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About the StoryBased on the Amber series by Roger Zelazny
So that was the game. They tried to kill you--and when that failed, they stuck you in a private hospital with enough drugs to keep you out cold for the rest of your life.
Well, almost enough drugs. At the moment you're awake. And none too soon. A burly attendant is about to give you your next shot. That is, until you jump him and start your escape. But where are you going? And who put you in this hospital? And who--
And then it hits you. You've forgotten everything. Even your own name.
The Digital Antiquarian
One more noble Telarium experiment that doesn't really work as a playable game
Indeed, the game is in its way an amazing achievement. I know of no other text adventure from its era — and, come to think of it, possibly of any other — that offers this level of choice over not just the beats of the story or the order in which puzzles are solved but of the very direction of such a grand narrative. Yet it’s also often a pain to play, thanks as usual to that problematic Telarium parser. It’s nice that the game offers verbs like “placate,” but most of the time, even in conversations, most of these clever verbs do nothing; worse, it’s often hard to figure out whether any given verb is doing anything or not. Nine Princes in Amber has, in other words, all of the same problems as Perry Mason. If anything, they’re even more pronounced here.
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But there's more going on here than that, because they really committed to a high concept for a sprawling wide-open parser experience. There's an elaborate fencing system in the parser which ends up being entirely unnecessary. There's a clunky-but-engaging life-or-death map-building minigame (used for "walking the Pattern", a rite of passage for Amberites such as your character) which can be entirely avoided with a single clever verb. There are all sorts of twists and turns that make a rote recreation of the novels not-quite-right, or actually just plain boring compared to the game's unique alternate path through Prince Corwin's top priorities ((Spoiler - click to show)recovering his identity, revenge on chief rival Eric, and ruling over Amber.)
Even for the mid-1980s, there's a lot of parser fighting here as you struggle to reconcile your ideas for how to advance the plot, the opaque cues and clues being given by the other characters in the game, and the seeds planted by the original Zelazny text. Even more than I'd enjoy seeing a supercut of the satisfactory paths through the game (and there are at least two "good" endings, plus others which are "complete but less than perfect") I'd like to see a documentary about the process this game's large team went through to put it together.
This is version 1 of this page, edited by jcompton on 23 June 2020 at 2:24pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item