Spyre: The Enchanted Grotto - A Text Based Adventure
Spyre: The Enchanted Grotto Help Guide
What is Spyre: The Enchanted Grotto?
Spyre: The Enchanted Grotto is a text based adventure game modelled after the classic Zork games of the late seventies/early eighties.
Why is it called Spyre?
The short version is, I had to call it something.
The long version is, it’s a word I had left over from waaaay back in high school (think late eighties) when I began dabbling in various writing outlets. It’s a variation on the word ‘inspire’ and it was meant to refer to a kind of living muse if you will.
Why is it spelled with a Y?
Because I was an only child.
To give it a bit of fantastical flair.
No, I was right the first time.
I’ve never played Zork. What was it like?
There was a certain magic to Zork that didn’t necessarily carry over to other text-based games. You were ageless, faceless, gender-neutral, culturally ambiguous adventure person who got swept up in an exploration of The Great Underground Empire, presumably for no reason other than your own curiosity. The game designers clearly had a love of spelunking, and created these incredibly just-detailed-enough caverns for you to wander through.
I have played Zork. How does this game compare?
It’s a LOT easier. There were some layers of challenge to Zork that I didn’t expect newcomers would really take to (and didn’t feel like adding in). One was managing your light sources; nothing got me to grumble under my breath like seeing the words “Your lamp appears a bit dimmer”. Another was having to deal with an unforgivingly limited inventory, where you were either overloaded by weight or too many individual items. For Spyre I left the lights on for you and only gave you stuff you can put in your pockets.
Zork was also notorious for allowing you to destroy a needed item or get locked out of a required exit and still letting you explore unknowingly; essentially placing the game in an unwinnable state. I made a point to avoid this as well.
Are there references to Zork in Spyre?
Of course there are.
Is there a grue?
How it Works:
What do I do?
You interact with the game by typing in commands, and this program is kind enough to include a compass if you’d rather click on arrows than type in the directions you want to go.
You can check your inventory by typing INVENTORY or simply I. LOOK will repeat the description of the room you’re in.
How do I interact with things?
Most of the expressions you’ll use are basic Verb/Noun sentences; GET BOOK for example. For the purposes of simplicity, if you then LOOK AT BOOK it will give you the information you otherwise would have received by reading it (the traditional READ command is not used here).
A more complex sentence would be to USE BOOK WITH LIBRARIAN if, say, you wanted to return the book to a librarian. Mostly you’re going to be taking and using things.
If something looks large enough for you get inside it, you could try to ENTER said object.
And on occasion you’ll encounter a character in the game you might want to talk to. Most of those interaction are going to be ASK LIBRARIAN ABOUT BOOKS type sentences.
Do you have a list of words I’ll be using throughout the game?
Yes. Do you want it?
Here’s a partial list of commands you’ll be using regularly.
LOOK AT ________
USE ________/ USE ________ WITH ________
ENTER/GET IN ________
GIVE ________ TO ________
Part of the exploration involves uncovering a handful of other commands that you wouldn’t necessarily think to type in on your first tour of the grotto. I’ve made it so you won’t be able to drop any items, as that only has the potential to place the game in an unwinnable state.
How long does it take to beat?
Once you know everything that you need to do to reach the end, you’ll probably be able to run through the whole thing in ten to fifteen minutes. Most of the gameplay consists of you figuring out which actions advance the narrative.
What’s the score for?
Additional flavor. A scoring system provides you with ongoing reinforcement that you’re on the right track.
How many points are there?
400. But it’s likely you’ll finish the game with 355. See the Once You’re Done with the Game section for hints on acquiring the remaining points.
Can I die?
Yes you can.
Although truthfully you probably won’t.
Aside from the true ending of the game, Spyre has seven ways for you to die (unlike Zork which had dozens and dozens). You’ll actively have to be looking for them, and it might be a fun little bonus challenge once you’ve finished the game.
What’s with the glowing plants?
Nothing. What’s with you?
I don’t know. They’re phosphorous or something.
Basically this is your light source for the game. For perspective, imagine walking through a standard non-terrifying (on purpose at least) theme park dark ride.
