So, my experience in playing Phobos is atypical; I played in tame mode, and I just used a walkthrough, because I wasn't very interested in the game.
But the writing turned out to be quite good. The mishaps of my companion and the finale were some of the best things I've read in a while. This game ends up reading a lot like the meretzky-adams game Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Also similar to that game is the transportation syste, where you travel between disconnected worlds.
Even in tame mode, some dirty stuff sneaks through, but it is on the level of the movie Space Balls (e.g. a suggestive spaceship, a man or woman getting almost undressed against their will, etc.)
Using the walkthrough, the game seemed pretty hard. The copy protection in this game is achieved by having a horrible maze with horrible monsters, where you have to use two of the feeling to get through.
The game has the infamous t-removing machine, inspiration of future games such as Earl Grey and Counterfeit Monkey.
Overall, I'm not sure if I'll play it again. But I think meretzky does some of his best writing here (perhaps he was enthusiastic about the subject matter).
Seastalker was Oneida my least favorite Infocom games, but part of that is my own fault. The game is fairly simple, and I didn't need a walkthrough, until about halfway through the game I started some kind of timer and would die after 40 or 50 turns. It turned out that (Spoiler - click to show)there was some sort of black box I didn't fix that lead a monster to the base. So that made me lose interest, until I went through with a walkthrough.
The game comes with some hint cards that are missing some information. When the time comes in the game, the game itself will fill in the blanks in the hint cards.
There are some tricky parts to the game like using sonar to pilot a sub, and the endgame, but over all it was pretty fun.
Note: The GO TO command makes this game MUCH more enjoyable.
Suspect is an Infocom mystery game. It resembles Deadline more than Witness or Ballyhoo. You are at a party with a large crowd of people, and you are set up for the murder of the hostess.
This game features a large number of NPCs with independent actions. You have to figure out who committed the murder, and we, and who helped them.
Overall, it seemed difficult, but I just used a walkthrough after playing around a bit. I don't enjoy replaying long games over and over, (except for Adventure and Zork I, where you really just need to optimize your lantern use). The story was fun, and I enjoyed the feelies.
The game does give you clues on the actions you need to perform, usually by seeing something happen and saying to yourself "Oh! If I had done such and such EARLIER, I would have been fine!"
This game is by the author of Infidels, plus Jerry Wolper. To a greater extent than most Infocom games, this game is full of small, tiny choices that will keep you from winning much, much later.
The game at first is fairly straightforward. You are a diver on an island who discovers the existence of sunken treasure (in one version of the game, it's in the Titanic; in the other, it's in a pirate ship). You're given a sequence of instructions telling you to go to different places at different times, and you just have to follow them.
Eventually, you dive, and search the wreck, finding treasure.
So where can you go wrong? You can be carrying the wrong things around the wrong people, shutting you out of victory. I think you can have stuff stolen. You can buy the wrong equipment. You can guess the wrong wreck. You can neglect to do certain activities when everyone else is busy.
So this game must be replayed over and over, following the same directions each time.
I enjoyed the story. I ended up using eristic's walk through.
Border zone is stressful for me. Unlike most IF, you have to type very fast, as the clock keeps running and running. I had to type super fast on the iPad and I kept dying from typos, even using slow time and the walkthrough.
The story and puzzles are actually really fun. I enjoyed the game a lot, especially the first act (where you have to smuggle information out of a train) and the third act (where you are a double agent, and have to stop an assassination without people knowing you did it). The three acts can be started at any time, and each follows a different person.
Stressful, but rewarding.
Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy is co-written by Douglas Adams, and the strong prose shows this. The game is very imaginative and vibrant.
On the other hand, the puzzles are (I assume) by Steve Meretzky, who is one of my least favorite puzzle writers from Infocom. Sorcerer, though great, was my least favorite Enchanter game, and I get tired of Planetfall early on. So when I started this game, I was scared of any misstep sending me on a wild goose chase into an unsavable state.
So I just used a walkthrough and sailed through the game, enjoying the witty prose. I plan to go back and read more of the room descriptions and the actual guide. I often find that this approach works with very difficult or unfair games, because the second playthrough can be done without a walkthrough, allowing your memory to help you on some puzzles but still having fun with those you forgot.
