|Yeah, sorry, not the easiest of screens to read...|
It seems like only ereyesterday when I was going through Déjà Vu, the logical, graphical, next step for the text adventure, but we're not done with getting lost in an adventure game yet. Steve Meretzky is back with quite the tale this time, as we become A Mind Forever Voyaging.
I have no idea what it's about, so let's blindly stumble into it.
A Mind Forever Voyaging is a much friendlier text adventure game than you might expect, although the subject matter perhaps isn't for the casual player. You play as a sentient computer, PRISM, who is tasked with running simulations of life in a small fictional town in order to find out whether a plan for deregulating the government and returning the country to its traditional values (among other details) will work out for the benefit of the people.
Yeah... Not your everyday text adventure this one, and not just because of that summary. A Mind Forever Voyaging is friendly in that there doesn't appear to be any real failure states, or puzzles of any kind.
You are asked to gather experiences involving how people behave or what they say, and it's up to you to navigate the world, seeking out the items on your simulation check-list and remembering to hit 'record', so that people outside of the simulation can analyse all of that data when you finish.
This makes it sound a little bit like the gaming worlds' first walking simulator, but of course it does require text adventuring know-how to make any progress through it. The instruction manual is detailed and you can do a lot of things inside the simulation, but if you're like me and you're going into all of that blind...
Good luck, I say. My screen was, for the most part, half A Mind Forever Voyaging, half GameFAQs walkthrough. And I still messed up somewhere after the first of five simulations taking place over subsequent decades.
The game is well written, and I was using the speech option in the Windows Frotz emulator to read the screen aloud as it all happened. It had its quirks, but having another voice read text adventure descriptions out to you, rather than your own voice or the voice inside your head really put me in the mood of actually trying to pay attention. It was like I was gaming around the table top again, waiting for the DM to finish describing the dungeon we were stuck in.
Oh look, I even got stuck in my moment of reminiscing. Getting stuck in an adventure game just sucks the wind out your sails, and for as much as I wanted to see where A Mind Forever Voyaging would end up, even with a guide I was in a bit of a mess.
The manual includes plenty of instructions, tips, a map, flavour text and all sorts - it's one of the best I've come across (not that I've read many, you know me by now...) - but if you're going in with absolutely no idea of how good the story may be, are you going to persist through it if all it seems to be is running around a small town looking at things?
The game is so much more than that, by the way. You can read a lengthy synopsis on Wikipedia, or watch it being played on YouTube (as you can do with seemingly everything these days), and I think you should, because it's so different from what you might have imagined at first.
It reminds me of a section in Fallout 3, where you enter a simulation for a while, but there it was just for a change of scenery and a side mission. Here, it's the whole point of the game, and it gives you a character to relate to, even though you're a somewhat unrelatable sentient computer.
A Mind Forever Voyaging is yet another example of the text adventure genre being able to take you to places where other genres simply can't go, especially at this stage in video game history. I'd be interested in seeing the story done today. I mentioned it might be a walking simulator, but if it was, would it still work to tell this story? How would A Mind Forever Voyaging be adapted or updated to modern gaming 'standards'? Does it need to be? Who knows.
I might try and follow the guide a little closer next time, but until then I'll just have to tell you to give it a go.
PRISM's name is derived from the name he has in the simulation, 'Perry Simm'. Or was Perry Simm derived from PRISM? Which one came first? Am I a man who thinks I'm a machine or a machine who thinks I'm a man? Is this real life? Dr. Perelman, why are we not discussing this philosophy stuff instead?!
A Mind Forever Voyaging, developed by Infocom, first released in 1985.
Version played: MS-DOS, 1985, via emulation.