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About the Story
"If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not..."
Adventure Classic Gaming
There are no traditional puzzles until the endgame, and even then, they are innovative, requiring you as the player to think like the machine you are supposed to represent. Rather, A Mind Forever Voyaging is about watching the life of a singular individual as it is effected by global changes and about observing a city's descent into mismanagement, neglect, and despair.
Yet, it is because of its innovative premise that A Mind Forever Voyaging ultimately falls short. The story that it casts is too simplistic, with few shades of grey. Like too many works of science fiction, it tells of a socialistic government obsessed with order and security that lapses into totalitarianism, a techno church that can preach only wacky space babble and a medieval strain of intolerance, and credit card breadlines that run dry. As well, the characters encountered tend to be as flat as a computer simulation in 1985—they have no personality.
-- Joseph Lindell
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Part of me is tempted to use the patronising cliché that A Mind Forever Voyaging is remarkably good “for a game.” There's no getting around the fact that the prose is mostly utilitarian, the characters are markedly thin, and the ideas presented often lack nuance. Infocom boldly compared the game to Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, comparisons which only highlight these complaints further. But in the end, I feel its best aspects are in fact because it is a game. The great sense of exploration and non-linearity make you feel more like a historian researching for a book than a mere reader and player, curiously gathering evidence to evaluate The Plan for Renewed Purpose, all in a clearly-imagined and at times frightening world that seems more contemporary now than when it was written. For those who enjoy games heavy on exploration or with a political bent – or just want to experience a fascinating moment in gaming history – you should definitely check it out.
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A Mind Forever Voyaging is one of the most mature interactive fictions, though it didn’t achieve a commercial success. With very little puzzles, it’s based mostly on exploration and observation.
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You don’t have to agree with the speed or nature of how reality tumbles though, simply because the damage is kept much more personal. PRISM is a sentient computer rather than an impassive observer, and the collapse of civilisation is seen not as a wide-scale thing like in Deus Ex, but in the increasing degradation of his specific life and the small town he calls home. There’s a real sense of impending doom every time a new time period opens up, because you know it’s going to be even worse [...]
-- Richard Cobbett
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If you can suspend disbelief enough to accept the situation, then the game is quite good. Unlike other Infocom offerings, it is meant to be experienced, rather than played. The first two parts of the game have almost no puzzles, focusing instead on exploration and discovery as you walk the streets of Rockvil, watching daily life, seeing what activities can be attributed to the effects of the Plan, and watching the changes that take place over time.
-- Graeme Cree
Overall, AMFV is a great game. The plot is really intriguing and Rockville, the city that the simulations take place, is a vast area of exploration throughout the time periods. The writing is good quality and excellent.
-- Gerhard Peterz
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
As a recent convert to interactive fiction, I have been looking for good games to get started with. Although this is perhaps not a typical work, I was intrigued by the sci-fi dystopian premise and encouraged by the wealth of critical praise heaped upon AMFV. Rather than detailing specific aspects of the gameplay or plot that I found especially effective, I want to focus this review on the merits of AMFV as an introduction to IF.
In short: I found AMFV quite stunning in its own right and also an effective introduction to IF more broadly. The work opened my eyes to the artistic potential of IF as a form and delivered a playing experience that was easy and engaging for someone with only minimal prior exposure to IF.
A few more detailed points:
I appreciated the relative lack of puzzles. Though I'm not averse to puzzle-heavy IF, I wanted a work without punishing puzzles or cruel game design (e.g. unwinnable states, lots of learning by dying). I loved that the main mission of the game is to explore the simulated versions of Rockvil, which still requires some careful attention to the description of places and objects without the demands of a typical puzzle (e.g. finding just the right use of an object to get past an obstacle). AMFV helped to ease me into the playing mechanics of IF without suffering the pain of banging my head (literally or metaphorically) against some puzzle to make progress.
I also thought that AMFV did a great job of introducing the a novice player to the poetics of IF, that is, the joys (and challenges) of navigating a simulated world via a text interface. Cleverly, the simulated versions of Rockvil can be seen as sorts of IF worlds within the broader IF work -- Perry Simm is in the same role as the player. This effect was achieved quite well and not in an eye-winking kind of way.
Finally, this work is clearly significant in the broader history of IF, which is obvious even to a newcomer like myself. Playing it definitely helped me to better understand the historical foundation of where more recent IF works have come from, but the experience was not that of an 'eat your vegetables' history lesson. The work is still fresh and enjoyable on its own terms, and indeed the satirical thrust of the work is still very relevant (even if the political satire could be heavy-handed at times -- probably my only real complaint about AMFV).
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).
I knew two things about the game before I started playing:
* There's not much of a "game" in it, with only a few puzzles near the end
* Steve Meretzky intended it as a blistering attack on Ronald Reagan's policies
The first point is definitely correct--most of the game feels of a piece with the more recent walking simulators, where the focus of the experience is just to explore an environment and get a general sense of what's happening. This isn't a complaint! Wandering Rockvil, watching the decay, was fascinating; the dread from witnessing just how bad things got was palpable.
For the second point, though... Maybe it's just a consequence of being 30-some years removed from Reagan and no longer viscerally angry about or afraid of his platform, but I had some quibbles about the politics--it's hard for me to draw a straight line between the Plan as described and a fascistic cult coming into power, for example. And since 2041 is pretty OK, wouldn't it be possible to implement the Plan now and then change course in 10 years? (Also, just from a writing perspective, the 2071 segment is so, so bleak, it's almost funny that Dr. Perelman's response is, "Well, maybe it turns a corner at the 50-year mark." (Spoiler - click to show)The state's running gladiator fights to punish ration cheats!)
Despite my reservations there, I really did enjoy this game and have no qualms about recommending it.
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PollsThe following polls include votes for A Mind Forever Voyaging:
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Whether it was the witty dialogue, the charming atmosphere, or the cleverness of the puzzle - you played "this" game and it inspired you to write your own. Selfishly, I'm looking for my own inspiration, but I am also very, very curious...
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I'm looking for games that attempt (with at least some success) to portray a large city setting that the player can explore and interact with to at least some depth. Games like Gotomomi, City of Secrets, and A Mind Forever Voyaging are...
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