Cyborg: The Human Race Will Continue   1 comment

A winner is me. Or perhaps, us. Or the whole human race, now living in harmony with hyperintelligent lizards. As usual, this won’t make much sense without having read my prior posts on Cyborg first.

A portion of the cover of the Macintosh version of the game. From Mobygames.

I was definitely close. I was still underusing the “SMASH” verb.

The cleaner robot that I had destroyed wasn’t just an obstacle — it held something very, very, useful:

The set included some “tools” and a “permanent power cell” which meant the “CYBORG LEVEL” that had been constantly depleting was no longer a concern. The “tools” went back to the locker I had been unable to open and get some SOLDER.

I toted everything I had gathered up to the broken dial (for the record, the important items are a CPU, wires, solder, a power crystal, the tools, and the repair manual) and after some major fiddling (the tools and manual should be held, the other items should not be held) I managed to FIX DIAL.

After this you can TURN DIAL to wake all the sleepers. Unfortunately, you can’t go visit them, because, as the game informs you, there is risk of contamination. With the ship repaired, it felt like all I had to do was go back to the main bridge and hit the switch, and, hmm: nothing happened. No feedback as to what went wrong, either.

I baffled about this for a bit. I did know I missed one thing — back in the crashed alien ship there was someone who was wanting to talk but I had some parser struggles until I realized this was a REPTILE this time rather than a LIZARD. I was able to ASK 1 through 4 again to make conversation and find I was talking to the captain of the crashed vessel:

(I incidentally found the bread back near where the locker was, but I was never able to give it over — a reptile kept stealing it and running off I tried to drop it for the captain. It ended up not being necessary, though.)

In addition to the reassuring friendship the captain explained that any dangerous alien animals needed to be done away with before the landing procedure would work. It mentioned a “snake” which I had run into at the very start of the game — I just had happened to skip killing it in my current run because it didn’t seem useful to do so. So that was easy to mop up, but the captain also mentioned a “smada”. I thought the smada was the robot somehow but no: it’s a different creature. I had to look up where to find it: back at a “grill” (where the barbeque joke was made) you can SMASH it.

With the two enemies smashed, I was able to throw the final switch in the center of the bridge.

In terms of technical handling, the game is pretty sloppy; it seems like what Michael Berlyn needed was to join forces with a company with a better parser and play-testers and a faster system that could handle his ambitious ideas; unlike most times where I have lamented this about a particular author, he got to follow through with this by joining up with Infocom soon after.

But focused on just the ideas: he had a plot that unveiled slowly based on conversation with characters (in menus!) with some insights being optional, but everything needing to fit together in the end to complete the game. (That is, you needed to resolve all the ship issues before landing, and it wasn’t clear what those issues were without grasping the plot.)

The parser-frame is integrated with the game concept itself as it uses “we” perspective in a sincere way. Even past a game design sense, in a science-fictional sense the conceit is intriguing, and gives a perspective on what hell it might be to be cyborg-merged with imperfect technology.

The design had a strong semblance of structure (much stronger than Oo-topos, at least) where the geography itself was used as part of the plot and it was quite easily to “mentally package” the various locations and zip around the ship trying to resolve the obstacles near the end.

The overall meta-structure. Even though the start is “wide open” there’s some “gating” through sections before reaching the “starship” sections where the plot is revealed.

In short, I’m fairly happy this was the game to end my 1981 sequence so I could go out on a positive note.

“End” in quote marks because I’m always discovering new games or just finding out their dates are wrong, and I even know of a few already that are going to probably land there; I’m using my discretion of keeping my fixed list from a few months ago so I don’t go batty worrying about missing work. Up next comes my 1981 summary, and then a few pieces of unfinished business before moving gloriously on to 1982.

Posted December 19, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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One response to “Cyborg: The Human Race Will Continue

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  1. These are genuine old school games you’re playing here. I really enjoy being taken back so many years to some of the first interactive science fiction video games. This is a classic. Thank you for taking time to put this post together.

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