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Contains Artful Deceit/Artful Deceit v0r230927/Disk Images/Commodore/Artful​_Deceit​_v0r230927.d64
Commodore 64 Application (Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.)

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Artful Deceit

by James O'Reilly and Dian Mills O'Reilly

Murder mystery

(based on 6 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

For the C64

Three weeks ago, you received an envelope. It had been pushed under your office door and was marked in ornate script with the words, "Of Greatest Urgency." Intrigued, you grabbed your trusty sword-shaped letter opener from a cluttered desk drawer and tore into it. Inside, you found the kind of letter that is basically an urban legend in your line of work.

Richard Hawthorne, millionaire art magnate, was retaining your services to investigate a murder. One that had not yet happened. His own. Included was a huge check and a set of security codes to access both the gates of his private community and the back door of his residence, 34 Hush Lane, in the event of his death.

Your assignment: if anything were to happen to him, investigate immediately and determine for certain whether it was due to natural or nefarious causes.

Paranoid or not, the man came to the right place. Your cluttered office and perpetually disheveled look belie a razor sharp analytical mind and expert interrogation skills. Underestimation by others is your secret weapon and allows you to fade into the woodwork, catching clues that others miss. This has made you one of the most successful P.I.s around. You had accepted the job immediately, not expecting to have to follow through so soon.

Download includes a .D64 disk image to run on a Commodore 64 emulator such as VICE or real hardware.

Game Details


41st Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Saluting the Commodore, October 11, 2023
by Bell Cyborg (Canada)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm probably not Artful Deceit's intended audience, at least format-wise. The closest I have come to interacting with a Commodore 64 is the other retro game in this competition. But the mystery and the interesting format caught my interest, and so after trying two emulators I jumped in.

Artful Deceit is an affectionately goofy detective game, the kind where a detective's job is more about solving puzzles than breaking alibis. It is emulating (so to speak) a very retro, barebones style of play, with crucial information to be found in the lovely feelies, and only a few verbs. But by that same token I was never majorly confused about what was interactable in the room. The puzzles in the sections I completed were sensible and didn't require any bizarre leaps of logic. (Although the hints allude to a puzzle where you (Spoiler - click to show)press buttons around the sculpture--somehow this did not happen when I played. The (Spoiler - click to show)magenta button was visible to me when I entered the room, and so I (Spoiler - click to show)pressed it and obtained the device right away.)

The biggest hurdle I encountered was simply navigating the house, especially when trying to get into and out of the garage. It is a very large space relative to the number of rooms that can be interacted with, and when the hardware/emulator takes 5-10 seconds to transition between rooms, the time added up. I also struggled with the emulator itself. I had several crashes, and at one point accidentally started editing over the text of the game. I don't know how much of that was the emulation vs. me (as mentioned at the beginning), but after a third crash that was fairly far through and running up against the judging time limit, I had to call it quits.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Commodore 64 murder mystery game with independent NPCS, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This was one of the better experiences I’ve had with a custom parser game written for a retro format.

This game was written for the Commodore 64 platform and must be played in an emulator. I played with the Vice emulator.

It is a murder mystery. It comes with a great deal of background material. There are feelies with long, in-depth interviews with each of the suspects. There are also guides on what can be typed. I found it necessary to read every single feelie and command guide and manual to complete the game, as there are essential components you will likely not find without help (such as the important ANALYZE command).

The setting and game style is intentionally reminiscent of old Infocom mysteries such as Deadline and Suspect. There is a single house with multiple independent NPCs moving about and various clues.

I’ll talk a bit about things that were frustrating and things that worked well.

Frustrations came mostly from the engine and parser. The Commodore 64 emulator I had imitated its old clunkiness. Each room takes several seconds to load. If you go the wrong way and want to turn around, it’s 20 seconds just to correct your mistake. There was a ‘speed up’ button which I used, however, it caused the space bar to wig out, making only one-word commands possible in fast mode (great for navigation). At one point while messing with speed and trying to type ‘E’ I made the emulator hang up; I don’t believe it was the game’s fault.

Some commands were a bit difficult to phrase. One must type ‘interior garage door’; ‘interior door’ will not suffice. TALK TO someone and OPEN something almost always returned a blank line with no response at all.

The story and motives were lavishly described but stretched the imagination a bit. I’m not sure the motive found in the game would hold up in court, and some of the puzzles felt a bit arbitrary.

Those are the frustrating points. The good points are that outside of the above-mentioned difficulties, the parser was quite robust. I was frequently able to do what I wanted in an easy fashion. Puzzles were well-clued; I only turned to the walkthrough to speed up after I had the game crash. I do recommend playing on your own first without the walkthrough as it can help explain some of the more unusual action choices. I do think I would have had to turn to a walkthrough no matter what, though.

Other good things are the reasonable scope of the entry. With the slow emulation and the minimal parser, a long game could have stretched patience thin. This game seems well designed and compact, and is more fair (in my opinion) than the original infocom games. All interactable items are listed at the end of the paragraph, so you don’t have to worry about whether scenery contains an important clue.

In the past, I’ve had many bad experiences with custom parser and retro platforms. I’d say that this was genuinely refreshing and was, compared to those experiences, satisfying. For someone unaccustomed to such platforms I could imagine there would be much frustration. I also found the feelies to be very high quality (although there is a ‘images go here’ section that I believe will eventually be corrected). If I could change one thing, it’d be allowing ‘X’ as look at. I appreciate the game and was glad to play it!

