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Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It (Apple II) artwork

Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It (Apple II) review


"Graphics would probably have ruined Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It--it's a pure text adventure which relies on puns and figures of speech. Though it's text-focused, it feels more like a fun quiz than a real text adventure. The plot is, nominally, about rescuing a city named Punster from out-of-control words. Still, I would bet Nord was really an excuse to serve up clever word play that didn't quite fit in other games. If that's true, it was a good one. "



Graphics would probably have ruined Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It--it's a pure text adventure which relies on puns and figures of speech. Though it's text-focused, it feels more like a fun quiz than a real text adventure. The plot is, nominally, about rescuing a city named Punster from out-of-control words. Still, I would bet Nord was really an excuse to serve up clever word play that didn't quite fit in other games. If that's true, it was a good one.

Nord is certainly less vicious than the average Infocom game: it's possible to get stuck, but quite often dying requires a clever abuse of the English language. Some scenarios don't require full points--no blanket catch phrase knowledge needed--and the passwords negate the need for a save-game feature. Since each scenario focuses on one figure of speech, the player knows what to focus on. Also, Nordthe in-game hint menu--which can be shut off--won't reveal anything too odd, and many puns give an amusing groan on solving or using the hints.

The Shopping Bizarre features the worst/best of the lot, such as changing a moose to mousse or 3.14 to pi. I shudder thinking how forced and overdone this would be with graphics and possibly sound effects, but with text, it's more just an abstract puzzle. Shake a Tower features original spoonerisms--how to open a house with a can of peas? Buy the Farm and Eat Your Words test catch-phrase knowledge by finding a needle in a haystack or jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Play Jacks gives the player one item--a jack--and has him turn it into a jacket, a jackknife, and so forth.

They're not all clever: the Manor of Speaking seems out of place, as it is the shortest and relies on stupid anti-communist stereotypes, and Act the Part is a cute if vapid spoof of fifties comedies--unfortunately, missing a chance to torment your chiseling brother-in-law Bob can make things unwinnable. The finale, Meet the Mayor, feels rushed too, with some drawn out jokes and puns that work but aren't as quick-witted as the more thematic scenarios. Harassing the poor waitress in Eat Your Words is much more fun.

Naturally, I understood very little of this as a young preteen when I first tried tackling Nord. It certainly made me more cautious of catch phrases and their potential for abuse. Once I'd heard them in context, I was able to laugh, and I still am. When a new catch phrase pops up, I sometimes wonder how Nord would abuse it, and I enjoy mental spoonerisms. This isn't all the game's fault, but it certainly helped focus my mental wanderings. It did so much more efficiently and playfully than some admittedly useful vocabulary, grammar or writing style books. In this aspect it was more successful than many educational games I played. They taught me something. Nord left me trying to figure, how did just words DO that?

Rating: 8/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (September 05, 2009)

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