The game has several puzzles that are frequently referenced in interactive fiction reviews and forums: the Babel-fish puzzle, and the tea. It may be worthwhile to play through with a walkthrough just to see these.
Note that Douglas Adams released this game for free when Activision went a long time without selling it. I don't know the current status of it, but he intended to freely distribute it at least once in the past. It is not available on Lost Treasures of Infocom for iPad, my usual go-to place for Infocom games.
Edit:I found the reason the game felt weaker to me in another review:
The room descriptions are in the feelies!
This explains why the game felt so lame. Random objects seemed to appear out of nowhere, and major rooms seemed to have no description at all. But the feelies seemed rich and interesting. I didn't realize that you were supposed to constantly refer to the feelies as you go.
I wonder if this was a way to make the game fit on a smaller disk with four variants.
This makes the game SO much better. Thanks for the tip, Victor!
For those who have access to the feelies (such as in the iPad Lost Treasures of Infocom app), the backstories in the manual for this game were very enjoyable, much more than the game itself. I thought I should throw that out there.
This game is similar to An Act of Murder, where there are numerous possible suspects, multiple clues, and a variety of possible variations determined at the beginning of the game.
Both games were weaker, I feel, because they had to be adapted to work with multiple endings. For instance, in Moonmist, you find 'clues' that are just called 'clues'. Not scraps of paper, shreds of fabric, cards, etc. Just 'clues'. I assume they are different in each of the variations when you examine them (I only felt like playing through the 'green' version).
Moonmist is a kids game. This makes the game a bit harder at time; for instance, the room descriptions and directions get annoying at times.
The game is on a tight schedule, so you may have to restart before some characters leave.
The game has a cute idea where it calls you by your first name, and also by your title and last name when appropriate.
You play in a large castle with seven guests, investigating a supposed ghost that haunts the castle. Several mysterious deaths have occurred recently, and your friend is marrying the new Lord of the castle.
I don't recommend this game. I do recommend the manual.
I loved Infidel. You play a jerk adventurer who has alienated everyone he knows as he searches for a hidden pyramid. The game has a long intro sequence in your camp before reaching the actual pyramid.
The game is very Indiana-Jonesish, although there are no NPC's. Every few rooms, there is a death trap waiting to destroy you. Hieroglyphics on the wall tell you how to avoid some traps, but they sometimes describe things far away, and you have to puzzle out the meaning of the hieroglyphics yourself.
This game is advanced, but I got much further between hints than I usually do in an Infocom game (although Emily Short mentioned two guess-the-verb problems in her review that I found helpful before I even played the game).
This game has a great flavor and style, similar to Ballyhoo's dark circus theme. I strongly recommend this game.
Hollywood Hijinx is long and complex, more so than Zork. You play the nephew of a famous movie producing couple who have died and left you their fortune, on the condition that you are smart enough to find all ten of their movie treasures.
The premise didn't really excite me, but as I read the feelies, I began to be more interested. Also, I had heard many people mention this as a favorite Infocom game. Later, during the game, I began to really get into it, especially with the (Spoiler - click to show)remote controlled model of the Atomic Chihuahua set in Tokyo.
The game is hard. I literally couldn't solve the first problem: getting into the house. I had to look up the invisiclues. The game in general was complex, and I honestly just explored the house once, then relied on the walkthrough to see the rest of the game.
Only a few puzzles seemed really unfair, especially the 'last' big puzzle. But the creativity of this game is outstanding. If I had been looking for a long game to play over a month, this would have been it.
Zork II incorporates my favorite puzzles from MIT Zork: the palantirs, the tea room, the round room, the robot, the volcano, the glacier room. The dragon (a callback to Adventure) was a fun challenge, and the two or three NPCs made the game quite fun. I enjoyed watching the wizard travel around zapping me.
I prefer Zork I's treasure drop off system, however. It was annoying having a huge pile of treasure, not knowing what to do with it.
I used a walkthrough on a few places (especially the oddly-angled room), because I wanted to see the whole game. Having completed MIT Zork before made some of the hardest puzzles trivial.
