IFComp 2012: Changes

Spoilers follow the break.

After crash-landing on an alien planet, you find yourself emerging from a pod on a tree, now with the body of a telepathic alien “rabbit”. I put the word “rabbit” in quotes because it’s obviously not really a rabbit. Apparently it doesn’t even really look like a rabbit. The explorers of this world named the fauna after whatever similar Earth creatures they could think of, but in some cases the similarity is just a matter of ecological niche. So there’s “deer” and “beavers” and at least one “fox” and so forth running around, doing their things and in some cases wandering the map autonomously, bothering the more stationary creatures. It’s all quite lovely, and you have some influence on their behavior: the fox will chase you (and eat you if you let it), the deer will run away from the fox. An otter will follow you if you give it a fish, but if you don’t keep giving it more fish it’ll get bored and wander away. So it’s pleasingly diverse, but it all leaves the question of what you’re trying to accomplish by this. This isn’t a game that gives the player a lot of guidance.

I mean, okay: there’s one goal that seems obvious once you find it. When you manage to get back to your crashed shuttle — something I only managed after exploring basically the entire rest of the map — there’s a hatch mentioned on its own line in the room description, which is a pretty clear indication that it’s important. Why it’s important, I don’t know. It’s not like I’m going to be flying the shuttle out of there; the game is pretty clear that it’s beyond repair. Maybe there’s something inside the shuttle that’ll make it obvious what I’m supposed to do, but I can’t tell, because I’m a rabbit. Not exactly equipped for opening hatches, is what I’m saying.

Which leads to the somewhat less obvious goal: how to stop being a rabbit. On the sole basis of the plural in the title, I’m guessing that making any real progress in this game involves turning into some of the other creatures I’ve been seeing. The question is, how? The tree I emerged from has to be involved somehow. I saw a rabbit drag a dead rabbit over to the tree at one point, which suggests that I have to kill something to turn into it (or possess it?), but again, I’m a rabbit. Not exactly lethal.

I played this game right up to the two-hour limit for judging it in the Comp, but I feel like I haven’t made any progress at all, like I’m stuck in the prologue. If I’m right, turning into different animals is the game’s core activity, the thing that the puzzles are built around. But it’s something I haven’t been able to do. It’s as if I had played Space Invaders for two hours without finding the “Fire” button.

3 Comments so far

  1. matt w on 15 Nov 2012

    There seems to be a fair amount of this going around — I didn’t even manage to figure out the trick with the otter without reading other reviews, though I did work out the kill-and-possess mechanism.

    Anyway, there’s a walkthrough accessible in-game through “WALKTHROUGH”; the game will tell you this if you type “HELP.” Not if you type “HINT” though (that yields an impossibly vague high-level goal) or “ABOUT,” at least as of the version I played. So, um, you have to guess a verb to find the hints. (FWIW, the otter is your first target — you have to lead it somewhere you can trap it. Not the unstable ledge! I tried that a few times, but it can swim and the rabbit can’t.)

    In case you’re interested I had some more thoughts here, mostly about the trouble with games that require exploration and experimentation but make it arduous. Though there is a lot of nice world-building and exploration that might be hard to reconcile with a shorter try-and-fail cycle. Mostly I think this is a leading contender for Game That Is Hurt The Most By Lack Of A Decent Hint System.

    (OT, but your last sentence describes my initial experience with Cave Story pretty much exactly. I didn’t realize that Z was an action button, so I couldn’t get off the opening screen. I would spend a little while using the arrow keys to scroll up and down between “New Game” and “Load Game,” listening to the excellent music and occasionally tapping space or return even though I knew they didn’t do anything.)

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 15 Nov 2012

    I tried to kill the fox with the unstable ledge. Well, technically that was a success, I suppose.

  3. matt w on 15 Nov 2012

    I know! I know! I tried that so often!

    Actually my parenthetical gave me an insight as to what the next step after killing the otter probably is.

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