IFReviewed by Emily Boegheim
on 2007-04-28 06:20
What is it about this game that I like so much? It's horribly buggy, easy to put into an unwinnable state, and you have to spend a lot of time searching all the piles of stuff that come your way.
And yet I had a lot of fun playing it.
You and a group of activists were trudging through the desert to stage a protest against a nuclear power plant. But you get separated from the rest of the group and find yourself in an ancient petting zoo inhabited only by a tortoise and a camel of particularly evil aspect. After the camel bites you, you (and your friend Darcy) end up in hospital and under arrest for your protest activities. But there's something odd going on...
The first thing you notice about this game is its delightfully sprightful prose. Your character is immediately established as a very determined young lady with a decided attitude; a leader, someone who gets things done.
The second thing you notice is the bugs. And they are many. During my first playthrough, Darcy somehow changed from her handcuffed-to-the-bed state to her following-me-around state before I'd even found the handcuff key. I was supposed to be transported from one room to another before I performed a certain action; it printed the movement text but still allowed me to travel from the original room into a neighbouring room. Before a certain puzzle is solved, trying to take off my hospital gown results in the mystifying statement, "The nurse has it." Huh? The nurse doesn't have it, I have it. I'm wearing it. That's why I'm trying to take it off. Later I began to solve a puzzle too early and realised I had (probably, but there may have been an alternative solution I didn't find) put the game in an unwinnable state.
But it was fun all the same. One of the most enjoyable things about the game was the number of endings, both good and bad. From memory, I died twice and found two good-but-not-optimal endings before I made it to the best ending. And I've a suspicion there are still more endings to be found. Interestingly, each non-optimal ending had its own puzzle or two; puzzles that you would not have to or would not even be able to solve to get to the optimal ending.
The puzzles were very satisfying too. They are exceptionally well-clued, and give great "Aha!" moments when you come up with the right action. And Darcy isn't just window-dressing; you'll need her help to solve some of the puzzles.
The NPCs, unfortunately, have very little to say for themselves. But the author says that was due to time constraints, and should be addressed in a post-comp release.
I think I have to say this is my favourite game of the competition,
though Fate gave it a close run for its money. If only it had been better beta-tested, there would have been no question. As it is, I'm looking forward to the post-comp release!
4th place on the 2007 Spring Thing.