|NAME: Amnesia||-||GAMEPLAY: Infocom-quality parser|
|AUTHOR: Thomas M. Disch||-||PLOT: Good, though done before|
|EMAIL: ???||-||ATMOSPHERE: Very good|
|AVAILABILITY: Commercial (Elec. Arts)||-||WRITING: Excellent|
|PUZZLES: A variety||-||SUPPORTS: C64, Apple II, IBM|
|CHARACTERS: Satisfyingly responsive||-||DIFFICULTY: Challenging|
During the reign of Infocom, there were many attempts by other software companies to follow their recipe for quality I-F, some of them succeeding and some of them not, the latter occurring largely because of Infocom's dedication to I-F. Firms such as Sierra, Mindscape, and Electronic Arts preferred to branch out and diversify their software products, rather than placing all their eggs in one basket (which could be another factor contributing to Infocom's downfall, but that's another article entirely). In fact, Infocom and Level 9 were the only two companies focused solely on I-F, which may account for their stories outshining those of the competition -- very few 80's text adventures that I've seen can even come close to the gameplay of the average Infocom game. Thomas M. Disch's "Amnesia", however, succeeded where many others failed.
As the player begins "Amnesia", he (and the main character is most certainly male) awakens in a New York City hotel room, naked and with no clue as to his identity. This by itself is by no means unique -- ICOM's "Deja Vu" begins under the same pretenses. But the story behind "Amnesia" is so much more involved.
Once the most pressing problem of finding clothes is overcome, the player hits the streets of Manhattan in an effort to recover his lost memory and find out who framed him for murder. This, in essence, is the primary puzzle of the game, although its solution is hampered by a need to find food and a place to sleep at night. These things cost money, so earning money through such means as washing windows and panhandling are necessary.
"Amnesia's" parser is perhaps the only one to equal Infocom's at the time. In many places it surpasses Infocom. With a vocabulary of about 1700 words and a multiple-sentence parser with plenty of synonyms, you'll very rarely need to hunt for a word. The one minor annoyance stems from the fact that objects' words aren't recognized if you try to use them when an object isn't in the current location -- for instance, you can't refer to a telephone if one isn't around, even though there may be one elsewhere in the game. But this is minor. Character interactions are detailed, and range from face-to- face meetings to conversations over the telephone.
The game itself is huge, with as many as 4000 locations. Most of them are street corners or parts of the Manhattan subway system (both of these are completely programmed into the game), although there are a number of buildings and New York landmarks for the player to visit. A map (among other things) is included in the game package, so there's no need to draw your own, but you'll probably need to at least jot down some notes.
"Amnesia" offers a variety of puzzles, from object and character interactions to some creative methods of obtaining money, food, and rest. The game's scoring system reflects this, awarding points for the categories of detective (how well you uncover clues), character (how well you interact with the denizens of New York), and survivor (how well-fed and rested -- and also alive -- you keep yourself). A good balance of the three is necessary for victory.
If there's one major complaint about the game, it's the copy protection. The subway and city maps, address book, and street-indexing code-wheel would have been more than adequate to deter piracy, but "Amnesia" insists on forcing players to insert the original game disk for verification each time it loads. It seems EA didn't think of the consequences of what would happen when 5.25" disk drives phased out. You must insert the original disk -- a backup copy won't work -- or plan to spend several hours doing some heavy hex-editing, as the copy-protection is malevolently self-modifying (on par with some of the more evil computer viruses). Someone out there either REALLY didn't want this game to be copied (even legally), or REALLY liked copy protection.
Once you get past this, though, "Amnesia" is a joy to play. It was written by Thomas M. Disch, who won the Campbell Award back in 1980, but this was done specifically for the I-F medium; it's not an adaption of any sort. (I've heard of a sequel -- "Amnesia II", astoundingly enough -- but have never seen it, and would appreciate any info anyone might have on it.) Disch's prose is vivid and flows nicely, spanning several screens on a few occasions. It makes for good reading as well as good adventuring, combining the best of the two art forms.