13: Bureaucracy

Publisher: Infocom
Developer: Infocom
Year: 1987
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Apple II; Atari ST; Commodore 128; Macintosh

Review: 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 could.  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 one walking dead situation, you will be duly rewarded with the genius that was Douglas Adams.

Contemporary RatingMedium. The parser is great, but the game is so frustratingly difficult that unless you’re a lover of text games, you won’t have the patience.

Cruelty RatingCruel. Not as cruel as most Infocom games (or Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker game), but cruel nonetheless.

For those who don’t know, all Infocom games came with “feelies,” sometimes for hints, sometimes for copyright protection, sometimes just for fun.  Below is the best one they ever had.  An application for a credit card, in triplicate.  However, the yellow and salmon colored sheets don’t exactly say the same things as do the top page.  Hilarious stuff.  I miss Douglas Adams so much.

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3 thoughts on “13: Bureaucracy

  1. Douglas Adams remains a huge hero of mine, and now I’m going to have to play this game. Let’s just hope it’s not as annoying as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game!

  2. oh, my, Beau, I had totally forgetten about this game. I loved and hated it at the same time, and spent way too many hours on with making little progress . . . but I don’t regret any hours playing it, just wish I could have gotten further than I did.

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