Atari Adventure Hell Level
Author's Notes: I wrote this pasta back in 2012. It was written under the username KalBanner on Creepypasta. Either way, I never kept up that this story, or the CP account it was under. The story was deleted and I now write on Creepypasta Wiki. I was very happy to find this story still floating around, and with a Youtube reading as well. I will be linking this on my CP Wiki account as well. Thanks for preserving it.
Back in the mid-80’s there was only one video game system that really dominated the market, and that system was the Atari 2600. The games were rather simple, nothing too fancy. They ran on about a 8-bit platform, with annoying buzzing music. However, as a child, nothing could be more exciting than video games at home. No quarters required.
Around the summer of 1986, my mother bought me a game called Adventure for the Atari. Now, Adventure was a trend setter from the start, and can still be referenced until this day. It was possibly the first action-role playing game for a home system. It also featured what many consider to be the first Easter Egg in a video game. An Easter Egg being a hidden program that can only be unlocked and viewed by completing a specific order of events. The Easter Egg was programmed in by game designer Warren Robinette. At the time, Atari didn’t allow the creative staff to receive in game credits, so Robinette took it upon himself to hide his name in the game. Adventure also featured the first ever swappable inventory in a game of its time. The most the character could ever have was two items, but still, for what the early programming, it was fairly ahead of its time. Another feature was the fact that Adventure featured 3 different difficulty settings, with each setting unlocking a larger world map and more dragons and items.
The game itself had a simple concept. You played the role of a knight who was given the charge of finding the Holy Grail. The Grail was hidden somewhere in the kingdom. The knight would venture forth, facing dragons, an item stealing bat and a slew of mazes and labyrinth like castles. Eventually the knight would find the Grail and return it to the castle where the game began, the screen would flash and you won.
When I got this game, I really enjoyed the selectable level difficulty and the sheer difficulty of the game, as the mazes became longer and more complex. I beat the first two difficulty settings fairly quickly, but the third took a bit of trial and error. If a dragon ate you for example, the game was over, no continues. If you found the Grail but the bat showed up and took it, you had to track down the bat and wait for it to drop the Grail, or entice it with another item. A sword could be found that would kill the dragons. Level 3 also featured a maze that was essentially just a series of black screens. You just had to sort of bump around the walls until you found the right way out.
There were four different castles, each requiring a key. The Grail may or may not be in any one of the castles, so the game took some exploration to get right. I sort of became obsessed with speed running level 3 as the game began to get boring. I eventually had it down to about 15 minutes, and I ran it over and over again for the thrills of my friends. Nothing seemed remotely out of place until the night I had a sleep over during the Christmas break of 1987.
That year I knew my mother had bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System, and was just sort of getting the last few days out of the Atari before Christmas morning, when I planned to retire it forever. Two of my friends slept over that night, Daniel and Lance. We sat up and played Adventure most of the night. I would speed run level 3 and they would try and beat my time. Around 3am I decided to go to bed, but Daniel and Lance decided to stay up and practice. Well, this is where it gets odd.
Around 7am they wake me up, acting freaked out. They claimed that something happened on the Adventure game that they had never seen before. They were in the black castle on difficulty 3, and as they were trying to memorize the layout of the castle (it never changed from game to game) they claimed that they found an altar. All of us were only around 7 years old, and didn’t really know about Satanic imagery, but Daniel described the altar as a “devil altar” and said it had one of those upside down stars with the circle around it (pentagram) as well as a goat skull (Goat of Mendez.) Thinking it was part of the game, they approached the altar, and suddenly a 4 bit devil face appeared on the screen, and the game emitted a low bass sound that they claimed sounded like demonic laughter. After that the game froze and the screen went black, which is when they woke me up.
Well, the Atari was still on when I checked it out. I touched the system, and let me tell you, the thing was hot enough to leave a blister on my finger. I promise you, you could have cooked burgers on this Atari console. I didn’t even dare touch the AC Adapter plugged into the wall. I turned off the Atari and told my friends they probably caused my game to glitch from the heat. They swore it was something more, and insisted on going back to their homes that morning, saying the game scared them.
After they left around 8am, I decided to go back to bed. I couldn’t sleep though; I kept feeling something watching me, from the direction of my game system. I got up, cooked a late breakfast and watched some cartoons. My mom was at work, so I had the house to myself. That whole day though, I felt like I wasn’t alone in the house.
That night my mom came in and asked me if I had burnt something in the kitchen. I told her no. She said she smelled something burning when she got to the front door, but the smell went away shortly after entering the apartment. With my mother home I felt a little braver and decided to go sit in my room and play some Atari. I wanted to make sure that Daniel and Lance hadn’t burned up my machine, so I just turned on the Atari with Adventure still inside. The game loaded as normal, and I decided to do one more speed run on level 3. As I scrolled up to 3, I went past it, but instead of the numbers rolling back over to 1, it went to 4. There was no fourth difficulty level in Adventure. I double checked the instructions and everything. No such level. I was intrigued. So, selecting 4, I started up a game.
