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7 Stars IFReview Rating No Time to Squeal

IFReviewed by Paul OBrian on 2006-07-20 09:09 

Game Profile

Author
Mike Sousa and Robb Sherwin

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Tads2

Release Year
2001

IFR Overall Rating
7 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
Sometimes two heads really are better than one. Take Robb Sherwin, an author with writing ability and panache to spare, but whose comp games have traditionally been major-league bugfests. Combine with Mike Sousa, whose Comp2000 entry At Wit's End proved that he was capable of thorough, polished implementation and taut pacing, though his prose didn't particularly draw attention to itself (for good or bad.) The result is a game that uses each author's strengths to its best advantage. NTTS had me on the edge of my seat almost immediately, invested in the characters and sweating through the rapidly mounting tension. That sick, scared, hollow-stomached feeling isn't one I tend to enjoy, even when it's produced by fiction -- that's why serial killer horror is a genre I usually avoid -- but I have to admit, this game did an excellent job at producing it. Very short scenes, whose interactions are limited to a few, very obvious moves, pile rapidly atop one another, screaming towards a conclusion that left me breathless, saddened, and a little confused.

Right about then, the game did something that really pissed me off. Of course, I didn't know at the time to be pissed off about it -- I only found out later, after spinning in frustrated circles, trying to make progress. And even though this move is one of the major surprises in NTTS, I'm going to spoil it now, because to my mind, it's a terribly unfair trap lying in wait for people who approach IF like I do. You've been warned. What happens is that NTTS appears to end tragically. It then offers the standard "Please enter RESTORE, RESTART or QUIT" prompt, and indeed, you can restore or quit from this prompt, and those functions will work as advertised. RESTART, however, doesn't really restart the game but instead moves it to its next section. Now, it's true that this is not a new idea. At least one other game pulls a similar trick, but in that game, no matter what you type at the question's prompt, the letters RESTART appear. NTTS, however, offers a system prompt at which some responses will generate system actions and other responses will generate game actions. This is a very, very bad idea. You know why? Because I chose RESTORE, that's why. I restored my game, trying to "win" that first section, and failed, not knowing that failure was the only option. I was about to restore again, but I just couldn't think of anything new to try, so I checked the walkthrough, and found out that the way to solve this "puzzle" was to type RESTART at a system prompt that really wasn't. This is dirty pool. If you're going to sneakily integrate system prompts with the game, at least have the courtesy not to make the feature into a puzzle, because solving a cheating puzzle isn't any fun.

I approached the rest of the game with wariness and caution, unwilling to get too drawn in, which is too bad because NTTS apes Photopia's viewpoint-fragmentation (though not so much its time-fragmentation) to great effect, in the service of telling an interesting, multi-layered story. Of course, it was a story that still left a few major plot danglers swinging even when it reached its real conclusion, not to mention threw in cultural references from Jack The Ripper to Lewis Carroll without much to support them. Still, it was engaging stuff, and was peppered with one or two really clever puzzles. The overall design was solid, save for the one flaw, but that flaw was so glaring, I really can't ignore it. No Time To Squeal demonstrates that great things can happen when two IF authors combine their strengths, but unfortunately, it also shows that even teams still have their weaknesses.

Paul OBrian Profile

Name Paul OBrian
Gender Male

This IFReviewer IFReviews

- 1-2-3...
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- A Crimson Spring
- A Day for Soft Food
- A Day In The Life Of A Superhero
- A Good Breakfast
- A Light's Tale
- A Moment of Hope
- A New Day
- A Night Guest
- A Paper Moon
- A Party to Murder
- Aayela
- Acid Whiplash
- Ad Verbum
- Adoo's Stinky Story
- Aftermath
- Al Otro Lado
- Alien Abduction?
- All Things Devours
- Amnesia
- an apple from nowhere
- And the Waves Choke the Wind
- Arrival, or Attack of the B-Movie Cliches
- Asendent
- At Wit's End
- Augustine
- Aunt Nancy's House
- Babel
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- Beat the Devil
- Begegnung am Fluss
- Being Andrew Plotkin
- Bellclap
- Best of Three
- Bio
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- Death to my Enemies
- Delusions
- Desert Heat: A Romance Of Sorts
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- Don't Be Late
- Down
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- E-Mailbox
- Elements
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- Episode In The Life Of An Artist
- Erehwon
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- Escape from Crulistan
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- Exhibition
- Fear
- Fifteen
- Film at Eleven
- Fine Tuned
- For a Change
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- Four in One
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- Hell: A Comedy of Errors
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- Hunter, in Darkness
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- Identity
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- In the End
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- Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win
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- Magocracy
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- Marooned
- Masquerade
- Metamorphoses
- Mingsheng
- Moments Out of Time: Explorer Type
- Moonbase
- Murder At The Aero Club
- Muse: An Autumn Romance
- Music Education
- My Angel
- My First Stupid Game
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- MythTale
- Nevermore
- Ninja V1.30
- No Room
- Not Much Time
- Of Forms Unknown
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- Only After Dark
- Order
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- Persistence of Memory
- Phlegm
- Photograph: A Portrait of Reflection
- Photopia
- Phred Phontious and the Quest for Pizza
- Piece of Mind
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- Planet of the Infinite Minds
- Poor Zefron's Almanac
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- Prodly the Puffin
- PTBAD 3
- Punk Points
- Punkirita Quest 1: Liquid
- Purple
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- Ramon and Jonathan
- Rape, Pillage, Galore!
- Redeye
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- Research Dig
- Return to Zork: Another Story
- Reverberations
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- Ritual of Purification
- Ruined Robots
- Sardoria
- Scary House Amulet!
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- Schroedinger's Cat
- Screen
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- She's Got a Thing for a Spring
- Silicon Castles
- Sins Against Mimesis
- Six Stories
- Skyranch
- Slouching Towards Bedlam
- Small World
- SNOSAE
- Sophie's Adventure
- Spacestation
- Splashdown
- Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname
- Square Circle
- Stack Overflow
- Stargazer: An Adventure In Outfitting
- Stick It to the Man
- Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country
- Sting Of The Wasp
- Stone Cell
- Stranded
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- Stupid Kittens
- Sun and Moon
- Sunset Over Savannah
- SURREAL
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- Sylenius Mysterium
- Symetry
- Tapestry
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- The Chasing
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- Where Evil Dwells
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- Zero One
- Zero Sum Game
- Zombie!