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Escape to New York Reviews
Author: Richard Otter
Date: 2005

Reviewed by Dan Shiovitz

Hmm, this isn't bad. The premise is you're on some boat trying to get a package while wandering around stealing everything you can get your hands on (but you're a thief, so it's ok). It's a historical piece — from the author's notes, I assume this is a real ship — and it's kind of heavy on the details included purely to show the author has done his research:

This room is decorated in some sort of flash style (you have no idea what) and has fancy carved oak panelling with daido rails. Linoleum tiles have been specially designed for the room and are unique to the ship (you read that somewhere).

The author clearly realizes he's going a bit overboard, but really should have restrained himself further. The trick with these kinds of things is for the author to know a lot about what they're writing, but only to put a small fraction of what they know into the game, and let the rest just be suggested.

The same issue comes up with the continuous reminders that the PC is a thief and is appraising everything all the time. I mean, yeah, they are, but most of the time it's subliminal and not explicit, and the writing sort of overdoes it. This is especially weird since the idea of the game is that just getting out with the package is enough to set you up for life — if that's the big score, why spend time worrying about the penny-ante stuff? But I guess you can't have too much stuff, which is why a big part of the gameplay is looking under and behind everything in sight to pocket as many valuable items as possible. That was a fun minigame, but I wish the loot had been more cleverly hidden or harder to get to than just repeated use of >LOOK UNDER.

Since this is an ADRIFT game, I feel obliged to give a mention to how this affects gameplay. Luckily, not too much. There are a few cases where the game is set up with non-standard verbs (in particular, >HIT gives a confusing error message in a situation when >SMASH works fine), and the stuff with door and container manipulation tends to be more fiddly than you'd see in TADS or Inform, but it's not bad.

Anyway, overall not bad. Nothing special in terms of writing, but a reasonably diverting treasure hunt.

Reviewed by Lucian Smith 

OK, I'm finally back to a reasonable game. A fun premise, with a revelation partway through that really made the game, for me. Interestingly, if the revelation had been part of the premise, I might have disliked the game, since it's been done as a premise a lot in IF. But I don't recall it being used as a revelation before, and it worked well. I had one major, major problem with the game, and it was ADRIFT's fault: if you try to go a direction and there's a door in the way, it doesn't tell you 'the door is closed', it tells you 'you can't go that way'. Likewise, if you try to unlock a door that's not locked, it tells you something like, 'that doesn't work' instead of 'that door isn't locked'. Likewise, the maps (while nice) do not show passageways with closed doors at all, which is very annoying. I missed several areas because of closed and (presumably) locked doors that turned out to be simply openable.

Rating: 7

Reviewed by Mike Russo 

Reading the title, I was expecting a John Carpenter homage, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the game's setup is significantly more original than murky post-apocalyptica - you don't see many non-genre historical games, and the idea of playing a thief attempting to gain access to his ill-gotten goods while on a cruise ship sounded like a lot of fun. Escape to New York mostly lives up to its premise; the puzzles are tough but fair, the environment is evocatively drawn, and there are some nice mechanical touches which reinforce the player's role as a thief. 

The ABOUT text indicates that the ship on which the action unfolds was a real vessel, and given the author's attention to detail, it isn't hard to believe. Descriptions note the texture of surfaces and the richness of furnishings; leaving a porthole open will realistically chill a room. I've probably played dozens of games set on board spaceships, and am sick to death of running through their corridors and cabins and galleys and decks, but the similar environments in Escape to New York feel fresh. Focusing on details makes the ship seem like a real environment, rather than a schematic backdrop for the action. 

The dynamics of that action are fairly straightforward - the story proceeds in chapters, each of which has a clear objective - but there are enough twists to keep things interesting. The player is from the first locked in a game of cat and mouse with one, then two, representatives of the law, and while it's not terribly hard to avoid them, it does make moving from one end of the ship to the other more involving that it might otherwise be. There's also a sort of pickpocketing side-game - the player can solve a number of small puzzles to lift quite a lot of valuable merchandise, and while this doesn't seem to affect the progression of the plot and only adds to the player's score, it also nicely deepens the experience. 

I found the main puzzles to be more of a mixed bag - I spent quite a lot of time floundering, trying to get my package from the mail-room, since dialogue seemed to indicate that the clerk wanted me to get it myself, and the logic of locking the parcel in the cupboard somewhat escaped me. Still, there are hints to nudge the player on track, and a full walkthrough for when that fails. Also, the later puzzles seemed to flow much more naturally. 

There were only two writing errors which I noticed - well, one error and an oversight. The word "complextion" is used, which is just a typo, and trying to hit people or objects causes the game to ask "Who do you think you are, Mike Tyson?", which I presume is an unchanged default response, but is singularly and anachronistically mimesis-breaking nonetheless. Still, these are niggles. 

