Robin is psychic. His talents have been recognised by a learned professor and he is under close observation. When, in an attempt to discover his exam results, Robin projects his sensitive mind into the future, he finds himself unable to get back. Trapped in the living nightmare of post-holocaust Southampton under the control of an inhumane system, he has only 24 hours to sabotage the enemy generator and return home.
Written by Ann Popkess and programmed by Fergus McNeill(author of the Toliien spoofs The Boggit and Bored of the Rings), Mindfighter comes in a shiny box, complete with a poster and a novel recounting Robin's experiences in 1987 - the year before the war.
The nightmare itself takes place in 1988. Robin awakes on a mound of rubble in the midst of a terrifyingly desolate cityscape. Wandering amongst the charred and smouldering remains, poignantly illustrated in graphic silhouette, he finds little evidence of the kind of life with which he is familiar. Bands of hungry men club skinny dogs to death for food, corpses litter the sour-smelling earth and survivors stumble aimlessly through the unrecognisable ruins of their former lives. Only at the docks is there any sign of organisation and activity.
As Robin's mental journey takes him nearer and nearer the nerve-centre of The System's operations, he can enlist the cooperation of a number of characters ranging from the gentle Daryl to strong and independent Robert. Encounters with guards tend to be violent. As Robin is already weak it's advisable to carry a weapon and steer as clear as is feasibly possible of enemies.
Puzzles are very much centred around the game's two main objectives; survival and infiltration of enemy quarters. The post-holocaust city is pitted with hidden dangers. Clouds of corrosive gas poison the air, rabid animals scavenge for food and the smell of corpses lingers everywhere. To get familiar with this alien environment you're bound to die several times as you explore.
The instruction booklet is full of advice for novice adventurers which does'y turn out to be particularly helpful. The problems are fairly obscure right from the very start. On several occasions, you're only given one chance to provide a solution; if you don't the game comes to a grinding halt. This level of difficulty may be acceptable well into a game but it isn't very user (or beginner) -friendly early on.
Requests for HELP are met by blank incomprehension and none of the responses to the EXAMINE command provide any sort of clue. It helps to have read the novel as the accompanying scenario is extremely sketchy.
Not that the supposedly sophisticated SWAN makes the process any easier. Having found a newspaper clipping, for example, you can only GET NEWSPAPER (a totally different thing), not CLIPPING; which is treated as a totally foreign and unrecognisable word. Bugs allow you to burn rags to a cinder over and over again, pick up petrol when you've poured it all over the ground and after it's gone up in a series of impressive flames. A dead dog, clearly described, stops existing when you try to do much with it and a fairly standard command, like INSERT ROD, is received by the outlandish, 'Robin couldn't go in - only east'. You may find yourselves inventing plenty of titles for the System Without A Name.
The long-anticipated, eagerly awaited Mindfighter is something of a disappointment. The first adventure release from a major software house in ages with one of the most stimulating scenarios ever, turns out to be mediocre, unenjoyable and comparatively unplayable. Not that Mindfighter is an unmitigated disaster. It just doesn't live up to the quality associated with the flashy packaging and a bigger than the average price tag. Have a go on somebody else's before you decide to buy it for yourself.
An echo of the past in a horrifying vision of the future.