Today we’re taking a look at the weird and wonderful world of interactive text adventures adapted from movies and other media. There aren’t many, but the ones that existed may surprise you and spark an interest in revisiting them to see how they worked both as pieces of tie-in fiction and interactive fiction.
As you’ll see below, some are even available to play in your browsers right now.
1. 2010: The Text Adventure Game
In 1985 Coleco Entertainment Software released a Text Adventure based on Peter Hyams’ film 2010: The Year We Make Contact, a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was designed by ColecoVision designers Michael Price and Dennis Sustare.
The game was released for the for Coleco’s ADAM system which programmed on regular cassette tapes (C-Tapes) which you loaded into the ADAM system like you would put an audio cassette into a boom box.
The cassette system certainly primed it for the consumer market, but the ADAM system folded not long after.
In the game, the player takes the role of a major in the United States Space Corps, a member of the expedition sent to investigate the fate of the Discovery space ship. Unfortunately, the Discovery is close to crashing into Jupiter’s moon Io and the player has to travel to it in a Russian exploration vessel called the Leonov before repairing it or the gravitational forces of Io pull it away.
2. Indiana Jones in Revenge of The Ancients
Developed by Angelsoft and released by Mindscape in 1987, Indiana Jones in Revenge of the Ancients took everyone’s favorite adventuring archaeologist into the Mexican jungle where you helped him explore a treacherous, treasure-laden Tepotzteco Pyramid.
The game was a sparse parser with no graphics. Here’s a playthrough video.
Like the movies, the story featured everything you would expect from an Indiana Jones movie including cliffhangers galore, Nazis, wicious bats, venomous snakes and marauding bandits.
3. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a cult movie if ever there was one, so it surprises us that any developer would put energy into making an interactive text adventure based on it. But it does exist!
The game was designed by none other than ZORK creator Scott Adams and was released in 1985 for a number of systems including the Apple II, Atari, and ZX Spectrum as well as the Commodore.
It puts you in the role of Buckaroo Banzai as you attempt to gather parts to repair your jet car and disarm a bomb before it destroys the world.
Yes, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar had a browser based text adventure running during the theatrical promotional campaign.
While technically not available anymore, the internet Wayback Machine archived it, so the game is still accessible to ardent fans of either the Interactive Fiction Genre or the film itself.
It was certainly an interesting decision to develop such a low-fi game for such a high tech movie like Interstellar. Cheaper too!
Like a lot of early IF games, the Interstellar game didn’t offer choices, but rather asked that players type in commands.
In the early 1980’s, Mirrorsoft commissioned Dave-Sara to create a text adventure based on Stephen Spielberg’s JAWS for use on the ZX Spectrum game system.
If you’ve never heard of it, don’t be shocked. The game went unreleased until recently when Matt Round released an HTML version that is currently playable in your browser. Do check it out. It’s so cool.
In a nifty twist, JAWS: the texture adventure has you playing as the shark trying to eat everything possible. Hilarious.
6. Stephen King’s The Mist
This one is a cheat because the movie came way later, but this game comes from Mindscape, the same company that released the aforementioned Indiana Jones text adventure and was a text adventure based on the Stephen King novella of the same name.
It was released in 1985 and followed King’s story quite closely.
The player is one of the hapless New England residents standing in the checkout line at Federal Foods as The Mist appears. As people begin to panic in the supermarket you must survive monsters and other panicking characters while trying to get back to your son Billy who was elsewhere when the mist began to appear.
7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure is written by Douglas Adams and Steven Meretzky and is based on Adams’ BBC radio series, television series, and the series of subsequent novelizations.
It’s one of the best Interactive Fiction games produced by Infocom and while divergent from the source material, the main characters, locations, and concepts are all here. Unlike the book, death can come quickly if Arthur fails to observe his surroundings, collect inventory, talk to people, and consult the Guide. But DON’T PANIC!
The game was available over the years for all kinds of systems and there was even a 30th Anniversary browser version released by the BBC which is still playable today!