ISSUE #5 - April 19, 1995

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  The  \__/ociety for the |_|reservation of ||  ||dventure \___/ames
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				ISSUE # 5
        Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard SP@G
			      April 19, 1995

All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine
with the traditional 'at' sign. 


	As you can see by the rather unusual magazine header, this issue SPAG
focuses on the much awaited, and much speculated upon, Adventions game, _The
Legend Lives!_.  Within these electronic pages lurks an interview with Dave
Baggett, a review of "Legend" by Molley the Mage, and information on "Legend"
in the NEW GAMES section, which incidentally, is freeware.  Ah, if only my
low morals could aspire to such heights.  But, I'm just a capitalist pig-dog
businessman.  Oh well. :)
	Of course, "Legend" isn't the only thing in this issue, the largest
issue of SPAG yet.  Mind you, it's almost entirely due to Graeme Cree's
efforts (He's the author of Tossed into Space).  Graeme sent me so many
reviews that, at the current quota of 2 reviews a year, he's covered until,
I believe, the year 2175, but I could be wrong. :)
	As expected, I had a sad and meager response to my "Breathers"
contest.  Maybe sometime I'll try it again, with a prize. :)  Still, the ones
I did receive, I enjoyed heartily, and printed them all so you could enjoy
them too.
	SPAG has about 30 new subscribers this month.  Welcome folks!  Glad
to have you aboard.
	"Whizzard's Guide to Text Adventures" has been delayed so that I
might get some work done on Avalon, which I know some of you will be thrilled
to hear.  The rest of you, keep the yawning to a minimum, okay?  Avalon is
fast approaching its second anniversary, which is, well, pretty depressing
any way you look at it.  So I'll try to hurry it up.  For those keeping
score, I began Avalon in Oct. '93 with the tentative title Avalon: The Return
of a British Monarch.  The title was pretty bad, I admit.  Not at all spiffy
like the current title.  One Britisher even pointed out to the capitalist
pig-dog that England already has a monarch, thank-you-very-much.  Whoops.
	I then turned to the Vietnam Vets mailing list for information.  Wow,
was that a mistake.  They were so insulted by the fact that my game used the
Vietnam War that they set phasers to kill and flamed the heck out of me.  I
quickly unsubscribed from there, let me tell you.  I believe the term
"mewling puke" was used.  Yoinks!  I even received several threats of
lawsuits if my game used any of their stories/anecdotes or whatnot.  Of
course, they did fight in a war, not a game, so it's very understandable to
me now.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  After that, I kept my use of the
Vietnam War to a minimum, and restricted my research to books, magazines, and
encyclopedias.  Of course, it still bewilders me why it's okay for movies and
books to mention serious subjects, but not for a text adventure to do the
exact same thing.  Probably due to the current commercial games on the
market being as trite as they are.  Oh well.  Experience is the best teacher,
except at Berkeley, where the best teachers all have PhD's.
	Anyways, that's enough reminiscing for one issue (Hey, wake up, it's
over, okay?).  So, without further ado, I give you SPAG.  (Well, technically,
the reviewers give you SPAG.)

				G. Kevin Wilson

INTERVIEW WITH DAVE BAGGETT--------------------------------------------------

	[Here's that interview I promised you.  You may want to skip down to
Molley the Mage's review and read that first.]

From: David Baggett 

>So Dave, why did you decide to write this great new game of yours?

It started life as Unnkulian Unventure V.  I had just finished UU2, and we
had III and IV in the works --- these were to be written by some new
authors (who have subsequently gotten busy with other things).

The basic idea was to look at life in the Valley in the future --- to see
what happened to all the people and places we'd introduced in UU1 and UU2.
In the end, that ended up being a fairly minor part of the work.  

If you play all the Unnkulian games all the way through, however, you'll
recognize a great deal of continuity.  We work hard to put in little
details that veteran Unnkulian players will notice and chuckle at.  Because
of this, we encourage people to play through the games again once they've
run through the whole series.  Little things you didn't understand the
first time through will make sense the second time.

There's a section of Legend that is there just for the sake of continuity:
in Unnkulia Zero you end up in the future at one point, and it turns out
that this future is actually Legend's present.  So you (in Legend) get to
see "you" (in Unnkulia Zero).

Similarly, some characters appear in many different places and times.  (The
bartender in Legend is a good example --- try spraying him with the Snayk
spray you get out of the prototypes machine.)  There's a lot more going on
in the Unnkulian universe than first meets the eye.  There's a specific and
peculiar philosophy behind all the wackiness --- that something (time
travel, reincarnation, or something else supernatural) binds these
characters together across time and space.  For example, Gavin Kelly ("you"
in Legend) is an "echo" of another character you know well.  The game tells
you who, but in a very roundabout way --- you have to think a bit and try
some silly things to figure it out.

One thing I find especially attractive about interactive fiction is that
you can go through the whole work and still not read 50% of the text.  This
means that authors can put in lots of (for lack of a better word) subtext
--- secret messages, hidden objects --- little things that bind the game
world together and reward extensive study of the game.

I like to think of this as the weave of a fine Persian rug.  You can look
at the rug from afar and marvel at the beautiful pattern, and this is a
perfectly good way to appreciate the piece.  But you can also flip it over
and put your face right up against the weave, and see how finely it's
crafted --- how many threads there are per inch and so forth.  One side
tells you a lot about the other.

>Why did you decide to call it The Legend Lives! of all things?

There's nothing deep about the title.  It just reflects the fact that you
(as Gavin Kelly) are familar with stories about these supposedly mythical
"Unnkulians", and then find out that they're actually around and up to no
good.  (Of course, it's turns out that it's not that simple in the end.)

Keep in mind that you (the player) know that that the Unnkulians were
indeed "real" in Gavin's world, since you've played UU1 and UU2.  But in
Gavin Kelly's world, UU1 and UU2 are fictional works, so he doesn't know
that the Unnkulians are anything but the stuff of legend.

This is part of a general propensity I had in Legend for confusing the
reader in order to get him to suspsend his disbelief.  The more you think
about what's real and what's not, the more confused you get.  So eventually
you just give up and go along for the ride.  :)

Reality vs. unreality ties in nicely, because there's a bit of the same
confusion with software in general.  A piece of software *does* things --
it acts as an agent for the programmer.  But it doesn't really exist in the
physical world; or at least, what makes it useful --- the instructions that
determine what it does --- don't.  They're just numbers that can be stored
and transmitted in uncountably many ways.

There can be thousands of copies; there is infinite potential there.  And
in the abstract it takes no space.  If you think about it, it really is
quite strange.  The UU3 bit in Legend underscores this.

I remember seeing a report on TV about modern art, and one of the most
ridiculed works was a a pile of candy.  The work's owner explained that
anyone is free to take candy from the sculpture, or add candy to it.  The
narrator dismissed the work as utterly absurd --- he wondered aloud: if
people are adding to and taking away from the pile of the candy, what was
it, exactly, that the artist created?

The answer is that the artist created the *rule* --- the software.  The
physical sculpture is not important; it's the rule ("anyone can add candy
to and take candy away from the sculpture") that's important.  If I'm in a
room with you, and point to the bare floor, then I'm pointing at an
instance of this artist's sculpture.  How peculiar!

The narrator completely missed the point of the work.  The fact that such a
work is so easy to produce doesn't change the fact that it's a very
interesting piece.  (The first time someone does it, at least.  The problem
with works of art that are trivial to produce is that so many people rip
them off that they quickly lose their impact.)

(One does wonder how much the owner paid for the work, however!  And again,
we often have the same feelings about software --- we feel a bit taken
paying for something that can be copied effortlessly.  We want to own the
*only* copy of a work of art.  But the days of owning originals are over!)

	[I dunno, Dave.  It seems pretty deep to me. -GKW]

>Were you trying to get a specific message across to the player when you 
>wrote "Legend"?

There are many issues that I hope the work prompts the reader to think
about.  I think that some of these require some study to "get", and this is
perhaps indicative of weakness in the work.

Fundamentally, Legend invites you to think about what life really is.  What
aspects of life do we consider the exclusive domain of biological entities,
and why?  What would a machine have to do to change our idea of what life

Intelligence is of course one area where machines lag behind people and
animals right now.  But suppose this weren't the case --- I think that we'd
still be reluctant to call intelligent machines "living" or "conscious".
Why?  Because we have this notion of soul --- that there is something
external to our physical world that somehow guides us and really determines
who we are. Only religion talks about the soul, and that's why I thought it
imperative for Legend to have a strong religious component.  Understanding
the role religion plays in Legend is crucial to understanding the work as a

Beyond the central theme, Legend also talks about good and evil (this is
mainly to fool you into thinking the game is a text adventure like all
others, so you'll dive right into it); fascism and how it creeps up on you
when beaurocracies get too old and powerful, and how technology contributes
to this; the nature of time; and how technology both brings people together
and simultaneously eats away at their individuality --- particluarly, how
it helps people to work together much more efficiently, but likewise makes
each person's individual contribution less significant.

>Hunh.  Well, I've heard a lot about the new techniques you say you used 
>in "Legend".  Exactly what sort of unusual techniques did you use?

For one, I tried to increase the text density significantly.  You can
examine the world to greater depth, and the text you get is lengthier.
This is not really a new technique; it's just a style.

However, I do think Legend treats characters in a new way.  I call this the
"actor/character" distinction.  "Actors" are those game entities that the
player can interact with --- the troll on the bridge in Adventure, for
example.  "Characters", on the other hand, are not interactive --- they
exist only in the running text.  Of course, some entities can have both
character and actor components (though as we see in Legend, not entirely

I came up with this mainly out of frustration.  It's almost impossible to
make good actors, because AI is not up to the task, and won't be for quite
some time.  As a result, I feel that making convincing actors is a lost

Static fiction tells us a great deal about how to make strong *characters*,
however.  If you read _Catcher in the Rye_ alone, you can see many of the
basic devices authors use to fashion believable characters.  I wanted to
put some of these to use in IF.  Hence the actor/character distinction.

	[Well, of course I disagree.  Anything possible in static fiction is
possible in interactive fiction, only more so. -GKW]

>So, why use WorldClass for "Legend"?  It's my understanding that you 
>wrote it originally for adv.t.

Yes, Legend was an ADV.T game for more than half its deveplopment.  I wrote
WorldClass for another project (GC, the 1994 MIT AI Lab Olympics game) but
liked using it a lot more than ADV.T.  Half the reason WorldClass exists is
that I was getting tired of little annoying problems with ADV.T.  Going
back to ADV.T now would be very frustrating.

To be honest, though, Legend doesn't use much of WorldClass's power.

>Do you have any plans for your next game?  Is it going to be freeware or 
>commercial, like the "Horror of Rylvania"?

I'm working on a couple of things, neither of which is nearly as large or
commercially viable as Legend.

I probably won't make any more IF works commercial, but I'm not going to
promise that!  In addition to all of Legend's DOS problems and its
incredible lateness, our experiences with Rylvania led me to go the
freeware/shareware route to ensure that the game would get wide
distribution.  I still feel that Rylvania is an extremely important and
innovative IF game --- one that has been unjustly ignored.  It's
disappointing that although there are so many IF enthusiasts out there, so
few are willing to pay a fair price for such a strong work.

>Thanks alot for answering my questions.  Anything you'd like to add?

