Get classic and modern text adventues working on your Mac – and looking gorgeous. Spatterlight is an attractive app that opens Inform, TADS and almost any other format of interactive fiction – all with the sort of typography the ’80s didn’t offer.
Commercially popular in computing’s early days thanks to hits like Infocom’s Zork series, text-based adventures aren’t exactly top sellers today. They haven’t disappeared, however – a massive online community creates, plays and discusses these games. I’ve shown you 5 great games to play online, but explore a little and you’ll find libraries of playable titles at the IF Archive and IFDB.
Unfortunately, when you download a game, it’s not immediately obvious what you’re supposed to do with it. Executable files are rarely offered, meaning it’s up to the user to find software to open the interactive fiction games – similar in some ways to finding emulators for classic console ROMs.
Whether you want to play the classic Infocom titles of the 1980s or one of the countless classics released online since then, Spatterlight is an app that every interactive fiction fan should install.
The Best Interactive Fiction Experience
Install Spatterlight and it will become the default program for opening almost any interactive fiction file you download. Open any file and you can start playing immediately. Here’s me trying out The People’s Glorious Revolutionary Text Adventure Game, a quick parody riddled with Soviet puns.
Those familiar with interactive fiction will feel right at home playing in Spatterlight. If you’re new to the genre, don’t worry: most games offer help. Simply type “Help” and hit enter – you should see a menu with basic instructions and hints.
You should also check out thisif you’re still lost. Playing text-based games is not for everyone, but it’s deeply rewarding if you make the effort – like a short story you can interact with.
Not a fan of the default typography? You can change it, using any font installed on your system and whichever sizes you prefer.
You can also change the colors to your taste, so if appearance is important to you take the time to tweak. I wish a fullscreen mode was offered, but sadly it isn’t.
Many modern works of Interactive Fiction include images. Spatterlight supports this for many games, and it worked quite well for me:
Your mileage may vary, of course. The above image is from Tales Of The Travelling Swordsman, which I highly recommend.
The Spatterlight Library
This app isn’t just an easy way to open interactive fiction game files – it’s also a great way to organize your collection of games. Click Window, then Interactive Fiction and you’ll see this library:
Not all games have metadata, as you can see above, but most newer games do – and Spatterlight allows you to fill in this information yourself for games. This means you can arrange your collection by author, genre, or however you like – simply click the correct column.
There’s also support for game descriptions and cover art. Highlight a game and click the Info button to check that out:
You might not use the library often – particularly if you’ve already take the time to organize your games in folders. But it’s nice to have, and every game you open is added automatically.
As I said earlier, Spatterlight can open practically any interactive fiction game title. What does that mean? According to the project’s site, the following filetypes are supported:
- Level 9
- Magnetic Scrolls
- TADS (text-only)
- Z-code (except v6)
In my experience this covers the majority of such games you’ll find in and around the web, so enjoy!
Ready to check out Spatterlight? Head to the Spatterlight download page at CCXVII.net. You’ll find a universal DMG file here, so do the usual drag-and-drop-icon-dance and you’ll be ready to go in no time.
I don’t play interactive fiction games nearly as often as I used to, but I still find them relaxing from time to time. It’s a rewarding hobby, and lends itself well to breaks while working – your boss won’t even notice it’s not a document.
Of course, if you really think such games are awesome, you should try to make your own. We’ve outlined tools for creating your own adventure games (though that article doesn’t include Inform), so check that out if you’re curious.
As for game recommendations, I’m going to throw it over to you guys – which games should an IF newbie check out first? Let me know in the comments below.