Detective

From: Stefan Jokisch

Review appeared in SPAG #4 -- March 2, 1995
NAME: Detective
PARSER: AGT
AUTHOR: Matt Barringer
PLOT: Strictly Linear
EMAIL: ???
ATMOSPHERE: None
AVAILABILITY: Freeware, IF Archive
WRITING: Poor
PUZZLES: None
SUPPORTS: AGT Ports
CHARACTERS: None
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy
In this game you play a heroic detective who has to find and arrest the murderer of the mayor. Surprisingly, the only commands needed to solve 'Detective' are north, east, south, and west. It is possible to pick up a few items along the way in order to increase the score, but none of these items has any effect on the story
To cut a long story short, the author made every mistake one can think of; it is not necessary to go into detail. After all, we should not forget that Matt wrote this game with good intentions and he offered it for free, so who are we to mock at his efforts? Every computer store sells a lot of expensive CD-ROMs which are no better than "Detective".
From: Graeme Cree <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com>
Review appeared in SPAG #5 -- April 19, 1995
NAME: Detective
GAMEPLAY: Limited AGT
AUTHOR: Matt Barringer
PLOT: None
EMAIL: ???
ATMOSPHERE: None
AVAILABILITY: IF Archive
WRITING: Baaaad!
PUZZLES: None
SUPPORTS: AGT PORTS CHARACTERS: Cardboard
DIFFICULTY: Zero
Detective was previously reviewed in SPAG 4, but I'd like to do it again, as I have a slightly different take. This review stems from an e-mail conversation with Magnus Olsson, in regards to his review of Space Aliens Laughed at My Cardigan (also in SPAG 4), which had stated that despite its flaws the game had some cult value, calling it "Infocom on acid". I agreed with him, stating that Mystery Science Theater 3000 had demonstrated that there were "good" bad movies (which provide loads of unintentional laughs), and "bad" bad movies (which were merely painful), and that Space Aliens was definitely a "good" bad game. He responded by comparing it to Detective, a "bad" bad game, that has no puzzles, and requires only compass directions to win.
Now that I've played Detective, I'm not sure I agree. I think that it too is a "good" bad game. Oh, it doesn't have the whacked-out psychedelic Eraserhead surrealism of Space Aliens, but it has more than its share of entertainment (not to mention equally bad spelling).
I feel that I may owe a slight apology to Electrabot, which I criticize for lack of plot. Detective is like a stripped-down version of Electrabot. Like Electrabot, it has a fairly linear path that you must run, with several rooms of instant death, but at least Electrabot had a Rogues Gallery of hostile characters who could be killed by incongruous objects. Detective only has one hostile character, who can be easily bypassed.
The game begins with your being told that the mayor has been murdered and that you must solve the crime to avoid bad publicity (!!). You can then go into the next room and get your gun. The description of the gun tells you that you only have 10 shots and should use them wisely. Fair enough, but no matter how many times you fire you will still have 10 shots.
Another interesting feature is what I call the closets of teleportation. At one point you are in a hallway, with closets to the east and west. If you go east you will enter the west closet, and must go east again to reenter the hallway (and vice versa).
The few items generally have bizarre adjectives. Along the way you may acquire the "food hamburger," and the "wooden wood," though you don't need any of them to win.
Like Electrabot, Detective has several rooms that kill you without warning when you enter, but Detective's are more interesting. There is one that I call "The Room of Mysterious Death". The description says that you have reached a dead end and can go back west. But you can't because the game then proceeds to kill you without giving any explanation. In another instance, you are standing in a hallway and see a door to the east marked "Pool." If you enter you are told that you were in the pool when the killer shot you. WHY the heck did I get INTO the pool? I just wanted to check out the room!!
