Hunt the Wumpus

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Apple II port.

Hunt the Wumpus, also known simply as Wumpus, and later as Wumpus 1, is a maze video game developed by Gregory Yob and first published by the People's Computer Company in November 1973. The game was developed in HP Time-Shared BASIC for the HP 2100. Because the game's source was later printed in several books and magazines, it was unofficially ported to many other platforms and, over the years, there were dozens of variations made. Most notable was the very different commercial release for the TI-99/4A.

In the game, you play as a hunter who is trying to kill a wumpus (a shadowy indescribable monster) in a network of cave rooms. Each room connects to two other rooms and may be empty or have one of three hazards which include a bottomless pit which kills you, a superbat which flies you to a random room, or the dreaded wumpus. To help prevent you from bumbling into a hazard, you're told when you're in a room that is adjacent to one of the hazards, but not specifically which one. Part of the game's puzzle is trying to map out where the hazards are by collecting and combining partial information. To kill the wumpus, you must shoot it with one of your bent arrows which can fly through multiple rooms, and hit you if you're not careful.

Yob said he designed the game after becoming bored with games like Hurkle and Mugwump which he felt were too simple, so he based his game map on a dodecahedron instead of a 2D grid. Mugwump most likely contributed to the titular wumpus. The game was originally played, not on a monitor, but printed on a teletype.

Personal

I remember reading about Hunt the Wumpus while looking through an old BASIC programming book from my high school library. It had diagrams for several alternate maps and it looked interesting, but I never played it. Later, I remember seeing screenshots for an browser version of the game and, every few years, seeing the game mentioned in pop culture. However, it wasn't until I was in my 40s, when I actually started playing a lot of the earliest video games, that I first played the game. I beat the original version several times on 2022-09-21.

Review

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2 3 1 1 2

Best Version: Apple II

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • Using a dodecahedron as a map was inspired. It makes the cave network more interesting than a typical 2D grid.
  • Describing the wumpus in vague terms was a good way to ensure players would create a more terrifying picture in their heads.

Bad

  • While I love the idea of using a dodecahedron map, the game ruins this by describing it in the instructions. It would make the game more mysterious to not tell the player how the map works and make them figure it out on their own. Later improvements use a variety of alternate layouts.

Ugly

  • The game is far too simplistic. Even if you've never played it before, you can figure out a pretty optimal strategy after only a few game plays, and, after that, you'll win every time unless you get a bad random layout.
  • Because it was made before computers had multimedia capabilities, there are no graphics and no music or sound effects.

Media

Documentation

Screenshots

Download

Because Hunt the Wumpus was released as open source, I'm including it here. This download includes the source of four different ports with the FreeBASIC port compiled.

Representation

Bechdel test?FailThere are no female characters.
Strong female character?FailThere are no female characters.
Strong non-white character?FailThere are no non-white characters.
Queer character?FailThere are no queer characters.

Links

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