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An homage to MIT, November 15, 2019
I went to MIT. Almost all of the Infocom team went to MIT. It would make sense that there would be at least one game set at MIT, and this is it. The GUE Tech Map is basically the same as the MIT campus. The Aero lobby sits at the entrance to the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Great Dome sits on the infinite corridor (which is what it is really called), and with some minor changes (e.g. what in real life is the Green building, is now the Brown building), the map is MIT. Even the steam tunnels are largely real (albeit exaggerated to make a game).
Given that, I perhaps have a different response to this than many others, because there is an element of nostalgia built in, but I finished this while still a student at MIT. Looking at it with fresh eyes, 30 years on, many of the criticisms leveled at the game are both right and wrong at the same time.
They are right, in that this never really becomes an atmospheric horror game. At no point are you even a little bit creeped out (compared to say Anchorhead). Rather, Lebling's silly sense of humour, which was at the crux of the Zork series) is given full rein. Be it the inscription over the western entrance to GUE Tech, or the graffitti in the elevator, Lebling regularly puts in a gag because he can. Partially, as a result, the horror never really builds. This has led many to dismiss the game as a horror-less horror game. But while that is true, it is also wrong as well.
It is not a valid criticism of an apple to note that it is not a banana. Someone going in looking for a horror game that will scare their socks off is in for a bad time. However, this is a Zork game with a horror overlay, and a decent one at that. The puzzles are generally decent. The internal logic holds together, and while it is a bit silly, that is not necessarily a bad thing.