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My Mind's Mishmash Reviews
Author: Robert Street
Date: 2007
ADRIFT 4.0


Reviewed by Jimmy Maher

This game takes place in an online multi-player VR game of the (I assume) near future. Within this VR takes place quite an intricate story, involving five preternaturally gifted teenagers who have been conscripted due to their native psychic abilities to fight an Alien
Menace. Think Endor's Game happening within a smaller and more tightly scripted World of Warcraft, in ten or twenty years time. Now, you are yourself a teenager in the real world with the rather annoying handle of Surviveor (don't ask), who is a player within this game. Initially you are playing the role of one of the five chosen teenagers, but soon other events -- or, more specifically, the nefarious actions of your arch-enemy Memoryblam -- leave you running about the simulation as a sort of ghost. You must find your way through five "episodes" of the game by locating an exit node in each that will allow access to the next level. And of course you must fend off the harrasments of Memoryblam, and eventually defeat him before making your final escape. Got all that? If not, don't worry about it. Suffice to say that if you fail, all will be lost. Or at least your homework will when your computer crashes.

In spite of having short tolerance for snotty teenage gamers, I have to recognize that it's a clever and intricate scenario, well thought through for the most part. There are problems here, though, that make it impossible for me to love or even like it too much.

First of all, it's written with ADRIFT, and the usual parser problems with that system crop up right from the first scene, in which you are fighting, still "in character" as this point, inside a sort of robotic combat suit. (Shades of Starship Troopers. Mr. Street has certainly covered all of the classic science fiction bases with this one.) This suit is equipped with a suitably cool variety of weaponry. It's not much fun to play with, however, when stuff like this starts happening: shoot traitor with psychic disruptor You activate the machine guns, aiming them towards the traitor's suit. You scatter your fire to try to catch the quickly dodging suit. Some bullets hit the mark, but the armour is too strong. You eventually stop to conserve bullets and consider your next tactic.

In case you were wondering: yes, the psychic disruptor and the machine guns are two completely different weapons. This sort of parser fun continues throughout the game, leaving you with that constant uncomfortable feeling of wondering whether you are truly on the wrong track or the game just doesn't understand what you are trying to do because you haven't hit on the One True Word Combination. Some very tricky puzzles, and ADRIFT's unfortunate tendency to lie to you about what it can really understand by giving innocuous responses to things that should result in "I don't understand you" error messages, really
excacberate the problem.

But this game has problems that go beyond ADRIFT. While the intricacy of the world it constructs is admirable, there are a few puzzles I found dodgy and underclued, bordering on unfair if not completely crossing the line. That's a shame, as there are plenty of others that are genuinely engaging and fun to solve. Another big problem is the writing. It's clear and grammatical and all that, but it reads like an adventure game filtered through the sensibility of Rain Man. Everything is described well enough, but it's just so dry that it quickly becomes a chore to get through this quite lengthy game. If the author can't get any more excited than this about his own game, why should I?

The logic of your ability to interact with the gameworld also seems to break down in a few places, unless I am misunderstanding something. You wear something called a ghost cap throughout most of the game, which makes you invisible to computer-controlled inhabitants of the world but also prevents you from directly interacting with your physical surroundings. Many of the puzzles thus involve taking off the ghost cap at just the right moment to accomplish what you need to while not being spotted and killed. For the most part, this works well enough, but in some places later in the game you can do some decidedly active things while wearing the cap. This leads to an even further level of confusion, as you are never quite sure what you really can and cannot do while wearing the cap.

Score: 5 out of 10.
 


Reviewed by Sam Kabo Ashwell

Title Suggests: Random scenes with little relevance to each other bolted together to produce a comp-size entry.

So, I'm a sixteen-year-old psychic controlling a giant robot. This is a) not my genre, and b) something difficult to make work in IF. It's no easy task to make a battle scene exciting and dangerous-feeling in an IF format, and this roundly fails.

Then it turns out that I'm someone playing a game about being a sixteen-year-old psychic controlling a giant robot, and now I have to sneak around the virtual-reality gameworld in order to escape from griefers. I am seized with ennui. I quit, telling myself I'll come back later if I'm possessed by an uncharacteristic attack of fairness. Right now I'm thinking that a 4 would be generous.

