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Infocom Borderzone

by Marc Blank

Border Zone Cover Plot

Mirroring the real-world tension of the Cold War in the 1980s, Border Zone is set in and around Ostnitz, located on the border between the Eastern Bloc nation of Frobnia and neutral Litzenburg. The celebration of "Constitution Day" in Ostnitz will include a speech by Litzenburg's American ambassador; there is a plot in motion, however, to assassinate the ambassador in an effort to provoke hostilities between the superpowers. Border Zone consists of three chapters, each of which places the player in the role of a different character. An American businessman, a KGB agent, and an American spy become entangled in the assassination plot and efforts to either stop it or ensure its success.

The tension is increased by the introduction of real-time events in the game. Unusually for a text adventure, game time continues to pass even as the computer waits for the player's next input. Certain actions, such as sneaking past a guard post, must be timed carefully to succeed.


Besides the high quality of their interactive fiction games, Infocom was also known for feelies: extra items included in each game package related to the story, and sometimes used as copy protection. The Border Zone feelies included:

Matchbook Business Card

Tourist Guide Front Cover>

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Where the Iron Curtain divides East and West, the frontier is a no man's land between freedom and captivity, a place where moments lost or precautions not taken exact a toll in men's lives. In Border Zone, you cross this barrier not once, but three times, as three different characters in a fast-paced story of international intrigue.

The pulse-pounding tension of espionage is heightened by the addition of real time, which ticks on regardless of your actions. As you race against the clock to complete your missions, you'll find yourself caught up in a spine-tingling adventure that's far more suspenseful than any spy thriller you've ever read.

The story begins on the train to Litzenburg, a peaceful country just outside the Iron Curtain. In the border town of Ostnitz, Constitution day festivities include a speech by the American ambassador. But plans are afoot to destabilize this key neutral territory by assassinating the diplomat. Speeding towards the border through the Eastern bloc country of Frobnia are an easy-going American businessman, an ambitious American spy and a ruthless KGB agent. All three are soon to become entangled in the assassination plot, their lives intertwining as each carries out his perilous assignment.

You'll see the story from three viewpoints, as you step into the shoes of a different major character in each of the three chapters of Border Zone. Set in separate locations on or near the border, the chapters are complete stories in themselves, each with its own riveting conclusion.

The on-line hints in Border Zone will help you out when you need it. But hints take you only so far. Even when you know exactly what to do, discretion and timing are crucial as you outwit the KGB, evade a snarling pack of search dogs, make a desperate assault on the border, and count down the moments to the assassination.

Border Zone was written by Marc Blank, a pioneer in interactive fiction and the author of such ground-breaking works as Zork and Deadline. In Border Zone, Marc takes the clever plotting and masterly prose of a top-notch thriller, brings it to life through interactive fiction, and intensifies the experience with the addition of real time.

So steel your nerves, and don't blow your cover, friend. You've a long way to go before you come in from the cold.