And they’re pretty.
I thought I saw a large animal.
You did! You did see a large animal!
Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it will be important when it is.
Why can’t I take the coins?
I think the game gives you a valid enough reason.
Honestly because you don’t need them.
Is there a reason for the coins?
Is there a reason for anything?
Wow that’s deep!
Yes, they hide something important.
If you’ve really gotten this far and are still looking for help I don’t think you’re going to enjoy the dragon feeding section.
Type in the command LOOK AT COINS.
Now TAKE KEY HANDLE.
Notice your score increases when you take an item that you need (which is all of them).
Why are there fairies here?
Because it’s Fairy Cove.
Sometimes you might need a little extra light.
No, you can’t catch one.
But maybe you can bring one from elsewhere in the Grotto here.
What’s the Reading Room for?
If you have to ask…
Seriously though, if you’ve found it you can just go in and see for yourself.
Okay, I guess you’re asking what all the stuff IN the Reading Room is for.
This is a cameo appearance by our library’s reading room, which for the three years prior to this game’s creation was home to a series of original breakout rooms that we ran for our annual Sci-Fi/Fantasy Festival. In 2020 we were planning a new one based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, but the outbreak of the Coronavirus required us to run the late July festival via virtual programs. Spyre was one of the spiritual successors to the breakout room.
How can I take the thorns?
With a grain of salt.
That was sarcasm.
No, I mean it. You can’t.
It doesn’t matter how many times you ask. The answer is the same.
All right, you’ve worn me down.
I lied. There’s no way to take them.
If you need them for some reason, you can always bring whatever you need to cut open into this room.
How can I take the sap?
You don’t want to get that stuff on your hands.
You also don’t want to get it on anything important.
Do you have something that doesn’t seem to have any real use?
Not the pen.
There’s a brush you’ll need to get from the grumpy bear. That’s your ticket.
What’s going on in the Eerie Room?
I have no idea what you’re talking about.
It’s just your imagination.
What do you expect from a place called the Eerie Room?
Since you’re not going to let this go, this is one of the aforementioned death endings, but you’ve only got a window to experience it. You’re going to need a little more light.
Look around in here once the fairy joins you.
That’s all you get from me.
What are Mome Raths?
Surely you’ve read the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky.
Confidentially, I don’t know either. I’m guessing they’re the little fuzzy things from the Disney version.
Unless you’re a Disney lawyer, in which case, I have nothing to do with this game. I just stumbled in her doing a Google search for mammoths.
Why is the Mome Rath Den’s description so weird?
It’s meant to invoke the opening stanza of Jabberwocky.
I thought it would be fun.
There’s no deeper meaning.
Really, it would translate into “You’re in the Mome Rath Den and here where the exits are.”
Again, I had to call it something. I couldn’t say ‘large cavern with smaller caverns in it’.
I wanted something that sounded like the name of a fairytale village.
It’s a reworking of the German word for under combined with the French city Reims. It doesn’t matter to me if you pronounce it Unter-hyme or Unter-rhyme.
What’s the boy’s problem?
He’s sad. Duh.
He’s the boy who cried wolf.
Except he actually wants to see a wolf.
Where is the wolf?
There is no wolf.
But perhaps you can still arrange for the boy to see one.
There’s a timing issue here, but you’re going to need the milkbone and you’re going to need the gate opened.
The gate has its own walkthrough, but the milkbone will need to be in powder form.
The witch at the top of the waterfall has a machine to grind up the bone.
You’ll use the powder on the cauldron.
And USE STEW to transform into the wolf. You’ll need to reach the boy in five moves.
The order is WEST from the cauldron area to the Salmon River. ENTER RIVER for a ride to the bank under the bridge. Do literally anything to get fished out by the troll. Then SOUTH through the open gate. SOUTH again. Ta-daa!
Why does the boy have a fairy?
There are just some questions that don’t require answers.
Why is there an empty nest?
Because all of the children have grown up.
Can I do anything with the nest?
You can get in it if you like.
And that’s pretty much it.
What do I do with the stork?
You could feed it.
