IFComp 2007: In The Mind Of The Master   Leave a comment

The intro to this game mentions that playing it with SCARE is 99% close to the real experience, but it causes textual errors to crop up. I’d recommend the ADRIFT Runner if you’re using Windows.

This review has slight spoilers for the ending.

It lay in a part of the city that had an unnatural quietness to it. It was an oddity, one the Master had reflected upon many times over the years and had yet to reach a suitable conclusion about. Rumours said of vast chambers underground filled with diabolical machines which somehow suppressed sound. Fanciful? Perhaps. But the quiet was undisputable. A shout here was no louder than a whisper.

There’s two gimmicks here, but unfortunately neither really works.

The gamebook-like structure

By a gamebook I am meaning works like Lone Wolf or Fighting Fantasy which are in book form but require to player to keep track of statistics and equipment and sometimes world events.

Some common tricks show up due to their form:

  • having the player select abilities, and generating story forks based on these abilities which cause individual scenes to be different
  • using “clusters” to structure the story where any digression due to abilities or particular choices eventually funnel back into the main plot (as I mentioned in my Ferrous Ring review)
  • requiring multiple playthroughs to understand the complete story (because it is presumed the player will die anyway), making the story sort of a multi-thread one where previous playthroughs are really part of the current one (“RESTART – begins the game again, this time armed with the knowledge that you have gained so far.”)
  • success at some choices made by a random roll of dice

I did end out enjoying the choice of disguise at the start, and seeing how that affected both the plot and the reaction of various characters. However, the plot funnelling feels forced and artificial, and even after playing through every permutation the plot remains mysterious. And that’s related to the other trick…

Discovery of an obscure mystery being a required puzzle

Taken together, this quote

Part of the general idea behind In The Mind Of The Master is to figure the game out, discover just who the Master is, what he is doing, why he is being pursued, and what, ultimately, the aim of the game is.

and this one

This covers every command you need to type during the game. With one notable exception. Giving away the specific command required at a certain point would be telling you too much, but keep an eye out for it. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot.

give a decent indication of what the author has in mind. By multiple playthroughs (and I do think multiple ones are required for anyone to have a shot at this) a significant mystery needs to be revealed by the player by the end of the game.

By highlighting this and mentioning the two excerpts above, I believe it plausible someone will work out the last puzzle, but it’s still highly unlikely. It’s possible to tell a good IF story and leave things vague as long as the player is not required to fully grasp that vagueness, and is only meant to understand some parts experientially (see So Far). However, if it’s expected the player has a stroke of inspiration, the pieces need clarity; solving that sort of puzzle is hard enough as it is.

To summarize: the form of the game requires multiple playthroughs to understand things, but even with that it’s nebulous; this undermines the general goal of solving a mystery (a goal not even made clear unless one reads the instructions carefully).

Posted November 3, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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