Puszka Pandory (1986)

Early Polish text adventure games

Puszka PandoryPuszka Pandory (eng. Pandora's box), according to most sources, is the first originally Polish interactive fiction. Written by Marcin Borkowski for ZX Spectrum and published in 1986, it was conceived as a test for compressing capabilities of ZX platform. The game gained considerable popularity and warm critical acclaim, especially after being advertised and reviewed in “Bajtek”, the early Polish computer game magazine.

Puszka Pandory had a refreshing, postapocalyotic storyline, if not a bit sketchy. Action is set on an island in South America. The goal of the player's character, a secret agent on a mission to save the emerging civilization, is to sabotage the enemy's missile compound. Apart from picking up, moving and using different objects, character have to jump, climb and swim his way to success. The game's parser accepts just 20 words.

The narrative framework was based on Głowa Kasandry (eng. Cassandra's Head) - short novel by Marek Baraniecki and well reflects the zeitgeist of the late Cold War years in communist Poland. By putting its action in the alternative world of the near future, in open spaces and with a James Bond type of hero, Borkowski's game set a trend for other games that followed, especially Mózgprocesor, overshodowing popular themes of fantasy dungeon IF and a tolkienian characters.

Puszka Pandory
Puszka Pandory, pierwsza polska IF.

The game did have some graphical elements. In the lower half of the screen there was a strip of animated monochromatic graphic. The author provided a printed map of the game-world, published in “Bajtek”.

Critical response was enthusiastic though reviewers had noticed Pandora's Box limitations: the rudimentary dictionary of commands and players inability to save the game status. Nothing surprising if we consider the pioneering and experimental context of the game's origin. Nevertheless, the story idea for the game should be regarded as original and influential, even if pale in comparison to big productions available at this time for Polish players.

Pandora's box began with these words:

Few decades have passed since the World War III that almost completely destroyed life on Earth. The survivors fled to South America and on its Eastern shores build a capital called "THE CITY". Their task was to start anew a civilization that had been wiped away in few days. The town grew, the lush tropical forest around it was slowly giving the way. But its citizens, who on the surface seemed happy, could not enjoy peace for long.

Playable version of the game is now available online.

Mariusz Pisarski