The stork is fond of pumpkinseeds.
That might be useful somewhere close by.
You’ll also get a shell whistle from the witch that the stork can hear.
If you use the whistle anywhere in Unterhime, the stork will come see what you’re on about.
What’s the deal with the scarecrow?
Like most scarecrows, it has a pumpkin head.
Like most pumpkins, the head contains pumpkinseeds.
Are you putting it together yet?
Why is there a gate in the middle of Unterhime?
To annoy you.
There’s actually half of a key stuck in the lock.
You can’t get it out yourself.
But there’s a small hole on the other side.
Big enough for a pumpkinseed…
Can I open the gate?
If you really work at it.
You’ll need a lot of things first.
You’ll need the KEY HANDLE from the pile of coins, the BRUSH from the bear, a PUMPKINSEED from the scarecrow, and the WHISTLE from the witch.
Stuff the PUMPKINSEED in the lock on the south side and summon the stork with the WHISTLE. The stork will knock out the KEY HALF retrieving it. You can assemble the key, but you need to glue it together.
USE the BRUSH on the SAP in the Thorny Path. Then USE the GLUE on the KEY. Then USE the KEY on the GATE.
Why is the river pink?
Because pink is the only color of the spectrum it doesn’t absorb, and the reflection creates visual input that your brain interprets as ‘pink’.
No real reason. Just to be weird.
Why does the river flow against gravity?
To stress the Seuss-ian nature of the world of Spyre.
If you’re looking for more of an internal logic explanation, it has to do with the plant life in the grotto. The same family of vegetation that’s been providing you light also grows underwater, which gives the natural river a kind of magically defiant attribute.
And there’s a witch in the grotto who may have had a hand in it.
Can I do anything in the river?
As a player, you’re not given enough time in the river to actually type in a command. The river only serves as a shortcut to the troll’s bridge.
As well as an obstacle to the sanctuary.
What do I do with the salmon?
Someone left a cauldron burning…
And somebody else might enjoy a fresh salmon.
The bear is grumpy about something. Maybe he’s hungry.
Actually that’s not it. He doesn’t want the salmon.
Which is good, because there’s no salmon in the game.
Whose cauldron is this?
Who typically uses a cauldron?
There’s a witch somewhere else in the grotto.
What do I add to the stew?
This one is implied more than spelled out.
You’ll need the milkbone. But not in its current form.
If you crush it into a powder, you can add that to the stew.
But you’ll need the witch’s machine at the top of the waterfall.
How do I get into the sanctuary?
How do you know about that if you haven’t been there yet?
It’s that tunnel that the Salmon River keeps briefly exposing.
You’ll need something to make the river cooperate with you.
The witch’s shell whistle.
What do I do in the sanctuary?
Your goal is to get rid of each flyer so you can retrieve the envelope underneath.
Flyers can be burned.
But only by a flame that matches the color of the flyer.
Remember how the primary colors mix?
Whenever you need to start over, USE the torch on the bowl.
How do I get the envelope open?
One famously reoccurring inventory item in Zork games is a letter opener…
Which doesn’t appear in Spyre.
Have you seen anything else sharp in the grotto?
Use the envelope on the thorns.
What is the troll doing?
He’s a bridge troll. He guards the bridge, scum puppy!
That was an Ultima IV reference, in case you were wondering.
How can I cross the bridge?
You just have to get past the troll.
No really, give it a try.
The troll will explain what the rules are for crossing the bridge.
Answer his five three questions as best you can.
They’re all related to the pirate outside the mini-golf course.
What’s wrong with the bear?
Sometimes feelings are just what they are.
What is he waiting for?
You know, you ask a lot of questions that aren’t really pertinent.
He’s waiting for you to do something.
He wants you to cheer him up.
But not CHEER him.
He wants to know he’s not alone in his feelings.
Why don’t you try to BE GRUMPY as well?
How do I get through the Crystal Maze?
You’ll need a map.
No, don’t try it yourself.
Like, if you’ve been real-world drawing a map of Spyre, this is the time to stop.
I suppose you could map it out, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
Your character needs a blank map in their inventory.
