Hunt the Wumpus Review (TI-99/4a)

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Hunt The Wumpus Title ScreenThe walls around me are caked with blood.  This cavern's twists and turns have led me to this dread place.  All who have entered have met the same fate - bone crunching death in the jaws of the dread Wumpus.  I knew that I had to go on, to rid the world of this menace, to Hunt the Wumpus.

The premise of Hunt the Wumpus is relatively simple, but in practice, Hunt the Wumpus can be a mentally challenging and surprising game.   The object of the game is to use your solitary arrow to kill the Wumpus.  If you miss, you die.  If you accidentally walk into the Wumpus' lair, you die.  If you don't show caution around the marshes, you'll fall to your death in a pit.  This is not a game of second chances. 

Playing Hunt The Wumpus.When the game starts, you are placed in a randomly assigned chamber in the cavernous dwelling of the Wumpus.  At least, that's what I'm assuming these circles are.  Look, in 1980 we had to use our freaking imaginations when we played games - there weren't any 3D stalactites, or mites, or 7.1 surround sound drippings of water.  NO!  We had circles made out of squares, and we LIKED it that way!  Characters didn't have clever little animations - we didn't care if they were BORED, and neither did they.  For heaven's sake, the mustard colored hero of Hunt the Wumpus was far too busy blinking in and out of existence to be bored!

Our jaundiced, stick-like hero makes his way through the Wumpus' caverns using the expected controls - a quick flick of the wrist in any of the four principle directions sends him hurtling in the appropriate vector.  As you play, more of the map is revealed to you.  There are three distinct room types that you have to pay close attention to:

  • Rooms with red in them (blood).
  • Rooms that have a green outline (swamp, marsh)
  • Rooms with a bat in them

Eaten by the Wumpus!The black, winged rats that reside in some of the rooms are dangerous.  Bats are one of the more surprising elements of the game (aside from the Wumpus himself).  If you enter a room with a bat in it, the bat will take you to a random location on the map.  It may be a room that you've already visited, maybe some new locale soaked with blood, and maybe if you're really lucky, the jaws of the Wumpus.  Woo-hoo!  The rooms that have blood in them indicate that the Wumpus is near - within one or two rooms.  You have to be careful when making your way around these rooms.  As stated earlier, your game ends if you wander into the lair of the Wumpus.  Likewise, the rooms with the green outlines also indicate a dangerous situation is near.  The equally fatal "PIT!" is not good for the health of your on-screen character.

Speaking of which, the deaths of your character are absolutely hilarious.  If you walk into the Wumpus Room (HA!), or if you miss with the arrow, you're treated with an animation of the last thing that your character sees - the jaws of the Wumpus.  Look left - doesn't this guy just look like a fearsome brute?  If you manage to fall into a pit, you do so with gusto - head first into the absolute CENTER of the pit.  Click here for a picture of that death

Hunt The Wumpus' strategy is relatively straightforward.  You want to travel all over the map, revealing as many spots as possible so that you can be reasonably sure where the Wumpus is.  Then, click once on the joystick button to notch your solitary arrow, and pick a direction to fire.  If you hit the Wumpus, you win!  If you don't...  Well, I'm sure that your life insurance is up to date...  At any rate, the key strategy in Wumpus is to take your time. Explore. Make sure you're certain of your target.

Got that Sucker!!!If you lose the game (or even if you win), you can view the map after the "Game Over" screen (the "Game Over" screen also tallies score for the Wumpus, the Pits, and you). The map feature will undoubtedly help you take on the Wumpus in future episodes.

One outstanding feature, common in TI-99/4a games, is the ability to play the game in any number of languages. Now, I know a little bit about a couple of languages (German, mostly).  But I had to crack up when I saw "Wumpus Jagd". Jagd - what is that?  Klingon?  What a cool word! I think it might be German, but off-hand, I don't even know what language that is - but any language where you can put a D after a G and come up with something pronounceable is OK by me. A guttural, staccato language seems all too appropriate for this game.

Overall, I think that Hunt the Wumpus is a fun, campy game that deserves a little bit more respect than it gets. I remember Wumpus making me distinctly nervous as a child - waiting and wondering if I was REALLY sure that I could get the Wumpus. I've had a lot of fun picking the game back up and playing it after so many years, too. It's spartan, though. Many of the other games of the time had far better graphics and sound (even for strategy games). The controls, while good, can also be a bit touchy. In this game, you never want to make the mistake of going too far, and every now and again, a quick direction push can take you two rooms over instead of one. Nevertheless, Hunt the Wumpus is both fun to play, and new every time that you play it. I give Hunt the Wumpus a 7/10.

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