Saturday, August 8, 2009

1984 – Questprobe

Writer(s): Bill Mantlo/Al Milgrom/David Michelinie
Artist(s): Mark Gruenwald/John Romita Sr./Al Milgrom/Ron Wilson/Joe Sinnott

Scott Adams, not to be confused with the creator of the Dilbert cartoon, was the most widely recognized microcomputer programmer in the world and a pioneer in the development of adventure games for the PC in the late 70s and early 80s.

The original concept developed by Scott Adams and John Byrne is rather straight forward. An alien race, which has known peace for many centuries, is confronted by an alien threat. Unable to defend themselves, one of their own devises an indirect method to defend themselves. An artificial construct referred to as the Chief Examiner makes its way to Earth and uses a mysterious portal to gather the energy of various heroes. There was also a rather curious subplot about sentient energy eggs and bio-gems and how they hoped to manipulate the power that the Chief Examiner was gathering.

What was supposed to be a 12-issue miniseries published over 4 years, ended rather abruptly. Unfortunately in 1985, Adventure International went bankrupt as it was developing the game. Only three issues were published:
Questprobe #1 – Hulk (quite a treat because of Romita Sr.’s inks)
Questprobe #2 – Spider-Man
Questprobe #3 – Thing and the Human Torch

The fourth issue was published later in the pages of Marvel Fanfare #33.

Each issue was a self-contained story involving a Marvel superhero and fed directly into the tie-in Questprobe computer game. Each issue was also done by a different creative team that actually had ties to that spotlighted characters. For example, at that time, Mantlo was writing the Incredible Hulk and Ron Wilson was drawing The Thing.

You can still find fragments of the game here:

Apparently, the story was finally wrapped up almost ten years later in Quasar, written by Mark Gruenwald.

As for the actual computer game, it was one of those text adventure games (I played it on the Commodore 64). Playing it again, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that I was entertained by this type of a game. However, it doesn’t take long for the game to get really frustrating.

You start off as Bruce Banner and are tied to a chair. No explanation. After multiple tries, I finally tip the chair over. This action gets Banner angry and he turns into the Hulk. Go right? Nope, gas pours into the room and turns you back into Banner. Sigh.

Looking around, I find a metal ring on the floor, but I can’t lift it. I move east into a tunnel. I push a button on the wall and it tells me the “Delay is on”. I continue east and out of the dome only to be crushed by the high gravity outside.

Grumble, grumble. Was there any wonder why so-called Adventure International went out of business?

Even typing help get you nowhere: “Sorry, I can’t do that. But ask for a Scott Adams Hint Book at your favorite store!”

I’m ready to tear my eyes out at this point. Time to move on…

If you need the solution, here’s a link to it:



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