Experience 112 / The experiment

You know how you sometimes pick up a game thinking "well, that sounds a bit clever, guess it'll distract me for an hour or two" and then end up completely engrossed for days? Experience 112 (also known as The experiment) is one of those games, holy smokes is it ever.

It's an adventure game that initially appears to be set on an abandoned research ship in the middle of an unnamed ocean. The vessel has been completely overgrown with bizarre vegetation that appear to react when exposed to external stimuli. Intriguing, but not that original to be honest. You're tasked with guiding the protagonist around the ship, exploring rooms and figuring out just what the heck happened. But that's where all semblance to regular adventure games end.

You don't control the protagonist. No, she wanders around on her own. In fact, you're not even the persona of the protagonist, instead you're an unnamed character on the other end of a security monitoring system. You activate and deactivate cameras to keep track of where she goes. You can signal that you want her to go somewhere by turning lights on and off. Bloody brilliant challenge to the dogma of point and click adventure games. The method of navigation reminds me quite a bit of the C64 game Little computer people.

To make matters even trickier you can't tell her to pick something up, but you can navigate her close to something which might prompt her to pick it up. Then you have to remember what she picked up, said about it and what the items might be used for. There's generally no way to speak to her so she'll be confused about what you want her to do at times. To make matters even worse you've also got access to the ship's network, but every account requires a username and password that you have to extract from information found here and there. One account might contain an email, a document or encrypted files that will help you access a second, then a third, and so on.

The sheer complexity of this game is absolutely stunning. I've had multiple discussions with fellow adventure gamers that, for some reason, seem to think that the sierra games were the height of difficulty in the genre. This is, of course, false since their text-based predecessors were demonstrably more challenging and elaborate. The sierra games generally presented a linear path that offered little variation, sure there were some cheap deaths but that was pretty much it. I get it though, we're nostaglic about them, that's fine. But the vehement claim that modern adventure games are somehow dumbed down is a gross generalization that can easily be proven wrong.

Try Experience 112. Holy hell. 20-30 hours of hacking accounts, navigating the protagonist through an absolutely massive environment that spans the previously mentioned abandoned ship to an undersea explorer vessel, to.. well, let's not spoil it, an "alien" habitat with an advanced research base. Every step has to be meticulously figured out, calculated and executed. Every puzzle researched, notes taken and conclusions arrived at. Not to mention the later mechanics where communication with the "aliens" aren't done with words, but phermones and combinations of phermones.

Brutal, absolutely brutal. And I couldn't have loved it any more. This is a must play folks, it breaks most conventions of the genre and offers an intriguing exploration and first contact-scenario with mechanics you've never seen executed this way before.

Experience 112 on wikipedia

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