If you play these games for the puzzles alone --- if you just tear through
a work in a couple days --- you will never see what makes Rylvania (or
Legend, for that matter) different from its predecessors.  Whether or not
these works are entirely successful is a separate issue (though I think
Rylvania is, and very much so).  In my opinion, they are taking IF in new


	[Bravo, and thanks for the insights, Dave. -GKW]

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR--------------------------------------------------------

From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

     I would like to comment on Stefan Jokisch's review of my game,
Tossed into Space" in SPAGS #4.
     First, the original version of the game that won an honourable
mention in the 7th AGT Game Writing contest was not in fact a Lost in
Space parody at all, but a direct and explicit Lost in Space story. 
"Tossed", the special parody version with the names changed to protect
the guilty was specially created to be able to upload to the Compuserve
Gamer's Forum without any legal difficulties.  As a result, the
Designer's Notes that explained the purpose of the game had to be
omitted, since they contained numerous references to Lost in Space.
     Mr. Jokisch comments that the game is extremely easy and was
probably intended for beginners.  Not quite.  It is intended not for
beginning gamers, but for non-gamers.  Many times I have tried to
introduce my non-gaming friends to text games and have been rebuffed
with responses like "they take forever to play", "they're too hard",
and the occasional "I hate using graph paper".  They invariably end up
playing the latest version of Space Zap or Pong 2000.
     Whenever I have a group of friends over, some of us will watch a
video, others will play a boardgame, and invariably one person will see
the computer and ask if I have anything for them to play.  I wanted a
fast and easy text game for other people to be able to play on MY
computer when they came over.  I especially wanted one that they would
be able to finish before they went home, and didn't want difficulty or
length to cause them to abandon it in the middle and become soured on
text games that way.
     Marc Blank's "Catch A Butterfly" Tutorial was TOO short and easy. 
I tried using Border Zone - Chapter 1, but the puzzles were a little
too hard, and the generic background didn't capture people's
imagination.  So I decided to write my own.
     A familiar subject matter would attract interest, and a lot of my
friends are science-fiction fans.  Lost in Space had a very small space
ship, meaning that the players could visualize the whole map in their
mind without using graph paper, and would be aided by the fact that
they already had some idea of what the playing area looked like. 
Another factor was that I have one friend who is actually a Lost in
Space fan, and another who is named Dr. Smith.  In addition, Lost in
Space revolved around a quest for Earth that was never resolved.  Why
not write a conclusion to the story?  But a story where the Robinsons
heroically nursed their ship back to Earth seemed a bit anti-climactic.
     Then I remembered the old axiom that good writing made the reader
care about the characters.  "Surely," I thought, "Lost in Space's
writing was so bad that nobody would care if I let Dr. Smith steal the
ship and go back to Earth by himself."  And the idea was born.
     To make it more appealing to the first time player I weighted it
heavily towards story and against puzzles.  Puzzles are there, but are
very easy so that the player who tried a text game once, but got stuck
after 5 minutes and never came back will be able to progress through
the game without getting frustrated.  One thing I didn't like in
shareware games I had seen was that the authors often wrote responses
only for correct actions.  If you did something wrong, you often got
just a generic "you can't do that message".  As a result, I tried to
fill the game with specially written responses for all sorts of
incorrect or useless actions, so that the player would not only have
fun while he was winning, but also while he was just exploring around
trying to figure out what to do.
     The original version of the game is a bit better than the parody. 
Lost in Space is itself a sort of unintentional parody of good science
fiction, so a parody isn't quite as funny as doing it as a straight
Lost in Space story.  Also, the original version has a few cute little
extras, such as Pianoman versions of both Lost in Space theme songs as
opening and closing credits, and a .gif of the game map that the batch
file offers to show the player at the end.  However, it's not possible
to distribute the original version due to the copyright.
     I'm rather pleased with the final result, and think that the game
does well what it was intended to do.  For better or worse, the final
result is almost exactly what I had visualized.

	[And now, the moment you've all been waiting for (suurrree.):  The
winners of my "Breathers" Contest from SPAG #4.  They will each be mailed a
free copy of SPAG #5 to celebrate their success. :) ]

From: "Christopher Angelini" 

     You stand in darkness. Through your socks, you feel the rounded
edges of floor tiling, cool and hard. Your dressing gown brushes against
a counter as you walk through the room, stirring the still air, and
forcing a slight whiff of chlorine into your nose. You feel your leg
almost ache in anticipation of banging against that counter, but you have
managed to avoid it for once. Slowly, your hand glides across wallpaper,
flowing over small air-bubbles and peeling seams, finally locating the cold
metal of the light switch, which you throw. Your eyes blink reflexively as
the room explodes into view, revealing a sterile, white washroom, and a grey
door through which lies your room.

From: "Magnus Olsson" 

	Drums. At first, just a noise that shoots fingers of pain through
your aching head; then, as unconsciousness releases its grip and you slowly
become aware of the smell of smoke, the taste of blood in your mouth,
the dusty ground pressing against your face, you start perceiving the
urgent, almost threatening rhythm.  Carefully opening your eyes,
you see only the dark wall of the jungle; then dancing, dark shapes
sillhouetted against it.  As you slowly turn over, the events of your
capture leap back into your mind: the oppressive jungle atmosphere,
the sudden parting of branches to reveal painted Ngongo warriors, the
short struggle mercilessly ended by a war club.  Not until your eyes
focus on the big, black kettle by the fire do you remember the Ngongos'
grim reputation - as cannibals.

Flexing your aching muscles, gathering what strength you've left, you
desperately seek an opportunity for escape.

KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS----------------------------------------------------

Consider the following review header:

 NAME: Cutthroats                                PARSER: Infocom Standard
 AUTHOR: Infocom                                 PLOT: Two Seperate Paths
 EMAIL: ???                                      ATMOSPHERE: Well Done
 AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2                            WRITING: Good
 PUZZLES: Good                                   SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports
 CHARACTERS: Not Bad                             DIFFICULTY: Medium

	First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced
by one or two word ratings.  These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow
more freedom to the reviewers.  The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address
of the game author, not the reviewer.  AVAILABILITY will usually have either
Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware.  If the commercial
price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial.  If it has been
released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so.  Lastly, if it is
available on, the line should add GMD.  (Demo) if it's a demo
version.  The body of the review hasn't changed.

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along.
The scores will be used in the ratings section.  Authors may not rate or
review their own games.

SPAG accepts reviews of any length, letters to the editor, the occasional
interesting article on text adventures (no reprints please), and even just
ratings for your favorite game, if you don't have the time to do a full
review.  Please though, at least send me info for each game you have rated
equivalent to the review header for Cutthroats, above.  All accepted
materials will be headed by the submitter's name and e-mail address, unless
you request that they be withheld, in which case the header will read as

NEW GAMES--------------------------------------------------------------------

	As I'm sure you all know, this month heralds the release of
Adventions' _The Legend Lives!_ which is available from in the
appropriate directory, which should be found within
if-archive/games/adventions/.  Be sure to use binary download format when
getting it (type 'bi' before downloading), or you may experience trouble
when you try unpacking it.
	As "Legend" is so big, and uses WorldClass, Dave Baggett's updated
library for TADS, it can only run using the protected mode version of TADS
on IBM compatibles.  You need not worry about this, as Legend is packaged in
the .exe format.  However, users have often complained of difficulty when
running the game.  If you experience this problem, try running Legend from
within a DOS shell running under Windows 3.1.  This may help the problem.  If
Windows 3.1 refuses to install on your computer, as it does on mine, then get
your roommate to let you play it on his/her Macintosh, as I am doing.  There
have been no reports of difficulties using a Macintosh computer.  Oh, by the
way, you'll need at least a 286 to run it.  Oh well.
	But before you get discouraged by all this, let me say that Legend is
worth all the hassle.  The puzzles are interesting, the prose is terrific,
and the story is marvelous.  Of course, the characters are two dimensional,
but I haven't seen a good NPC since Floyd anyways. :(


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  A Mind Forever Voyaging       GAMEPLAY:  Infocom Standard
  AUTHOR:  Steve Eric Meretzky         PLOT:  Quite Good
  EMAIL:  ?                            ATMOSPHERE:  Perfect
  AVAILABILITY:  LTOI 2                WRITING:  Quite Good
  PUZZLES:  Not puzzle-oriented        SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Well developed          DIFFICULTY:  Advanced

     A Mind Forever Voyaging is often billed as Infocom's first serious
science fiction (much to the chagrin of Starcross and Suspended fans).
You are Perry Sim, who believed himself a normal human being until one
day (in adult life) you awake to find that you are in fact the world's
first sentient computer, and that the illusion of your earlier life had
been a necessary part of your programming process.
     Your first mission is to test the value of the controversial Plan
for Renewed National Purpose, a long-term economic stimulus program. 
To do this you must travel into a virtual reality computer simulation
of the nation ten years in the future and make recordings of several
everyday activities you will find there.  After doing so, you discover
that simulations of times even farther in the future have been made
available for you to investigate.  In the final section of the game you
must deal with the information you have discovered.
     Right away I had two serious problems with the game's premise. 
First, computer simulations of the future have always been extremely
unreliable, and here we're asked to believe that we will develop one so
accurate that it can actually determine the location of (as yet
unplanned) parks and small businesses in Rockvil, South Dakota, where
the game takes place.  It is simply impossible to have enough
information about people's private thoughts, especially ones that they
haven't even had yet, to be able to factor this into a simulation. 
Secondly, even if such simulations were available, why couldn't the
data simply be retrieved from the computer, rather than have
to send someone into the simulation to view it directly?
     If you can suspend disbelief enough to accept the situation, then
the game is quite good.  Unlike other Infocom offerings, it is meant to
be experienced, rather than played.  The first two parts of the game
have almost no puzzles, focusing instead on exploration and discovery
as you walk the streets of Rockvil, watching daily life, seeing what
activities can be attributed to the effects of the Plan, and watching
the changes that take place over time.
     If you've ever enjoyed returning to places you once lived to see
the changes, then you will probably enjoy this game.  Vacant lots become
drugstores, buildings get torn down and replaced with different ones,
and people's attitudes towards you may change from time to time.  On
the other hand, if what you enjoy most about text games is the puzzle
solving, you will probably get quite bored.  It isn't clear why Infocom
rated this game as Advanced.
     Most of the puzzles are in the third section of the game.  As
should surprise no one, the Plan turns out to be not such a good 
idea, and you must defend yourself and your friends from its supporters
who are not entirely pleased with the data you have uncovered. 
Meretzky was so pleased with the puzzle at the end of this section that
he used virtually the identical one at the end of Leather Goddesses of
Phobos 2.
     Years ago in an online Compuserve conference, Dave Lebling remarked
that most of Infocom's games were done tongue-in-cheek because those
titles invariably sold better than the others (this may explain why
some of their non-tongue-in-cheek games, like Spellbreaker and
Cutthroats, had funny documentation).  A Mind Forever Voyaging is no
exception, as it never sold particularly well.  Nevertheless, I consider it
one of Infocom's top three serious games (Spellbreaker and Arthur being the
other two), and worth a playthrough by anyone except the most die-hard puzzle


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  The Adventures of Elizabeth (El) Highe
				     GAMEPLAY:  Poor, but adequate
  AUTHOR:  Bill Larkins              PLOT:  Slightly below average
  EMAIL:  ?                          ATMOSPHERE:  Below Average
  AVAILABILITY:  CIS Gamer's Forum   WRITING:  Average
  PUZZLES:  Not so hot               SUPPORTS:  AGT
  CHARACTERS: Slightly below average DIFFICULTY:  Trivial

