Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective"

by C. E. Forman, Matt Barringer, Graeme Cree, and Stuart Moore


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- Edo, February 28, 2021

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
The flimsiest of detective adventures (now with a comment track), September 12, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: parser-based, comedy, IF Comp 1995, Inform

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.

- Zape, May 23, 2020

- Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States), March 26, 2020

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Richard Basehart, Yay!, April 28, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

One of the few games that has made me legit laugh out loud, Detective was the perfect game to get the MSTK3 treatment. It was a seriously earnest mystery written by a 12-year old Matt Barringer and he made nearly every possible mistake one could make--instant death rooms, unimplemented objects, doors that only go one-way, etc.--but since there are really no puzzles, the game can be won in a short time.

Normally I’m not a fan of punching down. But for the most part the mocking done by Servo, Crow, and the gang is light-hearted and it helped me play a game I never would have touched otherwise. That Barringer retroactively gave his blessing for this also helps. I have never seen a full episode of MSTK3, but I still very much enjoyed myself. And I’ve come back to this a few times whenever I need a laugh.

- Dhary, August 22, 2018

- eCcentr!c, November 4, 2017

- tekket (Česká Lípa, Czech Republic), September 20, 2017

- Julia Myer (USA), August 29, 2017

- jamesb (Lexington, Kentucky), July 12, 2017

- Denk, June 2, 2017

- Ivanr, May 20, 2017

- H. W. Wiliams (Sweden), April 11, 2017

- Zoltar, March 11, 2017

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Even worse than Detective, March 10, 2017
by Audiart (Davis, CA)

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.

- Robin Johnson (Edinburgh, Scotland), May 10, 2016

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A parody of a 12-year old's detective game written with his blessing, February 3, 2016

"Detective" was an early game (written before the first IFComp) written by a 12-year old, who actually did a pretty good job for their age. However, many people judged it in reference to games by older, more experienced authors, and the game pales in comparison.

The authors of the MST3K version decided to make a parody where they play through with their commentary during the game. Usually, I would feel that it is pretty mean-spirited, but the game includes an interview with the author where he says that he's fine with this version of the game, and that he's a fan of Mystery Science Theatre.

The game is mostly fun because of its unusual format. It only really needs one playthrough; after that, you just hear the same comments over and over again, so there's not much replay value.

- CHEESEROBOT, August 27, 2015

- dosgamer, April 15, 2015

- Thrax, March 12, 2015

- Sean Callahan, December 27, 2014

- Katrisa (Houston), January 23, 2014

- E.K., November 12, 2013

- Edward Lacey (Oxford, England), October 19, 2013

- Artran (Prague, Czech Republic), August 25, 2013

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