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Machine Shrink

Entry 1622 posted in: 2. DNA, 3. Gamebits, 7. Star Trek - The Original Sucker

so that's how the inside of a computer looks like... History repeats itself just like the chicken at the zoo that perpetually wanted to pick some breadcrumbs lying inside the monkey cage but got hit each time on the head by a vigilant monkey carrying a stick.

Examining the Wintermute Engine for one of my soon-not-to-be Unfinished Projects I fell upon the games section and instead of downloading the editor itself I ended with Mental Repairs Inc. on my harddisk.

Mental Repairs, Inc. is a small 2.5D point'n'click adventure following Henrik Liaw, machine psychiatrist. His job is to repair electronic devices that are depressed or have gone bananas by giving them therapy, counselling, guidance or – in the true tradition of point’n click – by solving some riddles and handing over some goods one has picked up from another place.

Point’n click games go a long way but have been forgotten a bit by all these 3D, real-time, first person shooting extravaganzas that are, in my personal opinion of course, plain boring. My first shooter was the original Wolfenstein 3D (1992) that I played several times from A to Z (I even found the secret Pacman level). The game was obviously forbidden in Germany where the ‘don’t mention the war’-credo has been put into federal law. Wolfenstein is set in a Nazi-castle, the guards are SS-officers, the walls are adorned with swastikas and one of the final bosses is mister Adolf H. himself. (A de-nazified version was made for the American and German markets where they had shaved Hitler’s moustache and the attack dogs had been replaced by mutant rats. It made the programmers quip that apparently, for American censors, it was morally acceptable to shoot people, but not dogs.)

About a year later came of course Doom (1993) but I put it fast aside as it made me feel seasick. At the same time I was also an admirer of William Shatner’s TekWar novels and when a computer game came out I jumped on it as the proverbial chicken in the zoo (see above) but that game was ‘one of the worst licensed games ever seen’. Of course the TekWar novels are also pretty bad, so bad actually, that they have become quite cult.

But back to the Mental Repairs Inc point’n click game. Although made by an ‘amateur’ named Renzo Thönen it is actually better than some commercial games of its kind. Of course it is rather short (only half a dozen of rooms and situations) and you can play all levels in less than 30 minutes. The puzzles are pretty straightforward, quite logical and not too complex, other than in Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic where some actions to be followed were so weird and arbitrary (and on top of that, incoherently programmed) that you simply had to buy the hint book in order to get any further. Hidden inside Douglas Adams was, next to a gifted writer who seldom came out, also a shrewd entrepreneur almost like an Italian second-hand car dealer, although his Digital Village company didn’t survive the dotcom crash despite the fact that it had devised a rather witty Wikipedia avant-la-lettre (read the funny H2G2 entry for Belgium). But even Wikipedia has got into serious financial troubles nowadays, so we can’t really blame DNA for that.

I haven’t been mentioning Douglas Adams’s name for the sake of mentioning his name alone. The Mental Repairs world is basically a Hitchhiker’s world where machines have their own disturbed mind. The copy machine has lost its coloured view on the world, the coffee dispenser is depressed because everyone kicks it and the elevator has got a split personality, one up, the other down. The idea of elevators only wanting to go up has been explored before in the Hitchhiker’s novels by the way, so we’ll call that a friendly nod from one universe to another.

I quite liked the warped humour in the game and the hero’s somewhat cynical comments, but that is because I am that kind of guy. The adventure takes a twist, like good adventures do, at the end but in order to make it comprehensible there is a rather lengthy explanation needed that takes, with my limited amount of patience, somewhat too long as it just adds extra ballast. Also Starship Titanic lacked in that department, where the main computer kept on babbling for about five minutes once you had activated it, so Mental Repairs is in good company.

All in all a very nice and enjoyable game (with excellent 3 D graphics, objects and persons, BTW) and, like I said, well worth the 30 minutes it takes to play. I saw that Thönen’s Hulub website also offers a second, slightly older, point’n click game, Murder In A Wheel. It mimics deliberately the Day Of The Tentacle style and has won an AGS award in 2007. I think I’ll download and play that as well because I simply can’t resist a game where the main plot is about who murdered the house hamster.

My next Unfinished Project will have to wait a little bit longer, I guess.

Other point'n click games reviewed on this site:
Nomen Est Omen (Starship Titanic)
Tentacle Day (Day of the Tentacle)
East Side Story 
Walking Through The Valley Of Eden Sandbox of God walkthrough, compatible with version 1.52