     In THE ADVENTURES OF ELIZABETH (EL) HIGHE, you play Elizabeth
Highe, a game designer for Sierra who must write a sequel to the 
hit, G-String Gertrude so that Ken and Roberta Williams will allow her
to leave the building (all the names have been slightly changed, of
course; i.e. Sierra to Appalachia, Roberta Williams to Robert Bills,
etc.).  You write your game by entering the computer (in a manner
similar to the movie TRON) and physically retrieving it.
     The AGT manual, in describing various uses for adventure games,
suggests that you could write a game about your co-workers and 
play it on a Friday afternoon.  This seems to be exactly what Bill
Larkins has done here (though I don't know if he ever worked for 
Sierra).  The game is short (I was able to complete it in 42 moves),
simple and lighthearted.
     The AGT parser is much maligned, but is really as good as the
author makes it.  It doesn't do much in this game, but it doesn't need
to.  The only problem I encountered was when I performed one important
action, and got no response at all, even though the action was
registered.  Some might mistakenly take this to mean that the action
was not important and get sidetracked.
     The game is meant to be simple, cute, and quickly over, and it is.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Beyond Zork:  The Coconut of Quendor
                                        GAMEPLAY:  Infocom Deluxe
  AUTHOR:  Brian Moriarty               PLOT:  Roller Coaster
  EMAIL:  ?                             ATMOSPHERE:  Rich
  AVAILABILITY:  LTOI 1                 WRITING:  Very Good
  PUZZLES:  Multiple Solutions          SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Very Good                DIFFICULTY:  Advanced

     Beyond Zork, the first game in the Zork series since the
publication of Zork III five years earlier, really owes much more to
the Enchanter trilogy than the Zork trilogy.
     The story takes place concurently with Spellbreaker and begins in
the Guild Hall of Borphee shortly after your departure.  The remaining
Guild Heads (still in enchanted form), realizing that your quest in
that game will result in the destruction of magic itself, decide that
the legendary Coconut of Quendor must be seized from the Implementors
and stored away, to be brought out again in the distant future. 
Considering that the Implementors are literally the staff of Infocom
(try to ZIFMIA IMPLEMENTORS in Enchanter to see what I mean) this could
present a thorny metaphysical problem if one thought about it too much.
In a move reminiscent of Enchanter, they decide that an untrained
initiate must be selected for this quest.
     Beyond Zork was one of the format experiments Infocom conducted
during the 1987-1989 period, and certainly contains the best parser of
any of the non-graphics games.  The function keys could be programmed
to represent any input desired, with or without a carriage return.  The
top left part of the screen contained a box that constantly displayed
the room description, while the top right contained a small onscreen
map that displayed the immediate vicinity.
     The game was an attempt to integrate role-playing with text
adventures, and was surprisingly successful.  While most text games
have one or two random elements, Beyond Zork has many.  You begin by
setting your character's attributes from a pool of points that you are
given (or you can select a preset character) as in a proper RPG. 
Several puzzles cannot be solved unless a certain attribute is high
enough, even if you are aware of the proper action to take.  Combat is
conducted as in normal RPG's, with your attributes being
cross-referenced against a computerised die-roll.  Even the map changes
slightly from game to game.
     The scale of the map areas vary greatly.  Some "rooms" are as small
as a tavern's common room, while others are the size of a city.  The
main playing area spans over several towns scattered through the
Westlands, but parts of the game may take you through geological ages
of time, or on a trip to the land of Oz (the name is changed in the
game of course).
     Beyond Zork is a game with a great amount of play and replay
value.  Many of the puzzles have multiple solutions, and will keep
players coming back to find more even after they have played the game
to a conclusion.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Bureaucracy                 GAMEPLAY:  Infocom Standard
  AUTHOR:  Douglas Adams             PLOT:  Great
  EMAIL:  ?                          ATMOSPHERE:  Excellent
  AVAILABILITY:  LTOI 2              WRITING:  Excellent
  PUZZLES:  Difficult                SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Archetypal            DIFFICULTY:  Expert

     In Bureaucracy, you have just moved to a new town and must get your
bank to acknowledge your change of address form before embarking on
your all-expense paid trip to Paris, as well as untangle several other
Bureaucratic mishaps from missed connections to surly waitresses.
     The game is divided into four parts.  In the first, you must cash
your check to get money for the cab ride to the airport.  In the
second, you must get through the airport to reach your flight.  In the
third, you must escape from the wrong airliner you have found yourself
on before it crashes (or does it?).  In the final part, you must take
care of the computer hacker who is responsible for most of your
     This game has become the standard by which almost all tongue-in-cheek
games about real life are measured, and has been imitated many times, but
seldom equalled.  The atmosphere is not surprisingly, very much like The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but is in many ways funnier since it hits
areas that the gamer will have experienced firsthand.
     By the time this game came out Infocom had abandoned their difficulty
rating system, but this game is as difficult as any other Infocom game with
the exception of Spellbreaker.  Many of the puzzles are intuitive rather than
logical and force you to recreate Douglas Adams' twisted thinking to make
sense of them (for example, the way you get your check cashed at the bank).
Others are logical, but require you to grasp complicated patterns to solve
them (i.e., the way you dispose of your Zalagasan Stew on the airliner).
     There are many well-developed characters that represent a cross-section
of the most annoying people in daily life from the llama treat delivery man
(who comes up with the brilliant idea that you should get your expired credit
card replaced) to the surly waitress, to the survivalist, to Random Q. Hacker
     One problem with the game is getting to the end of it.  The story
is so rich in detail that many will not want to remain stuck indefinitely on
one of the puzzles.  Unfortunately no editions of Bureaucracy contain
onscreen hints, and it was included in Lost Treasures 2, which had no hint
books enclosed.  If you get stuck, your best bet is to download a walkthrough
from GMD or the Compuserve Gamer's Forum, or to call Activion's 900 hint
number.  [I suggest for you ftp
capable readers. -GKW]
     The freebies are some of Infocom's best.  One is a copy of Popular
Paranoia magazine, which gives you the low down on the conspiracies
that threaten to destroy your life.  Another is the infamous carbonless
triplicate form.  Most people sign these daily, taking it for granted
that the lower copies are identical to the top one.  Activision did
this itself, and only reproduced the top copy for their Lost Treasures
documentation.  But if you look more carefully, you may find that the
line for your zip code on page 1 may ask for your wife's weight, or the
number of pancakes that you have eaten today on succeeding copies.
     Too bad Adams never made this into a book...


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Castaway                       GAMEPLAY:  No synonyms
  AUTHOR:  Conrad Button                PLOT:  Rudimentary
  EMAIL:  ?                             ATMOSPHERE:  None
  AVAILABILITY:  MS-DOS                 WRITING:  Basic
  PUZZLES:  Basic                       SUPPORTS:  MS-DOS
  CHARACTERS:  None                     DIFFICULTY:  Novice

     In Castaway, by Conrad Button, you are first mate of the cargo
ship, Katie Sue (I don't know why, but I suspect that this is Button's
daughter.  A little nepotism here, hmm?).  When your ship is smashed on
a reef, you fortunately wash ashore on an island that has a rescue ship
anchored a mile away.  Your job is to find the fixins' for a signal
fire, as well as locate ten treasures hidden on the island.
     The mixing of the rescue theme with the treasure hunt theme
produces some bizarre results.  Though you will probably spot the ship
a few moves after landing, you will avoid signalling it until you've
gotten all the treasures.  In real life you'd be much more concerned
that the ship might leave.  You can get around this problem by
signalling the ship but not boarding it until you've gotten all the
treasures, but this creates another bizarre situation:  the ship
sitting in the lagoon waiting around until you feel like being rescued
("Snap it up fella, we haven't got all day!").
     In your search, you will encounter the lost city of Pango Tongo,
which has several of the treasures you need.  We are never told
anything about this city like "what is it doing there", and "what
happened to the people".  It is just there.
     The game features the traditionally bad Buttonware parser; two-word
input and absolutely no synonyms.  If you call the "parrot" a "bird",
the game will have no idea what you're talking about.  The game's
difficulty level is Novice, so you probably won't have much trouble
solving it anyway, but generally introductory games should be as
user-friendly as possible, to encourage the player to play more text
games.  This one doesn't.
     One nice feature (that I wish more Introductory games would
emulate) is that each room lists the directions that you can travel on
a separate line. This is much easier for the novice trying to draw his
first map than having to pick all of the directions out of the room
     Castaway is not up to scratch by 1995 standards, but one must
remember that it was written in the pre GAGS/LADS/AGT/TADS/Inform days
of 1986.  Under the circumstances, putting out any shareware text game
at all was an impressive feat.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

 NAME:  Cosmoserve - An Adventure for the BBS Enslaved
					      PARSER:  Great
 AUTHOR:  Judith Pintar                       PLOT:  Many Twists
 EMAIL: ???                                   ATMOSPHERE:  SIM BBS
 AVAILABILITY:  GMD                           WRITING:  Very Good
 PUZZLES: Quite Good                          SUPPORTS:  AGT Ports
 CHARACTERS: Very Good                        DIFFICULTY:  Above Average

     In Cosmoserve, you play R.J. Wright, a plumber and freelance
computer programmer in 1999.  The program you are using to complete one
of your assignments has a glitch in it, and you must sign on to
Cosmoserve to download a patch file.  Along the way you will encounter
computer viruses, virtual reality games, lost passwords, online
conferences, FBI raids, online stalkers, and Rick's Cafe Americain.
     I think that Cosmoserve is my favourite non-commercial text game,
and certainly the all-time best AGT game.  Judith Pintar performs
wonders with the AGT parser.  You can actually navigate through the
hard drive of your 786 computer using DOS commands.  When you logon,
you are treated to phone dialing and modem sounds.  When you are in an
online conference the other users' statements come one at a time, as in
real life.  Maxis could market this game as "SIM BBS".
     The plot is delightfully interwoven, as the simple task of finding
your patch file takes you on a trip through a myriad of forums, file
directories, conferences and e-mail encounters.
     There is limited online help in three places.  There is a hints
forum (GO HINTS) that will answer a few questions.  Also, Ms. Pintar
herself makes a cameo appearance in the Virtual Reality game as Judith,
the Cosmoserve Hints Sysop.  Thirdly, your Aunt Edna will drop by early
in the game if you are unable to find your new password.
     The atmosphere is superb.  Watching the debate in the Plumbers &
Electricians forum over which profession provides a better metaphor for
the human condition (one purifies with water, the other with fire) is
frighteningly funny.  Tongue-in-cheek games about real life are
invariably compared to Infocom's Bureaucracy, and they usually fall far
short.  This one doesn't.
     This is probably not a game that can be completed in one pass.  You
are on a time limit of less than 12 hours, and some things can only be
done at certain times.  It is likely that you will have to restart the
game from the beginning at some point to optimize your time
      A couple of points.  Although Cosmoserve is available for all AGT
ports, MS-DOS users will have a slight advantage, as the game is keyed
to simulate a PC.  Also, people who have logged on using generic
communications software will be better prepared for the game, as there
is no "Cosmoserve Information Manager".
     Incredibly this game only tied for first in the AGT Game Writing

From: "Donna McCreary Rodriguez" 

Name:	CosmoServe			Parser:  AGT 1.32
Author: Judith Pintar			Plot:  Linear
Email: Compuserve 76636,2067		Atmosphere:  Unusual
Availability:  GMD; Freeware		Writing:  Fair
Puzzles:  Clever; logical		Supports:  AGT ports
Characters:  Fairly Flat		Difficulty:  Easy to Medium

	"CosmoServe: An Adventure Game for the BBS-Enslaved" has a
"play-within-a-play feel."  You are an absent-minded, self-employed computer
consultant/programmer and erstwhile plumber who is trying to beat a project
deadline.  Solutions to the bugs in your creation may be found on CosmoServe,
but--alas--you have forgotten your password, and , what's more, you've go a
bbs hacker time-bandit to contend with once you finally logon.  Things
escalate from there to a fairly engrossing set of subplots and
games-within-games.  Much of the game is set in a simulated computer/bbs
environment, and therein lies its appeal.  The novel atmosphere more than
makes up for the flat characterization.  The puzzles are clever and logically
solved, and the plot is tightly written, with only 86 locations.
Give this one a try.  Hats off to the author, Judith Pintar, who doesn't ask
a fee, just that you e-mail her "the meaning of life, in 20 words or less."


