Your computer’s tinny voice announces, “Now receiving incoming message.” A three dimensional image of a woman appears. She is striking, but she looks very tired and distraught. “Hello,” she says, “I’m receiving your distress signal. I’m on Space Station K-7, which is in orbit of the planet nearest your position. Do you have enough fuel to get here?” Suddenly, the room behind her seems to shake, and the picture dissolves into static. After a moment, the picture returns; the woman is nervously typing something on a control panel. “Look,” she says, “I probably won’t be here when you get here. You should try to make your repairs and leave as soon as you can. We’re –” the picture dissolves into static again, and doesn’t return for several moments. “-Are you receiving?”
Ever since learning to read and getting a BBC Micro for my third birthday, I’ve loved Text Adventures.
Or, as known to us connoisseurs of text: Interactive Fiction.
I’m the sort of person who still has all their old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books – such as the “Fighting Fantasy” series by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.
Deep Space Drifter is a text only adventure. Those looking for arcade or, indeed, any graphics should perhaps look elsewhere…
Written back in 1987 by Michael J Roberts and Steve McAdams, distributed by High Energy Software, you play a lone space explorer that has been foolish enough to not consult their NavCharts while out hunting fame and fortune. Now adrift in you trusty (or is it rusty?) old spaceship, out of fuel, stuck in the middle of nowhere; you must hope that a distress call is heard and that some kind soul will come and rescue you.
But then, every Rescue is an adventure. So don’t expect things to be a walk in the bio-domed space-park.
You’ll soon be typing your way through puzzles of warped logic, drawing maps of areas you explore (maps for download as extras) and finding yourself absorbed in an engaging, well written and well thought-out story.
The game itself is simple to use (almost limited in its function). There is an overview of TADS and Deep Space Drifter included that is worth reading for an idea of how to play if you are an Interactive Fiction Virgin (IFV). Probably worth reading even if you are not…
Starting off, sitting strapped into the pilot’s seat of your spaceship, there seems to be little hope. LOOK at ALL is always a good way to start. Examining things and applying a bit of thought to what to type is always a good idea, though for the first parts of the game the solutions are fairly obvious from what is written and prompted.
It can be frustrating, however, to be told, “I don’t know how to do [insert a simple command here]” when the solution is obvious but the bastard TADS engine won’t accept it. But then, that’s part of the game’s puzzle and part of any IF game. There is the aforementioned document for download that elaborates on the command interface for TADS adventures and Deep Space Drifter in particular, so I won’t go into specifics here. You’ve got plenty of reading ahead, that’s for certain.
Playing this on a laptop is a great way to pass the time. However, sitting in bed and substituting an Interactive Fiction game for your usual bedtime read - whether that be Flopsy the Rabbit’s Fun in Funland, Fido gets Rabies and bites Little Timmy or Playboy. Whatever. It probably isn’t a good idea. Not if you’re the sort of person to become engrossed in either games or books.
And let’s be honest here, eh? If you’ve sought out an Interactive Fiction or Text Adventure game in this modern age, then you probably are a Nerd, like me, who’s a throw-back to the 80’s and still thinks that Depeche Mode and Eurhythmics are cool.
They are, okay? And so are Text Adventures.
I found Deep Space Drifter to be pretty good fun. Despite the, at times, confining interface it’s a solid SF story and the puzzles will keep you occupied and require some thought.
The dreamscape parts of the game are, like Darkseed’s Darkworld, key to progressing in the real world parts of the game – they have, perhaps, the best descriptive passages and are a good juxtaposition to the lonely, grey and harsh world in which you find yourself.
The latter parts of the game are a lot easier if you make maps of the areas – included for download – and, considering that the sense of achievement is the most rewarding feature of Text Adventures, there is also a “Hints” document for download.
There’s a walkthru too, but if you’re an IFV or even if you’re not, it’s better to just get a Hint than do what I do:
Look up one problem and then just keep going back to the walkthru - drawn to it like a drugged up raver to techno music - at every stumble you encounter.
You may love this game, for its atmosphere and script, or it may seem disappointingly disjointed and lacking in vivid descriptions. As I’ve said, If it’s action of the Sega variety you’re after, you’re not gonna find it here in this very well written - at times surreal - story, an elaborate and complex puzzler and engaging game. This game is action and adventure of the imaginative kind – this is great
This game uses TADS (Text Adventure Development System), which you’ll need to download from http://www.tads.org - there are several versions available, I usually use Splatterlight for Mac, but there are many TADS engines available for Windows, DOS and Unix in several different versions.
Whichever platform of TADS you use, the game is, unsurprisingly, the .gam file. You will find instructions on how to mount the game in the readme’s of the TADS programme you choose.