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(based on 50 ratings)
About the Story
Twelve hours to solve the mystery. One false move, and the killer strikes again.
Language: English (en)
Current Version: Release 3
License: Former commercial
Development System: ZIL
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Baf's Guide ID: 1244
Referenced in Sergeant Guffy's Day, by TheDefiant
A port of one of Infocom's better games, with the permission of Activision. Not on the archive in compiled form, for some reason (possibly at Activision's request--it's not clear). The game itself is a mystery--you're solving a murder--and it's very, very hard; it's easy to miss important events simply by not being in the right place at the right time. Still, the character interaction is pretty extensive, a remarkable feat for 1982, and as a game it's pretty solid--there were some bugs in the NPC movement daemons in the original, but this port appears to be cleaner.
-- Duncan Stevens
Can you find the guilty party or parties and solve the crime? Is it a crime? Arresting someone before you have a tight case can mean the death of a jury verdict. Playing Deadline to a successful conclusion requires concentration and diligence. It is not an easy game. But you will find that it is well worth your effort. Deadline can be purchased new or used at Amazon.com as part of the Infocom Adventure Collection. These games could turn your long, hot summer into an exciting trip into your imagination. Why not give this one a try?
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The six main NPCs (not counting the attorney, who only plays a minor role) are really fleshed out; they act reasonable and consistent to their character and motives. You can show a lot of things to them and study their reactions, you can ask them about many topics, you can follow them around, you can accuse them and listen to what they have to say. Only few i-f games have such complete NPCs, I would say.
-- Volker Lanz
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Deadline is one of Infocom's most difficult games, and requires a number of playthroughs to win. Important events happen at specific times of day, and you have to know about them and be in the right place at the right time to take advantage. It's easy to miss evidence or misunderstand it. There's limited time to complete your investigation. And, of course, you can ruin everything by arresting the wrong person. It's really best to approach the game by recognizing that you need to thoroughly explore it in four dimensions -- getting to know what is going to happen at different times -- before expecting to reach a happy solution.
The things that make the game difficult are also the things that make it great. Instead of offering an underpopulated world full of set-piece puzzles, Deadline challenges the player to make sense of a coherent reality full of active people and sometimes misleading clues. Characters move around the house, pursuing their own agendas. People have a schedule and plans of their own. There are more conversation options than in most old classics.
The sense of a solid and coherent world carries over into the game's feelies. These are some of Infocom's best, with police reports and evidence establishing the backstory of the case, and unlike the feelies for the Enchanter series or Hollywood Hijinx, they're presented straight, not as joking riffs on the situation of the game.
Deadline is the first IF I ever played at length on my own. I didn't solve it until many years later, but I returned to it over and over again as a kid. What captured my imagination then, and still has a certain appeal, is the recurring sense of excitement from observing without being observed: listening in on phone extensions, looking for secret rooms, following people. There was always the sense that important and significant secrets were hidden under every surface.
While the depth of implementation and the complexity of character reactions aren't quite up there with modern mysteries such as Make It Good and Varicella, Deadline is a foundational work. It established a number of traditional features, such as the sidekick, Duffy, who can run lab tests on your evidence, and the use of ACCUSE to accost suspects, and laid the groundwork for the still-popular genre of IF mystery that focuses on evidence collection and NPC interrogation within a compact map.
I'm trying to work my way through the Infocom catalog, posting my thoughts on a gaming forum all the while.
Deadline was, in its day, a technical marvel. Nothing in Zork I or II could have prepared players for its intricate machinery. The suspects roam the map, living out their respective days, and these people can actually talk about more than one thing! They sometimes alter their schedules based on what the player does. The protagonist can catch them lying by confronting with evidence. They can be tailed or hidden from. You can even send items to a crime lab for analysis. Deadline is, in other words, a game where you get to do cool detective stuff.
The mystery itself is of the locked door kind, a type familiar to anyone who has read a bit of genre fiction. It is rewarding to unravel, too. There are multiple people deserving of the player's suspicion, and multiple playthroughs will likely be required before the player can focus on the killer.
It makes for a type of "groundhog day" effect; the player will have to spend time learning the characters' schedules and narrowing the investigation.
I have heard others say that Deadline is unfair, though I didn't find it so. Much will depend upon the player's actions when discovering a specific clue. Some find the appropriate action unmotivated, while others had no such problems. I have seen competent and experienced players stand on both sides of the fence, so your own experience of Deadline's fairness will likely be idiosyncratic.
It was one of the first Infocom games I played as a boy, but I never solved it then. That would come years later, taking me two years. It was a game I put down and later returned to, again and again. I usually thought of new things to try while in the shower or driving. It's that kind of experience.
Deadline is the first game of its kind. Other games labelled as mysteries really weren't. Not like this.
I don't think that awarding a rating to Deadline would be very productive. It is a foundational work in terms of both story and programming. I'll start rating games with Starcross if/when I get there.
I had heard and read about this game a lot before I played it, so I was expecting the worst as far as unfair puzzles go. In the end I thought that with a few notable exceptions, the game wasn't that hard, though I say that having played Zork and accepted my fate that any Infocom game would likely take a dozen playthroughs before you got close to beating it.
I loved the NPCs and their interactions with you and the environment. I loved that you couldn't just guess the right person as the murderer, that you had to gather evidence as well or you couldn't reach the ultimate ending. This game is ground breaking in introducing mysteries as an IF genre, and for a maiden voyage I think I did a pretty good job. You will need a few hints, but I think you will enjoy it.
(Spoiler - click to show)
It probably goes without saying, but digging around the holes in the rose garden for evidence, and the timing of catching George with an open safe in the hidden closet are the two puzzles that it would have been extremely difficult to solve without hints. Additionally, I think the final collection of evidence you obtain to "win" the game is a little thin when judged by the standards of modern murder mysteries.
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