as an NES-era kid, i find it extremely difficult to go back and play anything pre-8-bit, but today i was looking for a quick game to finish and so i sat down and played through the almost-as-old-as-i-am adventure for atari 2600, originally released way back in 1979 (a free web browser version is available on atari’s website). although the game doesn’t seem to be that well known now, it seems to be often cited as being historically significant. for example, in 2003 IGN’s editors ranked it as #95 in their list of greatest games of all time commenting: “A title that’s full of firsts: the first graphical adventure (it was actually inspired by a text-based game of the same name), the first game to introduce objects players could pick up and move and the first Easter Egg in videogame history (hidden credits for the lead programmer/designer Warren Robinett).” it seems to be often seen as a precursor to such hits as the original legend of zelda so i was interested in trying it out.
the game is definitely primitive, and this is probably the most amount of time i’ve spent playing any old-school atari game. after i pieced together what the heck was going on (with some help from the instruction manual) i rather enjoyed playing through all three modes. despite the primitive gameplay and presentation (like strong bad, i still don’t see how in the world anyone could think the dragon looks like anything other than an oversized duck), the game makes the most of the available technology and comes up with what presumably are some interesting solutions to the limitations, including the problem of items getting stuck in walls. the game has many distinctly memorable moments, including the first time you slay a duck, i mean dragon, catch sight of the glowing chalice, cross over the bridge, and experience the victory of returning it to the safety of your castle. it’s difficult to say how much other games were influenced by this one and how much of the design was inevitable, but there’s no doubt that the game was the first of its kind and is still a must-play for anyone interested in the history of video games or is open to the charms of this surprisingly still-entertaining early video game.
as an addendum, i actually have a closer tie to this game than i’d originally realized. when i was a kid i used to play computer games at the local library, and i loved playing two games they had, rocky’s boots from 1982 and gertrude’s secrets from 1984. it turns out that those games were also by warren robinett and that the gameplay was closely modelled on the original adventure. no wonder i was having flashes of deja vu. one of these days i’m going to have to track those down and play them again.
– map of the game from the creator’s website
– one player’s nice tribute to the game, by someone who has apparently poured in “hundreds” of hours into this game. wow.
– apparently someone made a prettified version of the game called adventure 2600 reboot. here’s a preview video.
– entry at wikipedia
– apparently the game is heavily based on a text adventure called colossal cave adventure. more info on that can be found on this fansite.
– awesome cameo of the duck/dragon in the strong bad music video for “fhqwhgads“