Some Atari fans may know of the unreleased AD&D prototypes for the 2600, Treasure of Tarmin and Tower of Mystery. These prototypes exist but have not been released to the public because of copyright issues with T$R and Wizards of the Coast. Thankfully both of these games exist on a contemporary console so we at least know what the games might be like on the 2600. Of all the consoles from the early 80’s, the Intellivision is the only console that has the classic D&D trilogy with Cloudy Mountain, Treasure of Tarmin, and Tower of Mystery released on it. It almost wasn’t a trilogy though, Mattel closed down its videogame division soon after the Intellivision port was started and, according to legend, a week before the 2600 games were slated to be released and as such were stuck in prototypical limbo. But thankfully INTV came in and became the owner of all things Intellivision, including the prototypes, you see what I’m getting at don’t you? The AD&D Tower of Mystery proto was finished and released without the D&D branding as Tower of Doom in 1986, and I for one am thankful that they took the time to do this because this might be one of the most impressive feats of programming ever achieved on the Intellivision. Let up begin where we always do, the graphics.
The graphics are made up of simple things that when put together make an all around impressive display. The Opening screen shows a well drawn medieval keep/tower in front of some very well drawn mountains, and the title and copyright info scroll at the bottom of the screen that looks pretty cool! Then there are some menus, nothing really too special there, but when you get to the game screen prepare to be impressed. First off you’ll see silhouetted footprints descending ominous stairs then, the game happens, in a good way. The game is confined to a small-ish rectangle that takes up a little less than half the screen and most of what you’ll be seeing is blue lines which make up the walls of the maze you’re trapped in. To the left you’ll see a minimap that displays a top-down view of the maze as you’ve explored it, which is very technically impressive and beneath that is your pack that contains various abstract symbols and chicken legs. Inside the play area you’ll see your oddly green knight and even more abstract symbols, items, and enemies, as you play the game you’ll figure out what these things are and what they do. The battle screen will appear over the standard game screen when you get into an encounter with a monster, it shows a zoomed in side view of your knight and the monster that they’re fighting, it looks impressive but it’s just window-dressing since not a lot really happens here, but it’s better than mashing the two small sprites in the maze together a few times to simulate a battle.
The sounds are surprisingly minimal, there is very little going on here. Most of what you get are basic beeps and chirps from the noise generator and sound chip, and little to no music or melodic sounds in-game apart from when starting the game. There is also a somewhat annoying thunking sound that constantly plays in the background, perhaps to simulate footsteps but it even plays when you’re not moving. The sounds that you get are perfectly adequate and serve their purpose without being distracting or annoying, but I do think the game could use more of them for indicating pack navigation, I’ll get to that soon.
This is a top-down maze crawling RPG, and a surprisingly deep one at that. Your sole objective is to escape whatever dungeon you’re trapped in, there are fourteen to select from some randomly generated others not, while not getting killed. At the start of the game you select your character from a roster of ten and select your dungeon. When in the dungeon you just run around killing monsters, collecting treasures, avoiding traps, and trying to find the exit. This game didn’t ship with an overlay which is unfortunate even though the keypad isn’t really used the four side buttons are and they each have a different function, I’d recommend you find a scan of the manual online because I’d double the length of this review if I described how to navigate your pack. In the maze you’ll find a variety of different items you’ll find magical artifacts that could grant you strength or remove all traps in the level, or it could weaken you or even make monsters invisible which would suck. You’ll also find an occasion protection item, a ring or a cloak that could give you stringer attacks or greater defense, or they could curse you! You’ll also run into keys that make certain traps ineffective when held, boots that are virtually worthless, and giant chicken legs that do what most giant chicken legs do, heal you. There are also a large variety of weapons, ranged and close combat, to find and fill your pack with even though a good sword will get you through most of the easier dungeons, there is a holy hand grenade though which makes me very happy. There are also treasures that don’t really do anything apart from raise your score at the end of the game and are usefull for bribery, oh yeah that’s a thing. If you don’t feel like murdering another giant rat or skeleton warrior you can attempt to bribe them by dropping an item, usually a weapon or treasure but stupider monsters will take boots, I’ve never used this because I prefer murder but the option is there and is probably preferable for certain classes.
This is an incredibly deep game that is on par with some of the dungeon crawling RPG’s that are released today, I’ve just barely scratched the surface with what I’ve talked about here. It makes sense then that this game is massive, this game had to use a 48K cartridge tying it with two others for the largest game in the Intellivision library. This is where we get to the frustrating part, the price, due to this game’s status, and rarity, people aren’t shy about asking ridiculous prices for it on Ebay. The cheapest listing is for a cartridge and manual for 34 dollars but people can ask up to 64 dollars for just a loose cart. There is a CIB listing for an even 60 dollars if you want it in the box which isn’t a bad price. If you can find a loose cart for 20-25 dollars it would be worth your while to buy it, and if it has the manual even better but expect an extra 5-11 bucks to be tacked onto the price. This game is excellent but is unfortunately too expensive for most casual collector’s it’s Collector’s Zone for Tower of Doom.