Game Review: Suspect (1984, Infocom)


The time is Halloween, circa 1984.  You are a newspaper reporter who has been invited to the annual Halloween costume party that is being thrown by your old friend, Veronica Ashcroft-Wellman.  You show up, eager to find a story.  You are dressed as a cowboy, complete with a lariat and a gun belt.  Shortly after you arrive, Veronica goes to her office.  Not long afterwards, Veronica is discovered dead.  Around her neck is your lariat.  Lying near her body is a bullet from your gun belt.  You’re not only a suspect.  In the eyes of the police, you’re the only suspect!

Infocom’s third and final murder mystery followed Deadline and The Witness.  Just like those two games, you have a limited amount of time to explore your surroundings, find clues, and talk to the other people at the party.  Run out of time and you’ll once again be approached by the trusted Sgt. Duffy.  This time, though, Duffy is coming to take you to jail.  The stakes have never been higher and the mystery has never been more complex.  Not only is the house bigger than the houses in Deadline and The Witness but there’s also many more suspects, all of whom are in costume and all of whom move around at their own free will.  Clues are not difficult to find but it can be a struggle to not only figure out how they link together but to also the convince the investigative detective that they are important.  This is not an easy game to win.  I played it several times and failed to solve the mystery every time.  Finally, I did what anyone would have done in my situation.

I cheated.

I found a walk-through for the game and, following it step-by-step, I solved the murder and cleared my name.  If I hadn’t used that walk-through, I probably never would have solved the case.  This is not a game for casual text adventurers.  This is for people who want to totally immerse themselves in a world and then spend hours working out a plan of attack.

It’s also an elegantly written game, with its fair share of Easter eggs for experienced gamers.  Just count the number of guests who have come to the party costumed like characters from other Inform games.  This game is tough but rewarding, even if you do end up having to cheat to win.

Suspect can be played at the Internet Archive.

Game Review: Aisle (1999, Sam Barlow)


Image by Sam Barlow

Aisle is perhaps the greatest work of Interactive Fiction ever created.

It’s Thursday night.  You’ve had a long day and you’re ready to go home.  You just have to pick up some gnocchi from the grocery store.  You are standing on the correct aisle, with your cart.  There is a woman standing a few feet away from you, with a grocery cart of her own.  What will you do?

Choose your action carefully because this is only a one-move game.  There are hundreds of commands that you can choose from but each command will lead to a different conclusion.

Some commands will lead to happy ending.  Some commands will lead to a sad ending.  Some will trigger old memories.  Sometimes, the memories will be happy and romantic.  Sometimes, they will involve death, insanity, and horror.  Sometimes, you are a good man and sometimes you are a bad man.  Sometimes, you are healthy and sometimes you are sick.  It all depends on which command you chose.

Because each command leads to different details of the story being revealed, Aisle is a game that rewards frequent replays.  Deciding to laugh in one game led to me typing “Remember Clare” in the next game.  Even simply choosing to leave the aisle can lead to a variety of different endings, depending on how you decide to leave.  This game can be a romantic or it can be horrific.  It all depends on which word, out of the hundreds that the game is prompted to respond to, you type in at the prompt.

Aisle can be downloaded from here.

 

Game Review: 9:05 (2000, Adam Cadre)


(Image by Adam Cadre)

I’m still working on my review of Heavy Rain so, while I do that, why not play Adam Cadre’s 9:05?

9:05 is a text adventures which opens with a scenario that should be familiar to anyone who has previously played an interactive fiction game.  It’s the morning.  The phone is ringing.  The person on the other line says that you have overslept and the boss is asking why you’re not at work.  Now, you have to get out of bed and quickly do what you need to do to be able to leave the house.  It’s a scene that has served as the premise of many IF games but 9:05 adds a macabre twist at the end, one that makes the game worth replaying.

9:05 is a short game and most of the puzzles are deliberately simple to solve.  It should not take any longer than 5 to 10 minutes to play the game for the first time.  If you’ve never played an IF game before, 9:05 is a good one to start with.  If you’re a veteran player, you will enjoy the way that 9:05 plays with and subverts the usual IF conventions.

The game can be downloaded from here.

Game Review: Dwelling: Insomnia (2014, 0vr)


This piece of interactive fiction is a strange game.  I’m not quite sure how else to describe it.

