We have a book day, a movie day, and music every day. I was thinking, "How come we don't have a video game day?" And so it begins.
My goal is not to discuss games that most of you geeks have played or know a lot about. So you won't see me reviewing the likes of Tecmo Super Bowl, Zelda: A Link to the Past, or MLB: The Show, despite my love for all of them. My hope is that I may reveal a gem or two that you haven't played.
In return, hopefully you can do the same for me. While my taste tends to lean towards adventure games, I dabble in all genres. I don't know how often I'll run this. Once a month, at least. Perhaps more often if the market warrants it.
The first game you may not have played is a brilliant text adventure by Infocom titled Bureaucracy. Released in 1987, it was Douglas Adams' second game with the company (the first being the more famous Hitchhiker game) and arguably the better of the two.
Normally, descriptions written by the company on their boxes are horribly exaggerated and sometimes not accurate. In this case, Infocom does a better job than I ever could of describing the game. Here's the plot, in a nutshell.
Once upon a time, a man moved from one apartment in London to another. He dutifully notified everyone of his new address, including his bank; he went to the bank and filled out a change of address form himself. The man was very happy in his new apartment.
Then, one day, the man tried to use his credit card but couldn't. He discovered that his bank had invalidated his credit card. Apparently, the bank had sent a new card to his old address.
For weeks, this man tried to get the bank to acknowledge his change of address form. He talked to many bank officials, and filled out new forms, and tried to get a new credit card issued, but nothing worked. The man had no credit, and the bank behaved like, well, a bank.
It's a sad story, one that gets replayed every day for millions of people worldwide. Of course, sometimes it's not a bank at fault: sometimes it's the postal service, or an insurance company, or the telephone company, or an airline, or the Government. But all of us, at one time or another, feel persecuted by a bureaucracy.
You begin in your new house. As per the letter in your package, you will fly to Paris just as soon as you get some money to take you to the airport. That money should be in today's mail, so you should be off soon... unless, of course, there's been some problem with the mail.
Oh by the way: The man in our story about the bank was Douglas Adams, the principal author of this game. The bank did finally send him a letter, apologizing for the inconvenience - but they sent it to his old address.
What ensues is comic madness, and unless you are a very good puzzle-solver, it will lean towards madness. As your blood pressure rises while playing the game, so does the character's. Yes, there's a blood pressure gauge at the top of the screen that goes up for every mistake you make. And yes, you can have a heart attack if it gets too high.
I did need a few hints to win this one, but even I was amazed at my persistence with some of the puzzles. The game's tightly developed plot and brazen humour kept me away from the hint book several times. While there are a couple of instances where the game seems unfair, with a possible "walking dead" situation, you will be duly rewarded with the genius that was Douglas Adams.
I do not believe the game is freeware, so I will not link to any downloadable versions. But you can still find copies of the game or the entire Infocom collection from various Activision compilations. The original packaging came with some of the best "feelies" of all time, including a carbonless application for a credit card that was not the same on every page. For example, on the white sheet was a line labeled "Annual Income." On the yellow sheet it was "Spouse's Weight." And on the pink sheet it was labeled "pancakes eaten today." The entire game is filled with similar bureaucratic jokes.
So, now talk about this, whatever you're playing, or about your secret obsession for your Commodore 64.