From: Graeme Cree <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com>
Review appeared in SPAG #7 -- October 14, 1995
NAME: DETECTIVE: An Interactive MiSTing
GAMEPLAY: Inform Parser
AUTHOR: C. E. Forman PLOT: Trivial
EMAIL: ceforman SP@G worldnet.att.net
AVAILABILITY: IF Archive incoming WRITING: Pathetic
PUZZLES: None SUPPORTS: All Inform Ports
CHARACTERS: Cardboard DIFFICULTY: None at all
Normally, looking at the above category descriptions (such as
"Trivial," "Demented," and "Pathetic") one would expect a pretty bad
game. Yet, such is not the case here. In the zany world of Mystery
Science Theater 3000, (MST3K for short) where schlock is fun, and all
involved want "More cheese, please," such descriptions denote an
excellent game. Detective, the game least likely to be ported, now
exists (with enhancements) for Inform.
A little background is in order to understand this game. SPAG #4
featured a review of an AGT game called Detective, which stated that the author had made every possible mistake, and that the game should be
avoided. In SPAG #5 I wrote a second review in which I stated that the
game, though awful, was in fact loaded with unintentional laughs and
bizarre incongruities that were sure to entertain the player, and that
the game would make an excellent episode of Mystery Science Theater
For those who don't know, MST3K is a cable television show (soon to
be a major motion picture) on Comedy Central, that involves a man shot
into space by two mad scientists and forced to watch bad movies so that
his reactions can be monitored. Throughout the movie we can see the
silhouettes of Mike and his robot companions (whose outer casings are
made out of things like a gumball machine, a bowling pin, and a
lacrosse helmet) at the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and hear
them deliver a barrage of sarcastic remarks, pop-culture references,
and suggested dialogue. For example in Godzilla vs. Megalon, a
close-up of Godzilla waving his arms and bellowing drew the response "I
am Kirok!!", a reference to a classic bit of Shatner overacting in Star
Trek's The Paradise Syndrome episode. In Marooned, when three
astronauts, stranded in space are arguing over who will leave the ship
(there was only enough oxygen to sustain two until the rescue ship
arrived) one of the robots observed "they could toss a coin, but it
would never come down."
The show is in its 7th season, and each episode is two hours long.
Their bread-and-butter is schlocky sci-fi movies, but they have hit
almost every genre, including the occasional biker movie. Before and
after the show, as well as during intermissions, they do short amusing
skits, often based on scenes from the movie.
Chris Forman has taken this format and adapted it into a text
game, almost seamlessly. The original Detective game has been
transferred verbatim to Inform, even retaining the AGT default
responses, and snappy responses from Mike and the robots have been
inserted everywhere; into room descriptions, item descriptions,
response descriptions, et cetera. Repetition is avoided, enhancing
believability. The first time you enter a room you get one set of
responses. The second time you will get either a different set, or
none at all. The jokes are generally top quality, turning an already
(unintentionally) amusing game into a laugh riot. The level of
imitation is flawless; if you have seen the show, you can almost hear
the dialogue coming out of the actors' mouths.
A typical MST3K episode features a short skit and an invention
exchange with the mad scientists before the movie actually begins. Mr.
Forman has represented this by including a special introductory text
file that highlights the robots attempting to write their own text
games, and Dr. Forrester's "fictionary," a device that inputs the
vocabulary of a text game directly into the player's mind, with
The only thing that could put anyone off about this game might be
found in Stefan Jokisch's original SPAG review: "we should not forget that
Matt [the original author of Detective] wrote this game with good intentions
and he offered it for free, so who are we to mock at his efforts?"
Matt Barringer's game is "mocked" here, but previous MST3K episodes have
had movies featuring the likes of Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, Linda Evans,
Peter Graves, James Earl Jones, and Bela Lugosi, putting Mr. Barringer
in very august company indeed.
This may not be my all-time favourite text adventure, but it is
one of the few that I would recommend to absolutely everyone.