Description official descriptions
Bureaucracy is a text adventure game that describes the misadventures of a person who has recently moved to a new apartment and begins to fall victim to various bureaucratic procedures that always go wrong. He can't receive his mail, access his bank account, or generally lead a normal life; all his activities are impeded by needless and confusing hurdles. In order to retrieve the lost mail and put his life back on track, the protagonist will have to meet exotic characters and perform various tasks while being constantly threatened by various bureaucratic occurrences.
The gameplay involves typing commands composed out of verb and object combinations, used to interact with the game world and solve puzzles. In addition, a special "blood pressure" meter will gradually fill itself the more the protagonist is bothered by bureaucratic annoyances. Once this meter is completely full, the player character suffers an aneurysm, and the game ends.
Credits (DOS version)
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Average score: 80% (based on 12 ratings)
Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 48 ratings with 4 reviews)
Bureaucracy is a text adventure or interactive fiction produced by Infocom. The true story that inspired game author Douglas Adams to write “Bureaucracy” was a mix-up where a bank sent his new credit card to an old address. The basic story of “Bureaucracy” involves a similar bank mix-up, but the aptly self-described “paranoid fantasy”, takes many humorous, eccentric and strange turns. Even the items in the game box, including the “Popular Paranoia” magazine humorously reflect the high degree of paranoia in the game. The story manages to remain engaging and highly amusing throughout the game’s duration. The NPCs in the game are typically limited in the amount of development and dialogue they have, but given the nature of the game they are appropriate since they serve their functions well and provide laughs.
As in his first game produced from Infocom, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Adams makes interesting and unorthodox use of the medium of interactive fiction. At the beginning of the game players are informed that they are required to fill out a registration form for submission and approval prior to playing the game. Interestingly this is more plausible with the advent of the internet than it was at the time of the game’s release. Cleverly, the information you enter into the form is used throughout the game.
Another unique feature of “Bureaucracy” is the blood pressure measure on the status line. Typically adventure games will track the player’s score or the number of moves they have made in the game, but “Bureaucracy” shows the player their systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings in the top right corner of the game window. Amusingly, stressful situations or mistakes made by the player will lead to a rise in blood pressure. If the player’s blood pressure increases enough, they die and have to restore a saved game or restart. Luckily, blood pressure tends to normalize if the player avoids stressful actions. The player’s score is still kept, but more discreetly than blood pressure. It is nice that the game still tracks the player’s score, because successfully solving a puzzle is still denoted by an increase in score.
Another appealing aspect of “Bureaucracy” is that the player is generally free to explore the game area without fear of time limits or not being in the right place at the right time. Some effort also seems to have been made to limit the amount of dead ends the player can reach. For example, I left a critical inventory item behind at one point in the game, but it was returned to me later. However, the puzzles still remain very challenging, but very entertaining and tongue-in-cheek with a twisted logic of their own. The game’s parser is generally good about responding to player commands, although it may be difficult to phrase the puzzle solution correctly in a few spots.
The blood pressure measure, while amusing, is also somewhat inhibiting. Part of the appeal of parser interfaces is the freedom to experiment by typing commands, but the potential to die from high blood pressure limits this to an extent. However, the most frustrating aspect of “Bureaucracy” is its difficulty. While the twisted logic associated with the puzzles makes them enjoyable, it also makes solving them very hard. Even seasoned adventure gamers will likely find that they need clues or even a walkthrough to solve “Bureaucracy”.
The Bottom Line
“Bureaucracy” is a text adventure and interactive fiction from author Douglas Adams based on a bad experience he had with a bank. It has a humorous story which takes the form of a “paranoid fantasy” that proves comical throughout its duration. The gameplay includes unique and interesting features, such as the use of player provided information during the game and monitoring the player character’s blood pressure.
The game’s puzzles have a strange logic behind them which makes them whimsical and challenging. However, the difficulty of the game can also be frustrating and will likely lead players to seek clues or a walkthrough. While the player is generally free to explore the game area, the amount of interaction the player can have with the parser may be limited by increases in blood pressure, which can cause sudden death. Overall, “Bureaucracy” is worth playing for its humorous and at times unorthodox gameplay despite its difficulty.
DOS · by Ingold (119) · 2009
Very realistic present-day feel, yet just silly enough to help you remember you're still just playing a game. We've all had days like this -- Bureaucracy helps us laugh at ourselves and relax a bit. (Blood pressure gets measured in the game, and you drop dead if it gets too high!)
The designers did a GREAT job of imitating the frustrations of paperwork and red tape found in real life. Good for the game, irritating if you just came home from waiting in line at the bank...
The Bottom Line
Play it. You'll like it. Just don't destroy your computer in frustration.
DOS · by Mirrorshades2k (274) · 2000
Bureaucracy is a very funny game, from the silly forms you have to fill out to all the goofy situations and characters. As always for an Infocom game, the parser is excellent and the storytelling is vivid and descriptive.
The puzzles we extremely difficult and I felt again and again that I had no idea what my goal was or where I was going. I got to the point at where the Bureaucracy in the game was more frustrating than funny and many puzzles had rather contrived solutions.
The Bottom Line
Bureaucracy is a comedy adventure game set in present times where you deal with a never-ending parade of forms, failures, and petty characters trying to deprive you of your wealth and well-being.
DOS · by Droog (460) · 2003
Infocom's famous 69,105 number is used in this game to refer to a ticket number and an internal error.
Unlike the other Infocom grey-box releases, which featured positive comments from publications and players on the inside box flap, Bureaucracy (in the spirit of the game's content) reprints some of the complaints Infocom received.
According to the Infocom Home Page, the game package contained "You're ready to move!" bank brochure, a letter from your new boss, a membership flyer for "Popular Paranoia", a red pencil, and a Beezer card application form (in triplicate).
Related Sites +
Infocom Home Page
Fan site that is the last word about all things Infocom.
Let's play Douglas Adams' Bureaucracy. [Your blood pressure just went up.]
A playthrough of the game with commentary, originally from the Something Awful forums.
Solution to Bureaucracy
by Erik Futtrup, Denmark and Twan Lintermans, Holland
The Commodore Zone
All about the game with introduction, images, related links and comments area.
The Infocom Gallery
High-quality scans of the grey box package and manual of Bureaucracy.
- MobyGames ID: 474
- Wikipedia (en)
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Tony Van.
Game added November 26th, 1999. Last modified August 17th, 2023.