As with VHS tapes, landline phones, and commercials featuring cigarette-smoking camels, kids today will likely never know the joy of text-based adventure games. But, when Zork was released in the ’80s, it provided an immersive story-driven gaming experience that just wasn’t possible in graphical video games of the era. It gave gamers an entire world to escape into, and was more similar to a D&D campaign than it was to contemporary video games like Pac-Man. Now, you can visit the world of Zork once again on your Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express!
The key to Zork’s immersion is the combination of a great story and the player’s ability to interact with that story. Players interact with the world through the Z Machine interpreter, which translates text commands like “pick up sword” into actions within the game. Z Machine interpreters can be used with multiple text-based games, including Zork and its sequels, Planetfall, The Witness, and many others. This guide from Dan The Geek will walk you through how to run a Z Machine interpreter on an Adafruit ItsyBitsy M4 Express in order to play those stories.
This works with a Z Machine Arduino port called A2Z Machine, which was developed specifically to work on the ItsyBitsy M4. While this will technically run on other boards like the ItsyBitsy M0 Express, the story files for most games require more RAM than they’re equipped with. Lucky, the Microchip ATSAMD51 32-bit Cortex-M4 chip has 192 KB of RAM, which is more than enough. Follow the instructions to copy over the story files and to install the necessary libraries. Once the ItsyBitsy M4 is setup, you can connect to it with a terminal emulator on your computer in order to play Zork and other Z Machine games!