Border Zone, a new interactive text game, brings the intrigue of international espionage to your computer and keyboard. As the main character, you are involved in an assassination plot in the mythical Eastern Bloc nation of Frobnia. Danger is around every corner, deception is practiced by everyone.
Tongue in cheek, Infocom includes several nondisk materials with the program, aimed at helping you get into the story as well as providing information for your quest. These items include a Frobnia Tourist Guide and Phrasebook, a business card, a matchbook, and a map of the Frobnia/Litzenburg border.
Ironically, these materials combine with the detail and richness of the dialogue and story to create a colorful picture of a drab and stoic country.
The game itself is all text. Frankly, I have found it hard to play text-only games since the advent of games such as The Pawn from Firebird, which mixes graphics with text. I like the added element of visual stimulation that occasional graphics provide. But Infocom has stuck with its philosophy of exercising your mind, not your senses.
Border Zone, though, breaks new ground for the company in several respects. To begin with, the program is di vided into three self-contained chapters. Each chapter permits you to play a different character in the story's central, assassination-oriented plot.
Chapter One places you in the shoes of an easygoing American businessman returning from a trip behind the Iron curtain. Your quiet train trip is interrupted by a wounded, on-the-run American spy. You find yourself involved in an assassination plot, confronted by a dangerous KGB officer. In Chapter Two, your character is the wounded American agent whose assignment is to stop the assassination. Chapter Three gives you the role of the KGB officer.
This three-scenario approach is both interesting and satisfying. I have often wondered what a particular text game would be like from another perspective. Border Zone gives the opportunity to see a story from more than one point of view.
Perhaps more important, the game takes place in realtime, adding to the suspense of the story. Time is constantly ticking away in the upper right corner of the screen. Unlike other text adventures that progress only as you give responses, Border Zone's story moves along without your help. Unless you invoke the PAUSE command, things happen in the story, and to you. Time is of the essence during all three of the scenarios, and realtime progression of the story is guaranteed to produce sweaty palms.
Another new technique for Infocom is Border Zone's online hints. Every adventure gamer has at one time or another been tempted to buy a hint book. Not this time: Border Zone's hints are provided as part of the program. A simple command takes you to a menu where you retrieve hints for various points in the story. Once you select the topic, you're given increasingly revealing clues.
Border Zone has a smart parser, the vocabulary-driven interface that lets you communicate with the program. The game has an 800-word vocabulary, and it recognizes multiple objects with certain verbs. You can include several sentences on one line. If a command is unclear, the program either makes an assumption or questions you to resolve the ambiguity. With the special OOPS command, you can save yourself from retyping an entire sentence because of one mistake. For example, if your command was PUT THE BOK ON THE TABLE, you could correct it by typing OOPS BOOK.
Border Zone is a well done, interesting, and challenging text adventure. It is an intelligent program with an advanced parser. The realtime game progression and the opportunity to portray different characters in the plot set Border Zone apart from other text adventures and make it an attractive entertainment for either advanced text gamesters or entertainment novices.
- Scott Thomas D
IBM PC and compatibles-$39.95
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