“Time Tunnel”, for me, is and will always be “Lo Gnomo“. It is with this title, in fact, that I found it on the “Hit Parade n. 4“, at the end of the summer of 1986.
It was one of my first cassettes, and it contained thirty games that I literally consumed. One of those that fascinated me most was precisely “The Gnome”: you had to guide this bearded man in search of the seven pieces of a parchment to make him discover the secret to become King of the Gnomes. The pieces were scattered across various historical periods, which could only be accessed after building the time machine. I remember that at that time the idea of time travel intrigued me a lot, probably because I didn’t miss an episode of the various animated series of “Time Bokan” that were broadcast on local televisions. With my brother I also played with an old cash register with a large handle on the right side, which we called a “time machine”.
The instructions reported in the magazine to which the cassette was attached illustrated in a very concise way the objective of the game, but explained in detail how to build the time machine; the rest, however, was left to the imagination and skill of the player … and here the problems began. Time Tunnel, in fact, is an arcade adventure, in which you have to solve numerous puzzles before you can get your hands on the seven pieces of parchment and allow the protagonist to become King of the Gnomes. Our hero can go through various places, collect objects and even interact with some secondary characters, without the player having to take their hands off the joystick. The “Fire” key is used both to shoot (an absolute novelty for a gnome!) And to collect and leave objects. The gnome also has a practical “closet” available, located in another dimension, which can be accessed at any time (by pressing and holding the button); here you can deposit a maximum of four objects that are not pieces of the parchment. The time machine is not the only way to pass from one era to another: from time to time, in fact, a small circular opening appears on the screen, which allows you to go directly to a certain era depending on that where you are.
Although this is not a particularly difficult game (both in terms of solving the puzzles and the action, also considering the fact that, whenever our hero comes into contact with something “lethal”, he is simply sent back to the living room of his house, without this involving the loss of life or objects), as a child I could not make much progress; However, I had a lot of fun traveling in the various eras (represented in a simplistic but very suggestive way) and exploring their places, always looking for new “rooms” and new surprises.
A few days ago, on a YouTube channel I follow (1), a video was published showing the original “Time Tunnel” cassette: I discovered that the game was very well documented, complete with in-depth descriptions of the various eras and invaluable clues to solve the most complex (or less immediately understandable) puzzles. After a brief search on the internet I was able to find the complete digitization (even if the liner notes were missing, but shown in the video) and I felt like taking the game again in order to finally try to solve it!
It took me about three hours to figure it out (if I had read all the clues immediately it would have taken much less), and I probably would have made it even as a child if I had had the instructions on the original game available: the puzzles are indeed very simple to solve, but without the clues it is often difficult to understand how (and where) to use certain objects. The game, from an “aesthetic” point of view, has aged a little badly (although it must be admitted that, even in 1985 – the year it was released – there were technically superior games in circulation), but it still maintains its charm intact: the graphic elements, although “sketchy”, are very numerous, and they represent with great effectiveness the various historical periods and the objects with which you will have to deal during the adventure: each screen constitutes a nice “picture”, and chance – when I played it as a child – the main incentive to continue the game was the curiosity in discovering new locations. The music (on only two voices – the third is occupied by sporadic sound effects) are very short, but offer a very sweet and relaxing accompaniment, giving the game a fairytale atmosphere.
To allow even those who do not know English to be able to finish this splendid game, I decided to report below the translation of the original instructions; if you really can’t figure it out, you can always take a look at the solution found at the end of this article. Have a good trip!
The adventure begins in the depths of the magical forests of Central Scandinavia and near the villa of an elderly but powerful King of the Gnomes. As is the tradition of the society of gnomes, whenever a king reaches his three hundred and fiftieth birthday, the procedures for choosing a successor begin. Your recent accomplishments for a 114-year-old make you a prime candidate for the throne, but the feats needed to reach your milestone aren’t easy. Seven pages from an ancient gnome sacred text have been scattered across the ages by an evil Cyclops. These pages describe the magical method to free many of your race who have been trapped by some spirits inside the trees of the gnome forest. To earn your right to the throne, you must take perilous journeys back and forth in time to locate, acquire and return these pages to the forest. Your ultimate goal of deciphering the message contained in the sacred scriptures will allow you to perform the special magic needed to free your fellow gnomes and become the King of the Gnomes.
