Back in the 1980s there were innumerable indie publishers of the kind so rightly lauded in today’s mobile and online gaming market. Just as today all you need to become a developer is a single app on a marketplace, in the 1980s you just needed a game and an address to set up a mail order service. As you can imagine in the pre-internet days these kinds of publishers and developers sprung up only to vanish without a trace and so they often pop up today as some of our hardest to recover ‘games that weren’t’.
Aardvark Ltd is one such publisher. It was created as an outlet for Rodger Olsen, who had taken to writing games for his children and decided to make some of the money back that he’d spent on computers by selling them across the TRS-80, C64 and Vic-20 platforms in the USA.
Numerous titles were published including a couple of dungeon romps based on 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons rules called Dungeons of Magdarr and Search for Magdarr. The latter was a revised and re-released version of the former, but it turns out there was also a version that existed prior to either of those games.
The game is advertised as allowing you to go on a ‘dungeon exploring quest’ with up to six players with a choice of race and characters and had a fifteen page manual included. Presuming it is going to be similar to Dungeons of Magdarr if not identical then it plays pretty much as a typical RPG ala Dungeon Master, albeit more primitive due to the era it was released in.
Dungeons of Death, with different artwork to Dungeons of Magdarr, was advertised along with numerous other games for the Commodore 64 like Zeus, Seawolfe and Quest but today there is little evidence it ever existed except as an appearance on a ‘for trade’ list on a TRS-80 website.
So we know a TRS-80 version exists, but what about the C64 and Vic-20?
Well as luck would have it a Vic-20 version of Dungeons of Death turned up recently in the US and has been checked out to see what differences, if any, it has with Dungeons of/Search for Magdarr. The differences between the three games seem slight but it looks like the Vic-20 version lacked the 3D graphics that the later games had on the C64. Of course there is no way of knowing if the C64 version of ‘Dungeons of Death’ had 3D graphics like ‘Dungeons of Magdarr’ and ‘Search for Magdarr’ but it does seem likely.
Today Rodger Olsen publishes science-fiction novels on Great Authors Online, which he also runs and edits and we have tried to make contact with him through that website. We have also tried to track down the mystery person who received the TRS-80 bundle off the for-trade list in an attempt to discern what differences, if any that Dungeons of Death had with Dungeons of Magdarr.
Hopefully one or both of these avenues will yield some information and we can update this entry.
For now, sadly it remains yet another indie publisher GTW.
Definitely released on the TRS-80:
Contributions: Robinson Mason