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Rose Glasses Off, January 5, 2024
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

This was a work I super strongly WANTED to like. The cover art just sang off a specific set of neurons, so perfect in its capture of getting a new game back in the day. Now I was never a Commodore guy, so it wasn’t a specific yearning. That made it even MORE enticing I think, like inviting me into a subculture that shares a common language but with an evocative and appealing accent.

It kind of needed that charge, because there was prework: installing VICE on my Linux machine, figuring out how to work it!, a lengthy cycle of manual and feelies to consume all before starting. Despite chafing to GET STARTED, the material was attractively composed and fun to read.

The emulator experience was a quick shot of ‘coool,’ followed by a long, slow deflation of ‘oh no, its actually not that cool.’ I suspect this was an artifact of maybe full hardware emulation? I actually kind of hope it was, because the alternative is that the emulator coders lovingly recreated THE INSANELY SLOW LAG of early computing platforms. This would be like lovingly crafting fully detailed restagings of childhood bullying episodes. That is totally NOT the nostalgia experience I ever want! Verisimilitude is a LIABILITY there. I would have thought my modern, high powered machine could have managed that better. Towards the end I started ‘one-one thousand’ counting lag between command and response. The record was 11 - 11 simulated seconds. Rarely was it less than 2. And the lag didn’t limit itself to output - if I typed too fast, it would miss letters, requiring a backspace, then slower retry. WAS THAT WHAT IT WAS LIKE? Viva la progress!

I subsequently learned there are emulator hooks to ameliorate this. If you intend to play, I strongly recommend consulting this thread first.

Is it fair to penalize a work for its platform? No OTHER IF work I've played took me on this specific journey. Certainly, embracing this ancient platform is the most obvious thing about the work. I think yeah, it owns this.

The story itself is a murder mystery: fulfill the post-mortem contract of an art dealer convinced he would be killed, and yup! Spot on! He is! The style of thing is very much of its time, and precisely so. A mappable location (or two), no nouns except those called out in contents lists, short descriptions, limited dialogue, often reused between characters. Rudimentary manipulation puzzles. The promise of the game was deduction, and the means/motive/opportunity tracking looked like an elegant way about this, a mechanic I was eager to engage. I willingly shrugged away modern expectations to embrace it as was. Over time I think my resolve wavered because only being able to ask characters about nouns I had physically touched, and often hearing word for word identical responses inevitably brought me back to ‘well, thank goodness we fixed that at least!’ There were quite a few implementation holes: I used a flashlight before I had one, yet things were still “too dark.” Buttons disappeared yet were still present when examined. The Gallery navigation was complicated by N connections in one direction, but W instead of south to return. I uncharitably started to think, ‘ok, par for the course back then, but if you’re making me be super slow, couldn’t we quietly clean these up?’

For all its supplemental material, and there was a lot and it was cool, it somehow STILL fell short. The manual notes that X should alias to EXAMINE but it does not, and the full word must be typed EVERY TIME. This is not even a modern innovation, yet somehow missed! The command card does not document PULL, begging the question what other verbs did I not know were available? (And if not exhaustive, what was its purpose anyway?) Conversely, ANALYZE - a custom capability of the game - is never mentioned EXCEPT on the card, and unclear what it meant. That is forgivable certainly, but given the deep instructions felt like an out of place omission. There are feelie items outside the Feelie package, intended to be read only when uncovered in gameplay. There is no mention of these anywhere, and only after a vexing search through the download hierarchy was it clear what to do.

It is possible the above paragraph was addressed in a subsequent release, presence of PULL in the feelie might be a clue.

As you can see, I was powering through! Maybe at a snail’s pace but doing it! I’m the hero here! The one that really got me was a puzzle (maybe?) (Spoiler - click to show)Knowing I needed to "] DRIVE TO GALLERY" I could tell the ACT was possible from the command card, but nowhere else in gameplay or feelies could I detect any hint that this was not a one location game. Here I needed to add a specific noun and unlike ANALYZE, the game was no help cluing what that might be. Sure, given the background I could infer it existed, but I could infer a LOT of things existed that weren’t implemented! I had been trained to only try nouns explicitly mentioned! Consulting the walkthrough provided the answer, and it was not a joyous moment of epiphany, it was an ‘oh c’mon.’

I had like 15 minutes after that and thanks to the protracted command loop, my timer expired not close to finishing. I really WANTED to like this. I still really love that it exists, that so much effort was poured into this loving recreation. I hope it provides joy to those who remember their Commodore days fondly. For me, it was more a ‘rose-colored glasses off’ experience that made me grateful for modernity. I know. That’s not so fashionable these days.

Played: 11/1/23
Playtime: 2hrs, for maybe an hour of progress
Artistic/Technical ratings: Mechanical, Intrusive emulation and gameplay
Would Play After Comp?: No, a glut in Nostalgia content available these days, will look elsewhere

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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Artful Deceit on IFDB

Recommended Lists

Artful Deceit appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Detective and mystery games by MathBrush
These are games where you play a detective or someone else investigating a mystery. Most of them are realistic games which I am splitting off of my realistic list. Some are more magical or science fi-ish.

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