The game features several puzzles of such complexity that, cumulatively, it will take many hours of computer [davanti al] time to complete. The pages of the book of gnomes and the obstacles that prevent them from being obtained are scattered over eight separate time periods, correlating with events in world history. The time traveler can visit the prehistoric era, travel through the Roman era, the colonial periods of America, and even climb aboard the control bridge of a futuristic intergalactic spaceship. The activity in any year requires the correct use of various tools before the solution of the enigma begins to be realized. Most of the tools for a year are placed somewhere inside it, but not always. It may be that the player will abandon some activities due to the lack of suitable equipment to complete his objective. It has been made sure that the need to visit certain eras again adds complexity and fun to the game, rather than excessively increasing the frustration. The player can always find a clue, as the other years contain one or more objects required to overcome the difficult situation he is in.
As you travel through the ages, you will come across various objects that you can often collect and use to help you solve puzzles and overcome problems you will encounter.
You can also fire lightning bolts at will. All actions are performed through the joystick and the fire button. Pressing the button will result in one of the following actions:
- If you are close to a figure that you can maneuver to gain some advantage, that figure will be activated. This applies to the opening of the doors, to the movement of levers or to the activation of the time machine.
- If you are carrying an object you will leave it.
- If you are touching an item that can be picked up, you will pick it up.
- Otherwise you will fire a single bolt of lightning.
All operations are examined in the order mentioned above, and only the first valid action will be performed. You can shoot lightning bolts only when you are facing left or right, never when you are facing up or down. While you are only allowed to carry one item at a time, you can access a storage room where you can store up to four items, none of which can be a map piece. The closet is accessed from any scene whenever the fire button is pressed and held for four seconds. You can leave the closet by holding the button down for three seconds and you will always return to where you were before entering the closet. You will not be able to leave the closet if there are more than four objects there or if there is a piece of map. You will need to collect one of the excess items before you are allowed to leave.
Once you leave an object, you will not be able to retrieve it until you move the gnome so that it is not in contact with it, and then place it back on it. If you see an item you want to take into the closet, you need to move over it and hold the button for three seconds before releasing it. The initial press of the button will make you collect the object, and by holding it down for four seconds you will be transported to the closet. If you first collect the object (by pressing the button once and then leaving it) and then try to access the closet, the second pressing of the button will first make you leave the object at the beginning of the four-second period; then, when you are finally transported to the closet, you will not have the object you wanted to take with you. The same procedure should be used to retrieve items from the closet.
The game can be paused and resumed by pressing F7. The game can be restarted by pressing RESTORE.
There can be a maximum of eight objects (sprites) in a scene at a time. The Gnome is one of them, and is included in the count. If more than eight objects are placed in a scene, only eight of them will appear on the screen. The excess figures are not lost, but they will not be drawn until some of the figures which are drawn are removed from the scene. There is never a case where all those items are needed. If you have come across a case in which an object positioned in a scene is no longer there, there is a reason. Simply remove one of the excess objects and re-enter the original scene. The previously missing object will then be present. In some scenes, some background elements are made up of objects, and in that case, only seven or six other objects can be brought to you by you.
The Time Zones
The Villa dello Gnomo (today)
To help you get started with the sense of the game, the following instructions will allow you to assemble your time machine and enter the adventure. Proceed by entering the door on the right, picking up the log, returning to the living room scene, leaving the log in the fireplace, and shooting it with the Gnome’s lightning bolt. This will bring up the missing part of the time machine on the table. Grab it, go up the ladder in the time machine room, and leave it on top of the machine. Be careful not to accidentally pick up the ladder. Now you can enter the time machine and activate it by pressing the button when you are inside. You will be transported to the most recent year set in the time machine control room, the door to the right of the pool room. In general, the time machine is the primary means of traveling between the ages, and the only way to [effettuare] a controlled movement. Different scenes over different years contain time holes that appear and disappear. Entering one of these you will be transported to another year chosen by the time hole, although the year associated with each hole never changes. In general, a time gap takes you to a few more years that will contain equipment useful for finding a solution for the year you come from.
The aim of the game is to wander around the various years and collect parts of a map (you can see a sample of them by entering the year 9999) and combine them to find out how to become the King of the Gnomes. In each year a missing piece of the map is placed. They all look similar and should be easy to recognize.
You can enter the closet at any time by holding down the joystick button for about three seconds, and you can exit the same way. When you come out, you will find yourself in the place you came from. The closet can be used to hold up to four items, to be retrieved at any other time. You can enter the closet while you are carrying a fifth item, but you will not be able to get out until you take one of the five back with you. You can never leave pieces of the map there: they must be brought back to the villa by you.
