Review: Deep Space Drifter

(A very early (1990) TADS game by Michael J. Roberts, the creator of TADS. Good as a show-off for TADS’ capabilities perhaps, but less good as a game. Miles below the magnificent Return to Ditch Day the same author would later write.
Deep Space Drifter - Details (

The Maze Walker-Througher

Phew! Someone heard you! When adrift in interplanetary space, chances are slim that anybody would hear your distress signal in time. You received the coordinates, you probably have just enough juice left in the fuel cell. So yeah, very fortunate to be underway to that big… distant… abandoned… space station that is now being pelted with debris… and fired upon by a giant laser from the planet’s surface…

Hmmm… Maybe not that fortunate, but you either dock here or die in your broken down spacecraft.

The space station in Deep Space Drifter is a compact and effective puzzle-space. A small number of rooms to explore, each with a clear function. Enough objects lying around to get a notion of the backstory and aid in some nifty puzzles. And there’s a robot! The environment is sparsely but adequately described, and every few turns the narrative voice informs you that the station is shaking around you as a result of an explosion or an impact. While these messages help with the sense of being in a larger and quite vulnerable place, they do become repetitive to the point where you just skip them.

I dropped my inventory a lot in this part of the game. And not because I typed DROP a lot. I didn’t methodically investigate, so I don’t really know if it’s a bug, if you lose your inventory each time the station gets hit, or if there are an inordinate amount of actions that implicitly DROP ALL (SIT does this for sure), or a combination of all the above. What I do know is that I often arrived at my destination ready to tackle an obstacle only to find that I was empty-handed. That involved some backtracking.

Since the space station is abandoned and empty, just refueling your own spaceship won’t work. So, in the next part, you go down to the planetary surface. The game from this point on is very uneven.
I loved zipping around the underground tunnels in the shuttlecar (yes…) There are two very satisfying puzzles. There are also two very large mazes. And that’s a pity. I thought both mazes had a really good concept that was drawn out far into tedium and boredom. I frankly didn’t care anymore and went with the walkthrough. The concept could have been kept intact, and the mazes shrunk down into 10 room navigational/timing puzzles that would have been more engaging.

Some good puzzles, some good fun, but ultimately not enough.


I remember playing this in the early 90s! I do not believe I finished it because of the mazes.


I really thought the first maze was very cool. You have to find your way through tunnels that are periodically flooded. This means that you have to make sure you’ve got shelter UP every 6 or 7 turns and then find your way back to the main path after the flood passes. This idea in itself appealed to me. Doing this 20 times in a row on a path that I wasn’t even sure would lead me out because it could be one of three or four possible dead ends? Not so much.