Wonderland Game
THE MIDNIGHT POST * February 2007
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Classic Game Spotlight:

With the release of Wonderland Adventures, it is perhaps most fitting that we pay tribute to one of the very first graphical adventure games, the seminal "Adventure" for the Atari 2600.

Warren Robinett, the designer of Adventure, was inspired by another classic - "Colossal Cave Adventure" - and decided to try and convert this 100K mainframe text adventure game into a 4K Atari cartridge graphical adventure game. The task seemed so difficult, that Robinett's boss at Atari actually discouraged him to complete the project. But the game was completed and released in 1980, sold over one million copies, and became an instant classic.

The game is, of course, very simple compared to today's standards. You control a knight (a square!) that needs to find a sword (an arrow!) to slay the dragons (or are they ducks?) and return the golden chalice to your castle. But while Adventure did not offer much in terms of graphics (even for the time), it shone with its innovative gameplay and sheer sense of scope.

Adventure was among the first games ever to allow a player to graphically pick up and use objects (a staple for any modern adventure game). It also featured an innovative object behaviour mechanism - each object had a prioritized list of reactions to other objects. For example, Yorgle, the yellow dragon, would try to attack the player, but was afraid of (and would avoid) the yellow key.

Adventure was also among the first (if not the first) game to contain an easter egg - a hidden feature that was not part of the "official" game. This easter egg is the infamous secret room. It could only be found through careful study of the game's world. Its contents were simply a display of Warren Robinett's name. At the time, Atari did not allow designers to put their names on the credits (it was simply a game "by Atari", one of the factors in the decision of several programmers to leave Atari and form rival development houses such as Activision and Imagic). Robinett decided to sneak his name into this secret room, in the hopes that by the time anyone found out about it, the game would have already been in wide distribution. By the time a player discovered the room by accident, Robinett had already left Atari, and so another piece of Adventure history was made.

To play Adventure today, you can try out this excellent Flash Version, download the Atari 2600 Emulator Stella, or look for a trusty Atari 2600 at your local garage sales.

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