06
Jul
14

Caves of Thor

Demo Screen

Demo Screen

Caves of Thor is an early Apogee game originally developed by Todd Replogle under the Scenario Software name in 1989. It is ASCII graphics action-adventure game in which you play the titular character Thor. You’re trapped in the Caves of Thor and need to find three magic items in order to escape.

Lava

Lava

The game doesn’t use any kind of graphics at all, instead it uses the 40 column text mode in combination with some very basic ASCII art. This technique proves to be quite effective in-game, all the objects have reasonable representations and scenery such as the lava and torches are animated very nicely. Because it uses ASCII art, Caves of Thor will run on almost any machine you throw at it.

A sole enemy

A sole enemy

Sound is also very simple, coming from the PC speaker only. The first thing you hear is the music on the demo screen, which is a rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee. It’s not a very good rendition, but it couldn’t be given the hardware. The in-game music is better but will still annoy you after a while. Luckily you can turn it off in favour of the sound effects which are mercifully easier on the ears and not over used.

Water

Water

The controls are nice and responsive, but you should play on a machine with a numeric keypad. You need it so you can move diagonally where required. I made the mistake of playing on my Macbook which doesn’t have the keypad, this made some sections harder than they should have been. Also I noticed if you hold any movement key down you can move faster than the screen will scroll, this means you should only hold the keys for short periods otherwise you could land in a pile of lava.

Dungeons

Dungeons

The weapon you have is not named, it is simply a dash that travels like an arrow in the direction you’re facing. You can only have one on-screen at a time. If you continually press the fire key it will simply replace the weapon on-screen. So it’s usually best to let it hit a target before firing a new shot. It also means being closer to your target allows you to fire faster, which is helpful when destroying the Thoar beasts.

Lava as a barrier

Lava as a barrier

Given the goal of the game you’ll send a good portion of your time exploring and searching for keys. Be careful where you use your keys as they are in short supply. There are plenty of enemies to kill along the way, and in addition to your weapon there are potions you can use to kill enemies gathered around you. This is handy when surrounded by lots of enemies and their spawn points. There are often lots of enemies and spawn points around important areas that may have keys, Thoar beasts, or the magic items themselves.

Despite the simple presentation Caves of Thor has quite a bit of appeal. Exploring and fighting are fun and not too difficult. It isn’t too time intensive either, you could probably complete the first episode in an hour or two. However it does lack depth that later similar games have, but this lack of depth is an asset for someone short on time like myself.

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