Some months ago I wrote about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain, the 1982 video game by Mattel for the Intellivision home gaming console, so it only seemed right I also come up with an article about the followup game, 1983’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin.
Right off the bat, Treasure of Tarmin is graphically a massively different game than Cloudy Mountain. For one thing, most of the action is in a three-dimensional, first-person view of the various mazes the player’s character must traverse; while this wasn’t the first video game to offer first-person action (that game would be 1972’s Maze War), this viewpoint was rare at the time for video games and, looking back, seems almost an impossibility for the limits of a home console during that era. So, visually, Treasure of Tarmin offered something not quite unique but almost so to the kids sitting at home tapping away on their Intellivision controllers.
More than just graphics, however, Treasure of Tarmin offered a depth and complexity of gameplay that was not common at the time, and again was something not generally thought of as possible for a home console of that period.
Play begins with a two-dimensional side view of a castle and the hillside upon which it rests. It is the player’s job to descend into the dungeons beneath the castle, defeat monsters, collect treasure and weapons and magic items, and eventually defeat a minotaur and take the famed treasure of Tarmin. Along the way there are numerous foes to face, including giants, skeletons, ghouls, wraiths, giant ants, alligators, giant snakes, giant scorpions, dragons, and something akin to the mimics of Dungeons & Dragons, monsters that here appear as doors and can attack a character. The various monsters also come in a variety of colors to denote how deadly they can be. Adding to the danger, there are even booby-trapped treasures which can blow up in one’s face and cause damage.
Speaking of damage, there are two types, War and Spiritual, and different foes deal different types of damage. Sink to nothing in either form of health and you’re dead. But that doesn’t mean the end of the game. Characters can be reincarnated, appearing in a different part of the dungeon, though they lose most of their gear. However, death and damage can be fought back against by eating food, which raises one’s War or Spiritual health, or by drinking health potions.
Weapons and gear come in a variety of forms, including bows, swords, daggers, spears, and more. Magic items come in the form of scrolls, potions, staffs, and spell books. Items have a somewhat limited use, either with a literal limited use such as arrows for bows, or by slowly wearing down over time.
Adding further depth to the game, there are doors or gates in hallways surrounding the dungeons, and one can slip into one of these doors to transfer to another locale. That’s when the mimic-type monsters might appear, and it’s not impossible a door could be trapped with an explosive. As a nice bonus, sometimes one’s health will increase by going through a door. So, going through a doorway can be a gamble, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
As an extra bonus, a player can slay the minotaur, but if they don’t pick up the treasure of Tarmin they can continue to play all the way through the game’s 256 levels. What comes after that 256th level? You get teleported back to the first level and can start all over again, but this time you have the health and weapons and gear you’ve collected.
One of the downsides to this game is that it does become a bit repetitive after a while. Traveling through dungeon after dungeon with all of them looking pretty much the same tends to go stale, and the monsters are not animated, which could have added much to playability. Also, the game contains next to no sound, which is probably due to the limited capabilities of the Intellivision system. Still, this is a game worth playing, loaded with thrills and fun.
For those who would like to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin, of course the cartridge can be found for sale at various venues online. Also, a few years back an Intellivision Flashback console was released which contains numerous old Intellivision games, including Minotaur, which is a renamed version of Treasure of Tarmin since the rights to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons name would have lapsed.
Ty Johnston is vice president of the Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit organization focused upon bringing heroic literature to all readers. A former newspaper editor, he is the author of several fantasy trilogies and novels, including City of Rogues and The God Sword.