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I am old enough to remember Zork—the original text-based versions before they came out with graphics-enabled editions. It was an entirely different gaming experience. You had a paragraph or two to describe your location, an inventory of disparate (often bizarre) items, and a humble “>” prompting you for a command. And that little “>” accepted a startling variety of natural language inputs.

But I’ve often wondered what it would be like if other games were done in the style of Zork.

The Legend of Zelda

It is pitch black. You are likely to be bitten by a bat.

> light candle

You light the candle.

This is an underground complex of ancient design. In bygone days its architecture may have been impressive, but untold years of disuse have seen it fall into ruin. The tile floor is largely intact, and immovable stone blocks are scattered throughout the chamber. To the north, there is a closed iron door. A Red Darknut patrols the room.

> throw boomerang at darknut

Your boomerang glances off the Red Darknut with no effect.

> throw sword at darknut

You throw your sword at the Red Darknut just as it turns its back to you to change directions. It it slain instantly, vanishing only to leave a faintly glowing red heart in its place.

> take heart

Taken.

Pac-Man

You are in a maze of little twisty passages, marked at equal spaces by large white dots. There are passages leading north, east and west.

> n

You are in a maze of little twisty passages, marked at equal spaces by large white dots. There are passages leading south and east. There is a red ghost to the east.

> eat ghost

The very notion!

> kill ghost

With what? You don’t even have hands.

> run away

Which way?

> s

You are in a maze of little twisty passages, marked at equal spaces by large white dots. There are passages leading north, east and west.

> w

You are in a maze of little twisty passages, marked at equal spaces by large white dots. There are passages leading north, south and east. There is a pink ghost to the north. There is a red ghost to the east.

> s

You are in a maze of little twisty passages, marked at equal spaces by large white dots. There are passages leading north, east and west. There is a pink ghost to the east. There is a large white dot here.

> eat dot

You feel stronger. There is a blue ghost here, looking scared.

> eat ghost

It is delicious.

Super Mario Brothers

This is a long walkway made of sickly orange-brown stone. Trees and shrubs appear in the distance out of reach, and puffy white clouds drift by overhead. There is a question block here, suspended in mid-air through unknown means. To your right, the walkway continues. To your left, an impenetrable barrier bars your path.

> l question block

It is a standard issue solid copper block, roughly the size of your entire body. On one face, a large question mark appears.

> punch block

The question mark fades from the block and a mushroom spouts from the top. It begins sliding across the floor to your right.

> take mushroom

As soon as the mushroom touches your body, it disappears and you grow to twice your normal size.

> right

This is a long walkway made of sickly orange-brown stone. Trees and shrubs appear in the distance out of reach, and puffy white clouds drift by overhead. A large green pipe juts from the ground. To your right, the walkway continues. To your left, an impenetrable barrier bars your path. There is a turtle here.

> jump on turtle

You land on the turtle’s shell with with a hollow thump. The frightened creature retreats into its shell.

> kick shell

The shell ricochets off the pipe and strikes you. You shrink back to your accustomed size.

Mortal Kombat

You are standing in the courtyard of what appears to be a Shaolin Temple. All exits to the courtyard are blocked by spectators in identical white and orange robes. There is a ninja in a blue and black uniform eyeing you dangerously.

> kill ninja

With what? Your bare hands?

> yes

Well, he won’t make it that easy!

> punch ninja

Your fierce blow results in gallons of blood flying. The ninja leaps at you.

> block

You block the ninja’s attack.

> shoot fire at ninja

You can do that? Wow! You fire a small fiery projectile through sheer strength of will, aiming it at the ninja. But your elaborate posturing gives away your intentions and the ninja leaps out of the way.

The ninja rears back and cups his hands as if holding an invisible beach ball.

> block

The ninja lets forth a blast of ice. Having made no attempt to dodge the ice, you are frozen solid. The ninja walks over and shatters you with a single punch.

You are dead.

Skyrim

You are on a path along a windswept mountainside. Snow and frost coat nearly every surface. Here and there, stone slabs set into the mountainside act as steps. The path leads up or continues back down the mountain.

You are being followed by a loyal mercenary clad in furs.

> up

You reach the mountain summit.

A massive stone monastery dominates the top of this mountain, accessible to only the bravest and most resourceful of travelers.  The weather-worn stones have held up to the weather, but show signs of wear. Twin stairways lead north to the main entrance, and there is a path back down the mountainside.

You are being followed by a loyal mercenary clad in furs.

> n

The inside of the monastery is lit by torches and candles. Monks in solemn gray robes mill about. One stops and greets you. “It is time for you to learn the final word of Unrelenting force.” Glowing lines appear on the floor, searing themselves into your psyche. You now know all three words of Unrelenting Force: Fus Ro Dah.

You are being followed by a loyal mercenary clad in furs.

> s

A massive stone monastery dominates the top of this mountain, accessible to only the bravest and most resourceful of travelers.  The weather-worn stones have held up to the weather, but show signs of wear. Twin stairways lead north to the main entrance, and there is a path back down the mountainside.

You are being followed by a loyal mercenary clad in furs.

> fus ro dah

Without thinking to aim, you speak the words while looking in the direction of your companion. A shock wave caused by your shout sends the mercenary tumbling from the mountain path. You lose sight of him amid the ceaseless snows.

The loyal mercenary dies.

Paperboy

You are riding a bicycle down a suburban residential street. To the left side of the road are houses, many home to subscribers of The Daily Sun. You are currently in front of a yellow bungalow with a neatly manicured lawn. There is a man breaking into the house through one of the side windows. A child plays with a remote control car in the driveway. An ominous growl emanates from a doghouse at the edge of the property.

> throw paper at burglar, dodge toy car, deliver paper, break a couple windows, throw paper into dog house

You’ve played this before, haven’t you?

You are riding a bicycle down a suburban residential street. To the left side of the road are houses, many of whom subscribe to The Daily Sun. You are currently in front of a red colonial that has fallen into disrepair. There is a man break dancing in the driveway. In the street, two men are brawling. A disused push lawnmower sits idle in the lawn. A swarm of bees is following you.

> speed up, drive through grass, weave between dancer and men

In your haste to outrun the swarming bees, you are unprepared when the push lawnmower begins moving of its own accord. You crash into it and the break dancer cancels his subscription to The Daily Sun.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Loved ZORK! We used to hang around after school and program our own version of it on the schools mainframe.
    By the way…. oxygen doesn’t burn. It supports combustion but does not itself catch fire much to the dismay of many a writer who’s put it in their books as such. Yes I am waggling my finger at you good sirrah!
    Loving the black ocean series. Just started in on to err is azrin. Nerd enough to reach out to my newest favourite author and geek out on his ass about sciency stuff…. shiny!

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