Being Andrew Plotkin
for Interpreter (Z-Code)

Mr Creosote:
Company: J. Robinson Wheeler
Year: 2000
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Based on Other Media / Misc. Fantasy / Humour
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 21514
Review by Mr Creosote (2011-09-17)

Having received basically every honour and award there is in the modern day IF world, Being Andrew Plotkin is an adaption (or rather a 'reimagination') of the movie Being John Malkovich – with the person who probably comes closest to being something of a 'star' in the IF scene taking over Malkovich's role: Andrew Plotkin, author of many modern classics.

The player takes over the roles of Peter and Valerie, both working at Red Hat (like Mr. Plotkin). As in the movie, they stumble upon a magical door behind a filing cabinet, leading into Plotkin's head. After some first, innocent outings of just watching the world through his eyes, the two then proceed to try and control his actions (subtext: controlling him like any player of any piece of interactive fiction does with the protagonist of a game).

The reviewers praising the game don't seem to tire of pointing out that while it is in-jokey, the game can be played without detailed knowledge of the movie, Plotkin's games and other text adventure classics. Technically, this is true – the game can be finished without any clue of any of these things. Just (and this is what most reviewers fail to admit) that any such player will likely be bored to death. Because, once you take away all the funny references to Spider and Web, So Far, Zork and all, what's left is a rather short and extremely linear game without much of a story (the later developments could be regarded as funny in an over-the-top way) or decent puzzles (I counted only one puzzle whose solution the game doesn't spell out for the player beforehand and which isn't bog-standard).

Much of the game is actually played out in short multiple choice dialogues. Though they're sometimes funny, they always end with only one option being left: the one that progresses the game. The player never gets to explore anything; instead, the game throws him from one static scene into the next one, alternating the protagonist's identity at times (without much of a point to that) and always clearly stating the next goal (and sometimes even the required steps).

My personal expectations of this concept would have been roughly this: You can walk around the Red Hat company building either as the regular protagonist and visit the same locations while controlling Andrew Plotkin. Both have a slightly different perception of their surroundings, so room and item descriptions change (this is implemented to a basic degree at least). Maybe only one of them has access to some restricted areas. Getting help from different people is only possible as either one or the other (because that person might, for example, be a good friend of Andrew, but doesn't know Peter). Meaning: Puzzles can only be solved while in the right body and the fun would have been figuring out when to use which character and how to combine the talents of both. This is not the game which does or even attempts to do this.

Which leaves the in-jokes and the funny scenes when viewing the world through Andrew Plotkin's eyes. Which are funny, yes. Though personally, I was disappointed to find the game starting its slightly silly and convoluted ending scene in the very moment when it only just became interesting. Maybe the author didn't want the game to become too personal concerning Mr. Plotkin and his life, so he chose not to have too many scenes observing him. Understandable. Then again, Being John Malkovich did it just fine without me knowing much about the real person's private life and thoughts after having watched the movie. This game, unfortunately, never finds this balance. Recommended as a meta commentary to die-hard fans only.

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