Rating: 3
 


Reviewed by J. D. Clemens

Needs synonyms for "rip node". Liked the opening, puzzles. Understand just enough to make progress. really liked the mine door puzzle. Great puzzles. enjoyed the symmetry between interaction with memoryblam and game story. Thought it a bit heavy-handed when he said so, though. Some of the default messages seem inappropriate after the game knows I'm there ("don't want to leave anything that may reveal your presence"). Some of the timing a bit too forced (things happen exactly when needed). Not quite done at 2 hours, so scoring before finishing. I really liked the story structure, sort of seeing things from behind the scenes, or from a new perspective. One of my favourites.


Reviewed by Andreas Davour

You're in some kind of futuristic setting and everything is written as if you already know everything, which you as the player don't. When it actually say "having seen this before you ..." I feel the author don't help me get into the setting and being locked in a room with no
obvious exits I quit. This game gets a 2.

 


Reviewed by Jason Dyer

First I give a general review, then after some spoiler space I go into specifics about a puzzle in Episode 3.

The valley has been turned into a war zone. There are cold suits everywhere attacking each other. The People’s Shareholdings had aimed to take this mine complex, using the majority of its troops in a surprise attack. However, it had not managed to break through quickly enough. The troops elsewhere for the United Institutions are converging on the area, leaving the suits of the People’s Shareholdings trapped between two forces. The battle is quickly becoming very ugly.

I like how the structural trick affects gameplay: the character is travelling the parts of a story he’s already gone through, so he knows automatically what places and objects are important enough to bother with. (It’s similar to A Matter of Importance, which sorts objects based on the main character’s intuition, and Ferrous Ring, which sorts “good” and “bad” by survival sense.)

The structure also leads to a strange disjoint in seriousness of plot: the virtual world characters are fighting for their lives, while the main character is fighting for his homework (which wasn’t backed up so will be erased if he dies). It’s both poignant and irritating, partly because even the serious characters aren’t drawn that thoroughly. I’ll still give it points for originality, and it left me thinking after I finished the game.

The puzzle implementation is fuzzy around the edges. I say puzzle implementation, and not puzzles: in concept there are some quite ingenious ones (the ghost cap is brilliant), but in implementation they’re marred by missing verbs, incomplete descriptions, and misleading messages. For example…

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(puzzle for episode 3 spoiled down below!)

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…in episode 3 next to the mine cart you have to get inside the cybersuit to move a piece of a broken barrier into a cart, after which sending the cart along its track will cause it to fall into a crack and form a makeshift bridge. However:

Trying to enter the cart gives the response: “You want to test how the cart moves before riding in it.” This implies the solution involves riding through somehow. However, as far as I can tell it is impossible to ride the cart, even though the message hints there is a way. (More helpful would be something about how a trip in the cart would send you flying down the crack.)

You can only refer to the barrier as a “barrier”, and not as “parts” or “wreckage” (the latter word being used in the room description while in the suit, and not “barrier”, so it’s nonobvious the barrier is even accessible from the suit).

Trying to “pull lever” in the suit gives the message “You do not want to use the controls unnecessarily and attract attention.” This misleadingly implies you don’t want to touch the controls at all. Giving a message explaining how to direct the controls specifically would have helped; I had to consult the walkthrough.

After solving the puzzle, going back to “examine crack” or “examine rail” gives no change in description, and the only way to tell what happened is to >LOOK and check the room description (which is itself one long word-jammed paragraph).

Other puzzles have similar issues. Nothing here is fatal, but the accumulation of difficulties make the puzzles much harder to solve than they ought to be.

 


Reviewed by Jacqueline A. Lott

Yep. Horrifying.

But first impressions aren't everything, so let's play this one a bit. We're a sixteen year old named Marcus. We're psychic, and we are in command of a futuristic army fighting the Buggers aliens. Except the aliens are better at everything and the only (not sufficient) edge that we have is that we can communicate with our troops psychically, and we have an allegedly-spiffy modified cold suit which we can also control psychically.

