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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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Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It

by Jeff O'Neill

Wordplay
1987

(based on 52 ratings)
8 reviews

About the Story

You are standing at the edge of a barren field. A steady wind, having secreted away the topsoil, is now drifting sandy dirt across the plain. A scant sign of life here is a freshly-burrowed molehill on the ground.

> MAKE A MOUNTAIN OUT OF THE MOLEHILL

There is a tremendous rumbling in the distance, getting louder and louder, until it is deafening. The dirt around the molehill crumbles away as mighty, jagged granite peaks emerge from deep underground. The surrounding landscape transforms into a fertile valley before your very eyes.

Infocom's first collection of short stories takes you to a place where nothing is quite as it seems. It's a place where you really can make a mountain out of a molehill, where "the fur is flying" is taken literally, and where a bow can be turned into a beau.

Each of the eight stories in Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It involves a different type of wordplay. You'll find yourself challenging your wits and your memory to come up with the clichés, spoonerisms, and other verbal trickeries needed to complete the puzzles. But don't view this as a hard row to hoe. Nord and Bert contains built-in hints, which you can call upon when the going gets rough.

All eight stories take place in the mixed-up town of Punster. However, no two contain the same people, locations, or objects. Each is played independently of the others, although you'll use passwords obtained in seven of the stories to get into the eighth. As for mapping, it's out of the window. You simply type where you want to go.

The tall tales in Nord and Bert are every bit as fun and clever as Infocom's other interactive fiction stories. They can each be completed in one sitting, making them a highly entertaining way to spend an evening, alone or with friends. Nord and Bert was authored by Jeff O'Neill, whose mind is constantly working on artful new turns of phrase.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
Current Version: Unknown
Development System: ZIL
IFIDs:  ZCODE-19-870722
ZCODE-20-870722
TUID: zxb8pq3qrkvdob4i

Editorial Reviews

SPAG
The nature of such a game means that many of the puzzles will be of the "guess what the author is thinking" type. Also, since the puzzles don't necessarily build on each other, but often stand separately, you may finish a story only to be told that there were more things you could have done, and be forced to return later. [...] The real strength of the game is in its Writing and Atmosphere. The mood created is delightfully surreal, and the constant clever descriptions and responses make this one of the best "reading" text games ever produced.
See the full review

SynTax
One section, "Shake A Tower" is based round spoonerisms. These verbal mistakes were named after the Reverend W A Spooner back at the turn of the century, who had the unfortunate habit of transposing the initial sounds of spoken words. Thus "Shake A Tower" would become "Take A Shower". Some of the examples in the game are as obvious but others are decidedly devious. Don't expect to just be able to swap two letters, you'll have to think quite deeply about some of them.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(12)
4 star:
(21)
3 star:
(15)
2 star:
(5)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A spotty Infocom game with great highlights, June 17, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This is an interesting game. With wordplay games, the question is, how can you make a game about wordplay that lasts long? One answer is to follow Emily Short's example and just put tons of content into a game (Counterfeit Monkey).

This game achieves its length through unfairness. Parts of this game (it's basically several mini-games put together) are wonderful: Buy the Farm was particularly good, as was the Shopping Bizarre. Those two would make a wonderful game pulled out on their own, one relying on American English sayings and the other on homonyms.

Some parts of this game don't make any sense. I didn't understand In a Manor of Speaking (which btw is also the name of a great Hulk Handsome game) at all, and looking it up, I still haven't found a good explanation at all. I believe having the Doldrums was a mistake, because it made you think everything else had a gimmick (like Gary Larson's infamous Cow Tools cartoon).

But if the game wasn't unfair, it wouldn't last very long. The only way I've seen fair wordplay games achieve length is through tons of content, like I said. Andrew Schultz does this with exhaustive code-enhanced wordspace searches. Shuffling Around is a good example of this.

I also like the Act your Part session. It was nonsensical, but I was able to get a lot of points just doing dumb stuff.

I played the version released by Zarf who was re-releasing Jason Scott's releasing of previously unreleased Infocom releases.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Some Fantastic Highlights and Regrettable Lowlights, August 20, 2021
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

I desperately want to love this game, but sadly I can only sort of like it. I'm obsessed with words, odd phrases, and idioms, so I went into this game with quite high hopes. Broken up into a series of 'interactive short stories,' a few of the stories are fantastically fun and pull off the wordplay game mechanic marvelously. A few of the stories are confusing and confounding to the point of being unplayable.

The stories that really shine -- "Shake a Tree," "Buy the Farm," "Shopping Bizarre" being the main highlights -- integrate wordplay like spoonerisms and taking idioms literally in truly inventive ways. As your playing with words often alters the game world, there are many opportunities for surreal, odd, and plain funny happenstances (Spoiler - click to show)like when some locks on a door become smoked salmon lox...that need to be 'unloxed' . O'Neill's writing in these sections is superb, conveying the strangeness of some surreal transformation caused by you invoking a bit of word play.

If this had been sustained for a full game (a la Counterfeit Monkey), I would easily give this game a 5 star review. However, the short stories that fall flat fall very, very flat. At least two of the stories almost certainly necessitate using the (fortunately built-in) hints, as the 'puzzles' involve guessing at some joke or bit of cleverness that you have only some vague idea of. This is essentially the same driving mechanic in the stories that work well -- except you are able to arrive at the right conclusions by playing around with the words in the text. For stories like "Manor of Speaking" and "Act the Part," there is very little actual wordplay involved, and few other clues in the text as to how to make progress.

Although I absolutely love the parts of the game that work, the fact that I was forced to heavily rely on hints and walkthroughs for nearly half the game seriously soured my overall experience.


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Guess the Noun!, March 12, 2010
by tggdan3 (Michigan)

What a weird game!

Of all the guess-the-verb puzzles I've hated over the years, this one is actually fun, though the entire game seems to be a series of guess the verb (or guess the noun) puzzles.

You choose between a few different locales based on different language-isms. One is based on spoonerisms, where you must turn a Gritty Pearl into a Pretty Girl. Another is based on homonyms, where you must turn the steak into a stake so you can kill a vampire. Another is on puns, where you must eat a group of lions (swallow your pride!) and eat humble pie, turn the tables (literally) etc. Yet another has you doing cliches, such as making a mountain out of a molehill or killing two birds with one stone.

The gameplay consists mainly of you looking at stuff, then trying to guess what cliche was intended. When you see that you have one stone, you must figure out that you need to kill two birds with it, or when the mice are sliding around in the grain, you need to let a cat on them, because while the cats away the mice will play. If you are not familiar with these trite phrases, you won't get far, since there's nothing other to figure out. When you see a bunch of locks, you just type >LOX to turn them into fish.

While the gameplay can be interesting, it grates on you eventually, as you try to complete areas but you've run out of sayings so you don't know what else the game is looking for. But, if you like frustration, this is the game for you!


See All 8 Member Reviews

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Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It appears in the following Recommended Lists:

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It:

I'm looking for a great surreal game. by Bishopofbasic
It's pretty hot up here in Canada and I was wondering if anyone knew of any great surreal type games. Something I can spend my time in front of the AC or in my office hiding from the world. Thanks you guys.

First IF that you have ever played by BlitzWithGuns
What is the first IF that you have ever played? The game that made you love the concept of IF?

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As a historical exercise, I've begun compiling a list of IF games that have either done something ground breaking with the medium or otherwise influenced it; and I've turned it into a poll so everyone can have input on the expansion....

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This is version 9 of this page, edited by Petter Sjölund on 27 September 2021 at 9:37am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item