Ghost Town (1980)   Leave a comment

After the frenzy of six games Scott Adams released in 1979 (two essentially written by other people) he took a little time before releasing Ghost Town in mid-1980.

Via the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History. The first 12 Scott Adams games were given a “gold” edition both on tape and on disk.

As you might have guessed, it is Western themed. You’re tasked with finding 13 treasures in a town that appears to be empty. (How you got there and how you plan to get out are unclear, although there’s a horse in a stable I’m assuming is supposed to be yours.) In addition the traditional 100 points from adventures, this game has 50 bonus points. The general feel is pretty mysterious, so this might not be a standard treasure hunt.

I haven’t gotten deep enough to make many conclusions, but I don’t feel the same pull from this game that I do from the others. I’m still theoretically fine with a plotless gather-the-treasures experience — I enjoyed both Strange Odyssey and Pyramid of Doom — but they both were presented in a way that made exploration appealing. Strange Odyssey has you landing on a planet and finding an alien device which clearly lets you go places, although it took enough experimentation to figure out how it works it makes travel feel like a reward. Pyramid of Doom starts at the bottom of a structure and works up in a way that made me interested in what was around the next corner.

Ghost Town starts with what appears to be a “complete map”, with no obvious missing places other than a “jail” that is locked up. I can’t wonder what’s behind X because I don’t even know what X is.

There’s a piano playing ghost that appears in a saloon; a rattlesnake at “Boot Hill”; a shovel I’ve been able to use to dig up two items; a hotel room with a bed that only appears when you ring a bell. There’s not a lot of traction to grab onto here.

I’m not sure if there’s a good word for this phenomenon. I don’t need my next quest labeled with an arrow, but there’s also no appealing blank spaces on the map to go for. Maybe call it a lack of geographic suspense?

In any case, I get the impression he was “writing for his fans” at this point, by which I mean “starting to make things extremely hard, since there were already enough easier games in the catalog”. This game (and the Savage Island games that follow) have definite Reputations.

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Posted June 10, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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