I enjoyed Escape to New York mostly on the basis of its setting - the puzzles and the plot are solid, albeit not particularly engaging of themselves. But choosing to place the game in a real, historical place, and play straight without any genre improvisations, makes it a real breath of fresh air in a field which is often choked with vanilla fantasy and science-fiction scenarios. 

Reviewed by Sam Kabo Ashwell

So I'm on the Titanic. The game seems to be decently researched, although the author's need to demonstrate this gets in the way a bit, and the prose is lifeless enough to render accuracy irrelevant. I do get to rob Kate Winslet, though.

After the first half of the game I started to feel a bit directionless; having got my hands on the painting and necklace, it wasn't really clear what I should be doing next. Since I was being chased by policemen and, y'know, on board the sodding Titanic, I judged that getting off the ship would be the ideal course of action, but things were sort of clunky here; there didn't appear to be any way to actually get into a lifeboat. 

Rating: 3

Reviewed by N. B. Horvath 

Score 5.
Over-the-top: No.
Pros: Lots of detail. I like the discomfort caused by making the PC into a villain.
Cons: Lots of detail. Map is too big for a Comp game. I relied heavily on walkthrough - I didn't find the puzzles interesting.

Reviewed by Timofei Shatrov

This game started off quite good: I walked around, got some items, found the mail room (the objective of the first part) and... nothing
happened (of course at the time I didn't know anything should've happened - It's just that I simply got stuck). I looked at the walkthrough and found out that I had to wear uniform so the Part II starts. That was really stupid and it put the game down in my eyes. I continued playing looking in walkthrough for what I should do next. Unfortunately the walkthrough focused too much on getting loot and I was only interested in finishing the game ASAP. Did I mention the game is huge? There are zillions of different locations and most serve no purpose. It is very easy to get los without walkthrough. There are some notable bugs, such as "take thing" not working while "get thing" works. And yes, I'm used to "take" even if it's 4 letters instead of 3. In the end I don't think playing this game was worth my time, but I can't ignore the amount of work that the author has put in the game,
so the result is 5 points.

Reviewed by Jake Wildstrom 

The grasp of English is a bit weak; the language isn't in itself bad, but the punctuation's a bit fast and loose. Dialogue's in an awkwardly stilted form of English which seems to be a fairly prevalent sign of mediocrity: it's as if mediocre authors thought nobody ever used contractions or had any personality. A similar new-author error is telling me so very often what I'm thinking. The map seems to be simultaneously too wide and too confined; I'm hunting a huge ship for a single room, without a map, and I get a feeling for the ship's size, and yet I am inexorably drawn towards the place I'm supposed to be. I'm bugged that trying to pass through locked doors indicates possible directions of travel rather than pointing out the locked door, but perhaps that's an ADRIFT limitation. I'm also bugged that ADRIFT doesn't support VERBOSE, but, again parser limitation rather than game.

On technical issues the game was not terrible, although at one point I was able to produce this response, so egregious that it has to be mentioned here:

The postal clerk stops you "I'm terribly sorry sir but passengers are not allowed in the Mail Room. You shouldn't really be in the Post Office." Without taking that much notice of you he returns to his work.

Thinking to yourself, you ponder, "If I had some sort of disguise, like one of these uniforms I could get below." The postal clerk stops you "I'm terribly sorry sir but passengers are not allowed in the Mail Room. You shouldn't really be in the Post Office." Without taking any notice of you he returns to his work. The postal clerk stops you, "I'm terribly sorry sir but passengers are not allowed in the Mail Room. You shouldn't really be in the Post Office." The postal clerk stops you, "I'm terribly sorry sir but passengers are not allowed in the Mail Room. You shouldn't really be in the Post Office." The postal clerk stops you, "I'm terribly sorry sir but passengers are not allowed in the Mail Room. You shouldn't really be in the Post Office."

All in all, kind of eh. The setting and plot are promising, but the execution needs work.

Rating: 6

Reviewed by Rob Menke 

Technical: 6 
Puzzles: 8 
Story: 6 

A map! Somebody actually included a map! *swoons*

According to the readme.txt file, I’m a thief who has booked passage on a ship out of Queenstown on 11th April, 1912. Gee, I wonder what ship that could be?

Silliness aside, the readme.txt file should be used to provide meta-information about the game: new commands, unusual system requirements, and the like. Background should be discovered as part of the gameplay. On the other hand the game puts my objectives up front, so I really shouldn’t complain.

I dislike opening menus; except in the very rare case where they can be used to skip an annoying prologue they disrupt game flow.

You can't go that way (at present) is a horrid way of responding to a closed door.

Hm. I was able to get into the mail room without any hassle, but nothing happened. Turns out I needed a disguise first. The mail clerk should’ve blocked my passage beforehand.