Then go back into the maze and DRAW MAP.
What do I need the brush for?
Not what you’d expect.
One of the classic adventure game tropes is how you have to use a common item in an unexpected way.
It’s something you won’t mind ruining.
Remember the sap in the Thorny Path?
The brush is a good way to collect some.
You’re also going to need it later.
How do I get the door open?
It’s missing a handle.
Perhaps something else in your inventory will serve as a substitute.
If you’ve been paying attention to this section of the walk-through, you should be able to put it all together by now.
USE BRUSH ON DOOR.
That wasn’t me yelling at you.
The Mini-Golf Course:
Why is this pirate here?
He’s probably wondering the same thing about you.
Like everything else in the grotto, he’s either there to be entertaining or to help you complete the game.
Why won’t he talk to me?
Maybe he doesn’t like you.
He’s an NPC. His purpose is to provide you the answers to the troll’s questions.
How do I get information from him?
He’s giving you the information.
Think of it as a pirate code.
Okay, last chance, but I think you’re going to be disappointed if you don’t figure this one out on your own.
“Arr…I see…” is him spelling out his name; RIC. “Aye matey…” is the revelation of his age; “I’m eighty” –so 80 or EIGHTY. “X sighted!” is his mood; EXCITED.
Can I rescue the princess?
How many ways can I say no?
Look, some people are just stuck in a dead end job. Don’t bother her.
On second thought do.
Literally BOTHER PRINCESS.
She’ll give you a ball and club.
How do I feed the dragon?
This one’s pretty complicated.
The tower area:
If the mention of this area being a mini-golf course wasn’t enough of a hint, you have to hit a hole-in-one; i.e. feed the dragon.
PUT BALL ON MAT.
HIT BALL WITH CLUB.
The ball goes up the ramp into the Unicorn’s platform.
You can MOVE UNICORN to turn it so its horn faces west.
By facing west, the ball will roll towards the Mimic.
The ball will naturally bounce off the Mimic towards the lagoon.
The Mimic can also be pushed.
Pushing it once will put the mimic in the center of the room.
Now the ball will roll around the Basilisk in the west room and return to where the Mimic is.
The Mimic can be pushed a second time.
But it won’t stay there for long.
You can PUT CLUB IN PIPE when it’s revealed to block the Mimic from sliding north again.
But you need the club to hit the ball.
Face the Unicorn to the south and hit the ball. Then push the Mimic twice and block it with the club. Now turn the Unicorn to release the ball and you’ll get a little fanfare for the hole-in-one.
Go back to see the Princess.
Is this a real Mimic?
Do you realize how absurd that question is?
There’s one way to find out…
How do I climb the waterfall?
But that mudslide shows promise.
At first you can only slide down it.
But once you have the shell whistle the mudslide becomes much more user friendly.
Where is the whistle?
Don’t worry. You’ll get it before you come back down.
The witch has it, and she won’t let you leave without taking it.
Where is the wicked witch?
Love that alliteration! She’s waiting at the top of the waterfall.
You’ll have to go through the shaft.
Why do I need ice cream?
Because without it, people will make fun of you.
And you can’t get ice cream in the grotto. Sorry.
How do I get out of the shaft?
You can’t go the way you came.
You have an endless supply of buckets and an uphill stream.
And you can get inside a bucket.
You’ll need the witch’s help.
She needs to know you’re down there and having trouble.
Every time you send a bucket up the stream, the witch will throw you a rope.
The solution involves more than one bucket.
You’ll need to tie the rope to a bucket and then to a second bucket. Make sure you’re in one of the buckets before sending the other one up.
What does the machine do?
It’s kind of a repurposed coffee grinder.
It’s powerful enough to crush rocks.
Or perhaps a milkbone.
Take the powder with you.
Do I want the shell?
In these games you want everything you can get your grubby hands on.
And you’re not going to be able to leave this area without it.
What do I do with the bell?
You put it on your head and pretend to be a noble knight on a sacred quest.
You RING it! What do you think you do with it?
What’s the point of the Sea Serpent?