The game has a terrible (and amusing) problem with blending room, object, and character descriptions with each other. When you meet the game's only character, the room description tells you all about what he's doing. Which of course means that it keeps telling you even after he's dead. The description of the hamburger tells you that you should just eat it and go north. This is, of course only valid if you are still in the room where you got it. In another case, you see a knife on the floor, but if you try to take it you are told "What knife? There is no knife here." It would have been easy enough to make the knife takeable, or at least give a message saying that you don't need it, or mustn't touch it because it hasn't been fingerprinted yet, or something. But this is much more amusing.
The game can't seem to decide what time period it takes place in. In one room a passerby tells you to boycott FDR. In the next, a convict tells you he was busted for possession of crack.
At another point, you enter an area and are told that the killer's rumoured hotel is in one direction, his favourite hangout in another, and his workplace in a third. You never learned any of this previously. Real police work should be so easy.
All of this is but a prelude to the big ending. When you enter the room where the killer is, you are told that after a fierce battle you overcame him. In other words, "Yes, there was a big fight, but we couldn't afford to show you any of it".
I'm not going into all this detail just to pile on the criticism. Mr. Barringer obviously enjoys playing and writing text games, and I'd be the last to tell him not to do it. I'm only writing this because unlike Stefan Jokisch (in his review), I think that you SHOULD get this game and you SHOULD play it. It's very quick (as little as 26 moves), loaded with such unintentional laughs, and unlike Space Aliens, you can play it to a conclusion, with no headaches or technical glitches. The parser is terrible, but when you only need "north," "south," "east," and "west," what the heck? Mr. Barringer's goal in writing the game was to entertain his audience, and as far as I'm concerned he suceeded in ways that the rating system can't show.
If you like Mystery Science Theater 3000, you will enjoy playing this game. I'm going to e-mail a copy to Dr. Clayton Forrester myself, for use in a future experiment. Heads up, Mike, Tom, and Crow!
From: okblacke
Review appeared in SPAG #18 -- September 15, 1999
NAME: Detective
AUTHOR: Matt Barringer
EMAIL: Unknown
(He probably doesn't want any mail about this anymore anyway.)
DATE: 1993
PARSER: Inform
AVAILABILITY: IF Archive
URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/detectiv.z5
VERSION: Stuart Moore's Inform Port of an AGT classic!
Have you ever had the experience of seeing a movie or reading a book only after a hundred people told you how good or how bad it was? The actual work almost never lives up to your expectations. So it is with "Detective" which is probably the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" of IF. (It's not the worst piece of IF ever written by a long-shot but it may be the most infamous.)
I'm not entirely sure of the history of the game, beyond the author uploading it to a BBS and things getting out of hand from there, but if I'm not mistaken there are two ports of the original AGT game and two MST versions. That may be some kind of record for a game held in such loving low esteem.
I hadn't ever played it, so when I saw that Stuart Moore had created an Inform version, I thought I'd take the time to play this and the so-called MSTied version. Truth is, it's not that bad. It's not any kind of good, either, because it's basically a puzzle-less IF piece without solid, compelling writing to sustain it. Enough has been said about the program's various faults (the lack of a proofreading, instant death, one way doors, incidents built into room descriptions, near complete non-interactivity, no story development beyond the original idea, incoherency and so on) that the game could serve as a model on how not to write IF.
I won't embellish on the game's faults here except to say that, having known what to expect, I can't really share in the frustration that players of the original AGT version must have experienced if they were looking for a game.
It's short, arbitrary and pointless, but it *is* short! It may even be historical. (Can you count yourself a true IF aficionado if you don't know of this game?) It's also sincere in its way. If you look at other bad IF, you often find a cynicism, rampant insults to the player, and sleazy bad humor. It's clear that the author's intentions are good.
Rating is somewhat problematic because (as outlined by Whizzard) the ratings system deals with "attempts" and "effort" and I believe the attempts and effort were there, just not successful. Nonetheless, I can't really give a high score for "trying" except to bump up the "overall" category somewhat.
Plot: 0.1
Atmosphere: 0.0
Writing: 0.1
Gameplay: 0.0
Characters: 0.1
Puzzles: 0.0
Overall: 0.5
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