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Detective                      GAMEPLAY:  Limited AGT      
  AUTHOR:  Matt Barringer               PLOT:  None       
  EMAIL:                                ATMOSPHERE:  None       
  AVAILABILITY:  GMD                    WRITING:  Baaaad!         
  PUZZLES:  None                        SUPPORTS:  AGT PORTS
  CHARACTERS:  Cardboard                DIFFICULTY:  Zero

     Detective was previously reviewed in SPAG 4, but I'd like to do it
again, as I have a slightly different take.  This review stems from an
e-mail conversation with Magnus Olsson, in regards to his review of
Space Aliens Laughed at My Cardigan (also in SPAG 4), which had stated
that despite its flaws the game had some cult value, calling it
"Infocom on acid".  I agreed with him, stating that Mystery Science
Theater 3000 had demonstrated that there were "good" bad movies (which
provide loads of unintentional laughs), and "bad" bad movies (which
were merely painful), and that Space Aliens was definitely a "good" bad
game.  He responded by comparing it to Detective, a "bad" bad game,
that has no puzzles, and requires only compass directions to win.
     Now that I've played Detective, I'm not sure I agree.  I think
that it too is a "good" bad game.  Oh, it doesn't have the whacked-out
psychedelic Eraserhead surrealism of Space Aliens, but it has more than
its share of entertainment (not to mention equally bad spelling).
     I feel that I may owe a slight apology to Electrabot, which I
criticize for lack of plot.  Detective is like a stripped-down version
of Electrabot. Like Electrabot, it has a fairly linear path that you
must run, with several rooms of instant death, but at least Electrabot
had a Rogues Gallery of hostile characters who could be killed by
incongruous objects.  Detective only has one hostile character, who can
be easily bypassed.
     The game begins with your being told that the mayor has been
murdered and that you must solve the crime to avoid bad publicity (!!).
You can then go into the next room and get your gun.  The description
of the gun tells you that you only have 10 shots and should use them
wisely.  Fair enough, but no matter how many times you fire you will
still have 10 shots.
     Another interesting feature is what I call the closets of
teleportation. At one point you are in a hallway, with closets to the
east and west.  If you go east you will enter the west closet, and must
go east again to reenter the hallway (and vice versa).
     The few items generally have bizarre adjectives.  Along the way
you may acquire the "food hamburger", and the "wooden wood", though you
don't need any of them to win.
     Like Electrabot, Detective has several rooms that kill you without
warning when you enter, but Detective's are more interesting.  There is
one that I call "The Room of Mysterious Death".  The description says
that you have reached a dead end and can go back west.  But you can't
because the game then proceeds to kill you without giving any
explanation.  In another instance, you are standing in a hallway and
see a door to the east marked "Pool".  If you enter you are told that
you were in the pool when the killer shot you.  WHY the heck did I get
INTO the pool?  I just wanted to check out the room!!
     The game has a terrible (and amusing) problem with blending room,
object, and character descriptions with each other.  When you meet the
game's only character, the room description tells you all about what
he's doing. Which of course means that it keeps telling you even after
he's dead.  The description of the hamburger tells you that you should
just eat it and go north.  This is, of course only valid if you are
still in the room where you got it.  In another case, you see a knife
on the floor, but if you try to take it you are told "What knife? 
There is no knife here."  It would have been easy enough to make the
knife takeable, or at least give a message saying that you don't need
it, or mustn't touch it because it hasn't been fingerprinted yet, or
something.  But this is much more amusing.
     The game can't seem to decide what time period it takes place in. 
In one room a passerby tells you to boycott FDR.  In the next, a
convict tells you he was busted for possession of crack.
     At another point, you enter an area and are told that the killer's
rumoured hotel is in one direction, his favourite hangout in another,
and his workplace in a third.  You never learned any of this
previously.  Real police work should be so easy.
     All of this is but a prelude to the big ending.  When you enter
the room where the killer is, you are told that after a fierce battle
you overcame him.  In other words, "Yes, there was a big fight, but we
couldn't afford to show you any of it".
     I'm not going into all this detail just to pile on the criticism. 
Mr. Barringer obviously enjoys playing and writing text games, and I'd
be the last to tell him not to do it.  I'm only writing this because
unlike Stefan Jokisch (in his review), I think that you SHOULD get this
game and you SHOULD play it.  It's very quick (as little as 26 moves),
loaded with such unintentional laughs, and unlike Space Aliens, you can
play it to a conclusion, with no headaches or technical glitches.  The
parser is terrible, but when you only need "north", "south", "east",
and "west", what the heck? Mr. Barringer's goal in writing the game was
to entertain his audience, and as far as I'm concerned he suceeded in
ways that the rating system can't show.
     If you like Mystery Science Theater 3000, you will enjoy playing
this game.  I'm going to e-mail a copy to Dr. Clayton Forrester myself,
for use in a future experiment.  Heads up, Mike, Tom, and Crow!


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Electrabot                      GAMEPLAY:  Poor
  AUTHOR:  Woody Hunt                    PLOT:  Meaningless 
  EMAIL:  ?                              ATMOSPHERE:  None 
  AVAILABILITY:  CIS - Gamer's           WRITING:  Adequate  
  PUZZLES:  Arbitrary                    SUPPORTS:  AGT Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Generic                   DIFFICULTY:  Trivial

     In Electrabot you play the part of a prototype android seeking to
rescue your creator from the clutches of the evil Barbarith. 
I don't want to be too hard on the game, as it's no mean feat to
download a program like the Adventure Game Toolkit, read the
instructions, understand them, and put together a reasonably
grammatical game that will run to completion without crashing or
causing the player numerous unintended headaches.  Author Woody Hunt
has done all of these things.  The problem is that there's not much
     In Electrabot, you follow a more or less predetermined course
(there are a couple of side routes), picking up objects and meeting
creatures along the way.  Each object kills exactly one creature. 
That's it.  That's literally all there is to the game.
     Well, not quite.  There are two other puzzles.  One involves a
direction you can use that isn't mentioned in the room description. 
The other involves a set of 3 or 4 rooms that will kill you without any
warning if you enter them.
     For the most part, the weapons are generic.  Common sense will tell
you which weapon kills the giant slug and the giant rat, but all of the
others are totally arbitrary.  It's also worth mentioning that although
you're supposed to be a high-powered android, everybody you meet (from
the insane artist to the butler) is capable of completely cleaning your
clock if you don't have the right item handy.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  AUTHORS:  Douglas Adams	      GAMEPLAY:  Infocom Standard
            & Steve Meretzky          PLOT:  Very Good
  EMAIL:  ?                           ATMOSPHERE:  Outstanding
  AVAILABILITY:                       WRITING:  Outstanding
  PUZZLES:  Excellent                 SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Very Good              DIFFICULTY:  Standard

	[Possible minor spoilers, folks. -GKW]

     The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was Infocom's first game based
on a novel (Shogun was the second), and is certainly their most famous
product.  As such, it faced heavy expectations both from the text game
crowd and from fans of the book (I saved this game until I had played
all of Infocom's 34 other text games, hoping to guarantee finishing 
with a winner).  Fortunately, the game meets most expectations.
     For those who don't know, you begin the game as Arthur Dent, a
typical Englishman whose home is about to be demolished to make way for
a new highway.  Soon afterward, the earth itself is destroyed to make
way for a new interstellar spacelane, and you must escape the holocaust
with your alien friend Ford Prefect; first to a Vogon warship, and then
to the Heart of Gold, run by Ford's friend Zaphod Beeblebrox.  Once
there, your goal becomes to land safely on the lost planet of
Magrathea.  To do this, you must search various corners of reality
(changing identities a few times along the way) to acquire several
different pieces of fluff, which when used properly will produce an
item that will give you the clairvoyance necessary to open the hatch
and set foot on the planet.
     The writing is some of Infocom's very best, which is fortunate
because the game itself is a little too short (only The Witness and
Seastalker have fewer locations).  The atmosphere produced is almost
exactly like that of the book, even if specific details of the plot are
often changed.  The puzzles (including the legendary Babel Fish puzzle)
are based on a brand of "consistent illogic" that is rather reminiscent
of Lewis Carroll, and make the game one of those few that many will
some day play again even after having solved it once.  Hitchhiker's is
one of the more literate text games on the market, as you will often
have to pay more attention to how things are worded than you might in
other games.
     There are a few things that may aggravate purists.  As in
Sorcerer, there is an action which must be taken at the beginning in
order to win the game.  If you don't do it, you may play for quite some
time before realizing that victory is impossible.  [Not quite so.  You have
another opportunity later in the game to take this action. -GKW] Perhaps the
biggest disappointment is the absence of the promised sequel.  The story does
not really end, it merely pauses and gives you a "to be continued"
message just as you set foot on Magrathea.  Though the sequel was
promised many times (such as in the New Zork Times, and in the crystal
ball in Beyond Zork), it never materialized.  Since Infocom no longer
has the rights to Hitchhiker's, it is unlikely that it ever will.  (For
those of you keeping track, the sequels promised by Infocom/Activision
that have not yet come out are:  Hitchhikers 2, Journey 2, Leather
Goddesses 3, and Simon the Sorcerer 2).
     Despite this, Hitchhiker's plusses massively outweigh the negatives,
and the game remains one of the great classics of interactive fiction.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:                   GAMEPLAY:  Generic
  AUTHOR:  John Olsen                   PLOT:  Not Bad
  EMAIL:  ?                             ATMOSPHERE:  Varies
  AVAILABILITY:  S20_IBM_GMD            WRITING:  Minimal
  PUZZLES:  Good                        SUPPORTS:  MS-DOS
  CHARACTERS:  None living              DIFFICULTY:  Below average is a trilogy of games by John Olsen (author of, another trilogy reviewed in SPAG 3).  The package includes
These three games were each written by Mr. Olsen using his own interpreter,
and none is larger than 38K.
     In NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD, you are trying to find your Aunt
Bedilia's grave to recover a locket buried with her in order to 
prove your identity (how graverobbing proves this is unclear) and claim
your inheritance. FRANKENSTEIN'S LEGACY is reminiscent of the sample
transcript for THE LURKING HORROR.  You arrive at Victor Frankenstein's
house, instructed by him to find the monster and bring it to life.  In
THE SEA PHANTOM, you arrive at the coastal mansion of the late Captain
Thorne.  Once every 10 years his old ship appears offshore. It is your
job to put his spirit to rest and recover his treasure.
     All three are interactive short stories having from 20 to 40
locations each.  They are not especially difficult, but have a couple
of arbitrary puzzles.  This combined with the poor parser may make them
a little aggravating if you don't immediately guess what the author is
thinking. S.O.P. for an arbitrary puzzle is to keep trying whatever you
can think of until you hit on the right thing, but these games have
have only 1 or 2 generic "failure" messages, and after a bit it may get
maddening to keep reading "You can't", or "You see nothing special". 
Especially since you get the "You can't" message for just about
anything that isn't useful, even actions that you obviously COULD do
(i.e. "Throw dagger").  The parser can also be misleading at times.  In
one of the games you encounter a locked object.  There is no key, you
must use some other means of opening it. But if you try to pick the
lock or unlock it with the wrong key you are told that you need the
right key (implying that such exists).  Another problem is that if the
parser doesn't know what you're talking about, it will sometimes give
you an answer that looks like it does.  In one game, I tried to do the
right action, using the wrong words.  The message led me to believe
that the ACTION had failed rather than the command, and I spent two 
days stuck, believing that I had already tried and rejected the correct
     This is not to be too hard on Mr. Olsen.  Considering that he's
written these games from scratch without AGT, TADS, Inform, et al, he's
done rather a good job.  But if we compare his games to ones made using
public compilers, then they suffer, even though it may be unfair to
make the comparision in the first place.
     The atmosphere varies from horror to unintentionally comic.  NIGHT
OF THE WALKING DEAD at times seems more like Night of the Zombie
Keystone Cops.  You will often be running along with some item that you
need, only to be hit over the head and have it stolen just when you get
to where you would have used it.  You must then chase down the creature
that took it and drag him off to the crematorium to prevent him from
doing it to you again. FRANKENSTEIN'S LEGACY's lack of graphic
description is at times comic also. If you order the game to cut open a
dead body, you are told "OK".  That's it, just "OK".  If you then take
an organ out of the body and examine it, you are told simply "You see
nothing special."
     Although this review has focused primarily on negatives, these are
not at all bad games, and all three are well worth spending an
afternoon playing. However, I would advise having a walkthrough handy
before you start, and use it you get stuck for more than, say, half an
hour.  These games are short stories and as such their pacing demands
that the plot keep moving.  If you get stuck by an arbitrary puzzle, a
bad parser, or a guess-the-word problem, they become very unrewarding.
If you don't, you will probably have rather a pleasant gaming experience.