The premise is a simple one.  Each night, you try to sleep.  Every night, you are awoken by someone or something pounding on your door.  Every.  Single.  Night.  In Choose Your Own Adventure fashion, you are given a set of options.  Do you try to go back to sleep or do you go to the door?  Do you look through the peephole or do you return to bed?  Open the door or hide?  Left or right?  At every step, you’re given the option to explore further or to try to return to safety.  The problem is that if you make the wrong choice, you might make it back to your apartment in one piece but you’re still going to be woken up the following night.  Make the right choice and something bad might still happen to you but at least you’ll no longer be woken up in the middle of the night.

What makes the game so strange is the way that it constantly loops back to the beginning, until you finally make the “right” choices.  The only thing that changes is the number that lets you know how many nights you’ve been woken up by someone pounding at your door.  Is someone really knocking at your door or are you stuck in some sort of time loop or permanent dream state? Having played the game and gotten to the end, I am still not sure.

The game itself is well-written and vivid enough to justify its placement in the horror genre.  It can be played here.

Game Review: Eat Me (2017, Chandler Groover)


Copyright Chandler Groover

Eat Me is both one of the strangest and most delicious text adventures that I’ve ever played.

You are a very hungry child being held captive in a dungeon.  Fortunately, your manacles are very tasty.  For that matter, so is the door to your cell, probably because it’s made out of a cheesecake.  If you want to go for a more minimal meal, the skeleton of the prisoner who was in the cell before you is also available for snacking.  In fact, as the player soon discovers, everything in this dungeon can be eaten.  That includes the doors, the instruments of torture, the bodies of the other prisoners, and the guards.  If you’re going to escape you better start eating.

There are a few things that stand out about Eat Me.  One thing is that the solution to almost every problem is to eat.  Some things are easier to eat than others but eating is always the safest way to go.  The other is that it’s a very well-written game, with very tasty descriptions of each room, each object, each person, and, of course, each bite.  Some of the descriptions are downright tasty while others are not something you should read on a full stomach.  None of the NPCs in the game really want to be eaten but, in the end, it’s either you or them.

For those ready to start their meal, Eat Me can played online here.

Game Review: Suspended: A Cryogenic Nightmare (1983, Infocom)


Welcome to the future.  On the planet of Contra, an Earth colony is run by a self-maintaining system that is housed in a gigantic facility.  The system is responsible for everything from transportation to keeping the weather hospitable for the colonists.  You are at the center of the system.  You have been placed in suspended animation so that your mind can serve as the Central Mentality that keeps the entire system from falling apart.  It’s a job that’s meant to last for 500 years but the rewards are great.

Unfortunately, there’s been an earthquake and the complex has been damaged.  Though you are still in suspended animation, you know that you have to repair the complex before the angry colonists shut you down.  Since you’re in stasis, you have to direct five robots to do all the work.  Each robot has its own “personality” and unique way of describing each room in the complex.  You’ll have to figure out how to get the robots to work together before all of you get shut down permanently.

Suspended is one of the most difficult text adventures that I’ve ever played.  Since each robot can only tell you certain things about each room in the facility, the game often depends on getting the right robots in the right room at the right time.  If you can pull that off, the damage itself is often easy to fix but it’s not always easy to guess which robot will be useful in which situation.  In typical Infocom fashion, there’s also a time limit to the game and making too many mistakes can make it impossible to get things done before time expires.  For most players, winning this game will come down to trial-and-error and frequent saving.  The game is so complex, though, that you feel really damn good when you actually manage to figure it all out.

Suspended can be found at various archival and abandonware sites online, including here.

Game Review: 1181 (2016, Grim and notgojira)


1181 is one of the best horror Interactive Fiction games out there right now.

It starts out simply.  You are a volunteer at a SETI lab, working the night shift.  It can be monotonous work.  Some of your colleagues seem to be struggling to adjust to the sterile nature of the place.  Not even you are sure what is really going on at the lab.  One night, something strange happens.  The lights go out.  A voice announces that you are on lock down.  And something is coming up the stairs and heading straight for you.

The is a well-written and well-programmed Twine game that makes good use of visuals.  Like most Twine games, it does run the risk of getting repetitive.  Be careful about accidentally clicking the same word that you clicked before unless you really want to go through the same descriptive passage two times in a row.  When played straight through, it’s a challenging and thought-provoking work of interactive fiction.  It comes with multiple endings, some of which are good and some of which are definitely not.

It can be played by clicking here.