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Entry updated 25 February 2012. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1984). Synapse Software. Designed by Robert Pinsky. Platforms: Atari8, C64, DOS (1984); AtariST (1985).

Written by the noted American poet Robert Pinsky, Mindwheel was originally marketed as an "Electronic Novel". In design terms, however, it is a text-based Adventure game, in which the player takes the role of a "Mind Adventurer". The premise is that the Adventurer's future society is on the verge of destroying itself through internal conflict, and in order to prevent anarchy the player must obtain the Wheel of Wisdom (an object containing "the secret of [their] planet's best values") from the mind of the first truly creative human being. The Wheel can be retrieved by projecting the Adventurer's mind into the "neuro-electronic matrix", in which the dreaming minds of the dead are preserved for eternity. While Mindwheel is not especially convincing as a work of science fiction, it is a powerful piece of metaphysical prose, dense, allusive and often light heartedly playful, full of striking images. The idea of travelling through the minds of the dead (represented as a labyrinthine building in which subconscious desires and images roam through interconnected rooms) is a powerful one, similar to the telepathic therapy described in Roger Zelazny's The Dream Master (January-February 1965 Amazing as "He Who Shapes"; exp 1966). As in The Dream Master, not all of the minds entered are benign. In Mindwheel, the Dream Hacking concept also allows complex characters to be presented to the player as landscapes to be observed rather than as simulated humans whose conversations might have proved unconvincing. Considered as a game, however, Mindwheel is less effective. The puzzles presented to the player consist largely of riddles and poems for which the player must supply any missing words. While the riddles generally work well, the missing word puzzles often seem arbitrary, and their solutions can require the player to perform actions for which there is no clear rationale. While Mindwheel is impressive as a metaphysical fable, it is perhaps less successful as a work of Interactive Fiction. [NT]

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