It's hard for me to review this game (the first horror IF game by Infocom, and one of the first horror games ever) without comparing it to later Interactive Fiction based on Lovecraft's work. Specifically, Theatre, Anchorhead, and Lydia's Heart come to mind. How does this one compare?
First, size. The Lurking Horror is on the small side, due to PC capabilities at the time of publication. It is about the same size as Theatre, and much smaller than Anchorhead or Lydia's Heart.
Next, setting. The game is set in an alternate version of the MIT campus called GUE Tech during the winter. This worked well for me in the end, with the creepy Department of Alchemy, dark buildings and deep basements, and the gross muddy areas. It gave them game a more campy feel though, like Theatre, as opposed to the bigger games.
NPC's and enemies. While The Lurking Horror has a few okay PC's, it really shines in the creature department. I had played for a few hours without encountering more than one 'creature', and nothing that threatened me, so I was quite shocked when I (Spoiler - click to show)buried an axe in the chest of the maintenance man without any reaction from him. The further the game got, the more disturbing the creatures got. The enemies are more like Theatre's than the later games.
Puzzles. The Lurking Horror has some puzzles that are just dumb (especially the carton in the fridge). Later on, though, the puzzles get more fun, especially as you use the same objects in more and more ways. In the end, the puzzles are more like Lydia's Heart than the other two games, although there are much less puzzles overall.
Overall, it seems to me that the Lurking Horror was a great success that became eclipsed by later games. Theatre ('95) seems to be strongly inspired by The Lurking Horror, while Anchorhead ('98) seems to be inspired at least partially by Theatre (as it includes some similar puzzles). Lydia's Heart ('07) was more of a successful reboot of the Lovecraft idea using newer technology.
Until last week, I had no idea that Infocom games were still available on current platforms. After downloading an iPad app, I had the pleasure of trying my first commercial game after 5 years of free interactive fiction.
The manual and feelies were great, and the parser was very smooth, with great runtime. I missed several of Inform's features, especially when killing enemies. Overall, the game felt thoroughly tested, and a large number of the annoying features of MIT Zork were removed. Examples include a better coal maze, some of the smug writing, and better correlation between exits and etrances of nearby rooms.
I thought at first it was silly to split up the game into three, but having started Zork II, I am really enjoying the expanded versions. Very few of the free games I have played rival this kind of polished game, with Curses! and Anchorhead as my main examples of great gameplay.
Stationfall was interesting; in some ways, I liked it better than Planetfall, although it might just be that there was so much hype about Planetfall that I found it disappointing.
Stationfall has you flying with Floyd to a space station to pick up some forms. When you arrive, the station is deserted... mostly.
The map is interesting. There is a main sphere with 8 or 9 levels. The top and bottom levels are one room each, while the middle level has fifteen or so. In addition, there are three sub-modules attached to the middle level, two of which are joined together in a big space village.
This all reminded me a lot of Starcross with its huge cylindrical map and space village. But Stationfall's map had more flavor, I feel. Meretzky has plenty of references to Planetfall, including leaving bedistors and other computer equipment laying about, as well as similarities in recorded equipment about. There is an alien code whose solution reminds me a bit of HitchHikers' Guide to the Galaxy, which is explicitly mentioned several times in the game through footnotes.
The story starts slowly, but picks up. I really enjoyed the ending sequence, and felt it provided a little more closure than most Infocom endings.
The hunger/thirst and sleep timers seemed a little easier than in the original Planetfall, although many have mentioned the tight time constraints in the game.
I loved Deadline. I didn't get too far on my own in solving the mystery, but I spent a long time exploring and having fun.
This is a mystery game, where a man has been found dead, and you have to investigate the house and people in it. Everyone walks around, has scripted events, etc. I asked everyone about everyone else, examined the crime scene, etc.
I missed an important verb which is listed in the manual, and which you are supposed to know from the beginning; typing ANALYZE or ANALYZE [SOMETHING] FOR [SOMETHING] sends someone to analyze stuff for you.
Now so many other games make sense. For instance, Jon Ingold's Make It Good really borrows a lot from this game, and now I realize it must have been an intentional homage, meant to help and mislead the experienced gamer (which I wasn't when I played it).
Deadline was an early experiment in timed and scripted events, as well as extensive conversation.. Games like Varicella or Pytho's Mask may not have existed without this one.
