Kindle: Text Adventures in the 21st Century

I think I've just been convinced to buy a Kindle: you can now use it to play Zork (and other text-based adventure games specifically formatted for the platform).

Zork played on the Kindle

Oooohhh, that takes me back.

And it makes a ridiculous amount of sense: text is gorgeous and easily-readable on the e-ink screens, the lack of colour isn't a problem, and - let's face it - the sort of people who are likely to buy an e-reader are exactly the sort of people who are likely to love vintage games.

Enter PortableQuest. Company spokesman edman observes:

"Many people cut their teeth on the imagination fueled text adventures games released by Infocom back in the eighties. Whispernet combined with the handy keyboard and the limiting browser made the Kindle perfect for a text-based adventures. We programmed an interface specifically for the Kindle that lets you play a handful of the Zork-like adventures that we spent many of hours of our youth."

...at the moment, those "Zork-like adventures" are specifically the original Zork, sequels Zork II and III, and 1988's addition to the franchise, Mini-Zork.

The developers have also integrated a save-game feature so you can pick up where you left off, using Amazon's Whispernet feature - and promise that they are looking to put more modern Z-machine games into the system, too. (Squee!)

Unfortunately, it's not perfect. The Zork family of games are notoriously frustrating (even when you're not eaten by a Grue), and the Kindle's text entry system doesn't help with that, especially when entering numbers. A full keyboard would make things more fluid, but - really - if you want that, why not just play on your PC?

Also, if you don't have a Kindle, or you're stuck in a country where Whispernet doesn't apply, you can't take full advantage of the set-up. If you're up for a challenge, PortableQuest would be an interesting experience on an iPad - but I've had a quick play on my iPhone and the downsizing doesn't do the interface any favours.

After all of that, though, the games are still Zork. The maps you sketched out 20 years ago are still valid, and the crystal caves still as sparkling as ever. Immersion and addictiveness haven't faded, and this is well worth checking out, if you have the right hardware.

This Article is featured in the 9 Oct, 2010 episode of GamePron News:

(Image from Ars Technica.)

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8 Responses to “Kindle: Text Adventures in the 21st Century”

  1. [...] topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress Plugindotarray writes with news that Amazon’s Kindle will now play text-based adventure games, such as Zork. From the article: “… And it makes a ridiculous amount of sense: text is [...]

  2. [...] writes with news that Amazon’s Kindle will now play text-based adventure games, such as Zork. From the article: “… And it makes a ridiculous amount of sense: text is [...]

  3. [...] какая характеристика: And it makes a ridiculous amount of sense: text is gorgeous and easily-readable on the e-ink [...]

  4. Better yet would be a native client. There is a wealth of new games in this same format at http://www.ifarchive.org. Besides, that would completely eliminate the need for Whispernet. You don’t need to be in cellular or WiFi coverage to play these games, strictly speaking, any more than you need to be to read a book. You just need to get the game onto the machine, and have a client that can run it.

    These games run on Commodore 64s… a Kindle, even a first-generation one, is more than up to the task.

  5. [...] to Kindle users to get positive coverage in many popular blogs including Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Gamepron, and Advertising Lab. Gizmodo and Lifehacker are ranked in the top 25 of Technorati’s Top [...]

  6. [...] lying about the place and still want to get in some retro text-only action, Zork is also available for the Kindle, if you’re that way inclined…) Tell your [...]

  7. [...] were very excited to hear that you could play Zork on the Kindle, and now we’re even more thrilled at the news that more interactive fiction is on the way. [...]

  8. [...] out ways of putting games onto even these tablets, ranging from home-made interactive fiction and Zork for the Kindle, right up to new versions of Angry Birds and indie darling World of [...]

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