* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.
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About the Story
"As this game is ported directly from the TRS-80, it is very uncomfortable to play. Your mission is to find a ruby used in a laser projector that has been stolen by a spy ring named CHAOS." [--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]
Like most other BASIC games and non-BASIC conversions of them, CIA is almost irritatingly simplistic to play, lacking all details, descriptions, realistic NPCs, etc. that make text adventuring more nail-bitingly realistic today, as seen in more recent homegrown text adventures.
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Here we have an unusual animal: an Inform 6 port of a BASIC port of an original in an unknown language. I can only assume that the terrible gameplay is a high-fidelity recreation of the original, minus the pain of dealing with a two-word parser.
As this piece comes with both BASIC and Inform 6 source code, it's an extremely instructive example of the advantages of using a well-established IF-oriented language instead of trying to create your own parser from scratch. This game's real value, however, is in showing new authors what NOT to do when writing interactive fiction for the first time.
For starters, I'm not sure the output of this game qualifies as prose, let alone fiction. Single-sentence room descriptions abound, many for rooms that contain nothing and serve no function. NPCs are zero-dimensional obstacles. Object descriptions omit key details about their features and function. Critical information about a locale may not even be visible from within that locale.
There's a low inventory limit, which is especially obnoxious given the need for certain items at certain points that can only be reached once. And there are some highly-questionable implementation choices, such as(Spoiler - click to show) the need to type "enter rope" to use it to traverse an obstacle. (Even for a two-word parser, why not "climb rope"?) and(Spoiler - click to show) a magic teleporter device (cleverly disguised as a non-descript box-with-a-button-on-it) that only functions in two locations, with no hinting as to which two they might be.
Since the source code was available, I used it as a "strategy guide" after reaching my frustration limit, marveling at how convoluted and arbitrary the puzzle structure was. Hoping to have the satisfaction of at least seeing the end, I instead discovered that an apparent timing bug makes it impossible to actually complete the "adventure."
AVOID. AVOID. AVOID.