	[I have to agree with Graeme's review, although I enjoyed the games
somewhat more than he seems to have.  The games are very reminiscent of the
Scott Adams adventures that some of you may have played. -GKW]


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Journey                        GAMEPLAY:  Multiple Choice
  AUTHOR:  Marc Blank                   PLOT:  Extremely Linear
  EMAIL:  ?                             ATMOSPHERE:  Good
  PUZZLES:  Slightly less than average  SUPPORTS:  Some Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Good                     DIFFICULTY:  Relatively Easy

     Journey is an extremely difficult game to classify; not quite a
text adventure, even less of a graphic adventure, and certainly not a
role-playing game.  Billed as a "role-playing chronicle", this helps us
little, as it is the only one of its kind.  It is generally classified
as one of Infocom's text games, because it uses the same interpreter as
Zork 0, Arthur, and Shogun.
     While every other text adventure is written in Second Person,
Journey is written in First Person, from the point of view of your own
character, who keeps a journal of your progress through the story. 
While most text games have a parser that requires complete sentences,
Journey's parser resembles a graphic adventure.  It lets you choose
from a set of actions in a separate window, and even allows mouse
support.  While the AGT Master's Edition allows one to use a similar
parser, it is probably unique in commercially published text games. 
And ultimately, Journey must be considered a text game, as it is
through the text rather than the graphics that the interaction takes
     Though the parser is extremely easy to use, it makes for very
linear game play.  In most cases it is impossible to return to a room
that you have just left.  At times the game seems more like one of
those Adventure Game Decision Books than it does a computer game,
though it still presents you with many more choices to be made than the
average book does.  Still, the game allows less interaction than most
text games do, and the graphics only partially compensate for it.  Some
sort of sound and music capability should have been included.
     Journey's plot is a variation on that made famous by Tolkien and
imitated many times since then.  A Dark Lord (here called "Dread Lord")
is wreaking havoc on the countryside and its populace, so a questing
party is formed and sent to seek the wizard Astrix for his advice. 
After many perils, they reach Astrix who sends them on a quest to break
the Dread Lord's power.  Since Journey is only part 1 of the Golden Age
Trilogy, and parts 2 and 3 were never written, we don't get to see the
Dread Lord's final defeat.
     Due to the menu system, Journey's puzzles are generally not too
difficult, but there are some that will challenge the experienced
gamer, and one at the end that can only be solved if you were paying
attention earlier.
     Journey is one of several "experiments" in formatting that Infocom
undertook around this time (some others being Nord & Bert, Beyond Zork,
Border Zone, and of course the infamous Infocomics).  This is one of
their less successful attempts.  The game is fairly enjoyable to play
by itself, makes a nice change of pace, and presents the gamer with a
new way of doing things to try to assimilate, but ultimately the
reduced interaction, and the difficulty of doing challenging,
interesting puzzles with this parser would have made a whole line of
such games rather less interesting.  The moral:  play Journey and have
a good time with it, but don't feel too bad that the series was never


From: "M. Sean Molley" 

NAME: The Legend Lives!			PARSER: TADS + WorldClass
AUTHOR: David M. Baggett		PLOT: Visionary
EMAIL: dmb SP@G                   ATMOSPHERE: Incredibly rich
AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD		WRITING: Extremely good
PUZZLES: Creative			SUPPORTS: TADS ports
CHARACTERS: Unfulfilled potential	DIFFICULTY: Slightly above average

_The Legend Lives!_ is probably one of the most highly anticipated text 
adventures since the demise of Infocom.  Written by David Baggett, author 
of the popular shareware game "Unnkulian Unventure II", _Legend_ takes 
the Unnkulian Universe far into the future.  However, it is a future 
where despite the soaring technological advancements of mankind (and 
creaturekind in general), the threat of the dread Unnkulians still 
lurks.  You, as student Gavin Kelly, stumble upon the most horrifying 
plot the Unnkulians have ever unleashed as a part of your thesis 
research.  Your quest will take you across the universe and even through 
time as you seek to once again penetrate the secrets of the Akmi 
corporation and uphold the tenets of Dudhism.

However, _Legend_ was not so highly anticipated just because it's another 
game in the popular Unnkulian series.  It was billed as an experiment of 
sorts, an attempt to see if the interactive fiction medium can be used to 
do more than just provide entertaining puzzles -- to see if IF can be 
used to make a statement, convey a message, really get inside your head 
and make you think.  In this, _Legend_ succeeds admirably.  The emphasis 
here is clearly not on the puzzles (although there are plenty of those) 
but rather on the experience: the atmosphere, the writing, the message.  

To this end, there are a fair number of very long text sequences which 
are many pages and contain a great deal of conversation between the 
player (you) and certain NPCs.  These "vignettes" are the strongest 
point of the whole game.  They are very well written and loaded with all 
sorts of allegory and subtleties.  I was disappointed that there were not 
more of these "cut scenes", in fact, because they add a lot to the 
storytelling aspect.  I certainly don't mind reading 10 screens of text 
if it helps to advance the story and give me something to think about.  
And _Legend_ will definitely give you something to think about.

I won't spoil the plot for you, but I should mention the overall "quest":
the goal of the game is to thwart an unbelievably powerful computer virus 
unleashed by the Unnkulians which is self-aware, self-replicating, and 
taking over the entire universal computer network.  Once it has 
established control over the technology, it will have established control 
over the people, and the Unnkulians' dream will be fulfilled.  This of 
course would be a Very Bad Thing (tm) for the rest of creation, and you 
are the only person who is even aware that the virus exists.  
Unfortunately, Akmi (the corporation which runs basically everything and 
controls nearly all information) is on to you and they will attempt to 
foil you as you try to gain information about and eventually defeat the 
virus, thus saving all of creation from an Unnkul fate (sorry).

Of course, you can't do it alone; and _Legend_ provides a suitable cast 
of NPCs to help you (or hinder you).  There are computer programmers, a 
star musician, aliens of various sorts, and an artificial intelligence 
program, among others, who will appear along the way.  Sadly, this is 
where _Legend_ suffers the most.  The NPCs are not developed well 
enough.  In fact, some of them are not developed at all.  This is a real 
shame, because there is an awesome amount of potential in these 
characters.  I was really disappointed by this aspect of the game, but 
the quality of the writing goes a long way to make up for it, and the 
environment (the "Unnkulian" mythos) is top-notch.  Still, no story can 
be fully successful without effective, quality characterization.

	[See the interview with Dave Baggett for more on this.]

And there will be obstacles in your path; after all, defeating the 
nefarious schemes of the Unnkulians will require you to be even more 
devious than they.  There are a good number of puzzles in the game, 
ranging from very easy to quite difficult.  However, David did not want 
players to get distracted from the story by being stuck on a puzzle, so 
he provides a remarkable "adaptive hint system" which will give you 
intelligent hints based on your current situation.  There is no penalty 
for using the hints, or limit to how many you can use, but be warned that 
they do go right on up to the outright spoiler level after the first 
couple of hints.  Luckily, there is an encryption feature you can turn on 
to prevent yourself from reading all the hints too quickly.  The game is 
difficult; however, I was able to finish it in about a week without 
needing to resort to the hints.  Nice to have them if you want them, 
though, and the hint system is really a great piece of work.

As for the quality of the puzzles themselves, they are by and large very 
good.  (And no mazes!).  Most of the puzzles are logical and fair, and 
I got a real sense of satisfaction out of solving them.  There are 
exceptions to this rule of course; but every game has a few bad spots.  I 
would imagine that most people will need a hint or three as they go 
through the game.  Then again, I didn't, so you might not either.  Some 
of the puzzles are very tricky, though.  Others, however, can be solved 
purely by dumb luck -- ie, having the right item in your inventory when 
you speak to a particular character.  Puzzles like that irritate me.  
However, as I have said, the puzzles are not the emphasis in _Legend_.  
They are supposed to add to the story instead of distract from it, and 
for the most part this is fairly successful.

Until you get to the end of the game.  This is my biggest complaint about 
_Legend_.  The ending is a tremendous disappointment.  Not because it's 
an emotional downer or anything like that; it's just totally unexpected 
and very unsatisfying.  I would say that the ending seems like an 
afterthought, except that it was obviously carefully written to make 
certain statements.  Unfortunately they fall flat and there is not a 
satisfactory resolution to the main plot themes.

However, I cannot in good faith say anything *too* bad about the game, 
because it's one of the most visionary and daring works to come along 
since, well, "A Mind Forever Voyaging" from Infocom.  Honestly, AMFV is 
the better game, but _Legend_ is damn fine as well.  If you liked AMFV, I 
think you will not be disappointed by _Legend_.  If you like good 
puzzle-solving games, you won't be disappointed by _Legend_.  If you like 
good writing and lots of prose, you won't be disappointed by _Legend_.  
If you like a great atmosphere and enticing plot, you certainly won't be 
disappointed.  The only place _Legend_ fails is that it does not exploit 
the incredible amount of potential for characterization.  But you 
probably will forget that in the wake of all the other images _Legend_ is 
going to throw at you.