When the game begins, the closet contains an object, an unlit torch. Light is needed at various points in the game, so it is a good idea to enter the closet immediately after lighting the log in the fireplace. Take the torch, put it in contact with the fire in order to light it, and bring it back to the closet to be able to take it back quickly when necessary.
Stone Age (9600 AD)
This [epoca] includes five scenes, to be reached by walking left and right. Scene 1 is on the far left, scene 5 on the right. The entrance is in scene 4, which contains the cage for the scorpion. Within a scene, you can go up and down the stone stairs, enter the caves, or walk left and right to go to another scene. Climbing any stairs beyond the upper edge of the image you will return to the villa. All caves you will enter are dark, unless the torch is lit. Hint: leverage yourself to be a little bolder (in original: “Lever yourself to be a little bolder”, probably a play on words between “a little bolder” (or “a little bolder”) and “a little boulder” (“a small boulder”)).
The Villa dello Gnomo (today)
The mysterious location of a fantastic time machine. Assemble the final parts of your vehicle and begin your epic journey into the past and the future.
Mythological Greece (86 AD)
There are five scenes. In the first, there are two entrance doors. The most obvious one near the center will take you to the temple corridor. The other, in the upper left corner of the screen, will take you back to the Villa dello Gnomo. In the second scene you can see a loose brick. You can go back outside by going left, or continue inside the temple by walking under the columns. In that scene, you will see another loose brick. You can walk into the main room of the temple by going left and, from there, going left once more you will reach a scene guarded by Medusa. Medusa fires a deadly bullet at you, so you’ll have to leave quickly. Clue: Loose bricks can be moved with an object – You need to protect yourself from the wrath of Medusa (in original: “You need to shield yourself” …, which suggests the use of a “shield”).
Salem Colonial M.A. (1692)
As you enter you will find yourself in the leftmost scene of three representing a street. Clue: Bats can be shot – these brooms are made to fly – hubble, bubble, toil and trouble (Translation note: probably a reference to Macbeth’s witch song, which opens with “Double, Double Toil and Trouble”) .
Intergalactic Spaceship (3456)
Scene 1 contains a control table with various flashing objects. You can (and must) pick up the one located furthest to the left (an object with the shape of a plus sign). You can walk towards you from the control room to access an observation deck. Walking forward from the bridge you will return to the control room. Hint: the triangular key can lead you to strange places – pull the levers and grab your prize pool.
The Black Hole (9999)
It is just that, nothing more than a black hole. You can return to the villa by walking to the bottom fondo[dello schermo] This scene must be used to group all parts of the map once you have obtained them from the other years and is the method to proceed towards the end of the game. Clue: This will give you something to think about.
The Californian Gold Rush (1849)
You will enter it to the left of one of the three street scenes. There are also three caves to discover. Clue: The horse will move – the compressor will run – up, up and away.
Magical Persia (893 BC)
(N.B .: An image for each era appeared on the instruction leaflet; for Persia, however, only the writing appears: “Wait and See” – “Wait and see”).
You enter the scenes of this era by walking back and forth in the landscape. [Quando] you will enter the [vi troverete] year in scene one, the lowest of four outdoor scenes. Walking down from scene one you will return to the mansion, so start your journey by moving forward. The scenes are organized in perspective, so that walking forward will bring the landscape you already see closer. Hint: You can lure women with free drinks – keys open safes! – boulders can be detonated – shooting lamps can have a strange effect.
DISCO: Type LOAD “*”, 8,1 and press RETURN
CASSETTE: Press the SHIFT and RUN / STOP keys together and press PLAY on the recorder.
Helpful Information: If you ultimately fail [a risolvere il gioco] mail a 50p check or money order for a tip sheet to:
U.S. Gold Ltd.,
The Parkway Industrial Centre,
Take the log, put it in the fireplace, shoot it to light it. Enter the “closet” by holding down the joystick button for a few seconds, take the torch and pass it over the fire to light it. Return the flashlight to the closet. Take the antenna that appeared on the table, go to the time machine room, climb the ladder and place the antenna on the right side of the machine. In the right door of the pool room you can choose the eras.
PLEASE NOTE: Map pieces cannot be left in the storage room.
1st piece: found in the year 9999. Leave it where it is. All the pieces will be brought here.
