A-J's Quest

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A-J's Quest (v4.0)

Release type: Shareware
Release date: 1992 (original release)
Levels: 6 (in final version)
Author: A-J Games
Registration bonus: A-J 2
Registration price: $30
Related games: The Return of A-J, Zoom the Super Bear, A-J 3, Fluffy Ralph, Octolris

A-J's Quest is a product of four years of planning, and another three years of refinement.

When I was young, I expected to be a cartoonist. From 1988 to 1992 I wrote and drew a spectacularly unfunny comic strip called Andrew-Jonathan. Although there was no particular story or humor, there were plenty of characters – all with complex relationships, backgrounds, and personality quirks. The strip was also an outlet for themes absorbed from adventure movies, Tintin and Uncle Scrooge comics, and personal experiences.

1988 was also the year that I began to design my first game, in the margins of homework assignments and in the back pages of notebooks. The game started as a clone of Konami’s The Goonies II — attic setting, inventory, and all. As the ideas developed and took on their own life, they absorbed elements of Hudson’s Adventure Island, Contra, and Super Mario Bros. 2. The cast of Andrew-Jonathan (in particular the title character) was also absorbed into the concept, almost from the start.


This imaginary game began to trickle back into both the text and the metatext of the strip. The Crabby monsters (likely a subconscious influence from Super Mario 2) started to appear. The strip absorbed some of the game’s scenario, and the sort of violent 8-bit sense of cause and effect. Most curiously, whenever A-J’s friend Freeport was shown playing a videogame, it was a variant of that game –based on the strip and featuring those characters.

Exploring the warehouse in A-J's Quest

In a way, the strip’s four-year run was a build-up to and replacement for the game that I dreamed of playing. When in 1992 RSD’s Game-Maker presented itself, my attention shifted entirely from the comic.

My first task on installing the software was to implement the game as directly as possible from my extensive plans. The result, I called A-J’s Quest. Barring the engine’s limitations and some improvisation along the way, the result was fairly close to my intentions – if a bit rough.

The biggest diversions came from the limits on idle states, the odd key-mapping restrictions, the engine’s strange treatment of counters, and the lack of an on-screen display for hit points, items, and whatnot. I also envisioned the ability to equip and unequip weapons, as in many NES adventure games. None of these were big problems; I just adapted, and found more pragmatic implementations.

Soon after completing the game, I responded to a note in the Game-Maker box and mailed a copy off to Recreational Software Designs. They quickly responded with an unexpected call, then a long correspondence. They sent me the beta to an upcoming release of Game-Maker – one with provisional Sound Blaster support. In turn I went out and bought a sound card.

Freeport Bruin plays an early concept for A-J's Quest

The adjusted version of A-J’s Quest, now labeled 2.0, found its way into a demo for the 2.0 release of Game-Maker. It was also a feature of the short-lived Game-Maker Exchange program, where RSD compiled peer games onto floppies and sent them out to contributing users.


A couple of years later, after the conclusion of development on A-J 3, I incorporated the sprite from A-J 2 into the first game. I also adjusted most of the background tiles and some of the layout, added another level, and smoothed over some awkward concepts. After all the adjustments, the game wound up at version 4.0.

Both the 4.0 and the 2.0 releases achieved fairly wide distribution. The others, not so much. Whatever its form, for all its quirks and compromises, A-J’s Quest is probably one of the most familiar and influential games to come out of RSD’s tool set.

Many background and monster elements, particularly the Crabby, have since made their way into subsequent games.

- [Azurelore Korrigan]
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(Overview) A-J's Quest The Return of A-J
A-J's Quest series


Level 1 was designed long before Game-Maker came about.

A-J Bear was late for school, so he decided to take a shortcut through the abandoned Milton lot. He was in too much of a hurry, apparently, as he tripped over a large rock, sitting right in his path.

A-J tumbled head over heels and landed with a loud thump against the warehouse next door. Hedge followed him over and nuzzled his ear.

He was stunned, and before he was able to reorient himself enough to get up, A-J heard voices coming from inside.

While the window above him was boarded up, it was done so sloppily and A-J could easily peek between the boards.

Inside was an army of giant pretzels. Two chickens were standing by the window, talking.

"What do we need all of these for? *Bwaack!* Ostro doesn't need any dough boys -- they'll just screw up our whole operation."

"*Bwuk!* Look at it this way: pretzels are expendable. Would you rather have a pretzel blasted to smithereens for you or get yourself killed?"

"Good point. *Buk!*"

Ostro? They can't mean evil Prince Ostro, who escaped from Bearton Clink last year? Before A-J Was able to debate the issue any further, he heard Hedge making noises and felt a large crack on his skull. The world went dark.

A-J awoke inside a dark warehouse. It didn't look like the one the pretzels had been in. Hedge was there with him.

It would be pointless to list all of the thoughts that whizzed through A-J's head then, but in a nutshell he decided that he had to stop Ostro, however possible.


Level 5 is new to later versions of A-J's Quest
7 - 8 - 9: Jump
4 -   - 6: Walk
  - 2 -  : Duck

P: Pick up [Space]: Attack



You automatically use the most powerful weapon you have. They are, in order of power (except for Hedge):

Levels 2 and 3 have flipped around in different game versions.
  • Flying Disc
  • Slingshot
  • Wooden Sword
  • Yo-Yo
  • Hedge

Hedge is very powerful and is always with you. Learn how to use him.


  • Disc Refill
  • Slingshot Refill
  • $1 Bill
  • 1 Crown
  • 1 HP
  • 1-Up

It takes three crowns to open a latch. After a latch is opened, you come to a store. In the store, you can buy things if you have enough cash. To leave the level, go to the wooden door.

The rogue's gallery of A-J's Quest


  • Pinky
  • Pretzel
  • Crabby
  • Leaf
  • Rock
  • Flaming Turnip
  • Dirt Clod
  • Bwuk
  • Prof. Shroom
  • Bat
  • Ostro


Graphics: Aderack
Sounds: Aderack
Idea: Aderack
Testing: M.O.S.H.
Engine: RSD

Alternate Versions[edit]


The game was upgraded several times between 1992-1995. There are many differences between the later, more well-distributed releases, and the early versions. Some changes -- differences in menus, animation, and background tiles; added cutscenes and intertitles -- are obvious. Other differences are subtler and more curious.

The level layouts and ordering would change. In early releases there are extended bonus stages between levels, and at the end of each level is a "boss" enemy encased harmlessly in ice. There are many curious design decisions that give the early releases a personality somewhat missing from the later, more polished ones.


Disk with Machine Nation, issue #149

Version 2.0 was distributed with a slideshow demo of RSD's Game-Maker 2.0; Version 4.0 distributed in the shareware directory on the Game-Maker 3.0 CD-ROM.

The game was also distributed to Game-Maker Exchange members on two occasions: first on a 3.5" floppy labeled "Shareware Disk #1" (October 10th 1993), then on a 3.5" floppy labeled "Gameware Disk #1" (December 30th, 1993).

Individually, A-J's Quest seems to have received commercial release on a diskmag, or a bonus floppy included with an unknown publication, accompanied with a space shooter known as Machine Nation.

During the early 1990s the game was available for download from GameLynk's Frontline BBS.

Also available on several shareware compilation CD-ROMs, including:

Archive history[edit]

A-J's Quest was retained as part of the archive from the game's inception.

Version 2.0 was later retrieved from a slideshow demo of Game-Maker 2.0 archived on cd.textfiles.com. In turn the origin of these files is the shovelware CD-ROM MegaCD-ROM #5, published in October 1994.


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