Let me sum it up this way: _The Legend Lives!_ is not the best IF game I 
have ever played in my life.  It is, however, the best IF game I have 
*experienced* in a very long time.  That, perhaps, is the highest 
recommendation I can give.  Hats off to David Baggett for a fun game 
which is also a fine work of fiction.  Even though it doesn't completely 
succeed in getting the message across, _Legend_ really pushes the 
envelope and challenges our definitions of interactive fiction.  It also 
challenges a lot of other things, like our relationship with technology 
(a major theme of the work).  _Legend_ deserves to be played if for no 
other reason than to think about what David is trying to say.  I mean, 
when was the last time you played an IF game which *really* had a message 
and a vision?  Maybe never.  Well, now's your chance.

And best of all, it's freeware, which means that after reading this review 
you have absolutely no excuse for not downloading it right now and playing it.

	[Well, except for the excuse that you weren't done reading yet. :)]

You'll be glad you did.


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

NAME: Mop and Murder			PARSER: AGT (insufficient)
AUTHOR: Brad Friedman			PLOT: Linear, predictable
EMAIL: ???				ATMOSPHERE: A bit thin
PUZZLES: Not very exciting		SUPPORTS: AGT
CHARACTERS: Few, non-interactive	DIFFICULTY: Below average

	In the infancy of text adventure games, the number of rooms in a game
was used as a measure of quality; basically, the more rooms, the better
the game - or at least that's what advertisers thought.  Judged by that
antiquated standard, this game wouldn't stand much of a chance.   In
fact, its most distinctive feature is that the entire game takes place
in one room!  (There are actually two rooms, but one of these is the
corridor where you start out, and is irrelevant to the rest of the
game).   Fortunately, there are other criteria of quality than the number
of rooms. 
	This alone would be enough to make the game interesting, but the
scenario is also very promising: being a lowly janitor at CIA
headquarters, working late at night cleaning the deserted building, you
enter an office only to find its occupant lying in a pool of blood, with
a suicide note on the desk.  But was it really suicide?  There's
something's fishy about the whole business.  Maybe this is your big
chance to prove that you were meant for bigger tasks than sweeping
	This is your starting point; as you start examining the room, you'll
discover more and more evidence that points to murder.  Your finds will
help you unravel the plot that led up to the agent's death, and, finally
who killed him and why.
	Unfortunately, while this may sound very promising, the game turned
out to be a disappointment.  This is partly due to the fact that the
author, while competent enough at producing easily flowing prose and a
logically consistent plot, has somehow failed at making the whole
thing very memorable; the atmoshere is rather thin (considering that
the setting - a closed, windowless CIA office with a dead body on the
floor - should provide ample opprotunity for atmosphere), the puzzles
not very original or challenging, and the story that is gradually
unraveled by your investigations just isn't very interesting (not even
the murderer's identity was much of a surprise to me).  Still, viewed
as interactive _fiction_, the game isn't too bad. 
	What really ruins things, however, is the game-play aspects.  The
author doesn't seem to have put enough effort into making the game
playable - not only are there quite a few outright bugs, as well as
some nasty cases of "guess the right word" ("cut paper with scissors"
works, but "cut paper" produces the message "you can't do that"), but
the descriptions you get when examining things don't change when you
manipulate them.  For example, even if you remove all the objects that
were on the desk to start with, "examine desktop" will gladly list all
the objects anyway.  This is a serious handicap when there are so many
objects stuffed into one room! The fact that the parser (as in most
AGT games) isn't quite up to the task doesn't improve things.  Of
course, all this may be due to this being the author's first game, or
to shortcomings in AGT, but this really is no excuse - no author
should ever release a game that's so awkward to play (or a game whose
shortcomings would be so easily detected by letting a friend try it). 
	If this sounds overly harsh to you, my irritation is mainly due to
the fact that I got totally stuck on a problem that should be quite easy:
opening a desk drawer.  In fact, that problem had me (figuratively)
running round in circles, trying every possible verb-noun combination
I could think of, examining and re-examining every object for clues -
with a total lack of success.  Finally, I had to give up and ask for
help on  The Usenet is wonderful - I did get in
touch with somebody who had solved the problem (and was able to help
him finish the game - he was stuck on another problem). 
	As it turned out, opening the drawer was only possible if a certain
object was in a certain state (I'm not saying anything more here - 
feel free to email me if you're stuck, too, and want a more explicit
hint).  While not inconceivable after the fact, the solution wasn't exactly
obvious, either - and there isn't an inkling of a hint in the game;
perhaps you were supposed to solve that problem through
trial-and-error, or by sheer inspiration - who knows? 
	To summarize, the setting and plot shows promise; the game is
initially quite enjoyable, but after a while you realize that nothing
really interesting is happening, and then you start to get irritated
by all the bugs and misfeatures.  The puzzles feel rather contrived
(sure, an agent working under a death threat would hide his notes
carefully, but would he leave clues about how to find them lying
around?) and just aren't challenging enough, and the plot isn't
interesting enough to make it worth the inconvenience. 


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Odieus' Quest for the Magic Flingshot
                                        GAMEPLAY:  Problematic (0.8)
  AUTHOR:  Unknown                      PLOT:  Below Average
  EMAIL:  ?                             ATMOSPHERE:  Below Average
  AVAILABILITY:  GMD, F                 WRITING:  Below Average
  PUZZLES:  Below Average               SUPPORTS:  LADS, AGT, Inform
  CHARACTERS:  Poor                     DIFFICULTY:  Easy

     Odieus has rather an interesting history.  It was originally
uploaded to the Compuserve Gamer's Forum in 1987 by an unknown author
who wrote it using the LADS compiler.  That version seems to have
disappeared, but the game lives on.  About a year later David 
Malmberg, author of the Adventure Game Toolkit converted it to AGT
format as a coding exercise.  Recently Teo Kwang Liak converted the
game to Inform, also as a coding exercise.
     In the game, you play Odieus, whose magic Flingshot has been stolen
by the evil Blackwing.  You are tossed by a giant into the approximate
location and must solve a series of puzzles to retrieve it.  The game
is fairly short and simple, having fewer than 25 locations, and one and
only one use for each item (which may explain its apparent value as an
     Surprisingly, the older AGT version plays better than the newer
Inform one, as the Inform version is a bit buggy.  I saw a review of
Odieus in another magazine which stated that the author couldn't even
finish the Inform version due to a difficulty in cooling down the hot
springs, which was accomplished easily in the AGT version.  Whenever
you try to do it, you get a nonsensical message that says "Alas, it is
closed".  I fiddled with the game until I found the proper command
which was 16-12-1-14-20  2-12-21-5  2-5-1-14 (for those who wish to
decipher this spoiler, simply convert the letters to numbers; i.e. 1=A,
2=B, 3=C, and so forth).
     A few of the puzzles are altered in the Inform version.  Your light
source, for example, is totally different.  A couple of other items are
changed, and a useless room is given signifigance.  Nevertheless, when
I played the Inform version I only got 148 out of 150 points, and
haven't yet bothered to go back and track down the other 2.
     A couple of the puzzles are completely arbitrary.  There is no
clue at all to as how to open the lock at the end, unless you have
figured out the pattern that each item has a single use.
     In any case, the game is not bad, and makes a nice little
diversion.  It shouldn't take more than a half hour to solve it.


From: "Magnus Olsson" 

NAME: The Sound of One Hand Clapping	PARSER: Advsys (not quite sufficient)
AUTHOR: Erica Sadun			PLOT: Many linear sub-plots
EMAIL: gt5052b SP@G         AVAILABILITY: GMD, S10
PUZZLES: Simple                         WRITING: Beautiful, poetic
ATMOSPHERE: Beautiful                   DIFFICULTY: Quite easy
SUPPORTS: DOS (portable source for Advsys run-time included)
CHARACTERS: Non-interactive but interesting

It's a sad fact that the world of interactive fiction seems to be an
almost exclusively male one; although many women enjoy IF, there are
very few female IF authors. In fact, the present game is probably the
only one by a female author that I've played. Had this been the only
unusual thing about this game, it would have been noteworthy as a
curiosity, perhaps; fortunately, it has other qualities that make it
a very unusual experience.

To start with, the setting and general idea of the game are quite
different from the logical, puzzle-oriented world of most adventure
games, which tend to have a rather mechanistic view of the world
(pardoxically, this seems to be especially true of magic-based games;
indeed, the magic systems of games like "Enchanter" are more logical
and mechanistic than most scientific gadgetry in SF games). As one
might infer from the full title of the game, "The Sound of One Hand
Clapping - a Riddle in Subtlety", the focus of the game is different,
emphasizing emotion, empathy and analogy, rather than deduction. This
is not to say that the puzzles aren't logical (they are - see below),
just that the emphasis is on a different kind of thinking; for
example, several puzzles can only be solved through meditation (in the
game, that is - you don't have to be a Zen master in real life to solve

What makes this game truly outstanding, however, is the atmosphere and
the quality of the writing. I can't put it in any other way than
saying that this is by far the most beautiful piece of IF I've ever
come across. My experience is that most good IF reads like either
"hard-boiled" novels, gothic horror stories or slightly absurdist
comedy - all of these pretty "male" genres (if I'm allowed to continue
flogging the rather moribound horse of gender differences in writing).
"One Hand Clapping", on the other hand, at its best reads like a prose
poem: the imagery vivid, the prose gently flowing. 

This kind of writing makes very high demands on the author, and she is
in general up to the challenge. There are, as might be expected of an
amateur author, some beauty spots. Occasionally, the rhythm of the
prose falters (rhythm being especially important in this kind of
poetic writing), turning it into a drab march of short descriptive
sentences, which renders the imagery peculiarly ineffective;
occasionaly, the metaphors seem a bit overdone, dangerously close to
empty rhetoric; but these are mere blemishes that hardly detract from
the overall impression. More serious is, perhaps, a certain tendency
to bathos; for example, the long build-up towards the encounter with
Crystal Dragon results not in the expected profundity, but in a
rather trivial conversation, and the final confrontation with Black
Dragon (the villain of the piece) culminates in a disappointingly
trite plot device. Still, I'm willing to forgive these shortcomings of
the writing; the game is a pearl, albeit flawed, and flawless pearls
are few and far between.

As for the atmosphere, it is as beautiful as the writing: in typical
fairy-tale fashion, you are transported to the World Beyond to find
six dragons and obtain six keys in order to confront Black Dragon, and
restore balance to this world as well as the one Beyond.  The fairy
tale atmosphere is not the usual, Western, one, but Chinese, or rather
generally "Oriental" - in the author's own words, it's not
realistically Chinese, but "Chinoiserie", the reflection of the
Oriental world in the mirror of Western folklore and prejudice, and
some aspects of the game, such as the Zen allusion of the title and a
puzzle involving a bonsai tree, are decidedly Japanese rather than
Chinese. The dragons are not the fire-breathing monsters of Western
folklore that you generally find in adventure games, but Chinese
dragons: supernatural beings of great subtlety, not to be confronted
by violence but to be won over by empathy, provoked into action, or
perhaps simply outsmarted. The World Beyond is as perfect as a Chinese
painting; serene, meditative, with just enough detail for your imagination
to fill in the rest.

