Interpreter/emulator for Level 9

On my exploration through the history of text-adventures, I have come across the Time and Magik-trilogy by Level 9.

There are emulators/interpreters on the internet, but could anyone point me to a known and reliable download?


Edit: Sorry for wasting anyone’s time! There are lots of Level 9-interpreters on the IF-Archive. I was looking in the wrong places.

Index: if-archive/level9/interpreters/level9

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Gargoyle should work. I suspect you don’t really need this link:

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Thanks, but I found a ton of interpreters on the Archive. Are there any other reasons why you would recommend Gargoyle? (Multiple formats so more games to be played with it, better sound/graphic capabilities, …)

Not really. It is maintained and built on a modern system, so is more likely to run without problems than something from 2011. But I haven’t tried the others, and I see now that the latest Level9_5.1 build is from 2019, so it may very well be better. I know that pictures are sometimes drawn too small on Gargoyle.

EDIT: I can confirm that Gargoyle won’t recognise my Amiga Time and Magik files (“not an adventure data file”), while Level9_5.1 does, so the latter is definitely preferable.

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I remember that I had to rename the file type (.l9?) to make it work with Gargoyle. It became even more difficult with multipart games but I managed it. Later I found the emulator which handles multipart games much better. I’m pretty sure it was easiest to use DOS versions.

Note that the parser of early Level 9 games were not comparable to Infocom, whereas their later “KAOS” games had an impressive parser. So I hope you give the latter games a chance, even if the first might not impress (I did like Lords of Time though)
The KAOS games: Lancelot, Gnome ranger, Ingrid’s Back, Scapeghost.
Actually, Knight Orc was the first KAOS game, but I didn’t manage to get anywhere in that one.

I had some technical difficulties when I played Lancelot earlier this year, and wound up filing issues against the open-source Level 9 terp, although I didn’t have time to try and contribute fixes. You might want to read about how to name the game files, and issues with loading save games.

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I downloaded the Level 9 5.1 interpreter for Windows from the Archive.

From IFDB I got a whole collection of L9-games. A bunch of these are SNA-files (the earlier ones I think, including the Time and Magik Trilogy). These work just fine. The others have a Z80 extension and won’t open on the interpreter I got.

Something about renaming files/changing the extension? I’ll try that. (Or is this only applicable to Gargoyle?)

I haven’t tried them yet, but apparently ScummVM supports Level 9 games, including that trilogy.

On a related note, they recently also added support for a ton of text adventure engines. Nearly all of the ones that Gargoyle supports, minus TADS for some reason.

SNA files are normally snapshot files created by a ZX Spectrum emulator. The interpreters can read such files. If you don’t care about the graphics, they are probably fine. But if you would like graphics you will need something better as Level 9 graphics on 8-bit computers required disk access. I am pretty sure I did not need to rename the graphics files and I used the dos-versions. I can imagine, if you rename the dos .dat files to .sna the game will work but it will assume that there are no graphics. So it is possibly better to change the dos .dat-files type to .l9 (that is a lowercase L) as the Time and Magik trilogy are three independent games.

But if you later play the multipart games, I think the following worked for me using Gargoyle: (notice the filenames are identical but the file types different)
GAMEDAT1.l9 (first part must have type .l9)
GAMEDAT1.l2 (second part must have type .l2)
GAMEDAT1.l3 (third part must have type .l3)

ScummVM is an interpreter for playing point-and-click adventures. It originally only supported the scumm engine (Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Full Throttle, etc) but they’ve expanded it to include a ton of other engines and even one-off games that don’t use a multi-game engine.

What I’m trying to say is, shouldn’t that support the graphics as well?

I was referring to the game files, not the interpreter. If the game files don’t contain graphics, it doesn’t matter which interpreter :slight_smile:

ScummVM is probably fine, as I think(?) it uses the same terps as Gargoyle (but is it still in beta?). But if you are not going to play point-and-click games (these are great by the way!), perhaps it is better to install a small interpreter. The one Rovarsson downloaded is probably fine too.

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I had SCUMM on my old computer. I didn’t put it on my new one because I can play Beneath a Steel Sky without it.
Edit: But I guess there must be lots of other games that run better with Scumm? Maybe exactly those KAOS games from L9?

Well, from what I can tell by looking at screenshots, Level 9 graphics (the earlier ones at least) are pretty crappy so they won’t be missed.

This is not related to the file extension: the Level9 interpreter doesn’t use the file extension to decide anything other than to find graphics files if they are separate from the main game file.

SNA files are Spectrum memory snapshots, basically just a dump of the 48k Spectrum memory. Level9 can search such files and find the Level9 game and graphics data in them. But Z80 files are compressed, and Level9 doesn’t know how to uncompress them, so it can’t find the game data.

There are various tools you can use to convert Z80 to SNA, or search around on the Internet and you can find Level9 games in various formats that will work. The help file included with Level9 has some more detail on this: see the section “Supported Formats”.

There is also a tool L9Cut ( that can extract the Level9 game data from various formats, although there’s only an MS-DOS executable supplied, which isn’t much use these days. I’ll try to remember to build a Windows console executable for that this weekend.

Yes, the line drawn images from the early games are “of their time”. The bitmap images from the later games are better, but not Magnetic Scrolls good. I always played the games with the graphics off, anyway.

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Update: I’ve added a Windows console executable of L9Cut to the IF-Archive. A quick test shows that seems able to extract the Level9 game data from a Z80 file. The decompression algorithm for Z80 files is pretty simple, so it may get added to the Level9 interpreter at some point.


Integrating those interpreters with ScummVM seems to be a one-man project, so I guess he’s doing in in the order he finds the most interesting. I think it started with a copy of the Gargoyle source code, but that some original work has been done since then.

Right now he seems to be focused on Oo-Topos (and possibly the other Comprehend adventures), but the game doesn’t start for me so I don’t know how far ahead he is.

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I guess the Level 9 interpreter is fine. The problem is Gargoyle, which uses the file extension to decide which interpeter to use. I just tried with a level 9 .dat-file. Gargoyle said “not an adventure data file”. I changed the file extension to .l9 and it worked.

I totally forgot that the early single-load games contained graphics. But the tape versions of the later games (such as Ingrid’s Back) did not include graphics, only the disk versions, which is why I doubt the graphics of the later games is contained in a .sna-file.

I liked them in the later games. Some good examples:
Picture from Ingrid’s Back
Picture from Scapeghost

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