How to Complete a Text Adventure Without Cheating

Many classic text adventure games can be found online; so can extensive hints, ready-made maps, and walk-throughs. But some would consider the use of such resources to be cheating. If you're going to bother with a text adventure, why not treat it as just that - an adventure? Wild guesses are usually not necessary; typically, internal clues point to solutions which trial-and-error would not discover.


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    Read the game's specific instructions. They may appear when you load the game, or they may be in a separate file. The instructions will explain what commands you can use, and may also set forth the game's theme.
    • Sometimes, a game's back-story and goal will be spelled out right away. In other games, this gradually emerges during gameplay.
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    Read every word that comes up during gameplay. If you just skim over things, you may miss an important clue.
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    Use the examine and read commands wherever applicable, to pick up additional clues.
    • You can try asking the game "What is ... ?" In Zork, for example, you can ask "What is a grue?"
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    Pick up any object which you can, as there will likely be a use for it somewhere.
    • You can use the inventory command to remind yourself of what all is in your possession.
    • Most games have "baggage limits", so you may have to drop something before taking something else. There may also be passages which limit how much you can carry through. Such limits usually consider the collective weight of your inventory, not merely the quantity.
    • Some objects can act as containers; for example, you could put coins in bag. This may let you carry more inventory, or otherwise give you flexibility.
    • When you leave an object behind, don't count on it being present when you return.
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    Make a map as you go.
    • Remember that there are ten possible directions: north, east, south, west, northwest, northeast, southwest, southeast, up, and down. If a room has more than three visible exits, chances are that it is centrally located.
    • For up and down, either draw stairs or just make a straight line with D and U notations.
    • Some pathways are effectively curves or even circles. Going north and then south will not always get you back to where you started. At the beginning of Zork, for example, if you go north, you'd then have to go west to get back to the first location. Experiment with the directions, and make the appropriate curves on your map.
    • Some passages are one-way; this may or may not be explicitly noted when you try to go back. For example, you might climb up a chimney, but then be told "Only Santa Claus climbs down chimneys". If you find you can't return to the previous room, draw a one-way arrow.
    • There will often be "underground" and "above ground" areas, which will require separate maps.
    • Before starting a map, explore enough to get a sense of the area, so that you can space it correctly.
    • In a maze or forest, several locations may have identical descriptions. Such areas are especially important to map, and should have separate sections if they are large. You can drop an object to mark each place (there could be someone else taking dropped objects, however.) Another way to distinguish locations is to keep track of the exits.
      • Again, going west and then east will not always get you back to the same place; the path could be a curve, a circle, or one-way. In this type of area, such quirks are less obvious. If you find that a pathway actually leads directly back to the selfsame room, draw a circle.
      • If a maze seems quite complex, it may be best to avoid it for a while. Once you have more experience navigating the game, the maze may make more sense.
    • Note where objects or hazards are found.
    • If you encounter a locked door or an enemy blocking your path, it is likely that you can open up a new passage. Use a dotted line to note a potential passage. If the barrier is something else, there may or may not be a solution; the game has to have boundaries. If a barrier seems to be on the outskirts of the game area, there may be no way around or through it.
    • Most game areas are too complex to be mapped perfectly. If there's an underground level, chances are that there are multiple routes back up to the surface, some of which may not even involve a direct up. If two locations on different maps turn out to be side-by-side, just note that on each map.
      • There may also be ways to teleport from one location to another. If you discover one, note it on the map, making clear how you get from place to place. Test to see whether you can teleport back and forth, or if it only works one way.
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    Keep general notes.
    • If the game keeps score, note anything which increases your score. If merely picking up an object increases your score, said object is a treasure. Keep a list of treasures and their original locations.
      • Be aware that there could be someone else within the game who also wants the treasures. Such a character could be an enemy or an ally.
    • Note anything interesting. Just as a seemingly useless object likely has a purpose somewhere, an obscure bit of information may be a clue.
      • In an adventure with multiple installments, such as Zork, one episode may contain a clue pertinent to a subsequent episode. So don't immediately discard your notes when you finish a game.
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    Save your game frequently. Danger could be lurking around the corner. Even if you know where you're going, many text adventures feature random occurrences which can mess you up.
    • If you are "injured", it is usually best just to restore a saved game where you are in perfect health. An injury will make it harder to navigate the game. Not all text adventures keep track of health, but those that do will usually have a diagnose command that tells you your exact status.
    • Likewise, if you "die" and come back, restore a saved game where you haven't died. "Death" usually costs you points and leaves you with residual injuries. Moreover, your possessions may be scattered throughout the game area.
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    But don't rely entirely on a saved game. You may have already done something inconspicuous which will prevent you from finishing. With your map and information accumulated, you can always redo it from the beginning.
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    Try anything and everything you can think of, with the two previous points in mind. You are not likely to get very far without some experimenting.
    • Do not assume that a particular action will produce the same result every time, even in identical situations. Randomness is often present in text adventures.
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    Once you're familiar with most of the game, restart from scratch and try to do everything as efficiently as possible. Your moves are counted, and some things are time-sensitive; for example, a light source may eventually go out.
    • If you have a lantern or other light source which can be switched on and off, turn it off when you don't need it.


  • You can usually switch between verbose or brief mode. Verbose will give a complete description of every room every time you visit it.
  • If you do search for outside hints, try to look only at what you need to. For Infocom games, you might find InvisiClues online.


  • When searching the Internet for text adventures to play, be careful to avoid looking at any hints which come up.
  • If your eyes start to hurt, take a break.

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Categories: PC Games