by Marc Blank


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An innovative and fascinating game, November 7, 2023
by Drew Cook (Acadiana, USA)
Related reviews: infocom

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.

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- ENyman78 (Gold Beach, OR), October 29, 2023

- Kastel, April 13, 2023

- Phil Riley, March 24, 2023

- jrc (Stockholm, Sweden), January 7, 2023

- dvs, September 28, 2022

The First IF Murder Mystery (Source code available!), May 31, 2022

by ZUrlocker (Traverse City, Michgian)
Related reviews: detective, murder mystery, Infocom

This was the first non-fantasy game from Infocom and the first ever interactive fiction murder mystery game. It's a difficult game, for sure. I still have not completed the game, but it is worth trying out. (Infocom's Witness is definitely easier, and perhaps a better place to start.)

The game was reissued many times in the Infocom Masterpieces and Lost Treasures series. The original manual, maps, hints are all pretty widely available on various sites.

Interestingly enough there was an authorized Inform 6 rewrite whose source code is available in IFDB (though I wish there was a compiled binary file) and the original (slightly impenetrable) ZIL source code has also been posted.

If only someone would rewrite this in Inform7!

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- cgasquid (west of house), February 13, 2022

- unWinnable State (, March 31, 2021

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, groundbreaking game (but you will need a few hints), August 14, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 10+ hours

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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- Zape, June 3, 2020

- Otheym, August 18, 2019

- Denk, September 26, 2017

- nosferatu, July 15, 2017

- Spike, February 26, 2017

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Intricate, beautiful, a bit unfair. Infocom's first mystery and realistic game, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: Infocom

I loved Deadline. I didn't get too far on my own in solving the mystery, but I spent a long time exploring and having fun.

This is a mystery game, where a man has been found dead, and you have to investigate the house and people in it. Everyone walks around, has scripted events, etc. I asked everyone about everyone else, examined the crime scene, etc.

I missed an important verb which is listed in the manual, and which you are supposed to know from the beginning; typing ANALYZE or ANALYZE [SOMETHING] FOR [SOMETHING] sends someone to analyze stuff for you.

Now so many other games make sense. For instance, Jon Ingold's Make It Good really borrows a lot from this game, and now I realize it must have been an intentional homage, meant to help and mislead the experienced gamer (which I wasn't when I played it).

Deadline was an early experiment in timed and scripted events, as well as extensive conversation.. Games like Varicella or Pytho's Mask may not have existed without this one.

It' s also very hard, in unfair ways. I recommend eventually settling on a walkthrough. Like the great novels of the 1600's-1800's, it was designed to last for a long period of time in the absence of other material.

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- CasualGamer33356, October 14, 2015

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Deadline, June 9, 2015

My dad bought a copy of this when I was about eight years old. I spent the next three years trying to complete it, and the following twenty annoyed at the fact I never did.
Eventually, I got to download it again and finally completed it last year.
I've only ever played one other IF game (so far) so I don't have much to compare it to, but I've never played anything else that kept me hooked for twenty years.

For me, the characters are believable, the plot makes sense and everything you do has some kind of purpose (rather than being some random action). It's difficult though, because there are some things that have to be done at certain times.

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- Thrax, March 12, 2015

- shornet (Bucharest), March 23, 2014

- KidRisky (Connecticut, USA), December 20, 2013

- Hotspur, September 23, 2013

- Shadow Fox (Texas), April 17, 2013

- The Custodian (The Cloud), April 10, 2013

- Jimmy Gonzolo (New Mexico), January 21, 2013

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great Infocom mystery, November 13, 2012

The first non-Zork game Infocom did, which means the parser doesn't understand a lot of abbreviations which most of us take for granted.
However, don't let that stop you: the writing is where the game really shines.
You're a detective who's got excactly 12 hours to prove that the suicide of Mr.Robner was in fact a murder, and prove who did it. You do this by investigating his mansion and questioning the people there. These are some of the most fleshed out NPS's you'll see in a game of this era. They react to a lot of items you show them.
The puzzles are logical and satisfying to solve, but still quite difficult. I found myself using the InvisiClues a lot.
My conclusion: one of the best mysteries Infocom did, if not the best.

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- Puddin Tame (Queens, NY), October 27, 2012

- AADA7A, September 22, 2012

- kala (Finland), May 26, 2012

- Nav (Bristol, UK), November 25, 2011

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
The Foundation of an IF Mystery Genre, July 11, 2011

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.

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- GDL (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), July 7, 2011

- André St-Aubin (Laval, Québec), May 31, 2011

- Rotonoto (Albuquerque, New Mexico), May 16, 2011

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), June 23, 2010

- lavonardo, April 28, 2010

- o0pyromancer0o, April 23, 2010

- sneJ (San Jose, California), November 15, 2009

- DallasBrianK (DFW Area), August 16, 2009

- m1150, January 10, 2009

- fschuhi (Duesseldorf, Germany), December 30, 2008

- Nathan (Utah), October 26, 2008

- Wesley (Iowa City, Iowa), September 1, 2008

- Ghalev (Northern Appalachia, United States), June 30, 2008

- Mike Ciul (Philadelphia), June 4, 2008

- tfbk, May 8, 2008

- jfpbookworm (Hamburg, New York), February 28, 2008

- greyareabeyond, February 15, 2008

- oddgrue (California), December 30, 2007

- Miron (Berlin, Germany), December 11, 2007

- Matt Kimmel (Cambridge, MA), November 29, 2007

- adr (Hamilton, oN), October 25, 2007

Baf's Guide

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

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