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The Antstream Arcade Guide #1: Adventure

Greetings, brave retro gamers!

Retro games can sometimes be tricky and puzzling – in a good way! But if you’re struggling, we are here to help with a new feature on the Antstream Arcade blog. Each Antstream Arcade guide will include tips and help on how to play and beat a particular game on the service. We have over 1500 brilliant retro games on Antstream Arcade – so we’d better get cracking!

The Game: Adventure

Developer: Warren Robinett

Publisher: Atari

Year: 1980

System: Atari 2600


Atari’s debut console, the Atari 2600, first appeared in the autumn of 1977 and became a worldwide smash. Many of its games were either official arcade conversions or simple shoot-‘em-ups. However, despite the technological restrictions, talented developers were pushing the boundaries of gameplay to produce relatively complex and thoughtful games. One such person was Warren Robinett, author of another Atari 2600 game, Slot Racers. A fan of the original text adventure game, Adventure by Don Woods and Willie Crowther, Robinett loved the concept of a network of rooms, many of them containing objects to pick up or enemies to fight. For his second game, his objective was to translate the text adventure format to the Atari console.

Did you know? Robinett co-founded The Learning Company, specialising in educational software. Its best-selling game was the logic circuit simulation Rocky’s Boots.

The Aim Of The Game

An evil magician has stolen the enchanted Chalice and hidden it inside the kingdom. As a courageous hero, your task is to locate the Chalice and place it back inside its rightful home, the Golden Castle. Inevitably, the magician isn’t going to let you wander around unhindered. Three aggressive dragons patrol the kingdom along with a pesky bat that has a penchant for shiny objects.

Getting Started

The game begins outside a castle. A small square represents the player and can move in four directions. Each screen has a gap or gaps around its edges – moving through these takes you to another location. There are three difficulty levels which we’ll go into more detail about shortly.


When it touches an object, the square automatically picks it up. Touching the relevant piece of the game activates the held object while pressing fire drops it, and the square can only hold one item at a time. The objects in Adventure are:-

Keys: the keys in Adventure are colour coded and open the portcullis’ to each corresponding castle.

Sword: used to slay the chasing dragons. Make sure it's pointing at the dragon!

Magnet: pulls items towards the square – useful if they’re stuck in a wall.

Bridge: this can be picked up and placed over walls, enabling passage. Essential for levels two and three.

Chalice: your objective, and must be returned to the Golden Castle.

The Enemies

Adventure has four enemies: three prowling dragons and a rather annoying bat. The dragons chase the player relentlessly, although you can use the sword to slay them. Should they eat the player, pressing return revives the player back outside the Golden Castle, an early example of a videogame ‘continue’. This, unfortunately, also revives slain dragons while objects remain in their current position. The bat is harmless physically but will constantly swap or steal items, depositing them randomly elsewhere in the maze.

The Difficulty Levels

Adventure has three difficulty levels, selectable at the start by pressing F12.

Difficulty Level One

Level one is the easiest and, therefore, the best place to start. The adventurer begins at the Golden Castle, and its key is nearby. Grab it, and you can enter the castle and acquire the sword. Make sure you hold the key above your avatar and push it against the portcullis. The objective is to collect the Chalice from the Black Castle. Go down, right and down, and you’ll find its corresponding key, guarded by the green dragon, Grundle. Go back up, left, left and up, and you’ll find yourself in the labyrinthine maze. Somewhere to the north lies the Black Castle. Get the Chalice, head back to the Golden Castle and fortune and glory are yours! There is no bat or red dragon in level one.

Difficulty Level Two

As in level one, the player begins outside the Golden Castle. There’s no key, however, and the irksome bat soon absconds with the sword. This is a much more complex adventure, containing three castles and a set of catacombs bottom right from the Golden Castle. You can only see a short distance ahead of you in these – to get the gold key, go down twice, making sure you use the middle path. Taking the key back to the Golden Castle unlocks another path in the catacombs leading to the White Castle. But first, you’ll need the white key, situated in the maze to the west. Once in the White Castle, the northern area is only accessible with the bridge. Here is the key to the Black Castle, home of the Chalice and situated north of the maze.

Difficulty Level Three

Level three is identical to level two, except that all the items are placed randomly around the kingdom. Sometimes this makes things easier, but usually trickier! The randomisation can also render the game unsolvable – for example, if the white key is inside the White Castle, there’s no way to get in save for the slim hope that the bat will come in useful for once and pick it up.

Did You Know?

In addition to being a remarkably complex game for the Atari 2600, Adventure also contains one of the earliest examples of a hidden Easter egg. Annoyed by Atari’s insistence on designer anonymity, Warren Robinett ‘signed’ Adventure using a secret room. Inevitably, a keen gamer located the room. “A 15-year-old from Salt Lake City wrote to Atari, explaining with a detailed diagram how to get into the secret room,” explains Robinett on his personal website. “By then, I no longer worked for Atari, so they had a couple of their designers track down the part of the game program that produced the secret room. Brad Stewart, who located the offending code, said that if he was assigned to change the program, he would replace ‘Created by Warren Robinett’ with ‘Fixed by Brad Stewart’.” In the end, Atari embraced the idea of hidden content, thus creating the concept of the ‘Easter egg’.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our first Antstream Arcade Guide – stay tuned for more helpful hints soon. If you’re still stuck on Adventure, why not head to the Antstream Arcade Discord server and see if someone can help you? You can find us at:

Farewell, adventurer!

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