In the Budayeen, a quasi-Middle Eastern environment surrounded by walls, rough trade flourishes in alleys, on back streets, and along the main thoroughfare, known only as The Street. This is a criminal neighborhood, seamy and dangerous. This is the setting of Infocom's Circuit's Edge.
Based on the Audran stories of George Alec Effinger, the game is played from the perspective of Audran, an addictive, not really likable sort, whose talents and inclinations continually bring him to the edge of disaster. The most successful players will learn how to see the world through Audran's jaundiced eyes.
Infocom has done a fine job of making the Budayeen, the game's centerpiece, come alive. More than any of its earlier attempts at graphic adventures, this one communicates a real sense of place. You can stroll along the garish Street, dropping into various places of business, or skulk through darkened alleys where anything can happen. Onscreen mapping helps you get a feel for the game's locale. The Budayeen is the story, in many ways, although there's naturally a problem-solving plot to navigate through.
The game's manual includes a map of the Budayeen, complete with a directory and addresses of various businesses and establishments. Three pages of hints help you through the tougher problems. Lists of characters and a glossary also contain hints and tips that can be exploited during play.
In the seamy setting of Infocom's Circuit's Edge, there are many dangers.
While Circuit's Edge can be played via the keyboard, the program works best with a mouse. Effinger's characters can use technology to alter or enhance personality by way of "moddies"—modules inserted into sockets in the skull. "Daddies" are modules that extend characters' powers and abilities. Audran can use daddies to dampen pain, fatigue, and so on. There is, as players discover, a price to be paid for using modules.
Circuit's Edge is more adult than most software, and parents might want to consider this before passing the program to preadolescent kids. The Street is populated with drug dealers and prostitutes, among others, and it's possible to interact with them. Admittedly, taking drugs or engaging in illicit sex results in losing points, but the distinction may be too fine for younger players. I'd rate this game at least PG-13, perhaps even R.
While Circuit's Edge suffers from some of the problems typical to adventure games—repetitive dialogue loops, scenes that rest on puzzles rather than on plot—the game also represents an attempt to extend the materials on which adventures are based. There's little that's smutty about the game's adult scenarios; rather, they represent the context of the Budayeen, and do so well. Circuit's Edge is the most sophisticated of Infocom's recent crop of games and a good indication that the company may make the transition from text-based adventures to graphical storytelling.
IBM PC and compatibles; 512K RAM; DOS 2.11 or higher; CGA, EGA, VGA, or Tandy 16-color graphics; supports AdLib, Roland, and MT-32 sound cards and Microsoft and compatible mice—$49.95