Hooray for being psychic!

But, see, the thing is, I'm not actually psychic in real life, nor are there special commands for controlling the suit (at least none that are indicated when I type >COMMANDS). This led to a really frustrating exchange with the parser:
A modified cold suit belonging to the enemy is also on the display, which must be the traitor's suit. All the old weapons such as the shoulder mounted machine guns, electrifying grappling hooks and the diamond edged pickaxe are in both of your suits. However, your suit boasts a new weapon, with a psychic disruptor. You can activate any of these weapons with just a thought.

>think
I don't understand what you mean!

>disrupt
I don't understand what you mean!

>activate
I don't understand what you mean!

>disrupt traitor
I don't understand what you want me to do with the traitor.

>kill traitor
Now that isn't very nice.
That's when I quit. I was too frustrated to care that I wasn't very far into the game. Knowing that my husband had somehow gotten past this awkwardness didn't help matters - especially since he can no longer remember how he did it and was consequently unable to help me.

Wait! I had a second thought, and restarted the game. Going to the hints, it turns out the verb I'm looking for is >use disruptor. Bah.

So I played a little bit more, and got a little bit more of a sense that this is sort of very Enderesque, but not nearly so good as Orson Scott Card. Who knows? Maybe this was Robert Street's original idea (Ender wasn't psychic, after all), and so if this was an original idea, my apologies... it's just that someone else did it before you and did it a whole lot better.

Man, I feel rather guilty writing such a harsh review. Sorry about that.

Rating: 4
 


Reviewed by Michael Martin

This one didn't work as well as I'd hoped. It also has a heavy meta element -- the entire game takes place in an extremely hostile cyberspace that's simulating an adventure game -- but that's less of an issue than one would expect.

I'm not sure what disengaged me. The managing of the ghost caps bothered me, though I greatly appreciated the command macros and it was really core to the setting. The basic conflict didn't convince me at all, though. The character of memoryblam and your casually lethal conflict with him had a life-is-cheap attitude that really didn't seem to fit in with the schoolkids-having-fun-and-scoring-points-off-each-other vibe that most of the rest of the game had. The map also felt sprawling and diffuse, though patrol puzzles do tend to require that kind of thing.

So yeah, I don't know. It's not bad, and I never caught it horribly failing, but I never really felt like it grabbed me.

Score: 5

 


Reviewed by Dan Shiovitz

I feel like I should have understood My Mind's Mishmash better than I did after playing through it all. Like, I think the deal is it's a VR game you're playing, but is it supposed to be based on actual historical events? Are you one of the characters depicted in the game? If so, isn't it kind of weird to do a VR game of a horrific massacre only a short time after the massacre? (Though I guess the 9/11 movies only took five years to show up.) But if it's not a real thing and you're not an involved character, why do you care? Is it basically just a competitive IF game?

Confusion over the storyline aside, this was pretty fun. The primary shtick is being able to switch between being immaterial and being material, and this turns out to be fun in a sneak-around kinda way. It also has a cute device of separate episodes that you jump between, although I wish more had been done with switching back and forth. The feud with the other guy provides a nice larger-scale plot and a good balance with the smaller-scale puzzles. The puzzles were overall fairly straightforward, nothing too exciting but usually not too obscure either. The setting felt kind of recycled and not entirely coherent — blah blah robots blah blah psychic powers — but this turned out not to matter so much, because sneaking around immaterially puts a new spin on everything anyway. So overall, pretty decent.

 


Reviewed by Benjamin Sokal

The premise is that you're stuck in a simulated game world and you've got to reach the end of the game to get out. Interestingly enough, this game world seems itself to be part of a network on which you have an avatar. Apparently in this world, people spend much or most of their time online (like the real world, I suppose). Your problem is that you haven't backed up all the work you've done the past few days and will lose your homework if you die in the game. The fellow who chased you into the game and forced you to shut the entry node, memoryblam, is after you - but traveling backwards from the end of the game (level 5, late in the war) to the beginning (level 1). You'll have to deal with him when you two cross paths.

