Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fahrenheit 451 (1984)

Genre: Text Input / Strategy  |  Players: 1  |  Developers: Byron Preiss Video Productions, Inc / Trillium Corp.

Some games are too damn hard. It makes conquering them all the sweeter, but sometimes the elevated difficulty is in place simply to give the illusion of longevity. Fahrenheit 451 is difficult for a different reason. It's a text-based adventure/strategy game that puts you in the shoes of someone from Ray Bradbury’s novel (1953) of the same name. Now an established member of the underground, returned to the city five years after the novel's end, you must circumvent the book-burning populace as you try to set right past wrongs.

Being set after the novel means if you've not read it prior to playing then you'll have a portion of it spoiled for you, so a reading is advised. I'd encourage every fan of sci-fi to read the actual book regardless of whether or not they’ll ever play the game because it's a classic of the genre. If you need more convincing I've a review of the novel HERE on a sister site that's free of plot spoilers.

In-game you’ll be reading text (ironic, isn't it?) and responding by typing instructions, such as ‘S’ when you want to go South. However, the instructions must be VERY specific. If it tells you there’s an item in front of you, e.g. a lighter, what do you instruct the game to do? Lift lighter? Pick up lighter? Take lighter? Obtain lighter? No; after an agonisingly high number of tries I discovered that ‘Get lighter’ is the one that works. That’s an early and easy example. It gets more gruelling as you get deeper into the game. Every puzzle halts progress until you eliminate all other logical options before stumbling upon the accepted one. (I'm guessing such actions were explained in the game's inlay or manual, but it's now 30+ years after it was released and I don't have the luxury of owning such a thing.)

That's infuriating enough, but speaking to people is pure hell. The game needs to know that you aren't issuing a simple command, so dialogue must be set within quotation marks. So far so good; it's 1984 after all. But unless you tell people exactly what they want to hear then you might as well be talking to a wall, while repeatedly being wrong is like banging your head against one.

YES or NO responses are fine, but you need to also use literary quotations at opportune times, which means you'll have to have found them and recorded them verbatim. It's an interesting mechanic and very in keeping with how the fictional society is split, but it's a pain in the ass in a practical sense.

Bradbury fans will of course be curious to try it for themselves, but be prepared to reach levels of frustration that you may not have hitherto known existed.

2 burned eyes out of 5

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