This is the first in a series of guides about how to get into older games. There’s plenty of walkthroughs for older games but often I’ve found myself wishing for videos or guides that just told me how to get started playing a game, what patches I should use, what versions of the game are the best, and tips for playing the game. There’s no spoilers in this guide and it’s just to help new players get started. I hope to do these for a lot of old games I enjoy so other people can check them out as well.
What Is Colossal Cave Adventure?
Colossal Cave Adventure is a text adventure game released in 1976 and is one of the first adventure games. It was later expanded upon in 1977 by Don Woods and this is the version most people are familiar with. Players explore a cave system in search of treasure, all while learning spells and encountering fantastical creatures like a giant snake and dragon.
If you’re an adventure game or interactive fiction fan and have an interest in its history, it’s worth checking out. The game mostly held up for me once I realized it’s a game that requires multiple attempts, just like a roguelike, and I learned to really enjoy mapping everything as I explored the caves. For a long time, it was considered the first adventure game and has inspired many game designers like Roberta Williams, creator of King’s Quest and recently remade this game as Colossal Cave, and inspired games like Rogue and Zork.
How Do I Get Started?
The version I recommend is the 350-point version found on the Interactive Fiction Database titled Advent.z5. It’s free and easy to get running. Once you have it downloaded, you will also need something to run it. There’s a lot of applications that can play interactive fiction and text adventures, but one I enjoy using is Gargoyle. It’s free and easy to use. You just open Advent.z5 and it will start running.
How Do I Play Text Adventures?
Personally, I wouldn’t really recommend Colossal Cave Adventure as someone’s first text adventure. There are games built for introducing new players to the genre that also happen to be better games as well, like Emily Short’s game Bronze. That said, here’s some tips for getting started playing text adventures. Text adventures are controlled by typing in commands and seeing what information the computer returns. Commands generally include directions like North, South, East, West, Up, and Down, which can also be shortened to the first letter. As well as examining and using objects, and checking your inventory. I would also recommend this video for more tips on playing text adventures.
Tips for Playing Colossal Cave Adventure
Mapping everything in Colossal Cave Adventure is essential. It is impossible to keep track of all the rooms and some early text adventures had parts where movement between rooms isn’t what you would expect. There are parts of the game where if you go East to a room and then West, you will not end up in the room you started in. The game will ask you at the beginning if you want instructions and it’s important to say yes. The game deducts a couple points and will make it impossible to get a max score, but it gives you important information for solving a puzzle and doubles the amount of time you can keep your lantern on in the cave without having to get batteries. Keep in mind when playing CCA that it is a game meant to be attempted multiple times, like a roguelike or learning how to speedrun a game. Your lantern may run out and while you can get batteries, you must complete some steps to do that and may run out of time. This sounds like a tremendous headache but restarting a text adventure isn’t a big time sink like it is in graphical adventure games and should only take a minute to get back to where you were with a much more optimized path.
That all said, it was still one of the first ever adventure games and has a few illogical puzzles. Consider playing with a friend over something like a Discord voice chat. Older text adventures seem to work best when sharing ideas with others and working together to solve puzzles. Understandable, getting someone else to play a 50-year-old game may not be feasible so if you’re playing alone, just a reminder that it’s ok to look up hints when you feel like you’re stuck.
I enjoyed playing this game for the first time ever a month ago and I hope you’ll consider trying it after reading this guide. If you still have questions, leave it in the comments and I’ll get back to you. I also run a monthly adventure game discussion club Discord and we would be happy to help you there as well!