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Written by  :  Ingold (134)
Written on  :  Mar 15, 2009
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

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A great mystery and game

The Good

“Deadline” is a mystery text adventure or interactive fiction produced by Infocom. You are a detective assigned to investigate what has been labelled the open-and-shut suicide case of Marshall Robner to see if you can reach different conclusions. Each action in the game will advance the clock by a minute and the deadline to solve the case is 12 hours. The case proves to be an intriguing mystery and author Marc Blank has done an excellent job of developing and tying together a number of threads into a complete game. The game box includes an impressive array of documentation and objects (and was the first Infocom game to include these “feelies”), which help build the story and introduce the characters.

A solid mystery relies on an interesting cast of characters to make it work. “Deadline” meets this criterion with interesting and well-developed NPCs. Not only are the characters well-written with interesting backgrounds and dialogues, but they actually follow their own schedules. Depending on what time the game is at the various characters will move to different locations and engage in unique activities. On top of that, the characters will at times alter their actions and moods based on actions taken by the player. The effort put into developing the NPCs is a critical element in the success of “Deadline”.

The puzzles in “Deadline” are well-constructed and logical. The game still poses a challenge, but players have a clear goal that they are working toward. One of the interesting options the player has is to have objects analyzed by the trusty Sergeant Duffy.

The room and object descriptions in “Deadline” are well-written and the details inserted into the setting enhance the game. A nice finishing touch on “Deadline” is a summary of the story written by the author given to the player once they have cracked the case.

The Bad

The parser in “Deadline” is generally responsive, but at times it may be difficult to communicate with the game when there are multiple objects with similar names in an area. However, the main point against “Deadline” is its difficulty. The time limit of 12 in-game hours to solve the case means that most players will likely have to restart the game if they want to explore the game area fully and solve the case. Another reason players may have to backtrack significantly by reloading a saved game or restarting the game is that certain parts of the game hinge on being in the correct location in the correct timeframe. Overall, though, the difficult of the game does not prevent it from being enjoyable.

The Bottom Line

“Deadline” is an intriguing mystery game where you play a detective that has to find evidence to overturn the conclusion that Marshall Robner committed suicide and was actually murdered. The game builds an interesting mystery where a number of threads combine to make a memorable story. The NPCs are a key element in the game’s success, as they not only prove to be interesting characters, but move around the game area according their own schedules and respond to player actions. The game’s puzzles are logical and the player has a clear objective throughout the game. “Deadline” proves a challenging game because the player has a finite time to solve the case and must efficiently compile evidence and ensure that they visit certain locations at key times. The fact that time progresses with each move the player makes means that players will likely have to restart the game at least a few times before they can complete “Deadline”. However, the challenge does not diminish the fun of the game because of the strength of the story, NPCs and well-constructed puzzles.