Yeah, I had the manual and map in front of me.
For the CLC, the parser is fine. You type “QUERY X” and it’ll tell you something about it, depending on which station Whiz is at. I was just kind of shocked that there weren’t any entries for, for example, “weather controls” (or a variety of similar terms I tried for one of the major systems) or for “FC”, which stands for Filtering Computer, which are the main computers that run everything. And querying one of the robot names gave a sentence on each that you would know from reading the manual. The impression I got (which was not how I remembered it) was that the CLC wasn’t really an open-ended tool that you could wade into and potentially find clues to solve the various problems facing you. I didn’t get far enough in to find something where the CLC had the critical piece of information, so I don’t know (and don’t remember from playing in the past) what kind of role it’s meant to play in the gameplay. I just know that 80% of the things I queried came back with nothing at all, and 10% with one unhelpful statement. I think if a game like this was made today, the CLC would be a veritable built-in encyclopedia, but this game ran on a 64k Apple II, so I’m sure it couldn’t hold THAT much text.
In fact, that might explain a lot of the other shortcomings I experienced. The robots’ descriptions of things were more often than not very generic, when I thought they could have added some useful context (that might need some interpretation) or at least some flavor. Room and object descriptions are also very terse. With four to six descriptions needed of everything (not every robot can go everywhere), that might have chewed up the space for more elaborate prose.
It’s not a typical Infocom game, because it’s not simply about exploring and solving puzzles. It’s meant to be played and replayed to not only find all the solutions, but then to find efficiencies in how to order your robots around to solve them all with minimal casualties. It’s almost a management game. And it deemphasizes the literary qualities of the genre. None of that is a criticism! It’s what makes the game unique.
Oh, I found a website that lists all the things you can ask the CLC about:
Objects you can ask the CLC Peripherals about
Advisory, Historical, and Technical: column, car, groove (the channels or tracks holding the cables in the Primary and Secondary Channels), first/second/third switches (the Transit Control switches), machine (the FC reset machine in Main Supply), Contra, FCs, cables, each robot by name
Advisory and Technical: panel (Iris’s repair panel), walkway (the moving belt in Alpha/Beta/Gamma repair), tool (the wire cutters), cage (the cabinet in Gamma Repair), first/second/third dials (the Weather Control dials), camera, button (the orange button on the reset machine), sign (the signs in the Primary or Secondary Channels)
Advisory only: Wedge/ramp, grasper
Historical only: beds (in the Sleep Chamber), complex, Franklin (or Gregory), clones
Technical only: blue/rough chip (CX1, Iris’s faulty chip), burned chip (CX3), fried chip (CX4), red/smooth IC (RX0), yellow/bumpy IC (RX2), green/wavy IC (RX3), plaid/pebbled IC (RX4), wheel (the wheel in Maintenance Access), first/second/third levers (in Hydroponics Control), levers (also collectively, for some reason), red/yellow sockets
Looks like I should have asked more often about specific items in the world than larger concepts or systems. (And I should have searched “FCs” instead of “FC”.)