So much for writing and atmosphere. Had these been the only aspects of
the game, it would have been close to a masterpiece. However, the
game-play aspects are, unfortunately, on a totally different level of

The puzzles are not bad. Most of them are quite simple, but I don't
mind simple puzzles; in fact, having too difficult puzzles in a game
like this would perhaps only distract the player from the beauty of the
World Beyond. A few of the puzzles are quite subtle, one perhaps
overly so, since it hinges on the player's interpreting a clue quite
literally. Without being too explicit, let me say that at one point,
when obeying certain instructions, you should carry them out to the
letter, without thinking or rephrasing them into the verb you'd
normally use. You could claim that this is an example of the different
way of thinking needed to solve these puzzles; to me, however, it is
dangerously close to "guess the verb".

Despite what I've written above, many of the puzzles are not very
unusual or even imaginative, but just standard fantasy game puzzles.
On the other hand, they are not trivial, and a few of them offer new
twists on old ideas. Perhaps there are a few too many puzzles of the
type "find hidden object X, give it to dragon Y" with nothing more to
it; this, however, may be a plus for the inexperienced player.
Meditation plays an important role, as several of the puzzles can only
be solved through insights gained that way; the player is advised to
meditate frequently, since only a fraction of meditations lead to
enlightenment (there is a random factor involved). 

A plus regarding the puzzles is that the plot is multi-linear; if
you're stuck on, say, how to extract a coin from a bonsai tree, you
could always try to climb a glass mountain or explore a mysterious
cave instead. The map branches out with six-fold symmetry from the
central point, Rainbow Fountain; similarly, the Fountain is the
central point of the sub-plots, which with six-fold symmetry branch
out from it. 

The NPCs, most notably the dragons, are unfortunately not very
interactive; they don't care very much about human affairs and generally
only pay you any attention when you perform the right action to
rouse their interest - and you can generally only do this once. This,
however, is the nature of dragons, so maybe one shouldn't complain.
Like in most IF, you feel distinctly alone; the dragons aren't very
sociable. Your most memorable companion is a "fire iguana", a curious
lizard with a tendency for quasi-profound Taoist utterances. Though
the iguana doesn't make a very good conversationalist, he's really
quite charming. There are also some more NPCs that aren't very interactive.

The area where I feel I must be the most critical of the game is its
interactivity and general playability. To begin with, the parser isn't
very good and has some annoying quirks (the game was written with
Advsys, to which I'd like to return in another article);
fortunately, no sophisticated commands are needed, but there's still
an element of "hunt-the-right-word", especially since the game's
vocabulary is pretty limited. However, you can live with a bad parser.
What's worse in my opinion is that you can't do very much. Most
objects are in the game for one specific purpose only; you can't do
anything with it until you find out that purpose, and then it's rather

It may seem that interactivity is not very important; after all, we
can never hope for an accurate simulation of reality in a text
adventure, and, unlike the "simulationist" school of IF theorists, I
don't think authors should even aim for such realism. However, if the
game introduces a highly complex and usable object, like (to use a
real example from the game) a box of rubber bands, the player will
want to play around with it, or at least get some sensible message
when trying to do so; in this game, the player has far too little
freedom to interact with the simulated world; there are far too many
possible actions that are just not possible to perform, and there are
far too many interesting objects described in the text that either
aren't recognized by the parser or produce a message about "that's
just scenery". At least to me, this produces a feeling of being led by
the hand through a beautiful diorama with a few useful artifacts
strewn about; your hands itch with eagerness to touch and manipulate
things, but you are constantly reminded that you're not supposed to do
that, just to watch and admire. 

By contrast, the really great games of IF (such as Infocom's best) may
have a less perfect atmosphere, and far coarser writing, but they
actually let you experience their world, not just observe it. _This_
is the great potential of IF, as opposed to books, plays or films: not
only do you experience the world "as if you were there", but you can
actually interact with it. Alas, "One Hand Clapping" to a large extent
misses exploiting that potential.

Had this game had a better parser and a larger vocabulary, and had the
author put more effort into the interactive aspects, this would have
been a great work of IF. Had she polished her prose just a little more
(avoiding, for example, the occasional anticlimax), and added perhaps
just a little bit more dramatic tension (let's face it, the plot is
rather thin). While I don't hesitate to give this game near-perfect
marks for writing and atmosphere, I must unfortunately rank it as
less-than-average on gameplay, and the plot is only of average
quality. Still, with my wildcard points for overall impression, this
adds up to an impressive (for a shareware game) 7.5.

And: despite all my criticism, let's not forget that "One Hand
Clapping" is an unforgettable experience. Play it, if only for the
writing; immerse yourself in the atmosphere, let the gently flowing
prose entice you away from the usually cold and logical world of
computers, enjoy for a while the subtle simplicity of this world of

     The peace of summer,
Fish gliding through still waters,
      Subtle as dragons.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  South American Trek         GAMEPLAY:  No synonyms       
  AUTHOR:  Conrad Button             PLOT:  Unintentionally funny      
  EMAIL:  ?                          ATMOSPHERE:  Almost none      
  AVAILABILITY:  MS-DOS              WRITING:  Passable      
  PUZZLES:  Uninteresting             SUPPORTS:  MS-DOS
  CHARACTERS:  Unimportant           DIFFICULTY:  Easy

     South American Trek by Conrad Button is an educational text
adventure designed to teach children about South American geography.
The plot is a bizarre cross between a wasteful Federal pork program,
and a college fraternity initiation.
     You are sent by the President to spy on South America.  But rather
than seeking to learn about troop strengths or drug lord activity, your
mission is to learn things like Venezuela's leading export, and the
capital of Peru (a quick look in the atlas could have saved millions of
taxpayer dollars).
     You start on Devil's Island and must travel to South America by
raft (here's where the fraternity-like stuff comes in).  Once there,
you wander around learning about the various countries and solving
puzzles to try to acquire the item you need to signal the submarine
waiting for you at Cape Horn.  Once you've reached the sub, the captain
will ask you six trivia questions about South America.  If you get a
question wrong, back you go.  You have a maximum of three opportunities
to get all six questions right.
     The map scale varies tremendously.  Some areas are no bigger than a
temple or a mine shaft, others are the size of a city, or even an
entire region.
     But since South American Trek, or S.A.T. (appropriate acronym) is
an educational game, we should not be asking whether its plot is
plausible, but rather, whether or not it fulfills its goal of educating
while making learning fun.  Unfortunately, the answer is that it most
certainly does not.  The programming may have been good by 1986's
shareware standards, but now or then, the game is worse than a month of
     Like all Buttonware text games, the 2-word parser is rock bottom. 
There are absolutely no synonyms for anything.  If you try to refer to
the "rowboat" as a "boat", the game will not know what you are talking
about.  To make it even more confusing, some items are known only by
their adjective.  If you see "copper ore", you must type "take copper".
 "Take ore" will not work.
     In addition, the map is especially confusing.  Generally speaking,
there are two ways that text game authors can make their map
challenging.  The first way is to change directions in transit.  For
example, suppose that you leave a room by going south, but must go west
rather than north to return.
     The second way is by varying the transit length.  For example, look
at the following map: 
                            E D C
                            A   B

     As you can see, the distance between A and B is longer than the
distance between E and D.  As a result, if you go from A to B first,
you will probably draw a short line, and only after you have then gone
to C, D, E, and A will you discover that the first line wasn't long
enough and have to redraw the whole thing.
     Using this motif once or twice may make a game a little more
challenging, but South American Trek uses it extensively.  Not only is
the technique totally unsuitable for the beginning audience that the
game is aimed at, but it is used to such excess that even the advanced
gamer will be annoyed more than challenged.  The beginner will never
want to play another text adventure again.
     The information about South America is presented in the "room"
descriptions, and in one or two speeches made by Miss Diddlemeyer, an
American teacher you may pick up along the way, but who is not
necessary to win the game.  The presentation is hardly more interesting
than just reading it out of a book, since the game doesn't really make
you apply the information anywhere, except in the trivia quiz that the
submarine captain gives you at the end.  The rather dry information
about major exports, highest mountains, and longest rivers, does
nothing to bring the area alive, since it is primarily a sidebar to the
game rather than being integrated into it.
     There are one or two laudable points.  The game's contrived and
unintentionally humourous plot may give the game a small amount of cult
value, and the idea of mixing education with play value is a good one,
despite the poor execution seen here.
     Unfortunately the kids will be too busy trying to redraw their maps
and play "guess-the-word" to have time to learn anything, much less
have any fun.  Gaming parents would be much better advised to try
Carmen Sandiego.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Stationfall                  GAMEPLAY:  Infocom Standard
  AUTHOR:  Steve Eric Meretzky        PLOT:  Detailed & developed
  EMAIL:  ?                           ATMOSPHERE:  Excellent
  AVAILABILITY:  LTOI 1               WRITING:  Excellent
  PUZZLES:  Very Good                 SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Very Good              DIFFICULTY:  Above Average

     The sequel to Planetfall, Stationfall takes place 5 years later. 
Sent in a shuttle on a routine bureaucratic errand to a local space
station, you arrive to find the station deserted, a strange alien space
ship in one of the docking bays, and mechanical devices behaving
erratically.  You must discover what happened to the crew, and deal
with the unknown threat before your limited supplies run out.
     Generally, the problem with sequels is that they are either a
boring rehash of the original, or they are so completely different that
they are sequels in name only.  Stationfall strikes a marvelous balance
between these two extremes, and provides a quintessential example of
what a sequel ought to be.  The old happy-go-lucky Stellar Patrol charm
is still there, but it only partially covers a new and more somber
tone.  Whereas in Planetfall, we see only empty buildings to show us
that something is wrong, in Stationfall more grim clues show through
the cracks:  bloody notes; log entries that break off in mid sentence;
common household appliances that may blow up in your face, and strange
sounds coming from the sealed off lower decks.  Where in Planetfall, we
are able to undo virtually all of the damage in the end, in Stationfall
all of the laughs can't change the feeling that somehow things won't
work out so neatly this time, nor do they.
     The characters are few, but well developed, and disturbingly not
always what you would expect.  The puzzles go beyond the normal Infocom
style at points.  Deciphering ability will solve one, a trip to the
dictionary may help with another.  A few are quite obscure, but
generally even these have some clue, generally in the form of a piece
of guesswork made by the former occupants.
     The plot is extremely well detailed, and pieces of it are hidden
all over the station.  Some of the puzzles are almost as good as those
in Starcross, but rather than being isolated, they all contribute to
supplying a piece of the story.
     All in all, Stationfall is an outstanding blending of humour and
suspense; puzzles and story.


