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Games on the Go: Text-Based Adventures, Past and Present

text adventures
Built around the tenets of storytelling and puzzle-solving, the adventure-game genre has evolved quite a bit over time. Beginning with its origins in text-based, graphic-less interactive fiction, adventure games soon became a dominant force in PC gaming during the '80s and '90s. At the time, the games had the unique ability to convey stories in more detailed and expressive ways than other genres. The genre eventually declined in popularity, but has achieved a recent resurgence with 'Monkey Island 2: Special Edition', Telltale Games' episodic offerings and a variety of well-done adventure games available on the Nintendo DS. For those interested in exploring the genre's origins, today's feature acts as a guided tour through adventure gaming, both past and present.

'Zork Trilogy'

Zork Trilogy
The Zork Trilogy is perhaps the most renowned series of text-based adventures in gaming history. Like other pieces of interactive fiction, players navigate through a game world (conveyed via prose) by typing out commands, such as "go west" and "get lantern." Released in 1980 (at a time when players' imaginations trumped the crude graphics of the era's computers), the original 'Zork' led gamers on a treasure-hunting quest through the subterranean Great Underground Empire. The first game's narrative leads directly into its successors, 'Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz' and 'Zork III: The Dungeon Master.' They are all well worth experiencing, not only for their inventiveness and storytelling capabilities, but also for their place in the annals of classic gaming.

Any Game by Sierra Entertainment
Sierra Entertainment was perhaps the biggest developer of PC adventure games during the genre's heyday (rivaled only by George Lucas's LucasArts). hosts online versions of some of the company's most famed offerings, games that helped bridge the gap between text-based gaming and graphic adventures. Sierra's games revolve around puzzle solving, generally through the inventive use of items found throughout a game's world. This is accomplished through the combination of a text-parser (a holdover from text-based gaming, requiring players to manually type commands) and the arrow keys, which dictate character movement. For those unfamiliar with Sierra's games, we recommend starting out with either the classic fantasy 'King's Quest', the comedic 'Space Quest', or even the juvenile but entertaining 'Leisure Suit Larry'.

'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Released in 1984 by Infocom, the company formed by the creators of 'Zork,' 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' is another cornerstone in the history of interactive fiction and adventure gaming. Co-written and co-designed by Douglas Adams, the game loosely follows the plot of his classic, comedic science-fiction novel, putting players in the role of protagonist Arthur Dent as he and his companions search for the lost planet of Magrathea. The game has stood the test of time with its witty writing and fiendishly diabolical puzzles. The BBC has released a graphically enhanced anniversary edition of the game, but, for those unafraid to use their imagination, the original can be played on the late Adams's website.

'Text Adventure Creation Kit'

Text Adventure Creation Kit
After playing 'Zork' or 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', players may feel the urge to create their own interactive fiction masterpiece. The 'Text Adventure Creation Kit' provides the browser-based tools for accomplishing just that. By arranging a system of "message" blocks (informational text) and "type" blocks (player input), players can create their own text-based adventures. Potential designers should beware, however, as the 'Text Adventure Creation Kit' demands attentiveness (as reading the manual is an absolute must) and perseverance in order to yield results. If nothing else, the 'Text Adventure Creation Kit' has left us yearning for more Web-based, game-creation utilities.

'Samorost 1'

Somorost 1
'Samorost 1' is a precursor to Amanita Design's more recent and well-known adventure game 'Machinarium.' For those unfamiliar with that outfit's oeuvre, 'Samorost 1' proves that the studio wasn't just a one-hit wonder with 'Machinarium.' In fact, Amanita has been creating unique and imaginative games for years. The game stars a spaceman who must stop an asteroid from crashing into his Little Prince-like home planet. Helping the space-man protagonist to his goal, players solve a series of environmental puzzles, using mouse clicks (instead of text-based commands) to manipulate characters and objects. As with Amanita's other games, the real appeal lies in the beautifully surreal photo-collage graphics, which make each screen a joy to behold.

Tags: AdventureGames, computergames, features, flashgames, games, gamesonthego, infocom, InteractiveFiction, KingsQuest, LeisureSuitLarry, machinarium, Samorost1, sierra, SpaceQuest, TextAdventureCreationKit, top, videogames, Zork