Frederik Pohl's Gateway

Moby ID: 317
DOS Specs

Description official descriptions

When humans finally managed to colonize the planet Venus, they discovered a gigantic system of artificial underground tunnels there. It is assumed that a highly advanced alien race known as Heechee has constructed those tunnels thousands of years ago. Eventually, an abandoned, yet fully functional Heechee spaceship is discovered. One of the explorers boards it, which leads humanity towards the discovery of a space station with many similar ships - all with coordinates of unknown planets already punched in. This station becomes known as the Gateway, being humanity's only connecting point to the rest of the universe.

Since traveling to the potentially dangerous destinations involves a great deal of risk, only some particularly courageous (or perhaps reckless) adventurers, called "prospectors", volunteered to go on these journeys. The protagonist of the game is one of those prospectors, having won the membership alongside a small sum of money and a one-way ticket to the Gateway. Eventually, he discovers an ancient device that contain a warning against a mysterious alien species known as Assassins - and the prospector is entrusted with the task of protecting the humans from that threat.

Gateway is a text adventure with graphics, based on the Heechee universe books by Frederik Pohl. It is identical in interface and general concept to Legend's other text-driven adventures (such as the Spellcasting series): the player may opt for text-only input as well as selecting verbs from a list. Clicking on objects or characters within the graphical representation of the location provides a text description. Puzzles are mostly inventory-based, though there are logic-related tasks as well. The player character explores various planets during the course of the journey. In a few cases, it is possible to die in the game.

Groups +



Credits (DOS version)

27 People · View all

Design & Implementation of Part I
Design & Implementation of Part II
Design & Implementation of Part III
Additional Design
Computer Illustration
System Architecture
System Programming
Special Cinematic Effects & Animation
[ full credits ]



Average score: 81% (based on 11 ratings)


Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 32 ratings with 5 reviews)

Ahh! The good 'ol days!

The Good
Great plot, unprecidented atmosphere (even today), splendidly programmed and masterly fullfilled.

The Bad
A bit short, forehaps?

The Bottom Line
Gateway is a worthy game based on one of the most original science fiction novels of all time; "gateway" by Frederik Pohl (which, by the way, is one of my favourite books, so I guess this review is a bit biased).

Having its own independent plot, "Gateway: The Game" still re-creates the novel's famous atmosphere, and then some: following with a splendid and faithful re-creation of the Gateway facility and the Heechee starships (though I would like the other features of the book: traveling with companions for example, the turn-around as the ship slows down in Tau-space and so on - but hey, this game was made in the early 90's).

Gateway was one of the last real quality adventure games - a rare breed which, too me, seems to be dying in our day's. For present day computer companies have a lot to learn from these good old days; the days when making games was not just another way to make cash, but also when making the game itself involved the love from its creators.

Gateway, and its sequel, is one of those rare games we can truly call a work of art!

DOS · by Stargazer (99) · 2003

A magnificent space odyssey with unknown destination

The Good
Released in 1992, "Gateway" was Legend's first work based on a license, more specifically a cycle of novels by renowned science-fiction author Frederick Pohl. The title of the game refers to a space station located right in our solar system, circling the sun near the orbit of Venus. In the distant future, where this game takes place, Gateway Station is central to mankind's exploration of outer space, holding a great number of ships, which are capable of faster-than-light-travel.

Legend put much effort into working out the details of the setting. There's lots of written material, that provides further insight into the game world, all of it worth reading. The in-game news channel, where you can read about many events from earth and other places in the galaxy, is only one example for this. Important to know is, that humanity only discovered Gateway Station. The original builders were the so-called Hechee, a mysterious, technologically advanced alien race, that vanished without a trace. Although mankind is making use of the Hechee technology, they are still not able to fully understand it. As a result, faster-than-light-travel is a risky business, as the guidance system of the Hechee ships are beyond human understanding and the destination of a ship remains a great enigma. Still, there are more than enough volunteers, called Gateway Prospectors, who are willing to take the risk. They go on journeys with unknown destinations, hoping to discover alien races, new technology or anything else, which may bring them wealth and fame. As you may have guessed, you start the game as a newly arrived Prospector. In the course of the game, you will be the first human to visit many strange planets. Your discoveries are going to be rather unpleasant ones, however.