That’s ‘SSSEEEE’ Serpent!
You need to bring him six blank pages. Then he’ll give you a blank map that you’ll need to get through the Crystal Maze.
And he ssseeees a lot of things, if you need any in game help.
Where are the pages?
You’re bound to have stumbled across a few by now.
Page one is in the Reading Room.
That will probably be the last one you get.
You’ll need the witch’s whistle. Then you’ll need to use the stork and the pumpkinseed to get the key half out of the lock. Combine the key half with the handle from the Well Spring to get a broken key. Get the brush from the bear and collect some sap from Thorny Path. Use that on the broken key to fix it. Unlock the gate. Get the milkbone form the boy and turn it into powder with the witch’s machine. Add that to the stew. Now tasting the stew will transform you into a wolf for five turns. Jump in the river and get pulled out by the troll. Head south all the way to the boy. Once he’s gone you can take the fairy to Fairy Cove which will reveal the door to the Reading Room.
It couldn’t be any simpler.
Page two is in the Crystal Maze.
Specifically the Bizarre Crystal Room.
If you don’t feel like wandering, go either north or northeast from the first room you climb down into.
Page three is in the Mome Rath Den.
You’ll have to OUTGRABE them.
You’d only know to do that by asking the serpent about pages. Or cheating by looking here.
Page four is at the Disenchanted Tower.
You’ll have to complete the mini-golf puzzle.
Bonus tidbit: When I was putting this game together I kept losing track of which page was getting moved to which room, accidentally giving you multiple ways of acquiring the same page. One of my mental workarounds while reprogramming was to attach page four (Fore!) to the golfing area. Dumb puns are your friends when you’re juggling variables.
Page five is at the Small Shore under the Bridge.
Get there by jumping in the river.
Or by answering the troll’s questions incorrectly.
Page six is in the envelope in the Sanctuary.
How hard could it possibly be to open an envelope?
Finishing the Game:
Is the whirlpool dangerous?
Yes, if you don’t have the whistle.
But there’s no way to reach the whirlpool without having obtained the whistle.
What’s the skeleton’s story?
He just woke up like that.
I’m not sure. He might have been an adventurer like you but coming from the other direction. I guess his game crashed.
He probably needs the whistle.
He also needs the map to make it through the Crystal Maze.
And he hasn’t been taking the notes you have, so he’s going to need a pen.
Where do I get the pen?
Have you checked your inventory?
If you haven’t this is going to be a surprise. You’ve been carrying it around with you the whole time.
How do I cross the desert?
You could try ye olde faithful; CROSS DESERT.
If you haven’t helped the skeleton, the desert will reject your advances.
What kind of animal is this?
Isn’t she cute?
She’s kind of a hybrid giraffe/snuffleupagus.
She’s going to be your companion as your adventure continues into an unwritten future.
Once You’re Done With the Game:
How did you make this game?
I stumbled across a website called http://textadventures.co.uk/create that houses the free-to-use engine. It’s a powerful tool with a fairly intuitive starting guide. From there it was a combination of scouring the forums for specific answers and just diving in and exploring. Kind of like being an adventurer.
How long did it take to create?
I did it over a space of five months, but that wasn’t through intensively working on it non-stop like a real game designer would have done. The first couple of weeks encompassed about an hour and a half a day three times out of the week; sketching ideas, building a majority of the map, and writing out the room descriptions (for me, the fun stuff). Then I’d ignore it for about a week or so until my sense of guilt overrode my laziness whereupon I started trying to make the objects work with each other. Still doing hour and a half increments, since that seems to be how my brain is most productive; but I’ll be honest, this period did NOT feel like I was making progress. Two months before the release date I had to actively push myself to finish building it, and three weeks later I had all the variables in place and about twenty percent of them actually worked. Then came three weeks of intensive micromanagement, typically in two to four hour sprints. If I had to tally it all up, factoring out time spent procrastinating, probably a solid 40-50 hours.
Will there be a sequel?
