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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."
4th Place, Inform Division - First Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1995)
For those unfamiliar with the television program, Mystery Science Theater 3000 consists of bad sci-fi movies with humorous heckling added. This game changes the medium, but keeps the spirit. Matt Barringer's Detective is mercilessly lambasted in imitation of the show's silly and irreverent style. If you've never seen the show, you might not get much out of it; if you've neither seen the show nor played Detective, you'll probably want to give this one a miss, although the use of multiple narrative voices (the original game and the commentary) is interesting once you notice it.
-- 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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Every time I rediscover IF, the MST3K version of 'Detective' is one of the first things I seek out to re-play. Most works of IF would be relatively difficult to wrap in MST3K form, but Matt Barringer's Detective is so linear that it's incredibly effective. Strangers to the show may feel a little lost if they dive directly into the story, but the authors have thoughtfully created a quick primer to bring them up to speed. The character's comments/tones ring eerily true to the show and no gaffe is overlooked, from actions that happen in room descriptions, objects with bizarre adjectives, and doors that just plain weren't hooked up correctly.
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.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective" is a parser-based game from 1995 by C. E. Forman, Graeme Cree and Stuart Moore. Its sole purpose is to be an interactive satirical commentary of Detective, an infamous low quality IF title from 1993. The game uses the characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000, a TV show that was all about riffing on bad films, for this purpose. (Isn't this a bit iffy copyright-wise, though?)
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.
Not only is Detective virtually unplayable on its own, but the commentary so annoying that it actually detracted from the original game, making it even more unplayable than it already is. The intro is so tedious and unfunny as to be truly unbearable. The in-game jokes and asides are so obvious that they do not need to be said, and like much humour, it is much funnier to leave the obvious unsaid.
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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