IFComp 2012: Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea

This is this year’s sole Adrift game. Spoilers follow the break.

This one doesn’t waste any time in letting me know it’s not to my tastes. For starters, it’s in Adrift — not a fatal flaw, but on the basis of precedent, something of a warning sign. Then it’s in the Wacky Sci-Fi genre, like Space Quest or Ratchet & Clank, as you could probably guess from the title. I can just about stand this when it’s done well, which is to say, when the author is trying to say something more than “ha ha look at how wacky it is”. Then there’s the matter of implementation. There really seems to be something about Adrift that encourages authors to start off by just throwing together a whole lot of material, rooms and objects and characters, before deciding what the player should be paying attention to. The result is information overload in the beginning, followed by the disappointing realization that most of that information is irrelevant. The spaceship where you start this game has fully two dozen rooms and a posse of characters; the entire city that you spend the second chapter trying to gain access to has only four.

It does have a couple of nice points. The fact that it lets you start a new game from the start of any of its six chapters is a welcome convenience, especially if you hit a bug and haven’t saved lately. And there’s one mechanic that I thought was particularly well-used: a hovering robot that follows you around and can pick up objects for you. There are occasional puzzles requiring this robot right up to the endgame, but it’s not a very obviously useful thing, so I kept forgetting about it. Thus, whenever I actually needed it, I had to think of it afresh. That’s a neat trick, if you can manage it.

Nonetheless, the effective is outnumbered by the annoying here. One of the first challenges presented is memorizing and typing back a series of seven-digit numbers displayed on the screen for a few seconds. (Apparently there are ways around this, but this wasn’t clear to me at the time — see complaints about information overload above.) In a later chapter, after you learn “traglean karate”, you get attacked at random by various sorts of guards and have to dispatch them by entering the correct martial arts moves. I like the way it’s at least aiming at a general system here, but it doesn’t take long to start feeling like the random encounters in a JRPG, popping up to delay you while you’re trying to get other things done.

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