Adventures in Text and Wind-Up Birds

Interstellar Text Adventure

What’s this? Am I about to talk about a real life game for a change? And not just any game, may I add. This is a classic text adventure based on last year’s Kip Thorne and Chris Nolan epic, Interstellar. For those who missed it, the plot of Interstellar involved a future where the Earth was becoming uninhabitable and mankind must send Matthew McConaughey through a wormhole (as we dreamed of doing after the release of Failure to Launch and Sahara) to try and find a new home. It ends up being a complicated time romp thanks to the immense gravity in the vicinity of a black hole, but is definitely worth a watch. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about! I missed out on the whole text adventure phenomenon. The closest I got to it was a Choose Your Own Adventure book in Junior High – the kind where you grabbed a lever to open a gate that just so happened to be a sword coated with wax and shaped to look like a lever. The surprise was mighty! The book was powered by the greatest graphical processor of all time – the human mind. That sounded cheesy, but it’s true. It’s hard to beat imagination, though at some stage you have to progress to more advanced graphical games.

Choose Your Own Adventure!

Choose Your Own Adventure!

I took a step back and played the Interstellar Text Adventure on a friend’s recommendation, accompanied by my favourite co-op buddy, Sarah. It was my second play through, and her first, though I didn’t make it to the end on my first try. My character is still lying crushed at the bottom of a canyon on some remote world after I mistyped a command. In the game, you play as one of the first researchers sent out to investigate potentially habitable planets. Your main objective is to plant four probes to collect data about the planet’s suitability for human habitation. At first it sounds like a simple task, and it would be…if you weren’t in a completely foreign environment filled with potentially deadly hazards.

To progress in the story, you have to complete a series of tasks from navigating a complex maze to crossing a mud volcano. The storytelling is great, building tension and suspense admirably. The commands are self-explanatory, and if you’re not sure you can get help at any time by simply typing “help”. It is a great introduction into the world of text adventures, and worth spending at least an hour on. There are multiple endings, too, so even more reason to play it through a few times. It’s browser based, and you can play it here. Now for something completely different.Interstellar-Start

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I enjoy reading but never seem to find the time to do it. Sarah reads a lot more than I do, and the last few books I have read have been on her wise recommendations – mainly Stephen King, but also the Harry Potter books. We were in Waterstones on St Patrick’s day having a look around and I was seized by the urge to buy a book. Not any book in particular, just a book. This is odd for me, as I haven’t bought a book from Waterstones (or any new book shop, for that matter) in many years. I have bought plenty of second-hand books from the Bookstore in Belfast, and a few novels online, but that was the height of it. It is also a great departure for me as I prefer researching before committing myself to a purchase. There is something liberating about sidestepping normal habits and doing something different. I wanted a good book, that was all. There were a few interesting novels, but the cover of one stood out in particular.

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It was a “manager’s pick”, or whatever the equivalent is, and had a prime position at the front of the shop, but not in the most prominent displays. The author’s eye caught my name too. Murakami. Clearly Japanese, and since I wanted to understand more about Japanese culture, it seemed like a sensible choice. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. An odd title, with an even odder back cover. “Toru Okada’s cat has disappeared”. Sold! In all seriousness, this was a fairly random pick as I wanted to read something, but didn’t want to be shackled to any of the usual authors or series I have been reading or come into contact with. It turned out to be a great story, starting out as seemingly everyday stuff, but becoming more and more bizarre as Toru is guided by a series of strange characters. I am about half way through the book and cannot stop reading. It always leaves you wanting to find out more, and teases you with half a story, or part of an explanation, knowing you will want to read on to get to the bottom of the great interconnected mystery.

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