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Gene Machine, The

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1996). Divide By Zero. Designed by Andy Blazdell. Platforms: DOS.

The Gene Machine is a Steampunk comedy, presented as a graphical Adventure with a strongly linear plot (see Interactive Narrative). The game begins when the player character, the pompous upper class adventurer Piers Featherstonehaugh, is approached by a talking cat in the foyer of his London house. This exotic intruder turns out to be a product of the nefarious schemes of one Dr Dinsey, who plans to conquer the world with an army of human-animal hybrids; the player soon finds themselves dedicated to the defeat of the evil doctor. This setup leads into a farcical series of incidents as Featherstonehaugh tours the most exotic spots on the Victorian globe and its nearest neighbour, constantly accompanied by his indispensable but frequently abused manservant, Mossop.

References are made to many well known works of Scientific Romance, including Jules Verne's De la terre à la lune ["From the Earth to the Moon"] (1865) and Vingt mille lieues sous les mers ["Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea"] (1870) as well as H G Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau (1896). These sources undergo a variety of strange mutations in the game, as Featherstonehaugh joins an expedition to the Moon mounted in the erroneous belief that it is made of cheese and is imprisoned on board the mechanical fish of Captain Nematode, before finally reaching the dread Island of Dr Dinsey. Created in the UK and (as in the title) often gleefully anachronistic, The Gene Machine serves as a joyfully silly parody of the sort of Steampunk sf in which stern Victorians master the terrors of the unknown to build a greater Empire. Puzzles are frequent, generally logical, and often hilarious, as when Featherstonehaugh must steal back the engagement ring he has proudly presented to his appalling fiancée so that he can use it to pay a low-life forger. From beginning to end, The Gene Machine is a delight. [NT]

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