Tuesday 23 February 2021

Missed Classic: Bureaucracy - Won! And Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich

I would love to tell you that Bureaucracy is a beautiful throwback to a bygone era of games where one screwup at the beginning would, hours later, make it impossible to win. That would be a lie. Playing as we are in gaming history, this was still considered (somehow) good game design. Add to it that Bureaucracy is essentially gamified frustration and it’s inevitable that we’d have some walking dead scenarios. Regretfully, I hit one. 

At the start of the game, we have a Boysenberry computer in our house. This is 1987 when laptops might fit in a backpack if you are lucky and tablet computers were a trope of science fiction. This is two years before the Gameboy! My assumption is that this is a standard desktop computer for the era. At one point, I noticed that I could pick it up, carry it around, and even use it without it being plugged in. This felt like a bug where the developers (who can be forgiven for not knowing what computers were like) forgot that they needed to be plugged in and so didn’t code in that logic. Perhaps because of that, or because I simply made an error, I left my Boysenberry computer at my house when I headed off to the airport. Big mistake.

I fought my way through the airport crowds, defeated the evil llama stew, and jumped into a cannibal-infested jungle before discovering that I lose immediately if I parachute in without the computer. While the game hints that the natives we are captured by like computers, it doesn’t explicitly say that we needed to bring one with us; a player would be left with a dead end and no obvious way to advance if it had not been for the hint book. I wasn’t pleased. I am committed to solving this game and so played through the previous sections again. It’s not that they were tremendously difficult or time-consuming, but when I am struggling to enjoy a game, playing it again doesn’t make it more endearing. On the bright side, I’m wrapping up the game today. Let’s get this over with. 

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Game 119: Space Quest V: Roger Wilco - The Next Mutation - Introduction (1993)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Five years ago (can you believe that?), I wanted to blog about Space Quest IV. While it wasn’t the first game that I played here, it was the first that I really wanted to play and the game that got me excited to write about adventure games. 65 main-line games later and we’ve finally made it to the sequel: Roger Wilco: The Next Mutation. But while this might look like a straight sequel, behind the scenes drama ensured that this would be a very different game from its predecessors. Instead of “Two Guys from Andromeda”, we were left with only one. Can one guy recapture the lighting and create a great sequel all on his own? That’s what I am looking forward to finding out.

I say “finding out” although I played this game and its sequel when they first came out. I remember very little about either of them and there is a good chance that plot elements I half-recall could be from the other game. If I had to stretch my brain, I’d say that I think I remember that Roger Wilco became a captain at the end of this game and I was annoyed that he was demoted back to janitor again at the beginning of the next, but I could be off-base. Let’s find out together!

Saturday 6 February 2021

Missed Classic: Bureaucracy - An Unnecessary Essay on Cannibalism

Written by Joe Pranevich

I really want to like Bureaucracy. It’s partly written by one of my favorite authors, it is one of Infocom’s few truly collaborative efforts, and it has some great ideas. But, I don’t like it. At least at first, I assumed it was because of the moment that we are all living through-- the COVID epidemic, the fight for racial justice in the United States, and a contested election. Playing a game designed to annoy you isn’t fun when the world is already more stressful than it’s ever been. And yet, here we are in 2021 with vaccines coming (my wife gets her first dose next week!), the election behind us, and the sun just starting to peek out from behind the clouds. I thought that if I took a break and came back to the game now, I would feel better… but no, not really. Bureaucracy still pisses me off. 

To hopefully ensure a bit more consistent posting as we wrap this up, I have now beaten the game. I’m expecting to close this series out in three posts before moving on to Space Quest V, a game that I hope to enjoy playing a bit more. I will finish the airplane section this week, claim victory next time, and finally close out with a look at how the game changed from early design notes to the finished product. 

Before jumping into this session’s misadventures, I need to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and talk about the elephant that will very shortly be in the room: the Zalagasans. Roughly the next third of the game features them in ways that meet somewhere at the intersection of humorous, troubling, and racist. I am positive that Douglas Adams, Michael Bywater, and the Infocom crew did not mean any offense, but playing the game in 2021 feels different somehow than playing it in 1987. As ill-equipped as I am to write in detail about the systematic stereotyping of non-white peoples in American and European media, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on it.