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The source files and a precompiled ZMachine storyfile of this adventure were recovered from a salvaged "Infocom hard drive", and made publicly available on GitHub in an effort to preserve them.
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Suspended

by Michael Berlyn

Science Fiction
1983

(based on 42 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

They said you would sleep for half a millennium - not an unreasonable length of time, considering you'd be in limited cryogenic suspension. Your body would rest at the planet's nerve center, an underground complex 20 miles beneath the surface. Your brain, they told you, would be wired to a network of computers; your mind would continue to operate at a minimal level, overseeing maintenance of surface-side equilibrium. And you would not awake, so they promised, until your 500 years had elapsed - barring, of course, the most dire emergency.

Then, and only then, you would be awakened to save your planet by strategically manipulating six robots, each of whom perceives the world differently. But such a catastrophe, you have been assured, could not possibly occur.

Good morning.

Difficulty: Expert


Game Details


Awards

36th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)

21st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2023 edition)

Editorial Reviews

Gaming Enthusiast
The game is extremely difficult, but beating it brings unparalleled satisfaction.
-- Toddziak
See the full review

SPAG
It might be best not to think of Suspended as a work of Interactive Fiction at all. It is a pseudo-simulation game, written before software technology was developed enough to develop real simulation games. It is a game for frustrated would-be air traffic controllers who enjoy coordinating multiple activities from a central location, much more than it is a work of fiction. It is a game for people who like to play WITH games, not merely play them.
-- Graeme Cree
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50 Years of Text Games, by Aaron A. Reed
The manual explains that you’ll interact with a crew of repair robots in the underground complex via a series of Filtering Computers (FCs), which will interpret your commands and translate the robots’ reports back to you. The Filtering Computers are a diegetic explanation for the game’s parser. The textual interface, and the disconnect between player and character, are part of the story.
[...]
Reactions to the game at the time were largely positive, but also buoyed by an electric sense that Infocom was in the process of radically evolving what a computer game could be.
[...]
The game’s longer-term legacy would be more complex. Its alienating premise and interface turned off players expecting the more traditional storytelling that was becoming the core of Infocom’s brand. It was also challenging, uncompromising, and required an obsessive attention to detail: “a game for frustrated would-be air traffic controllers,” one reviewer called it.
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Member Reviews

5 star:
(17)
4 star:
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3 star:
(6)
2 star:
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Number of Reviews: 3
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A Tale of Six Rather Unoptimized Robots, September 17, 2023
by Drew Cook (Acadiana, USA)
Related reviews: infocom

Of all of Infocom's folio release titles, Suspended is the least-reviewed and second least-rated here at IFDB. I have seen it referred to as a "management and optimization" game, and I think the intended meaning is that Suspended is not "real" IF.

I don't agree.

This is because most of Infocom's early games have major management components. In Planetfall, consider the juggling required to get all potentially useful items from one complex to another. If you don't think these matters are serious in Planetfall, try carrying a ladder someplace while hungry or tired. Zork II likely requires at least two playthroughs: one where you learn what to do, and one where you do it before your lamp runs out. To solve Deadline, you will likely plan and then follow a strict schedule, making sure to be in exactly the right places at exactly the right time.

Suspended is different in that it is open about its management components. Quite open. In fact, the folio's manual dedicates real estate to "strategic planning." I appreciate it when a game lets me know what I am in for, provided it can deliver in an interesting way.

Speaking of the folio, I believe Suspended is the game that suffers the most in its transition from folio to grey box. The folio's featureless, white face, masking a terrified visage crowned with electrical leads, is instantly compelling. While Infocom would never really embrace graphics, they certainly seem to realize how effectively the right visuals can induce potent emotional responses. The folio manual is better, too, and I encourage new players to retrieve all package materials from the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History before starting.

In Suspended, you play a cryogenically frozen person that must, should an emergency occur, be roused from slumber. Awake as you suddenly are, it is your task to stabilize the "Filtering Computers" responsible for controlling weather, food production, and mass transportation for the entire planet of Contra. Casualties mount by the minute, and should you take too long, you will be killed and replaced by a clone.

The protagonist never leaves the cryochamber. Instead, they interface with six robots that both act and perceive on the player's behalf, and these robots constantly feed the player information. Each has different sensory abilities, so they have different names and descriptions for objects they encounter. Their descriptions of rooms differ as well. In the first playthrough it would be wise to send every robot to every room, just to see what all of them say. I really enjoyed this dimension of the game; it is a bit like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. The game world is small, but you get to see it six different ways.

I have also seen it said that there isn't a story here. I believe the documents included create a strong sense of place which is reinforced by certain observable events. I also think Suspended is the only Infocom game with what I would call enduring narrative propulsion. Starcross begins with a clear sense of forward movement, but once you reach a certain point there are no time constraints. In Suspended, you have to deal with the evolving situation effectively or you will die. You have to do so by immediately mitigating problems while developing a permanent solution. The urgency never lets up. The plot, modest as it is, remains, er... suspenseful due to constraints, temporal and otherwise.