2nd piece: In Stone Age (9,600 BC) take the scorpion cage and leave it in the closet; take the vial in the cave on the left (torch is needed) and take it to the closet return to the Villa (climbing a ladder that goes beyond the top of the screen); in California Gold Rush take the tank (room on the right and then up: the room is dark, you have to use the torch), put it on the support positioned on the right of the level; it will light up and start blowing air. Go to the starting room and then enter the door: using the torch you can find a saddle. Pick it up, go near the horse and lead it to the right, up to the machine with the platform. When the horse starts spinning the machine, go back to the tank room, position yourself on the elevator and go down. Take the balloon and bring it back up; approaching it to the cylinder will inflate. Take it, go back down with the freight elevator; in the room on the left leave the cage and then – on it – the balloon. The cage will begin to lift. Shoot the balloon when the cage is on the scorpion to catch it. On the left is the piece.
3rd piece: Go to the spaceship (3,456), down and to the right, take the cauldron. Go down, pull the two levers, go down and then down again. To return to the gnome’s house go left and up. Go to Salem, enter the building and take the vial; go out; in the building on the left in the scene on the right there is the broom: leave it in the building that is in the third scene on the right; leave the cauldron on the fireplace. Go out, kill a bat, catch it dead and throw it in the cauldron. Leave a vial on the cauldron (I used the blue one before, but there is probably no difference) and shoot it: it will start smoking. Do the same thing with the purple vial, and shoot at it. The broom will start flying. Pick it up and exit down. Then fly right, past the lake. Move the rock to the right to uncover the hole; move the one to the left: the map piece will appear. Go into the hole to return to the Villa.
4th piece: In the Stone Age go two screens to the right, shoot the rock above to make it fall; pick it up. Enter the cave (with the torch on) and take the log; go three scenes to the left and shoot the top rock to drop it, and catch it. The two rocks and the stump are brought close to the rock that obstructs the path, two scenes to the left of the start: the medium rock is placed just to the right of the one on the ground; the block must be placed on it to create a lever; then you have to take the small rock, go up the stairs and drop it on the top of the stump: in this way the stump will leverage and throw the big rock off the screen. Go left: in the cave is the piece of map (you need the torch: remember to go back and get it and put it back in the closet). To return to the mansion you need to look for a staircase that goes beyond the top of the screen.
5th and 6th piece: Take the glass that is on the table. Go to Persia (893 BC). Take the fiasco, move on. In the next room (where the woman passes by on the flying carpet) place the flask and the glass: the woman, as she passes by, will leave a key: take it and keep it. Go back (always going down), go to the spaceship (3,456), take the cross key located on the dashboard on the left, go right and insert it in the appropriate lock on the right. Use the key received in Persia to open the safe, and collect the triangular key and dynamite. The triangular key is used in the room on the right: after inserting it into the hole you have to position yourself on a platform (I used the one on the right), press fire and collect the piece that is on the moon. Dynamite, on the other hand, must be taken to Persia, placed on the boulder in the last room towards the top, light it with the torch and leave. A passage will open: after entering carefully, enter the door on the right and collect the lamp. Exit (twice down), go down, uncover the basket on the left, leave the lid and place the lamp nearby: a flute will appear. Take the flute: the gnome begins to play, and approaching the snake a piece of map will appear. Go down, take the shield and keep it. To go back always go down.
7th piece: Going to mythological Greece (86 BC). Enter the temple, go up, then left. Wear the shield, go left and wait for the jellyfish’s blow to hit him: he will be repelled and kill the monstrous creature. Take the sword. Leave the sword near the unsafe blocks (one is two scenes on the right; the other is in the scene below): they will be removed, allowing you to collect two candlesticks (one in each opening). Place them on the columns of the temple (which is to the right of the jellyfish scene. To be able to leave them in the right place you have to position yourself on the outer side of each column, as high as possible) and light them by shooting at them: a piece of the map will appear. Return to the starting point (right, down, left) and exit by going to the top left corner of the screen.
9999: Once the pieces are brought into the black hole, they will come together to form a parchment with the words (in the mirror) written on it: “The Daimyo Carries the Staff” (“The Daimyo Carries the Staff”). The stick is in Persia: go near the snake, use the flute and the snake will start to lean out of the basket and fidget in a daze. Take it and it will turn into a stick. Go to the cave above and then enter the room at the top center to end the game.
(1) AN IDEA OF ATP: