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Dallas Quest - Nighttime Soap Turned Classic Computer Game

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Dallas Quest - Nighttime Soap Turned Classic Computer Game

Dallas: The Computer Game!

Screenshot © Datasoft

From 1978 to 1991 the royal family from the lone star state the ruled the airways were the Ewings from the hit television series Dallas. At the height of the show's popularity, the question on everyone's mind was "Who Shot J.R?" but the real question should have been, "What do giant killer rats, man-eating spiders, tobacco chewing monkeys, cannibals with dancing girls and ancient relics with supernatural powers have to do with Dallas?" The answer is simple, they are all part of the incredibly weird computer adventure game Dallas Quest.

The Basics

  • Title: Dallas Quest
  • Release Date: 1984
  • Publisher/Developer: Datasoft
  • Platform(s): Commodore 64, Apple II, Atari 8-bit Computers, Tandy Color Computer

The Good:

  • Hilariously awful to the point where you'll laugh out loud.
  • Tongue and cheek moments where you can tell the creators are poking fun at how bad their game is.
  • Built in clue and save systems. Just type "clue" or "save".

The Bad:

  • Primitively constructed graphical adventure, even for its time.
  • Poorly thought out gameplay, expecting the player to predict specific terms with no information.
  • Completely unfocused, trying to crowbar the Dallas characters into an unrelated adventure that makes no sense.
  • Gameplay and narrative make no sense and have no logic.
  • Players expecting a game based on the Dallas TV show will be sorely disappointed.

The Story

Even in the jungles of South America J.R. carries cash.

Screenshot © Datasoft

In a narrative that is only explained in the game's manual; on a mission to South America, the Ewing's patriarch, Jock Ewing, has discovered oil and sent letter accompanied BY a mysterious ring to his family. His message explains he has hidden a secret map to the oil's location, but the only way to find the map is to travel to South America and show a special mysterious ring to Jock's confidant Chugalug Jones.

J.R.'s embittered and gin soaked wife Sue Ellen has intercepted the message and with plans on leaving her cowboy hat sporting mogul husband, she hires a private detective to find the map so she can claim the oil strike for herself as a little nest egg.

Not one to be bested by his boozy bride, J.R. is listening at the door and hears Sue Ellen's entire plan. Letting his Daddy's discovery exit the family doesn't sit well for this cowboy, so he chases the detective across the globe to steal the map for himself.

The Gameplay

Dallas Quest is structured as a graphical adventure game, a genre started three years prior by Ken and Roberta Williams with their first Sierra-Online game, Mystery House. Graphical adventures evolved out of text-adventures, where players interact with the game through typing in their moves. Graphical adventures added images and sounds to the experience, and eventually evolved into point-and-click games. Dallas Quest featured the same designs set-up as those early graphical adventures with the graphics at the top of the screen and the text interface at the bottom.

Players take the role of the detective who must avoid J.R.'s meddling while surviving the dangers of Southfork Ranch (the Ewings Homestead), and a dark South American jungle. At Southfork they find stampeding cattle, 3-foot mutant rats and an owl seeking sunglasses to shad his eyes from the sun. In South America the un-Dallas-like dangers include a giant man-eating spider, hungry hippos, a tobacco chewing monkey and a cannibal tribe with dancing girls…Las Vegas style dancing girls.

While some of the Dallas cast of characters do make cameos, they don't quite fit the roles from the TV show. The show's old school cowboy Ray Krebbs has somehow become an airplane pilot and J.R. disguises himself as a cannibal, only to be outsmarted by a monkey.

The Ewings team up for one of the weirdest video games of all time!

Screenshot © Datasoft

Like most graphical adventures the players need to learn the game's unique logic and language. For instance "on light" means to turn on a flashlight, and you need to type North, South, East or West as the direction you want to move to. The frustration comes from the vagueness and illogic of some of the text controls. When attacked by a snake, the only way to escape is to type "tickle anaconda", however at no point is there an indicator that the snake is an anaconda or ticklish. The game doesn't even understand the term "snake". You also use the term "Drop" to remove an item from your inventory and to place the item in a knapsack, not knowing which you've done unless you check the contents of the knapsack after you've type "drop".

Final Thoughts:

Not quite a real-life Dallas experience or parody, this short, hilariously weird game features a few images of Dallas characters, but little else to do with the show. As far as the gameplay and adventure, it's so bad that even the programmers poke fun at it with obvious in-jokes.

If you're looking for a quick laugh, Dallas Quest is worth a look, but for fans of the show it's not worth the time it takes to seek out this oddball game rarity.

Trivia:

While Dallas Quest's story makes no sense and is laughably related to the television series, the game was co-written by Dallas series writer and assistant producer Louella Lee Caraway, along with Trapper John M.D. writer Phyllis Wapner.

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