Big K

By Infocom
Apple Mac

Published in Big K #12


They have toffs in America, it seems, not a lot different in essence from our own high-living herberts but usually with that extra billion lying around to make life that little bit more undemanding. Their parties tend to be on a grand scale, too, with hundreds of guests in unpleasant tuxedos talking about racehorses and real estate while slurping down the clam chowder and the Dom Perignon. On special occasions, such as Hallowe'en, these bashes are extra big, and people come in fancy dress. You - a local journalist - are of course invited, and - dork that you are - attend: dressed as a cowboy, if you please.

The hostess is Veronica Ashcroft, a petulant and conservative New England matron. One hour after you arrive at the Ashcroft masnion for the shindig, Veronica is found strangled in the estate office - with your lariat round her neck.

Guess who the prime suspect is?

For those unfamiliar with Infocom's peerless and definitive all-text adventure technique, this is as good an introduction as any I can think of. Written by Dave Libling, who also co-authored the immortal Zork series (including the original mainframe prototype), Suspect is a top-class Whodunnit adventure with one fiendish twist. Whodunnit? *You*dunnit!

Or rather, you didn't; but even when you know what's coming, as you do after a few plays, try and stop it happening and you'll find yourself quite powerless. Your only chance of avoiding eventual arrest at the hands of the Feds (Det. Duffy) is to use every minute of the available time to case the joint, suss out the clues, interview as many of the real suspects (a large supporting cast, all with amazingly authentic "independent" life) as possible, and, having done all this - there are many routes to success, apparently - accuse the right person(s) at the right moment with all your evidence to back up your desperate claims.

It's no picnic and no, I haven't done it yet.

Trying to sum up Infocom is rather pointless. They're simply the best. Let loose on a large-memory machine like the Mac they're in their element. In fact, the game occupies about 133K of a 400K disc, and the drive is constantly at world, accessing new information as you type (you never have to wait more than a second or two, so I presume Infocom may have re-written the Operating System). At all events, all this memory and disc space means that Infocom's comprehensive text entry sentence parser can come into its own. Input like GET DRINK FROM BARTENDER, GO TO FIREPLACE THEN WAIT FOR FIVE MINUTES or COLONEL, TELL ME ABOUT [whoever] are merely typical. All this is of incalculable value in building the "feel" of the game. You really do - we've all heard this one but for once it's true - feel that you're inside the story, taking part, and when the horny hard of Detective Duffy lands on your shoulder you *jump*!

As usual, the game comes inside some classy and cheerful packaging. Infocom's sense of over-the-top-dom exactly matches the Mac's own (you get a standard Mac workspace, by the way, whih means you can change typeface, size, layout, etc, if it pleases you). Hidden everywhere - the game, the packaging - are clues; ignore them at your peril. If you've got an Imagewriter you can command constant printed output, by the way; not an exclusive option but a valuable one.

Keaton was right, in my view. In adventuring, nothing compares with text, when it's well done. And this is the best.