Our cover-to-cover tour of the Aardvark Ltd. catalog from February/March 1983 continues, with a look at the company's substantial lineup of adventure games. The text adventure genre flourished in the early days of home computing -- a single author could put an acceptable game together fairly quickly, and literally thousands of such games were commercially published around the world. While many companies mimicked Scott Adams' pioneering approach, creating a custom driver for each computer platform with identical, portable data content, Aardvark actually converted the BASIC code to run on the TRS-80 Color, Timex/Sinclair, VIC-20, Commodore 64, and TI99/4A home computers. This labor-intensive approach didn't keep the company from publishing quite a few of these titles, but most of these are very hard to find today.
Page 3 begins the Adventures section, with Earthquake, Pyramid, and Mars:
Aardvark was a small company, and I am amused at the way founder Rodger Olsen can't help commenting at length on the games he is publishing and creating -- while his personal opinions are interesting to read, I can't imagine they carried a lot of weight with potential buyers. "I like that" and "[I] came up with some ingenious problems" are charming if unsubstantiated claims, but getting calls "from bleary eyed people who are stuck in the Pyramid and desperate for more clues" doesn't necessarily imply that Pyramid will be a lot of fun to play. Pyramid and Mars would later be re-released in 32K editions with added graphics, as the industry evolved and illustrations became more common on platforms like the TRS-80 Color Computer.
Page 3 continues the lineup -- later on, Aardvark imported some additional titles from the U.K. and put out an adventures-only catalog under an alternate company name, so the genre must have been profitable for Mr. Olsen.
I have actually played Derelict, in its Commodore 64 edition, but the remaining games on this list are completely unfamiliar to me. Circle World is apparently inspired by Larry Niven's Ringworld science fiction novels; Haunted House is a kids' adventure; Trek is clearly and unofficially based on Star Trek, another common occurrence in the wild-and-woolly early days of computer gaming. Nuclear Sub, we are told, was plotted by Rodger Olsen, Bob Retelle, and "someone you don't know" -- and we are given no introduction to this mysterious person. And Adventure Writing / Deathship is a tutorial, just instructions and a source code printout for $3.95, although a cassette can be purchased for additional $5.00 to save typing in the source code. In my early, informal programming education, I learned quite a bit from typing in the code myself, so I wonder if many people anted up for the tape.
Next time, we'll start looking over Aardvark's lineup of action and arcade games.