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About the StoryInfidel finds you marooned by your followers in the heart of the deadly Egyptian Desert. A soldier of fortune by trade, you've come hither in search of a great lost pyramid and its untold riches. Now, alone, you must locate and gain entry to the tomb, decipher its hieroglyphics and unravel its mysteries one by one.
Through the Antechamber, the Barge Room, the Chamber of Ra, death will lick at your heels as you race to the shattering climax of this match of wits between you and the most ingenious architects, builders and murderers of all time - the ancient Egyptians.
Michael Berlyn's writing helps bring the pyramid to life, although I found some sections of the pyramid to be a bit weakly written. [...] My wildcard points went to the game's hieroglyphics. I had a lot of fun trying to decode them, and they made many of the puzzles solvable on the first try. (Stephen Granade)
I was disappointed with the other living characters, though: there aren't any! What's a good desert adventure story without a few scorpions, asps, and mummies? (Derek S Felton)
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I have just read a Stephen King book in which he says all authors and readers have the "gotta" syndrome ..... "Gotta" know what happens next. I certainly was under the spell of "gotta" in this game. I just couldn't leave it alone, blow the housework and any other mundane tasks, I had to know just what was around the next corner.
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Infidel can be rough going for a player used to gameplay refinements introduced even a few years later. It doesn't understand many common abbreviations -- most painfully, it misses X for examine. The opening phase of the game features both hunger and thirst timers. Guess-the-verb problems make at least two of the puzzles significantly harder. (Spoiler - click to show)(If you're having trouble breaking the lock on the chest in the prologue, or throwing the rope down the north staircase in the pyramid, you're probably on the right track but using the wrong wording.) The knapsack you need to carry around your possessions is especially irritating, since you'll have to wear it and take it off again dozens of times over the course of play. There is also some justice in Andrew Plotkin's spoof Inhumane: Infidel will kill you a lot, and not all of the deaths are well-signaled in advance. You'll need to keep a lot of save files, and examine everything carefully before you interact with it.
To balance this, though, there's quite a lot right with the game as well, especially once you're past the prologue. The meat of most of the puzzles involves deciphering the meaning of hieroglyphics, which instruct the player in how to get past traps. There's a lexicon in the feelies for a few of these symbols, but the rest you'll have to work out as you go along, by comparing the labels on objects or making guesses based on their pictorial quality. (The hieroglyphics are in ASCII; make sure you've set your interpreter to a fixed-spacing font in order to read them properly, because Infidel unlike many later games is not able to set the font automatically.) These puzzles give the game a feeling of thematic coherence lacking from the Zork trilogy; while the effect is not exactly realistic, Infidel at least seems to take place in a self-consistent universe.
Space was at a premium in these very early games, and that shows in Infidel in both good ways and bad. Descriptions are often terse and not every possible object is described. On the other hand, what descriptions exist are sometimes rather evocative, and the constraints make for a fairly compact game with multiple uses for some of the objects.
Infidel is famous for not following gamers' expectations for a game narrative, and opened up some new possibilities in interactive storytelling. (Spoiler - click to show)The game ends in the protagonist's death, a punishment for having been selfish and cruel to his colleagues and workers, and having driven away everyone who could potentially have saved him. This follows naturally from the premise: the feelies and the prologue of the game clearly establish what kind of person the protagonist is. In my opinion the ending works a little less well with the puzzle-solving midgame of Infidel, however; in particular, the player experiences so many meaningless deaths before the game's end as to make it hard to regard the final "winning" death as narratively significant. Later work has gone much, much further in this direction, but it's worth looking back at early efforts.
Note: it is impossible to get past the game's prologue without information from the feelies. (Spoiler - click to show)(Specifically, the dig coordinates for the pyramid.)
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Recommended ListsInfidel appears in the following Recommended Lists:
PollsThe following polls include votes for Infidel:
Games That Reward Sticking With Them by Ghalev
Here's a dangerously subjective poll. I can be a bit impatient with text adventures on most days, sadly, and if a game doesn't grab me, shake me, French-kiss me and hump my leg in the first 2,000 words (those long intros count toward the...
NPC-less Exploration by Dannii
Supposedly one of IFs strengths is for exploring places with few other people, often abandoned places, but I can't think of many works which have zero NPCs and consist of a lot of exploration. Usually there's at least one NPC, or the...
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