Hi-Res Adventures #4: Ulysses and the Golden Fleece (1981)

Hi-Res Adventure #4: Ulysses and the Golden Fleece (1981), designed by Bob Davis and Ken Williams, developed and published by On-Lines Systems

As you might guess, the fourth entry (or actually the fifth, as the series starts with a zero, made after Mystery House was released) takes place in ancient Greece and as luck has it, you even play as Ulysses. It was, again, a game not designed by Roberta Williams, but this time around by Bob Davis, who, at least according to MobyGames, has only one other title under his belt, that being the next game in the series, Time Zone, where he acted as a program development coordinator. This isn't about Time Zone though, but Ulysses and the Golden Fleece, a game I hadn't played before this, so let's get cracking.

The first thing you do, after the game starts, is to head to the king's palace, where you admit that your name is indeed Ulysses and bow to the king. Pleased with these facts, he gives you a task, as Ulysses is a knows hero after all. The Golden Fleece has been stolen and you need to mosey along and get it back. You get some cash in advance so, with your new found wealth, you can head on to the city store and buy all that you previously couldn't, as you were poor.

Look at that happy mug. He's so excited to sell me stuff.
After you've bought all, you'll hire a crew, go wander in woods in order to find a chest you need later on in the game, get a bottle from the ocean and bribe a guard who lets you on a ship and gives you a map. From here the game gets really tedious, as you need to sail the oceans, which is basically just a boring maze.

After you've gained a leather bag from a seagull flying past and picked up a carcass of a condor that flew on your mast, you find the Island of Storms. You need to wander all around the island, pick up stuff, find a cave, go in there and give some gems to a dragon. Then you find a cliff, make wings out from condor feathers and wax, fly over the cliff and find reins. After that, you can leave the island and go back to your ship.

Next, you meet Neptune, after which there's the island of the Sirens, which needs some more wax and tying yourself on the mast. And finally, you get to the Island of the Cyclops where you need to blind a cyclops, eat some sheep, kill skeletons and finally locate a Pegasus, which you rein and bridle in order to ride him. This magnificent beast takes you to the Golden Fleece, which you take, ride back home and anticlimactically just give the fleece to the king.

This is my crew. They just mostly hang around.
And that's Ulysses and the Golden Fleece. It's pretty much what you'd expect a game in the Hi-Res Adventures series to be: a maze filled treasure hunt, which isn't actually very long, but which adds to its length by having necessary items scattered all around the world, so that you'll bound to miss something if you aren't using a walkthrough or mapping meticulously. If you've read my previous reviews of the other games in the series, you know I'm not a fan of this kind of gameplay.

Here's the thing though, as an adventure game, it actually feels a tad fairer than the previous entries in the series. Sure, Mission Asteroid is the easiest game in the series, but the Golden Fleece feels like there was some genuine effort made in order to make the puzzles less abstract and more genuinely tied on things that make sense, like sharpening a branch in order to stick the cyclops eye out or pouring wine on self to run through flames. Don't get me wrong though, a lot of things in the game are tied on finding random junk and if you miss something, you most likely need to restart, as there's only one save slot, so there is a lot of trial and error involved if you venture worth without a walkthrough.

As a game, Ulysses and the Golden Fleece hasn't aged particularly well. Just like the other games in the series, it suffers from a clunky parser system which expects to see exact commands to be inputted, so that the game even knows what it is going to do. Another note is the loading times between screens, which really slow down the gameplay noticeably, at least if you play in an Apple II emulator like I did. I assume it wouldn't be much faster on real hardware either, nor on other computers like Atari or PC-Booter. Another matter entirely is the over-reliance on mazes in order to make the game feel bigger than it is.

If you've found all the necessities, the end is near now. If you haven't found all you need, then it's restart time, baby. 
As for other technical specs, the Apple II version doesn't have music or notable sound effects. The graphics are okay. At times even pretty, but at worst almost incomprehensive on what they're meant to depict. The graphics do show that they were made by someone who knew at least basics of drawing though.

Like I said though, this, nor any other games in the series, hasn't aged particularly well. I do think it's a better game than any of the previous ones and it is far more memorable the Cranston Manor, but at the same time it's not really a game I'd call a classic.

As far I know, Ulysses and the Golden Fleece is not sold anywhere anymore, so unless you're willing to shell out some real money of the original copy, even the cheapest I've seen went to 50 bucks, I'd say just download it from somewhere. It's not, for me at least, a game I'd be willing to pay hundreds of dollars of. Or better yet, check a YouTube playthrough video, it takes a whole 15 minutes of your time.

My next stop in the series will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest adventure game ever made, Time Zone.

You've brought the Golden Fleece to the king. Look how happy he is. Time well spent.