Inside Woman

And now, the prolific Andy Phillips brings us an epic tale of corporate espionage in the 22nd century. No one’s really sure what goes on inside the Utopia Corporation’s arcology in the flooded ruins of San Francisco, because no one is ever allowed to leave, but things are so desperate elsewhere that a lot of people are willing to take a gamble that it’s better than their lives at home. Alice Ling — not her real name — is hired to infiltrate it by posing as an ordinary refugee in need of work, and my guess is that she’ll probably wind up blowing the place up or sinking it into the sea or something once she’s ferreted out its secrets. You know how reviews of fiction sometimes describe a particular work’s setting as an additional character? I don’t really understand what that means, but but it probably applies here — certainly the Utopia Arcology itself has more personalty than most of the actual people I’ve met there. And it’s not just any character. It’s the antagonist. It’s a 35-story tower of high technology, bright promise, dashed dreams, hidden cameras, and armored security forces.

Phillips has released several games, all of them major, but I have to admit that the only other one I’ve gotten around to playing is his first release, Time: All Things Come to an End. I had very negative comments about it at the time, as did some others, but to his unending credit, Phillips has shown that he can take criticism, and seems genuinely interested in honing his craft. 1I was going to expand on this point, but in the interests of peace, all I’ll say is that I’m really glad I’m not involving myself in the comp this year. Still, I can’t help but think of T:ATCtoE as I play Inside Woman. My chief complaint about the former was its extreme linearity. It was basically formed of a sequence of small areas in which you’d solve a puzzle to proceed to the next small area; there was generally no going back once you had advanced, and that was a big problem, because sometimes puzzles relied on easily-missed items hidden in earlier sections. The early parts of Inside Woman are similarly linear, as you proceed through security and registration and decontamination and so forth. Obviously I don’t know yet whether or not I’ve failed to discover any essential items in now-inaccessible areas, but the game has gone to some length to prevent me from abandoning or destroying essential items once I’ve obtained them, and that inspires a little faith. This linear introductory sequence lasts longer than some entire games, but things do seem to broaden out after a while, as you gain access to more of the arcology’s floors. This is an aspect I quite like: the in-game orientation handbook explicitly lays out for you the different security clearances and what they can access, which gives a structure to the future.

But any judgment I make now is highly tentative. Judging by my score, I’ve only played a bit more than 10% of the game so far. And, having said that, it strikes me that of all the IF I’ve played this month, this is the first to provide a numerical score.

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1. I was going to expand on this point, but in the interests of peace, all I’ll say is that I’m really glad I’m not involving myself in the comp this year.

2 Comments so far

  1. Sean Barrett on 29 Oct 2009

    Phillips […] seems genuinely interested in honing his craft. / I’m really glad I’m not involving myself in the comp this year.

    Any relation between these two statements is entirely opaque to me.

  2. Eriorg on 31 Oct 2009

    I think it’s an allusion to heated debates which happened recently in the IF community about negative reviews of IF Comp games. See these two blog entries by Conrad Cook and their comments: Super-Doomed Planet – a review of IF Comp reviews and Why is the idea we should be civilized contentious?

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