Suspect (video game)
|Release date(s)||October 5, 1984|
|Distribution||3½" or 5¼" disk|
Suspect is an interactive fiction computer game designed by Dave Lebling and published by Infocom in 1984. It is the last murder mystery Infocom released, bringing an end to a popular genre of titles such as Deadline and The Witness. Like most Infocom titles, it was written in highly portable ZIL and made available for an array of popular computer platforms, including the Apple II, IBM PC, Atari ST, and Commodore 64. It is Infocom's fifteenth game.
The player's character is a reporter for the fictitious newspaper The Washington Representative. Veronica Ashcroft-Wellman, a longtime friend and wealthy socialite, has sent an invitation to the annual Ashcroft Halloween Ball, where Maryland's high society bluebloods rub elbows, network, and congratulate each other on their fortunes. The paper's editor suggests covering the party as a story, smelling an easy article that could either praise or mock the wealthy. Since it is a costume party, the player's character suits up in a rented cowboy outfit and moseys over to the bash. Many attendees wear masks, making it difficult to initially identify them.
Not long into the party, however, Veronica is found dead—strangled with a very familiar-looking lariat, with a bullet from the costume's gunbelt lying near the body for good measure. But the player stashed the rope in the closet earlier, and the bullet is missing from the back of the belt; anyone could have taken them! Nevertheless, the player is the prime suspect in Veronica's murder. A lot of snooping has to be done to identify the real killer.
The other suspects include:
- Michael Wellman, Veronica's husband (dressed as a sheik)
- Richard Ashcroft, Veronica's brother (dressed as a werewolf)
- Linda Meade, Richard's girlfriend (dressed as a ballerina)
- Samuel Ostmann, a local businessman (dressed as a vampire)
- Alicia Barron, Veronica's friend and former schoolmate (dressed as a "harem girl")
- William Cochrane, a realtor who had dealings with the Ashcrofts (dressed as an astronaut)
- Colonel Robert Marston, family friend and director of Ashcroft Trust (dressed as a safari explorer)
- Smythe, the butler (dressed as a gorilla)
The majority of Infocom's titles were shipped with additional objects or documents relating to the game. These "extras" were called feelies. The Suspect feelies were:
- The satirical book Murder and Modern Manners: A Practical Guide to Murder Manners
- A business card from William Cochrane for King's Point Realty (written on the back: "Veronica— Please call me ASAP. Don't do something you'll regret. Bill")
- A receipt from "Costumes Unlimited" for the rental of one cowboy costume with lariat and gunbelt
- An invitation to the Halloween Ball thrown at Ashcroft Manor (written inside: "Dearest... It has been too long since we last talked. Please do try to come to the party. There are so many things I have to tell you. Until then, Veronica")
- A note from the editor of The Washington Representative asking the player's character to cover the ball for the newspaper
- A page from The Maryland Countryside magazine, featuring an article about developers encroaching on the "Hunt Club" countryside and a society column piece about the upcoming Halloween Ball
Suspect was given an "Advanced" difficulty rating. However, it was possible to short circuit the mystery by being in a certain place just as the murderer was disposing of evidence.
The behavior of the detective character was meant as a humorous reference to players' frequent cluelessness in Deadline and The Witness. The detective is, of course, assisted by the stalwart Sgt. Duffy.
The illustrations seen on the cover and inside the Murder and Modern Manners book were drawn by noted artist Alan Cober. Cober's work was seen in several national publications including The New Yorker.
Infocom rented a mansion and threw a huge "murder mystery party" as a promotional stunt for Suspect during the 1985 Consumer Electronics Show.
One of the party guests is mentioned as wearing a "square plastic mask"; this refers to the original packaging of the Infocom game Suspended.
Like many of Infocom's games set in "the real world", Suspect takes place in a fictional city. Ashcroft Manor is supposedly in Rappanoc, Maryland. This is most likely a reference to Potomac, Maryland a well-to-do area of Montgomery County, Maryland south of Rockville and just northwest of the Capital Beltway.
Veronica owns a horse named "Lurking Grue".
You're not sure who's who. But one thing is certain... Someone is dead. And now they're pointing fingers at you.
You're guilty until proven innocent.
- Suspect at Adventureland by Hans Persson and Stefan Meier