Cosmoserve by Judith Pintar(1991)

The Little Ugly Evil Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: I'm sure glad the Internet has more or less eliminated those awful, archaic "bulletin board systems." I mean, come on! MajorBBS?? Wildcat!? TBBS? POWERBOARD??? What the heck was with that crap?

The Little Handsome Good Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: This is a wonderful game - the only work of interactive fiction that does proper tribute to the wonderful world of BBSing and computer networks that existed before the Internet became so hugely popular.

My Verdict: This game was written with AGT??? Holy crap!

The Review...

Excerpt From Patrick Corpozza's Review in The AGT Times, January 1992:

Every time I play this game I expect Fabio to jump out of some corner and excitedly proclaim, "I can't believe this game is not written in some more advanced authoring language!" It's painfully true that AGT has gotten a lot of flack over the past couple of years for its acknowledged limitations. Many people are looking for new ways, new languages, new environments to write text adventures. What Judith Pintar has managed to do is show, once and for all, what a wonderful authoring system AGT is when placed in the right hands. Her game is simply one of the five best text adventure games I've ever played - this is including all the past AGT contest winners and even Infocom games. Simply put, this is the most important game to be written in AGT since the very first one.

This game is really quite impressive on a number of fronts. First of all, it is one of the most advanced, modern, and best AGT games ever created. Only a relatively small number of AGT games are good enough that the parser does not stick out like a sore thumb, and this is definitely one of them. Secondly, the game is impressive due its length(a thousand points!) and time-oriented events, which make it seem more like a modern day Inform game than AGT. Thirdly, the game has a novel premise and the author does more with this novel premise than we could ever expect. So, let's talk about this premise. You're a plumber/computer programmer who only has till morning to get his/her code(a gender-unspecific game! ooh err!) debugged. That's normal enough, right? Sure. But in order to get your work done, you must login to your favorite online network Cosmoserve(a obvious satire of Compuserve) to seek help from the experts. Things start getting complicated when you lose your newly-received password. You also have a ballcock to jiggle, a sex conference to attend, an annoying aunt to evade, virtual reality games to play, a cow to dance with, and even more! This is a wonderfully huge and varied game - the computer terminal and Cosmoserve's online environment are a joy to maneuver around and flawlessly implemented, and there is such detail! So much interaction is possible through the forums and the chatrooms - it's enough to boggle me mind. I really like the variety in the game. Variety is the spice of life, don't you know. What about the downsides? Well, for one, it's hard - if you consider that a downside. It's harder than it needs to be, but, heck, most hard games are. Some of the puzzles are obscure, and one in particular is quite difficult due to the parser(actually, this one particular puzzle is the only problem I have with the parser in the game really). Thanks to the at first kind but later menacing time scale, it becomes quite complicated to juggle around the various actions you must perform if you are to win - in fact, this game, like Varicella, can not be won without being lost numerous times. It's trial and error, trial and error, trial and error. I don't have any other serious complaints - it's a very, very good, solid, intelligent, and well-crafted game.

I suspect the game is more enjoyable to those who have had some experience with bulletin boards and computer networks. I was never a member of Compuserve, but I did use BBSes quite avidly during the early 90s. Some of the mechanics of the conferences and chat rooms, as well as the menuing system, may seem foreign and difficult to some less experienced souls; but, imho, not too much as the typical bulletin board system was by design a pretty loose, easily comprehended virtual environment. Judith Pintar's excellent writing style should also make the player comfortable - she's also got a terrific underbearing sense of humor that is sure to win over even the sourest of adventure game fanatics.

This is one of the most easily recommendable AGT games ever writ. You should definitely play it - it more than measures up to the Inform and TADS games being produced today. It's a contest winner in its own right, having garnered a joint top prize in the Fifth Annual Softworks AGT Contest with The Multi-Dimensional Thief. I get the feeling that it was not quite aiming for "classic" status and it doesn't quite achieve it, but it's a warm, funny, well-written, and most of all, entertaining game that will probably be more enjoyed by future generations than a lot of the second tier experimentary works beng produced today that are aiming for "classic" status. Rip me to shreads and call me Suzie, but I like this game much more than Varicella!

Simple Rating: 8/10

Complicated Rating: 44/50

Story: 8/10

Writing: 8/10

Playability: 7/10

Puzzle Quality: 7/10

Parser Responsiveness: 7/10

Special Ratings For This Game

BBS Content: 7/10

Reader Remarks

Ice Cream Jonsey sprach the following on September 27th, 1999:

I was the system operator for Jolt Country: The Great On-Line Empire from 1990-1998. I want to take this opportunity to publically state that Matt Gracie continually sucked down porn from my BBS. Thank you.

Quentin D. Thompson sprach the following on December 21st, 1999:

Heck, no one's calling you Suzie. I've got a whole list of games (and these are non-Infocom) that I prefer to Varicella. Three of them are in AGT, for the record.

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