The game started as normal, the knight, which was represented as a square sprite, was in the main chamber of the yellow castle, which was the castle he started in each time. I left out of the castle and began searching for the Grail. I spent about 20 minutes roaming the world. There was nothing, and I do mean nothing around. The screens were the same, but there was no bat, no dragons, and no items.
Nothing at all.
I got to the red castle, and found it locked. Since there were no items in the game now, there was no red key. When I touched the gate to the castle, the screen flashed for a moment, which was something new, and a text box opened, also something that never existed before in this game. The text read..”Repent now, do not continue this quest of the damned.”
At the time I was just amazed to see a curse word in a video game. I kept searching. I ventured to the black castle and found the gate opened. This was odd, since I hadn’t unlocked it. When I entered, a text box appeared and read “Proceed further and you will be dead to God, He will be blind to you, and the screaming of the demons will cause your ears to bleed.” I was amazed. I went to Catholic school at the time, and I was certain that lightening was going to strike me down just for reading such a thing. Nothing like that happened of course, and I entered the black castle.
The interior was different. There was no maze, just a long hallway that led to the altar that Daniel and Lance had described. It was pretty much what they said it would be, Satanic imagery and all. I wanted to see if a devil would really appear, so I walked over and touched the altar. At that point, the screen went black, and when it came back, I was standing outside of an orange castle. Keep in mind, there wasn’t supposed to be an orange castle in this game. The entire landscape flashed orange to red, which I figured was Atari’s attempt at creating the image of fire. The only option was to approach the castle. When I touched the gate, a text appeared that read “You’ve turned the key to the Gates of Nim, the City of the Forsaken. Your soul was the key.”
Entering the castle I was in a large room where the three dragons from the game stood. They were all dead. I proceeded through the next door. In that room there were about a dozen square sprites, representing people. They were flashing red and orange. Whenever I touched one, a text would appear that said things like “I hate you” or “Please, give me water, just a drop…please.”
I entered into the next room, which was a long hallway. Every step I took caused a new text to open. All of the texts were just insults towards me…or the knight, not sure. They were things like “You are weak.” “You are a failure.” “No one loved you.” “Everyone is glad that you’re dead.” I don’t remember them all.
The next room featured some 8-bit devil people. They would run into my character, and cause him to bounce into the walls. After about 6 times, a text box appeared over my character stating “They break my bones, they tear my flesh, they burn me…and still I don’t die….I know now that I will never die…Oh God, how I wish to die…..”
I regained control of the character and ventured into the final room. The room was filled with the Holy Grail items. As I walked to touch each one, it vanished. This happened until the room was empty. A text box appeared that read “You coveted this item, you killed for it, all in the name of greed. Now it has left you, they have all left you. You are now in the company of the damned. They will torment you for all of eternity.”
After that I was able to control the sprite again. I moved around the orange castle, but no new rooms became available. Every so often a new item, one that looked like a pitcher of water would appear. I would move towards it, but right before I touched it, one of those devil people would appear and smack me across the room. The water would then vanish. I kept the game on for a few hours, because I didn’t know if I would ever find this secret level again. After about 3 hours though, a final text box appeared. It simply said “And he burned for eternity.”
After that, the game flashed like when you complete the normal mission, and went back to the start up screen. There were only the 3 normal difficulty levels, the 4th apparently gone. I started to smell burning plastic and realized it was my Atari. I didn’t even bother touching it, because it was giving off the heat of a space heater. I unplugged it from the wall, burning myself badly on the AC plug. The game had melted to the console. The whole Atari had to be thrown away. Good thing I had a Nintendo waiting for me under the Christmas tree.
NOTES OF INTEREST:
I never have been able to rediscover the hell level. I think it may have had something to do with the amount of times I beat the game…maybe it was 666.
I found a rumor online that the game Adventure was inspired by the Crusades, and a later rumor stated that early drafts of the game were going to be based on the story of Dante’s Inferno. However, game developers decided that the story was too graphic for kids, and made it into just a regular action-adventure game.
I have Adventure on my emulator, and have hacked the game and viewed the entire layout. No Hell level present.
In conclusion I theorized that the early programmers added the hell level with the thought that the game was going to be based on Dante. Then the project changed so the game layout had to change. It was probably easier to simply lock out the 4th level instead of removing it from the programming. Somehow I unlocked it, perhaps a random glitch brought on by the game getting too hot from the sheer amount of hours we played it that night, or perhaps because of how many times I played it. The new games, such as the one my emulator was based on, had the hell level removed, hence why I’ve never been able to find it again.
In the end, it was a cool find in an old game famous for having new features to the gaming world. If anyone out there has an old copy of the game, perhaps they too can unlock the Hell levels, and the strange horrors that dwell within it.
Written by Banningk1979