Among the most unique and interesting works of interactive fiction
When those who play graphic adventure games think of Brian Moriarty, they probably connect him with LucasArts’ “Loom”. However, before writing “Loom” he wrote “Trinity”, a text adventure or interactive fiction for Infocom. “Trinity”, named for the Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico, is one of the most unique games in the Infocom canon.
Released in 1986 and set in the context of the Cold War, the player is a tourist in London when nuclear warfare erupts. The player must escape the destruction of London and visit an unorthodox combination of a fantasy world and events from the history of the atomic bomb. Places in the game are based on inspiration from children’s works including “Mary Poppins”, “The Little White Bird” and “Alice in Wonderland”.
The anomalous world of “Trinity”, with its skillful blend of fantasy and reality, proves to be an interesting one. Despite the relatively sparse amount of NPC interaction, the author manages to keep the story of “Trinity” engaging throughout the game’s duration with the settings the player visits. Both fantasy and historical settings are well-constructed through prose and the game has a literary quality. Another notable point about the game is the author’s appropriate and intriguing use of select quotations and narration during gameplay.
The manual and other quality items (“feelies”) included in the “Trinity” game box provide critical background information for playing and understanding the game. Among these items is a booklet titled “The Illustrated Manual of the Atomic Bomb”, which provides a humorous and sardonic look at the history of the atomic bomb and context for the game.
The puzzles in “Trinity” are generally absorbing and satisfying to solve. Solving a lot of the puzzles is contingent on understanding the strange logic of the game’s world, but generally this was not a problem. The unconventional puzzles and settings of “Trinity” made it worth playing and put it among the most memorable works of interactive fiction.
Although the puzzles in “Trinity” are generally reasonable, the game still proves incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, this difficulty stems from reasons other than clever puzzle design. One aspect of the game’s difficulty is that it is easy to miss or leave behind critical items at certain points in the game and become irrevocably stuck. The player has a limited inventory capacity in “Trinity”, so it is often difficult to know which items to carry at a given point in the game in order not to become stuck. Certain sequences only allow the player one chance to complete them, which can be fatal if the player has not saved a game recently. Also, while the game’s parser is generally responsible to a good range of player input, some puzzles hinge on finding the right phrase to give to the parser.
The episodic nature of the plot of “Trinity” can be frustrating because it is often not clear where the player should visit next. At places it is also difficult to navigate “Trinity” because some rooms are difficult to find since they are not explicitly mentioned in the description of a connecting room. With all these factors contributing to the difficulty of “Trinity”, it can be overwhelming. Even experienced adventure gamers will likely need clues or a walkthrough to complete the game.
Another note about the story of “Trinity” is that the author never gives a cohesive explanation of why the player visits the locations they do and why events occur as they do. This has the appeal of allowing the player to draw their own conclusions, but it also unfortunately means that they are not given an overarching explanation for what they have encountered.
The Bottom Line
“Trinity” ranks among the most unique and interesting works of interactive fiction. Its mixture of fantasy, history and children’s literature proves a compelling combination. The puzzles in “Trinity” are generally well-written, but overall the game is extremely difficult. This is due to unfortunate factors such as the ease of leaving behind critical items or failing a sequence that can only be attempted once. The lack of a clear overall direction in the game can also prove frustrating.
The bizarre world of “Trinity” will not appeal to everyone. Due to this and the game’s difficulty, “Trinity” is probably best avoided by those new to interactive fiction. However, experienced interactive fiction players are encouraged to try “Trinity” at least once.
by Ingold (119) on September 12th, 2009