The Institute (1981)   4 comments

The duo of Jyym Pearson and Robyn Pearson finish off 1981 (finally!) with The Institute. Will Moczarski calls it a near-masterpiece so we’re likely in for a ride.

Rather than Adventure International, this game was originally published by Med Systems as text-only (for both TRS-80 and Atari computers), and after Med Systems switched to being Intelligent Statements, Inc. (trademark filed July 13, 1982) they published a Commodore 64 version of the game sometime that year (probably text-only, see image above). The next year they published graphical versions for Apple, Commodore 64, and Atari using the name Screenplay. (Screenplay is listed as a trademark owned by Intelligent Statements, even though the trademark on Intelligent Statements itself was listed as abandoned in 1984, so I’m not totally sure what’s going on other than possibly bad handling of paperwork.)

I’m playing with the Apple II version.

It hasn’t been that long since I tackled a Pearson game (see Saigon) but there’s a general style and rhythm where once you get used to it the Pearson games are easier to solve. For example, using LISTEN in all locations, applying LOOK not just generally but to what seem like “location objects” that otherwise can’t be referred to, and being prepared to use movement verbs like CLIMB when otherwise not prompted to.

The premise, from a 1983 version of the manual:

Trapped in a mysterious “Institute”, you know that you are not mad, and yet many of your fellow inmates are. The Freudian solution to your entrapment becomes a series of vivid dreams, induced by a strange powder. Each of the dreams takes place in a different location, making the adventure actually five adventures in one. Each location contains objects and information that you must use in other places in order to escape. You may actually have to let yourself be killed in order to escape one dream and proceed to another.

Promising! The prior Pearson games had issues where the heavily linear structure led to some obnoxious softlocks (Escape from Traam in particular) and we’ve seen with other games from this era that splitting into smaller areas has often made for stronger games.

The credits are incidentally slightly different on this one (not surprising given the change in company)

Written and Produced by Jyym and Robyn Pearson
Programmed by Norm Sailer and Jyym Pearson
All graphics created with the aid of: THE COMPLETE GRAPHICS SYSTEM by PENGUIN SOFTWARE
Illustrated by Rick Incrocci

The graphics have a new illustrator, which starts to be obvious when you see people.

You start awakening in a bed unable to move, and a dwarf enters that you can TALK to.

After the conversation, you can GET UP and walk around.

You can break off a piece of the mirror, descibed as SHINY. I haven’t used it yet.

There’s not much accessible at first. There’s a room with a bottle of mysterious red powder, but if you try to walk away with it you get stopped by a guard and tossed back in your room. You can duck into a closet and try to eat the powder but it “sticks in your mouth”.

There’s a room full of inmates — and this is where the improved art starts to be more obvious —

and you can TALK here multiple times to get clues like the one above. I haven’t gotten anywhere with SAY SHAFLA, but I assume that gets tucked away for later. The most useful message otherwise seems to be:


Well, I can try to oblige that request at least. The third thing easily accessible is the “Counselor”.


Trying to ATTACK does get a reaction: you get tossed in a padded cell. I haven’t found anything useful here. Maybe smuggle in something sharp at tear at the walls? I have gone through the requisite LOOK and LISTEN regiment but it is hard to miss things anyway.

Posted October 11, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “The Institute (1981)

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  1. Wouldn’t the piece of the mirror be sharp?

    • Doesn’t work. (Fortunately, found a scalpel. Unfortunately, had so much trouble trying to use it on the wall I had to check a walkthrough for the phrasing. Still a Pearson game.)

      • I guess “there are six sharp things and you have to use each one in exactly the right place” didn’t originate with Cragne Manor.

  2. Pingback: The Institute: SOCIETY MUST BE PROTECTED FROM YOU | Renga in Blue

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