Infidel

by Michael Berlyn

Adventure
1983

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Number of Reviews: 4
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful Infocom puzzlefest in a pyramid with coded language, February 3, 2016

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.


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Very early Infocom, September 1, 2009

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.)



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