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21st January 2020: One L Of An Adventure

I'm still not sure how or why, but just recently my brain remembered very hazy details about a text adventure game I played with one of my class mates when we were at junior school, all the way back in the late 1980s. This was played on what was probably the school's only computer at that time, and was probably six or seven years before my family even had any kind of PC.

After some hunting around on the internet, I rediscovered the name of this game, which was L: A Mathemagical Adventure. As far as I can remember, I really enjoyed playing it and figuring out its puzzles, but looking back it was probably just because it got me out of lessons every now and then.
Thinking back, this was probably the first game I ever really got stuck into writing about, as I put together a file of maps and solutions as I went through the game. I'd probably still have that paperwork, or at least scans of it, if it hadn't been for one of my friends throwing it all away on one of the very rare days I was sick and off school, which just happened to be the day that the teacher had told everyone to tidy their desk drawers. I was absolutely gutted when I found out all my hard work had been in vain, and it could very well be one of the reasons why I've always been so protective and possessive about my shit as an adult.

To my initial delight I found that not only was this game available on an emulator, but that it was also playable online in a browser on the bbcmicro website. Seeing a chance to revisit my youth and recreate my maps I quickly grabbed some note paper, pressed play and got stuck in.

Like pretty much every game I revisit many years later, this one quickly proved itself to be a chore, being awkward, clunky and full of filler and puzzles that just aren't necessary to experience in order to finish the game. Also, the game is meant to help kids learn about mathematics, but as far as I can tell there is only one truly mathematics-based puzzle in the whole game. All the others are about patterns or observation that can mostly be brute-forced with trial and error. There are also some word-based puzzles, as well as a healthy sprinkling of moon logic that would seem right at home in your average 1990s point-and-click.

I started off pretty sure that I had completed the game back in the 80s, but as I was going through it, there were huge chunks of the game that did not seem familiar at all, so I started to think I was mistaken. Yet, I could fairly clearly remember tackling the "spider puzzle", and could still remember the principle of it. As it turns out, that puzzle is literally the last one in the game, so my initial assumption must have been correct.

However, there was no way I finished this game without some form of help. Even as an adult, this thing had me scratching my head. For most of the game I didn't actually search for any of the answers directly, but I did have to look for some clues as to what certain puzzles were about, as well as looking for aid concerning the strange quirks of the game.
However, the aforementioned spider puzzle defeated me. First, I started doodling attempts to solve it on some paper. Then I started to use photoshop so I didn't have to keep erasing. Then I spent the better part of a free Sunday writing some Javascript code. I limited the script to a few hundred loops of stepping forward and back through the path of the puzzle, thinking that would be plenty, and ran the script. But a bunch of attempts later and even that didn't get further than about three quarters of the way through.

By this time I gave up, deleted my script, and went looking for the answer. When I found it, I discovered there are 48 correct paths through the puzzle, which seemed like a lot until I also read there are more than 8 million incorrect paths! No wonder a few hundred loops through the script didn't get near to an answer. It now makes me wonder if my script would have eventually solved it if I had allowed it several thousand loops or more. But there's no way I'm writing all of that again to find out.

My original intention had been to create a really nice new set of maps and solutions to replace the ones I lost years ago. But by the end of it I just couldn't be bothered, especially as the end of the game was such a let down.

Behold the awesome graphics of the BBC Micro

Behold the awesome graphics of the BBC Micro

What is this? Modern day Hollywood?

What is this? Modern day Hollywood?

This was the puzzle I had the clearest recollections about

This was the puzzle I had the clearest recollections about

Well, they weren't lying

Well, they weren't lying

One of my many attempts to solve the spider puzzle

One of my many attempts to solve the spider puzzle

My map scribbles

My map scribbles