When I was growing up in the 80’s, our family had two platforms for video gaming: our circa-1982 Atari 2600, and our circa-1983 IBM PC. We really didn’t get anything newer than that until I finally purchased my own computer in 1991, along with a SNES. So for the better part of a decade, I eeked gaming out of both of those systems until they could eek no more (and don’t get me started on when I bought Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600 thinking that it was like Super Mario Bros. for the NES — that was a sad, sad Christmas vacation).
I loved that IBM PC incredibly, and taught myself how to program BASIC during the decade. We had an ever-growing library of shareware titles, which was necessary as most of the more modern computer games couldn’t be run on it as we neared the 90’s. One of my hands-down favorite shareware games was probably a title you’ve never heard of: Kingdom of Kroz.
Kroz — the name is a loving homage to “Zork” — was a purely ASCII effort that had you as an Indiana Jones-type adventurer progressing through various stages trying to find treasure and the doorway to the next level, all without dying (of course). You had two primary resources to collect: gems (one gem would be taken away if a monster touched you and would kill the monster in question) and whips (which you could use to clear a circle around you). Depending on the level, it could be more puzzle-like or more chaotic-run-scream-dash-pray-like. For the most part, the levels were presented “top down”, but the creator of the game threw in a few “sideways” levels that had gravity, etc. I remember always feeling the urge to progress, to get to that next level, to see what crazy new thing they came up with.
An interesting sidenote is that Kroz was Apogee Software’s first game — Apogee becoming 3D Realms, the company that created Duke Nuke ‘Em and published Wolfenstein 3D.
There were several entries in the Kroz series, culminating in hundreds of dungeon levels. Today, you can even play some of them online as flash games — so check it out!