IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-06-25 10:19
Nice idea for a small scenario, but frustrating to play.
I really didn't get the idea of most of the puzzles, not until I read the solutions. It's not that any of them were really logically outre. I just didn't play with them much -- I didn't see them as playable-with.
Some sort of observation about context, buried in this. If I encounter a safe with five buttons, and pushing the buttons makes different noises, I'll try to crack it. If I encounter the same buttons on a bank machine, I'll look around for instructions. Really. Having out-of-context or badly-integrated puzzles isn't just an aesthetic goof -- it messes up your players' expectations, and that affects how much effort they put into continuing play.
Similarly, when I found numbers arranged unconventionally, I thought it was a bug at first. Because there was no reason for the numbers to be arranged like that.
If the context had been a Toontown bank, arranged for maximum customer frustration and comic antics -- that would have been different. Expectations.
Also: don't put generic error messages on good ideas. I tried a command early in the game, and got the response "Why would you want to do that?" Okay, I thought, that's not a useful command. A bit later, it turned out, that command was necessary. I didn't think to try it again.
(Even worse, the command doesn't become usable at the moment it becomes useful! I started over, got to the point where I needed to do it, and found it didn't work. I had to go and gather evidence that it was useful. That allowed me to do it. This is the famous "knowledge puzzle", and it's very irritating to anyone who uses a "restore" or "restart" command. Sure, this is a short game -- but it got me. And lo, I was irritated.)