IFComp 2020: Red Radish Robotics

This is a game built around two central ideas, one affecting things mainly at the story level, the other at the level of gameplay. The first idea is that you are a robot in denial. The player character doesn’t even know it’s a robot at first, but learns, and comes to accept it. But it never really comes to accept or even to fully comprehend its situation: somehow awakened in the aftermath of a disaster, it searches for humans to rescue, ignoring the evidence around it that everyone has been gone for a long time. Towards the end, it finds the corpse of one of its human friends, but doesn’t understand, because it doesn’t have a concept of death. It takes everything in with the simplicity of a child and the faith of a fool, searching for its creator not to seek his help, but to help him if he needs it.

The second idea is that you are a robot without fingers. Your fingers were removed as a safety precaution when robots started rebelling violently against their masters, and each and every digit is hidden in a different place. The story does an impressive job of coming up with needs for different degrees of partial refingering, too. To pick up a key, for example, all you need is a thumb and index finger on the same hand. Picking up a pool cue requires more; actually using it to shoot pool requires at least one finger on the other hand as well. So, it’s a treasure hunt. You run back and forth over the same two corridors, finding fingers that let you do something that gives you access to a new room or unlock a container or whatever, and eventually you have a pair of complete hands, which you need to exit the building and finish the game.

My biggest complaint is its draconian gating. Fingers aren’t your only limitations: there are quite a few things you’re simply not allowed to do until you have a reason, and sometimes the reason is just that your robotic brain arbitrarily decided it’s okay now. Fortunately, the hypertext UI makes it fairly easy to just arbitrarily cycle through every possibility until you find the one you missed.

Also, I found myself wishing for a way to just look at my hands. To get a progress report, essentially. Your finger collection is the single most important aspect of the game state, and it’s the only one you don’t have direct access to.

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