Floor 13 logo

The sweeping changes made by that nice Mr Major's government to the secret service should mean Floor 13 is now a bit of a historical curiosity. You see, we don't have secrecy in government any more. We certainly don't have hidden bodies controlling our destiny, according to Mr Major. We have defence of the realm and national security but not secrecy or conspiracy.

Floor 13, from dear old Virgin Games (didn't all of them go to Cambridge with Philby, Blunt and McClean?), does though. It forces you to become the unthinkable - a civil servant with less credibility than the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, a spymaster with more fingers in more pies than an octodigital Sainsbury's baker.

You are a minister without portfolio (officially). This means that you are assigned to a made-up ministry at the top of a tower somewhere in London. It is your task to ensure the integrity of this special country while making sure that the prime minister stays happy and retains the confidence of the electorate. Your power and influence are wide reaching; you can order kidnappings, frame-ups, even murders of anyone who your network of spooks, bobbies and narks are led to believe might compromise the gory that is the United Kingdom.

What ho!
Yes, that's right, you are exactly that kind of well-mannered, public-school educated good chap that glories in seeing the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and even the West Ham United 55,000 put behind bars for a few years - it looks great in the stats and keeps nice Mr Major/Smith/Gould/Ashdown/Porrit dead happy for weeks. However, thug-searching someone's apartment, arresting, interrogating and eventually killing their friends isn't all plain sailing.

You are deluged with information from all quarters about German terrorists entering the country, Oxbridge dons publishing books that might get up a few noses and sons of important could-be masons who might be drug-addicted filthy spies with possible homosexual tendencies (which, you would have thought, would have been a boon rather than a limitation in the world of security). But the prime minister and the rest of the Whitehall mandarins might not be too pleased if you arrest a friend of the family or are too obvious in your strong-arm tactics - this lowers the government's standing in they eyes of the public (if not the editorials of the tabloids).

Blunt instrument
So you have to use some finesse. This means negotiating the structure of the game itself. And this is where the going gets decidedly dull. As the world of Whitehall is considered by all but the saddest aspiring Sir Humphreys to be a grey, dull place, Virgin have decided to make the game match the environment. It's totally and utterly monochromatic.

You get to sit in your office waiting for communications to come in, examining records and generally gazing out of the window in a paper-clip bending, litter-bin basketball sort of way. To this extent the game bears a more than striking resemblance to the ancient and not very revered Yes Minister (again by Virgin).

Your forays out of the office entail visiting the various departments that fall under your control. These include the following, wonderfully cuddly options:

Removals - you get to send out hit squads to eliminate the less-than-acceptable members of society.

Heavy Assault - your informants have told you a certain restaurant might be a meeting place for subversives. So, quite simply, you send in some heavy types to kick the hell out of the place and arrest anyone in sight.

Pursuit - slightly more subtle in its effects, this just means that you follow a poor unsuspecting party around for a while instilling in them a sense of deep paranoia.

Disinformation - tell the papers what most of them want to hear - everything's going well except for those long-haired travelling folk or that intellectual who's stirring up trouble.

Search - if you have a squad pursuing some pinko-commie Nazi then why not send another squad around to ransack his )or her) house once you're sure that they're out?

Interrogation - once you've decided that a certain member of the public is a threat, pull them in for questioning. There are several levels to this - mist of which end up with the death of the suspect.

Infiltration - this is fun for training up your youngsters. Send them along to the nearest East End pub where the Revolutionary Reds Against Graham Taylor society is meeting and become part of the game. You can then shop them all afterwards.

Unfortunately the gameplay is not as exciting as these options. It's all about clicking on boxes and finding yourself with more boxes to click on, which in turn leave you with... The idea is great: intrigue and intelligence combined with off-screen violence and nasty dealings. It's just the way the whole things works that's so unsurprisingly dull and boring.

Brief respites from the clicking and keeping an eye on the records come in the form of visits to the PM's office. Every so often you are called up by nice Mr So 'n' So to be offered a knighthood and given lots of positive reinforcement (that's a management technique by the way) or he can give you a severe rollicking.

Get in too much trouble and you find yourself being pursued and removed from your office and the world in general. This only occurs when you return to your office at the end of a hard day's subversion. And that, as they say is that. It's intriguing for a few minutes and then dull, dull, dull.



Falsches Stockwerk

Floor 13 logo

Undercover-Agenten mit PC (in der Schuhsohle?) können schon seit Anfang des Jahres den britischen Premierminister vor erzürnten Wählermassen retten. Jetzt liegt Virgins spleeniger Strategie/Adventure-Mix auch dem Amiga-Nachrichtendienst vor.

