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About the Story
In the 17th century, the seas are as wild as the untamed heart of a young woman. But when you set out on the schooner Lafond Deux, bound for the West Indies, your thoughts are only of your ailing father who awaits your care. Little do you know that your innocent journey will soon turn to dangerous adventure.
The game's strongest point though is in its characterization. Not in the other characters; Crulley, Jamison, Lafonde and the others are rather standard, thus my character rating of 1.2. Rather, this game characterizes you, the player, more than any other of Infocom's offerings.
In most Infocom games, who YOU are is either unimportant or doesn't affect the plot much. [...] Plundered Hearts, more than any other game gave me the feeling of really being inside someone ELSE'S head.
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Amy Briggs's extensive research into the period shows in the wonderful descriptions of people and places and this has the effect of making the story thoroughly believable. The attention to detail throughout is up to the very high standard you expect from Infocom. The responses to many of your actions differ depending on what clothes you are wearing, what items you are carrying and where you happen to be at the time. Also, a number of the puzzles have more than one solution so, should you not have a particular object with you, something else may work equally as well.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Plundered Hearts is an almost pitch-perfect interactive romance novel, complete with pirates, swordfights, disguises, dances, swinging from ropes, and more. There are moments when it seems to tip over into the realm of parody; some of the lyrical descriptions of the player's feelings for her romantic interest are, well, a bit silly, and perhaps more conscious of their silliness than the equivalent passages of a romance novel. Perhaps this is an attempt to solve one of the fundamental challenges of IF romance: how do you make the player have romantic feelings for a character? Plundered Hearts doesn't entirely try; instead, it provides slightly distancing, slightly self-aware cut scenes, sketching the hero as a romantic figure without forcing the player to act out too many steps of a romantic attachment she might not really be feeling. It's in the adventure portions -- the plotting and sneaking around, the dressing up and the blowing things to bits -- that the game comes into its own.
Even setting aside my guilty fondness for the pirates-and-ballrooms setting, Plundered Hearts has plenty else to make it a real favorite. A few of the puzzles are difficult or unfair by modern standards; especially at the beginning, it can be hard to beat the timing of the game. But many of the rest are not only fair and intuitive but dramatically powerful: the moments where your character uses her pluck and ingenuity to overcome the villain are especially gratifying.
Plundered Hearts also has a lot more plot than most other Infocom games, and often feels surprisingly modern, more like the product of late 90s design than of the late 80s. The landscape is not mysteriously empty, but crowded with characters, many of whom have lively personalities. And some flexibility about the ending is available, as well.
PH is a remarkable bit of interactive storytelling for its time, and there are still some techniques worth our reviewing and learning from now. And if, like me, you read a lot of Georgette Heyer, Baroness Orczy, and Rafael Sabatini at an impressionable age, you'll probably love it.
I had a blast playing this game. I'm not much for genre fiction of any kind (mysteries, romance, pirates, what have you), but Briggs uses genre fic tropes as tools to great effect without this being a straight up "romance" story. This is done in large and subtle ways -- from the Caribbean setting to details like using "aft" and "starboard" as commands to move around the ship. PH perfectly nails the atmosphere while creating an original story. Though not a simple game by any means, it is, simply, fun.
Several aspects of the game work really well to draw in players of all experience levels. I'm relatively new to IF and text adventures but was able to make good progress without making extensive use of walkthroughs hints. More than the relatively straightforward (I'd say 'fair' rather than 'easy')puzzles, though, the structure of the game is quite effective. Extensive descriptive and dialogue-driven scenes intersperse the sections of exploration and puzzle solving. This was done in a balanced way so that I never felt I was just slogging through treasure hunts to solve puzzles nor did I feel bogged down in scrolling through text.
In addition to the effective structure, the writing itself is outstanding. I was often struck by rich, evocative descriptive passages that just floored me. These are the types of lines I would put a star by in a paperback book...except I was playing this on a computer! Things like: "Rats’ scratchings counterpoint the lullaby of bilge water sloshing in the bulkheads, punctuated by footsteps slapping the deck overhead."
Others have made this point, but it's worth reiterating that this game perhaps most fully achieves Infocom's promise of interactive literature. Though made 30+ years ago, there are still lessons to be drawn from this one.
This Infocom game nails the pacing. The game always felt exciting. You play a young woman searching for her father who is abducted by pirates. You carry out increasingly bold tasks throughout the game, and, as a player, I felt excited at my ability to be part of the action instead of being helpless on the side.
The game has two main areas: a ship, and a house. Events are tightly scripted and well-thought-out to keep the action flowing. The tight pacing may require frequent saving.
I found the game slightly easier than usual for Infocom; however, I was stumped twice in the middle (around points 16-19). It took about a week or a bit less of playing on and off to finish it (total time around 4-5 hours).
Be warned that this game uses Infocom's piracy protection, so you need access to the 'feelies' to solve key puzzles in the game. I used the Lost Treasures of Infocom app, which has the feelies included as images.
The romance novel aspects were infrequent, mostly resorting to ardent glasses, although right around the 16-19 point range where I got stuck, things got a bit heated as I was losing, but the game avoids anything explicit.
Overall, one of my favorite Infocom games, probably due to the great writing and simpler (but rewarding) puzzles.
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