Definitions

wast suspended

Suspended

[suh-spend]
For other uses, see suspension.

Suspended: A Cryogenic Nightmare is an interactive fiction computer game written by Michael Berlyn and published by Infocom in 1983. It belongs to the science fiction genre, and is considered by many fans to be one of Infocom's better non-Zork-related titles. Like most Infocom titles, it was ported to most popular personal computers of the day, such as the Apple II, PC, Atari ST and Commodore 64. It was Infocom's sixth game.

Background

The player's character has been embedded within a facility that controls vital systems, such as moving public transportation belts and weather control, for an Earth-settled planet called Contra. During this five-hundred-year tenure, the player would normally be kept in stasis while his sleeping mind serves as the Central Mentality for the largely self-maintaining systems. As the game opens, however, he is awakened by severe error messages; something is going catastrophically wrong. The facility has suffered catastrophic damage from an earthquake, and the Filtering Computers are shutting down or becoming dangerously unstable. The inhabitants of the city assume that the Central Mentality has gone insane and is purposely harming the city, as a previous CM had infamously done. The player's task is to repair the damage and restore the systems to normal states before a crew arrives at the facility to "disconnect" his mind, effectively killing him, to be replaced with a clone.

Gameplay

Suspended takes a novel approach in its game mechanics; rather than being free to move about and interact with the game world directly, the player's character spends the entire game in a state of suspended animation (hence the title) and can only interact by controlling the actions of a number of robot surrogates. Each robot has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and describes the same rooms and objects in completely different terms based upon those specializations. The robots are:

  • Iris - The only robot with visual sensors, Iris can provide visual descriptions of locations and objects. As the game begins, however, Iris has suffered a burnt-out microchip and cannot see. Iris is confined to the area surrounding the Central Chamber.
  • Whiz - The most technical robot, Whiz is used mainly for interfacing with a central library computer for historical and technical information.
  • Waldo - The most capable physical manipulator, with several limbs for grasping and holding objects. Waldo perceives the world using sonar. (The term "Waldo" was originally coined by Robert A. Heinlein to describe teleoperated robots.)
  • Auda - Auda is equipped with sensitive audio receptors and can provide information on sounds and vibrations.
  • Poet - A diagnostic robot, Poet can sense the flow of electricity; he tends to communicate in somewhat cryptic language.
  • Sensa - Sensa is specialized for the detection of magnetic and photon emissions.

So, for example, Auda will describe a room primarily in terms of the sounds being generated there, Poet will describe it in terms of diagnostics of the equipment there (and phrase it in amusingly metaphorical language), and Iris will provide a visual description. All six of the robots can be given orders in conjunction, and some of the challenges the player faces require that several of the robots work together to solve them.

There is also a seventh robot, an all-purpose multifunction repair robot named Fred, who spends the entirety of the game broken and cannot be repaired. (See red herring.)

Feelies

The tradition of feelies, or extra items included in the game package, was started with the release of Deadline and continued with Suspended. The game's feelies included:

  • A map of the facility and small tokens representing each robot. These were intended to allow the player to more easily keep track of each character's whereabouts in the somewhat confusing layout of the facility. Unlike most other text adventure games, the room descriptions of Suspended do not mention the directions of possible exits, which makes the map vital to playing.
  • Briefing for the Contra Central Mentality, a booklet that provides an overview of the facility, the robots, the computer system, and the player character's responsibilities
  • A letter from the Contra Central Lottery Commission Headquarters explaining that the player has been chosen to serve as Central Mentality for the next 500 years
  • A Contra Central Mentality Lottery Card

Notes

One unique feature of Suspended was that the player's "score" was given in the number of deaths suffered as a result of the malfunctioning systems, rather than a number of points for collecting objects or accomplishing goals. (Obviously, the goal was to minimize this number, and players would often replay the game many times even after winning it, trying to get the lowest number of casualties possible.)

The game offered three difficulty settings, which affected the number of turns the player had before "disconnection". As one of the many unique features of this game, the player could also play a customized version, configuring how long the game would last and where some of the robots would initially appear. The game also featured a unique "Impossible" setting, which lived up to its name, since the sun went nova after only a few turns, totally destroying the entire planet.

Due to the complicated series of actions required to win the game and the lack of initial information, however, even the easiest setting is widely considered very difficult. Infocom gave Suspended a difficulty rating of "Expert". Still, Suspended was a highly regarded game; science fiction writer Douglas Adams, an early fan of Infocom games, was particularly taken with it.

The original package for Suspended featured a life-sized white plastic mask set into the front of the box, which has become the most sought-after Infocom collectible item. This was replaced in later packages by a picture of a face.

The working title for the game was Suspension.

"Fooble", which is one of the possible reset codes, is the name of one of the vials in Sorcerer, which was released the following year.

Reception

Suspended was well-received by critics. A review by Computer Gaming World considered each robot to have a unique personality, and praised the use of the library computer as an in-game hint system. The game's parser and time-saving techniques (such as a "follow" command) were similarly praised.

Tagline

Only your wits can save the world.

References

External links

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