Glaubt man der Anleitung, so beschäftigt Downing Street Nr.10 einen besonders geheimen Geheimdienst, welcher unter Anwendung einschlägiger Mittel (Beschattungen, Entführungen oder gar Mordanschläge) dafür zu sorgen hat, daß die Beliebtheit der Regierung nicht unter die der Opposition sackt. Geschieht dies doch, dürft Ihr nach dem alle drei Wochen anstehenden Prüfungstermin Eure Zahnbürste wieder einpacken...

Ihr braucht sie aber eigentlich gar nicht erst auszupacken, denn das Game spielt sich nicht halb so originell wie sich die Idee zunächst anhört: Man hockt an seinem digitalen Arbeitsplatz und sichtet die täglich eingehenden Meldungen über verdächtige Regimegegner oder unliebsame Ereignisse. Mit Hilfe eines gut funktionierenden Menüsystems werden dann die oben erwähnten Untaten angeordnet.

Leider sind die Handlungsmöglichkeiten bei alledem doch arg beschränkt, zudem sind Maus und Joystick hier Fehlanzeige - wer im 13ten Stockwerk Karriere machen will, muß wohl oder übel an die Tastatur.

Nun könnte man sich das ja zur Not noch gefallen lassen, und mit guten Ohrenschützern überlebt man sogar den angehousten Titelsound, aber was tut man gegen die grässliche Optik? Am PC wirkten die SW-Bilder wenigstens noch ein bißchen edel, am Amiga sehen sie einfach nur schäbig aus. Ob das nun an den größeren Textboxen liegt oder daran, daß lediglich acht Grautöne verwendet wurden - uns kann der Premier so oder so gestohlen bleiben! (jn)



Floor 13 logo

Lies, murder, corruption, scandals - it's a wonder nobody ever did a government similation before!

Now this one really is unusual. For a start, your eyes aren't deceiving you - this is a black and white game. That's right, absolutely no colour at all. At first it seems a bizarre, almost completely loopy choice, and one that's bound to put quite a few people off. Don't let one of them be you though - beneath this unusual monotone surface lies an ambitious game set in a world where the line between good and evil is very blurred indeed.

This is, you see, one of the few - perhaps the first - political conspiracy thrillers available on the Amiga. Using a basic text-adventure-with-graphics structure, it tells a tale of political intrigue not a million miles from TV shos like House Of Cards or Edge Of Darkness or films like Defence Of The Realm or '60s classic The Ipcress file. In the wke of a General Election that features its fair share of smear campaigns and political skullduggery we should all be in the mood for it too.

So what's it all about? Well, on the surface, Floor 13 seems to put you in the role of a shadowy secret agent character, head of a mysterious organisation operating from behind the cover of a fictitious government ministry.

Your mission is to popularise and keep in power a political party (fairly obviously the Conservatives, though they're not named as such in the game), the bulk of whose members are completely unaware of your existence.

Not only do you get to run smear campaigns against the Opposition (and, indeed, any other opponents you may come up against!), you get to kill them too. Indeed, there's no dirty trick you can't try as you attempt to get your way. Intrigued? You will be.


Where it scores is the feeling of realism

FISHY BUSINESS IN CENTRAL OFFICE
At the game's start you've recently been made Director General of The Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries (the cover organisation) - but pay no attention to this, it doesn't really exist. Instead, your department consists of various assassins, spies and other operatives - your real role is to protect the government at all costs, with whatever means are at your disposal.

Every 20 days (game time) a national political poll is taken, you see, and it's your job to keep the government ahead of the other main party at all times. The Prime Minister will call on you frequently to either criticise or praise your actions, but whatever you do, make sure your machinations are kept out of the public eye. Nothing must be traced to the government or your department. As long as your party are at least holding their own in the polls, the game continues.

Interesting stuff then, but wait! There's more. You see, the game really comes alive when an extra twist is brought into play. Unknown even to the Prime Minister, you're also a member of a cult secret organisation, 'The Secret Masters'. - more important than keeping your political party in power, your primary aim is to serve them, undertaking the various tasks they set you.

So how do you do this? Well... a) For a start, you must remain in your current job - only then will you have the power to help your hidden masters. Indeed, furthering your political career wil give you more power with which to help them, so that's a good thing too.

The game opens on the first of January, and then plays through every day - much of it involves reading political reports given to you and dealing with them accordingly.

Leaving your office and going into your government department, you get to use official resources to put under surveillance, pursue, abduct, interrogate, search, assault, infiltrate, discredit through smear tactics or (phew) assassinate your enemies.

Daily reports inform you of the success or failure of these actions, and by going to the poll you can see what effects they've had on government policy.

b) Secondly, you must do your best to execute any actions required of you by your secret society. The guy who contacts you is called 'The Secret Master', a masked Tutankhamun-like character who gives you tasks and occasionally talks in riddles. Perhaps I'm just being thick, but I still haven't worked out what the first request I got is all about, although his commands have tended to become more comprehensible as the game goes on.

