Game Pile: Enclosure

Enclosure is an indie adventure game, made by the stunningly under-documented Femo Duo entertainment, who based on their website’s domain I think are from the Netherlands. Thanks to their website being the way it is, I’m not sure when Enclosure came out, but one source said 2004, so we’ll go with that.

Enclosure is an AGI game – the engine Sierra used for their first wave of narrative adventure games, games like Space Quest 1 and 2, Kings Quests 1, 2, and 3, and the first Leisure Suit Larry game. It’s the one with the weird wide pixels, and the text parser that doesn’t pause when you type. The last AGI game released by Sierra proper was in 1989, which means this game came out fifteen years after the AGI was done with.

And it’s a corker.

The game itself gets its Magic Month bonafides by its framing; you, the player, are a con artist who uses tricks like fake seances (but I repeat myself) to bilk people out of their cash. With a reputation as someone who can communicate with the dead, you’re approached with an offer of $10,000 to come deal with a spiritual thing up in the remote icy parts of wherever, and as a good con artist, you go along. After all, you’re very confident you know how fake all the spiritual stuff is, so you’ll probably have to turn up, dupe a few people into believing you shaking a  few chains around, and home with ten grand, right?

Then once you’re there, things get spooky, with rains of oil and messages on the walls.

And then things get murdery.

And then things get weird.

Now when it comes to games like Space Quest and other AGI fare, because those games were made by people who were inventing the technology themselves at the tme, there’s a certain meandering cluelessness to the whole affair. What you can find and hang onto and what the story cares about can get a bit… scattershot and weird, and there’s room for a lot of decisions we’ve since more or less settled as being kinda bad, like the Dead Man Walking scenario with a forgotten pair of grody underwear.

On a pure game front, Enclosure is a cut above in terms of quality; puzzles have good conveyance and there’s a coherent narrative, it uses the adventure game structure to create tension and present the player with discovery, rather than to sit around like a passive-aggressive aunt, waiting for you to catch up to what obscure interaction it’s going to make you work out on your own. It’s an AGI game that feels like it was made by people who’ve endured bad AGI games, and have thought a lot about avoiding the worst pitfalls.

One of the ways it gets around the potential challenges of an AGI game’s flaws, though, and the ways it maintains its tension as a suspense movie with a supernatural-feeling theme, is by being short. Enclosure is an adventure game that compares to a movie in a lot of ways – cinematography, tension, planting and payoff – but also in its duration. You can probably rip through Enclosure your first time in two hours? Maybe? and not miss much.

Nonetheless, the game is filled with questions of how did that work and what did that person do to fool us, and there’s a lot of use made of the engine and its infamously hostile interface.

Now, here’s a bummer, I suppose. See, most of what I’m telling you about Enclosure is my memory of playing the game, coupled with reading FAQs and watching playthroughs. Originally, I wanted to make a video of my playthrough, a straight up lets play, with all the saves and reloads incorporated, and a timer in place ‘from stuck’ to show how these games work with loading and saving.

It was a plan I liked! Replaying an AGI or SCI game is a really fun treat, because even if you know the general route through the game, there’s still enough resistance that if you haven’t replayed it recently, you’ll have some kind of challenge, but you’re not likely to get totally lost because you still know the general direction you’re heading.

Problem is, I couldn’t replay Enclosure on my computer.

It’s frustrating, I don’t know what the problem is. Now, sometimes it’s pretty easy to kick around solutions, try things out on a few computers, but between all the parts I needed to get moving to make a good video – my microphone, a computer that could run it, my recording station – I just couldn’t get it done.

Something else gets the video slot this month. The good news is, you can just get Enclosure, here, and check it out for yourself.