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About the Story"A rewrite of Matt Barringer's incredibly bad game "Detective", this game was ported to Inform and subjected to treatment with Mystery Science Theater 3000 sarcasm. This version is the Silver Screen edition which includes some highly amusing stuff about the game."
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]
4th Place, Inform Division - First Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1995)
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
What makes this the perfect target is that while Detective is far from the worst text adventure ever, it’s a great example of My First Text Adventure Syndrome. The plot is nonsensical, the writer clearly never even drew a map of his world, and rooms were patently slapped together without any kind of plan or understanding of how to write a text adventure. The MST3K version doesn’t fix problems like the chief’s introduction speech being baked into the room description and thus constantly repeated, but it reacts to them all – broken directions, bizarre situations, and the Mayor’s dreaded hallways.
-- Richard Cobbett
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[...] as it stands it's an old, bad game being subjected to ridicule. The robots while incredibly annoying are probably the best thing about this game, as at times their comments can sum up your feelings very well.
-- Nick Edmunds
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Anyone who has ever been so excited to create an IF work that they dove head-first and made the game up as they went along will cringe deliciously - not only at how terrible the original game is, but how representative it is of those initial creations. Certainly, part of the amusement is at Barringer's expense (although he readily cops to how poorly written it was, and seems to take it with a grain of salt), but at least for this reviewer, an equal part of the amusement is the realization that it's no worse than what I've done; there but for the grace of God go I.
After an optional intro and explanation, you are left playing Detective as normal, although the game will print some additional lines as you move from room to room and try doing various things. The presentation ends up looking slightly cluttered as the text of the original game is frequently disturbed by out-of-world dialogue, but I guess it can't really be helped in a strictly text-based format like this.
Detective is not necessarily a bad game choice for this sort of meta-commentary. After all, it's short and easy, plus you have a flimsy storyline and implementation to make jokes about. However, a lot of the humor here is riding on the idea that Detective is not only bad, but it's spectacularly, heinously, criminally bad... which I don't fully agree with. I think Detective is fairly painless as far as bad games go, and the constant exaggeration of its badness just seems uncharitable, even insecure, as if MST3000 Presents "Detective" was trying a bit too hard to justify its own existence.
This game also doesn't elevate the source material by all that much. The jokes mostly consist of someone pointing out the obvious, for instance how some bits in the writing are redundant or how the room connections are bizarre. It doesn't help that Detective is a very simple game where the same type of mistakes crop up again and again, which means the riffing also ends up being pretty repetitive. So, while I would say the commentary has its fun moments, it's overall a bit one-note and limited in its effect.
If nothing else, MST3000 Presents "Detective" is a success on its own terms. The writing does justice to the style of the TV show, and while personally I would've preferred a more informative commentary over unceasing sarcastic complaining and snide one-liners, the game essentially does exactly as advertised. It's pretty unique too, as there aren't many games out there that have this angle. Could be worth exploring if you have half an hour.
The original game is worth playing just for its infuriating unplayability, and at least has the excuse that it was made by a kid who put a minimal amount of work into this under-implemented and poorly constructed game. MST3k:Detective, on the other hand, is made by competent adults with obvious coding experience, so there is no excuse for it being as awful as it is.
If you feel like getting a kick out of playing Detective, just play the original and shake your head in wonder at its badness while inserting your own frustrated exclamations in the necessary places. You will have a much better laugh if you experience Detective firsthand and run the commentary in your own mind.
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