Nine Princes in Amber

by Byron Preiss and Roger Zelazny

Adaptation
1985

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Equal parts fascinating and baffling, June 23, 2020

Jimmy Maher argues that this adaptation of the first two novels of what is now known as the Chronicles of Amber wants to be a choice-based game. It's a compelling argument.

But there's more going on here than that, because they really committed to a high concept for a sprawling wide-open parser experience. There's an elaborate fencing system in the parser which ends up being entirely unnecessary. There's a clunky-but-engaging life-or-death map-building minigame (used for "walking the Pattern", a rite of passage for Amberites such as your character) which can be entirely avoided with a single clever verb. There are all sorts of twists and turns that make a rote recreation of the novels not-quite-right, or actually just plain boring compared to the game's unique alternate path through Prince Corwin's top priorities ((Spoiler - click to show)recovering his identity, revenge on chief rival Eric, and ruling over Amber.)

Even for the mid-1980s, there's a lot of parser fighting here as you struggle to reconcile your ideas for how to advance the plot, the opaque cues and clues being given by the other characters in the game, and the seeds planted by the original Zelazny text. Even more than I'd enjoy seeing a supercut of the satisfactory paths through the game (and there are at least two "good" endings, plus others which are "complete but less than perfect") I'd like to see a documentary about the process this game's large team went through to put it together.



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