Part of what makes Legend games unique is their flexibility, that gratifies hardcore interactive fiction players as well as people more used to modern point and click adventures. What I mean is, the game offers different ways to communicate with it, either by using your keyboard or your mouse. For the latter method, there's one menu bar with verbs and another one with nouns, both of which can be easily combined to what you can call sentences. After clicking on a verb, there are also prepositions popping up, making more complex commands possible (and often necessary). What still makes the handling somewhat more cumbersome than for example LucasArts famous SCUMM system is the sheer mass of verbs, that's placed at your disposal. While the most common ones are conveniently placed at the top of the list, you have to scroll down quite a bit to reach some of the less often used ones. Remember, however, that if you're a fast typist, like me, you can always switch to entering the commands via keyboard. And the upside of things is, that you can and must elaborate your thoughts more clearly, when talking to the game. It also enables experimentation to a wide degree, meaning you can try out countless things, which aren't even related to the puzzles, but nevertheless bring up many unique responses.

Even though it plays quite differently from what we're used to nowadays, games by Legend are still very accessible. They manage to transfer the qualities of classic IF games to the 90s, modernizing a lot, but never losing sight of what made them great in the first place. The presentation is a good example therefor: like some later games by Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls and other IF manufacturers of the 80s, "Gateway" also features graphics: the environments are illustrated by slightly animated pictures, showing everything from a first person view. What really brings the world to life, however, still is the pristine power of words: detailed and well-written text descriptions. Purists may even turn the graphics off and experience the world through nothing but mere words and imagination, but in my opinion the illustrations are too nice to really consider this.

When you travel through the galaxy in "Gateway", you'll visit many different planets, each of them with individual landscapes and individual challenges. Kaduna III, for example, is a quite perilous place, where both flora and fauna are exceptionally aggressive. On this planet you better save often, since you can die quite easily here. Opposed to this is the peaceful scenery of Psi Dorma V, centered around an idyllic pond, that looks as if it was imported from a fairy tale. As the atmosphere is very dreamlike, it fits the setting very well, that you constantly feel sleepy on this planet. Be prepared for some cryptic dream sequences, that actually provide hints for some puzzles, once you decipher their meaning.

Speaking about puzzles, this is easily the most wonderful part of the game. I really think, that every adventure game designer should intensely study the works of Legend. Here you can see, how good puzzles are made. Not only is each and every one intelligent and reasonable, but also perfectly integrated into the plot, never feeling forced or artificial, always appearing as a natural part of the narrative. Moreover, every new planet seems to be a little more difficult than the previous one. If you visit them in the order suggested by your ship's control system, you will experience a notable learning curve. Another cool feature: many puzzles can actually be solved in multiple ways. This is especially the case on Nemira III, one of the coolest parts of the game.

I could easily go on a while like this, talking about how great the puzzles are, but I think you should discover the details yourself. The last thing I'd like to add is, that "Gateway" actually is one of those games, which have an internal clock. With every move you make, one minute passes in the game world. This means among other things, that you have to sleep from time to time, since the story actually spans several days. And when a character tells you to meet him in the Blue Hell Bar at ten o'clock, you better arrive on time. Of course, you can always leap forward in time by using the "wait" command. This kind of an internal clock is another feature taken from classical interactive fiction games and I always enjoy it.

The Bad
Well, I would have preferred multiple choice conversations instead of the system that's employed here, which is still similar to Infocom games. Basically you have to form commands like "ask character X about topic Y". The only improvement over older text adventures is, that you can do this via mouse. The game will show a list of possible topics as soon as you have specified the character, you want to talk to. Later games by Legend implemented multiple choice dialogues, which is in my opinion the better technique. The sequel to this game, "Gateway 2: Homeworld", already had it, by the way.