From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Wishbringer:  The Magick Stone of Dreams
				      GAMEPLAY:  Infocom Standard
  AUTHOR:  Brian Moriarty             PLOT:  Pretty Good
  EMAIL:  ?                           ATMOSPHERE:  Very Good
  AVAILABILITY:  LTOI 2               WRITING:  Very Good
  PUZZLES:  Average                   SUPPORTS:  Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  Above Average          DIFFICULTY:  Introductory

     Although it's not widely realized, Wishbringer takes place in the
Zork/Enchanter universe.  The Festeron Town Library, where the Legend
of Wishbringer book is checked out from is also the source of some of
the documention found in the Zork Trilogy.  In Wishbringer, you begin
as a mail clerk in the Festeron Post Office, who is sent to deliver a
letter to the Magick Shoppe at the other end of town.  When you get
there, you discover that the shop owners' cat is being held by the Evil
One in exchange for the magick Wishbringer stone.
     When you leave the Shoppe you discover that the old woman has
slipped you the stone, and that the town of Festeron has changed into a
dark caricature of itself called Witchville.  As you explore, you find
that the former items and occupants of the town have transformed into
twisted alter egos of themselves (the effect is much like that of
classic Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" episode).  Your mission is to
defeat the Evil One and your boss, Mr. Crisp, and to transform the town
back into Festeron, with the help of the Wishbringer stone, some
friendly platypii, and your own raw wits.
     Wishbringer's puzzles are generally very easy, and most of them
have multiple solutions, being solvable either through reasoning, or
using the Wishbringer stone to wish for some sort of aid.  But if you
rely too much on the wishes, you may fail to acquire items that you may
need to solve later puzzles.  In online conferences author Brian
Moriarty has said that because of this, the moral of the story is that
frivolous wishing can be a bad thing.
     The atmosphere wavers between being comic and sinister, and is
difficult to classify.  At times it seems almost as though it is trying
to be a children's game, what with having the plot revolve around a
kidnapped cat, and supplying such fanciful images as talking platypii,
and disembodied boots that patrol the town.
     Wishbringer was one of the 5 older titles chosen to be reissued in
a bare bones Solid Gold edition with onscreen hints.  This was probably
purely to extend its marketing cycle, as it is one of the Infocom games
that least needed onscreen hints.  Indeed, the "wish for advice"
function of the Wishbringer stone already partially fullfilled this
role.  Since the Solid Gold editions had greatly reduced documentation,
the Legend of Wishbringer book was deleted from the packaging and
incorporated into the program itself, appearing as a storybook in your
starting inventory.
     Wishbringer was also one of the books chosen to be novelised in
Avon's Infocom books series.  The novelization of Wishbringer, written
by Craig Shaw Gardner, author of the Batman Returns novelization (among
others) deals with a different transformation of the town, and a
different postman named Simon, who deals with the problem in a
different way than in the game.  Though very well written in points,
and one of Avon's better Infocom books, the plot is not always
completely consistent.  For example, at one point we are told that the
Evil One needed to physically acquire the stone to make the
transformation permanent, and that if no one had it that that it would
be temporary.  Later, we are told contrarily the Magick Shoppe owner
must herself possess the stone in order to prevent the transformation
from being permanent.  Since she had voluntarily let the stone out of
her possession in the first place, this makes her look either very
stupid, or very confused, or both.
     Wishbringer is generally a very fondly remembered game, even by
those who feel moved to apologize for the ease of the puzzles.

READER'S SCOREBOARD----------------------------------------------------------


	A   - Runs on Amigas.
	AP  - Runs on Apple IIs.
	GS  - Runs on Apple IIGS.
	AR  - Runs on Archimedes Acorns.
	C   - Commercial, no fixed price.
	C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30.
	F   - Freeware.
	GMD - Available on
	I   - Runs on IBM compatibles.
	M   - Runs on Macs.
	S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20.
	64  - Runs on Commodore 64s.
	TAD - Written with TADS.  This means it can run on:
                AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECstation
                (MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple
                Macintosh, SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc)
                running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, and even a 386+
                protected mode version.
        AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST.  This does not
                include games made with the Master's edition.
	ADVSYS - Available for PC and Macintosh only, or so my sources tell
                 me.  (Source code available as well.  So it can be ported
		 to other computers.)
        INF - Infocom or Inform game.  These games will run on:
                Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, VMS, Apple II,
                Apple IIGS, C64, TSR-80, and Archimedes Acorn.  There may be
                other computers on which it runs as well.

 Name		       Avg Sc  Chr  Puz  # Sc  Rlvt Ish       Notes:
 ====                  ======  ===  ===  ====  ========       ======
Adv. of Eliz. Highe     3.1    0.8  0.3    1     5      F_AGT
Another...No Beer	2.5    0.1  1.0    1     4      S10_IBM_GMD
Arthur: Excalibur	8.6    1.8  1.7    1     4	C_INF
Ballyhoo		7.0    1.8  1.6    2	 4	C_INF
Beyond Zork		8.0    1.6  2.0    2	 5	C_INF
Border Zone		6.1    1.1  1.4    2	 4	C_INF
Bureaucracy		8.4    2.0  1.8    2	 5	C_INF
Castaway		1.1    0.0  0.4    1     5      F_IBM_GMD
Cosmoserve		8.7    1.3  1.4    2     5      F_AGT_GMD
Curses			8.3    1.3  1.7    6     2	F_INF
Cutthroats		6.3    1.4  1.2    4	 1	C_INF
Crypt v2.0		5.0    1.0  1.5    1     3	S12_IBM_GMD
Deadline		7.2		   2	 x	C_INF
Deep Space Drifter	5.5	    1.4    1     3      S15_TAD_GMD
Detective		0.7    0.0  0.0    2     4-5    F_AGT_GMD
Ditch Day Drifter	7.1    1.2  1.6	   1     2      F_TAD_GMD
Dungeon Adventure	6.8    1.3  1.6    1     4	F_SEE REVIEW
Dungeon of Dunjin       7.0    1.0  1.5    1     3      S20_IBM_MAC_GMD
Electrabot		0.7    0.0  0.0    1     5      F_AGT_(GMD?)
Enchanter		7.0    0.8  1.3	   4     2	C_INF
Enhanced		N/A		   0	 2      S10_TAD_GMD
Great Archaelog. Race	6.5    1.0  1.5    1     3      S20_TAD_GMD
Hitchhiker's Guide	8.2    1.6  1.8    4     5	C_INF
Hollywood Hijinx	5.5		   2	 x	C_INF
Horror30.Zip		3.6    0.0  0.9    1	 3	S20_IBM_GMD
Horror of Rylvania	7.7		   1     1	C20_TAD_GMD (Demo)
Humbug			7.4		   1	 x	S10_GMD (Uncertain)
Infidel 		6.9		   5     1-2	C_INF
Jacaranda Jim		7.0		   1	 x	S10_GMD (Uncertain)
John's Fire Witch	8.5    1.2  1.5    1     4	S6_TADS_GMD
Journey			6.9    1.3  0.8    1     5      C_INF
Klaustrophobia		7.3    1.3  1.4    3     1	S15_AGT_GMD
Leather Goddesses	8.0    1.6  1.7    3	 4	C_INF
The Legend Lives!	8.2    0.8  1.5    1     5      F_TADS_GMD
Lurking Horror, The	6.9    1.4  1.2    4     1,3	C_INF
Magic.Zip		4.5    0.5  0.5    1     3      S20_IBM_GMD
Mind Forever Voyaging	8.4    1.5  0.3    3	 5	C_INF
Moonmist		5.8	           4     1	C_INF
Mop & Murder		4.9    0.5  1.0    1	 4-5	F_AGT_GMD
Multidimen. Thief	5.3    0.4  1.0    2     2      S?/F_AGT_GMD
Nord and Bert		3.9		   2	 4	C_INF
Odieus': Flingshot	3.2    0.4  0.7    1     5      F_INF_GMD
One Hand Clapping	7.1    1.1  1.3    2     5	F_ADVSYS_GMD
Planetfall		7.1		   3	 4	C_INF
Plundered Hearts 	7.9    1.2  1.2    1	 4	C_INF
Sanity Claus		9.0	           1     1	S10_AGT_GMD
Save Princeton		5.6		   1	 x	S10_TAD_GMD
Seastalker		5.4		   2	 4	C_INF
Shades of Grey		7.8    1.2  1.5    2	 1-2	F_AGT_GMD
Sherlock		8.5    1.5  1.8    1	 4	C_INF
Shogun			7.1    1.5  0.5    1     4      C_INF
Sorceror		7.3    0.6  1.6	   4	 2	C_INF
South American Trek	0.9    0.2  0.5    1     5      ?_IBM_GMD
Space Aliens...Cardigan 1.6    0.5  0.4    3     3      S60_AGT_GMD
Spellbreaker		8.1    1.2  1.8	   3	 2	C_INF
Starcross		7.2	           4     1	C_INF
Stationfall		7.5    1.6  1.5    3	 5	C_INF
Suspect			5.9		   1	 x	C_INF
Suspended		7.0		   1	 x	C_INF
Tossed into Space	3.9    0.6  0.2    1     4      F_AGT_GMD
Treasure.Zip		N/A		   0     3	S20_IBM_GMD
Trinity			8.8    1.4  1.7    6     1-2	C_INF
Unnkulian One-Half	7.0    1.3  1.7    4     1	F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 1	8.0    1.3  1.7    3     1-2	S10_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 2	7.2    1.4  1.5    3     1	S10_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Zero  	9.0 	           1     1	C25_TAD_GMD (Demo)
Waystation		8.0    1.2  1.5    1     x      F_TAD_GMD
Wishbringer		6.7    1.2  1.0    2	 5	C_INF
Witness, The		7.0    1.7  1.2    3     1,3	C_INF
World			6.9    1.0  1.4    1     4	F_MISC_GMD (See Rev.)
Zork 0			6.5    1.1  2.0	   1	 x	C_INF
Zork 1			5.9    0.6  1.5	   6	 1-2	C_INF
Zork 2			6.7    0.8  1.6	   4	 1-2	C_INF
Zork 3			6.0    0.6  1.4	   4	 1-2	C_INF


The Top Three:

	A game is not eligible for the Top Three unless it has
received at least three ratings from different readers.  This is to ensure a
more democratic and accurate depiction of the best games.

 1. Trinity		8.8	6 votes
 2. Mind Forevr Voyagn. 8.4	3 votes
 3. Curses		8.3	6 votes


Editor's Picks of the Month:

	This month has been good to us.  We've been handed The Legend Lives!
on a platter.  That's my first pick of the month.
	My other pick of the month is Waystation, advertised just below.  It
is a fairly enjoyable game, with a few puzzles that seemed somewhat unfair to
me.  Both are TADS, both are free.  How can you lose?

The Legend Lives and then just pick one of the
	  versions you find there.

Waystation and Solution [Temporarily.]


From: "Stephen Granade" 

Newly released!  Yet Another Sci-fi Adventure Game (tm)!  It's fun, it's 
kooky, it's...


While driving home one night, your car mysteriously dies.  You get out, pop 
the hood, and wham! that's the last you remember...until you wake up 
trapped in a cell.  With no idea of how you got there and no one to ask, 
you must escape and find out why you were kidnapped.

Visit the lovely sewage dump Melica!  Tour abandoned Comanis!  Avoid Efric 
at all costs!  The game is guaranteed 99.9% maze free, and is freeware.  
That's right, freeware.  (I wrote it as an exercise to see what TADS could 

The game is in TADS .gam format, and can be found at in the 
directory if-archive/games/tads, under  (If necessary, e-mail me 
at sgranade SP@G, & I'll put a .tar'ed file there as well.)  All 
comments are welcome, all suggestions are listened to.

See what one man, a twisted imagination, and lots of free time hath
wrought.  Waystation!  Get yours today.

CLOSING REMARKS--------------------------------------------------------------

	Well folks, SPAG is getting automated.  That's right, no longer will
I have to suffer through typing 30 names into my e-mail program.  This is all
thanks to Magnus Olsson.  I thank you, Magnus, and my fingers thank you.  The
next version of the FAQ will detail the functioning of the new mailing list,
and I will post the details as soon as I figure them out myself. :)
	Well, that's all until next issue.


	   Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

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