It' s also very hard, in unfair ways. I recommend eventually settling on a walkthrough. Like the great novels of the 1600's-1800's, it was designed to last for a long period of time in the absence of other material.
Having just played Deadline for the first time, Witness was not as good, but still very polished. As others have noted, the solution to whodunnit isn't that hard. How they did it is harder.
Again, Sergeant Duffy is here to analyze everything for you . Again, there is a death you must investigate, and a (this time smaller) cast of characters you can interrogate.
You witness the death of a man, and you must uncover the mystery behind his death (thus the name of the game).
This was Infocom's second mystery game, and (I believe) the only one by Stu Galley.
Star cross was fun to try on my own without a walkthrough, at first. You are a miner in space, looking for an asteroid, when you encounter an unusual object.
This game plays out on a large cylindrical map, with dynamics similar to those described in Ender's Game. You encounter a wide variety of creatures. The map eventually overwhelmed me; it is a huge map, and hard to draw out yourself (just look at the official maps!).
I used a lot of hints, eventually (including one near the beginning).
The main gameplay mechanic is a lock-and-key type puzzle, where you find about a dozen color-coded objects and corresponding places to put them.
I actually preferred this to Planetfall; that game's 4 timers (hunger, sleep, (Spoiler - click to show)disease, flood), combined with an empty map and red herrings, left me frustrated (Enchanter's three similar timers were compensated for by a simple map and dense useful object placement). Star cross was fun, even though I mostly used a walkthrough. The deaths were all fun, too.
Suspended is a very unusual Infocom game. You take control of six robots, each with their strengths and issues (only one can see, but it's broken; another can feel things, but it talks in riddles; one is mainly useful if you're closer to dying, etc.)
The idea is that each one can see its environment in different ways. The first few playthroughs might just consist of exploring each room in the (provided) map, and understanding what needs to happen. Then later playthroughs would consist of trying over and over again to survive, and then trying to do it quickly.
I just played around for 15 minutes, and then used the walkthrough. I'd like to revisit this in the future. The robots have clever commentary.
It's mentioned in Planetfall that multipurpose robots like Floyd eliminated the need for these specialized robots.
I rushed through Ballyhoo, but even so the story was marvelous and stunning. This is a mystery game set in a dreary circus. The feel is a lot like Not Just and Ordinary Ballerina. You investigate the disappearance of the owner's daughter after hours.
This game could have been played without hints for a month. The puzzle solutions are intricate and the world is detailed.
I relied on hints out of fear that there was way too much I could do wrong. In fact, almost everything is reversible, once you reach an area, you get unlimited chances to return. If not, you don't need to return. The game was shockingly forgiving.
Unfortunately, the walkthrough may have been necessary simply because of guess-the-verb problems, especially with conversations.
The much-feared dream sequence is very easy to map and overcome (the lines situation was harder for me).
This is a fantastic game, the name and blurb really turned me off, but this game was more fun than the Lurking Horror or Sorceror.
**Edit:** I've been asked to clarify what I mean by better than Sorceror (or Lurking Horror). As I considered why I used that comparison, I realized that there are many parallels between Ballyhoo and Sorceror: both contain a dark carnival, both are centered on searching for a missing person, both have a pair of gatekeeper puzzles, many wild animals etc. In both, you slowly develop into an expert in the skills that surround you (magic or circus abilities), and the humor and writing are similar.
Why do I prefer Ballyhoo? It condenses the map of Sorceror, and has far more NPCs and interesting, scripted events, as well as far less red herrings. It has more feeling, too. In Ballyhoo, when you are in (Spoiler - click to show)Eddie's trailer and he realises you aren't a clown, I felt real anxiety for my character, and when (Spoiler - click to show)you break through Tina's shell and she solemnly shakes your hand, I felt a tug on my heartstrings. Contrast this to Sorceror's over the top 'scary moments' like (Spoiler - click to show)burning in flame forever or its few moments of pathos (Spoiler - click to show)which I can't even think of; perhaps giving up your spellbook?.
As for lurking horror, I'm just still mad about the Chinese food puzzle. It's actually a great game.