If you’d asked me a month ago I would have said unquestionably no. But since then (out of necessity) I’ve gotten more fluent in the way the program communicates. There are a lot of features I didn’t even touch, so a part of me is keen on digging deeper into it. And the game has such an open ending I think it would be fun creatively to visit the world beyond the grotto. But it’s time devouring as well, so it’s a question of whether or not the muses can out tip the scales away from my own sense of comfortable laziness.
Could I make an adventure game?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! I’m not a computer programmer and I barely qualify as a game designer, and even I managed to pull together a respectable effort. So can you! It’s easy in all the right places to keep the hard places from becoming too hard. It just takes some imagination and a lot of persistence.
What else do I need?
My most concise advice if you’re going to delve into your own project is, prepare yourself to think about your game from three perspectives. One: as a story teller. If you’re reading this section of the walk-through I imagine you already have this one down. Some people like to plot everything on paper before they touch a keyboard; for me, I went in with a setting, a destination, and a handful of encounters that I thought might be fun to play with (I prefer to learn as I go, and you can do that as well). Two: as a player. In essence you’re designing a theme park attraction, so you’ll want to be able to pretend that you’re experiencing your creation through fresh eyes (ones that miraculously know the puzzle solutions in advance). Prior experience to playing this kind of game is valuable. For example, I have the luxury of having played Zork II so many times that I have its map internalized; if you look carefully you can see how I pretty much used it as a template. And three: as a machine. Ninety-five percent of my headaches centered on this concept. Translating an ambiguous story to machine palpable variables and back into player experience is the core of this whole thing, and it’s going to take some getting used to.
Don’t be intimidated by how messy it’s going to look backstage. Take the Mimic for example. A lot of variables happening around this one object; its ability to be pushed around the room and the effect it has on where the ball goes. I saved myself a lot of hair pulling by creating three Mimics; Mimicnorth, Mimicenter, and Mimicsouth. Only one of these is in the room at a time; i.e. when the player pushes Mimicnorth, it disappears from the room and is replaced by Mimicenter. The player isn’t aware of this as each Mimic is simply referred to in-description as the Mimic, they’ve every reason to believe it’s the same object just moved to a different place in the room. On the other hand, the game has no idea where any of the Mimic are spatially in the room, it just knows which Mimic is there, where it’s described as being, and where it sends the ball. What you tell the player is very different than what you tell the game.
How do I get a perfect score?
Well, let me say thank you for being that much of a completionist. At this point, I don’t really want to spoil every easter egg, but I’m not that hard to track down in person. For now let me just nudge you interacting with the characters a bit more, and trying to tap into some of Zork’s classic mythology.
What are the other endings to the game?
Do you really want me to spell them all out for you?
That’s what I thought. There’s two you can access immediately. From the first room LEAVE. And the other options is to DIE at any time in the game. Entering the waterfall is a good way wipe yourself out, just like entering the whirlpool without the whistle. There are only two creatures in the game that are dangerous; the Mimic and the Grue. The Mimic is in plain sight, all you have to do is get inside it. The Grue has a smaller window of opportunity. You know the Eerie Room? Go in there when you have the fairy and look at the figure. The last one is a bit obscure and I won’t spoil it here, but late in the game you’ll be given a parenthetical note not to say something; disobey it at your own risk. (I’m positive I included an eighth one, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is).
Any final thoughts?
Well out of the ones I’m willing to share, I felt like I was out of my element constructing this game, but in a fulfilling way. When I pitched the idea to the Sci-fi/Fantasy committee, I wasn’t confident I’d actually be able to follow through on it. And even when fully immersed in the process I still wasn’t convinced I’d get the game running. But every time I considered throwing in the towel I thought about an interview with Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith) when someone asked him what it takes to write a song; also an activity outside my skillset. He said that you have to start with the audacity to believe that you can write a song. When I first had the idea for the game I was coming from a place of audacity; I’d never done anything like this, but I was a guy with the audacity to believe he could figure it out. And while I quickly stopped being that guy, I REALLY wanted to prove him right. In the end I don’t know if the game is good, or fun, or any of the other adjectives that I really can’t control. But I feel like I succeeded in making it work, and that’s a gratifying feeling when you’re outside your comfort zone.