IFComp 2011: The Hours

Spoilers follow the break.

This is a time travel story — one of those tight little knots of temporal logic involving duplicated persons and people manipulating each others’ pasts. The basic premise is that you’re in some secret and possibly criminal organization that retrieves relics from history before they’re destroyed, or something like that, but there’s really only one historical scene, at the very beginning. The rest of the game is spent around the opulent offices and laboratories of the secret organization’s headquarters, dealing with the consequences of a mission gone wrong that turns out to have gone someone’s idea of right. If I’m being vague, it’s because I’ve already forgotten the details.

Note that I describe it as a story rather than a game. It’s almost entirely on rails, and includes multiple time-limited action scenes. Strangely enough, given this constraint, it manages to have multiple endings. It manages this through the dialogue. Conversations here use a simple menu system, where you often don’t choose your exact words, but merely your tone: irritated, flirtatious, whatever. It seems like your choices aren’t having any real effect, because you’re still going through the same story regardless, but the game remembers them and uses them to define your relationships to other characters, which appears to govern what the final paragraphs are like. But I only really noticed this by looking at the walkthrough, which is a complete transcript including output, after finishing the game.

One other point of interest: noun-only commands. After Blue Lacuna, it seemed like this was going to be a big thing, but it seems to have receded somewhat, so it’s worth pointing it out when it occurs. In particular, The Hours uses noun-only commands for movement, and lists the currently-accessible locations in the status line for this purpose. This means it doesn’t need to include them in the room descriptions at all, and often doesn’t. But because of the on-rails aspect, there’s seldom more than one place you can go to at a time. It might as well be a “Forward” verb.

1 Comment so far

  1. IFComp Scores « Saucers of Mud on 14 Nov 2011

    […] probably should be a 7, but I’m rounding up because no one else seemed to like it. (Also, Carl says that your seemingly inconsequential dialogue choices affect the ending, which is kind of […]

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