IFComp 2007: My Mind’s Mishmash   Leave a comment

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…








(puzzle for episode 3 spoiled down below!)






…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.

Posted November 9, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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