The Great Infocom Replay: Suspended

I sat on the idea of writing this replay entry for a long time, because my replay of Suspended was almost necessarily perfunctory. I have played the game many, many times. Before writing this entry, I sat down to do a run after months of not playing it, and beat the game in ten minutes. (I got a lousy score, but I’m pretty sure that with a picture of the map in front of me, I could probably get a perfect score with a few more tries, from memory.)

Actually, I do have one help: I have a text file with these notes in it:

1 - 4/12
2 - 9/14
FOO MUM BLE BAR KLA CON BOZ TRA

Those notes save me about six turns, but they’re really boring turns.

I’ve played Suspended many times. I’d guess at least a hundred times. I’ve done all the “AMUSING” stuff suggested in the clues. I’ve read a disassembly of the machine code to see how it was all put together and what I might have missed. (It’s impressive!) I’ve built crude replicas of the game grid and the custom bits of the game, and I still hope to improve on them. Suspended is almost certainly my favorite computer game ever.

I don’t know why.

I like the setting and the conceit of the game. The actor is in suspended animation, with only their consciousness active. They direct robots around an underground complex to solve problems (read: puzzles), but each robot is worthless in one way or another. I always think of them this way: not that each one is good at something, but each one stinks at something else. Poet can’t carry the wedge and the cutter at the same time. Iris can’t leave her home rooms. Despite that, I like them. Their tiny amount of text gives them enough personality to make them endearing.

I like the challenge of not just solving the game, but solving it over and over to figure out the right path of actions.

What else is there to Suspended, though. I don’t know. There are plenty of other games with fun problems and good ideas. Maybe it’s that I first played Suspended just before I was ready, so it sat around in the back of my brain as an impossibly hard game for a few years before I tried it again. Maybe some part of my subconscious still views beating Suspended as a rite of passage. My conscious brain doesn’t think so, though.

Maybe it’s that I’ve never seen another game that was quite the same. Suspended stands alone. I hope that someday I can get myself in gear and build something like it myself, but I feel like it will be a lot harder than I think. I already think it will be pretty hard.

The next game in the replay for me is The Witness. I was pretty disappointed by Deadline, but I’m hoping that they learned a lot about making a better mystery game in the year between the games. We’ll see.

Written on April 28, 2014
games   infocom-replay   int-fiction