Otherwise, my only criticism concerns the game's MIDI soundtrack, which is at best mediocre and sometimes even slightly annoying. Actually the music was always one of the weaker points in Legend games. While LucasArts and Sierra already had excellent composers working for them, Legend was clearly a little behind the times in that regard.

The Bottom Line
Despite the criticisms expressed above, "Gateway" is an amazing adventure in the truest sense of the word, containing an epic voyage, diverse planets, stunning discoveries, good and evil, artificial intelligences, virtual realities, humans, aliens and nothing less than the saving of mankind as your ultimate goal. One of the most delightful and entertaining games Legend ever produced, "Gateway" has hardly lost anything of its charm in all these years.

DOS · by micnictic (387) · 2009

One of Legend's best adventures

The Good
Great plot unfolds as you play, self-contained world/puzzles, variety of different worlds, occasionally multiple solutions to puzzles, engaging puzzles, adequate music, great parser (often allowing humourous returns).

The Bad
Graphics so/so. One nasty bug (which only intermittently comes up) which prevents completion of the game.

The Bottom Line
Definitely among my favourite IF titles, Gateway is based upon Frederik Pohl's universe, but has its own storyline. As a prospector seeking fame and fortune, you are prepared to risk your life unravelling the mysteries of a mysterious alien space station, and perhaps the biggest mystery of all: Who built it? This was the first Legend game I ever played, and one I revisit quite regularly, and mainly for one reason: the atmosphere. Gateway creates the sense of immersion expertly, and really represents the genre of "Interactive Fiction". Puzzles are sometimes devious, although I completed the game without cheating. There are many asides not related to the plot at all that certainly add atmosphere and backstory - for example, reading the news. The parser is one best I have ever encountered, with the option of typing, using the graphical window, or even a versatile menu system. The graphics are dated, although this doesn't hold a major problem - it is a text-based game at heart. The music complements the atmosphere despite its simplicity. A definite plus for me is the humourous responses possible from many actions. Try to "kiss" or "rub" everyone you meet, for example. If you enjoy adventure and puzzle games, or even just a great story, Gateway is definitely recommended.

DOS · by Shane Cornall (6) · 2006

[ View all 5 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
RIP Frederik Pohl Pseudo_Intellectual (65481) Sep 3rd, 2013



Much of the art in this game (and on the cover) are by Chris Moore. He's got an art book called JourneyMan: The Art of Chris Moore out that includes a few of the illustrations used in the game.


The game is (surprise) based on the Heechee trilogy series of books written by Frederik Pohl, first of which is accordingly titled Gateway.

Freeware release

For a time, the game was available as freeware from Legend's website.


The Heechee numbers used in the game are the same that are used by the Predator in the movie by the same name.


  • Games Magazine
    • 1992 - included in the "Top 100 Games of the Year" ranking

Information also contributed by Indra was here, KnockStump and Timo Takalo

Related Games

Released 1985 on Atari ST, 1986 on Macintosh
Released 2006 on Browser
Infinite Gateway
Released 2017 on Windows
Gateway 2000
Released 1995 on Windows 3.x
Gateway to Apshai
Released 1983 on Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, ColecoVision
Vortex: The Gateway
Released 2016 on Windows
The Gateway Trilogy
Released 2020 on Macintosh, Windows
Gateway II: Homeworld
Released 1993 on DOS
Close Combat: Gateway to Caen
Released 2014 on Windows

Related Sites +

  • Fan Page
    Contains information about Gateway, covers, credits and a walkthrough

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by RmM.

Windows added by Xoleras.

Additional contributors: Terok Nor, Jeanne, Patrick Bregger.

Game added October 22nd, 1999. Last modified August 29th, 2023.