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Video Game / The Prisoner (1980)
aka: The Prisoner

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1980 text-based adventure game initially written for the Apple ][ by David Wallich and Edu-Ware. It's a Spiritual Adaptation of the television series of the same name, although it never held any official license. The 1982 release Prisoner 2, advertised as a sequel, was actually a Video Game Remake that added better graphics and ported the game to other platforms, as well as making a few minor gameplay changes.

The No Name Given hero is issued with a three-character "resignation code", and then allowed to pick a destination to travel to. Wherever they pick, though, they end up on "The Island", where repeated surrealistic scenarios are played out in an attempt to have them reveal the resignation code. The player must avoid these traps while working out how to escape from the island.

Contains examples of:

  • Arc Words: "No Man Is An Island".
  • Book Burning: Appears in the Library in both games. In the text-based game, books are burned as penalties for giving incorrect answers to questions. In the graphical version, the player must directly prevent them being burned.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The game never does this, but your character gets the option to. It's the only real way to escape.
  • Crossover: Of the unlicensed variety. The game is filled with references to Nineteen Eighty-Four, including the Arc Words from the Ministry Of Truth, and the rebellious "Brotherhood" who assist the player.
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  • Interface Screw: So frequent that it could almost be the theme of the game. Your control keys are repeatedly switched around, abstract graphics are used to deliberately confuse you, and (in Prisoner 2) the game fake-crashes at one point, all in attempts to have you accidentally type your resignation code.
  • Kaizo Trap: Of a sort. After you finally "unplug" the simulation and apparently win the game, you're told that you need to enter your resignation code in order to compute your final score. It's just one last trap.
  • Knockout Gas: The most common result of messing up any of the internal scenarios, without revealing your resignation code. Fortunately, no matter how many times you are gassed, you never die.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In the text-based game, if you accidentally enter your resignation code, the screen shows a large group of "#"'s (which represent the player) turning into X's, making it unclear what has happened to them. In the remake, they instead turn into sheep.
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  • Playing the Player: Another potential theme of the game. Some of the ways to mess with the player target the player, not the player character.
  • Red Herring: Quite a few of the ways to escape turn out to be fake.
  • Schmuck Bait: The game's first attempt to have you select your resignation code from the menu will be about 30 seconds after the game starts.
  • Spoiler Cover: The original text game shows a man trapped inside an Apple logo; the remake's cover shows a computer screen being broken from the inside. Both of these act as spoilers for the correct way to escape.
  • Switching P.O.V.: In the Hospital sequence, you temporarily play as the Caretaker, interrogating the prisoner. Or do you?
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: The ending implies that the game represents the player escaping from having their thoughts dominated by the imaginary worlds of video games. Quite a thing to make a video game about.
  • Visual Pun: In the original text-based version the player character is represented by a "#", which can represent the number sign.

Alternative Title(s): The Prisoner


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