The game itself is a simulation of the entire war between humans and aliens, where only one side can survive. Is this a reflection of your reality or just a game? I'm not sure. Although I tend to think it isn't your reality, I could be wrong.

So far, so good. The concept is very cool. How does the game play? Many of the puzzles involve dodging people in the game world with the help of a cap that makes you invisible but unable to interact with objects. You move around from room to room (and occasionally level to level) of quite a large map, stealing keycards, manipulating equipment, and otherwise being clever & stealthy. The action intensifies as the levels increase, and you'll have to deal with robots that the game has generated to root you out. The game is long, very long, with some really tricky but logical puzzles. It's definitely not beatable in 2 hours without a walkthrough. However I can see the appeal of a game like this if you're willing to invest enough energy into it.

Problems? Not too many to speak of. I think the descriptions could be worded clearer. A few times some vital information was hidden in the middle of a paragraph and I missed it. I had lots of trouble with the very beginning of the game because I didn't really understand what the cold suits were. I figured I was in one, but was confused by some descriptions of items in the cold suits and some cold suits behind me. Was I supposed to manipulate the other suits? Was I supposed to order the people in the other suits around? Was I supposed to get some items from the other suits? In the end the solution was logical and simple, but it could have been worded better.

Enough complaining. This is a good game.

Ben's rating: 3


 


Reviewed by Jake Wildstrom

Ah, ADRIFT. Wonky enough to throw me, and occasionally doing things which I find deeply offensive, such as:

> HIT PANEL WITH AXE
You hit, but nothing happens.
Looks like an effective response, but...
> HIT EFIPGEDRJOPER WITH AXE
You hit, but nothing happens.
Grr, thanks for nothing. Anyways, getting into the game proper I'm dropped into the deep end. My character is presumably motivated and knows what's going on, but I'm not and don't really care. Give me a reason to be invested in the story. What are nodes? Why do I want to rip them? Why am I hiding anyways? These aren't deep mysteries to the PC, and they shouldn't be to me either. I guess this wants to be Ender's Game meets Lawnmower Man or something, but it's going to have to clue me in a lot more to the worldmodel for that to work.

The narrative style is weird. Stilted, trying a bit too hard with descriptions and trying for a level of formality which is neither matched by the game's tone nor by the writer's prose skills. It's uncomfortable.

Anyways, I'm feeling curmudgeonly, so I'm calling this one a day because it is simply failing to draw me in, and ADRIFT keeps making my life miserable. (Oh, and, for the record, "COMBINE" isn't on the verb-list.)

Rating: 5

 


Reviewed by Mike Snyder

Merk’s Score: 8+
Game’s Blurb:
A mishmash of robots, psychic powers and "ghosts" in a game of action and survival.

Robert Street burst onto the IF scene in 2004 (as “Rafgon”) with a short Zcode game for Dave Bernazzani’s C32 Competition -- a game called Turning Point, which I had the pleasure of beta testing. Since then, Robert has switched to Adrift (his The Potter and the Mould took second place in the 2006 Spring Thing competition), except for one excellent Zcode game (The Colour Pink), which placed highly in the 2005 IFComp.

I’ve come to expect good things from Robert, and on most levels, My Mind’s Mishmash doesn’t disappoint. It begins in the last episode of a five-part story-within-a-story, before jumping back to the start after the episode concludes. This opener, however, is confusing and somewhat difficult to visualize. This might be intentional, and it’s at least solvable without a great understanding of what’s going on.

The story centers on “surviveor” (short for “survive or die”), whom the game describes as “a precocious schoolkid who plans to survive again today.” The PC’s story is layered over the larger backdrop of a corporate-run world, in which the workers of a mining operation find themselves in conflict with another global organization. As interlopers, “surviveor” and his nemesis “memoryblam” (lowercase on purpose) become mixed up in the conflict (and in a coming war against aliens invaders). With a ghost-like ability to become invisible (a clever construction of the world they inhabit), the two kids move about largely undetected.

This “ghost cap” plays a part in several of the game’s puzzles. When invisible, “surviveor” can’t interact with much of anything. When visible, however, he’s quickly caught (if anybody is nearby to notice). As he searches for an exit from the complex (hoping to avoid his arch enemy in the process), the backdrop story moves forward or backwards by way of a “node ripper” device. It’s a bit like time travel, but to say more would be to say too much.

The game’s puzzles fit well with the story. Most are logical, although I struggled with a few of them. I couldn’t figure out what to do with the explosives (I needed a hint), but it made perfect sense after I saw the answer. In another spot (while suspended on a grating above an invisible “memoryblam” and an alien), I had the right idea but just didn’t perform the proper action. Another spot, involving the use of a “cold suit,” was made difficult because I attempted to control the thing with buttons and levers instead of a more direct imperative (I suspect better cluing might have been the key there). Most notably (and disappointingly), the endgame requires visualizing the area on top of a hill in order to take an unclued and unprompted action. My mental image was evidently off, because I needed another of the built-in hints here as well.

The game has many puzzles, though, and most work pretty well. Even though the hints helped in those few instances, I never felt a reliance on them. Even after asking for help, I was able to progress quite a ways on my own until the next too-tough spot. What hurt most was just my inability to visualize several areas of the game. I don’t know if this was the writer’s fault or my own, but I haven’t had such difficulties in most of the other games this year.

Something about Robert’s writing has always struck me as a little off, but I never can pinpoint exactly what it is. In prior games, it seemed to be long or confusing sentences, or maybe problems with punctuation. In My Mind’s Mishmash, nothing stands out as wrong per se. It’s just... lacking in color? Dry? Matter-of-fact without any warmth or excitement? His stories aren’t dull. His games are fun. He has a way with world-building and puzzles. But... something about the writing just makes it all less effective than it should be. I never noticed much technically wrong with this one -- just a few minor mistakes here and there -- but something about it keeps it from evoking the intended excitement of thrilling chases, epic battles, and awe-inspiring scenery.

Although the game is well constructed in general (with a few bugs -- I’ll talk briefly about those coming up), two particular non-standard design decisions struck me as odd. First, rooms (or locations) aren’t given titles. Initially, this made map-keeping a little more difficult, but since room titles do appear on Adrift’s built-in auto-map, this might only be a problem for players with a non-standard Adrift runner. Also, the game never enters an “ending” state. This one could have something to do with the premise itself, but if so, I wasn’t quite convinced (and it seems to me that it would work just as well with a traditional ending routine). In essence, even when the game ends (or reaches an earlier losing ending), Adrift is still taking commands as if nothing happened. Granted, you can’t do much of anything (you’re given suggestions to reload, restart, or undo), but the traditional “game over” condition is oddly absent.

It certainly feels polished in most areas, but a few bugs (or areas for improvement) are present in the competition version. Disambiguation difficulties prevent referencing a “node” when carrying the node ripper. The two sections of the complex are termed “northwest” and “southeast” at one point, even though on the map they appear to be “northeast” and “southwest.” I’m told to test out a mine cart even after I already have. The laptop can’t be called “computer.” The ghost cap prevents me from talking to “memoryblam,” even though he can talk to me. A few other small quirks are noted in my transcripts, but this one stands out as a disappointing bit of irony:

memoryblam is blocking the northern exit and he raises his gun in your direction. Running away might be a good option now.

>run away
Why would you want to run?

memoryblam shoots you before you can do anything else. You have not survived...

None of these issues keep the game from being enjoyable and recommendable, although a post-competition update would be ideal.

By the end, most of the two blended stories make sense. There is, however, a bit of a mystery shrouding “surviveor’s” world. The answers may lie in subtle clues encountered along the way -- a bit about homework, a bit about the scarcity of books, a bit about privacy, and the nature of My Mind’s Mishmash in general -- but I never quite worked it all out. I get the gist of it, and the game makes it clear what’s going on. That’s enough to enjoy the story, but I still wondered a little about the world not seen.

I voted it a “9” at two hours, but a few more difficulties later in the game bring the “review” score down one point. A “plus” for some cool in-game gadgets, fun puzzles, and a really intriguing sci-fi premise make it an “8+” on my judging scale.

 


Reviewed by Emily Short

“My Mind’s Mishmash” has a truly unfortunate blurb on the competition website:

A mishmash of robots, psychic powers and “ghosts” in a game of action and survival.

This jacket-blurb suggests to me that the author has written some confused cliché-ridden pap, that he realizes this, and that he has nonetheless submitted it to the competition. He would not be the first to do so, either. Since this is not the case — “My Mind’s Mishmash” is not incoherent junk — I’m not sure why the author didn’t give it a better advertisement. I guess sometimes deliberately lowering the player’s expectations pays off, but it’s risky to make the game sound actively un-fun.

As it happens, the world-building is considerably more cohesive than this write-up suggests: there are some cliché ideas, but this is not an entirely generic world, and the various elements work together sensibly. I very much enjoyed the opening segment, which led off with a contained, accessible puzzle and seemed to be setting me up for a kind of Ender’s Game scenario.

For all that, “My Mind’s Mishmash” has a number of drawbacks, especially as a competition game. The one that I can mention without spoiling anything: it’s much too long, and the puzzles too hard. I’m not sure how anyone would get all the puzzles and get through in anything like two hours. I spent quite some time wandering around near the very beginning of the game, making almost no progress at all, then broke down and went to the walkthrough; and even with the walkthrough in hand, typing pretty much exactly those commands and doing little other exploring, I found that it took me another hour and some minutes to see the rest of the game.

More specific commentary on the game’s weaknesses and strengths after the spoiler cut.

This is a game most likely to be enjoyed over considerably more than two hours. Drawing a map is a good idea. Save: it is possible to be killed somewhat unexpectedly. (I did this the first time I was typing through the walkthrough, and had not saved, so had to type in almost the entire thing again.)

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So, drawbacks first.

First, I have a hard time being persuaded by the central premise that there is no way for the player to save his avatar’s information and leave the game without going back through the entire thing. Presumably he’s been saving periodically while playing anyway, right? Why wouldn’t there be some mechanism to save and leave from one of the earlier episodes?

Second, I have the sense that the revelation about memoryblam’s real-life identity is supposed to be a dramatic twist, but I was unmoved. Perhaps the betrayal of a real-life ally (your brother) is meant to parallel Lauren’s betrayal (in the game), but neither of these relationships was explored fully enough by the game for me to have strong feelings about them.

Third, why does the ghost cap prevent us opening doors but not allow us to walk through them? It seems like we should either be able to touch the doors or not, but the ghost cap seems to create a strange intermediate state of being where we interact physically with doors only if trying to pass through them. This is highly convenient to the game design, I grant, but I wondered throughout why it should be so.

Fourth, I found the text, qua text, hard to read. This may seem like a trivial complaint, but the fact that room descriptions and event descriptions were typically blocked into single monolithic paragraphs impeded my reading speed. The paragraphing also made it harder to pick out, visually, the distinguishing features of a room. And since many of the rooms had similar names and were generally alike (the hallway segments, especially), I found I had a harder-than-usual time telling places apart and remembering the layout of the base overall.

This all feels a bit lame to complain about, like saying that I’m too lazy to read what’s in front of me unless the author breaks it up into tiny bites. But there was no real aesthetic value to having the text arranged this way, and I was already finding the game a bit of a challenge to follow: there was lots of exposition to take in, some quite difficult puzzles to resolve, and much more content than I was likely to get through in two hours. So having another aspect of the game that slowed me down and confused me was not good.

Now, after all that griping, I should say that I thought this structure was a novel and interesting way of conveying a story. The player wanders through the setting, knowing both what has happened and what is going to happen there; various areas take on added significance because of the foreshadowing of things to come. This still lacks the immediacy of being allowed to participate in all the action yourself, but I found it fairly entertaining and effective; the story has a directness that you can’t get from the standard find-diary-entries-and-view-recordings adventure game exposition.

I would have liked it if the game-play had focused more on revelations about plot and character, rather than on multiple puzzles to do with stealing passcards — but even so, I thought the method was neat.

 


Reviewed by Carl Muckenhoupt

A work by veteran author Robert Street. Spoilers follow the break.

This one starts with the intriguing chapter heading “EPISODE 5: The Final Battle”. You’re playing the role of a teenage psychic mecha pilot fighting aliens, but it turns out that the “you” who’s playing that role is the player character, not the player. It’s a two-layered narrative: the story of the war is told within the story of playing it as a VR simulation. That’s pretty cool.

Episode 5 really is the end of the inner story, but circumstances immediately force the PC back into the beginning of Episode 1, this time without a role to play. Your goal is to get back out the exit in Episode 5 without losing your avatar, but the nodes connecting episodes go both ways, so there’s effectively a time travel element. You have an item, a “ghost cap”, that renders you invisible and intangible when worn (but not capable of walking through walls). Without it, any NPC who sees you will have you arrested as an intruder, but with it, you can’t pick up or manipulate items. Since the player needs to toggle the cap frequently, it’s given a couple of custom verbs (”wc” and “rc”, for “wear cap” and “remove cap”). These are all really good ideas!

So let me describe now my experience of the game. I played through the prologue described above, then had some difficulty figuring out how to get on a conveyor belt — I never did figure out the correct phrasing, but discovered a bug that let me get past anyway1 — then explored a ring of rooms, figured out more or less what I had to do in what sequence, but was missing one crucial item, something to provide “computing power” for a prototype psychic listening device I had picked up. I was stuck for a full hour, and the built-in hints didn’t provide enough information to help me. I eventually consulted the walkthrough and found that I had missed a door. There are a bunch of doors scattered around; some of them can be opened, some cannot. I honestly thought I had tried them all, but apparently I had tried all but one. I can’t fully blame the game for this one.

So, at this point I was about an hour and twenty minutes into the judging period and hadn’t gotten out of Episode 1. The next bit was something that I was pretty sure I had to do, but didn’t know what the effect would be: listening in on those psychic teenagers, who were all in one room playing videogames and presumably chatting telepathically. I knew I had to get them out of the room they were in somehow, and hoped that their thoughts would give me a clue. In fact, they just spontaneously leave the room right after you listen in on them, a bit of Sierraesque nonsense causality. I quickly made it to Episode 2 and immediately got stuck again. I managed to pick up some more equipment by going back to Episode 1, but didn’t figure out how to usefully apply it.

So, all in all, even though I like a lot of the ideas here, I can’t really say I really enjoyed the experience all that much. There really seemed to be a substantial story going on, but I only got the barest glipmse of it. Maybe my experience here is atypical, but then, that’s the point of having the comp judged by popular vote.

Rating: 5

 


Reviewed by Marnie Parker

And, boy, is it! This game irked me, though I didn’t take a strong dislike to it like I did to one other. I was more disappointed than disgusted.

The writing wasn’t bad, the plot seemed promising with intriguing ideas, I like science-fiction, I can even stand all the reruns of “Starship Troopers” on TBS, and I like virtual reality science-fiction. But, uh, after more than a couple of turns I wasn’t sure what this was. Or wasn’t. I suspect thought went into this, but be warned, when it comes to science-fiction, vagueness is no substitute for clear, good writing.

What is a cold suit? What is a node? Was I trooping? Was I virtual realitying? Was I the ghost in the machine? A computer bug?I don’t know. I had to use the walkthru for everything and after about 15-20 turns I gave up. I like to play, not watch (having to use a walkthru is watching). Also, not only was the surrounding reality, or lack of it, unclear, so was the goal. How the author expected me to deduce what to do is beyond me. SPOILER ON. How was I supposed to know getting into the crate was a good idea? Because how did I know that penetrating the factory further was what I wanted? SPOILER OFF.

In sci-fi one does not have to explain HOW some technology (unfamiliar to the reader/player) works, but, at the least, they do have to explain what it IS. There may be a good game here somewhere, but I didn’t find it.

P.S. Note that this is another game where more beta testing would have helped the author clarify the plot — another game that would have been greatly improved by it. See Ferrous Ring review.

IF Authors get a big break in the comp, because many judges are committed to finishing games regardless. Or finishing the games they started. Or finishing some games. But when a game is released outside the comp there is another standard, a more “real life” standard. When player confusion outweighs player motivation and/or enjoyment – the player simply stops playing.


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