"Back in my day, you had to build your own computer game if you wanted to play it."
That old man cliche is basically true of the early days of PC gaming, when most adventures were nothing more than simple text or primitive pixels moving about. The early days of PC gaming, despite the stone-age graphics, were a rich and vibrant world of storytelling and new ideas. Many of the most popular and well-known interactive fiction titles from that era were from Infocom. Now you can flip through these dusty digital tomes thanks to Activision's The Lost Treasures of Infocom for iOS!
The game is actually a port of an old collection of the same name. Released in 1991, when gaming was still in its infancy, the original Lost Treasures of Infocom collected 20 of the most popular interactive fiction titles, including all of the Zork series and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This new collection for iOS brings most of those games back, along with lots of bonus content -- a few new games, hint guides, and digital scans of all the original packaging and extra items included in the old games. There is, however, a noticeable lack of Hitchhiker's Guide among the available titles.
After you download the free app, you will be able to play the first Zork game right off the bat. Unfortunately, this is the only game you get to play right from the start, as the rest of the lost treasures are only available through in-app purchases. Might as well try and get as much as you can from these old games, within reason. And they’re not exorbitantly priced either (you can buy all 27 of these old games for only 10 bucks). Nor should they be, given that all of these games are text adventures. While I wish there were at least one or two more games available, I guess I can’t fault the developers for setting things up this way.
What I can fault them for is the interface. You would think that for something that’s as graphically light as these titles, everything should be running smoothly. After all, the frame rates aren’t exactly being pushed to the limit here.
The menu system feels clunky and more sluggish than it should be, unless that’s what they were going for. In which case I think that might be a little “too retro” for its own good. Though I did appreciate the attempt to go for a Pip-Boy look with the whole thing. But when it comes to the games themselves, not much has been done. Which is a good thing, since there’s a reason they are fondly remembered. I mean, come on ... you just can't mess with a game called Leather Goddess of Phobos.
There have been a few tweaks here and there, with the traditional text-only interface being supplemented with a few necessary features. Since most will be playing without a keyboard to type on, the Auto-complete features really comes in handy. You will also be able to access a compass, hotkey words, and consult maps all by just tapping around the screen.
These features are intuitive additions that really help make these bare-bones games more playable in general. There’s also an InvisiClues feature that lets you swipe the screen for clues when you’re stuck. The clues themselves aren’t dead giveaways either, but rather subtle hints that will help guide you in the right direction.
Lost Treasures of Infocom does an adequate job of giving graying gamers easy access to titles they remember from the good ‘ol days. And it does a pretty good job of helping things out for younger gamers, with the new features that have been incorporated into these classic titles.
Even with these positives, I can’t help but feel like this should be a better package. For one, there should be more than just one text adventure you can play through. These games are so old and basic, it feels like they should be public domain or something. Like the way you can get a lot of ebook versions of classic novels for free. C’mon Activision, you’ve got plenty of dough already! Even though they're making us type 'Open Wallet' for these old games, I think it's ultimately money well spent for a good 'ol classic text adventure.