Discworld II: Missing Presumed

Read any good adventure games lately?

2Terry Pratchett, a household word in the UK, has sold mountains of books based on his Discworld universe. His stories and characters paint a wry, dry, ironic picture of human nature, with a sense of humor which is almost always right on the mark. Discworld II: Missing Presumed…!? (aka “Mortality Bytes”) centers around two of Pratchett’s main characters, Death, the hooded entity who speaks in uppercase letters, and Rincewind, the little inept wizard whose cowardice breeds cunning, and who is usually the first one to come to save the ill-fated world of… Discworld.

The unpleasantness of the moment lies in the fact that Death has been in a rather nasty explosion which caused him to disappear and reassess his existence. As Rincewind, the player is enlisted to locate him at once, since without Death on duty collecting bodies and souls and disposing of them properly, all of the recently dead just linger about in the streets, not knowing quite what to do with themselves.

Terry Pratchett is a funny man. So is Gregg Barnett, writer, director and producer of Discworld II. So why isn’t this game funny? It has all the elements of being funny. It has Eric Idle as Rincewind, doing as brilliant a job here as he did in the original Discworld. It has comical situations, interesting characters and delightful cartoony graphics. But it has one tragic flaw – It has miles of dialogue which seem to stretch twice around the globe and back again. This was a problem found in the original Discworld, where the jokes just seemed to stretch on forever. The issue is back in this second book-to-game transition.

It’s the same issue we see time and time again. If we want to sit through hours of dialog, we’ll see an animated feature film. The designers promise 100 hours of gameplay. Well, yes, that may be true, but most of it will be spent listening and re-listening to interminable dialog. Yes, there is funny dialog and you will laugh on occasion. But the mere breadth of the script is enough to engender impatience on a grand scale. You’ll return to talk to a character for the third time (and you need to in order to see if there are any new developments), and you’ll find yourself madly clicking through the dialog you had already heard twice.

9And oddly enough, this the game’s main problem –  spending more time listening to dialog than actually playing the thing (whether this is something hardcore Pratchett fans enjoy I cannot know). In other instances, there is a lot to recommend Discworld II. Gregg Barnett, who has come a long way from a little world called Teeny Weeny Games (now Perfect Entertainment Ltd.), has done an extraordinary job of puzzle design. Puzzles are well crafted and not at all as unintuitive as those in the original game. Instead, we have clues and nudges everywhere, presented at a perfectly balanced level of helpfulness.

So if you limber up your clicking finger so that you may click through repetitive dialogue at lightening speed, you’ll really enjoy the rest of Discworld II. Pratchett fans will have a lot more patience than the rest, but underneath all the prattle is a very solid game.

System Requirements: Pentium 75 MHz, 8 MB RAM, DOS

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