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The player was kidnaped one night while they were asleep. They awoke to finding themselves in a giant maze with glass-like, smooth walls.
Being the subject of an experiment, the player must do as well as they can in regards to playing games found within the Mazes, getting out, and preserving the honor of the human race.
The game was created and released by Starpath in 1982 for the Atari 2600.
There are several objectives to the game, one of which is that the player must gather and place all Puzzle Pegs in a Maze in order to access the exit. For example, the Pegs for the first Maze are shaped like a circle, a square, an X, and two arrows facing right. The player must gather these up and put them in their proper places (as the square Peg will go in the square wall cutout, for instance). The player can only carry one Peg at a time.
The player can also locate and play a series of tests, one of which is found in every Maze (except for the final one). The better they do during a test, the more points will get added to their score at the end of the game. However, it is not mandatory to play the tests in order to be able to exit a Maze.
They must also avoid the Alien Stalker, which, if the Stalker catches them, they will lose one of nine chances in order to try to beat the game (by default setting; see Additional difficulties/features for more information).
Finally, the player must find and use the exit in order to make it to the next Maze.
There are various obstacles in each maze that the player must overcome, one of which is the Alien Stalker. These are only found in the main area of each Maze, as each Maze has several areas accessed by doors, which the Stalker cannot use. Being caught by the Stalker will cause the player to lose a chance in trying to make it to the end of the game. If the player runs out of chances then the game will end.
Starting with the second Maze, there are sliding force fields that are found in various places, which they slide across the screen. If the player makes contact with one, they will lose one of their chances that they have in trying to escape.
Also, the player starts out each Maze with 60 seconds on the clock to find and place all the Puzzle Pegs, participate in a test, and find and use the exit. If the timer gets down to zero, the player does not lose a chance in escaping, but they will not earn any leftover points (time) for the Maze. Points are awarded with how much time is left after escaping a Maze, how well the player did during a test, and how many chances they had as a default and the Stalker speed if they are able to beat the game (see Additional difficulties/features for the latter).
Introductory maze having a square, round, X, and a double arrow-shaped Puzzle Peg. In the first test, the player controls a ship that can only move left and right at the bottom of the screen, dodging bricks that come down from the top. The player must dodge them for as long as possible; if their ship gets hit four times, then the test will end.
The sliding force fields make its debut with this Maze. In the test for this one, an onscreen arrow appears in the center, facing towards four areas of the screen (pointing either up, left, down or right). The player must move the joystick in the direction the arrow points as quickly as possible for a maximum score.
There is a different-looking Stalker in this one, as well as the debut of different-shaped Puzzle Pegs, which are usually blocky.
The test in this one involves memorizing and repeating arrow sequences, as an onscreen arrow could appear pointing left, which then the player will move the joystick left after it disappears. The next time around could involve an arrow pointing right, then down, which the player will have to repeat via the same manner, etc. The more arrow positions the player can repeat correctly, the higher their score will be.
This Maze features the debut of one-way doors, which, once a player enters one, they cannot exit the area the same way, as they will have to find another door in the area in order to exit the room.
The test in this Maze involves the player moving a ship horizontally through a field of moving bricks; whenever the player’s ship is hit by a brick, it knocks their ship back to the left side of the screen and they will have to try to make it to the right side again. With every successive time the player is able to get their ship to the right side, the higher their score will be at the end of this timed match.
There is a different-looking Stalker in this Maze once more, along with another change in the Puzzle Pegs, being shaped like birds. All corridors where the Pegs are located have one-way doors/only one way in and out, unlike most other rooms in the previous Mazes that had more than one door each.
The test for this maze is a bit like the Lunar Lander game where the player must maneuver a ship onto a platform five times; landing too hard or without both of the lander’s gear touching the surface will result in no points being added. Also, the controls are flipped in the game (i. e. pushing right on the joystick results in the lander’s left engine engaging), plus the player has a limited amount of fuel to deal with.
This Maze is totally different from all the others for several reasons.
One is that it is totally silent, as there is no Stalker in this one, nor the warning sound of it approaching. It is also rendered in black and white. There is no test in this Maze, along with no force fields or long corridors, as it is mostly just a series of rooms connected by doors.
Although the exit is always at the bottom left corner of the Maze, the path to it is always randomly generated. Once the player finds the exit, the game will end.
There are two ways to have the game end; one is for the player to run out of chances before completing all six Mazes. If this is the case, all accumulated points will be presented at the end (being time remaining from previous Mazes, as well as how the player did during the tests), along with being given a rating from the MindMaster.
If the player is able to beat all six Mazes, they will be given additional credit in regards to difficulty level: if the player uses the default settings of nine chances with slow Stalkers, they will be awarded 50 points for each variable. If the difficulty switch is in the A position for either variable (see below section), they will be given 50 additional points for each advanced setting, along with a ranking by the MindMaster.
On the default setting, the player has nine chances to escape all six Mazes. However, if the left Difficulty Switch is set in the A position, they will only get five chances. Similarly, if the Right Difficulty Switch is in the A position, the Stalkers move quickly, although in the B position they move slower.
The player can also reset a game in progress starting with the second Maze, as pressing Reset on the 2600 console will start a previous Maze over, as, for example, when resetting a game on Maze 2, the game will reset to the first Maze, if the player presses Reset while on Maze 4, they will start out again on Maze 3, etc.
- Like with Communist Mutants from Space, Escape from the MindMaster needs the Supercharger add-on in order to run. All Starpath games came on tape, as the Supercharger was like an overgrown cartridge with a wire that could connect to a tape playing device. The game would then be loaded from the tape to play. Most games came with additional previews on the tape, but MindMaster was such a large load (three in all) that there were no previews included on the tape.
- Escape from the MindMaster was going to be released for the ColecoVision as well, but it was never finished and released. A partial demo is available on various download sites. All games for the Supercharger ended up being Atari 2600 exclusives.