And there you have it. Floor 13 doesn't really have an ending as such, but if you avoid getting sacked, get the PM to expand the size of your department, and manage to carry out all the more shadowy tasks given you, well, you'll be doing okay. Get yourself admitted to the cabinet, says creator Eastman, and you're doing very well indeed.


There's no dirty trick in the book you can't try

I'M GONNA TAKE YOU HIGHER
Yers, yes, yes, you're probably saing at this point, but what do you make of it? Well, first you have to realise that there's very little to compare it to - indeed, programmer David Eastman's earlier release Conflict (a political adventure set in the Middle East) is closest in terms of structure.

Despite the fantasy elements, many of the sub-plots that crop up in the game are based on real political events or situations. Mucho research was involved, apparently, including attempts (sadly failed) to get real political characters (Edwina Currie was one) to contribute to the storyline (she declined unless money was given to a charity of her choice)

Indeed, where the game scores most heavily is in its feeling of realism. The lack of colour, though initially off-putting, helps create atmosphere very nicely, while the realistic visual details and interesting plot twists - you really don't ever know what's going to happen next - help build things nicely. You really do get the feeling of stitting alone in a cold dark government office, hidden away in one of the capital's many high-rise blocks, planning people's fates. It's stark, chill and tense and it works.

Technically it's very easy to get into and play too - being devious can certainly be a lot of fun. (Forget your morals if you're going to do well at this game!)

I'm sure that there are quite a few people who're going to love Floor 13, then - it certainly has its strengths - but equally, be careful. It's going to leave a lot of you cold. No animation to speak of, no colour, little humour to lighten up the mood a bit - we've certainly seen more immediately appealing games. And at over thirty quid, it sure isn't cheap.

Still, if the theme attracts you, you could do a lot worse than give Floor 13 a whirl. It's got a strong lot, reasonably friendly controls and bags of atmosphere - it certainly managed to intrigue, and then hook, me.

It's a true original too. And if you haven't been put off by the fact that this page doesn't use feature a single colour picture, well, you might find it'll get a hold on you too.


THE TOOLS OF YOUR TRADE

Hidden on the mysterious floor 13 of the Ministery Of Agriculture And Fisheries you'll find the tools of political skullduggery at your disposal. They start powerful, but get better with time - for each 20 day poll that comes in showing a government lead, the Prime Minister will reward you by expanding your dirty tricks facilities.

  1. Pursuit: Following a suspect to get info on him is always a good tactic, especially when you find he's popping in and out of SOho massage parlours all the time!
  2. Surveillance: Always useful to keep tabs on suspects. Spread the dirt using information gained by bugging their phones and (!) bedrooms!
  3. Removal: Initially, you start out with only two assassins at your disposal, so don't get carried away knocking off everyone who causes trouble. (Save that for when you're really powerful and you've got a decently sized death squad!)
  4. Search: If you're after some interesting information on secret documents, just send a search party in to turn a suspect's home or office over. (Easy, isn't it?)
  1. Dis-information: This is one of our favourites. By using this facility you can discredit anyone. And if you can't find anything to smear them with, why not just make it up?
  2. Heavy Assault: If you need to destroy any evidence, or really make sure someone's dead, send in the assault squad.
  3. Infiltration: A particularly good way to find out what's going on in any of the political or subversive groups you think might start causing the government trouble. Once you know what's going on, you'll know how to act effectively against it!
  4. Interrogation: Especially useful tactic against those slimey do-gooder journalists. (Ulp! - Ed)


Floor 13 logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Would-be James Bond, Tony Dillon, gets to grips with the intricacies involved in Virgin's challenger to Smiley's People...

SPIES LIKE US
Have you ever thought that the present government might be doing a lot more than you realise? That the large but mysterious body that runs the country might be pulling all sorts of dirty tricks, whilst simultaneously pulling the wool over your eyes?

According to Virgin, it's a vicious reality - and all this is made possible by a secret organisation on the 13th floor of the docklands building. Welcome to Floor 13.

YOUR NEW POSITION
As the new Director General of an official group which doesn't officially exist, your job is to nip all politically-damaging news in the bud. To do this, you must find out what's going on, and stop as much of it as possible from getting into the papers. This is not as easy as it sounds.

As the group is so secret, you don't actually know anyone else who works in your team - even your secretary is just a robotic voice. All communications between you and the outside world is through a constant flow of paperwork, and from this you have to keep the present government ahead in the polls for a year.

