Interstellar War (1981)   5 comments

This marks this blog’s 9th game by Roger M. Wilcox (see: 123, 456, 7, 8). His best from 1980 is (in both his and my opinion) #7, Vial of Doom. He went on a streak in 1981 and finished nine games. They were “private” games only released to the public much, much, later.

Interstellar War is based on a short story the author wrote when he was 15.

Then, a scientist thought to be mad created an advanced form of the antimatter bomb, which was directional and apparently one-way. The fascinating thing about this bomb was that when the center of the explosion was examined, it had poked a hole in the continuity of space that was two-dimensional and one-sided. Essentially, this was a hyperspace bomb! When the bombs were delivered to the five systems, an unusual and unique idea was developed. The idea was to line up the bombs exactly (within a thousandth of a second) between two systems (starting with A. Centauri and Sol), and firing them simoultaneously. Theoretically, this would make a hyperspace “tunnel” capable of shooting craft (and radio) through it at unmeasurable speeds.

Before long, the five systems had links between them in a circular fashion, formina a rather crude pentagon, and trade had become a way of life. Forevermore, light would be considered extremely slow.

(The spelling is as in the original.) Wilcox later developed a Pentagon War universe with extra background materials and a hexmap game.

I browsed but admittedly did not read closely the materials; no matter what I would have been puzzled at the game’s opening.

You are in a jungle full of dead foliage. Visible items:

Dead fern tree.

It’s unclear at the start who the main character is and how this starting place is related to the Pentagon universe, although both things get revealed later. Given the “private game” status it’s possible the author didn’t have any particular in medias res method in mind and just started writing, but this does (accidentally?) make a moment later in the game where everything locks into place more effective.

After climbing the tree and swinging on a vine, I was locked in for a while in two desert locations.

You are in a desert wasteland. Visible items:

Big pile of rocks.

Obvious exits: North


You are in a desert wasteland. Visible items:

Lower half of a body.

Obvious exits: South


You found something.

This yielded me a wrench, but going back to the rocks and trying to whack at them in various ways with it didn’t help. I finally resorted to KICK ROCKS, which buried me in a landslide, but I was able to DIG and get out.

You are in a completely decimated village. The decimation seems to have been caused by a single weapon.

Obvious exits: North South East West


You are on the outskirts of the village. Technology seems to have been practiced and was thriving here once. Visible items:

Dead body.

Obvious exits: North East

The lower half of his body seems to have been blown far away by the same thing that destroyed this village. The upper half was in the process of pulling down a lever in panic just before the lower half got blown away. A sign above the lever reads: “For emergency use only.” The dead body has bled the lever in place.

Well, there’s the other half of the body. I fruitlessly tried applying the wrench in attempt to turn the lever, but the game told me it was “bled shut”.

This was an interesting piece of distraction; clearly, the original poor soul was trying to use the wrench on the lever, but the wrench here gets used in a much different way.

The open map included a shallow pond, an ammonia-filled area (which causes instant death) and a “dangerous whirlpool of sand” where “the sand is swirling fast enough to grind anything”. I also found a bucket and a curious plastic bag.

You’d have to roll around in order to move while inside it. It can be closed, but only from the inside. Inside it is a small valve control, which opens & closes the valve to a pouch on he outside of the bag.

I went in the bag, closed in, rolled into the ammonia area, opened the valve to let in some ammonia, rolled all the way to the pond, opened the valve, and got myself a puddle of ammonium hydroxide. I was then able to use the bucket to get the hydroxide and clean the bloody lever, although it was still “rusted”.

To take care of the rust, I had to drop the wrench at the sandstorm, which melted it, then pick up the melted part with the bucket (…somehow) and pour the metal onto the lever.

Well, the author is trying hard to subvert expectations at least. The transformation of objects was unusual enough it took me a while to get through the above. Pulling the lever teleported me to a spaceship.

You are in a plastic four-way intersection.

Obvious exits North South East West

I’ve explored the ship and found a “peace” treaty, and the quote marks are there in the game…

“We Alpha-Centaurians and humans agree to terms of peace, even though we want to tear each others’ throats out.
James Carter
Both signatures appear reluctant.

…and this room.

You are in the viewing chamber. Visible items:

Your decimated planet.

Obvious exits: Down

Up to here, it wasn’t clear the protagonist had any investment in what was going on; there’s the implication that the vaporized village was, in fact, the one they lived in, which contextualized the previous events in a way I found startling.

There’s an engine that looks like it needs fixing before I make any further progress, and a “suit of titanium armor”. As I’m stuck and don’t want to spoil any puzzles yet, I’m going to stop off here until next time.

Posted July 2, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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5 responses to “Interstellar War (1981)

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  1. Glad to have you back. Very interesting game, in which the first part of the game seems as an intro, instead of a long text telling you the whole thing.

  2. I’m not sure how a signature literally appears reluctant, but the “peace” treaty is amusing.

  3. FYI, apparently the Latin phrase is supposed to be spelled “in medias res”, though I think I’ve seen it spelled “in media res” at least as often.

  4. Hi, this is Roger M. Wilcox, the author of this game all those decades ago.

    The whole thing about turning the wrench into a liquid was a stupid pun. There is a brand of penetrating oil named “Liquid Wrench”. Get it?

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