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Amnesia (Apple II) artwork

Amnesia (Apple II) review


"If you create a public scene or break any laws (such as sleeping in public or leaving the early-game hotel room naked), odds are you'll wind up arrested. Humorously, you get to play through your final days in a jail cell, choosing what your final meal is, what denomination of priest speaks to you before death and whether you die by lethal injection or firing squad — just one more of the many things I loved about the writing in this game."



The greatest strength of Thomas M. Disch's Amnesia is how utterly vast it is compared to the average text adventure of the 1980s. After finding out a way to get your unclothed self out of a hotel in Manhattan, you'll have much of the borough to explore in an attempt to figure out your identity. You'll also have to earn money to eat regularly and find shelter, or you'll collapse from fatigue and wind up on a one-way ticket to death row in a Texas jail for some unknown crime you allegedly committed. All of this gives Amnesia sort of a RPG-ish sandbox sort of vibe, which is different from any other text adventure I've played.

This also possibly is Amnesia's greatest weakness. There are hundreds of streets and thousands of locations in the game's world, but only a select few of them are particularly useful in your quest to discover who you are and what the hell's going on with your brain. After leaving the hotel and finding an abandoned tenement to use as your home base, the game unravels to a degree, as you'll be alternating between scraping together enough cash to buy food or take a subway and walking the streets aimlessly in hopes of finding a clue to get you on the right track while hoping you don't suddenly get mugged or pass out from exhaustion.

Penned by science fiction author Thomas M. Disch, Amnesia still was able to remain in my old Apple II for quite some time before my frustration level rose to too high a level for me to want to play it anymore. Simply put, the Manhattan of this game is not only huge, but fun to read and full of surprises for players who take the time to explore. You might get a sketchbook from a struggling street artist and discover you can earn money by sketching peoples' portraits. Or you might accidentally stumble into a den of junkies, who kill you before figuring the strange dude who barged into their lair wasn't a cop.

Those junkies are the least of the hazards you'll be facing in Manhattan, as they're confined to one room in Amnesia's world. Far more of a danger to your quest is New York's ever-present police force. While you can't remember what you may or may not have done, that won't stop them from sending you on a one-way ticket back to Texas for your execution if they get the opportunity. If you create a public scene or break any laws (such as sleeping in public or leaving the early-game hotel room naked), odds are you'll wind up arrested. Humorously, you get to play through your final days in a jail cell, choosing what your final meal is, what denomination of priest speaks to you before death and whether you die by lethal injection or firing squad -- just one more of the many things I loved about the writing in this game.

The problem is that I preferred reading Amnesia to playing it -- which made the day I found a script for it online a happier one for me than any of the ones where I played the game. On the surface, this looks like a huge game in a huge world. In reality, it's a standard-issue (if more verbose) text adventure in a huge world. After leaving the hotel, there are only a handful of objectives you need to meet before the endgame sequence begins. The challenge is figuring out WHERE to go and how to get there quickly, so hunger or fatigue doesn't overcome you (which happens far too quickly for my tastes), resulting in the death penalty conclusion. You'll essentially be looking for a needle in a haystack and then, once you've found it, you'll search for another one.....and then another one.

I just didn't have the patience for such a large-scale scavenger hunt for clues and my quest eventually bogged down in what seemed to be me constantly alternating between short trips to see if I could accomplish something productive and busy-work trips to earn some money to grab a bite to eat or buy passage on a subway to explore parts of the city a bit too far for my character to walk. Amnesia was a very ambitious and well-written title. Unfortunately, the game wasn't able to keep up with its ambition; leaving it an interesting game, but not a great one.

Rating: 6/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 11, 2009)

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

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bloomer posted June 12, 2009:

I enjoyed this review a lot.
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overdrive posted June 12, 2009:

Thank you very much, Bloomer. That was a fun game to write about. And I'd advise looking up that original manuscript. Not only was it necessary for me to fill a couple memory holes, but it was entertaining for me as someone who never completely solved the game.

It's a very witty conclusion. One could complain that you're essentially on rails with only a handful of decisions with a "die or live" consequence, but it's pretty cool to read through.

And it's cool to experience a game that could be considered one of the earliest attempts at the now-common "sandbox" genre.....only as a pure text adventure.

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