Played to Completion: Yes
...speaking of which.
This has much to recommend it. There are good lines, especially in the
relationship with the PC's sidekick. I like the flexible treatment of geography
that makes the map feel open and unconstrained; the car was so tidily handled
that I never got annoyed with it -- it provided an excuse for traveling long
distances but never made my job as a player harder. The tone was light, but in
an enjoyable way. (How many games let you throw NPCs?) There were nice extras,
like the extensive hint menus; I didn't run into any obvious bugs, either.
"Flat Feet" lacks something in the cohesive design department, though. I
spent the first fifty or sixty moves wandering around in search of motivation,
with key information turning up only after I'd solved a puzzle because it was
there. Some of the puzzles worked fine; others (like the Transamerica Pyramid
bit) relied on my going places I had no reason to go, and doing things I had no
reason to do.
Early on, it gives the impression that the player should take guidance from
plot constraints rather than map constraints. To explain: there are obviously
quite a few locations open at once, as soon as you get the car working. Not all
of these locations are equally relevant to what you're doing. Some of them are
actively a bad idea to visit before you're ready, even though it's technically
possible to get there.
So at the outset, I felt that my job as a player was not to explore every
single thing I could find, but rather to follow the course of action that made
the most sense at the moment. (Seek out person X, ask for information about Y,
investigate crime scene Z, and so on.) The minimalist implementation of scenery
encourages that play style as well. When there are a lot of nouns mentioned in
any given room description which are not examinable, I start to get the idea
that examining things is not the player's primary task. That's fine, especially
if it's handled consistently.
What I found jarring was following along a plot thread for a while, coming to
a dead standstill, and discovering the reason I was stuck was that my PC hadn't
taken time off from the plot to explore a location he had no reason to think
interesting. Worse, the location I needed to visit was only peripherally hinted
at in a room description, though a bunch of other scenery nouns were not
implemented at all, and I had come to expect useful exits always to be clearly
and explicitly listed. This isn't so much a question of obeying any one set of
design rules about how open or closed to make the map, or how fully to implement
scenery. It's possible to make work any of a range of things, as long as you set
up the player expectations properly and then follow through on them.
Unfortunately, the feeling of arbitrariness grew stronger and stronger as the
game went on. I found myself turning to the Invisihints increasingly often, and
being increasingly annoyed by the things they told me to do. (And at least one
of the puzzles was simply so finicky that, even when I had the right idea, I had
to try about fifteen variations to get it to come out right.)
So I would have enjoyed this more if the puzzles had been more sensibly
integrated with the plot, or (paradoxically) if the game had been *more* purely
puzzle-oriented and more methodical about its world model. One or the other. The
mixture was problematic.
But the author did do a lot of things right. With a clearer approach to the
overall structure of the game, his next piece could be quite good.