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fourin1.zip *
MS-DOS Application
Post-comp release, version 1.​1.7
Requires a TADS interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Mac OS Application (Compressed with StuffIt. Free StuffIt Expanders are available for most systems at www.stuffit.com.)
Comp version 1.​0
Requires a TADS interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
4in1​_src.zip *
zipped together with development logs and an essay about the game
* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.

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Four in One

by J. Robinson Wheeler profile


Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
1 review

About the Story

"Do you realize how behind schedule and over budget this picture is?"
"Look, Mr. Thalberg," you say. "All I've gotta do is get the master shot in the can. So, maybe it'll take twenty takes. But when I get that take done, with the rewrites we're back on schedule and on budget."
"Twenty takes!" blurts Irving. "How many have you shot so far?"
"Fourteen," you say. "The Marx Brothers are getting a little impatient, but I think they respect me as a director..." Irving's face puffs and squinches. For a moment, you think he's about to have a seizure, and then suddenly Irving lets loose with a peal of laughter.
"Respect you! That's a good one," Irving says to you. "You play golf, right Sam?"
You nod. "Yes, Mr. Thalberg, I do."
Irving snaps his fingers with a manly click. "Val, go round up the boys and get them to the set." Val nods and leaves. "There," says Irving. "You've got them all teed up. You have TWO HOURS to get a take that we can print. I'd say you've got the same chance as getting a hole-in-one. Or in this case, a four-in-one."

Game Details


16th Place - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

A highly unusual effort. You're Sam Wood, film director, trying to put together the last scene of the latest Marx Brothers picture--but that means getting the brothers to stay in one place for more than a few minutes, which, as one reviewer aptly observed, is akin to herding cats. Finishing the game depends in part on discovering how the Marx family dynamics work, but also in part on randomness, which means that this can be one frustrating game; so much trial and error is necessary that the fun tends to wane after a while. On the other hand, the writing is impeccable, Groucho's one-liners are hilarious, the attention to detail is impressive--lots of Easter eggs are scattered around--and there are literally dozens of reasonably realistic NPCs. It's a richly done game world, and if the central puzzle were just a little less maddening, this would be a whole lot of fun; as it is, it's still worth a look.

-- Duncan Stevens

In summary, Four in One reminded me of Tempest from the previous year's competition--a brilliant idea, thoroughly and intelligently done, that I wanted to like more than I did. And just as Four in One arguably worked better as the transcript submitted to the IF Fan Fest, so Tempest works better as, well, the play, and the literacy of the attempt to translate it can't hide that.
-- Duncan Stevens

This is quite an interesting concept, putting a new spin on IF. Instead of the game being object-centric, it is NPC-centric, with NO objects of any use what so ever, and more NPC's per square pixel than any other game I have played, although most of them are thinly implemented.
-- David Ledgard
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction

Four In One is a the most character-intensive piece of IF I've ever played. Almost every location has one or more characters in it at all times, and these characters are as fully implemented as they need to be. The gaffer, for example, is not terribly talkative -- ask him about the movie and he'll say "A job's a job," but ask him about the lights and he has an opinion, as he should. Every character has responses about the things they should know about, though if you spend much time in conversations with them you will run afoul of the game's time limit. The Marx brothers can tell you about each other, the movie, MGM (Groucho says, "MGM stands for 'more godless movies.'"), and anything else they ought to know about. Four in One does an outstanding job juggling all these characters, giving them just the appropriate depth of implementation so that the game really rewards replay. After I had solved the game, I went back and just chatted with the various characters, and was delighted with the extent to which they are implemented. The author's research is quite apparent in these moments, and it makes a big difference. Four In One taught me things about the Marx Brothers that I had never known before, and made me want to go out and rent A Night at the Opera again. That's entertainment.
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Number of Reviews: 1
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An extraordinarily complex group of active NPCs in a groucho marx scene, July 16, 2017

You are a director filming the Marx brothers, and you have to herd all of them together before you can film them.

There are tons of independent NPCs, all doing all sorts of things, running from each other, fighting each other, etc.

As a technical piece, it's brilliant; as a game, it's less than enjoyable. Even playing with the walkthrough is hard; I recommend dowloading the zip containing the source and transcript, reading the transcripts, and just playing around with the actual game.

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Four in One on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Four in One appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Active Non-player Characters by Emily Short
Games which make use of non-player characters that have a great deal of independence, often moving around and acting on their own, or taking the lead in conversation. Some of these are more successful than others, but all are likely to...


The following polls include votes for Four in One:

Wandering NPCs by Fredrik
I have always been fascinated with games that have several wandering and independent NPCs, especially when you have the ability to try to order them around. This sets the stage for a game where no one session is like any other, and even...

AI developments, particularly NPC-AI by breslin
Doesn't need to be satisfying as a conventional game, but must be interesting as an experiment. The idea being that AI work in IF is something that still needs work. Name the games you think which are contributing to this area of genre...

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