The Ugly, Evil Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: What the frig? Stan Heller is a LEGEND. A god amongst men. A hero to millions. I can't believe these losers had the nerve to slag off his game. They definitely deserve to die. I'm coming for you, Graeme and Stuart. I'll eat you alive!
The Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: The only thing sadder than the games people MIST are the people who MIST the games.
My Verdict: Well, it's funny in the tradition of MISTings past and present...but I seriously question the reasons why it was made.
Game Type: Inform
Download Link: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/inform/mst3k2.zip
Some years ago, a strange little television show cropped up on an obscure cable comedy network. Little did I realize that that strange little television show would not only endure through several host and channel changes, but would eventually be made into a movie and inspire several text adventures. At the time, my sister and I merely thought it was really funny how those three guys had their heads in the lower right corner of the screen while a movie was being played. We'd see that and we'd laugh. We never actually watched the show or listened to the guys' comments for more than a minute or two. Towards the end of Joel Hodgson's five year tenure as host(probably around 1992), I began to watch the show semi-regularly and I enjoyed it quite a bit. After Joel left, I stopped watching - Mike was okay, but he was no competition for Joel, whose droll, monotone delivery I associated the show with. I still watched the show every now and then, but only when I had absolutely nothing better to do. I'm what you might term a very casual fan of the Joel years of "Mystery Science Theater 3000"; I know enough to know where this game is coming from, but not enough to catch every single inside joke. The best thing the television show had going for it was its originality - both in concept and presentation. The idea was that there was this guy in outer space who was forced by a bunch of evil experiment running professors to watch awful B movies all day with his robot friends. He got lonely up there alone so he and his metallic buddies developed sarcasm and began to rip the pieces out of every movie they watched. And that's the show: every episode spotlights a different feature film, interposed with hilarious acidic commentary from the guy and the robots. I always thought it was a bit of a ripoff how essentially the show survived by taking other people's work - the movies themselves - and making fun of what so many people spent a small(or large) portion of their lives creating, but on the other hand the show was funny, and the movies were obscure, so in a way the shows also served to introduce thousands of people to many movies which they never would have encountered in any other format otherwise. The text adventures are just like the show, except it is other text adventures that are being parodized and the games are written by fans of the show(and IF), not professional comedy writers...not that you'd be able to tell.
The first game parodized in the style of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" I believe was "Detective." See, people didn't always consider "Detective" the worst video game of all time. It was an obscure AGT game, for goodness sakes. There are a lot of other crappy games rotting in GMD's archives that nobody's played - it just happened to be "Detective"'s lot to parodied, mocked, and scorned by the IF world at large. The "MISTing" of "Detective" was very well done and it definitely made a crappy game more fun to play. Other MISTings followed - this, I think, might have been the second one. When I heard that "A Fable" had been MISTed I immediately fell to the floor and began to weep piteously. "A Fable" did not deserve such treatment. I had always liked "A Fable." "A Fable" was, in fact, pretty good. No, it was not a game. It was a series of fragments designed to serve as example code for AGT, never intended for public release. The fragments were pieces of experiences and memories taken from the life of one man as he travels through dense fog on the way home. Some situations are bizarre and absurdist - others are realistic and touching. There are some philosphical concepts at work, but nothing too deep. "A Fable" was a nice, well-written fragmented bit of source code. Couldn't we just leave it at that? No.
So, somebody decided to make fun of "A Fable." Another guy ported it to Inform last year. Somewhere right now there is a baby breathing its last breath. A tree has just fallen and nobody was around to hear the crash. Somewhere a man has just had his life's dream shattered. Somewhere a woman has just found out from her psychic friend that her boyfriend Luis is cheating on her with an Albanian circus clown. These things happen. I don't know why they happen. Because our existences on the planet Earth must consist of equal and unequal mixtures of success and failure, pain and pleasure, misery and happiness, good and evil? Is that as close to an answer as we can come? Perhaps. Everywhere I look I see injustices wrought by malicious hands, and I know that I can do relatively little to stop these injustices from occurring. At best I can try to avoid perpetrating any injustices myself. But even in this community, a community of people who enjoy playing text adventures(as innocuous a pursuit as could ever be dreamed of), we have people willing to perpetrate injustices simply in order to satisfy their own creative impulses and get a few laughs. In a larger sense, that depresses the hell out of me. But in a smaller sense, I ended up laughing anyway.
I think what I like most about the MISTings is the colored text. It reminds me of BBSes. I see the colored text and I think ANSI! Sometimes I just start this game up, watch the intro roll, then I page myself to join teleconference. Then I enter into private chat and try to flood myself offline with the aid of a couple nifty flood scripts. And then I get kicked offline and suddenly realize that I was never online to begin with. It was all an illusion of the mind. In reality, I'd never left the room. I'd never left the game. Then I snap out of it and I began to play anew. Next to the colored text, I also enjoy the way the MST 3K games are organized. It is just like the show. From the intro and the theme song to the actual commentary from the host and the robots, it feels genuine. It feels like this is probably a lot like an actual text adventure made by the MST 3K folks would look and read like. The experience of actually playing a MISTed game is somewhat strange at first. You get to actually _play_ the original game, but inside the room, item, and event descriptions you'll find color coded commentary making fun of what you've just seen. It's not the ideal experience if you really want to appreciate the game for its unique qualities as a game - for that, always seek out the original. In fact, I find the commentary a bit distracting generally. I read the funny remarks and witty quips and I laugh and I forget what I should do next in the game. But, most importantly of all, the jokes are funny and well-placed generally speaking, and for every obvious pun there is half an obscure reference to make up for it. I won't say that I was laughing a hundred times a minute whilst playing this game, but I laughed a few times. I enjoyed the experience. Even though I still like "A Fable." My favorite part of the game are the endgame remarks from Joel and the robots...that's really funny. Worth the price of admission, definitely.
In summation, I will say that "A Fable" is a game that should never have been MISTed. But since it was, and MISTed pretty good, I'd say go ahead and play the dang thing. It's funny, amusing, original, and creative. The original is well written, thoughtful, and intelligent, though incomplete, disorganized, and unfinished. I think it would be time well spent to give them both a try. We only have the rest of our lives to live. Use that time wisely. Play text adventures.
Simple Rating: 8/10
Complicated Rating: 35/50
Writing: 9/10(Yes, the writing here is excellent - Stan's original, serious, experimentary prose sprinkled with generous doses of sarcastic humor is ultimately a winning combination.)
Story: 6/10(The original story is quite good. The MISTing doesn't provide anything to it other than adding a guy and a couple of robots, which, mind you, I quite liked. But you still need more than that to get extra points.)
Playability: 7/10(Though confusing at first, gameplay is a blast once you get into it. And colored text! Colored text is neat.)
Puzzle Quality: 1/10(The whole game is a maze. But the MST 3K version adds absolutely nothing to that maze. It doesn't deserve points for that.)
Parser Responsiveness: 4/10(Not a strength in the original - not a strength here.)
Special Ratings For This Game
Back to my other reviews