Intrigue!
for C64

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Mr Creosote:
Company: Kinemation / Spectrum Holobyte
Year: 1986
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Espionage / Multiplayer / Mystery / Text-based
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 368
Review by Mr Creosote (2024-06-01)
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“A mystery in black and white”, declares the tagline. This is to be taken literally, looking at the 1-bit colour depth illustrations. Though beyond that, it does reference the film noir themes and aesthetics prevalent throughout: your brother, whom you share a run-down private detective agency with, has been kidnapped; very likely related to the case he was working on. The seemingly small appointment he took is apparently linked to a planned terrorist attack.

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In 1986, this would have typically been material for a parser-based text adventure game. But then, the mid-80s were also a very experimental time. The introductory scene not only sets the mood, while at the same time providing some amusingly unlikely options in its multiple-choice style (“Raise eyebrows”). It also lets the players ease themselves into what's to come. Allowing to collect first snippets of information and studying them in detail, but forcing nothing. It all feels very organic. Then, after turning the disk, Intrigue opens up into the game proper.

Which is where things get much more complex. Moving about the game world, exploring it fully graphically in 360° free movement, there are characters to be interviewed and followed. Key locations to visit. Stones to be turned and crates to be searched. It is classic sleuthing, with little initial guidance, but finally clear leads and objectives.

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The chief attraction being the randomization of solution and plot each time. Although the same locations and same characters remain, a different one may be the culprit next time around. The terrorist nuclear device may be hidden somewhere else. The steps to find out will definitely be different ones. Part of that is in the hands of the player. The case's complexity level can be selected. The protagonist's gender can be set, influencing the way other people will interact.

Flexibility of course comes at the expense of strong plotting and characterisation. Each solution does feel quite random, as it happens in such Lego brick automated case constructors. Nevertheless, figuring it out is highly entertaining based on the intellectual challenge alone. And the digitized photos of genre appropriate actors do help to at least give the impression of them being real characters.

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Perhaps most startling, the game can be played by up to four players. Each selecting their own difficulty level. Which can pit detectives of different experience levels against each other. They can choose to compete, but also share some information and progress. One player doing a couple of steps, then it's the next one's turn. Still managing to not feel too much like Cluedo, thanks to its strong focus on style. Even if core mechanics are not all that different. It works surprisingly smoothly for such an uncommon genre.

In such ways, Intrigue keeps surprising its player(s). Admittedly, the movement itself, based on rather featureless graphics, can get a little tedious and confusing these days. The random moving around of some characters distracts from piecing the puzzle together rather than enhancing it. Its appeal, for sure, is rather niche. Within its niche, it is a highly respectable entry. One which is all too rarely talked about.

Comments (2) [Post comment]

Gamemaster:

Ah I remember it well. I have a original copy as well. I think the box as well. Really unique game. Because they went b+W, a lot of features could be added that weren't possible in color (if I remember right). And added to the one-of-a-kind design.

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Mr Creosote:
Another one of these extremely obscure games from the past which very few remember and even fewer have any nostalgia for. Safe to assume that this one will remain at the bottom of the pageview statistics. Though that is one of the nicest things about doing this for no commercial interest at all: it doesn't matter. Those who want to have a look, enjoy Intrigue!
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