Just as in other early Infocom games, multiple playthroughs are likely needed before solving Suspended. There are traditional puzzles to solve--some of them quite challenging. I remember my satisfaction upon completing Suspended for the first time, only to discover that I had allowed so many casualties that the populace wanted to burn me at the stake! After a few more tries I was able to get the best possible score. That time, only 12,000 people died. Getting the best score was unusually satisfying, even compared with other Infocom titles.

I have seen at least one critic attempt to psychoanalyze the sort of person who likes Suspended. I don't think that's necessary, but I will say that not everyone will care for it. I believe players open to multiple playthroughs will enjoy it the most. Trying to get everything right the first time will lead only to frustration. The sort of person who would enjoy making a map from complex data (Suspended actually comes with a map, but it doesn't say what is in each room) and interpreting non-visual descriptions of places and things will probably enjoy mastering Suspended. Players who dislike learning from failure or using knowledge gained from previous playthroughs probably should give it a miss.

Suspended's gameplay scenario is one that only interactive fiction could handle well, given that most video games rely exclusively on visual and auditory stimuli. Sight and hearing are the least-utilized senses in Suspended.

It's worth noting that Suspended is Mike Berlyn's first Infocom game, and I believe Marc Blank recruited him for his writing chops. I suppose some might find it ironic that Suspended is so narratively non-traditional, but I think that perspective sells IF short. Surely we all realize now that IF is a much bigger tent than we may have assumed way back when, no matter which robot is in the room.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great sci-fi puzzler, September 16, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: ZIL, Infocom, C64

This game is among Infocom's finest. A sophisticated parser where you can order several robots around makes some original puzzles possible. It is hardcore sci-fi with only little human interaction, so that may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you are into tough but logical puzzles, this is really good. According to sources, this game has the difficulty level "expert". I didn't find it so hard, unlike many other Infocom games, but that is probably because I like the genre. The game has very high replayability. It has two difficulty levels and for each level you will probably start out receiving a low rank, but by replaying, you can receive the best rank, i.e. rank 1. To reach the highest rank, you will to some extent have to optimize your moves, to have few casualties and to solve the game in few cycles. I regard this as a very good game.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 9/10)
A very sophisticated parser where you can give orders to multiple "characters" (robots). Lacks modern synonyms like X, Z and g and you cannot "undo". A good thing is, that you do not need to type more than six characters of each word, which is a very suitable limit.

Atmosphere (Rating: 9/10)
Though you mainly interact with robots, they have different personalities, not least Poet, and when humans arrive their presence it adds a layer of time pressure.

Cruelty (Rating: Tough)
It quite quickly becomes obvious, that you are not going to solve the game the first time you try. And the first many games you play, it won't really make sense to save your progress, as you will learn something new almost every time, and to complete the game you will probably have to start over and optimize your moves some. But the time limits are obvious. Had there been no time limits it is possible but not very likely, that the game could become unwinnable.

Puzzles (Rating: 10/10)
Excellent puzzles that requires multiple play throughs to figure out in order to provide a challenge. I also like the meta-puzzle of minimizing casualties and the number of cycles taken to finish the game.

Overall (Rating: 10/10)
One of Infocom's best. Some tough but logical puzzles with well-hidden hints. Some might find the lack of human interaction a bit sterile but each robot has its own personality so it didn't bother me. And humans will appear at some point. Very good!

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A complicated optimization Infocom game set in the future, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: Infocom

Suspended is a very unusual Infocom game. You take control of six robots, each with their strengths and issues (only one can see, but it's broken; another can feel things, but it talks in riddles; one is mainly useful if you're closer to dying, etc.)

The idea is that each one can see its environment in different ways. The first few playthroughs might just consist of exploring each room in the (provided) map, and understanding what needs to happen. Then later playthroughs would consist of trying over and over again to survive, and then trying to do it quickly.

I just played around for 15 minutes, and then used the walkthrough. I'd like to revisit this in the future. The robots have clever commentary.

It's mentioned in Planetfall that multipurpose robots like Floyd eliminated the need for these specialized robots.

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Suspended:

very hard games by aw1231
I am look for the hardest IF games ever.

Wandering NPCs by Fredrik
I have always been fascinated with games that have several wandering and independent NPCs, especially when you have the ability to try to order them around. This sets the stage for a game where no one session is like any other, and even...

Games with stupid player characters by murphy_slaw
I'm looking for games where the player character is significantly stupider and/or less observant than the average player - the kind of game where part of the challenge is making sense of the descriptions offered through the simplistic...

See all polls with votes for this game




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