I get the feeling that Text Zedventure was developed for me. Or at least the special subset of people who held choose-your-own-adventure books very dear to their hearts. As a young boy, I used to love ‘playing’ the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks; a whole series of paperbacks from the pens of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, who later went on to found Games Workshop. Played with a pair of dice and a pencil to make notes and fight battles, the gamebooks allowed the reader to forge his own path through the adventure, making key decisions along the way. Although Text Zedventure lacks the dice, and the combat, of these fondly-remembered works, I can’t help but feel that a love for the choose-your-own-adventure paperbacks beats at its austere heart.
Considering the entirety of the experience of Text Zedventure is delivered through text (as its name implies) it’s an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG from here on in) that is bound to prove divisive. As an increasingly visual medium, is there a place in the videogames industry for a title that relies purely on a story well-told and the player’s ability to fill in the gaps with their imagination? It all depends on the story. Text Zedventure’s story is split into three distinct chapters: House, Train Station and Shopping Centre, the narratives of which are tied together by the threat of being bitten and contaminated by the ‘infected’. House and Train Station have a more measured pace, slowly adding layers of tension with each screen, whilst Shopping Centre is an altogether more panicked affair. Each of these chapters can be navigated differently, according to the player’s decisions, which are colour-coded to the face buttons on the Xbox controller. Each also contains multiple endings, which add a bit more mileage to what is otherwise a short experience.
The stories themselves are generally very well-written by developer Matthew Reynolds, despite containing a few typos in the initial release which have since been ironed out with a free update, which also includes a new bonus ending for ‘House’. The text is also accompanied by sound effects that Matthew has sourced for his game, which add immeasurably to the menacing atmosphere being evoked, without stealing the limelight from the text.
There’s little more to say about Text Zedventure without spoiling its individual stories, and the game’s low low cost of 80 MSP, (around 60p) reflects the amount of play you will get out of it. Once you factor in the knowledge that a percentage of all sales from the game will be lining the coffers of animal conservation charity Save The Rhino, there’s little excuse for not putting your hand in your digital wallet and splashing a few pennies on this unique, old-school experience. It’s a bold attempt at something genuinely different in today’s gaming landscape and also provides a fond look back at the very beginnings of interactive storytelling; whether choose-your-own-adventure books were a direct influence or not, Text Zedventure certainly brings back fond memories of childhood, for this reviewer at least. This is what the XBLIG service is all about – alternative ways with which to explore this continually-expanding medium, even if as we look forward, we also look back.