Chico and I Ran / J.D. Berry (2000)

George Costanza's Verdict: What? This was to be the Summer of George! Why aren't I starting?

Jeanie from I Dream Of Jeanie's Verdict: Let me get this straight, my likeness doesn't appear in this or The Djinni Chronicles? What are you, some kind of Code-Tease?

My Verdict: I need to watch more teevee. I mean, I don't, but I do.


Game Information

Game Type: Inform

Author Info: He brought the IF newsgroup "Competition Reviews In The Style Of... Saturday Night Live," The IF Chive, and this. He prefers his infotaters with ketchup.

Other Games By This Author: The Djinni Chronicles; Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win; Ribbons; Sparrow's Song

Download Link:

The Review...


"Mortals leave this room east to the hall, witches have more options."

With television being around for forty or fifty years now, there's very little that I can tell anyone about it that is remotely insightful or interesting. I can't even nail down the exact decade it grew popular for a game revolving around TV for my review site -- and it's not like I have been gorging valuable research time by slaving away at hundreds of new reviews in the last couple of months. There's also a hierarchy of time spent with television that is very difficult to navigate, if you want to come off as honest and somewhat believable.


TV Time Rating Comment
24/7 0 Lose some weight, you hideous, sweaty, bacon orb
4 hours a night 1 Gawd, you need a woman. Or a man. Or both.
Movies on TV only 2 "Ladies, leave" is TV-Robocopesque for "Bitches, leave," by the way
Dramas 3 You're the reason why Clooney was able to kill Batman
Seinfeld reruns, daily 7 Sherwin Brothers combining for 8 touchdowns and 5 sacks so far this season in flag, so stuff it
Sports only 5 Cool, but not half as cool as you think you are. Also: beergut.
Nick at Nite, NASCAR 4 Hiya, Pinback
Not allowed in house 0 Meanwhile, you didn't cure cancer either
Elicits jaded sneering -1 Put the shotgun completely inside the mouth


So while I am not qualified to give any sort of opinion on the history of TV, I am at a quandary, because I can tell you of BASIC games written for the IBM PC in light cyan that end with "You died in the desert." (It was, get this, called Desert) . With that in mind, I'll see if I can focus on the entertaining aspects of this game from an IF standpoint, because even if the sum of my experiences in this genre of computer game amount to nothing more than strained attempts to mask my smugness over the fact that I could effectively go a whole sixty or seventy turns longer without eating than the apprentice in Enchanter, I can at least fake it otherwise.

Chico and I Ran begins with an Inform-reverse-text  "house ad" from a magazine called Television Hourly that hints of an exciting new way to watch tv. While some authors are using this special Inform text mode technique to make it easy for the guards at Casa De to instantly release the boiling oil against patently offensive content, Chico (as we refer to it around here) actually addresses plot. Yet, somehow, this game isn't at, either. (This is where The Onion's Jackie Harvey would say something like "Come on, G.F., let's get Enlisted! and Chico and The Man onto Download -- it's where the internet lets its hair down!")

Regardless, while beginning the game I felt I was on familiar territory -- initially you need to pick which one of four characters you're going to be representing in the game. My decision was one mixed of both luck and and prior gaming experience. Years of swearing incessantly at Lara Croft as she failed to respond to the jumpy spams of my joystick has hard-coded my response reflex to always select the most desirable female in any given video game set. Furthermore, years of playing various PC sports games excruciatingly poorly has turned my keyboard into a semi-random mishmash of available keys with which to choose from. Luckily, the "3" key is still around and it just happened to line up with what the game describes as the "[3]rd least talented actress in Hollywood." Intrigued over the fact that there was an excellent chance that I was playing as either "Wendy" from the 1987 classic Comedy/Horror film Street Trash, or Courtney Cox, I pressed on. Er, it. The "3" key.

The first chapter, if you will, of the game has Frasier's Niles Crane thrown into the world of Bewitched. If I recall my television history correctly, Bewitched was the tale of this lucky, jammy bastard who married this knockout witch, while Niles Crane almost succeeded in destroying Springfield by blowing up a dam, except for the meddling of Bart and Lisa Simpson. This first scene -- Niles meets Bewitched -- is actually quite indicative of why this review is out more than a year after the game's initial release. There is a kind of tug-of-war going on (for me) at all times in Chico and I Ran. There is almost always a sense of "I have no idea what this means, or what to do" and "damnation and spades, he has got the nuances of this character FREAKING DOWN. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!" This is, of course, all due to personal TV experience. Within minutes of firing the game up, I find that I'm playing badminton with a red unicorn. Was there a unicorn in Bewitched? I have no idea. Would Niles Crane talk and taunt just as this game has him doing? Oh, absolutely. As Ben alluded to in his review of Not Just A Game, really knowing what is going on in a game world is wonderful. Having no idea... well, it's not quite as exciting as it was when we were playing our cracked copies of Zork I in 1984. Chico is the first game I've played where I felt as if I was being drawn in and pushed away at the same time. Usually, within the same paragraph. (Speaking of Ben, I think that he and J.D. are two of the relatively few authors today that can get away with punching mimesis right in the goodies while speaking directly to their players. I say this now, as I feel that this is the best place to describe the "haha, pickup guitar, glasses" note scribbled hurriedly onto my notepad.)

And that's where I am at --  The Quandary: How do I meet the minimum level of knowledge to get the most enjoyment out of this game? Most likely, by watching a few of those shows. I can state with ease that I had more fun in the Bewitched milieu by playing this game than I ever have in watching a complete episode. Since Chico has so many things going for it -- great writing, swift patter, excellent characterization -- I feel it's a game whose primary audience is not that the average lurker on the IF newsgroup, but someone a bit older than myself who has the knowledge base that this game requires.  Ultimately -- for me -- Chico and I Ran is in a category of games (along with, for the record, such wares as Bethesda's Burnout Championship Drag Racing, the old Sensible Soccer games and Stargate) for me where I can taste, touch and feel the quality... but where I fall short of getting the total experience.


(Luckily for me, J.D. also wrote a game about Genies. Ex-oh-freaking-llent. WHO DA MAN NOW, DOGG??!)



Simple Rating: 8.0 / 10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 8.0 / 10

Writing: 9.1 / 10 (Laughing while playing a game is rarer than it should be, but less rare due to this one)

Playability: 7.5 / 10 (Again -- as the review hopefully demonstrated, there is a target audience for this game that I didn't fit within. )

Puzzle Quality: 8.0 / 10

Parser Responsiveness: 9.0 / 10 (Quite up to the task of the Summer of George!)


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