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About the Story
Infidel finds you marooned by your followers in the heart of the deadly Egyptian Desert. A soldier of fortune by trade, you've come hither in search of a great lost pyramid and its untold riches. Now, alone, you must locate and gain entry to the tomb, decipher its hieroglyphics and unravel its mysteries one by one.
Michael Berlyn's writing helps bring the pyramid to life, although I found some sections of the pyramid to be a bit weakly written. [...] My wildcard points went to the game's hieroglyphics. I had a lot of fun trying to decode them, and they made many of the puzzles solvable on the first try. (Stephen Granade)
I was disappointed with the other living characters, though: there aren't any! What's a good desert adventure story without a few scorpions, asps, and mummies? (Derek S Felton)
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I have just read a Stephen King book in which he says all authors and readers have the "gotta" syndrome ..... "Gotta" know what happens next. I certainly was under the spell of "gotta" in this game. I just couldn't leave it alone, blow the housework and any other mundane tasks, I had to know just what was around the next corner.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Despite the presence of some modern(ish) equipment, Infidel is set in the world of fantasy archaeology, like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider, in which ancient monuments are storehouses of fantastic treasure waiting to be picked up, and the archaeologist's task is simply to dodge all the antique mechanical traps that lie in the way.
Infidel can be rough going for a player used to gameplay refinements introduced even a few years later. It doesn't understand many common abbreviations -- most painfully, it misses X for examine. The opening phase of the game features both hunger and thirst timers. Guess-the-verb problems make at least two of the puzzles significantly harder. (Spoiler - click to show)(If you're having trouble breaking the lock on the chest in the prologue, or throwing the rope down the north staircase in the pyramid, you're probably on the right track but using the wrong wording.) The knapsack you need to carry around your possessions is especially irritating, since you'll have to wear it and take it off again dozens of times over the course of play. There is also some justice in Andrew Plotkin's spoof Inhumane: Infidel will kill you a lot, and not all of the deaths are well-signaled in advance. You'll need to keep a lot of save files, and examine everything carefully before you interact with it.
To balance this, though, there's quite a lot right with the game as well, especially once you're past the prologue. The meat of most of the puzzles involves deciphering the meaning of hieroglyphics, which instruct the player in how to get past traps. There's a lexicon in the feelies for a few of these symbols, but the rest you'll have to work out as you go along, by comparing the labels on objects or making guesses based on their pictorial quality. (The hieroglyphics are in ASCII; make sure you've set your interpreter to a fixed-spacing font in order to read them properly, because Infidel unlike many later games is not able to set the font automatically.) These puzzles give the game a feeling of thematic coherence lacking from the Zork trilogy; while the effect is not exactly realistic, Infidel at least seems to take place in a self-consistent universe.
Space was at a premium in these very early games, and that shows in Infidel in both good ways and bad. Descriptions are often terse and not every possible object is described. On the other hand, what descriptions exist are sometimes rather evocative, and the constraints make for a fairly compact game with multiple uses for some of the objects.
Infidel is famous for not following gamers' expectations for a game narrative, and opened up some new possibilities in interactive storytelling. (Spoiler - click to show)The game ends in the protagonist's death, a punishment for having been selfish and cruel to his colleagues and workers, and having driven away everyone who could potentially have saved him. This follows naturally from the premise: the feelies and the prologue of the game clearly establish what kind of person the protagonist is. In my opinion the ending works a little less well with the puzzle-solving midgame of Infidel, however; in particular, the player experiences so many meaningless deaths before the game's end as to make it hard to regard the final "winning" death as narratively significant. Later work has gone much, much further in this direction, but it's worth looking back at early efforts.
Note: it is impossible to get past the game's prologue without information from the feelies. (Spoiler - click to show)(Specifically, the dig coordinates for the pyramid.)
Infidel is a rather humorless game that finds its protagonist exploring a previously undiscovered Egyptian pyramid in search of treasure and fame. It's a perfect setting for that oldest and most thoroughly explored adventure gaming oevure: the treasure hunt. Even by Infocom standards, the setting is quite deadly. This is a game that assumes frequent, unmotivated saving. That was a norm in 1983, and contemporary gamers/readers will be frequently frustrated if they are not willing to adopt the habit.
That is something students and enthusiasts of older texts (in a technical medium, 4 decades feels more like 4 centuries) must do, isn't it? Meet them where they are. Or were.
Mechanically, the "hook" that makes the deathtraps of Infidel unique is the system of hieroglyphs used to provide clues and identify the names--or even, sometimes, the significance--of objects and locations in the pyramid. Over the course of the game, the player's "codebook" will grow as they find and decipher new glyphs. These symbols are displayed as ASCII characters, so be sure your interpreter (if you are using one) has a properly selected fixed-width font (IMPORTANT: as in other games, use of these characters poses an accessibility problem for players who use screen reader applications). While I did like Infidel on a mechanical level, players who either don't or can't enjoy the codebreaking metapuzzle will likely have a less interesting experience.
If that were all, Infidel would be a nice, little game--short for an early Infocom puzzler but diverting enough. That isn't all, though. Persons interested in artistic or literary craft in interactive fiction--especially its history or evolution--will find its critique of the adventure game genre and its gamification of colonial plunder interesting. Reviewing the game's packaging and documentation is essential to understanding this facet of the game.
Infidel's initial critical reception is interesting to consider as well. Several persons have written about it in detail over the years.
My rating is highly qualified. If the codebreaking element sounds appealing, you will likely find this game satisfying mechanically. If the historical or craft elements interest you, Infidel offers a lot to think about. For those interested in neither, Infidel is a bit of a hard sell.
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.
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