From The Status Line, Vol.VI No.4 Winter 1987:
Real time spy intrigue with Border Zone
You leave the side of the railroad tracks and head into the forest. The darkness is deeper here, as less moonlight reaches the forest floor. The snow crunches under your feet, and you pause after moving a hundred or so yards into the forest.
The sound of barking dogs echoes into the night. They've moved closer now, perhaps not more than a few hundred yards to the northwest.
You emerge from the thick forest and come to a roadway running from north to southwest.
The sound of the dogs is much louder now, and you can hear the shouting voices of the guards they accompany. They can't be more than a hundred yards to the west.
You can hear the guard dogs within 50 yards! Their voices reach a fevered pitch - a guard calls out - a muffled explosion - the night sky is lit by a single red-orange flare.
You leave the roadway and come to a dank area at the edge of a swamp. Putrid sulphurous vapors fill your lungs as you step to the edge of the noisome waters.
The sounds of dogs barking madly and soldiers barking orders are close upon you. A muddled explosion -- a signal flare lightens the sky with a red-orange glow. Before you can react, you are spotted! Brilliant white searchlights are aimed upon you, blinding you long enough for more soldiers and border guards to arrive. With no hope of escape, you surrender to the guards, and are led away, handcuffed, to the border station.
When you're a spy trapped behind the Iron Curtain, timing is crucial. Moments lost or precautions not taken result in arrest, exposure ... or worse.
In Border Zone, Infocom's first interactive spy story, the challenge of a spy mission in an Eastern bloc country is made all the more gripping by the addition of real time. Unlike other Infocom stories in which time progresses only with each input, time passes in Border Zone according to a real clock which ticks on regardless of your actions. As you pause to decide which way to go, the guard dogs keep on coming. The result is a pulse-pounding adventure that's far more suspenseful than any spy thriller you've ever read.
The story begins on the train to Litzenburg, a peaceful country just outside the Iron Curtain. In the border town of Ostnitz, huge crowds are gathering for Constitution Day festivities. An honored guest is the American ambassador, William Huttinger, who led the Allied forces during the liberation of Litzenburg in 1945. The assassination of such a beloved national hero would severely undermine the Litzenburgers, destabilizing this key neutral territory. But just such a plan is underway.
Speeding towards the border through the Eastern bloc country of Frobnia are an easy-going American businessman, an ambitious young American spy, and a ruthless KGB agent. All three are soon to become entangled in the assassination plot, their lives intertwining as each carries out his perilous assignment.
You'll see the story from three viewpoints, as you step into the shoes of a different major character in each of the three chapters of Border Zone. In Chapter I, you're an Average Joe traveling through Frobnia on business. When the injured American spy asks you to deliver a top-secret document to a contact at the border, you must act carefully to avoid arousing suspicion both on the train and at the border station.
Chapter II puts you in the role of Topaz, the American spy. You've escaped the KGB by jumping from the train, but now find yourself, seriously wounded and dressed in your everyday clothes, in the wintry forest near the border. To survive, you must keep yourself alive and alert as you confront the search dogs, the electric fence, the border guards, and other such obstacles blocking your path to freedom.
In the final chapter of Border Zone, you're the Soviet spy, arriving in Ostnitz shortly before Huttinger's Constitution Day address. With Topaz on your tail, you have a crucial task to complete as the moments count down toward the assassination.
Border Zone contains on-screen hints to keep the story moving and thereby maintain the high level of suspense. Like InvisiClues, they're carefully constructed to reveal only the information you need, when you want it. But hints take you only so far. Even when you know exactly what to do, discretion and timing are crucial to the successful completion of each chapter.
To give you a head start on your missions, the Border Zone package provides you with the necessary items for getting by behind the Iron Curtain. The I am Frobnia tourist guide and phrasebook, illustrated with scenic Frobnia photos, "helps you find precise words to say." The surveyor's map of the border, published by the Frobnian Department of Measurements, gives you an idea of the terrain in Chapter II. You also get a Frobnia National Railway matchbook and a business card from historic Ostnitz.
Border Zone was written by Marc Blank, a pioneer in interactive fiction and the author of such ground-breaking works as Zork and Deadline.
It will be available in mid-November for the Apple II series, IBM-PC and 100% compatibles, Macintosh, and Commodore 64/128. Suggested retail price is $34.95 for Commodore 64/128 and $39.95 for all other systems.
Contributed by Belboz (6578) on Aug 26, 2001.