Retro Game: Raft Away River (Apple II)

Raft Away River was an educational game produced by Jacaranda Software in 1984.  It is a turn-based adventure simulation game that can be played by two to six players who have to work together to achieve the objective of building a raft before the river floods.

It was quite a complex game for its era, with players' names being stored and used in game.  The division of materials/tools (ie. skills/abilities) was random, as were the weather conditions and events (ie. eating berries could be beneficial, or could make you ill) meaning that every play-through was unique.

The game could also be played at varying difficulty levels, both in-game and also depending on what rules were in place for those playing.  I remember having to play the game in a group of four students and we weren't allowed to talk to each other.  So, even if we could see what the next player should do, we weren't allowed to communicate that to them.

This was one of the games in the new era of using computer games as teaching aides. As students, we were having fun playing on a computer, but we were also learning initiative, communication and teamwork skills.

The game did not come with any in-game instructions, but came with a student guide, which you needed to have as a reference to know what each of the options (A - U) would do.

These options were:

A - Go and rest or shelter in the cave
B - Go to the tree
C - Go to the fireplace
D - Go to the fireplace, carrying a log
E - Go to the west bank
F - Go to the west bank, carrying a log
G - Go to the island
H - Go to the island, carrying a log
I - Go to the east bank
J - Go to the east bank, carrying a log
K - Cut wood
L - Build the bridge
M - Build the raft
N - Take a log from the raft
O - Look for gems
P - Try to catch a fish
Q - Put wood from the pile onto the fire
R - Light the fire
S - Cook your fish
T - Eat some fish
U - Eat some berries

Certain options could only be done by certain players.  For example, only a player with a fishing rod could catch a fish.  Only a player with an axe could cut wood.  Only a player with matches could light a fire.  So, to catch and cook a fish would require all of those players to work together.  Also, only certain actions could be done at different places.  Eating berries cold only happen on the East bank.  Looking for gemstones could only be done on the island.

There was also not enough wood on the west bank to build the raft. So the game required you to build a bridge from the west bank to the island and from the island to the east bank, before you could return and build the raft (which could only be done on the west bank).

As well as all of the intended outcomes of the game, one of the byproducts for me was an interest in computer programming.  How did the game store names as variables?  How did they randomise the events? How did they make those amazing 😉 graphics (hey, it was the eighties!)

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