The game you are playing is a work of Interactive Fiction. In interactive fiction you play the main character of a story. You type commands which determine the actions of the character and the flow of the plot. Some IF games include graphics, but most do not: the imagery is provided courtesy of your imagination. On the other hand, there's a wide range of action available: whereas in other games you may be restricted to shooting, movement, or searching items you can click on with a mouse, IF allows you a wide range of verbs.
The > sign is where the game says, 'Okay, what do you want to do now?' You may respond by typing an instruction -- usually an imperative verb, possibly followed by prepositions and objects. So, for instance, LOOK, LOOK AT FISH, TAKE FISH.
The first thing you want to do when starting a game is acquaint yourself with your surroundings and get a sense of your goal. To this end, you should read the introductory text carefully. Sometimes it contains clues. You will also want to look at the room you are in. Notice where the exits from the room are, and what objects are described here. If any of these seem interesting, you may want to EXAMINE them.
You might also want to examine yourself (EXAMINE ME) to see whether the author has left you any clues about your character. TAKE INVENTORY will tell you what you're carrying, as well.
Once you've gotten your bearings, you may want to explore. Move from room to room, and check out every location available.
At any given time, you are in a specific location, or room. When you go into a room, the game will print a description of what you can see there. This description will contain two vital kinds of information: things in the room you can interact with or take, and a list of exits, or ways out. If you want to see the description again, you may just type LOOK.
When you want to leave a location and go to another one, you may communicate this to the game using compass directions: eg, GO NORTH. For simplicity's sake, you are allowed to omit the word GO, and to abbreviate the compass directions. So you may use NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST, NORTHEAST, SOUTHEAST, NORTHWEST, SOUTHWEST, UP, and DOWN, or in short form N, S, E, W, NE, SE, NW, SW, U, and D.
In some locations, IN and OUT will also be useful.
Throughout the game there will be assorted objects that you can do things with. Most importantly, you may TAKE or GET items, and (when you are tired of them) DROP them again. INVENTORY (abbreviated I) will list the items you are currently holding.
There are usually assorted things you may do with these objects. OPEN, CLOSE, WEAR, EAT, LOCK, and UNLOCK are especially common.
Occasionally, you will find that the game does not recognize the name of an object even though it has been described as being in the room with you. If this is the case, the object is just there for scenery, and you may assume that you do not need to interact with it.
There are a few simple commands for controlling the game itself. These are:
Download the HTML TADS player's kit (needed to play the game offline)