Adventure Quest is a loving homage to the great point-&-click adventure games of the eighties and nineties, the pixelated fantasy worlds where anything is possible, unless the computer doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do. We follow the story of Hero, a generic brave protagonist, who shows up at the gates of a small village ruled by an evil wizard. Tasked with saving the town, he sets off on his quest, only to fall in love with a random peasant girl, named Peasant Girl, who distracts him from his quest, much to the chagrin of the omnipresent narrator.
Frustrated by the limitations of his world, the single lines of dialogue spoken by the villagers, and the unclear path to his objective, Hero’s grip on reality starts to loosen, until he finds himself questioning his actions, his purpose, and his own sanity.
With lots of references to classics like Zork and King’s Quest, this play will be an instant delight to anyone that spent the end of the 20th century hunched in front of a computer screen. However, while the show is fun and innovative, it strikes a difficult balance. These classic games were hard. They were slow and frustrating, and you got stuck for hours trying every item in your inventory on everything around you until finally something worked.
Adventure Quest emulates this feeling perfectly, sending Hero running back and forth from screen to screen, desperately and manically attempting to use every inventory item he has trying to figure out what the hell to do, and as much as I love faithful nerd-culture references, by the forty minute mark I realized that this faithful frustration had marred the pace and energy of the show itself. The show is inventive, unique, and really really funny, but the feeling of frustration that accompanies the classic games translates to frustrating theatre. Adventure Quest is ultimately satisfying, but the form becomes wearisome, even to a die-hard Zork fan.
Adventure Quest runs at Just the Tonic @ The Caves until August 28th