|Release||August 9, 1984|
Cutthroats is an interactive fiction computer game written by Michael Berlyn and Jerry Wolper and was published by Infocom in 1984. Like the majority of Infocom's games, it was released for most of the popular computer platforms of the time, such as the Apple II, MS-DOS, Commodore 64 and several other platforms. It is Infocom's thirteenth game.
The game takes place in and around the fictional Hardscrabble Island. For centuries, Hardscrabble was a thriving seaport, but the local fishing industry died out in the 1920s. Most of the area's remaining population is an assortment of hard-luck types and people of questionable ethics.
The player's character is a skilled diver scraping to make ends meet. One night, an old shipmate named Hevlin barges in with a map indicating the locations of two previously undiscovered shipwrecks. Flashing between excitement and paranoia, Hevlin abruptly leaves, asking the player to safekeep the map. Naturally, the old sailor is murdered as he practically steps from the doorway; someone obviously wants this map quite badly.
As the player attempts to mount a perilous dive for sunken treasure, several characters offer their help. Some of them can be trusted and some can not. Failure to tell the difference between the two can result in an "untimely accident". Successfully making positive contact with the right characters is the only way the player can advance to the actual shipwrecks. Once the dive begins the player must locate and retrieve the treasure from that wreck to complete the game.
Each time the game is played, either the São Vera or the Leviathan is randomly chosen as the wreck to be explored. The other two locations contain no treasure and are red herrings.
Each package of Cutthroats contained the following extra items, which Infocom called "feelies":
- True Tales of Adventure, a fictional magazine catering to self-styled adventurers
- Four Shipwrecks off Hardscrabble Island, a fictional book "published" by the Hardscrabble Harbor Historical Society with information on the wrecks of São Vera, H.M.S. Intrangisent, The Fianna and S.S. Leviathan.
- A dive map indicating the locations and depths of the above four ships
- A "supplemental price list" from Outfitters International featuring a tide table. As the equipment available does not appear in list form or in any other reference within the game, the player requires the price list packaged with the game for a successful dive.
- Cutthroats was the first Infocom game to be originally published in the famous "gray box" format.
- Cutthroats was marketed as a "Standard" difficulty-level game.
- A famous irritant among interactive fiction fans is the "hunger daemon": code in a game that forces the player's character to periodically eat and/or drink to survive. (Enchanter used a hunger daemon.) Cutthroats provided a new spin on an old annoyance in a "watch daemon". If the player did not remember to wind the main character's watch, it would be impossible to complete the game due to the timing of tides.
- The game has 68 locations.
Antic criticized Cutthroats' use of timed puzzles that "made us feel as though were being overly manipulated", and called others "obscure, illogical and nearly clueless. Be prepare to mail away for the [Invisiclues]". The magazine concluded that the game was inferior to Berlyn's Infidel.