Your group consists of yourself and eight departments, all of whom are dedicated to certain objectives, including searching property, interrogation, and even assassination. You are given a limited amount of resources, and a very limited flow of information, thus making the right decision is crucial. In addition, you don't actually perform the actions yourself, so butcher-mongers should look elsewhere for their thrills.

All you do is draw up and sign orders, which can take a couple of days to process - but that's bureaucracy for you. The wrong order can have disastrous consequences, even to the extent of a prominent government figure being gunned down in public by a known government employee.

THE PLOT THICKENS
As you pass through the year, you pass through dozens of sub-plots, pairs of which run concurrently. Plots include known anti-government supporters threatening to leak papers, or terrorist groups planning strikes on major power bases. All this has to be kept a secret form Joe Public.

Although the government is the focus of the game, little is said of them. Policies aren't mentioned at all, and neither is their political leaning. The way the system works is extremely intricate. In the morning, upon entering your office, you may receive a news report saying that a major government minister is to resign for undisclosed reasons. On the same morning, you may also open a letter informing you of a new nuclear submarine. Your initial thought may then be that the two are connected in some way, but this isn't always the case.

The first thing you need to find out is why the minister is quitting. For this, you must place him under surveillance and scour his house for clues. After a couple of days your search team return to you with a latter they found in the house revealing, for example, that the minister is having an affair.

A phone-tapped message from the surveillance team reveals an early morning phone call with the suspect leaving the house soon after. Posting a pursuit team to watch his moves through the city, may then reveal it's a jealous rival sending the letters. Problem solved.

OR YOU COULD...
That's how a plot is how a plot is built up and consequently solved, but there are many others. For example, if you find any details on the missile at the minister's house, you can assume that he had something to do with it, and you could then kill him so he can go no further with the plot.

If this got into the papers, though, it could have serious political implications. The plots are very subtle - so subtle, in fact, that often it doesn't become apparent for quite some time what is actually going on. You are only feed small amounts of info at a time, but sometimes this is enough. One of the joys of playing Floor 13 is the sudden realisation of what to do to solve each problem.

The year is broken up into three week segments, at the end of which you have to be ahead in the polls or the fictitious Prime Minister will have you killed. In fact, he keeps popping up here and there to offer his opinion of how well you are doing. If your dirty work gets into the papers - a report on someone being killed in a messy way, for example - he won't be pleased. If this happens too often, then you'll find yourself plummeting from the 13th floor window, just like your predecessor. Richard Branson was his name apparently.

If that isn't enough, you are also part of a Masonic group. At the start of the year, you are a mere acolyte, but at various points throughout the game, the grand wizard will appear and give you certain quests, such as protecting an individual or group - whether you have to do these with your left trouser leg rolled up though is left undisclosed. These tasks, when completed, will enable you to progress through the ranks of Masons, but won't make much different to the rest of the game.

MENUS
The entire game is menu driven, with the many instruction boxes appearing in the top right of the screen. All menus are placed in a hierarchy, with all basic options stemming down to more precise orders. For example, opening the suspect file shows you all available suspects, and will also reveal another menu allowing you to look at a different suspect's file or issue orders. Selecting the orders menu then unveils a list of available directives.

The game breaks a couple of traditions, one of which is that all the graphics are monochromatic. At first glance, this may appear a little dull, but, strangely enough, it adds a lot to the game's atmosphere. I seem to remember a old C64 spy sim called The Fourth Protocol, and that, too, used functional colours. It's an effect that works well, and mirrors the blandness of office life whilst retaining the undercurrents of pressure and secrecy.

The other unusual feature is that the game is keyboard-controlled. Again, though, the reason is simple. As the entire game is run from menus, all options can be just as easily accessed by cursor keys or the appropriate number keys, and minimises the possibility of choosing the wrong option.

Playing Floor 13 is an experience to be savoured. The game is rich in atmosphere and suspense, and waiting to see the results of each action is but one of the reasons to play it into the dawn hours. I can't remember a clue solving game of this calibre, and Floor 13 will go down as one of my favourite games of all time.


DEPARTMENT STORES You have eight departments working under you, and these are the people who do all your dirty work. Surveillance teams park outside a requested destination and report all sightings. Pursuit teams follow a suspect. Search teams hunt locations for clues and infiltration teams atempt to join political groups. Then you get down to the fun guys. Interrogation units beat suspects into submission; removal units assimilate; heavy assault groups heavily assault people and dis-informers. Best of all, though, are the agents who whisper false rumours to the press to discredit people. These are the tools of your trade, and learning to use them well is the key to winning.

A SUSPECT SUSPECT

All groups and characters in the game have files like this one, and inform you exactly who they are, where they live, their position and public prominence, as well as their place in any of the problems you are trying to solve.