Secret Bonus Level
On Saturday morning, you’re sitting around the kitchen table with Jim and Tina, playing Dungeon of Doom together on your laptops.
“Gotcha.” Jim taps his keyboard to launch another fireball at the Nine-Headed Dragon’s eleventh head. (One head grew back. Twice.)
“Yee ha!” Tina’s onscreen avatar, Tina Warrior Princess, finally chops off the dragon’s last head.
Level Completed appears in giant sparkly letters. The floor of the dungeon room fills with gold coins, gems, roast chickens, healing potions, and other end-of-level bonuses. Your avatar, Velzon the Elven Archer, runs around the room collecting them. Tina Warrior Princess and Jim’s avatar, Wizard Zim, do the same.
“Warriors don’t say ‘yee ha’,” Jim complains.
Tina grins. “I’m a cowgirl warrior princess, and I’ll say ‘yee ha’ if I want to.”
While they’re arguing, you spot a weird shimmering circle on the wall by the Nine-Headed Dragon’s tail, and walk over to it. “Um, guys,” you say.
They’re not listening.
“Try to take the game seriously, Tina,” Jim says. “There’s no such thing as cowgirl warrior princesses.”
“Great advice, from a wizard wearing sunglasses,” she sneers.
“They’re not sunglasses, they’re Enchanted Shadow Crystal Lenses. They give a plus 10 bonus when detecting and deciphering magic.”
“Yeah, right, and they just happen to look exactly like sung–”
“Hey, Tina Warrior Princess and Wizard Zim!” you interrupt. “What’s this mysterious round thingy on the wall in front of me?”
“Huh? What are you jabbering about?” Tina walks around, frowns at your laptop screen, then checks her own again. “My screen just shows ordinary wall there. Weird.”
“Mine too,” Jim says. “Can’t be a magical artefact, coz I can’t see it through my Enchanted Shadow Crystal Lenses. So it must be something Elvish.”
“Well, duh.” Tina rolls her eyes and returns to her chair.
They both look at you expectantly.
Huh! Just because Velzon is a 400-year-old elf, that doesn’t make you an expert on mysterious shimmering walls.
You have an idea. Onscreen, you pick up a gold coin and toss it at the shimmery wall. As you’d half-expected, the coin vanishes. At the same moment, the edge of the circle flashes like a camera, and…were those letters?
“The wall flashed on my screen,” Tina says. “What is it, a booby trap?”
She could be right.
“It was on my screen too. Might be just a program bug,” Jim grumbles. “Remember that level in Monkey Maniacs, where jumping on the giant banana made the whole game crash?”
He could be right too.
“I think it’s a portal.” You toss another coin at it, watching the circle carefully. The letters reappear, and this time you can read them. “It says ‘Secret Bonus Level’ in Klodruchian runes.”
“Cool,” Tina whispers. “Whatever a Klod-whatsit is.”
Jim sniffs. “I haven’t seen anything on the internet about a secret bonus level in Dungeon of Doom.”
“That makes it even cooler,” Tina says. “Maybe we’re the first players to find it. We’ll be famous. Especially me.”
“Why you?” you ask suspiciously.
“Coz I’ll be first.” Onscreen, Tina Warrior Princess leaps into the shimmering portal.
But you and Jim had the same idea too, and Velzon and Zim leap into the portal at the same time. Everything turns really bright, then really dark, then…
Huh? The whole kitchen’s gone, and you’re lying on a stone floor. Next to you are a tall woman covered in muscles and scars and battered armor, and a bearded guy in a purple robe and a pointy hat – Tina Warrior Princess and Wizard Zim, looking just like they do in the game, but…now they’re real.
Impossible. Totally impossible.
“What happened?” Wizard Zim asks.
You look down. You’re wearing Velzon’s leaf-embroidered jerkin, spider silk trousers, and lizard-leather boots. Just to be sure, you reach up, and…yup, elf ears. On your back is a bow and quiver. On your belt is a long dagger of finest Kargalin steel. Exactly like in the game.
“We’re inside Dungeon of Doom.” Tina Warrior Princess stands up, a huge grin on her scarred face. “Cool!”
Zim tugs at his beard. “Don’t be stupid. We can’t be. What is this, some new virtual reality thing?” He turns to you. “I don’t like it. Make it stop. Turn it off. Now!”
“How?” you ask.
He runs around the room, yelling, “Reset! End game! Escape! Power off! End simulation! Exit!” Nothing happens.
“Try to take the game seriously, Zim,” Tina says with a smirk.
“I have to be home soon for lunch, or Mom will be angry.”
“I don’t think the great wizard Zim’s mommy makes him lunch,” you say, trying to make him laugh, but it doesn’t work.
“Let’s explore!” Tina shouts, and runs out the room’s only doorway.
“We might as well. We can’t just stay here,” you tell Zim.
He crouches beside a pillar. “Why not? This room is nice and quiet, and there are plenty of roast chicken bonuses if I miss lunch.”
“That’s not how the game works, remember? If we stay in one place for too long, monsters attack us, more and more, until it’s wall-to-wall fangs and claws. So we have to explore, to find this level’s exit, and… get back to the real world.” Well, you hope so.
“Mmm,” he says reluctantly, and follows you out the doorway.
Tina’s only a few steps away, frowning as she looks up and down a corridor. “This better not be a maze. I hate mazes. Always get lost.” She says it like she’s joking, but it’s the truth – she has a terrible sense of direction, in real life and in games.
Left and right look the same – generic stone-walled dungeon corridors, lit by burning torches, with more doorways in the distance. This level’s exit could be either way. Or both ways – some levels have more than one exit.
Zim peers both ways through his Enchanted Shadow Crystal Lenses, then shrugs and looks at you. “Well, pointy ears?”
After listening and sniffing in both directions, you point left. “Goblins. Lots of them.” You point right. “Ogres. Coming this way.”
Tina and Zim look at you expectantly.
“What, you want me to decide?”
Tina grins. “Yeah, Velzon, you’re good at that elfy scouting stuff. That’s the only reason we let you play with us.”
Zim nods. “Let’s play this level the same way we usually do – you leading the way.”
“So I get shot first, and stabbed first, and zapped first?” you ask.
“No worries, we’ll be right behind, ready to rescue you,” Tina says.
“And I’ve got a zillion healing potions if you get injured,” Zim says.
“Thanks, you two are so helpful.”
It’s time to make a decision. Do you:
Go left, towards the goblins?
Go right, towards the ogres?