The clerk makes no issue about a crew member asking about a passenger’s package.

You open the mahogany furniture. Ouch.

I forgot how unsophisticated the Adrift parser is…

OK, didn’t get the full score; didn’t feel I needed to. There were a couple of places on the ship where I could have explored after the collision, but I was close to running out of time and wanted to see the end game. The room descriptions and the map were well-designed, but the background story was weak; not to mention that the whole “Titanic” theme was covered in Jigsaw.

Reviewed by Sidney Merk 

When I first looked at the list of competition game titles this year, certain visuals came to mind. In the case of Escape to New York, I imagined a rough-talking, scruffy Snake Plisskin returning to the island-turned-prison in John Carpenter’s cult classic. However, Richard Otter’s game has nothing at all in common with the Kurt Russell flick Escape from New York. The game is set entirely aboard a large luxury passenger ship.

Have I begun every Adrift game review with commentary on the Adrift runner? Well, here goes again. It would be nice if “script” or “script on” worked, without the need to turn on logging from the top menu. I had the bright idea to play Escape to New York in the Gargoyle implementation of SCARE, hoping to avoid the inline parsing oddity I’ve noticed when trying to make comments, but I couldn’t find a way to turn on a transcript. I also don’t like that Adrift doesn’t provide an “undo” option upon losing the game. In some ways, that might make things too easy, but it was sorely missed when I had to replay a part when I hadn’t recently saved, where a single “undo” would have helped.

However, I should also say that I’m liking Adrift’s special features more and more. The mapping window is great, and I noticed today that I could email the author just by clicking on his email address when it appears on the title screen.

The game isn’t too difficult, but one particularly confusing quirk had me checking the walkthrough in Part 3. You’re supposed to hide something in Part 2, and then find a way to retrieve it in the following part. I found a way, and it avoided triggering an event that was supposed to move the story forward to Part 4. So, I stumbled around trying to make things happen, exploring the upper decks, putting the PC’s thieving skills to good use. When I finally felt that I had done as much as possible, I checked the walkthrough. Fortunately, the game wasn’t unwinnable, and I didn’t have to start over. I just had to return to the lower deck with all the appropriate stuff, and then leave again.

The puzzles make sense and are pretty well clued. Most of hidden items are extras – loot that will ultimately contribute to a higher score. I found one important item very early (this was something different), and was pleased to see it clued later in the game at a time when it’s actually needed. I missed the cap, which isn’t trivial, but I did pretty well solving everything but some of the bonus puzzles. I didn’t try a play-through based strictly on the walkthrough, but as far as I can tell, it leaves a few points unearned. I can tell that Richard intended this to be a game with some replay value. Now isn’t the time to strive for a higher score – I still have more competition games to finish – but I think this would probably work outside the competition.

The writing is more matter-of-fact than colorful. A few problems with the grammar were never quite distracting enough to merit much notice. At times the PC interjects with helpful thoughts, but nothing ever seems too urgent. Even at a turning point, when my suspicions about the game’s setting were confirmed (little clues come here and there, but I don’t think the game ever puts a name to it), it didn’t seem… well… urgent. The PC still had plenty of valuables left to loot, and there was time enough for that.

This one was tough to rank for some reason. I generally don’t, but this time I went back to review some of the scores for prior games, trying to figure out where it fits. I think my scoring criteria may be too focused on the technical aspects of each game (the writing, the story, the implementation), and not nearly enough on just… “how much did I enjoy it?” Looking back, it seems like I may be scoring some games higher than other games I may have liked better. I might change how I rate the games next year, but for now, I’m pretty confident in giving Escape to New York a 7.0 base with +0.5 for being a pretty well-clued puzzle game.

Reviewed by David Whyld

You play the part of a thief who has stolen a priceless painting and has decided to ‘escape to New York’ with it. Only you’ve had the slight misfortune to book yourself passage on a ship that’s soon due to have a rather serious encounter with an iceberg… yep, you're on the Titanic.

By far the most annoying aspect of the game for me was the way the player will often talk out loud to himself, like:

"Three days lost!" you mutter to yourself. "I could have been having a look at all those first class cabins, with all that loot waiting to be liberated!" Aside from making him come across as some overly dramatic loony, it’s also kind of strange that the player is even concerned over the loot he could be ‘liberating’. After all, he’s just stolen a priceless painting. Why risk getting arrested when he already has all the money he’ll ever need?

Although that sort of thing tends to be present throughout the rest of the game as well. Despite having a priceless painting in his possession, the player makes a point of stealing everything he can get his hands on, even though there's a cop on board the ship who’s already suspicious of him. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to just lie low?

The game ended suddenly for me quite a few times, and often just as I was thinking it might have been a good idea to save my position. As the default ADRIFT end game system is used, that means no quick bashing of the UNDO command to return you to the action. Annoying.

