IFReviewed by Greg Boettcher on 2006-05-22 08:49
ETO has a few things in common with Blink, Ian Waddell's entry in IF Comp 2004. Both games have a war theme, both are nearly puzzleless, and both are rather short. Nevertheless, ETO is an entirely different game, and takes its war theme in a totally different direction.
You start out in the ball turret of a B-17 during the middle of a World War II battle. Soon your plane is hit and crashes down in Nazi-occupied France (I think), where you go through some surreal experiences before the plot takes a major twist and eventually the game reaches its conclusion.
I did find the occasional typo and spacing error, but generally the writing was well done. In many ways the design was good, too. For instance, you can ask Tom (one of the NPCs) about a fairly wide range of things, and he gives good answers. On the bad side, there are flaws. As S said in his newsgroup message to the author, the opening segment "was too long, and/or there was not enough to do." In the same segment, it's irritating that you can't talk to the people you hear over the radio. I also found one major bug. "SHOOT [anything]" always yields "You can't help but be pleased by the power you wield." That's true without exception, even if you don't have a gun, and even if you type "shoot me."
Usually I like games where the author seems to be succeeding competently at what he's trying to do. I guess that's why I liked Blink as much as I did. But in the post-comp discussion, the more I read other people's comments about Blink, the more I understood and accepted their criticisms: they said the game was too short to be involving, and it didn't give you any meaningful choices.
I'd like to say that ETO is better in this regard, but it's about the same. There is a situation in ETO where you seem to have the opportunity to make a significant moral choice, but one of the two alternatives is flatly prohibited. This is all the more unfortunate, since it would have been easy to allow that alternative; the consequences would have been simple to code.
I have to admit, the conclusion of the game wasn't very satisfying to me. And yet, as I said before, ETO is a game that more or less succeeds at what it tries to do. It's not the best game of the year, but it's worth a play. I wish the author well with his next project, especially if he uses the feedback he's received to boost his coming games to the next level.