Have you ever been paranoid that the government is watching you? That they're following your every action, and at the wrong moment, even in a democracy such as ours, you could find yourself in the back of a van with a black bag over your head? "How can we stop this kind of thing happening?" I hear you ask. Well - you can be the one doing the bagging.
- Who am I, and what am I doing here?
A British classic from the days when Virgin still did games, Floor 13 is a must-play for anyone with an interest in DOS games, conspiracies, or just abducting and torturing people off the street.
As the director of a British secret ministry (covered as the "Department of Agriculture and Fisheries"), you are tasked by the Prime Minister with ensuring that their party remains in government, and clearly ahead of the opposition - by any means necessary. There are always scandals and crises that could hinder their continued good work, but they don't want to have to bother with that. So, they've appointed you, and given you an awful lot of freedom, to see that the damage isn't done.
Every day, you find problems arising in the news - ranging from "MP quits under mysterious circumstances" and "popular writer hangs self" to the slightly more bizarre, such as "Pod People replacing government figures" and "IRA kidnap Prince Harry". Thankfully, you have a variety of means by which to deal with these. Sometimes, knowing which is the right to use can be a little bit trial-and-error, but they'll always get a result. You can send your men to infiltrate terrorist groups, abduct and torture anyone involved for information, ransack homes, or even sign termination warrants in the most extreme cases. It's a good idea not to go overboard though - not only do you have limited resources, but you may inadvertently create more new than you were suppressing in the first place!
- Desk Jockey
The gameplay is broken up into days. Every morning, you receive news clippings telling you what's going on in the world, to which you must respond by issuing agents with particular tasks. A journalist is planning on exposing something sensitive about the government - do you burgle his house for incriminating materials? Wiretap his phone to see who he's working with? Slander him in the newspapers? Black-van him? Or simply machine-gun his house? Pay attention to the intelligence, and you can determine not only what the bet course of action is, but the best time as well. How you balance your resources is vital, as you have only a limited number of agents, and the case may take a dramatic turn in the middle. As mentioned, you must also be careful not to draw any more attention, or negative publicity to the Prime Minister's government.
Every month, the government's approval rating has to be higher than the opposition's, otherwise you may find yourself taking a long drop out of the office window, courtesy of the PM's own enforcer. If you do well however, the PM rewards you with more agents, and you can find yourself contacted by the Secret Brotherhood of Thoth to undertake missions for them...
- Grimy like London
Entirely done in first person, you spend all of your time at the titular floor, or at Downing Street. The orders themselves are menu-driven, but reading the results in the news cuttings helps bring an personally visceral feeling to the department's actions between the days.
Some might find the entirely black-and-white graphics a little jarring, but they do help to create the grimy, late-eighties/early-nineties London feeling. For a game all about political murders, it can be surprisingly mature, and humorous at the same time. The jarring mixture of nonchalant state-sponsored tortures and murders, combined with a very British bureaucratic slant ("Subject is being tortured in accordance with UK Standard Procedure-0")
The game's soundtrack is limited, with only midi music, but it feels in place. Since your perspective is from an office anyway, there isn't really much call for action-packed bangin' choonz.
- Would you like to get in my van?
On the whole, Floor 13 is an enjoyable game to at least have a go at, even if you don't play it all the way through (in fact, it's hard enough that completing it on the first go is nigh-on impossible!). However, if you fancy a game that's political, cynical, and worryingly topical in some ways, then fire up Dosbox and find this classic on the internet!
P.S. It's available at Abandonia