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About the Story
You're about to get yourself into very deep trouble.
The adventure comes up to the standard you would expect from an early Infocom with a certain amount of character interaction, well thought out puzzles and a richness (though, granted, economy) of prose with dashes of humour. But, as a confessed Infomaniac and die-hard text adventure fan you'd expect me to like it wouldn't you?! Cutthroats is definitely not one of their best but if you haven't already got it then it's one to add to your collection. I found it easy - probably because I'd already worked my way through all their other titles - but enjoyable nevertheless.
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In spite of my love for Infocom, or maybe because of it, I have to warn anyone tempted to play this game. Unsatisfying at best, mostly downright frustrating, it is unworthy of its brand.
I'll cut to the chase for the busy reader. Cutthroats is technically crude, thematically dry, ridiculously short, and simply poorly designed. I want to caution those new to IF in particular, for whom such a sad first contact may lead them to dismiss this wonderful genre of games.
Now if you're an Infocom aficionado, you may want to know more about the rationale behind my unforgiving judgment. Here it is, with, like they say, massive spoilers ahead.
Let me start with the worst offender; The game is bugged. Wait, I’m not talking about the oh-that’s-kinda-odd type of bug. I’m talking about the how-in-hell-could-they-let-pass-such-a-game-breaker-monstrosity kind of bug. Let me explain what happened. First, the game is riddled with oddities.
(Spoiler - click to show)Being able to interact with Red when he’s not in the same location. Getting “there’s no table” answer to the input “look at table” in a room described as full of tables (you’ve guessed right, “look at tables” work). Finding an oak chest and getting two different results to the commands “push chest” and “push oak”. Having Red accepting 0 coordinates without question to only ask you a turn later why you didn’t give him any.
Granted these are common nuisances in IF, but the frequency of them had me uneasy about the whole affair. So when I finally got too desperate being stuck in the Sao Vera shipwreck (and I’m a very perseverant player), I gave in to the invisicues with the nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, I had encountered a bug. So I went through the clues, deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, only to confirm the horror; I had done EXACTLY what I was supposed to.
(Spoiler - click to show)But in my game, the orange line never showed up, and the “cut rope with sword” command when standing on the cask returned a plain unscripted “you can’t reach the rope”. I had to get to the bottom of this, no pun intended, so I started over, redoing everything pretty much the same. And of course this time the line was there, and the rope was conveniently at sword’s reach.
I’ll never know what happened, and it’s not worth investigating. Suffice to say that I had done a perfect 250 points in my first attempt but the game robbed me of my victory.
The second treasure hunt is no less disastrous, with a ridiculous puzzle which, if not bugged, is totally absurd.
(Spoiler - click to show)According to Cutthroats logic, touching a mine will blow you up, but putting an electromagnet on in and dropping the whole contraption is perfectly fine. And that’s only part of more stupidity which I can’t even find the resolve to describe further.
Let’s also mention the inelegant structure of the game, which picks a random adventure every time, forcing you to save right before the story branches out, and hope you get the favors of the random generator.
I must admit I was excited with the theme. The whole ocean treasure hunter business in itself is enough to make my imagination go. However, even in that department Cutthroats fails. The game lacks ambition and scope, making you feel like a week-end metal hunter fishing for trinkets on a beach.
Hopefully at this point I’ve convinced you to skip this enormous failure of a game, unless you’re into diehard Infocom completionism. And if you've never played an Infocom game, I recommend you pick another title, for it would be a shame to judge this legendary company on the basis of Cutthroats. I’m just baffled that the same developer could put out a jewel like Trinity and something of the nature of Cutthroats. There must be a fascinating inside story about this, probably better than the game tries to tell.
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.
In the 1980s, you're a fortune seeker (and trained diver) on a small island probably located in the Northern Caribbean. A friend consigns you to a map that bears coordinates of a wreck previously unknown - and gets assassinated moments after he parts ways with you. You have to team up with some locals in order to get a chance to seek for the wreck, but the locals are fortune seekers just as you, and cannot be trusted. Will you get out of this situation alive?
The cons of this game cannot be denied. The pros neither: Besides the pretty unspoiled setting (for 1984, that is), Cutthroats starts like a predecessor of an open world game. NPCs roam about freely, minding their own business, or (less pleasant) yours. The game gives you the feeling of exploring a game world that advances on its own. That, in combination with the realistic Caribbean setting and the fascinating (though stereotype) NPCs, provides for a mindblasting experience.
But then, the cons. Since time trickles away relentlessly, and since time triggers (and disables) events, there's a multitude of situations where being at the wrong place at the wrong time (or rather not being at the right place at the right time) renders the game unwinnable. Sometimes even without telling you so. Sometimes your only fault is to carry the wrong things with you at a certain time and place, or to give a wrong answer to an NPC. This way you'll do a LOT of try & error, which is only acceptable if you're aware of what's happening, which in many cases you aren't. Also, the second part of the game (the actual treasure hunt) is a bit dull.
In summary: Great premises, but full of doubtful design decisions. If you can find the original game package on Ebay, you'll be rewarded with hilarious feelies, as ever so often with Infocom games.
Cutthroats on IFDB
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