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An evil magician (who never actually appears in the game) has stolen the Enchanted Chalice and hidden it somewhere in the Kingdom. You have to find it and return it to the Gold Castle. Along the way, you will face three dragons, confusing asymmetric mazes, and a bat that steals your items. Your one-item inventory can include a sword, a bridge (for short-cutting the mazes), one of the keys to the three castles, a magnet (to attract other items, right through walls), the Chalice, a dot (for unlocking an Easter Egg), and, for short periods of time, the bat. The Kingdom consists of the Gold Castle (where you start), a maze leading to the Black Castle, a catacomb leading to the White Castle, and a few other rooms. Inside the Black and White castles are more mazes and catacombs.
There are three versions of the game, selected with the Game Select switch. Version 1 omits the White Castle, Rhindle, the bat, and all mazes except the one leading to the Black Castle. Version 2 has everything, but always in the same places. Version 3 puts the objects in random locations. You can also tweak the difficulty with the difficulty switches: left difficulty changes the speed of the dragons' bite, and right difficulty controls whether or not the dragons are afraid of the sword.
The three dragons have different behaviors. Yorgle, the Yellow Dragon, is slow (moving half the speed of the player), and guards the Chalice. He's afraid of the Gold Key. (Don't ask why.) Grundle, the Green Dragon moves at the same speed as Yorgle, and guards the Magnet, the Bridge, the Black Key, and the Chalice. Rhindle, the Red Dragon, is fast (moving at the same speed as the player, or twice as fast as Yorgle or Grundle), and guards the White Key and the Chalice. The Bat flies around the whole kingdom grabbing stuff. He has a one-item inventory too, so he's always exchanging what he has for what he wants, and he's especially interested in what you have. He can even grab your sword and hand you a dragon!
Sprite flicker plays a big part in the game, and is actually mentioned in the manual as a way to get through dead dragons if they're in the way. Sprite flicker is how you reach the Easter Egg; you bring the dot to one of the rooms with a force field wall, and it makes the force field flicker, so you can pass through it into a hidden room that says "Created by Warren Robinett." Atari didn't credit its game developers at the time, so Warren snuck that in.
AtariAge created Epic Adventure, an Atari 2600 game that makes the game more complex.
- Three Quarters View: Perspective is pretty weird, similar to The Legend of Zelda. It seems to be Top Down View, but if that's the case, then the castles are lying on their backs, and the dragons are lying on their sides...
- All There in the Manual: The plot.
- And it's not entirely accurate. (There's no "Evil Magician". That was made up by the manual-writer)
- Blackout Basement: The catacombs.
- Controllable Helplessness: You can wiggle around after you've been eaten by a dragon. You can also grab items that happen to be very close to the dragon that's eaten you. Such as... the bat. This allows you to see how the bat flies around and even disrupt his route if you need to make sure he doesn't get to a certain item before you reincarnate.
- Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: If you get stuck or eaten by a dragon, you can hit Reset and return to the Gold Castle. Everything will be right where you left it, but the dragons will be alive again.
- Depth Perplexion: You're the only one who has to deal with walls. The dragons and the bat go right through them. So do objects when the magnet's on screen.
- Easter Egg: The Trope Maker.
- Empty Room Psych: Several of them.
- Excuse Plot
- Fan Sequel: The homebrew Adventure II for the Atari 5200.
- Also Indenture for MS-DOS, a freeware game that's not exactly a sequel but an expansion, adding Game variations 4 and 5, which add a fourth dragon (Disgruntle, a blue dragon that moves faster than Rhindle), several more castles (green and flashing), a second dot (actually a small diamond that opens up left-side walls), a whistle to paralyze the bat, literally hundreds of new rooms (most of them horrific mazes), and a "secret ending" involving four special "tokens". (Game 4 has the objects in predetermined locations, while Game 5 scatters them around randomly, like Games 2 and 3)
- Featureless Protagonist: You play as a small square.
- Flip Screen Scrolling: with warping that makes the mazes very confusing.
- The Ghost: The evil magician.
- The Golden Age of Video Games
- Heroic Fantasy: In a very simple form.
- Inventory Management Puzzle: Can get pretty tricky with a one item inventory limit.
- The Key Is Behind the Lock: On the hardest difficulty, the items are distributed in a kind-of-random manner, which occasionally results in the gold key being locked in the gold castle. Surprisingly enough, the game isn't unwinnable if this happens, as the bat will eventually grab the key and take it somewhere else.
- Logic Bomb: Easiest way to get rid of the bat? Give him the Gold Key, then drop him inside the Gold Castle, flying upwards and/or sideways, with no other items inside. The Wrap Around walls and ceiling won't let him escape unless he moves downward, and with no items to distract him, he won't change direction on his own.
- MacGuffin: The Chalice.
- The Maze: Four very confusing asymmetrical mazes. Worse, two of them are darkened, only letting you see a small area around your character!
- Our Dragons Are Different
- Pacifist Run: Probably the first game where this was possible.
- Palette Swap: The castles, keys, and dragons.
- Rule of Three: Three castles, three keys, and three dragons.
- Soft Reset: Used as an infinite lives feature.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The yellow dragon is called both Yorgle and Yorkle in the manual. (Though the latter only appears once and may be a typo)
- Units Not to Scale: Everything except the dot and the keys is bigger than you are, including the sword, chalice, magnet, and bat.
- Unwinnable By Mistake: The bridge can get you stuck in walls or above a castle. Hit the Reset button. This is even mentioned in the manual. Also, the random placement of objects in game 3 sometimes places the gold key inside the locked gold castle, with no way to get to it.
- Unless you get lucky with the bat picking up said key.
- Or the bat can drop critical items where you can't reach them.
- Video Game Caring Potential: Some players find the duck-dragons cute and avoid killing them.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Possibly the Trope Maker.
- Word of God: Warren Robinett has said he named the dragons (Yorgle, Rhindle, and Grindle) and the Bat (Knubberrub), but only the names of the dragons made it into the manual, and Grindle got a slight name change in the process.
- Similarly, the Chalice was originally meant to be the Holy Grail, but Atari made him change it to the more generic "Chalice".
- A Winner Is You: The screen flashes.