If I recall what really set the hook in the lure of Interactive Fiction for me, it was Voodoo Island by Angelsoft. There were several items of note going for it to make it memorable for me. It was the first Interactive Fiction that I played that was retail software. It had a box with mysterious graphics, and full documentation and flavor text. This was the first time I saw original consumer entertainment software for the Apple II and the packaging that came with it. Just for the record, I would like to note that the time frame here is 1985 and by that time I have been exclusive with Apple II computers for around 8 years.
(Except that one time I had a dirty weekend with my best friends Timex Sinclair, but I NEVER talk about that.)
(I’m serious. It meant nothing to me.)
So running eight years on bootleg software didn’t mean the same thing back then. It wasn’t like I was an underprivileged kid that had to play little league in jeans. Everybody was running a bootleg of something. It’s just that I had only had a peek at Xeroxed documentation in binders and hand written to dot matrix labels on disks for nearly every piece of software that I owned that didn’t actually come with an Apple II. Packaged Interactive Fiction, well, this was something seductive!
There were so many things here that fed my teenage love of horror fiction and left me working out how Voodoo actually produced zombies on tropical islands. It would be years before The Serpent and the Rainbow would be out, and for now this was the next best thing. My eyes got lost searching the visual information on the cover; far away Caribbean islands, cryptic symbols, blood-red Voodoo Priestess, and a shadowy figure at the top of the image who looks as if he is pondering whether or not to tell you to go get your shine box.
The Apple II computer was a treasure trove of Interactive Fiction. It was awe-inspiring to me. It was the act of communicating with an inanimate object. I know I was just a boy the first time I experienced that with a cassette tape of “Dungeon”. It was a strange feeling to be told that you could ask the program to do things and it would respond in a complete sentence. Not a flashing light, or blip to be interpreted. Just plain and simple sentences that would help you form better choices if you made an error. Just by the act of engaging in this activity, you immediately felt important. I really enjoyed exploring the stories and finding the clues. I spent so many hours in different realities: Akalabeth, Transylvania, Race to Midnight, The Wizard and the Princess, Deadline. It became comforting to me, the feel of the keyboard and the glow as I tried to decide the next course of action. The mechanical pencils and graph paper to devise my map. Damn few people even had access to computers, and here I was toying with one and having it respond to my wishes, and that computer may or may not understand me. It never got frustrated. It would chide me to watch my language. It patiently blinked the cursor waiting for my next line.
Forever if need be.
I don’t know why, but I never finished Voodoo Island.
I came across the original disk in my physical floppy disk box the other day, and now I want to revisit the adventure.
Voodoo Island was developed in-house by Angelsoft, Inc. and published by Mindscape. They had a number of other conceptually easy to recognize titles as well including Stephen King’s The Mist, a couple of James Bond titles, a Indiana Jones title and an offering called Forbidden Castle. These were released during a short span of 1985-1987.
There is a You Tube video of a partial play-through available to see in stunning 1080p is you so desire!
Interactive Fiction Software
I was hoping to find a version that I could play in an IF interpreter. As of this writing I have not found it, which means that I will have to play an image of the original disk. I still like playing on original hardware, but the rise of the Interactive Fiction interpreters is wonderful.
The two interpreters that I have experience with are Gargoyle and Frotz. I like both of the platforms and both have their usefulness. What I really like about both of these interpreters is that you can set the background , foreground, and font in the windows to add an extra layer of authenticity to the adventure at hand. Both interpreters are fairly platform independent and when you combine their powers with the Interactive Fiction Archive, well, then you have something. Between the two interpreters there are a bounty of IF adventures for you to explore.
But wait! There’s More!
Back in my youth, as I explored tropical islands, possibly subjecting myself to becoming the hunted as I searched for escape, I had to carefully keep track of where I had been using a pencil and paper, that I would erase and re-copy in the hopes of keeping it from becoming convoluted. Sometime I would fail and have to remap my surroundings.
These days, that’s a thing of the past!
Enter my favorite Interactive Fiction appliance, Trizbort. Holy mackerel, how did I ever adventure without a real-time IF mapper keeping track of my stumbling exploration? Trizbort is for PC only but Trizbort points out that there are many other mappers out there, and I am sure that one can find something comparable for other platforms.
You know, I never really knew why Interactive Fiction never stayed mainstream as a digital entertainment choice. I am just glad that the genre is still productive and there are more than enough titles to keep me busy for the rest of my stay on this planet.