From: "Christopher E. Forman" (ceforma@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu)

NAME: Guardians of Infinity GAMEPLAY: Windowed text
AUTHOR: Paragon Software PLOT: Very detailed
EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: Good
AVAILABILITY: Commercial WRITING: Sparse but good
PUZZLES: You'll need the docs SUPPORTS: PCs
CHARACTERS: User-controlled DIFFICULTY: Hard

Now this one is different. REALLY different. Possibly the most unique text adventure ever released. Paragon did "Guardians of Infinity" near the end of the '80s, about the time Infocom released their graphical I-F, but "Guardians" has no graphics. Rather, the player acts as one Adam Cooper, commander and overseer of five time-travelling agents attempting to prevent the assassination of JFK (Oliver Stone, eat your heart out). The screen is divided into windows for each agent, as well as the player's command line and other features critical to the mission. In a way, it's part "TimeQuest", part "Suspended", part "Trinity", part "Border Zone", and part...something. "Guardians of Infinity" simply has to be played to be understood. No terminology can quite do the experience justice.

The game begins on November 15, 1963, and the player's job is to use the five agents to influence events in order to arrange a meeting between Kennedy and Cooper, so that Cooper can talk Kennedy out of his visit to Dallas, which in turn will prevent the assassination and the subsequent disruption of the time continuum which is threatening Cooper's own world of 2087. The agents will perform a surprising number of actions, from talking with those close to Kennedy, to robbing a bank to acquire funds. The parser is well-programmed but substantially different from the Infocom tradition. You can say, for example, "STEIN, GO TO WASHINGTON AND TALK WITH VICE- PRESIDENT JOHNSON" or even provide answers to your agents' questions, such as "LEE HARVEY OSWALD IS IN DALLAS." Walking around, picking up items, and brute searching are all eliminated, which lends a whole new universe of flexibility to the story. It's perhaps the closest thing to "puzzle-less" I-F, the recent subject of debate on rec.arts.int-fiction. (Don't get any ideas, though -- writing such a game would require a complete makeover on all the existing I-F compilers.) Still, it takes quite a bit of getting used to.

Packaged with the game are a 90-page novella providing characterization for the agents and an exceptionally well-researched 145-page mission manual outlining the whereabouts of everyone connected with the assassination during the week of the 15th-27th. These must have had 1988 software pirates running away screaming, as you can't possibly get anywhere without them, yet they enhance the game and are plot-related, making for THE best copy-protection ever developed (with no irreverence intended toward Sorcerer's infotater). Disk #3 also contains a graphical slide-show with more info on the mission.

The game's internal clock is always running, and news and agents' reports pop up in their respective windows constantly, leaving a lot for the player to juggle around. It's an intense experience, to say the least. Agents' responses, and most of the game text, for that matter (aside from some large plot points), are typically sparse, but with a fair amount of realism.

"Guardians of Infinity" is definitely worth a play, and deserves far better than the measly bit of recognition it got on its initial release. Altering history has never been such fun. (No, I haven't won it yet, but I'm still trying.)

-- C.E. Forman

Incidentally, if you're having trouble locating a copy of "Guardians of Infinity", you may want to give the folks at Centsible Software (centsible@delphi.com) a mail. They sell tons of used software, both classic and recent, at very reasonable prices (although, if you want the original game boxes, you may be out of luck). That's where I got my copy of "Guardians" (among other classics), and I recommend them.