The Mind Electric

by Jason Dyer

Science Fiction
1995

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You are contained. Or are you?, July 29, 2022

The underlying premise of the game is that there is some sort of war between two entities called Kaden and Souden, the latter of which you belong to. Apparently, you were skulking around in Kaden cyberspace but were caught and are now trapped in a cell, waiting for the Kaden to put you through a loyalty transfer program. You also know that the Souden are planning to attack. It would be ideal to escape cyberspace before that occurs.

A lot of games about cyberspace (or at least those that I have played) take place in the "real world" with the player tapping into cyberspace at regulator intervals. This one almost entirely takes place in cyberspace. The player begins in a virtual containment cell. Any efforts to move around results in "You are contained." But as you are tracing the lines on the walls, floor, and ceiling, a piece of paper appears with basic instructions are the start of your escape. This, along with other signs, shows that someone is trying to help you which adds suspense and mystery.

There is also great atmosphere with a sense of danger, such as (Spoiler - click to show) a voice in the background announcing to who-knows-who that a scan is about to occur in the sector where you are hiding. The scan seeks out intruders and if you are detected a pulse will liquefy you. In addition, in the gameís world you will find strange sights. The multi-faced cube, the spider and its doll, the factory full of machines, and the mysterious sheet of paper were ominous but kind of cool. It all paints a surreal impression.

While intriguing, this is also a challenging and technical game. I can tell you now, I had to play with hints. An example is (Spoiler - click to show) finding the correct box needed to restore the cube's voice by asking it about different boxes and seeing if the cube nods, blinks, frowns, or smiles to indicate how close you are to finding it, almost like a high-tech version of a hot-or-cold game. I could not solve this without a walkthrough although I was able to understand the puzzle afterwards and replicate it without help in later playthroughs (this game can place you in an unwinnable state, be sure to save). Discovering (Spoiler - click to show) the spider's commands was another area that I needed help with because the spider is picky about syntax. It will accept "spider, help" but not "ask spider for help." Or "spider, status" but not "ask spider about status." I would find the sphere that halted the lxprog program but failed to realize that you need the spider to erase it.

I would have liked a little more discussion on the story. Is this solely warfare in cyberspace or is it in the physical world as well? What type of entities are the Kaden and Souden? Even the ending does not clarify much. (Spoiler - click to show) The man we meet at the end explains that the war is just the Kaden and the Souden taking people from the other side and running them through loyalty transfer programs, creating a back-and-forth type of fighting. The other thing I could pick out about the story is that the man also says that the player unknowingly created the cube that helped them escape, almost as if the player found a way out through sheer willpower. Or at least that is how I interpreted what he said. Regardless, I still have lingering questions about this war and its participants, as well as the protagonistís identity. On a similar note, the cube, which was generally lacking in the number of things you can ask it, had something to say about the Kaden and Souden. (Spoiler - click to show) Kaden apparently means "electric charge" while Souden means "electric supply." I am not entirely sure of what to make of this information but still found it interesting.

But yes, this game is moderately cryptic and challenging to complete without guidance, but the setting and story drew me in (as did the title). If you like playing games in cyberspace experiment with it. It is not a game for everyone but know that it does not take long to complete with a walkthrough in case you are curious about how it ends.