Here we go then, part 1 of the impossible mission to play all the available Commodore 64 text adventure games.
First up is the innocent sounding 1-2-3… a public-domain text adventure developed by Chris Mudd for the 2000 Interactive Fiction Competition, and sitting right on top of my GB64 list. It’s written with Inform v6.21 Library 6/10. The release I am playing is release 1.
Spread across 2 floppy disks, the first disk asks if you want to load your story – a good sign! Obviously, I choose no and the story loads……slowly……very slowly.
A bar of asterixes counts down and takes a good couple of minutes before asking for disk 2, and then we’re almost instantly into the game.
And yes, straight in, to a screaming woman who is obviously in pain – the quite verbose background or preamble is painted with a young woman, distressed, and a caesarian birth carried out in a trauma room. The lady is less than happy to receive her baby!
And so we start off on a City Street. A damp, dark street by all accounts with not much to go on. Streetlights cut through the air, and the atmosphere is already a little on the dark side too.
1-2-3… is a short game which falls more under the category of Interactive Fiction than true Text Adventure. It quickly becomes a little disturbing and a bit too graphic for my liking and is very definitely an 18+ offering.
I wasn’t expecting much from an entry to an IF competition, but the parser was very basic and annoying at times, and the movements are so guided that you can’t really get lost or confused. There is some good use of quotations, from people such as Herman Melville for example, in between scenes about the madness of man and so forth. Having said that the short story is, if not exactly fun, at least gripping, and the writing is good and descriptive. A little too descriptive! And there is a good ending, even if the scoring system hasn’t been implemented.
Read on below for more in depth thoughts…I’m not sure how these reviews will evolve over time, but we’ll see how the format plays out across longer, more difficult games.
Longer Review & Maps
There is obviously something amiss here…dark thoughts keep creeping in at various times and locations. From the opening street, the game guides you by way of dead ends to outside a cafe where, disturbingly, you stare at a woman’s form through the glass.
In we go, and it is here we find Riessa, our, what, prey? We talk and, I think, flirt a little with Riessa, but it is not clear at all what to do. NB, worth mentioning here, there is no help system!
Here the description of Riessa goes into detail about her hair and her lips, but they do not exist if you try to examine either of them. There are other, earlier examples of this too (You can’t enter the cafe as it ‘doesn’t see a cafe here’). I get the complications and frustrations of a parser and game design, but that just brings you right out of any immersion in the story you may have managed thus far. You could argue that is part of the fun – guessing the right verbs and adjectives to accomplish what you need. You could argue that, but you’d be wrong.
No matter, we soldier on. And after several failed attempts, the next move should have been fairly obvious.
I think everything from now on should go behind a spoiler alert as the game takes, shall we say, a bit of a turn…
Even though we’re behind a spoiler alert I won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say a gruesome and disturbing murder has been committed, and we are straight into scene 2, inside an office, with a file containing the picture of a dead woman. Yes, ok Sherlock, a picture of a dead Riessa. It is not clear if we are the same or a different person at this stage.
So again our options are limited in terms of directions, most options result in a dead-end dialogue. The only two rooms of note, a Briefing Room and a Morgue are all that are available to us. In the former, we find a Seargent Bob Fitzgerald, and in the latter a Doctor Aaron Mischenko. We speak with them both.
OK, we have ascertained two things – we are both the boss and female. So not the same person. After an awkward and unpleasant talk with Dr Mischenko, and once we have gathered all the information we are going to get out of him, the scene changes once more and the location changes to Sidewalk.
We’re also back to being ‘The Guy‘ and yep, you can probably guess we are on the prowl again. Another murder is committed! Number 2.
Again I will leave the details to your imagination, but after the murder scene, we’re straight into yet another character, a psychiatrist, who is eagerly anticipating speaking with his next appointment, somebody who claims to be a bonafide serial killer. Yes, The Guy, you know, him, I mean us, I mean the killer….who am I again?
This scene and character jumping continues – the conversation in the psychiatrist’s office takes us unceremoniously into the next scene, and we’re back outside at a bus stop. You know what this adventure needs? Another murder!
OK, so now the us we were a few scenes ago is talking to the us we were another scene or two back, and we’re discussing the us we were last scene. No, you’re confused.
We’re into a dialogue between a psychiatrist and a detective. After discussing the psych profile and, well, flirting with him for a while, the detective gets invited back to the doctor’s office on Wednesday where a set-up is planned!
And there I will leave it. Even behind a spoiler warning, I’m not going to give away the end!
Thanks for reading. The only place I have found this game available in its C64 disk format is on the latest version of GB64, which can be downloaded here.
Appreciation and acknowledgement to Chris Mudd – it was a fun way to spend an hour or so.
Next on the list is 10Lines Adventure, another Public Domain game submitted to the Basic 10Liners competition, and then, if I can find it, as it seems to be missing on my version of GB64, on to 1990 by Spectresoft – our first true 1980s adventure game.
Until then, adventurers!