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"Ground Zero" Text Adventure

Martin has been a software developer for many years. This is mixed with a passion for retro machines and game,

What Is Ground Zero?

The term ground zero describes the point on the surface of the Earth that was closest to a detonation.

In the case of an explosion above the ground, ground zero refers to the point on the ground directly below an occurrence of a detonation.

The term has often been associated with nuclear explosions and other large bombs, and is also used in relation to other events such as epidemics and earthquakes.

The term is often re-used for disasters that have a geographic or conceptual epicentre.

Well back in 1984 it was also the name of rather harrowing computer game. This cult classic title was a text adventure available to owners of the ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, BBC Micro, and Commodore 64, and it dealt with an all too grave subject that was always at the back of your mind during the cold war era...

The Cassette Sleeve for "Ground Zero"

You knew what you were getting with this cassette cover to "Ground Zero."

You knew what you were getting with this cassette cover to "Ground Zero."

"Ground Zero" the Game

This adventure game was based upon the events leading up to and surviving a nuclear attack on Great Britain.

The aim of the 'game' was to negotiate all the problems expected in such unthinkable circumstances!

The adventure-world was set in a typical British suburb and involved collecting all of the items necessary for survival.

Written using the 'Quill' system (which as a useful tool for creating text adventures), it was the final game in the classic 'Adventure' series released by Arctic computing, which had begun with Adventure A: Planet of Death.

This game was Adventure G and really finished the series off on a serious, sombre and very much downbeat note.

It picked up quite a lot of publicity due to the subject matter of the game, some of this publicity positive and some of it negative.

Creating a text adventure based on the subject of nuclear war, at the height of the cold war era was always going to raise some eyebrows.

Due to this, despite it never being a true classic of the genre, it is a well-remembered game due it being pretty controversial back in the day...

The Full ZX Spectrum Cassette Inlay for "Ground Zero"

That famous cloud that sent shivers down your spine...

That famous cloud that sent shivers down your spine...

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The Harrowing Loading Screen to "Ground Zero"

This flashing mushroom cloud set the tension levels in Ground Zero

This flashing mushroom cloud set the tension levels in Ground Zero

Ground Zero Gameplay

Unsurprisingly the aim of the game was to survive a full-scale nuclear attack.

You began the game in your own home just as the chaos was beginning.

The locations were well described (this was text-only remember and no in-game graphics were present) and built up the atmosphere nicely.

You would come across neighbours in shock (I recall a man sitting in a deck chair simply staring into the sky), people looting the local shops, automated emergency broadcasts via the television and telephone and more.

In the usual style of games in this genre you had to find objects, use them appropriately and solve puzzles to advance through the game.

Would you build your own shelter or would you try to make to a more secure government bunker? What about food supplies? All of this had to be contended with as you advanced through the game.

You only had a certain amount of moves to make too, meaning you had to find safe haven before the bomb dropped, otherwise it was game over as you were vapourised in the blast.

Not a nice thought.

"Ground Zero" Is a Classic Pure Text-Only Adventure Game

The parser was friendly enough in "Ground Zero."

The parser was friendly enough in "Ground Zero."

Ground Zero, Just How Good Was This Game?

Despite the rather harrowing atmosphere this game was actually a decent text adventure that played quite well, created a believable atmosphere and did not tend to throw unreasonable puzzles at you (apart from the well-known bug in the hallway of your house of not seeing the table with drawer to open).

I remember actually playing this to completion (it took me a good two or three weeks to figure out the whole game) but as you may expect, the ending to the game was cold, scary and utterly bleak.

There was more than one way to 'finish' the game, but only one way to survive the actual nuclear blast.

The game's author (Colin Smith) deserves a mention for tackling such a sensitive subject within a computer game—and it did make a change from fighting wizards, warriors and orcs.

Not a bad game overall for text adventure enthusiasts.

Here Is Me Playing Ground Zero

A Further Note About the Author of Ground Zero

Colin Smith was a former journalist who decided to sell his house in Dorset to raise the funds to launch this computer adventure game.

Colin was quoted as saying, "I thought that participating in the game would bring home to people the horrors of nuclear war more powerfully than any film or book,"

He also intended the game to highlight what he considered the inadequacies of the Government Protect and Survive civil defence scheme.

I must say that the game certainly achieved its objective.

© 2010 Martin Allan

Anyone else ever play this game?

Michael Murchie from Parts Unknown on November 02, 2010:

Wow, talk about a blast from the past! I remember this one, it was what prompted me to try and create my own adventure games :)

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