Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man
for C64

Mr Creosote:
Alternate Titles: Spiderman , Questprobe 2: Spider-Man
Company: Adventure International
Year: 1984
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Based on Other Media / Cartoon & Comic / Misc. Fantasy / Text-based
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 17145
Review by Mr Creosote (2022-03-05)

In retrospect, Scott Adams' star had begun to sink by the early 1980s. At the time, his company Adventure International could still call itself the market leader in text adventures, having amazing past sales figures to show for. This enabled Adams to land a couple of licencing deals, one for an upcoming blockbuster movie (which turned into a fatal flop), one for a TV series (which nobody watched) and finally, he struck a seemingly lucrative deal with Marvel comics – which turned into the final nail in Adventure International's coffin when payments were not made a promptly as expected.

Launched in 1984, Spider-Man was the second in the Questprobe series (originally planned to consist of twelve games). The first half of the 1980s were not exactly a great time for comicbooks. This collaboration happened before the big renaissance triggered by the likes of Watchman or The Dark Knight Strikes Back. At this time, they were still simple escapist stories made for kids – although less and less kids were even still interested. The accompanying pack-in comic, framing the plot for the game, illustrates the sheer goofiness perfectly, with dialogue lines like “You seem to have taken leave of your senses, Spider-Man! Which gives me the opportunity to pummel you into submission!” The next time Spider-Man became cool again was a couple of years later, when David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane teamed up for an “edgier” plotting and look.

It may not have been a good timing, a good project, with two parties both on a downward slope teaming up. Again, hindsight is 20/20.

Spider-Man meeting all his greatest enemies

Starting off from said pack-in comic, what is the game, then? The two make for a weird symbiotic relationship. Whereas the former opens up an ultra-convoluted plot frame revolving around peace-loving and warmongering aliens, deadly space fleets, a supercomputer controlled by a gem which is in turn controlled by a glowing egg and a mysterious, newly introduced figure calling himself the Chief Examiner seeking to “understand” (or suck out or copy?) the powers of all of Earth's superheroes, the game itself is completely devoid of any storytelling in turn.

Rather, Spider-Man is simply put into a building where, for no apparent reason, some of his worst enemies also roam around. The quest involves gathering gems and taking them to Madame Web, an oracle-like ally of the hero. After the printed introduction, we're probably meant to believe that all this is some sort of illusion created by the Chief Examiner to test Spider-Man. When in fact, it was very likely simply created backwards: Scott Adams did his usual treasure hunt design and an excuse was needed to frame it.

While other companies were clearly already pushing the boundaries of the genre, Adams was still relying on the ageing formula his initial success had been built on. Spider-Man is a very old-school adventure game of gate-keeping, unlocking paths and finding hidden objects.

Characters are treated as purely mechanical objects. Whereas the comic is overwritten to a painful extent, the game is devoid of expository descriptions or dialogue. The final product does not give the impression that Adams, or any of the other people involved at Adventure International side, had any interest in the universe they were operating in here, above the lure of the brand name.

Time for some climbing!

As far as puzzles are concerned, there is at least some thematically satisfying action to be had. Spider-Man gets to climb some impossible surfaces, and special abilities of the villains are also featured prominently – in one case, leading to an especially imaginative solution to a problem when a person is literally turned into an object and then “used” in appropriate fashion. Those instances aside, puzzles are standard fare, ranging from doing the obvious to searching everything and (rarely) performing absurd activities, because another “hard” puzzle was needed. The box gives the difficulty level as “moderate”. Even this may be a slight exaggeration, considering even death is not fatal. Hey, didn't I just claim Scott Adams' game design did not evolve? I was wrong at least in this respect.

On the technical side, the C64 version features some static location illustrations. In places inspired by comic character poses and gestures, they overall unfortunately cannot be called a major asset to the game, being broadly barebones, devoid of detail or artistic imagination. Other versions of the game were even text-only. This, at least, ensures that it is never actually necessary to figure out what some indistinctive pixel-mash is supposed to represent, as important objects will be referenced in the text as well.

Last, but not least, the manual boasts that the input parser is able to understand full sentences. The bleak reality, on the other hand, is that it's still the usual VERB NOUN sort. Barely disguised by a mechanism to filter out some additional words. When push comes to shove and you want to SPRAY WEB, the game will still ask you AT WHAT, for you to give the target in a second two-word command. Just as it was in the 70s.

It all adds together to the picture of Adventure International being under quite some pressure by this time. The likes of Infocom and Level 9 were leaps and bounds ahead on input/output interaction as well as more interesting world-building. The Hobbit had shown how even crude graphics could spark the players' imagination, and that a well-known licence could be turned into a commercial success. Spider-Man, however, is a half-hearted baby step at best. It doesn't make a whole lot out of what was a fairly weak licence to start with at the time. Gameplay and technology-wise, it's serviceable in most tangible ways, but certainly nothing to win back any customers who had mostly moved on by then.

Archived Review(s) ↓

Review by Mr Creosote (2002-06-05)

Spiderman - the first superhero who was a teenager. He was just a normal shy geeky teenager who wanted to attract girls, but didn't know how to start a conversation with them. He had his problems at home with his aunt. He didn't know what to do with his life. Basically just the usual problems of growing up - something the readers could directly identify with.

That was back in the early 60s. And it has almost nothing to do with this particular game. Why I'm telling this then? Because for some reason, despite being the one of the main reasons for Spiderman's success, this breakthrough of the series, what set them apart from others, is almost unknown to non-insiders! And a bit of 'general education' in history can never hurt ;)

So what do we have here? A piece of Interactive Fiction made by Scott Adams. Yes, the same Scott Adams who made Pirate Adventure, one of the undisputable classics of the late 70s. Spiderman is a part of the Questprobe series which he did in collaboration with Marvel Entertainment. The other parts feature Hulk, The Thing and The Torch.

This mini-series was first released in 1978 in pure classic IF style: text, text and more text. In 1984, remakes were released on the 'modern' systems (including the C64) though. These featured graphics in addition to the text parser. And the Spiderman I'm offering here is the said remake.

Phew, so much explaining.... let's get to the game itself. As you can imagine from a game made in the 70s, the parser is a classic verb-noun one. More than two words aren't accepted. Puzzles are very simple and straight forward. Most of it is running around, just like in one of these classic treasure hunts.

Some puzzles are actually quite clever and imaginative, but those are unfortunately a minority. The game is mostly dominated by searching every room to discover hidden objects and beating bad guys. And.... ahem....... carrying around a complete set of furniture, but still crawling up walls? Baaaaaad!

The graphics are sub-par for the mid-80s. Static, that's ok, yes. But the drawings themselves look kind of sloppily made, too. Most characters aren't even really recognizable if there wasn't the text saying “Lizardman is here”.

And now we come to the embarrassing part: I have no idea what this game is about! Spiderman just finds himself in some building where for some reason many of his biggest enemies roam around. And there are a lot of gems lying around (some protected by the baddies) which he has to collect and deliver to Madame Web. At least you win the game if you do. And when you've done, you get a password. Ah. What for? The game is ends without one word of explanation what kind of gems those were, why they lay around spread in the building, what the evil ones wanted there and anyway!

Well, I don't expect in-depth storylines, but this really goes too far. I can't really identify with a character if I have no idea what he's up to. The game is not really bad, but don't expect anything like Scott Adams' real classics.

Comments (2) [Post comment]

Mr Creosote:
Cheers to everyone who came here from Google searching for 'spiderman walkthrough' :P