How to Destroy Mankind with the Interstellar Text Adventure

By  · Published on March 19th, 2015

Remember back when Interstellar came out? It must have been years ago. Or five months ago. Or five minutes. Time is a tricky thing.

Well, now you can play around inside the universe of the movie (aka Our Universe) in a Zork-like text adventure game that I hope confuses future archaeologists greatly. It’s essentially perfect to release a 90s-style computer game tie-in for your 2014 movie in 2015 when your movie deals so heavily in the relativity of time. So, just as we revel at that Space Jam promotional website still surviving on the Warner Bros. server, hopefully this game still exists 20 years from now when virtual reality will have taken over gaming completely.

It’s also smart on another level. Video game tie-ins are notoriously horrible, so instead of paying pocket change for the bare bones of a crappy game to advertise the movie, they’ve focused their energy on crafting a good story to play through without the spectacle of graphics. Find your own irony accordingly.

On that front, the game is more than a bit talky. Sometimes entire chunks of expository text flies at you just because you type “go south,” as if the creators couldn’t decide on whether to write a tie-in novel prequel or make a video game. Clearly they settled for both. Fortunately, it’s actually pretty funny. Your robo-companion PLEX provides some comic relief, and the game is fairly aware of how ridiculous your Odd Couple living situation is.

One of the best examples comes after PLEX goes into wonktastic scientific detail about a problem with your oxygen generation device, and the info dump is followed by the helpful message, “You know exactly what PLEX is telling you.” I, for one, felt incredibly smart. Also, there’s rehydratable shrimp cocktail.

To back track a bit, the premise of the game is Dr. Mann’s original mission. You’re one of the handful of astronauts sent to scope out potential host planets, hoping beyond hope that the one you’ve landed on can sustain life. Otherwise, you’ll die of starvation with only PLEX to mourn you. Your initial goal is to plant four probes in the optimum spots for determining whether or not this planet can become the next Earth.

What I like best about the game is the challenge of exploring without much – or sometimes any – information. A cliff face could be hiding a path toward a spot ideal for doing science or you could fall off of it, perishing alone, a bajillion miles from any human beings you care for. The game also sets up a few challenges that you get to directly engage with, allowing for action to invade a text-based world that otherwise might be made up solely of puzzle-style tasks. There’s a maze (no surprise for text adventure fans), a group of pillars to climb, a cliff to descend with jet boosters and other various otherworldly dangers to conquer. It’s simple, but difficult.

Which is why I failed several times to save mankind. In my defense, it’s tough to make it through the harsh landscapes alive, but that’s also what makes landing at the bottom of a ravine so fulfilling. I just hope my collection drones come back with good, inhabitable news.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.