Deathmaze 5000

written by Matthew Reed

Title:Deathmaze 5000
Authors:Frank Corr and William Denman
Publisher:MED Systems Software
Compatibility:Model I and III, tape and disk

From a MED Systems Software catalog

Deathmaze 5000 was the first of the “Continuum Series,” a set of 3-D adventures sold by Med Systems Software. The other games in the series were Labyrinth, Asylum, and Asylum II. In addition to the TRS‑80 version of Deathmaze 5000, Med Systems also sold both tape and disk versions for the Apple II.

Deathmaze 5000 has many similarities to Rat’s Revenge, an earlier Med Systems Software game also written by Frank Corr. Both games feature a 3-D view with the player using arrow keys to move through a maze. Unlike Rat’s Revenge, which focuses on finding the cheese within a maze, Deathmaze 5000 falls somewhere between an adventure game and puzzle.

Deathmaze 5000 is set in a five floor building with over 500 locations. Like many adventure games, the ability to create detailed maps is a crucial skill for completing the game. Somewhat surprisingly, basic knowledge of the epic poem Beowulf is also quite helpful.

Solving the game is very difficult: according to Med Systems Software only two people outside of their staff had successfully completed it by December 20, 1980.

Deathmaze 5000 instructions


A hallway with doors in Deathmaze 5000

A hallway with doors

As stated in the manual:

Deathmaze 5000 is a full scale three-dimensional adventure. You move through a gigantic five story building depicted graphically on your monitor in 3-D perspective. Scattered through this building are a multitude of objects and incredible obstacles. Your only goal is to leave Deathmaze. Alive.

Your goal is to escape, but along the way you must collect items concealed in boxes that are scattered throughout the building. Potential dangers include being bitten by a snake, mauled by a vicious dog, sliced by a guillotine, or attacked by a monster. Not only that, but you also need to find enough food to stay alive and sufficient torches to prevent you from being left in darkness.

A box in Deathmaze 5000

A box

The dreaded calculator in Deathmaze 5000

The dreaded calculator

Deathmaze 5000 is full of puzzles, and one of the most frustrating involves the calculator. Picking up the calculator is essential to solving the game, yet once you take it you become fixed in position, unable to move. Here are the only clues given by the game:

  • “To everything there is a season” is displayed after you find the calculator
  • After you pick it up, you are told: “The calculator displays 317”
  • If you ask for a hint, you are told: “Invert and telephone”
  • If you examine the calculator, you are told: “A close inspection reveals a smudged display”
  • If you rub the calculator, you are told: “It displays 317.2”

The only way to free yourself is to press a particular sequence of arrow keys.

Any adventurer who became hopelessly stuck could purchase hint sheets from Med Systems Software. Each hint sheet cost $1 and contained over a dozen encoded hints (15 in the case of Deathmaze 5000).

Hunger pains in Deathmaze 5000

Hunger pains

The game is over in Deathmaze 5000

The game is over

Deathmaze 5000 uses a first-person perspective throughout the entire game, giving it an experience unlike most other adventure games at the time. (Don’t forget that it was released 13 years before DOOM.) One of the few other contemporary first-person adventure games was Akalabeth: World of Doom by Richard Garriott (better known as Lord British). Akalabeth was released for the Apple II the same year as Deathmaze 5000, but like his later Ultima I, Akalabeth used first-person perspective during the dungeon sequences only and a top-down view elsewhere.

Deathmaze 5000 was one of the first TRS‑80 games I ever played, and remains one of my favorites. In case you are wondering, I needed only one hint to solve the game (the previously mentioned calculator).

For more information, including hints, maps, and run-through, check out the Deathmaze 5000 section on Magic Chris’ Asylum Page.

Categories: Adventure Games