Wealthy industrialist Marshall Robner has been found dead in his study, with the door locked. The autopsy says that he died of an overdose of antidepressants. Was it suicide or was it murder? And, if it was murder, who was responsible? That’s the mystery that you’ve been given a limited amount of time to solve.
In Deadline, you play a police detective who has 12 hours to investigate and solve the mystery behind the death of Marshall Robson. The game starts with your arrival at the sprawling Robner estate. Do you immediately start interviewing the suspects or do you look for clues around the grounds? Do you attend the reading of Robner’s will or do you search the study where he died? It’s up to you but just remember that the clock is ticking!
Written by Marc Blank and released by Infocom, Deadline is a classic text adventure from 1982. From the minute, you enter the Robner estate, you are interacting with suspects like Robner’s adulterous wife and his irresponsible son. Their actions and their responses to your questions are determined by how you go about investigating the crime and one of the joys of the game is seeing how people react to different approaches. (When it comes time to read Robner’s will, one character will either show up early or late, depending on whether or not you’ve shown them a key piece of evidence.)
The mystery is complex. I played through the game a handful of times before realizing that one thing that I felt was very important was actually just a red herring. The mystery can be solved but you’re going to have to play the game several times and experiment with being in different places at different times and showing different clues to different suspects. Or you can just type “Deadline Walk-Through” into Google like I eventually did.
Like many other good games from the past, Deadline can currently be found in the Internet Archive.