Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Windham Classics' The Wizard of Oz

Sometime back, I talked about the first digital Oz game, Adventure in Oz for the TI-99/4A. In that blog, I mentioned I had previously (erroneously) believed Windham Classics' Wizard of Oz game to be the first. But I haven't blogged about that game before.

So let's fix that.

Windham Classics was a series from Spinnaker Software that presented five games based on literary titles. The first couple were platformer games that had a menu of commands to bring up. These were Alice in Wonderland (based on the two Alice books by Lewis Carroll) and Below the Root (based on the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and actually served as a continuation of the story of the books). There was also Swiss Family Robinson, a real-time text adventure featuring many puzzles. The final pair were a couple of elaborate text adventures with graphics and music to enhance the gameplay. These were Treasure Island and The Wizard of Oz.

It's been awhile for some, but I've played and completed all of the games. They were available for several computer systems, including DOS on the IBM PC, the Commodore 64 and the Apple II. I played them through emulators, specifically the Commodore 64 versions.

Loading The Wizard of Oz (and Treasure Island) in the Commodore 64 can be challenging for the novice user. Most emulators let you select the file you need to load ("wind") and enter it automatically. The problem with these games is the long loading time. The emulator CCS64 speeds it up right away and makes the loading time no problem with the default settings. For other emulators, such as Frodo and Vice, you need to ensure the type of drive being emulated is a standard 1541, and that the main drive (Drive 8) is the only one being emulated. You can also select speed up options to help cut down the wait to the Windham Classics loading screen. The game will require you to swap discs, which is possible with emulators, but you might want to make sure you know how to do before settling in to play a game. It's also worth noting that the game does require quotation marks, and on the C64, the equivalent is holding down the shift key and pressing 2.

The DOS version I have played, but the versions online are lacking many of the game's files, so the game can't be completed after you meet the Wizard. The game came on the large floppy discs encased in cardboard, so for someone to get those files, they would not only would need to own that version, they would also need a drive capable of handling those discs. The Apple II version seems to be complete.

My recommendation for which version to play goes to the Commodore 64 version. Not only is it complete, but the graphics are in full color.

The game's story features an expanded version of The Wizard of Oz that can be played through. You play as Dorothy and as you travel around Oz using an interesting parser. In addition to moving by using the commands N, NW, NE, E, W, SE, SW, UP, DOWN, ENTER, EXIT to navigate the game, and the standard "TAKE ITEM" style commands, you can also address characters with commands such as "GLINDA, TALK EVIL WITCH."

The story expansion is several features from The Marvelous Land of Oz. As you head west after meeting the Wizard, you find Mombi's cottage and are joined by Tip when you escape. Along the way to the Witch's castle, you build Jack Pumpkinhead and bring him and the Sawhorse to life. Mombi's attempts to thwart the return of the Scarecrow to the Emerald City in Marvelous Land are now turned into tricks by the Wicked Witch. The Wizard names Jack his successor instead and when you head south, you run into Jinjur and have to head back to the Emerald City and escape by building the Gump. After falling into the Jackdaws' Nest, you have to return to Emerald City once again, this time bringing an army of tin soldiers who chase away Jinjur's army. In addition, the Hammerheads are beaten by putting everyone to sleep with a magic music box and commanding none other than Tiktok to carry your friends over the hill.

Probably the most controversial change made to the game's story is Glinda at the end revealing that Tip is the lost prince of Oz. He's not a transformed Ozma, just a missing prince. It's a little disappointing given the legacy of the Oz characters. Making Tip a girl would have been a bit more palatable.

For anyone who enjoys retro gaming and Oz, it's worth playing once. However, given the linear style of the game, it's unlikely anyone will be playing it many times unless they want to experience it again.

You can watch a playthrough here. has downloads for the partial DOS version as well as the Apple II and C64 versions.

The Classic Adventure Solution Archive has a walkthrough if you need help solving the puzzles as well as links to more information about the game.

Below are pictures of the game's packaging from the Computer Game Museum.

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