Characterisation is generally pretty poor. The NPCs never really seem believable, although it isn't helped that several of them are just referred to as ‘bursar’ and ‘barber’. Others tend to move around the ship in a very set fashion and will often wander away partway through a conversation with you. Dialogue with them is stunted and they tend to display all the warmth of cardboard cut outs.

Escape From New York wasn’t a terrible game by any means but it wasn’t one I particularly warmed to, either. The woodenness of the NPCs, the frequent death of the player and similar problems prevented me enjoying it any more.

4 out of 10 

Reviewed by Michael Martin 

This is an extensive, and pretty well done, caper in which  one is attempting to get stolen goods to America on board a fairly ill-fated passenger liner. Most of the fun in the game involves committing additional theft along the way, although I note that this seems kind of silly when succeeding at the primary goal would have me set for life.

The writing is mostly good; grammar errors are restricted to run-on sentences and the odd comma splice. It also surrounds words with single quotes to emphasize them, which is really what italics are for.

ADRIFT's non-parser gets in the way a lot more in this game than it did in the other entries; it mistook "cigar case" for "cigar", and some sentence-structure issues showed up with a vengeance:

Donald Goodson doesn't seem interested in the letter.
Donald grabs the letter and says "Thanks." He hands you a ruby and then goes out onto the Boat Deck.

If a system is supposed to be easy for novice programmers to use, this kind of thing shouldn't even be possible.

The setting is very large, but the map that came with the  game helped a lot. This was a nicely staged adventure.

Score: 7

Reviewed by The Dominant Species TDS (Review Exchange 7)

Your name is Jack Thompson and you are, for want of a better word, a thief. On your latest adventure you have managed to acquire Johnson's 'The Willow Tree', which is worth more than you will be able to spend in a lifetime. With a buyer in New York you need to get there by Thursday 18th April, and as this is 1912 you have booked passage on a ship due to sail on Wednesday 10th April. All being well you should get to New York in plenty of time.

Objectives? Get 'your' painting out of the mail room, avoid capture and leave the ship as soon as possible.

As you may tell from the snippets of the game's intro, Escape to New York really isn't a complex game. It's more tradition IF. One that has four parts marked with four clear goals.

Part 1 - Find the Mailroom

Part 2 - Find Your Package

Part 3 - Avoid Capture

Part 4 - Get Off the Ship

Each part not quite as simple as you may think, but free from any gut-wrenching story twists. In fact, this game relies on the puzzle aspect more so than the story, which I expected after reading the simple storyline. It's a classic IF situation.

Unfortunately this is both a gift and curse to the game. Your character is pretty faceless aside from a name and "job preference", allowing you to do away with the nonsense of backstory and all that gibberish. Along with that, the room descriptions are written in a mechanical prose.

Corridor, F Deck

You are in a bright white panelled corridor which heads east and west as far as you can see. The forward staircase is to the north and a cabin door is just to the south. 

This is too lifeless.

The characters are (you guessed it) bland and elementary. This fits in well with the game as I wouldn't expect a fully interactive NPC in a game like this but one that denies to respond to anything I say until I give it what he or she wants.

Overall, not too bad if you like this type of game. Simple story, decent puzzles.


Reviewed by James Mitchelhi for IFReviews.org

Let's start with what I liked: The well researched setting.

Well that was fast. Now, what I didn't like.

There appears to have been a lack of proofreading. I can accept the odd spelling mistake. I can accept the odd missing comma. I can even accept, though not easily, a misplaced apostrophe. But to spell the same word in two different ways in a single paragraph—and not only a single paragraph, but the paragraph that's revealed in response to "examine me", the first command most players will type—this I cannot accept. I will note things like this and highlight them in reviews, pausing only to mock you.

Richard Otter, consider yourself duly mocked.

But my annoyance didn't start here. Could someone perhaps explain to me this obsession authors seem to have with putting backstory and characterisation outside the game itself? Surely this is sheer laziness. I don't want to read backstory, I want to discover it through the game.

This is what short opening sequences are for. This is what introductions are for.

The game takes an interesting setting, applies the obvious results of research and turns it into a treasure hunt. I don't like treasure hunts. I don't care about the loot the PC picks up. I most especially don't want to do this in a game that doesn't treat "look in" and "look under" as proper verbs, leading to the response "you see no such thing" when such a thing does, indeed, exist. It may be a limitation of the system, but that doesn't matter to me as a player.

If you're implementing a treasure hunt in which the PC puts things in some kind of sack-like object, please don't make me type "open suitcase. put object in suitcase. close suitcase." repeatedly. While your at it, auto-opening doors may be a good idea. And speaking of doors, the response "You can't go that way (at present)." is deeply annoying. If you disallow something have a good reason and tell the player why.

The characters are generally as life-like as the suitcase.

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