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Infocom's Back to School Text Adventure (1986)

Back to School was a text-based adventure game released (just barely) by Infocom in 1986, based on the hit Rodney Dangerfield film of the same name.

I can't tell you how long it took me to find this game. Due to legal problems with script writers, producers, and apparently whoever else felt like piling on, the game was only available to the public for a very limited time.

I haven't found anyone who remembers playing the game when it came out, or even seeing it in stores. The guy I got it from on eBay ($3.98, yo!) said he found it at a flea market in Sacramento.

The storyline is almost identical to that of the film, and in some ways I feel it requires you to have seen the film in order to complete the game. Or maybe because I've seen the movie myriad times I just knew what to look for or what actions to perform.

There are two main goals in the game: passing the final exam administered by your professors and also performing the winning dive to seal victory for the Grand Lakes University swim team, thereby getting your son Jason on the roster for next year.

Now, if you've seen the movie, you know the winning dive is called the "Triple Lindy", and one of the fun things in the game is to try and perform it at any and all times. True to Infocom form, they won't hold you back if you really want to do it.

They also don't miss the small stuff, which I particularly enjoyed. If you hadn't seen the movie some of these things would totally pass you by, but for anyone who's seen it over 20 times it's almost refreshing to know that someone out there remembered the same bits as you.

My first time through I sort of raced around, getting a little cocky thinking I knew what was coming next all the time. For the most part, it worked out, except I guess I didn't pay as close attention to detail as I should have. I carelessly assumed the game designers would just make the biggest scenes in the game go strictly by the script, as they had with the smaller ones, and I learned my lesson hard.

Luckily, the second time through, I actually read the response text from professors and kept a few notes. Word to the wise: sometimes Professor Terguson gets all worked up over the Crimean War.

All in all it's a pretty fun game, sucks that the legal stuff got in the way. Not that it was some earth-shattering, genre-defining adventure, but you know, it has enough puzzles, crazy situations, and one-liners to make it genuinely enjoyable to play.

If you do somehow get your own copy of the game, I'm including a walk-through of the first section. Mainly this is for my own enjoyment, but I hope this gives you an indication of the level of detail the designers put into it.

Melon's Office
> read memo
> west (secretary's desk)
> talk to secretary
> take small calendars
> take pens
> south (hallway)
> south (conference room)
> talk to board of directors
> talk to board of directors
> answer phone
> talk to Jason
> ask Jason about swim team
> put phone down
> take Melon Patch doll
> north (hallway)
> northeast (office)
> open rolodex
> call Lou
> talk to Lou
> take rolodex
> southwest (hallway)
> east (elevators)
> press button
> wait
> south (onto elevator)
> down
> north (off elevator)
> east (exit)
> talk to Lou
> enter car
> talk to Lou
> Home

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Copyright © 2005-2013 Graham Cranfield