Amnesia

by Thomas M. Disch and Kevin Bentley

Surreal, crime, slice of life
1986

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Horribly cruel, but worth playing for the story. , May 4, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)

Thomas M. Disch, prolific science fiction writer and reviewer, wrote a game in 1986 that infuriated me as a child. At the time, I felt the game was too difficult, though I liked the premise behind it. So about ten years later, I picked the game back up. It infuriated me. Amnesia just may be the most difficult text adventure ever put on the market. And by difficult I donít mean that you have to battle mazes and guess what verb the author wants you to use. The game is just damn hard.

As the title suggests, you wake up in a Manhattan hotel room with absolutely no clue as to your identity, or anyone elseís identity for that matter. Overused premise as it is, Disch works it to perfection. Almost immediately you feel as though people are after you. Naturally, you have no idea why.

Itís easy enough getting out of the hotel alive, but here comes the hard part: Youíre homeless. You have almost no money. No job. No identification. No food. Half of the game is simply survival, and itís about as easy as surviving on the streets in reality (or harder, really, considering how quickly I died). Unfortunately for our true homeless citizens, they have no access to a hint book or a restore function.

The game was only marginally easier when I was twenty-one than when I was ten. I was very happy to survive my first day on the streets without dying. I even made some progress towards figuring out my identity. But after dying a few dozen times, I gave in and downloaded a walkthrough; and I have no regrets in doing so. The game remains fair throughout, but I donít believe I could have ever won it on my own.

Despite the insane difficulty, I have a strong affection for the game. Dischís prose is beautiful. I wish more writers worked with programmers in developing games, because this one is worth going through the walkthrough just to read his descriptions of New York. Moreover, every single intersection in Manhattan is implemented. Every intersection. Granted, not every one has descriptions of warehouses and storefronts, but every landmark is there, as well as most parks and the entire subway system. A subway system that youíll have to use extensively to make it anywhere in the game. Finally, the story is fairly intriguing if you ever get to see the end of it. One drawback is that the plot elements are all too often drawn out between various deaths and thus the suspense is hurt a bit.

There are a few programming mistakes, but in a game this enormous, they can be forgiven. So can the sheer difficulty, but only in this current age of walkthrough heaven. If you thought Bureaucracy was boring because it was too easy, then this game should be right up your alley. Otherwise, download a walkthrough and enjoy yourself, watching how a game can shine when writer and programmer join forces.