It was the 80s, it was an adventure: Text-based gaming with Spiderman.

I’m a fairly mainstream gamer — scouring the internets for old or obscure titles isn’t really my thing.  I’m impressed by the folks that do, and if I had the time for such searching, I might be so inclined, but I don’t and am not; and I have been generally pleased with the regular fare from today’s game companies.  (Still, *cough* OUYA *cough*) That being said, I think I get a few power points for having played Questprobe: Spider-man (1985) (aka “Questprobe featuring Spider-man”).  I don’t know that this game is incredibly rare or anything, but I do know that we were the only house that had it in our neighborhood, so that’s gotta count for something, right? (Of course, there weren’t that many houses in our neighborhood, so…maybe…not.)

This is the Atari version of the game — still pretty close to our PC version, except for the colors.

I probably would have never remembered this game if it hadn’t been for The Amazing Spiderman game that we recently bought.  I watched my husband play through a few levels (the jury’s still out on whether or not I’ll play it; and after seeing his frustration, I’m not yet convinced) and couldn’t help but think of this other Spiderman game I’d played long, long ago, in a galaxy…oh.  Um.  Yeah.  During one of his game breaks, I asked him about this Spiderman computer game from years ago that had popped into my mind. It was a text-based game but it had graphics, and we had it for our PC.  It had characters from the Spiderman universe, all decked out in that magic early computer color trio of white, cyan, and magenta, and your goal as Spiderman was to collect objects and save the world.  I kept seeing in my mind an image of one of characters, a woman, sitting in some sort of contraption that was surrounded by a web.

“You mean Madame Web?” he chimed in.

YES!!

And from there the internet searching starting because I couldn’t stand not remembering the name of the game. Playing the almighty connections game, a search for “Madame Web” led me to a search about video games she had been depicted in, which led me to a history of Spiderman video games, which led me to Questprobe.  I didn’t recognize the name at first, but after digging deeper I was led to a in-depth review of the game on the site Gaming After 40.

And there it was – the pictures, the text, the adventure I remembered getting lost in oh so many years ago.  Finding that site made me really, really happy. (And if you enjoy older games or are interesting in learned about the previous generation of games, I encourage you to check out that site.)

This was my unshakable vision. (source)

Gaming After 40 did a great job of running through the game – I’d never be able to rehash the whole thing in such detail without actually playing it again, but Questprobe: Spiderman was one of the first text-based games I had ever played.  Remember a couple posts ago when I mentioned getting bundles of odd and varied computer games each Christmas?  Well, this game came in one of those bundles.   I was around 10 or 11 when I first played it, and those were the years when I was totally addicted to those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.  Remember those, eh?  I know you do…probably.  When were you born?   Anyway, I was also way into cartoons – Spiderman included – and sci-fi TV shows, like Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica, which were all over the place as re-runs during the 1980s, what with the success of the Star Wars movies, I suppose.  I wouldn’t say I was drawn to Questprobe: Spiderman any more than other computer games at that time, but computers and technology and space and adventuring were fun, and so was having to navigate through a story with only a series of unknown computer commands at your disposal.

That’s a pile of sand on the left there…or is it? (source)

Yes, you (or maybe just I) had to figure out what Spiderman could and couldn’t do.  (I’m guessing the game had a manual, but we didn’t have one that I recall.)  The story was simple enough – save the world from Mysterio, meet various characters from the Marvel universe, and capture clues and objects to help you on your quest.   The graphics were nothing to bark at, though I do remember being wowed when a pile of sand transformed into Sandman.  Hey, it was something, and it was better than goddamned Zaxxon.

As much fun as I had with the game, I do remember having trouble finding my way – I always seemed to find myself either in Madame Web’s room or back at the lab.

Good god, not the lab…again!! Didn’t I go west the last time?? (source)

This was when I discovered the joys of keeping track of game progress on paper.  Each screen presented a graphic representation of your surroundings and sometime few lines of text describing where you were.   There was always the prompt “SPIDER-MAN, I want you to   ” after which the player entered a command like “look,” “climb,” get;” or, I think, you could enter directions – north, east, west, south.  Okay, so I don’t recall the exact prompts, but I do remember the running tally I made, which took me some time to figure out.  If you entered an incorrect prompt, like “fart,” the game would tell you it didn’t understand how to “fart” something.  Haha.  Stupid 10 year olds.  Maybe I’m laughing a little now.

I didn’t play a ton of text-based games, but half the fun of them was learning the proper commands.  With Questprobe: Spiderman, I had to keep close track of where I was and note it in relation to where I had been.  Like I said, I often found myself going in circles, and at times it got really frustrating.  My young mind was supply enough back then to handle the stress – now I think I might have a conniption and scream bloody murder at the walls if I kept going in the wrong direction.  Should have kept a list.  That’ll teach me.  Well, nothing, actually.  I don’t plan to re-play Questprobe today or anytime soon, but I’m glad that the internet helped revive my memories of the game.

6 thoughts on “It was the 80s, it was an adventure: Text-based gaming with Spiderman.”

  1. The game did not have any instructions past insert diskette and at prompt enter F: (Return) Run/spiderman (return). Remember the size of that diskette! Enormous. And they called the enter key Return ha ha ha… we’re old 😦 I loved the choose your own adventure books. Thanks for posting this and saving me all those steps to find out what game I was trying to think of

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    1. Happy to help! But wait, is it really no longer called the Return key? Huh. Maybe that’s why my interns always look at me funny when I’m trying to explain computer-y stuff. 😉

      On our computer way back when, our floppy drives were A: and B:, but yes, it was all the same from there. I remember being so worried about damaging those large floppies…like getting them stuck in the drive or somehow magically demagnetizing them by handling them the wrong way. Ah…the memories.

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  2. The text-based games I played were on the Home Star Runner web site. There was Peasant’s Quest, that had actual graphics, and you could move around in addition to typing commands, and there was a series of these others I forgot the name of. But, the first two or so had no graphics at all, just a black screen with words describing what was in the area. I eventually beat them all (they were short), and it was actually pretty fun. And funny, too. In one of them, it said you could go, “North, south, or Dennis”. Or I had to grab a key from somewhere smelly, but couldn’t. So I typed “hold breath”, which worked. But, then I suffocated because I didn’t type “breathe” afterward. And in Peasant’s Quest, I could type in goofy commands and get funny feedback. I couldn’t get in a house, so I typed “kick down door”, and it said, “violence is not the answer”. Good times.

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    1. Peasent’s Quest sounds vaguely familiar. I don’t think I ever had it, but I may have played it at a friend’s house. It’s amazing how subtle some of those text commands could be — like the difference between ‘get’ and ‘grab.’ And it’s funny that some older games often tried to force morality on players. Just give me the right command dammit (or a bigger gun), and I’ll be on my way.

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    1. I’m not familiar with either of those titles, though I imagine kids had as much fun with Oregon Trail as settlers had on the trail. Perhaps with fewer tussles with American Indians.

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