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Video Game / Trinity

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The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!
Hamlet, Act I, scene v, quoted on the box cover

Trinity is a work of Interactive Fiction by Brian Moriarty published by Infocom in 1986.

One of Infocom's more literary endeavors, Trinity is a meditation on the history of the atomic age and the then-still-very-present prospect of nuclear annihilation; the title refers to the code name of the first successful atomic bomb test. Plotwise, it opens Next Sunday A.D. in London, where the protagonist is on vacation, unaware at first that the Cold War is about to go hot. With a nuclear missile bearing down on the city, the protagonist encounters a mysterious door that leads into the past, initiating a journey containing many strange sights and — perhaps — a chance to avert catastrophe.

This work contains examples of:

  • Action Prologue: You start off the game in Kensington Gardens in London, which is about to be destroyed by an incoming missile. You have to spend a lot of time collecting certain items and doing certain stuff before you can escape through a secret passage, after which the title screen appears and the real game begins.
  • Agony of the Feet: In the assembly room of the Trinity site, you notice a workbench covered with loose sheets of brown paper on the wall. If you look under the paper, a screwdriver will fall and land on your toe before you get the tool.
  • Arc Words: "All prams lead to the Kensington Gardens" is a slogan that appears the first time you get the umbrella. The same words repeat at the very end of the game as Bookends.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Examining the symbols on any sundial can net you a reference to Matthew 16:3c (KJV), which is actually an excerpt from Jesus' explanation of the interpretation of the times (Matthew 16:2-3), also cited in Luke 12:54-56.note 
  • Bee Afraid: The honey you'll need for the cauldron recipe is guarded by a giant bee; if you try to put your hand on the hive to collect honey, the bee will sting you. And God help you if you put your hand on the hive a third time, because the bee WILL kill you (putting new meaning to "three strikes and you're out").
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • At the beginning, you come across some writing in the Kensington Gardens sundial that says, "TEMPUS EDAX RERUM", Latin for "Time, the devourer of all things."
    • In the Vertex, when you examine the sundial, you get a quote from French author Arthur Rimbaud, whose words mean "There is a clock that makes no sound."
    • When you visit the Libra site for a certain task, you hear a microphone speaking in a phonetic form of Russian. Anyone who's studied the Russian language will discover that the site is Siberia, and that the voice is counting down the time in minutes and seconds, which means you have a limited amount of time to perform a task before the RDS-1 explodes.
  • Bookends: Trinity starts and ends in Kensington Gardens in London, where you have to do certain stuff until you find an old woman about to lose her umbrella in the wind.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: At the beginning, there is a roadrunner who snatches the ruby from your hands, and you have to follow it through to another dimension. A little toward the end, when you cross the river Styx alive, you'll follow the same roadrunner through to the Trinity test site, where it remains with you through the rest of the game.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: You are required to capture a skink (a lizard), only to kill it later on because a spell requires as an ingredient "fresh whole lizard, killed in the light of a crescent moon".
    • You are also required to let a lemming go to its death to escape from a rattlesnake.
  • Eye of Newt: The witch's cottage has an unfinished potion brewing. You need to collect several ingredients to complete it.
  • Feelies: A cardboard sundial to punch out and assemble, an origami crane kit, and a tongue-in-cheek jingoistic comic book titled The Illustrated Story of the Atom Bomb.
  • The Ferryman: There is a ferryman, called Charon, guiding lost souls to the other side through the river Styx. You'll have to disguise yourself as a dead king and pay the toll of a silver coin if you want to get through to the final test site. The ferryman will also guide your soul to the other side as a Game Over if you screw up on many places and die.
  • Floating in a Bubble
  • Friendly, Playful Dolphin: In the Enewetak Atoll site, you'll have to wait for a friendly dolphin to appear. Once it does appear, you'll get the creature to follow you and to help you get the coconut you'll need for the cauldron recipe. And you'll have to do it in a limited amount of time, too.
  • Fungus Humongous: The land outside time features a forest of giant mushrooms, each of which represents a nuclear bomb detonation.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The bomb they’re testing at the Trinity site is a supernuke that will destroy the world. You have to sabotage the test so they think it’s a failure and a less-powerful version (in other words, the nukes we have in Real Life) is created instead.
  • Grandfather Paradox: At the game's climax, you may attempt to sabotage the Trinity bomb test, hoping to prevent the history leading up to World War III beginning on the day you visited Kensington Gardens. If you succeed, all you will achieve is the creation of that history. "If Harry [Truman] doesn't get his A-bomb, the future that created you cannot occur. And you can't sabotage the test if you're never born, can you?"
    • At the same time, you didn't achieve nothing; It's implied that the "explosions" of nuclear bombs are actually caused by the time paradoxes you've created - and actual nuclear explosions would have been much worse. So you've saved the world from bombs that could have taken out half a continent in one explosion. But that doesn't stop the war, because the war happened in the world where you'd already done that.
  • Here We Go Again!: The game ends back in Kensington Gardens, with the events of the prologue just beginning again.
  • Ontological Inertia: "Nature doesn't know the word 'paradox.'"
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: When you enter a cottage in the bend, you notice a magpie that talks like a parrot when it says the required ingredients in the cauldron. It can sometimes even mimic the command you entered in, like "Read book", or "Break coconut with axe".
  • Postmodernism: At one point, you discover a book that lists the last few commands you have typed in.
  • Reference Overdosed: Trinity has a load of references to such as Through the Looking Glass, Moby-Dick, Emily Dickinson, Alexander Pope, Walt Whitman, Peter Pan, Talking Heads, etc. And it's not just through the game, but it is also included in the back of the box art (Hamlet) and some of the feelies, too.
  • Running Gag: The various "Gnomon" puns.
  • Shown Their Work: Five of the seven sites in the game (1945's Nagasaki, 1949's Siberia, 1952's Enewetak Atoll, 1970's Operation Emery in Nevada, and 1945's Trinity test site in New Mexico) were carefully researched through months of history books, photos, and video tapes. Moriarty even visited the New Mexico test site for the 40th anniversary of the nuclear test, along with the Kensington Gardens in London, for the making of the game. Also, most of the radio and audio clips played throughout the Trinity site in the final part of the game are actual radio clips in real life.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: You come across a rattlesnake in the Assembly Room in the final part of the game, whose deadly bite will soon kill you (and not even the roadrunner can drive it away). How can you make the snake go away? Simple: you hide in the closet and close its door so that the snake can't strike against you, then you have to free the lemming from its cage and then let the closet door back open so that the snake can kill the lemming and slither away with its prize.
  • Stable Time Loop:
    • In Kensington Gardens, you witness an old woman losing her umbrella, which you retrieve. Later in the game, you visit Nagasaki in 1945 and give the umbrella to a girl you meet there. It's implied that the girl will grow up to be the old woman.
    • At the game's climax, you may attempt to sabotage the Trinity bomb test, hoping to prevent the history leading up to World War III beginning on the day you visited Kensington Garden. If you succeed, all you will achieve is the creation of that history.
  • Stealth Pun: At the New Mexico test site, you can observe a 'Thin Man'—heavily implied to be Oppenheimer, but also the code name for one of the bombs that, ultimately, was abandoned.
  • World War III: Breaks out at the beginning of the game. You don't get to see much of it, since you spend most of the game in the past trying to prevent it.