Developer/Publisher:  H + a Entertainment
Year Released:  1997

Review by Steve Ramsey (August, 2003)

I have said before that first impressions are important, but with Gord@k, you should ignore them. Here, the only impression that counts is the last one, and the after taste is so thoroughly overwhelming, that it may well be reason enough not to even start playing.

Beginning this review at the end is almost oxymoronic, but essential. If you do not win the final puzzle, a contest played against the artificially intelligent computer virus Gorda@k, not only is it game over, but the one and only save game which you are allowed is deleted automatically, and you start the game again from the beginning. Unless you are me, in which case you give up in disgust.

I was so shocked, I refused to believe what was happening. I initially thought the game had crashed, then I thought that I had done something wrong (other than not winning). But no, some research (which perhaps I should have done first) established that this is really what happens - Gord@k wins, you lose, game over, start again.

If ever there was a game feature designed to infuriate, this would be it. But wait, there's more.

I didn't in fact even get an opportunity to beat Gord@k. The puzzle starts, and the instructions appear. But Gord@k starts playing. By the time I finished reading, he had won. Hardly a fair contest.

Perhaps a slow down facility would have given me some more time, but the game specs call for a Pentium processor, and I was only playing on the next step up Celeron. And perhaps the puzzle is dead easy, making its completion a certainty next time through, but having read the instructions I remain in the dark as to its objective. Let me know if you ever find out.

Just the facts
It is hard to be objective after that. So I will be descriptive instead.

Gord@k casts you in the role of a special cyberagent of the CS Corporation, computer virus trouble-shooters par excellence. You must succeed where three agents before you have failed, and eradicate Gord@k. A mission briefing sets you on your way.

You must confront Gord@k in his artificial world, accessed via a sort of PDA not unlike the Journeyman interface. Through it you can receive and read e-mails, review documents and personnel files, record images (once you find the camera) and view and explore the game world.

The game world itself is one of the good points. Slightly surreal and often quirky, and accompanied by an almost hypnotic musical loop, you can explore by clicking and dragging, giving you 360 degree panning and also some up and down viewing. Cursors will indicate that you can move forward, and will indicate hotspots which can be examined and interacted with.

Be warned, some hotspots are minuscule. Even knowing where one was (I had to replay after a crash) it was still hard to find. However an in-game help feature can assist you. Simply hold down the space bar and click, and the next hotspot will automatically be acted upon. You might move forward, or you might gather an item. A useful little feature.

All the more useful because if you fail to find certain items before moving on, there is seemingly no way to go back and get them. Plus some items can be used incorrectly and exhausted, with no apparent way to get them back. Dead ends appear distinctly possible.

Select and it shall be done
Using items is simply a matter of highlighting the correct item in your interface (inventory?), and then clicking the hotspot. If the item can be used, it will be, accompanied by a little animation. And perhaps an annoying almost slapstick sound effect.

Apart from finding and using the correct item to move on, there are some straight puzzles, not too hard and not too bad. The lift lock and the bouncing ball puzzle were particularly good, and you got as many attempts as you needed. You didn't even have to complete all of them if you didn't want to. Some are essential, but at least one can just be avoided.

There is also a maze, but not a very big one, and it has a nice design aspect which adds to the challenge. You can find maps to help you.

As mentioned, there is one save slot. Simply hit the save button on the interface, and its done. You don't load the game; each time you start it will pick up at your save spot, so to re-load just re-start.

There weren't subtitles, which might make one puzzle tricky.

I suffered a game crash at one point, accompanied by an erasing of my save game, and it seems this is a recurring bug in Gord@k. It can be avoided, but adds yet another frustration to a flawed experience. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2003. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Windows 3.1, MS DOS 5.0, Pentium, 16 MB RAM, 640 x 480 256 colours, 2x CD ROM. 8-bit Sound Blaster compatible sound card, Mouse, speakers

Macintosh System 7.5
Quadra CPU (Power Mac preferred), 16 MB RAM, 640 x 480 256 colours (thousands preferred). 2x CD ROM.