Borrowed Time / Activision (1985)

PCjr Boy's Verdict:
Who -- please, tell me who -- decided that reality could best be emulated by choosing a palette black, white, cyan and purple?
Amiga Boy's Verdict:
Ha! The game may be as short as the reign of my platform's alleged dominance. but at least the colors rock!
My Verdict:
This has to be the cheeziest way to artificially lengthen a game that I have ever been a witness to. Er, of. Whatever.

Game Information

Game Type:
It used the same engine as Tass Times in Tonetown.
Author Info:
Download Link:
It's probably over on Underdogs.

1939. A rather quiet time for computer games. Yet this time was famous for later inspiring many "hard-boiled" detective pieces. Since DNA had not been invented yet it took real brains and hard work to solve crime. Luckily, all we have to do now is get semen samples and then renegades go to jail, which is no dount the most rewarding part of being a criminologist these days -- working with all the sexual aftercrap. Funnily enough, the design of Borrowed Time has a lot in common with putrid, sexual discharge.

The kind of garbage that goes on in Borrowed Time is simply something that we wouldn't stand for in this day and age. At least, we wouldn't pay for it. Actually, with the 'ship first & patch later' mentality the PC video game market is now famous for there would probably BE a patch for the game to stop its one tragic flaw from throwing the game down the endless staircase of suck.

See, if you're not solving the puzzles in the correct order that Borrowed Time deigns, a bunch of thugs come out from the shadows and blow your goddamn head off. Thus, as you might surmise, ending the game. (Although in my attempts to be sarcastic I am reminded of at least two games: Legacy of Kain & Scapeghost, that actually begin with their character's death. So nevermind that, then.)

Borrowed Time is supposed to be the story of a divorced, salty detective that discerns that his rogue's gallery has teamed up to absolutely end him. Nothing particularly inventive, but then it is supposed to be a very specific genre piece. The game pretty much has a basic two or three word parser, but it never really gets in the way as you can click on items with your mouse in order to examine them or add them to your inventory. It's the same engine used in Tass Times in Tonetown. The graphics themselves are okay. The color scheme used is, of course, a blot upon ones and zeroes.

The first few scenes of the game have you thinking that you're playing something special. There is sufficient back-story, a ton of action, a well-implemented parser... it's all good. As psyched as Borrowed Time Player is at this point, he or she will attempt to explore the game's environs after surviving the initial attack on Sam's (the game's protagonist) life. Hilarity ensues when the player realizes that after a set amount of turns the thugs "catch up" to Sam and shoot him dead. No opportunity exists for Sam to evade them.

That design decision, quite frankly, sucks. It's unfair. It's unrealistic. It's a vapid, transparent attempt to cover the fact that the game is laughably short and a horribly value for its money. It reeks of amateur hucksterism. It set the industry back ten years. It took my first girlfriend's virginity. It has kept down the Tesla exhibits at the Smithsonian. It organized the World Bank. It filled Steve Carlton's head with inane, schizophrenic ramblings. It blew up the Challenger. It's responsible for many of history's worst second-tier tragedies. Can the "constantly die and restart" thing ever work right? Varicella certainly made an attempt, but in doing so it provided some motivation to keep playing through its sheer depth of character. You would also not constantly die simply because "you took too long," which is the crux of the experience with Borrowed Time.

Sometimes we get nostalgic about the games we used to play. Sometimes we seek them out with a vengeance and believe that games which were older were better. Any IF fan currently heckling all those kids playing Unreal Tournament needs to sit down and play past the first couple of scenes in Borrowed Time. Be sure to take a muscle relaxant beforehand, as otherwise the expression of disgust will be permanently stuck on your face.

When it comes to computer games, older doesn't always equal better. And that is the lesson that Borrowed Time teaches us.

Simple Rating
3.5 / 10

6.5 / 10


4 / 10

1 / 10


Puzzle Quality
2.5 / 10

Parser Responsiveness
9 / 10


Reader Comments:

I Hate Borrowed Time
April 14th, 2003

I'm 30 years old and I wish I could forget this monumental absurd game. Playing it was pure nightmare. Want to torture somebody? make'em play "Borrowed Time"....The 80's created 2 forms of wasting your time: one was the Rubic's cube, the other was Activision's "Borrowed Time". Simply hate that stupid game. I never pass from the building where Sam, the private eye (the player) had his office at the beginning of the game. No matter what I did I always got kill by the thug who follows you around. Thank god now we have all kind of web sites dedicated to levels walk-thru's, FAQ, cheat codes, tips, etc! As a matter of fact, maybe after all this years I search for the Borrowed Time Walkthrough and finally finish that stupid game....revenge is gooood!

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