Neuromancer: Well this should be interesting!
With its whites, pinks and blues, Neuromancer was just screaming for a CGA release!
Neuromancer (the book) was released in 1984, and is generally considered a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre. It was the first book to win the science fiction “triple crown”, meaning it cleaned up the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was actually Gibson’s first published novel, and follows a computer hacker named Henry Dorsett Case. After being caught stealing from his employer, Case’s central nervous system was damaged (I assume purposely), leaving him unable to access the global computer network (which strangely enough was called the Matrix). Needless to say he regains his ability to access the network through an underground organisation in exchange for his hacking services. That’s about as far as I was willing to read about the novel, just in case the game closely follows the plot, but from what I can tell it’s only “loosely” based on it. Interestingly, it was American psychologist and writer Timothy Leary, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs and for being labelled “the most dangerous man in America” by President Richard Nixon, that held the gaming rights to the novel (there’s also a simulation game named Timothy Leary’s Mind Mirror if you want to check it out). He took the game idea to Interplay around 1987, where producers Brian Fargo and Troy P. Worrell agreed to make it.
Timothy Leary: A very happy guy, and no wonder too!
You may recognise the name Brian Fargo, particularly if you’re also following the RPG exploits of Chet over at the CRPG Addict. Brian helped design all three games in The Bard’s Tale series (taking over as director for the third one), as well as playing a major role in the design of the classic Wasteland. He also designed three early adventure games (interactive fiction with graphics), with the first two being The Demon’s Forge (1981) and Borrowed Time (1985), and the third one Tass Times in Tonetown (1986). Long time readers will know that I played TTiT back in January last year (it was game 8 on the playlist). It was a very quirky game that I quite enjoyed, but had to rate it harshly due to some technical deficiencies and numerous dead ends. Troy Worrell also worked on that game as a programmer and directed Wasteland alongside Fargo, meaning the two of them had quite a history by the time Neuromancer landed on their desks.
Wasteland: Well if they made that game, then Neuromancer should be good...right?
Given the success of Wasteland, it’s not surprising that Fargo and Worrell invited members of the same team back to make Neuromancer. Michael A. Stackpole (a science fiction and fantasy writer) and Bruce J. Balfour came onboard to design the game along with Fargo, while Troy A. Miles took on all programming duties. Also from Wasteland was Charles Weidmann III, who was tasked with creating the graphics and artwork in an attempt to bring Gibson’s world to life. Finally, all sound and music was to be looked after by industry veteran David Warhol (Tass Times in Tonetown, Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken). Speaking of music, the soundtrack for the game is based on a song by Devo named Some Things Never Change. This track appeared on the 1988 album Total Devo, but instrumental only versions appeared on all versions of Neuromancer (apart form the C-64 version which apparently sampled the real song in the intro). Ilmari has already mentioned that the theme music is annoying and repetitive, so it appears we can blame Devo for that, at least in part.
At least Devo's distinctive style didn't rub off on the general population
I really don’t know what to expect when it comes to gameplay, although I do know that Neuromancer is described repeatedly in the manual as a role playing game that involves gaining skills by “implanting chips directly into your brain jack”. Just how much adventure game elements there are is yet to be seen. The manual covers a lot of ground (it’s quite daunting really), so I’ll read it whilst playing rather than prior. I’m under the impression that gameplay is split between traditional adventure sequences and cyberspace, although I have no idea how that plays out. I guess it’s time to find out, and I’ve found a DOS copy and got it working in DOSBox. It looks like I’m going to face the same screenshot issues that made Mean Streets take so long to get through, so this time I’m going to try out Lars-Erik’s suggestion that should allow me to use the ALT-F5 function without it acting as an ENTER. Well, I’m off to jack in (as opposed to jack off), and will report my initial findings soon enough. Who’s joining me?!
Neuromancer: "A cyberpunk role playing adventure"...apparently
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 110 CAPs in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.
V xabj V’z nfyrrc, ohg pnaabg jnxr
V zhfg erznva sbe guvf ynaq’f fnxr
Vg’f nyy tbar jebat, V qba’g xabj jul
Ohg V zhfg svk vg, ng yrnfg V’yy gel!
Anzr gur tnzr sbe 20 PNCf.
Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of Space Quest 1, 2 & 3 from GOG! How awesome is that!? Good luck!