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Can It All Be So Simple? Reviews
Author: The Dominant Species (TDS)
Date: 2005
ADRIFT 4.0


Reviewed by Robert Street

"Can It Be All So Simple?" is the first game by TDS (The Dominant Species). It is a horror game, with the main character being a son from a family who have fallen upon hard times, and it is not getting better. I will note for this review that I helped to beta test the game. "Can It Be All So Simple?" is a small game, but it is as large as most of the games in this competition. This game is mainly story-based with only a few simple puzzles that really just require you to search around the house for items. Some of these puzzles have multiple solutions, but all the solutions are fairly similar. I would have preferred slightly more difficult puzzles, but it probably would have broken up the story more. The setting for the game is the main character's house, with the locations that you wander through being sparse, but this fits the game's story. The writing evokes the depression surrounding the main character, and what has occurred to him and his family recently. 

The story of the game is interesting. However, the twist at the end was fairly predictable, at least to me, but it was still well done. Of course, that is, if I got the twist right. This game never fully explains anything, so you can only guess that your interpretations of the events are right. The vagueness gives a mysterious feeling to the game, which works with the horror atmosphere. You are never really sure of anything. 

Overall, this is a good first effort by TDS, which I voted as my favourite game of the Summer Competition. 

SCORE - 7/10
 



Reviewed by David Whyld

This was my personal fave of all the games in the recent ADRIFT Summer Comp 2005, a decidedly dark horror where very little is as it seems. While not a perfect game by any means, it was an impressive debut. Of the five games entered in the Comp, it came a respectable third but I felt it should have done better. 

“Can It Be All So Simple?” is a strange game. At times, it's hard to understand just what's going on, and even after finishing it, I'm still a little unsure about some aspects of it. It's a very linear game with minimal replay value, although to understand it all you'll probably need to replay it at least once. At times, the game seems to almost force the player along a set path, with the interactive side of things pushed to one side; this is used to make the storyline tighter and works to a degree, but at the same time the freedom to explore is what generally attracts people to interactive fiction. An example of this is used at the beginning when the player awakens in a dark room. The first four or five commands yield no proper responses; indeed, until the player is told he can see the bedroom, little can be achieved at all. This isn't a terrible thing in itself but it's annoying when you've tried certain commands and gotten nowhere with them, only to try them again a few moves later and achieve something. 

Good points: well written. There's a nice little horror game here, complete with creepy monsters, things going bump in the middle of the night and weird goings on. It's also refreshing in a game by a newbie to find that items listed in the room description can be examined and interacted with just the way they should be. You need to really try to find the dreaded YOU SEE NO SUCH THING response displayed. 

Bad points: it's… strange. Too strange in parts. The intro is notable more for its ever-changing colour scheme than for what it's saying. Unfortunately the colour scheme makes the text somewhat difficult to read – small red text on a dark background? Hmmm… The intro's also a little pretentious. It contains such lines as: 

"How did the earth come to be?
Did an invisible hand in the sky form us in seven days?
Did we slowly evolve as a species through millions of years?
Or were we all a product of a cosmic explosion in space?"

And: 

"I wonder in the end will it all make sense. I wonder does killing another person matter when it comes to looking at the big picture. I wonder is having prisons really such a good idea." 

After that intro, I was expecting a different game than what followed. Or, at least, a game which bore some kind of semblance to the introduction. But I didn't see any such thing. If anything, the introduction seemed to be tacked on for no real reason and had little to do with the game itself. 

There are a few flaws in the game but nothing that really ruins it for the player. I had problems in getting my neighbour, Debbie, to follow me at one point, until realising that she was following me but just wasn't included in the room description. There were a few lapses in logic as well: the player encounters monsters in his parents' bedroom yet his first reaction is to run and tell the next door neighbour instead of going for the police? 

One point definitely in the game's favour is that it dispenses with the built in ADRIFT end game sequence and includes a custom one instead. Why is this a good idea? Simply: it gives the player the option of undoing his last command, or restarting the game or loading from a previous save, without the necessity of going through the tedious end game sequence that populates almost every other ADRIFT game. With a simple command, you're back playing the game. Why more people don't do this sort of thing I'll never know. 

“Can It Be All So Simple?” is a very short game. Even taking the time to wander around every location in the game, pick up items, examine things, etc, you'll probably be through the entire thing in half an hour. But it's well worth playing all the same, even if the ending is a bit predictable. 

6 out of 10 


Reviewed by chillindawg 

Once I got to the ending of this game I just had to stop, do nothing, and think. I had a feeling about what was going to happen in the end but once it hit me, it hit hard. This game fills you with the strangest feelings you’ll ever feel. You definitely feel crazy playing this game. I have to take my hat off to the author. Although, the only thing that keeps me from giving an excellent, is the fact that I wanted more. I wanted to be able to go into Tony’s room, I wanted to interact with characters more. I wanted the ending to be clearer, because there are many people who will not understand. 

I recommend this game, and hopefully it will be updated soon, but if not I can live with it.


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