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8 Stars IFReview Rating Earth and Sky 2: Another Earth, Another Sky

IFReviewed by Emily Short on 2006-08-01 04:15 

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IFR Overall Rating
7 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Rating: 8
Played to completion?: Several times
House or Office: House, but I forgave this because I played it first of these
Solidly coded, cleanly designed: this game has all the technical advantages of the first installment of Earth and Sky. And it comes with rather charming Glulx graphics that add a certain something to the flavor of the game. And it's quite a bit longer than the first one was, thus eliminating the chief complaint I had about EAS1 — that it didn't run long enough. This one was longer and, I'd say, proportionately more satisfying.

I also enjoy the fact that we get to alternate between the two main characters. Emily, the PC of EAS1, is here an NPC; at some point she remarks (rather slyly) that she did most of the work "last time", so it's your (Austin's) turn to get things done this time. This is cool, because after last time I was eager to try out the possibilities of the Earth suit.

Were those possibilities satisfying? Well, mostly. There are no unique new verbs that come with the Earth suit, the way there were with Sky: you can't fly, and you can't make fogs. You do have superhuman strength, though, which is rather gratifying, inasmuch as it means that violence is the answer quite a lot of the time, and you get to fling around important bits of the scenery. There were a few — but only a few — points at which I felt like I ought to be able to make more out of my Earth powers than was allowed by the scope of the game simulation. So it was slightly less fun wearing the Earth suit than wearing the Sky suit, but only slightly.

The new setting offered a great deal to like; I found the intelligent creatures quite appealing, my favorite being the squid who is apparently trying to talk to you. My chief gripe here is that the place is relatively sterile. There's not much there that isn't relevant in some way or other to the solution of puzzles. The recording tube is a very nice touch, but too little, in my opinion. It seems to me as though the game needs a few more corners, a few more things that are not as you expect them to be. By the time I'd been to the first couple of habitats, I felt I knew what to expect from the others, and by and large I was exactly right. I am a fan of well-structured IF, where you do not need to make a map, and where the shape of the world and of the plot within the world is sensible. The trick is accomplishing that and yet still being surprising, fitting the pattern in some unexpected way.

A lot to ask, I realize. The reason I'm harping on it is that I thought this was an admirable game, constructed according to every rule I would give to a new designer. It has humor, it has plot, it has NPCs who say interesting things, it has accessible yet not cliched puzzles. It is programmed by a competent coder and then debugged at length. It has good writing, free of its/it's errors. It has hints. It has a polished interface. It is sound. But it has not quite got the star power of a 9 or 10.

But never mind. I liked it. I had fun. I had more fun than I had with Earth and Sky the first, because there was more there to play, and I do look forward to the third installment.

Disclaimer: I was a beta-tester for this game.

Emily Short Profile

IFReviewer Rating
10 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name Emily Short
Gender Female