Catacombs by Supersoft

Was the game Catacombs by Supersoft for the Commodore PET a text adventure?*

If so, then it's one of the very earliest examples of a British-authored text adventure for a home computer.

*spoiler... it was, keep reading...

The earliest Catacombs advert currently found (March 1981)

Source: Computing Today - March 1981 - magazine scan by Flaxcottage

Also in Personal Computing World March 1981

The game is not mentioned in their earlier adverts in January & Febuary.

It is briefy mentioned as being in their catalogue in the following April 1981, May 1981 issues.
Also in Practical Computing April 1981.

Supersoft's Catacombs shouldn't be confused with the later Anirog game of the same name.

It's hard to tell from the advert above how much of a text adventure it actually was. So many early games dubbed as "adventures" in their advertising would fall more into the arcade "graphical" adventure or RPG categories, rather than classic parser-driven text adventures.

There are some clues that it might well have been a "proper" text adventure...

From later Supersoft adverts...

Source: Personal Computing World - August 1981
Similar advert in July 1981

It's called the ultimate adventure game in this advert, placed alongside the Supersoft Hitch-Hiker's game and very distinctly away from more arcade adventures like Halls of Death and Wizard's Lair.

Source: Personal Computing World - November 1981

Catacombs is specifically listed in the Adventurers (sic) section of this 1982 advert, alongside other confirmed "proper" text adventures...

Source: Computing Today - July 1982 - magazine scan by Flaxcottage

Here is also a letter from text adventure author Jim MacBrayne in which he specifically calls Catacombs a "true adventure" game...

Source: Micro Adventurer Issue 8 (February 1984)

Corresponding with me in 2020, Jim MacBrayne recalls
"...this was indeed the very first true adventure game I ever played, before I had even heard of Infocom. It was written by someone called Brian Cotton, who was also the author of Cornucopia and Witch Hunt. I played all three games, although I never actually completed Witch Hunt, which was not in the same league as the other two."

It would make sense that Brian Cotton was the author of Catacombs given that his games make up the (majority of?) the later Classic Quests series...

The remake...

Catacombs, like several of the early Supersoft text adventures mentioned above, got a remake as part of the Classic Quests series; with versions produced (according to extract from the leaflet shown below) for Commodore PET, 64, 128 and Plus 4, as well as Amstrad CPC, PCW & PC, and IBM PC.

Source: Mocagh
See also Games That Weren't.

Images of various versions of games from that Classic Quests series are archived online at Mocagh.
Namely Forestland (C64), Goblin Towers (C64), and Witch Hunt (PC).

The C64 versions of Goblin Towers and Witch Hunt are preserved as digital files. Forestland and Goblin Towers are preserved in their earlier C64 forms.

The Amstrad versions of Forestland, Witch Hunt (CP/M) are archived online
with images also shown in the CPCRulez database for Goblin Towers.

The PCW versions of Goblin Towers and Forestland were reviewed in issue 43 of 8000 Plus magazine. Witch Hunt was widely reviewed at the time, including the C64 version for ZZap64.


(A mention of the PCW versions from New Computer Express #40)

In the review of Witch Hunt in Red Herring issue 2 the reviewer says that she purchased Witch Hunt (for the PC) along with four other games from the series, from Audiogenic. Which suggests that all five games were available in the UK (by 1991).

Sadly, Catacombs is not currently archived in any of its forms.

Given the range of titles and formats preserved, it seems likely all the listed games in the catalogue were actually released on all the formats mentioned. (Further evidence for the existence of the C64 version is given below.)

Scott Julian has let us know that he actually owned a copy of the Classic Quests version of Catacombs for Amstrad PCW (together with another from that series, Witch Hunt) back in the late 1980s. He worked the Australian distributor called Pactronics and has provided the image below from an Australian magazine in September 1988, which shows the full series was available.

Scott writes: "I remember selling these into Retravision (an Australian electronics retailer, who was big on Amstrad CPC and PCW). They were packaged in Australia in plastic clamshell style along with the manual and advertisement catalog for the others in the series."

Source: Australian Commodore and Amiga Review
Volume 5 Issue 9

This is from a Pactronics advert in the Australian Commodore and Amiga Review; adding extra evidence for the existence of the C64 version...

Source: Australian Commodore and Amiga Review
Volume 5 Issue 3 (March 1988)

See also Volume 5 Issue 1 - mention in Pactronics advert

This news article specifically mentions that Pactronics are selling the Classic Quests series for Commodore; which, alongside the adverts above and below, I would take as confirmation of the C64 Classic Quests version of Catacombs.

Source: Australian Commodore and Amiga Review
Volume 5 Issue 8

The mention below appears as part of a larger "Christmas Gifts for C64 or C128 owners" advertisement...

Source: Australian Commodore and Amiga Review
Volume 4 Issue 11 (November 1987)

And as final proof... here is the game in the Pactronics price list in Volume 5 Issue 9...

Here is the corresponding PC price list...

 

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