Sorcerer is the "middle child" of the Enchanter trilogy, and like many middle installments, it tries to go beyond the old game into new territory while developing some aspects.
This game is still focused on scrolls, but it adds potions and many more Zorkian pick-up-and-carry-around items. Many items are items from MIT Zork which have been repurposed.
The writing is, in fact, nightmarish. There is a nightmare early in the game, and don't try sleeping in the first area! You later visit some particularly horrible places, where there are countless ways to die. The game is filled with subtly creepy locations, like (Spoiler - click to show)an underground carnival. And losing is particularly unpleasant.
This game has many red herrings, and one notorious unwinnable state (you must obtain a certain item in the first 25 turns of the game. The game doesn't tell you that).
The game is famous for (Spoiler - click to show)its glass maze, and for its time-travel puzzle. Unfortunately, I had heard about both before, and so I wasn't as impressed by them.
I got up to 205 points before using a walkthrough. I played this game on iOS's Lost Treasures of Infocom.
This Infocom game nails the pacing. The game always felt exciting. You play a young woman searching for her father who is abducted by pirates. You carry out increasingly bold tasks throughout the game, and, as a player, I felt excited at my ability to be part of the action instead of being helpless on the side.
The game has two main areas: a ship, and a house. Events are tightly scripted and well-thought-out to keep the action flowing. The tight pacing may require frequent saving.
I found the game slightly easier than usual for Infocom; however, I was stumped twice in the middle (around points 16-19). It took about a week or a bit less of playing on and off to finish it (total time around 4-5 hours).
Be warned that this game uses Infocom's piracy protection, so you need access to the 'feelies' to solve key puzzles in the game. I used the Lost Treasures of Infocom app, which has the feelies included as images.
The romance novel aspects were infrequent, mostly resorting to ardent glasses, although right around the 16-19 point range where I got stuck, things got a bit heated as I was losing, but the game avoids anything explicit.
Overall, one of my favorite Infocom games, probably due to the great writing and simpler (but rewarding) puzzles.
Spellbreaker must have been the inspiration for games like Mulldoon Legacy, Lydia's Heart, Jigsaw, and other intensely long puzzle fests (I feel like Curses! is slightly easier). This is Infocom's last game of the Enchanter trilogy, which follows the Zork Trilogy.
This game is incredibly long and difficult. I played to about 150 points out of 600 before turning to a walkthrough (eristic's), and most of those points I got because I had played Balances by Graham Nelson, which copied many items from Spellbreaker (to show that Inform could achieve the same results). The game is purposely murderously hard; I suggest that everyone use a walkthrough after reaching a predetermined number of points.
Magic is failing, and you must chase a mysterious figure to learn why. The game is pretty disjointed, but purposely so, much like Jigsaw, where you enter and exit various areas miraculously. It has a very different feel from Sorcerer, and especially from Enchanter, which was very easy to map and simple in its presentation.
Many people have talked about the time travel puzzle in Sorcerer, which I enjoyed, but felt a little down because there was so much hype. Unfortunately, I am now hyping the last big puzzle of Spellbreaker to you. What a puzzle; to me, it was great because it completely ties in with the game's theme of loss and ending. It is a puzzle integrated with the plot.
As a final note, I should really emphasize that this is a LONG game, 2 or 3 times as long as any other Zork or Enchanter game. When using a walkthrough, I finished each of those games in a total recorded time (not counting my numerous restarts) of about 16 minutes; this game, including several restarts to shave off the starting time, took 1 hour and 22 minutes.
I played this game on iOS's Lost Treasures of Infocom.
Possibly inspired by the Wizard of Frobozz in Zork II,and originally intended to be Zork IV, Enchanter was my favorite Infocom game up to this point. You play an apprentice enchanter who is chosen to defeat the Warlock Krill, due to your not being a big enough threat for him to notice (like Lord of the Rings).
The main idea of Enchanter, and the entire focus of the game, is the spells. Unlike the wand in Zork II (which is described as unreliable and old-fashioned here), scrolls are copied into your spell book, and then can be cast over and over again.
There are well over a dozen spells. It was designed to give you a feel of more power than in Zork. The things you can do feel amazing.
