Here Is A Natural Language James Bond Text Adventure

By Nathan Grayson on October 24th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

Now featuring a startling new videogame technology from the fuuuuture: occasional images!

The British Intelligence Officers Exam is technically an advergame. It’s also among the more authentic James Bond experiences I’ve ever had. Oh, and it’s a text adventure – a startlingly unique one, too. Then again, considering its pedigree – it heralds from Hide&Seek, the folks who put together this wild “playful experience” festival Kieron wrote about before he became a ghost – that’s not as shocking as you might think. In short, though, TBIOE doesn’t actually put you in direct control of a character. Instead, you converse with an agent in the field who’s attempting to accomplish any number of objectives – for instance, escaping from baddies with precious data in hand or tracking a notorious arms dealer. I even found myself paralyzed by a couple seriously tough non-black-and-white choices that actually made me think. The real magic of TBIOE, though, lies in its language. Its agents may not seem entirely human, but they do a pretty convincing impression most of the time.

It’s the little things, I think, that make it. Agents take a moment to reply – as though they’re actually typing out a response – and the flow of conversation is actually, well, existent. In the heat of the moment – when the clock was ticking on a bio-bomb and we were feverishly going back-and-forth over our options – it was easy to forget that I wasn’t working with another person. Other times, they talked back or cracked darkly humorous jokes or voiced their frustrations and fears. Personality emerged from the situation, often with my imagination filling in the blanks.

As a result, I became oddly protective of my agents, even though they were faceless and I knew next-to-nothing about them personally. One survived a brush with certain death and then thanked me profusely. I grinned like an idiot. It was a strange moment – especially because I’d effectively convinced someone I was a bomb disposal expert – but a strong testament to how much of a difference those little details can make.

Granted, TBIOE does trip and stumble disastrously into its arrangements of smoke-and-mirrors from time-to-time. I lost an agent because I kept having to rephrase a sentence, and seconds before their exceedingly un-James-Bond-like death, they snarked out, “Yeah, well, you could’ve suggested that sooner.” I did you dead jerk who’s dead now aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrghhhh.

Overall, though, it’s a very neat experiment. I definitely recommend giving it a go, just as much as I suggest you BUY SONY VAIO XPERIA PHONE SONY TABLET SONY SONY. Ahem, sorry. Known side effects of exposure to TBIOE also include, well, that. I imagine you’ll figure out why pretty quickly.

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33 Comments »

  1. Orija says:

    “AGENT: Sony VAIO. Packed it as cover. Doing the ‘businesswoman with taste’ thing.”
    Screw this.

    • magos says:

      Yeah, the ridiculous incongruity of the agent possessing an ‘Xperia smartphone’ when the Sony Corp logo is positioned centimetres away was a bit too much for me.

      Also, the complete inability to parse any questions regarding said phone (even though the branding was mentioned explicitly) rather ruined the suspension of disbelief:

      YOU: Do you work with Sony?
      AGENT: Don’t get you. Under some stress, sorry.
      YOU: Do you like your Sony Experia?
      AGENT: Rephrase that? Decryption problems.
      YOU: Sorry, do you like your Sony Xperia?
      AGENT: Close your other tabs and concentrate. Say another way.
      YOU: Your Xperia – is it a good phone?
      AGENT: Don’t get you. Experiencing a bit of stress, sorry.

  2. Bhazor says:

    I was enjoying it until it asked for my email address. Fuck. That. Shit.

    George Smiley has always been better than Bond anyway.

    • John Connor says:

      Surely giving your email to a random website would be an instant fail of the MI6 exam…?

  3. Ian says:

    I can’t get this idiot to understand what I’m trying to say about this fucking bomb. >:(

    • IceCreamMyself says:

      My problem exactly.

      >The image represents the wires
      >Not sure I understand. Put it another way?
      >The image on your tablet represents the wires
      >Break that down for me once more
      >THE FUCKING IMAGE IS OF THE WIRES; IT’S FUCKING OBVIOUS.

  4. povu says:

    Oh my god, JB! A bomb!

  5. Khalan says:

    Played the first mission, quite good.

    Does anyone know of any other good natural language text adventures? I don’t think I’ve played a text adventure since my C64.

  6. Ian says:

    Anybody got the best solution on the drone one? I got the second best one.

    • Max Ursa says:

      i think you have to listen to them, thought of it after id done the same

  7. trumad says:

    Ugh, this game is a ball of DUNG. Yeah, the dialogue is better written than in most text adventures, or in most games for that matter. But the logic used to interpret what you type is awful.

    I only made it through the first two levels before rage quitting. During the bomb mission (scenario #2), when in the bar (which is where the bomb is SPOILERS) I ordered my agent to buy a negroni, since he’d just mentioned it. He didn’t know what I meant. I half expected the developer to have a wee easter egg in there, but they didn’t because nobody ever playtested this game, clearly. And then when you defuse the bomb (by saying the magic words “rainbow” and “wire” in the same sentence, EVEN THOUGH the wires in the picture aren’t in rainbow order HOW THE HECK WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW) he says “maybe I’ll buy a negroni to celebrate”. So it’s ok for the developer to winkingly nod and call-back the negroni, but I can’t do it in-game? grr. An irrational complaint, I know, but it’s the glasé cherry on top of an already gross pavlova.

    I usually trust RPS and I check out most indie/free games featured on the blog. This is the first time I’ve felt properly let down. If a game is indie and original, cool – but if it’s a product placement laden, pointless, badly coded text adventure, please don’t bother featuring it.

  8. Pod says:

    I’m surprised Sony are allowed to use MI6′s name like this.

  9. JuJuCam says:

    Those complaining about SONY VAIO XPERIA TABLET SONY, hasn’t product placement always been a staple of the modern Bond franchise? I just roll my eyes and move on, personally. And was rewarded with a clever game (with, yes, some parsing issues but it’s still better than quite a lot of text based games) and quite a satisfying ending to boot.

  10. mangrove says:

    Need a hand with situation #4. I have the copied the data, got the fire map, read the emails, phoned the number, decrypted the message as stonefish, looked in the trash for the note. What am I missing?

  11. Kid_A says:

    Their complete inability to respond to “any suggestions?” kind of kills the whole “natural language” thing.

  12. DXN says:

    I’m still sad that Kieron had to be killed. I mean, especially in……. you know. That way.

    • DXN says:

      I mean, don’t get me wrong. I know why it had to be done. The things he was doing… *shudder*

  13. SlappyBag says:

    What do 236, 698, 874 have in common =/

    • SlappyBag says:

      I used my maths and it worked, im chuffed but its actually simple once you know it =P

  14. Robmonster says:

    I was stumped by the final mission. I got into the building but couldn’t work out how to get into the locked rooms. Any tips?