The days of the text adventure

arendarvon_thumbMany years ago (it was the mid-80s), I walked into one of my regular stops whenever I visited the city of Antwerp: the new(ish) and second hand bookshop “De Slegte”. In the IT corner, next to several books on programming the C64, a book caught my eye that seemed a bit out of place. It was a book for the breadbox alright, but it was not about programming… the book was a game! It talked about some mysterious castle called Arendarvon and some strange events that took place there. It came complete with (fake) newspaper articles and photocopies of books that talked about its history and the sorcerers that once walked in the great halls of this castle.


This was a game I wanted to play, so without hesitation, I made my way to the cashier and back home to start playing the game “The Secret of Arendarvon Castle”.  On the bus ride home, I noticed that it didn’t contain any cassette or disk. Perhaps the tape got lost (it was a second hand bookstore after all), so I browsed through the second part of the book to see if I could find an address so I could write and ask for a replacement tape. To my big surprise though, the second half of the book contained a strange collection of numbers and letters, line after line, page after page, and then it struck me… to play this game, I would have to type in the game myself first! Oh shock, oh the horror as I realized that the author had even divided the typing in of the codes into a 7 day task (which turned out to be quite correct as it was a mammoth task to type in all that code and debug it – though the debugger that you had to type in first did come in handy).

So, before I could set my teeth into this seemingly quite interesting and fun text adventure, I would have to spend first an entire week typing in all the code. Some days were easier, some days were harder but typing in 2 days of code in just one day was quite tasking, so I really had to stick to the plan the author laid out, and make sure I saved all my work every day to tape!

Finally though, the adventure was there with a cursor waiting for me to type in my first command. I moved forward into the courtyard of Arendarvon castle and my quest began.
I remember playing it for a fair bit and advancing steadily in the game (and it wasn’t an easy game), but sadly, I never completed it.


Now, browsing through some old books I found my original copy of the book again, and luckily, the game can now be downloaded in full from sites such as GB64 (so no more typing, hurray!) and even be played in an online emulator. It only appeared in Dutch and German it seems, but there’s a BBC Micro version in English. So if you want give the game a go, I can definitely recommend it. You do need the book though as it provides clues to certain rooms and things you’ll discover on your path. The author of the game Arend Rensink has been so kind to provide scanned images of all the pages of the English version of the book.
When you’re stuck there’s a forum where you can ask for help (I haven’t found a walkthrough anywhere, just posts of people with bragging rights stating that they completed the game, but not with maximum score as they used spells… hang on, you can use spells in the game… never knew that!)

It’s hard to imagine nowadays, that you would have to type in all kinds of codes and spend day after day just staring at a screen with codes before you could actually play the game itself. Kids these days would never ever play a game like that, as in today’s world of fast-paced apps on smartphones and iPods, games need to provide instant rewards and not task you with a full week of code typing.
Even the side material, that adds to the atmosphere of the game (like the newspaper articles in the Arendarvon game) or the adventurer’s journals in the AD&D games (that also served as memory conservation as the texts then did not have to take up valuable KBs of memory), is something you only find today in the deluxe version of games.
Still, the text adventure of days gone by really relied on your imagination to create the castle, the environment, the people you met… it was happening not just on screen, it was being played by you, by your own images that you shaped in your mind.

Happy adventuring, have a great weekend and may your quest be successful!

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2 Responses to The days of the text adventure

  1. Hi. As you mention, Arend Rensink, the author of The Secret Of Arendarvon Castle (the game and the book) has uploaded scans of the English version of the book for the BBC Micro computer here:

    Unfortunately, the scan-resolution wasn’t high enough for me to type in the listings accurately, so I contacted Arend and he kindly provided higher-fidelity scans and OCRs, which helped a lot. I have now managed to get game running, under emulation.

    A disc-image of the English version of the game for the BBC Micro is available here:

    The disc-image can be used with the BeebEm emulator, which is here:

  2. Robby "The C= guy"

    Hi Ant,
    Super, thanks!

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