IFComp 2007: Press [Escape] to Save

An experimental effort from first-time author Mark Jones. Spoilers follow the break.

This one is largely set in a mental realm, where a man has greedily siphoned off some of humanity’s potential knowledge for his exclusive use. “Siphoned” should be taken literally here; the knowledge takes the form of a liquid. Too much knowledge can drive men mad, but this man, in a fit of sanity, tries to restore order, breaking the player character out of prison through the fourth dimension to get his help.

The prose has the kind of off-kilter tone I associate with translations, with odd sentences like “What did you do that made you go here?” and “The figure then clears his tall throat.” It even infects the game’s subtitle: “A story demonstrating society”. But given the weirdness of the scenario, this might be deliberate.

Up to a certain point, the author takes you by the hand and guides you through the story, providing a minimal implementation that pretty much only lets you perform necessary actions. But there comes a point where he lets go of your hand and expects you to keep following in lock-step anyway. Basically, your companion in the mission (and cellmate from the prison) drinks a great deal of knowledge from a leaking pipe and then attacks you. You have to flee to one particular hiding place out of many reasonable-looking ones, then temporarily disable him with a flash from a light-based weapon that didn’t work on him when he started his attack. Well, okay: I suppose can understand the need to take him by surprise. But then the author expects you to run back through the areas you just fled through and hide in another specific place, one where you weren’t allowed to hide when you ran through it the first time. This is where I gave up.

I’m guessing this game was designed by writing a transcript, then implementing the minimum necessary to produce that transcript. This isn’t a bad way to start writing a game, as long as you remember that the players aren’t going to be playing from the transcript. The players won’t think of doing things exactly the way the author did them, and will expect the things that they did think of to be handled reasonably. If an action works at one point in the story and not at another, we’ll want to know why.

Rating: 2

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