongly recommended that you start with the Easy game, which shifts to a very hard level at level 19, if you can make it even that far. To be sure, even the Easy game will have you fighting for your life.
Unlike the Intellivision Tarmin, with its smaller, more compact maze, AQU Tarmin boasts a daunting 11 X 11 labyrinth. Invisible doors and ladders that are tucked away in obscure corners will complicate your journey down.
WHAT YOU'LL FIND IN THE MAZE
A wide variety of objects and guardians are distributed at random.
Food Units are scattered throughout the maze. Pick them up wherever you find them. They are crucial to maintaining your physical and spiritual scores.
WEAPONS - TYPES
There are four different types of weapons. Only bows and crossbows are reusable.
WEAPONS - COLORS
Each weapon comes in one of four colors.
Red - Regular Power
Yellow - Medium Power
Violet - High Power
White - Super Power
There are five different defensive objects you can pick up in the maze. As is the case with weapons, the strength of defensive objects increases according to color.
There are two types of boxes. These also come in ascending colors.
Within the boxes, you will find two types of treasures. The color scheme follows the same pattern as all the other objects, with white accorded the highest value.
Keys - Red, Yellow, Violet, White. A White key will open any locked box.
Potions have several uses. The physical and spiritual potions turn your scores in these areas different colors, making it harder for the monsters to damage you. Only one potion can be used at a time, so if you take a spiritual potion, you end your physical spell. The reverse is true as well. The large potions, on the other hand, will refresh or boost your scores.
Physical - Turns score red, green, yellow, or blue
Spiritual - Turns score red, green, yellow, or blue
Red - Refreshes your score after going down during a battle
Yellow - Raises your physical score by 10
Violet - Raises your spiritual score by 6
White - Be careful! This variable potion can either raise or lower your scores.
Additionally, it should be noted that using any of the large potions will take away one of your turns during a battle with a monster.
The maps you'll find in boxes can be quite handy, though they are delicate and will usually vanish after a few uses. There are four kinds of maps.
Red - Shows your location in the maze
Yellow - Shows both you and the ladder
Blue - Shows you, the ladder, and the monsters
White - Teleports you through the maze safely, avoiding monsters
There are ten types of guardian monsters in the AQU Tarmin maze, including the Dragon King. They also come in the four different colors signifying strength, except for the Dragon King, who is in a class by himself. He always appears in white.
ADVANCED STRATEGY - TIPS & TRICKS
To enhance your chances of slaying the Dragon King and winning the game, you'll need to learn to move quickly through the maze. It takes a full beat before a monster registers your presence. Use your Glance Right/Glance Left commands to see ahead. If there's a monster you can't beat blocking your way, you can outmaneuver him if you move fast. This will even work with the Dragon King. The monsters are dangerous, but a trifle slow.
If you've got space in your pack for a weapon, pick it up! Especially in the latter mazes, (after 19) weapons will have a tendency to break up and disappear on you. There's nothing worse than having a big score but dying because you are trapped by some puny monster and your weapons have all evaporated.
Beware monster traps. This is a situation where you bump into a monster, realize you can't beat him, and use your Retreat command to get away. Only you've discovered that you've retreated right into another monster! The Retreat command can't be used twice in this situation. If your weapons are too weak or broken, you'll die a slow, agonizing death.
Time your potions. The red and yellow/violet potions are best used in conjunction with each other. In other words, bring your score up to snuff with the red potion first. Once your score is back to its highest level, drink your yellow or violet potion to boost your physical or spiritual score to a new level.
Never pass up a meal. You'll need every bit of food energy you can lay your hands on. Sometimes a monster will have a tasty snack right in front of him. Use your fast move capability to snatch it from under his nose!
Overall, the AQU Tarmin is not quite to the level of the flashier Intellivision version. However, it has two key features, the more complex maze and the mapping ability, that greatly exceed the Intellivision. In the end, this is a mentally fascinating and to some extent, a physically taxing game that supplies the fan of role playing adventures with a quest of absorbing interest. For those of you who wish to take up the ancient and honorable gauntlet thrown down by the Dragon King, here are my best wishes. In over a hundred forays into the forbidding Island Fortress of Tarmin, I've slain the Dragon King exactly twice.
VIRTUAL AQUARIUS EMULATOR NOTES:
After downloading the Virtual Aquarius Emulator from James the Animal Tamer's web site, unzip the file and save it to a handy spot on your computer. The folder should be listed as "Virtual Aquarius." Inside you'll see a list of files. Click on the rainbow-colored Aquarius logo to begin the game. That brings up the "Basic" screen.
From there go to your files toolbar and find the instruction "Load Game ROM." Click on the Game ROM that says AD&D.BIN. Once you've loaded the game, press F9 to begin. Then press F12 to see it as a full screen. Select either 3, 2, 1, or 4 to initiate play.
Unfortunately, the Aquarius Emulator does not have a "Game Save" feature so that you can come back to a game after leaving it. This is a disappointing drawback.
To Bill Loguidice of the Armchair Arcade, for his gracious help in making available the original instruction booklet for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Treasure of Tarmin Aquarius Computer game. Bill went the extra mile on this, and I really appreciated his gracious assistance.
Bill's website may be found at the following link:
Additionally, scans of the original AQU Tarmin booklet are available on Flickr at the following link:
July 23, 2008