Mystery Science Theater 3000: Detective

By Christopher Foreman (after Matt Barringer), August 1995 (Inform).
Review: Gareth Rees.

I'm only aware of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 through the genre of MST3k parodies on Usenet, so I have no idea how faithfully Christopher Forman reproduced the flavour of the television program. I thought that this game was interesting as an experiment, and I did find bits of it funny, but a lot of it was completely meaningless to me, especially the introduction and the endgame, and I probably wouldn't play another similar game.

I'm not sure at all that text adventure games are suitable for this kind of parody by ridicule, and especially free or shareware games produced by amateurs. Bad films are interesting targets for ridicule because they are the result of the labours of intelligent adults who should have known better, and because millions of dollars were wasted on their production. On the other hand, Detective was probably the result of a couple of hours' work by a twelve-year-old kid, whose main mistake was to upload it to a bulletin board for the world to laugh at (although the adventure games I wrote when I was twelve were better than Detective, I have more sense than to let anyone see them now!). Activision's expensive multimedia game Return to Zork, with live actors pretending to be characters from an adventure game, would be a much more appropriate (though also much more challenging) target.

I think that parody of adventure games is very tricky to do well, because most adventure games sit rather uneasily on the dividing line between seriousness and humour, and generally incorporate elements of self-parody already (think of the ongoing Flathead jokes in the Zork series, or the ridiculous names of the spells in Enchanter et al), whereas parody succeeds best when its target is relentlessly humourless (think of A Modest Proposal by Swift or The Pooh Perplex by F.C.Crews). There are some supposed parodies of Infocom games at the IF-archive (Pork and Disenchanted), but they end up being pastiche rather than parody or satire, and rather weak pastiches at that.

Play Detective

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Andrew Clover