Text adventures were the video games we made before we knew how to make video games. They had all the thrills of reading a short story written by an unedited maniac, combined with the epic adventure of guessing syntax. A few were great, most were boring, some were war crimes waged against coherence. Please keep all of this in mind as we explore Marvel Questprobe: The Hulk.
Questprobe was a series of text adventure games tied to a Marvel comic of the same name, and their first one — their very first entry in a series of text-only games — starred The Incredible Hulk. There are eight hundred million Marvel characters to choose from, and they picked one who can barely speak and is famous for solving every riddle with punching. Here is the only logical way a Hulk text adventure game could play out:
YOU ARE HULK. YOU ARE IN ROOM. EAST IS EXIT.
YES HULK SMASH
Here’s how the game starts:
It brags about how very advanced the interface is, introduces you to some basic commands, then begs you — begs you in hands-and-knees purple — not to punish the author for wasting a year of precious life on this. All of these things will be important. Please make note of them in your Questprobe Quizzler Quest Qhronicle now.
The game starts with Bruce Banner in bondage, and for a game that just bragged about knowing every command, it comes up immediately short.
Okay, so you’re the Hulk. When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When you are a Hulk, every problem looks Hulk-foot shaped. We gotta Hulk the fuck out.
Huh. See, the Hulk is famous for getting mad at fucking anything. Insult him, you get a hulking. Attack him, definitely a hulking. He sees you leave a carton of milk in the bread aisle instead of putting it back, that’s an especially brutal hulking. I mean, you’re getting a green fist enema right there, face pressed up against the everything bagels. So it’s weird that the game is being picky about how we get mad. But hey, in the passive aggressive post-it note at the start, the game did make a big point of telling us about its help command. Lets try that!
So the first screen goes out of its way to tell us there’s a help function, and when we use it, we are told to quit the game, leave the house, go to the kind of sad specialty store that stocks tip manuals for obscure text adventure games, and then have them order a book about this virtual book? I think this might actually be scammier than the modern video game financial model. Say what you will about microtransactions that let you buy neon shaders for your dildo bat, at least they’re both private and instant. They don’t have you travel just to get laughed at by a guy who wasn’t good enough to work at the game store and wasn’t good enough to work at the bookstore, but was okay enough to work at the game book store.
Let’s try again:
First, is that an unskippable cutscene in a text game? Hideo Kojima would describe that as “a bit much, maybe there is a sexy woman and you see her butt and there is a masturbation mini-game where your penis is a missile silo and your testicles are full of tiny babies with your face and you have to slap the babies to fire the missile and-”
Sorry, I’m going to have to cut Kojima off there, and go down in history as the first person to ever do so.
More importantly, every time I turn into the Hulk I get blasted with anti-Hulk gas? If you have to build an anti-Hulk mechanic into your Hulk game, you’re not making a Hulk game. You’re coding a text adventure about a weenie who makes a huge deal out of getting mad but ultimately does nothing about it. Fuck you, that’s Marvel Questprobe’s Ben Shapiro.
I do love how prominently the game has to display the ™ every time they mention the hero of their own story. That’s not distracting at all.
Oh shit, that was just a tiny gameplay break in between cutscenes!
This is so Kojima there’s actually a three paragraph section just transcribing a commercial for Norman Reedus’ Ride.
So wait, that’s really the story? You were given the rights to The Incredible Hulk and the unbounded world of text and you wrote an easter egg hunt where he can’t turn into the Hulk? That’s like being told to write a Spider-Man game and then having him take an UberPool to renew his fishing license. Why do you hate fun? Is it like teenage drinking? Did you get into fun too early and it became a problem as you grew older? Admit you’re powerless over good vibrations and take a fearless moral inventory, don’t take it out on the kids with well-meaning grandparents who don’t check reviews before they buy birthday presents.
There aren’t even any cool items in the game — no girders to swing into a rampaging grizzly bear, no little helmets to put on your Hulk dick that let you ram it through walls. There’s a tube of wax. A hand fan. A mirror that you can’t even use like a normal mirror.
There’s only one use for the Hulk in the whole game:
See that tunnel? You wanna go out that tunnel, huh? Well, this is an adventure game — a whole genre based on solving puzzles that head trauma patients make up to stump the pixies only they can see since the motorcycle accident — and that means you die all the time for reasons you couldn’t possibly deduce and are never given a chance to counter. If you actually use that tunnel, you are crushed by high gravity.
But if you Hulk out first, you can survive it. That is a god damn journey this developer went on, all just to figure out a use for Hulk powers which consist of “punching things real good” and “kicking things real good” if Hulk remembers he has feet.
Anyway, survive the riddle of the inexplicable ultra-gravity and you go to Vaporwave Eskimo Jupiter.
There is no explanation for this setting. In the grand tradition of every video game before 1995, there is no coherent sense of place or logic here, and every room is designed by a different prog rock fan violently disassociating from reality. Vaporwave Eskimo Jupiter is one of two main areas. Head any direction from there and you’re in:
A 1986 nerd’s Trapper Keeper, pre-swirlie water damage. Even by adventure game standards, which are “none,” this is pure gibberish. And that’s basically it: Try any direction from this puzzle on the back of a box of off-brand ‘Nontendo’ cereal, and you return to the Lazer Igloo.
