Text Raider: The old Adventures are the Best
Now showing! Be
stunned as Angelina Jolie leaps and kicks her way across the screen
as cyberbabe Lara Croft. Against spectacular backdrops! With a variety
of quick costume changes! Swoon as the scantily clad action chick of
fantastical proportions blows away her enemies, thereby ensuring her
status as a feminist icon that any woman can identify with! Smile at
her incredible ability to swim, jump and backflip, whilst simultaneously
advertising Ericsson! Yes girls, get your guns out for the boys and
the sequels will follow!
And now for something completely different
Lara Croft arrives home at her apartment after a long hard day packed
with violence, dinosaurs and amazing archaeological discoveries. No
glamorous parties for Lara - she's knackered. With agonising back pain
- which several of my friends assure me is the result of being so well
endowed (Jealous? Me? Never!) - she slumps in a chair to watch a little
TV or maybe play a computer game. Her interest in history may draw her
to games that predate the era of graphics; the stunning, complex visuals
and enhanced sound that are integral to Tomb Raider and today's gaming
market. Namely text-only games.
Once upon a time text games ruled the electronic earth. They were rather
slow, ponderous creatures, lacking in comprehension. An encounter with
one often proceeded thus:
GAME: You enter a room. It is dark.
PLAYER: Turn on light
GAME: You can't see anything! It is dark.
PLAYER: Use match.
GAME: Do not know the word 'match'.
GAME: You have:
Empty crisp packet
Lump of coal
PLAYER: Move south
GAME: You can't go that way. A Wookadoog has entered the room. You hear
a low, menacing, growl.
PLAYER: Exit room
GAME: Do not know the word 'Exit'. The Wookadoog is advancing on you.
Two flesh eating Bogiwoks have flown into the room and are circling
PLAYER: Light the coal
GAME: Do not know what 'Light' means in this sentence. The Wookadoog
has opened its gigantic jaws wide to swallow you.
PLAYER: Throw the crisp packet at the Wookadoog
GAME: The Wookadoog looks surprised as the crisp packet hits it but
eats you anyway. You are dead.
© Jess 'Wookadoog' Wynne
Yes games before graphics were fiendishly frustrating but a precious
few were so well written that they were intriguing and/or humorous,
with the capacity to test the powers of imagination and intellect. Without
a doubt the best of these was a text adventure written by Steve Meretzky
of Infocom and the much missed Douglas Adams based around his Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy. In 1984 this was a popular best-seller; it sold
350,000 copies. However, the gaming climate was about to change.
The graphics games came along and the computer using portion of the
human race forgot all about 500,000 years of language evolution and
went straight back to the electronic equivalent of banging rocks together
- the point 'n' click game. (douglas.adams.com)
The good news however is that the advent of the Internet appears to
have brought about a rejuvenation of the text game. The popularity of
emailing, chatrooms and role-playing on the 'net may go some way to
explain why games in which interaction is the essential factor have
again become desirable. Whilst searching for something entirely different
I unearthed the gem which is the Hitchhiker's text game - now available
as shareware on the web. A wave of nostalgia swept over me as a recalled
the horrible confusion which this game rendered in my childhood self.
I was compelled. I started to play and
wow in an amazing triumph
for the English education system I got slightly further in the adventure
than I did as an eleven year old.
It actually occurs to me that if I hadn't been introduced to the
Hitchhiker's radio series, books and game as a child, I might be a more
together person with less of a propensity for wasting time envisioning
surreal situations and laughing at inappropriate moments in supermarkets.
But never mind, it was all worth it.
And the game is definitely worth a second look or a first for the saddos
that missed it the first time around. Not only does it communicate the
crazy humour of the original the game is written well enough to deal
with most situations that the player offers it. Even if it does not
understand you it is often witty about it. You play Arthur Dent who
wakes up one morning with a hangover to discover not only that his house
is about to be demolished but also that his best friend is an alien
and the world is due to end in twelve minutes time - to make way for
a hyperspace bypass. Well we all have mornings like that but from here
on it just gets stranger.
The game does follow the original storyline to some extend but also
allows the player to diverge; at least this is what I gathered from
the pitiful progress I have made so far. Knowledge of the radio series
or the books helps in that it suggests a certain method of warped rationality
but in general bewilderment will reign whether you are a fan or not.
Apparently many consider it 'a signal achievement to get out of [Arthur's]
house' at the beginning let alone leave the planet. Once you have though,
such glories as Vogon poetry and haughty doors await. And something
that is almost entirely, but not quite, unlike tea.
Any tips? Well obviously bad spelling is frowned upon. It will get you
no where. Commands such as 'Diagnose' will inform you of your physical
condition and 'Inventory' will tell you what you possess. 'Look' and
'examine' are useful and 'up', 'down', 'south', 'north', 'east', 'west'
are used for moving. Other commands are included on the web page with
the game. Remember to 'get up' and take the headache pill or else the
room will not stop spinning. Apart from that your guess is as good as
One major annoyance with this shareware version is that you can not
save and restore games. Dying and restarting becomes very tedious plus
this adventure might turn out to commit one of the most serious felonies
possible to the computer game. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may
not be able to finish a game if I don't manage to pick up a Babel fish
even though I can continue from that point. If anyone out there knows
if this is true or not, and how I actually get the bloomin' fish out
of the dispenser please email me.
Otherwise, kick the doors, insult Marvin the paranoid android, and don't
forget the thing your auntie gave you that you don't know what it is.
Share and enjoy!
Don't panic, here's the address: www.douglasadams.com/creations/infocomjava.html
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Jess Wynne 2001
In memory of Doug