Players of Infocom games are no doubt aware of the ‘Interactive Fiction’ tag put to their games – meaning they are stories. Nevertheless, they are ‘adventures’ as well, in the general sense of the word, as well as in the computer-game sense. Or at least, they have been until now. The adventure game format is nothing if not flexible, and in Nord and Bert, Infocom have come a long way from the traditional text adventure. Regular fans may, whilst not disliking this text only game, be rather disappointed that this is not the type of game they have come to know and love.
Nord and Bert performs almost exactly the same as other Infocom games on screen. It has a parser, and indeed, the method of communicating with it is identical, too.
Eight short ‘stories’ comprise this little piece of nonsense, for nonsense it is, and nonsense is what it sets out to be. Each story involves the use of wordplay, and the words must be guessed or spotted by the player, to reach the end. A score is registered for each episode, and to complete it, the total must be achieved. The final section cannot be played until all the others, which may be played in any order, have been completed.
The stories are not necessarily logical pieces – rather they are contrived to fit around the use of the puns, sayings, spoonerisms, and other linguistic quirks, that other Jeff (Ballyhoo) O’Neill has collated, and cunningly interwoven.
The sayings and spoonerisms are good fun, but it is not easy to spot them all. It is even more difficult to spot the Americanisms. In Eat Your Words, for example, much of the time it seems you must be nasty to the waitress in the Teapot Café. Reading the sign over the stairs, you see it is marked ‘Comeuppance’, and ‘Give the waitress her comeuppance’. Hmm… Once upstairs, you notice the ceiling is very low. ‘Hit the ceiling’. I would have preferred to hit the roof. Whilst seated at a table on which sat a salt shaker, I came by a piece of advice. I tried to ‘Take advice with a pinch of salt’, but the program would have none of it! It was looking for the word ‘grain’- and no alternative was allowed for those of us who speak English, although, to be fair, had I shaken the shaker (which I did not the first time round) a grain would have fallen out.
Buy The Farm makes a lot more sense, providing you are the sort who has the wit to put his nose to the grindstone. This little story is well interpreted, and I only came across one phrase that did not make sense: ‘Hit the broad side of the barn’. Would you have thought of it, given the context?
The puns in the Shopping Bizarre are quite involved, since you not only have to spot the pun, but enter it to change the object into its pun, for use in solving other puns. But would you have spotted ‘pudding’ for ‘putting’ as a pun? I did not!
Spoonerisms, in Shaking A Tower, were my favourite choice. This story has a very complicated sequence featuring a leopard, a book, a bonfire, and an icicle, involving spotting a couple of spoonerisms, examining things, and spoonerising the result!
One story, I did not find at all amusing. In Act The Part, where you simply take the part of an actor in a farcical sitcom, and carry out corny acts like putting a whoopee cushion under your stooge. Two points are even gained by being the ‘feed’ to a couple of ‘knock knock’ jokes.
And one story I just did not understand at all. A Manor Of Speaking consisted entirely of gems that left me completely cold – despite dipping into the Invisiclues built into the game. Inside this crazy house, I found an old empty bottle. Another location had an antique mantelpiece. Seems I should have ‘Put the old bottle on the mantel’. And the rest were like that too – I inadvertently ran up a point on my score by turning the key in a clock! I cannot say I was overcome with mirth!
Full marks to Infocom for branching out with something highly original, and extremely cleverly put together. But do not play Nord and Bert expecting anything like any other Infocom you have ever played. You won’t get it, and you will be disappointed. Do not play Nord and Bert if English is not your native tongue. Nord and Bert is a game of American wit. Do play it with a group of friends, perhaps over a few drinks.
|CU Amiga, December 1987, p.114||