Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cover to Cover: Infocom 1987 Catalog (pp. 9-10)

We're up to pages 9 and 10 of our continuing cover-to-cover pagethrough of Infocom's 1987 product catalog, featuring several of the company's established titles.  Few game genres have had the technical longevity of the classic text adventure -- while audiovisual technology was advancing by leaps and bounds, keyboards and text displays were perfected very early on.  Infocom's earliest works of interactive fiction were still marketable in the late 1980s, although these four were more recent.  Page 9 features "Hollywood" Dave Anderson's Hollywood Hijinx and Brian Moriarty's Trinity:

I haven't played Hollywood Hijinx at all -- in fact, it's one of the few Infocom games I'd forgotten about completely -- and I've only briefly sampled Trinity.  I've enjoyed many of Brian Moriarty's adventures, so I'll have to put it higher on my mental list; what I do remember about it is that it was one of the first Infocom games to require the additional memory available on newer computers like the IBM PC.

The page 9 games appear to feature prominently because they were still fairly new; page 10 features a couple of games that were and are established classics of interactive fiction:

I haven't seriously played Leather Goddesses of Phobos, or its graphically-enhanced sequel that came out late in Infocom's existence, but I fully intend to; in the same way that Steve Meretzky's Planetfall seems to have influenced Sierra On-Line's Space Quest, I've never been able to shake the impression that Sierra's successfully smarmy Leisure Suit Larry series inspired Meretzky to create a bawdier adventure with more "adult" humor.  The game was well-received at the time and obviously sold well.

And what more is there to say about Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?  Adams' spacefaring satire has been rendered in numerous media -- as a radio play, a novel, a TV series and a feature film, at last count -- and its absurdist sensibility survived intact in the text adventure medium, with the player cast as the hapless Earthman Arthur Dent.  Care was taken to prevent knowledge of the story's other manifestations from making the game too easy; in fact, if anything, Adams pushed the difficulty envelope to new extremes, with the opening babelfish puzzle pushing "almost got it... but" design to new heights.  This is an acknowledged classic, and the involvement of the original author manages to make the game feel just the way it should.  It was even recreated as an illustrated adventure by the BBC some years ago.

We'll continue our journey next weekend -- assuming I can survive the pressure of realizing just how many great Infocom games I haven't yet played.

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