MacVenture (video game engine)

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The MacVenture logo.

The MacVenture video game engine is the video game engine used in the MacVenture series of puzzle adventure games, originally developed by ICOM Simulations, particularly by programmer Darin Adler. Each game was first released on the Macintosh, and then ported to various other platforms. Most of the ports were made in-house by ICOM, so they most likely ported their engine to work with the various platforms. However, the ports to the NES, Game Boy Color, and PC-9801 were made by Japanese companies who most likely remade the engine from scratch.


Title Macintosh Amiga Atari ST Commodore 64 MS-DOS Apple IIgs NES PC-9801 Windows 3 Game Boy Color
Déjà Vu: A Nightmare Comes True!! 1985 1987 1987 1987 1987 1988 1988-11-22 1991-07-21 1991
Uninvited 1986 1987 1987 1988 1988 1988 1989-09-09 1993
Shadowgate 1987 1987 1987 1988 1989 1989-03-31 1993 1999-03-31
Déjà Vu II: Lost In Las Vegas 1988 1989 1989 1990 1989 1991-09-05
Déjà Vu I & II: The Casebooks of Ace Harding 1992 1992 1999


Because the engine was built on the Macintosh, it uses the same multi-window environment with a simple mouse-driven point-and-click interface as the OS. The windows include:

  • The display of the room you're currently in.
  • The game's action buttons.
  • A text box which is used to display the description of the room and various other events that need to be related to the player.
  • Your inventory, which shows graphical representations of each item you're carrying.
  • The exits relative to their location in the room.
  • A "self" box which allows you to use actions or items on yourself.

All sorts of various actions can be made using this interface. For example, to pick up an item, the player need only drag the item from the display window and drop it into the inventory window. To move from one room to another, the player can click on "Go" in the action box, then click on a visible exit in the room, or on one of the exits in the Exit window. Opening a container in the game would open a new window, and items could be dragged-and-dropped out of or into them as needed. Closing the container was as simple as closing the window. Several of the windows can be resized so the player can view more information at a glance.

Though the first-person graphical display was made popular in 1980 with Sierra's Adventure Development Language, the mouse-driven interface was very new to the adventure puzzle genre. Gone is the obnoxious text parser where you had to guess a precise wording, and there is no need to maneuver a character around dangerous terrain like in third-person adventure games. Many games ended up copying this interface style.

Different ports altered the interface slightly. For example, in the NES ports, the ability to drag items from the display view into your inventory was replaced with a "Take" action.


Each game was first developed on the Macintosh back when the platform still ran entirely black and white, so all of the original art for each game lacked color. However, the primary artist for each of the games, David Marsh, made good use of dithering for attractive art. Using 1-bit color also helped make the game much more compressible, so the game took fewer disks to distribute.

The Macintosh featured a larger screen resolution than most of its competitors at the time, so the screen had a lot of real-estate for all the windows as well as a 256x171 display window for the room. All of the other ports redrew the graphics in color, but had to decrease the resolution to fit everything on the screen.

Platform Screen Resolution Room Resolution Total Pixels Color Depth
Macintosh 512x342 256x171 43,776 1-bit (2 colors)
Amiga 320x200 158x100 15,800 4-bit (16 colors)
Atari ST 320x200 160x100 16,000 4-bit (16 colors)
Commodore 64 320x200 96x120 11,520 4-bit (16 colors)
MS-DOS (CGA) 320x200 160x100 16,000 2-bit (4 colors)
Apple IIgs 320x200 160x100 16,000 8-bit (256 colors)
NES 256x224 112x112 12,544 4-bit (16 colors)
MS-DOS (VGA) 320x200 160x100 16,000 8-bit (256 colors)
PC-9801 640x400 160x100 16,000 4-bit (16 colors)
Windows 3 Varies 320x200 64,000 8-bit (256 colors)
Game Boy Color 160x144 112x112 12,544 5-bit (32 colors)


When the engine was developed for the Macintosh, audio wasn't a major concern in home computer games. The MacVenture titles contain the occasional digital sound effect, but lack music entirely. This convention was continued for the ports to other home computers. It wasn't until the games were ported to the NES and Game Boy Color, where music was expected, that it was added to the games by composer Hiroyuki Masuno.



  • The mouse-driven interface is really intuitive and easy to work with.
  • The game has an internal assembly-like script which made it easier to port to other platforms.


  • Black and white graphics, even for 1985, were pretty awful, so it's good that the later ports reworked the art with colors.
  • The original engine has very limited audio support. From the file format, it appears like it was tacked on, and not part of the original concept. The only ports that feature music are the ones not coded by ICOM.


  • Nothing.






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