My late uncle's inheritance consists of a lot of money. I will only receive it on one condition, though: First, I have to renovate his run-down house without any damage to the environment! Let's have a look at these ruins (?)… oh, boy, there is certainly some work to done. The front is crumbling and it needs a fresh coat of paint. Virtually the complete interior consists just of garbage. There is just one bright spot to be found: a photo of Lolita, my uncle's attactive adoptive daughter (who, by the way, receives the bulk of the overall inheritance) – including her phone number. Seems like now I have two goals…
Of course, for a possible date, I have to get the house back into shape anyway. I start in the garden where dry leaves are waiting to be composted (most certainly not burned). The kitchen is full of dirty dishes, but of course, it is not worth switching on the dish washer just for that. Via top modern BTX, I order a bunch of roses for Lolita. On the telephone, I arrange with craftsmen and other service providers to have all the trash to be hauled and the necessary work to be done – it goes without saying I choose the environmental-friendly options.
I could-shoulder the car standing ready in the garage and take the bus into the city centre instead. There, I buy new furniture locally produced using local materials which contain as little poison as possible. In the (non-chemical) laundromat, my outfit – previously dirtied from the work in the garden – becomes clean again. I also buy some sweets for Lolita and all the tools to write a romantic letter in recycling design, which I then take to the post box with the bike. Back at home, I try to cook her favourite meal, but I fail at the intricacies of the recipe. The house has been renovated perfectly, the money is mine – but I will have to live in it by myself.
Das Erbe (The Inheritance) is a game of immeasurable historical importance. Almost single-handedly, it founded the tradition of free-of-cost promotional games as they would be produced in dozens in the following years in Germany. The primary genre where all this took place was adventures. This classic also uses the conventions of that genre, at least on the surface. Why just on the surface? In spire of the icon based interface and the graphical perspective known from Sierra of Lucasfilm, some of the most important player decisions are actually taken as Yes-No-questions. Which is where the gameplay-related issues take their start.
Because this is where things become quite unfair. The prime example being the phone calls to the craftsmen. The house needs a paint job. So we phone the painter. He asks, whether he should come by and paint the house. Sounds harmless enough, doesn't it? Quite on the contrary! If you agree, the game will tell you that environmentally dangerous paint has eben used – Game Over! Uh, let's get back to the question which you've been asked… right, it was only about whether someone should come to paint; not about what can/should be used!
Unfortunately, this is how it goes in several places: the game insists on the player taking decisions without knowing all the options in advance (because the environmental-friendly paint will only be offered after declining the first one). The second quarter of interaction is basically similar. Again, you have the choice of several options, but at least you know all the options in advance if you, for example, go mattress shopping. You just take a look at all the offered products. Not that this is more fun, because in those cases, the 'right' decision is more than obvious. Well, at least it's less frustrating.
Then, there is a major part of the game which strictly speaking is just about not doing things, because they would end in immediate death. Ironically, this is where things get slightly entertaining. Unintended humor emerges when you lie down on the stretcher in the garden, for example, and you're immediately burned to ashes by the rays of the sun! Or when all of Europe is promptly turned into a desert, because you opened a window while the heating was still on.
Only in the side quest about conquering the woman only known from the (quite unattractive) photo, Das Erbe at least turns into a rudimentary adventure as you would expect it. There are at least a couple of object-based puzzles. Few, but they're there. Just that all the necessary actions will be made much harder than necessary by the interface. Almost impossible in some places. Even if you know the solution or at least have a hunch. And even if you finally manage, the interface still just wastes way too much of your time.
What about the educational claim? Well, unfortunately, the success of that has to be put into question as well. This, however, isn't even due to the weak gameplay or the interface, but mainly because of the laughable Game Over situations mentioned earlier. They are so exaggerated that things become unbelievable even for little kids; it feels like the game is making fun of the player. Who likes to be instructed by someone (or something) which doesn't take its own message's recipient seriously?
Therefore, Das Erbe unfortunately isn't the best figurehead of the classic promotional adventure genre anymore. It has been surpassed way and beyond by its children and its children's children. It can't be denied that it has its historical merits, because it showed that free games would be popular in spite of small size and notable quality differences compared to commercial products. The is true for not being a good game, though.