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The Mist (PC) artwork

The Mist (PC) review

"You'll be screwing around, attempting to input any damn command the computer might actually recognize, outside the hardware store when suddenly you'll get a "The bug just appeared" message. Now, one of two things will happen. First, if you're lucky enough to have found a bug-killing item AND are lucky enough to figure out the specific way to phrase your command so that you actually use it, you can dispatch the mutated creature. Or, more likely, you'll be dead in a turn or two."

Growing up, I was always more into books than movies. That may play a small role in explaining why I read "The Mist" by Stephen King while in either sixth or seventh grade, but never got around to watching the 2007 movie based on it until just a couple weeks ago -- roughly five years after it hit theaters. I'd heard good things about the film and definitely wasn't disappointed by it, but never really had felt any desire to take the time to sit down with it. And when I did rent the film, it wasn't some great "long time coming" moment. I was bored, didn't feel like gaming and none of my friends were doing anything interesting, so after 30 minutes of staring into space, I decided to rent a movie and "The Mist" was the first title that popped into my head.

A person watching me probably wouldn't take long to figure out I prefer books to movies. Amusingly, I found myself pausing the film every few minutes, so I could check out how events were unfolding compared to the original story. Some characters were expanded for the film; others either had their roles reduced or simply vanished. There was an alteration to the ending that would have made me sit up and exclaim, "Damn!", if not for that bit being spoiled for me a few years back. Still, while the novella will always be number one in my heart, the film version is a more-than-adequate reenactment that deserves to be considered a close second place.

Which bumps the 1985 text adventure (also titled The Mist) to a distant third. A very distant third.

Don't get me wrong -- considering when the game came out, making it a text adventure was the smartest thing possible. The terror of the book's fog couldn't be reasonably applied to an old, primitive computer with any proficiency. More modern games like Half-Life and Silent Hill, which were either definitely or likely inspired by the novella, were on systems with engines capable of manufacturing fog-covered environments littered with big, scary things that go bump in the night. Back in the mid-80s…I think the effects would be more comical than suspenseful or terrifying.

The problem lies with what is in this text adventure. I'm not sure exactly who Angelsoft is, as far as gaming companies go, but I can tell you that they are NOT Infocom. Those guys made a lot of text games with large vocabularies, engaging writing and (oftentimes) enough humor to distract you from how frustrated you should be at how you can't figure out which item you need to find in order to solve a puzzle. The Mist delivers virtually none of this. You'll get these brief descriptions of whatever area you're in, but unless something is set apart in a line under this paragraph, odds are that you will have no luck in trying to interact with it. This led to a lot of frustration, as I'd find things like an unattended vehicle and a locked hardware store and would be clueless as to whether they had a real purpose in the game…or if they were just red herrings designed to distract me from actual relevant things I should be trying to obtain.

It didn't help that any attempt to closely examine anything outside of the general store you start in will likely be interrupted after a few turns by something deadly. Angelsoft put in a few of the book's monsters as, essentially, wandering encounters. You'll be screwing around, attempting to input any damn command the computer might actually recognize, outside the hardware store when suddenly you'll get a "The bug just appeared" message. Now, one of two things will happen. First, if you're lucky enough to have found a bug-killing item AND are lucky enough to figure out the specific way to phrase your command so that you actually use it, you can dispatch the mutated creature. Or, more likely, you'll be dead in a turn or two. As I recall, the spider tends to stay located in one particular building; but other creatures just sort of meander along outside, so you never really know when you'll run into one. Well, unless you get anal-retentive to the point where you'll keeping tabs on every move you make, so you have a rough idea what their travel schedules are. That's not fun. Not in the least.

To me, the most damning thing about this game is how, despite being a text adventure, it really has none of the suspense of the novella it was based on. It's not The Mist, it's The Generic Text Adventure Loosely Based on Stuff Appearing in The Mist. One of the neatest things about the novella, which was replicated quite well in the film, was the question of how ordinary people would react in a bizarre, deadly situation with no outside communication. You had blue-collar sorts inadvertently lead a young store employee to his death in a misguided attempt to fix a generator because "fixing broken things" fit into their comfort zone. There was a religious zealot who becomes really dangerous after deciding that nothing but good old-fashioned Old Testament sacrifice would make the mist and monsters go away. And, of course, a bunch of admirable folks whose hearts were in the right place with their plans to escape the situation even if, as this was a rather bleak piece of work, those ideas tended to do little more than cost people their lives.

Yeah, like any of this is going to be accurately portrayed in this game with its limited vocabulary. Doomed bag boy Norm makes a cameo appearance the first time you go to the back room of the store, where he immediately dies in a very abbreviated version of King's prose. And if you stay in the store for too long, you get to be Mrs. Carmody's sacrifice in just one of many ways you can die (which also include leaving the store too soon). Scattered throughout the store (and in at least one other building in the town) are a few other characters from the book. Trying to interact with them is just sad, as it often feels like they only understand one in 20 things you might be inclined to talk about. I was recently reading a blog about this, where it mentioned that you can get a key to that unattended vehicle from Ollie in the store…if you specifically ask him for the TRUCK key. Simply asking for a key will lead you to believe he has no clue as to the location of the keys to his own vehicle.

It all works together to make you feel completely alone against the mist, which is the exact opposite of what the novella set out to do. It just doesn't work; nothing really works. The limited vocabulary makes it tough to issue commands and the longer you spend somewhere trying to find the correct words for a situation, the more likely it is that a bug or bird will horribly kill you. And, if you're lucky enough to get through most of the game, you'll find that a couple late-game encounters require a certain amount of luck to get past. Yeah, it'd be a lot of fun to make it to the military base, only to get slaughtered by a centipede-like monster because the game randomly decided that your attempt to shoot it was unsuccessful. It just seems like everything in The Mist was designed to be as irritating and frustrating as humanly possible.

Rating: 2/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 25, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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