In the landscape of shooters, platformers, puzzle games, and the like, every once in a while something different stands out. Text-based adventures, now called “IF” (Interactive Fiction) are actually living a second life, yet it’s the first time I personally encounter a text-based dungeon crawler, so I took the chance to play it and review it.

In this Commodore64 game, FewBit (the author) managed to recreate the atmosphere of the very first text-based RPGs that appeared on the PLATO platform, with its peculiar warm tones, typical of the amber phosphor monitors. At first glance, I must say that the choice is a good one: those monitors were quite common in the 80s, so the game takes you right down nostalgia lane from the very start.

For those of you who are not acquainted with PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), please notice that it was the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system. It was first employed by the University of Illinois in 1960 and, by the late 1970s, it supported several thousand graphics terminals distributed worldwide, running on nearly a dozen different networked mainframe computers. If you think that multi-user computing is a recent invention you are far from the truth since many “modern concepts” were first introduced with this platform: from touchscreens to music devices, from charset editors to new groups or real-time text-based chat, PLATO was actually ground-breaking. Videogames, including dungeon crawlers, was “just” one of its many features.

Getting back to Text Quest, we take on the role of the hero of the moment, engaged in the exploration of a dungeon full of monsters. The dozens and dozens of locations are often home to the most hideous creatures which, if dispatched, will open the way to treasures and additional rooms. Among the findings, you will eagerly trample over armors, healing potions, and, of course, money. Even though at first (especially if played at easy level), this crawler may seem a walk in the park, it does need the player to engage in combat with proper strategy, meaning that you have to think and decide whether to Attack, Heal with attack or Escape according to your stats compared with the ones of your enemy. Avoiding combat it’s not a bad thing: if your opponent is too strong, retrace your steps, visit other locations, find new and more powerful items, level up your stats fighting weaker enemies, and go back, exactly how you would do with a graphic game. Failing to do so will lead to certain death. You have been warned!

As far as the GUI layout is concerned, the 40 columns screen of the C64 is not that “roomy”, but the author managed to develop a simple yet very effective system that dynamically changes according to the situation: the top left part of the screen always displays your hero stats (experience level, current health status …); the lower part is used to depict the location description (during exploration) or the combat status; the top right part displays the current room number and whether it contains useful objects or not; finally, the center-right part of the screen depicts a compass dial with the available directions (during exploration); enemy and hero combat stats (health, strength, damage caused … (during combat).

Upon combat ends, a summary will be shown. To give you an example, during one of my matches I dared to fight a Dragon well ahead of its time; the result was: score 0160; explored 37 out of 103 rooms; victories 17 out of 45; objects collected 26 out of 75.

Heavily inspired by board games and the likes, Text Quest is a game different from the others, that I suggest you to play even though you are not a fan of these kinds of games. In case you do, take your time with it, consider carefully before engaging in combat, and, above all, draw a map! The game, available for download either in English or in Italian version, sports three levels of difficulty: easy, normal, and hard. In addition, we are here dealing with a project that is still ongoing and that can be followed during development on the author’s Twitch channel. Stay tuned and have fun!

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