Detective / Matt Barringer (1994)

Matt Barringer's Mom's Verdict: If you can't say anything nice about a game, Mr. Sherwin, then say nothing at all. You effeminately gay cocksucker.

Anyone Else's Verdict: What the hell?

My Verdict: This is -- besides Cyberia and the 2600 version of Pac Man -- the worst video game ever made. It's sheer awfulness is almost a religious experience.

The Review...

Matt Barringer had a brainwave.

Not, shall we say, on the level of Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein. But then again those socialistically over-rated cretins never had the Adventurer's Game Toolkit available. No, Barringer's brainwave was that he could expunge his imagination and creativity onto a computer program and effectively -- get this -- tell a story using the computer. He decided that he would kind of stylize it in the method known to the unwashed, flea-bitten masses as a text adventure.

The game features the greatest single quote in the history of video games anywhere.

Better than "I hun-garh" by Sinistar.

Better than "warrior is about to die" in Gauntlet.

Better than "You don't touch the other elves that way" by the female elf in Warcraft II.

Yes. It's even better than -- I didn't think it would be possible -- anything Christopher Walken delivered with his usual energy and enthusiasm in Ripper.

The quote is... "I'd REALLY appreciate it if you were kind enough to send a postcard or... dare I even say it?" (address follows).

That's why I feel God put me on this earth. That's why he led us together. He knew that sometime in 1994 one of His creations would ask for a monetary sum for a video game and wanted as many creatures walking the earth around to understand the sheer comedy resulting from that one line as possible. I say to thee, my lord, you have smiled upon me with great glee and service and I thank You every night for such pleasure. It has proved to be finer than the carnivorous, yet gentle satisfaction of the flesh. It has provided me with more sustenance than all the food I have yet consumed. More than a parent's love. And since he put his folk's address in the game, well, I can only imagine the type of mail that they'd get if text adventures ever became big. There may not be enough dogs on the face of the planet to provide the flaming poo for that doorstep. (I'm guessing he was still living with his folks, as the spelling is at about the level of an eighth-grader. No offense.) 

OK. The game itself is pretty goddamn awful. The plot -- in theory -- is actually kind of interesting, though. You're a detective trying to solve the mayor's suspicious death before the FBI come to take a look or any bad publicity is generated. Apparently Matt Barringer's world is not that of Chicago at the turn of the century where such assassinations garnered as much response as discerning that the Cubs were 64 games out of first place by the last week of July, nay, we can surmise that this mayor is as loved as, um, Ed Koch.

The problem is that not just that any correlation between the player's actions and the game's outcome are random and unintentional. Er, no. Wait. Yes, that is it. That's the problem entirely.

Barringer is certainly unforgiving in his attempts at forcing the player to explore his world. In fact, he's almost brutally punishing. If you don't bother to get your gun before leaving your office then SCREW YOU, LOOPY. You don't get to play the game with a gun. Not that it makes a whole hell of a lot of difference -- the chief is able to give you orders to solve the crime (in fact, he does so everytime you enter the room -- I suspect a barely disguised AI is the head of the police department) but you can't actually shoot him because he wasn't really added as an NPC. He just shows up in the room's description.

The thing is, it's really Barringer's descriptions and attitude that has garnered him so much abuse as the worst video game author of our time. We are generally OK with incompetence. However, such phrases as "Vigilantes (look it up)" when there are numerous misspellings and grammatical errors, or a room's description like "you are in a closet. There is no reason to be here. Go south" really gets under your skin. Much more quickly then you'd suspect, as the game can be terminated at any point. Without logic, warning or any real work on the player's part. I'm still trying to figure out why the game starts you off with having won ten points. Apparently just showing up is enough to get some kind of reward in this game.

The great part is that Activision did pretty much the same thing with instant death in Borrowed Time and it sold a ton of copies. Poor Matt Barringer does it and since he doesn't have cheezy four-color graphics we bury him.

Anyway. I haven't seen more than a handful of games that has been less fun in all my twenty-five years of sentience. The thing is, there is absolutely nowhere to go but up. Unless Mr. Barringer decides to create the next great rail shooter, "interactive movie" or instructional volleyball video for the 3D0 he is destined to markedly improve his effect upon his craft.

It has been ordained.




Simple Rating: 0.8 / 10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 3.2 / 10

Writing: 0.5 / 10

Playability: 0 / 10

Puzzle Quality: 0 / 10

Parser Responsiveness: 1 / 10

Reader Remarks

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

If you thought this was bad, you should see Outsided. It's got all the vices of Detective, PLUS it crawls with freaking bugs, PLUS it makes you crap your pants if you type XYZZY. And this was an _Inform_ game...

Esrom sprach the following on December 22nd, 1999:

You just HAVE to play the MST3K version of this by C.E. Forman. It's hysterical!

If any work of IF deserved to be riffed, 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' style, it's 'Detective'.

mcp sprach the following on May 25th, 2000:

_Detective_ is underrated.

This game has a fantastic, surreal air to it. Never mind that this is almost certainly not what the author intended. Entering a closet to the west, only to be informed that you must go west AGAIN to exit? That's sheer brilliance. If this game were made into a movie, David Lynch would have to be the director.

I enjoyed this game far more than many a "serious" IF work I could mention, although I should add that I was playing the Inform port which enabled me to UNDO whenever a trap was sprung on me.

Add Your Comments

Your Name or Handle

Your Comments: