IFComp 2007: Across the Stars   Leave a comment

Review down below.

As your eyes start to adjust, the darkness resolves into what you’ve always thought of as a great velvet blanket, encrusted with diamonds. (Not that you’d ever let your crewmates hear you talk like that.) Despite your heated suit, you feel the cold of space start to creep in as you look the ship over in greater detail. A rail system crisscrosses the hull around you, designed to aid routine maintenance, while the door to the airlock stands open.

Is the setting sort of a Planetfall with dashes of Lensman? I couldn’t grasp all the parts here.

The plot is on the surface unremarkable, but on the bright side, the main puzzles correspond directly to advancing it (as opposed to being arbitrary obstacles). There is an optional part which is less stellar in this respect, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t bring it to ultimate completion.

The game comes in three sections:

Part One I found very strong (and Planetfall-like). The puzzles were (to me) solvable and I only had a few verb synonym issues. The only change I might make would be to enhance some of the atmosphere; the situation is plot-wise much more exciting than an abandoned ship game and the prose should convey that.

Part Two was rather more mixed. A lot of parts of this are entirely optional, but the optional puzzles are the sort that could show up in a cheap Myst clone: sequence puzzles, reading through lots of text, and applying mystical object X to mystical problem Y.

By Part Three I mean the end puzzle, which was fiddly and a touch confusing to me. It’s sort of an “engineering puzzle”. Puzzles of that sort are difficult to convey in words, and my floundering is possibly my failure rather than the author’s here.

The game tries very hard to channel Infocom. Does it work? I’d say not quite. It’s just little details — missing synonyms, actions which should at least point to the main solution but don’t, the shift in puzzle style in the middle section, an underutilized NPC — that make the production amateur loose rather than tight professional, though it tries very hard. However, it’s hardly terrible in the attempt and I have no regrets recommending it.

Posted October 22, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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