Tombs & Treasure
|Tombs & Treasure|
Box art of Tombs & Treasure
role-playing video game
Tombs & Treasure (Taiyou no Shinden Asteka II in Japan) is an adventure game originally developed by Nihon Falcom in 1987 for the PC-8801, PC-9801, FM-7, and X1 Japanese systems. An English-language NES version, published by Infocom in 1989, was altered to be more story-based, and featured new music and role-playing elements. Japanese enhanced remakes were released for the Saturn and Windows systems in 1998 and 1999, respectively.
The game takes place in the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán Peninsula. It alternates between using a three-quarters overhead view for travelling from ruin to ruin, and switching to a first-person perspective upon entering a specific location.
At the start of the game, the player is allowed to name both the protagonist, a young brown-haired man, and the lead female, a green-haired lass who is the daughter of one Professor Imes; if no names are manually entered, the game will randomly choose from a pre-coded list of names for both characters.
Professor Imes is a renowned archaeologist who has been investigating an artifact known as the Sun Key, which potentially has the ability to unlock the greatest secrets of the lost Mayan civilization, and is rumored to be housed somewhere within Chichen Itza. However, on his latest expedition, he and his team mysteriously disappeared while exploring different temples between the dates of June 22 and July 14; only his guide, José, was able to escape unharmed and return with some artifacts that the team found, hoping they will help the player in his quest to find the professor. The three, after talking with the professor's secretary Anne, travel to Mexico and into the ancient city to look for clues.
Several actual sites of Chichen Itza are explored by the player, although their interiors and purposes are purposefully changed slightly in order to help create an atmosphere of fantasy and mystery-solving intrigue. Furthermore, each ruin is home to a demon that is said to be under the control of a creature known only as Tentacula, although this is only speculation that is gathered from the professor's notes and what José has to say to the player at the start.
Tombs & Treasure is predominantly about solving puzzles and interacting objects with one another as they are found throughout the Mayan city. When travelling from temple to temple, the only available action is to walk using the D-pad. However, once a temple is entered, the player may start exploring much more thoroughly. Using a list of picture-based action keys ("Go", "Push", "Wash", etc.), the characters can interact with the environment, inspecting it for clues and manipulating it to unlock another area elsewhere. There are several items to collect, as well, whose purpose can be learned by looking at them. Interestingly, the game gives each of the three characters—the boy, the girl, and José—their own special attributes to let them all contribute to the quest. The boy is the player's in-game avatar and usually does the most hands-on work; the girl is talented musically; and José is very strong and able to move things the other two cannot.
However, some light turn-based combat also faces the player when a demon is encountered inside a ruin. These encounters almost always happen in the very first room of a ruin, although there are some exceptions. Fighting is accomplished, simply enough, using the "Fight" command, although doing this means the player is using his bare hands. Equipping the sword is done before each fight by selecting "Use", and then highlighting the sword in the inventory, first. Battles are strictly turn-based, with no means of healing, and are simply bashing away at the monster until one or the other is dead. However, it is possible to run away from the fight with the "Go" command, with the player being fully healed when he comes back to try the battle again later.
The game uses a simplistic experience point system which gives the player additional levels (and hit points) both from winning battles, and from successfully solving puzzles throughout Chichen Itza. As such, the player is kept from advancing too far, too early, simply because he won't be strong enough yet to contend with the higher-level monsters he's sure to encounter. Although, occasionally the player may be defeated despite being strong enough.
The game also came packaged with a small guide which represented the professor's journal, it is written in an awkward cursive form and can be hard to understand, as well as speaking in riddles, but can often aid the player if read correctly.
While there are a few ruins which are strictly for show and cannot be entered, the vast majority can.
- The Nunnery: a small building in which three mysterious statues and the mystical Ixmol Jewel are found. The Ixmol Jewel is the only means of saving the player's progress in the game, making it very important to collect. It also has a secret entrance in a hidden maze-like forest, where the player must feel around to get through, if it is accessed, the player is given a riddle from a mayan god
- The Tomb of the High Priest: At first, it seems just to be an empty room, but if José moves a wall, a sarcophagus is found in a hidden room. Scorper is found here. (Scorper is usually the first defeatable monster.)
- El Castillo Pyramid: Spanish for "the castle", this ruin functions in the game as a treasure vault that requires a special key to open. Two-Beak is found here. (Two-Beak can actually be defeated at the beginning but will normally take the player a few tries.)
- The Court of Columns: A collection of columns which hides several secrets among their spires. El Slug is found here.
- El Caracol: Spanish for "the snail" due to its shape. In actuality, this was an observatory used by the Mayans to calculate their calendar via study of the stars. In the game, it primarily serves as a means of redirecting the Sun's rays to solve certain puzzles. The Snake Master is found here.
- The Well of Paradise: One of Chichen Itza's sacred cenotes, which the player-characters can use to wash dirty items to regain their usage.
- The Well of Sacrifice: The other cenote available for exploration. In ancient times, the Mayans threw human sacrifices into the well to please their gods. Its purpose in the game is not so different.
- The Temple of the Warriors: A beautiful jaguar statue embedded with a blue jewel is found here, as well as an ancient trinket called the Sun Necklace, which can tell the time of day. Cadaver is found here.
- The Ball Court: The Mayans were well known for their specific type of ballgame they played in great arenas. However, it holds a much darker secret in the game.
- In addition to possessing unique skills, each of the characters was capable of having separate reactions to various moments throughout the game. In one notable sequence, if the boy tries to look in a jar in El Castillo Pyramid, he will bump his head and get called an idiot by the girl; and vice versa for the girl. If José then looks in the jar, both the boy and the girl take turns calling him an idiot until he finally says, "Hey, cut me some slack, Jack!"
- El Castillo Pyramid is also mentioned as being known as the Temple of Kukulcan in the game. This is true; Kukulcan is the Maya equivalent of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, and in real life, one of his "Jaguar Thrones" can be found inside.
- Tombs & Treasure is the only game published by Infocom for a game console.