PLAGUE: IN THE MAZE OF THE MIND

Step inside the mazes of the human mind to battle a killer, in this deadly race to save mankind!

Earth, 2012. A mutant computer virus begins to plague the minds of human beings. From deep within the most sophisticated neural network computers, low-level radiation has begun manipulating their genetic codes., cutting off vital neural links and sending its unsuspecting victims into a mindless coma. Can this horrible plague be stopped before it devours all of mankind?

Prepare yourself for the ultimate in hi-tech medicine, as Plague takes you "virus hunting in the maze of the mind". You'll need a steady hand and ruthless determination as you attempt to destroy a deadly virus that threatens mankind's very existence.

The ancient streets of Rome set the stage for the future of neuro-medicine, as you put your skills to the test against an onslaught of bloodthirsty viral enemies. Using the latest "virtual" technology, you'll travel deep into the unexplored regions of the human brain, and attempt to eliminate this seemingly unstoppable menace.

Battle your way through incredibly realistic, real-time 3D environments and face a terrifying array of mutant creatures, as you journey into the world of the virtual surgeon. There's no time to waste, as this ravenous threat is spreading fast! With each new patient, the challenge grows and your opponents become more murderous in their attempts to paralyze their human prey.

So get set to seek out and destroy this ruthless killer, because you are the virtual surgeon, and the future of mankind rests in your skilled hands!
  • experience the action from all angles - simulated 3D effects provide players with a unique selection of multi-directional views
  • uncover dozens of hidden areas which may hold the secrets to defeating this mysterious threat to human survival
  • explosive sound and digital effects bring the action to life, as you attempt to contain the outbreak before it destroys mankind!
~ from the back of the box

With the current pandemic forcing the world into lockdown, I thought what better time to give Plague: In the Maze of the Mind (1996 Microforum) a go. I've been meaning to play it for some time. The premise in eminently intriguing; destroy a man-made virus by virtually travelling through a patient's brain and squashing it. The actual experience, however, is a glorious mess of ideas mashed together to make an incohesive yet fascinating whole.

The idea is to hack into a patent's brain and piece together the loose ideas that the virus set free. In this game, the ideas are represented by a lightbulb, the viruses are giant insects, arachnids or snakes and the brain - no kidding - is renaissance Italy. That's one eerie coincidence considering that's where the effects of Covid-19 were most keenly felt.

Once you've found an idea, stabilise the images in the Idea's Net (left)
Then find the frame in which to place it (right)

Once you've found the idea, you'll have to focus it in a mini-game. You'll be presented with a wobbling and distorted copyright-free image in the Idea's Net (press F4). There are a couple of knobs to twiddle with which will stabilise the random picture whether it be a goat, a cat or Don Quixote. Now it's back to the Virtual City (F3) and the hunt begins to find the picture frame in which that giraffe jpeg belongs. These are found inside the buildings so it's time to seek out your destination using your map (TAB).

Unlocked doors are represented with a little yellow pixel, which is the only way to distinguish between an interactable entrance and a static low-res graphic. However, opening said entrance is not simply a matter of clicking on it with your mouse (press SPACE to toggle between shooty and looky mode), but holding the right button and swaying the mouse left or right to swing the door on its hinges.

Inside is a sparsely decorated apartment. Some cabinets can be opened in much the same way as the front door and may contain amulets (ammo), clocks (extra time) and direction finders which allows you an additional look at the map. What you're really looking for is the empty picture frame so you can finish the level. You're given ample time to do so - 30 minutes in the first few stages - but you'll only need 5 now that I've told you what the game wants you to do. My first time used up those minutes twice trying to figure it all out.

Enter buildings using a convoluted number of mouse presses and movements (left)
Inside is where all of the goodies are found, like this Ankh which is your ammo (right)

In a case of life imitating art, there is one bug that I encountered with the DOSBox emulation of the game, no matter what version I used. If you change the resolution while in-game (by pressing a key which I will not divulge for your sake), its visuals will screw up when toggling back. You'll have to restart the game entirely to fix this. The major issue is that this will happen after every level anyway. Thankfully, the game autosaves at this point anyway making it no more than an annoyance than anything. Perhaps it will be solved in future DOSBox releases (or I'll discover what's causing it later down the line), but at the moment, the theme of the game was too good to pass up given the state of the world.

Now that I've told you how to play Plague, you should know what I really think about it - it's really, really bad. The crux of the idea is a rather grand one but none are fully fleshed out. Shooting enemies with ankhs will generally miss even when you're dead on but you can easily ignore them. Their death is not necessary to heal a patent. As for the more heady, metaphorical themes? They're a little underbaked too. Every brain is ancient Rome, seemingly for no reason other than it being the country that was worse hit. All of the viruses are generic beasties making the humorous bios of each patient pointless. The idea images are completely random and again, make no sense in the grander theme. If the developers had bothered to make each patient's brain unique to their personality, I could've forgiven the terrible gameplay and enjoyed it as something of a quirky art piece. As it is, it's bland and borderline broken.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Tested on and Windows 10.

File Size: 139 Mb.  Install Size: 280 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Plague: In the Maze of the Mind is © Microforum Inc
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


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2 comments:

  1. Nice write up; shame that the interesting concept didn't pan out to anything much. Psychonauts would do the idea justice of course, but what this really makes me nostalgic for is 3D Body Adventure, a sort of kids' medical encyclopedia package that featured a game where you ventured inside the body to cure patients by.. shooting micro-organisms, of course!

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    1. Good suggestion. I came across 3D Body Adventure myself when doing research of late and thought it looked like a good fit for the site, so can confirm it is on the radar.

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