Nellan is Thirsty (1980)   6 comments

From the July/August 1980 issue of Recreational Computing Magazine.

This is another type-in game, but one with a more general ambition:

The Nellan is Thirsty version of The Enchanted House computerized fantasy simulation (CFS) is intended for children to play.

Specifically, the article and game by Dr. Furman H. Smith are meant to outline a more general “fantasy simulation” system that other games can be written for. (The author wrote Deliver the Cake in the same system a year later, and a planned third installment entitled Deposit the Chair never came out because the magazine was discontinued.) The very same issue of Recreational Computing included a long essay by Eamon author Donald Brown (Eamon being much more successful than The Enchanted House was) and a theory article by Dennis Allison about incorporating speech input and smell-o-vision into games. The magazine had Big Ambition going.

In any case, this is the first explicitly-for-children adventure game I’ve encountered chronologically. I played the C64 version from 1982 which was more easily available than the original.

Let’s pretend that you are in an enchanted house. You should use one or two words to tell me what you want to do. I’ll suggest messages at first.

If you have a question while you’re inside the house, type HELP.

Are you the only person playing?
Please type yes or no

If you state “no” the game asks you to give the names of everyone playing. I stated I was “Zog”, and then:

You are in a room called the Bank.
A giant carpet on the floor says:
Welcome Zog.
A screen says that your visit will last for 72 scoots. 2 scoots have passed. To leave this room, type GO NORTH.

The BANKER, Mr. Klinkoyn, looks happy.

There is a magic MAP here. If you TAKE the MAP, you may CONSULT the MAP.

What now, Zog?

Notice the explicit tutorial instructions in the game world. While this is typical for modern games it’s never been very common with text adventures. Recently Hadean Lands has an explicit step-by-step tutorial to start the game as does Counterfeit Monkey but it’s only shown up in the recent “high production value” games.


Heading NORTH:

Now you are in the White Room — the walls are white. There is a wall to the west. You know that the Bank is through the south doorway. There’s a door to the north and a doorway to the east.

A white RABBIT is here. She hops to you and says. << I am Chula. Welcome to the Enchanted House, my friend, Zog. >> She hugs you and says: << I have a present for you in the Gold Room. If you say TAKE RABBIT, then you can carry me to the EAST. >>

The game continues a very friendly/helpful atmosphere all the way through, and you can both use a general >HELP command or >CONSULT (name of character) to get assistance.

Oh, it’s hot in here! You are in the Hot Room and if cold MILK were in this room, it would be warmed.

The MAP shows the doorways.

On the floor is a COUPON. It says on the COUPON that if it is DROPped in the Store while the machine is working, you will receive one blue bowl.


You are in the room where Nellan lives; this room is called the Cat Room.

Nellan the CAT is here. She nearly fills up the room because she’s as big as an elephant (really!!). In a soft polite voice she says: << I’d love to have some nice cold MILK. Many of my friends have tried to deliver cold MILK here and many have failed. Perhaps you, zog, would be kind enough to try. I must warn you. It will not be easy. >>

A voice says: << Type HELP if you need help. >>

Here we have the dramatic climax: how to deliver cold milk? (There is, fortunately, an alternate way to this room that avoids the hot room. I could see children having a little trouble, but the game definitely goes out of its way to make things simple.)

In-game maps (with marked locations) and tutorials are taken for granted in nearly all modern games, but here it took “writing for kids” for these two innovations to occur. Does anyone else know of a comparable scenario? (That is, a game feature that was added “for children” that later became standard in all games?)

Geoffrey Draper recently converted Nellan is Thirsty into a point-and-click adventure game with voice acting. “I discovered the game in the late 1980’s, and I thought it was pretty neat. In the early 2000’s, I felt a sting of sadness as I realized that future generations would likely never see this game — first, because the C-64 is a dead platform, and secondly because modern gamers rarely have the patience for text adventures anyway.”

Posted January 31, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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6 responses to “Nellan is Thirsty (1980)

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  1. That’s a great magazine illustration! I assume the game map wasn’t as gravitationally convoluted. :)

  2. I’ve played the point&click version, since I’ reckoned I’d be able to play it easily (provided you pip install pygame, of course). I actually found it interesting to play, in the same way as in the “deliver the cake” one.
    It is really great to re-discover these games.

  3. I just played the Android port of Draper’s illustrated version a couple of weeks ago with my six-year-old. It’s a trifle, but a well worthwhile one.

  4. A new (2020) BBC Micro port of Nellan Is Thirsty is playable online at

  5. Pingback: The Breckenridge Caper of 1798 (1982) | Renga in Blue

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