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Old 07-29-2011, 03:42 PM   #1
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Default JuntMonkey Plays Infocom Games

Inspired by Lagomorph.

I have owned the Lost Treasures of Infocom 1 for around 15 years. I played Zork I-III, Lurking Horror, and Infidel, but used walkthroughs for all of them. After thinking about it at various times over the last decade and a half, this week I started to actually play Infocom games.

I started with A Mind Forever Voyaging, a game that is not in the Lost Treasures package. This is one of the few text adventures that was always on my gaming bucket list. A key reason for choosing AMFV first was that I'd heard it wasn't particularly difficult - it's more about observing things than about figuring out obtuse "puzzles". I wanted to attempt to build up some text adventure momentum by hopefully finishing one without resorting to walkthroughs.

I did manage to finish the game without hints and with no real difficulty. It only took a few hours total. It wasn't that great.

Not sure if I should do the synopsis thing like regular reviews do, but in the game you play a sentient computer and have to go into several simulations of the future to see how a new "Plan" that the government wants to implement will work out.

The game is sort of interesting in that you're basically just exploring a city and recording certain events. Like newer open-world games, many of the buildings and areas never need to be explored if you don't want to bother. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

The game is cool at first when you have been given definite goals. After you complete that, you are thrown to the wild with no real hints about what to do, although you figure it out soon enough. Then it gets repetitive, as you have to do the same thing in several different time periods. Even though the game was short, it could have been truncated more, or at least more specific relevance could have been given to each time period.

This game is generally mentioned as a classic, as one of Infocom's best, as a true work of art as opposed to the frivolous treasure-hunting nonsense that had come before with text games, etc. I haven't played enough Infocom games to know for sure yet, but if this is among the best they have to offer then that's not a good sign.

I suspect part of the reason why the game is put on a pedestal is its subject matter. It's "serious" (and therefore a "true work of art" as opposed to lighter topics which are not) and it's depressing and it's really trying to drive home a message. So, being a very early computer game with a more serious tone, especially amongst its goofy adventure game peers, it's easy to see why it would get a lot of credit. I also remember what it was like to be a teenager or young adult reading my first really serious and depressing work of fiction - it was mind-blowing. And so for all of these reasons I would argue that the game gets remembered fondly far more than it should, especially from people who experienced it when they were young or when the industry itself was less mature.

The politics are juvenile:

"This hotel burned down and killed 200 people because the construction industry was deregulated and therefore the company built an unsafe building." That's like a 13 year old's logic. The way that things spiral out of control after a few decades is silly. You can certainly argue against many of the positions that the politician's "Plan" favors, and I would myself, but violent anarchy is not a logical extension of those positions without major corruption and more evil "Plan"s in the future.

So, the game was okay, but if Infocom is on about this level in general then I'm not going to be playing many more of them.

Rating: 6.0/10
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Old 07-29-2011, 04:57 PM   #2
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Excellent thread! I have to agree with some of your points on AMFV, it was personally disappointing given its reputation, but it was basically the first serious adventure game and showed that games weren't just for fun and could deal with serious issues.
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Old 09-17-2011, 01:20 PM   #3
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Great to see an Infocom thread! I was thinking of doing an IF thread myself after I completed my Sierra one, but that probably wont be until another 10 years.

I've only played Zork I and II, but found both to be quite enjoyable. I'm fascinated about the possibilities of IF.
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Old 09-17-2011, 01:38 PM   #4
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I used to be an Infocom fanatic, back in the day, and I still have very fond memories of working my way through their amazingly descriptive worlds. While I haven't played AMFV, one game I would recommend is Cutthroats, if you haven't played it yet. I think it's one of Infocom's best, that manages to do everything right, and even has some replayability because of a clever use of randomness with different possible winning endings. PLus, it's not too tough.
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Old 09-17-2011, 04:47 PM   #5
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To be honest I was also disappointed by AMFV. It's thematically interesting, but otherwise not very impressive. Infocom's Hitchhiker and the Zorks are much much better in every aspect, as are many modern IFs.
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