Z-Machine Wednesday: Starcross (1982)

Programmed by Dave Lebling (Zork I, II, and III) and released by Infocom in 1982, Starcross, was the first science fiction title for the company. For its Challenge Level it was rated Expert, probably due to many of its puzzles dealing with scientific knowledge.

Taking place in the year 2186, taking on the role of an intergalactic miner aboard your space vessel, the M.C.S. Starcross, you search the galaxy for quantum black holes. Which are such powerful sources of energy that finding one would provide you riches beyond imagining. Luckily the Starcross is outfitted with a mass detector to make your job easier. Your detector finds something but it isn’t a black hole…it’s a massive craft of unknown origin and design.

You dock with the craft and upon gaining entry to the interior of the vessel you find strange species of animals and plant life as well as an array of alien technology. Your greatest task is now set before you, you will need to come to understand the technology before you and solve their puzzles so you can find your way home.

As always, a huge thanks to The Infocom Gallery for the wonderful scanned images below.

Z-Machine Wednesday: The Lurking Horror (1987)

Released into the wilds of various retail outlets in 1987, the Lurking Horror was Infocom’s first and only foray into the world of horror for interactive fiction. Programmed by Dave Lebling, who also had a hand in crafting Zork I, II, III, Starcross, Spellbreaker (Third in the Enchanter series), Suspect, and James Clavell’s Shogun. Obviously influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft it was originally released for DOS, the Apple II, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit family and Commodore 64. An Amiga version was later made available and it had the added feature of sound effects to heighten the tension in key moments of the game. They didn’t really need that I reckon because I can remember how I felt while playing this title for myself on my C-64! If you’ve had the pleasure of playing this game yourself you might remember the nightmarish situation that occurs with the janitor…that still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

A big thanks to the Infocom Gallery for the awesome front and back box art as well as the scans of the “Feelies” that were included in the package.

How about this impressive Student I.D. card…that you can now print out and carry with you at all times?

Let’s not forget the very important G.U.E. at a Glance booklet to help new students get use to the new surroundings! I like the slight wink to the Zork series Great Underground Empire.

The major lifesaver of all interactive fiction adventurers…the map!

Enchanter

Originally intended to be Zork IV, Enchanter, debuted on computer store shelves and in my case some shelves at B. Dalton’s bookstore in 1983. I did not own my beloved Commodore 64 at that point…nor any other computer for that matter but I would always visit the shops and read and then reread the backs of the Infocom games. A couple of years later when I did get the C-64, I decided on a beginner level title, Wishbringer. Thanks to a school chum I was able to get my hands on Zork quickly after that and my devotion to ‘Interactive Fiction’ still burns brightly to this day! Of course how could you not love the little extra details that Infocom included in their titles? True, they were a means of copy protection, but thanks to the Zork Library you can see what I’m crowing about!

They even gave you a real Guild Pin!

Programmed by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling you find yourself in the shoes of a novice Enchanter, sent to stop the Warlock, Krill. The Circle of Enchanters hope that by you being so inexperienced that the Warlock will fail to notice you. This title also may be the only Infocom title that does not make any references to the lurking Grue, made famous by the Zork series of course.

Two other sequel followed Enchanter, with you growing in power in each title, they were Sorcerer and Spellbreaker. I’m not sure if they are still offering Infocom titles online anymore but I’m kicking myself for not picking up the collections they put out back in the early 90’s!