I tried 17 million commands including “ponder life” and “quit” before thinking “maybe I should dig a hole, despite no prompting to do so.” That was the solution.
No matter how much shit I might talk about it, Marvel Questprobe does feature my favorite scene in any video game ever. I present it here in its entirety, unedited.
I like to think Hulk does that non-stop until he is no longer underground. It’s like a Hulk locator, in case you lose your Hulk at the beach.
After several more hours wandering between Space Alaska and Remedial Escher, I figured maybe I had to switch back to Banner to solve this puzzle.
This game punishes you for trying anything. Every new thing you discover comes with two guesses as to what to do with it, and then it’s instant death. Start over from the beginning. Remember, this isn’t like a normal video game where it’s kind of fun to run through an area again. You’re just typing the exact same commands in the exact same order to earn another two guesses as to what a lunatic thinks you do with an egg.
Through means I do not understand and could never replicate I did stumble across an interdimensional bureaucrat just hanging out in his quantum office. I thought I knew what to do here, but once again we see even the most basic logic is outright rejected:
In frustration, I simply typed “go west” eight hundred times, and then an anthill appeared. Clearly. Clearly!
That may seem out of left field, but that’s actually a reference to the classic philosophical essay GO WEST UNTIL ANTS by Franky Beefsteak, in his collection I CLAIM THIS LIBRARY BATHROOM UNDER SQUATTER’S RIGHTS published by the bathroom mirror and his own ruptured hemorrhoid blood.
I mean, obviously space ants.
Welp, those are my two guesses. Time to die.
O.K. Ants attack eyes. The game considered this such a foregone conclusion that it didn’t even warrant an exclamation point. Madness has become so routine to this author he no longer bothers transcribing the sounds he hears inside his skull as the amoebas eat his brain. “Chewing memories,” he types, “eat eat eat first kiss; gnaw summer camp. You get it.” His every waking moment is plagued by hovering flesh orbs that scream in his mother’s voice and it happened so gradually he never even learned that was weird. “Haha right,” he’ll add to a coworker’s anecdote about missing the train, “and then you gotta deal with the mommyballs negging you all the way to work!” He’ll hold his hand up for a high five and then bite off an ear when he doesn’t get one.
Jesus, I cannot live here, inside the dream journal of a man dying of xenon poisoning. We must get out.
Let’s trace our steps: First we tip back in our chair to Hulk, get anti-Hulk gassed, then bite our lip to Hulk again so we can survive Neon Canada. Next we wander aimlessly through the Children’s Activity Zone on the back of a Denny’s kid’s menu until we anger the bureaucrat. We go west until ants but not until ants attack eyes. Maybe we flee? We flee back to the Activity Zone and then read the sign that tells us to drop all our gems. Yes, that’s it! We just drop our gems and corrupt the game file.
Right? That actually seems like a pretty good ending. I’ll accept that.
But a game-breaking glitch is indistinguishable from storytelling in this reboot of Alice in Wonderland as told by a hobo who wears a tin foil grill for his electric teeth, so I looked up a walkthrough.
It turns out no, it’s not supposed to crash, and no, it doesn’t make more sense after this. Here’s a little snippet from the walkthrough. You just:
GO DOME, DROP FAN, GET GEM, W, GET GEM, BITE LIP (until you see Dr. Strange), BITE LIP (until he points at the baseboard), EXAMINE BASEBOARD, PLUG OUTLET, USE WAX, BITE LIP, ASK STRANGE (until he tells you to remember your worst nightmare), ASK STRANGE (until he leaves, dropping a gem), GET GEM, GET WAX, E, BITE LIP, GO TUNNEL, E, DROP GEM, DROP GEM, DROP GEM, DROP GEM, REMEMBER NIGHTMARE (you become incredibly strong), S (until you reach the field without mesh on the dome and without ants), GO DOME, W, PULL RING, E, BITE LIP, GO TUNNEL, E (to ‘Fuzzy Area’), REMEMBER NIGHTMARE, N (you stand in an underground room), EAT EGG (before it explodes!)
Right, I should have figured that out. I just go into a coy lip bite loop which arouses Dr. Strange so much that he alerts me to the existence of baseboards, and then I remember my worst nightmare while biting my lip to get super strong so I can eat the exploding space egg. Of course. They say hindsight is 20/20, and they also say the bus driver is the secret king of Reverse USA, which is why you have to spit in the coin slot to corrupt his copper hoard so he can’t forge the wires of the vaccination satellite. Both very good points.
There were supposed to be twelve of these games, complete with tie-in comics from Marvel, but they put out three and then the entire company went out of business. I know that seems like a sudden out of left field ending but ANTS ATTACK EYES.
This post was brought to you thanks to a hot tip from Hot Dog Johnny Unusual, and by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Neil Bailey: The only man alive tough enough to EAT EGG.