Swordquest is an unfinished series of video games produced by Atari, Inc. in the 1980s as part of a contest, consisting of three finished games and a planned but never released fourth game. Each of the games came with a comic book that explained the plot, as well as containing part of the solution to a major puzzle that had to be solved to win the contest, with a series of prizes on offer that were worth together to the value of $150,000. The series had its genesis as a possible sequel to Atari's groundbreaking 1979 title Adventure, but it quickly developed a mythology and system of play that was unique. The comic books were produced by DC Comics, written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and drawn and inked by George Pérez and Dick Giordano. A special fan club offer was provided, allowing those who wanted the game, to also get a T-shirt and poster for each game.
The games of the Swordquest series (along with Atari 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark) were some of the earliest attempts to combine the narrative and logic elements of the adventure game genre with the twitch gameplay of the action genre, making them some of the very first 'action-adventure' games. However, the series was unable to hold the last two contests along with the grand finale contest, as well as release the final game in the series, due to Atari's financial problems leading up to and being a part of the Video Game Crash of 1983.
Atari planned four interrelated Swordquest games, one each based on earth, fire, water, and air. The company intended that playing all four games would be necessary to win the final prize. Each had essentially the same gameplay: Logic puzzle adventure style gaming interspersed with arcade style action gaming. The character wanders through each screen, picking up and dropping items, playing simplified variants of current 'twitch' games of the time between screens. If the correct items are placed in a room, a clue shows up, pointing the player to a page and panel in the comic book included with the game. There, the player would find a word that was hidden in that panel. If the player found all five, or in the case of Waterworld, four, correct clues, amongst all the hidden words (hinted by a hidden clue in the comic), they could send the sentence to Atari and have a chance to compete in the finals and win a prize. During the playoff, which ran on special versions of the games, the person who managed to find the most clues within 90 minutes would be considered the winner. The winners of the four game contests would go on to a final competition where they would compete for a sword valued at $50,000. However, only two of the competitions actually took place before Atari cancelled the contest in 1983.
Waterworld was the third of the four games. Its room structure was based on the seven centers of chakra. It was originally released only through the Atari Club.
Upon reaching Waterworld, the twins become separated. Tara travels to a ship made of ice, somehow forgets her name, and meets Cap'n Frost, who desires to find the 'Crown of Life' and rule Waterworld. Meanwhile, Torr travels to an undersea kingdom, forgets his name as well and meets the city's ex-queen Aquana, who desires to find the 'Crown of Life' in order to regain her throne.
After a brief war between the ex-queen and captain, Herminus sets the twins to duel each other. They then pray to their deities for guidance, which summons Mentorr who allows them to regain their memories. The twins throw down their swords, causing the crown to be revealed and split in half. The halves are given to the ex-queen and the captain, who then rule as equals. The 'Sword of Ultimate Sorcery' then transports the twins to Airworld where they would have to do battle with King Tyrannus and Konjuro.
The winner of this contest was supposed to receive the 'Crown of Life,' which was made of gold and encrusted with aquamarines, diamonds, green tourmalines, rubies, and sapphires. It was valued at $25,000 when the game came out.
The overall contest (including the one for the yet-to-be released Airworld) was cancelled at the last minute due in part to Atari's financial troubles during the video game crash occurring around this time. Two preliminary rounds had been conducted prior to this, with the winners of those rounds receiving $2,000. Steven Bell and Michael Rideout, the winners of the Earthworld and Fireworld competitions, received $15,000, as they could not advance to the final competition between the winners of all four contests. According to Atari historian Curt Vendel, “Under contract, Warner was obligated to complete the contest for Waterworld, because players had submitted correct answers, and the game was sold to the public based on the fact that whomever solves the puzzle in the game would be awarded a prize. They held a very quiet, non-public contest with the 10 people who solved the Waterworld contest. The crown was awarded to the third prize winner.” While there is no hard evidence of this contest, Vendel says the contest had to take place by law.
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