I got up to about 150 points before consulting a walkthrough. I couldn't solve two key puzzles. One I knew what to do, but wasn't clever enough to figure it how. The other came out of left field, although I later realized that your dreams are a clue to the puzzle.
Which brings me to the one point that may be most divisive: your player's bodily needs. You constantly have to satisfy hunger, thirst, and sleep! You have a replenishable water supply, but you're toast when your food is gone.
I recommend reading the manual on NPC conversations, or one puzzle will be far too difficult.
I played this game on the iOS Lost Treasures of Infocom App.
Trinity surprised me by being a fantasy game about nuclear weapons. I expected the game to have a sci-if feel like Jigsaw or Babel, but this game was very similar to the feel of Moriarty's other Infocom game, Wishbringer. In both games, you travel from an opening, normal world to a parallel world, where helpful animals, witches, cemeteries and grim birds await.
I loved exploring the main area of Trinity, and accessing several of the mini-areas. Brian is stunningly creative; I didn't realize until recently that he also wrote Loom, one of my favorite graphical games of all time. The sheer ingenuity of it all is wonderful.
I began running out of steam forward after visiting four of the sub areas. I went to a walkthrough, and discovered that I had forgotten to revisit some area with new equipment, and hadn't searched some scenery items that I didn't know we're searchable. This opened up two more mini areas, which I explored a little bit more before using a walkthrough the rest of the game.
The final area was a beast, although everything is fairly well hinted at. Or not... In any case, I loved this game. I can't help but enjoy this author's worldview.
This Infocom game is directed towards younger players but is appropriate for adults; in fact, the game is still very challenging. The fantasy elements are charming and fun (and sometimes pretty creepy): an army of boots, a witch who steals cats, ghosts who murder you...
All the puzzles can be solved with sufficient exploration and minor logic; I missed a few areas and items in my exploring, though, because the world is rich and beautiful.
As far as I can tell, the game is for beginners because there are only the n,e,s,w directions (no ne, se, nw, or sw); most puzzles have multiple solutions; most items are easily visible (except for the most important one); and death won't come unless you have been repeatedly warned.
The game is split into two sections; one where the player explores a quaint village with minor annoyances (such as locked gates and a poodle); and a second section where the village has turned dark and evil (with murderous ghosts and a hellhound).
As many have stated, this is a memorable game, more so than most of the Infocom games I have played, or interactive fiction in general. As usual, I played this game on the Lost Treasures of Infocom app on the iPad.
In this Infocom game, you play PRISM, a sentient computer who has been designed to simulate the future for planning purposes.
This game has no real puzzles until the end. You simply explore. First, you explore your interface, which is very large (having 30+ distinct files you can open). Then you explore the actual simulation, which is a large downtown city, with what felt like 30-50 locations. Once you explore it long enough, the simulation accumulates enough data to simulate another decade into the future.
You must record interesting events and places in the future to bring back for planning purposes. I somehow missed out on a simple mechanic, and got very stalled in the game. (This is not a spoiler, because it is not a puzzle or a surprise, more of a guess-the-verb): To present your recordings, you must tell people "look at recording".
The developer has stated that the game was intended as a criticism of Reagan's policy.
The game is fun. You need to explore; don't just rush through, trying to do what they say. You need to record a lot of each decade to win, so try and get a mental map of the game.
I played this game on the iPad's Lost Treasures of Infocom app, which provides most of Infocom's games (except Nord and Bert, and the already-free Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
The finale in the Zork series is a big change from the first two games. The game is smaller as to puzzles and map, but much bigger on ambiance. This game feels like a refining purgatory, with a chance to demonstrate your courage, mercy, trust, and bravery. The setting is dreamlike and thoughtful. The puzzles are very difficult. For all of them, it is easy to try to solve them, get part way through, and have no idea if you succeeded or failed. Almost all of them are time-based, requiring you to wait, do several actions in succession, or to return frequently to a given place. Some places (like the land of shadow or the viewing table) will stay in my mind for a long time.
The Royal Puzzle breaks up the gameplay a bit, but I loved it. I first solved it in MIT Zork; as a mathematician that is terrible at most IF puzzles, it was fun to have a puzzle that I could finally solve on my own. I literally used a walkthrough on every other puzzle in this game.