For many, Michael Crichton will always be remembered as the author behind one of the biggest film franchises of all time: Jurassic Park. But as well as writing popular novels and non-fiction books, directing his own hit movies (such as the classic Westworld), Crichton also dabbled in the realm of video games.
It was in the late 1970s, when Crichton replaced his old Olivetti word processor with an Apple II, that his fascination with computers began, and he started to learn how to program in BASIC. His enthusiasm was such that he regularly contributed to Creative Computing magazine, and even wrote a non-fiction book, Electronic Life, which aimed to introduce technophobic readers to the brave new world of computers.
All of this led to one of Crichton’s lesser-known creative forays: in 1984, he co-wrote an adventure game called Amazon.
Amazon is a graphic adventure that is fairly typical of its era. It tells a story through a mixture of text and images, and the player forges a path through the narrative by typing in simple commands like “go north,” “examine cupboard,” and “open door.” Crichton originally wanted to base the game on Congo, the sci-fi adventure novel he’d written four years earlier. But when it emerged that Crichton had unwittingly sold the rights to a Hollywood studio, he was left in the unfortunate position of being unable to create a game based on his own book.
As a result, Crichton set about changing some of the story elements in Congo – its location, as you’ve probably guessed, was switched from Zaire to the Amazon, and talking ape became a voluble parrot – while keeping the same basic plot. The game sees an expedition to the Amazon go unexpectedly awry, with all members of the party killed in mysterious circumstances. The player, cast as an intrepid explorer, is dispatched to find out what happened and encounters “vicious Huni warriors,” machine gun-toting soldiers, and a place called The Lost City of Chak.