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 playerattack News:

(Image from Ars Technica.)

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