IFReviewed by Emily Short
on 2006-08-01 04:41
House or Office: House
Cheese Rating: Chevre, for several types of cheese which can be eaten, together with dialogue on the topic of cheese.
Played to completion?: No
Rating: 5Note: I do not possess a Windows machine. I played this game at a friend's house.
This game has some problems with implementation: 'you can't go that way' messages that list incorrect directions, for instance; books that arespposed to be present, but that don't react to your attempts to take them (and give confusing messages about not being where the descriptions say they are); and so on. There are occasional spelling errors as well, though not so pervasive as in some games. Some of the things that annoy me about Adrift in general were in their traditional form here: for instance, the autocompletion of words sometimes gave away more information than I approved of or caused peculiarities if the player kept typing — "S" autocompleting to "SOUTH" before the player continued typing "...WIM," for instance, so you wound up with an unparseable "SOUTHWIM."
For reasons I'm not certain of, the designer disabled the auto-map-making abilities of the system; though I am not crazy about auto-mapping in general, this game requires enough exploration that I might have found it useful. He did choose to make use of a particularly annoying ability of Adrift, namely text that pauses briefly before dumping out more text. Part of the problem here was that I was reading over my friend's shoulder for much of the game, and it was hard enough to track without this jerking about. But I don't think I would've liked it anyway. On the other hand, this is probably a more ambitious game than I've seen executed in Adrift before. The NPCs wander around and converse independently, for instance.
Leaving aside the features of the system, though, the game's kind of baffling. You can wander around and find a certain number of pieces of evidence; you can even ask NPCs about them and (sometimes) elicit a reaction (though in many cases GIVE and SHOW produce complete indifference to items when ASK ABOUT will get a customized message). After a while, though, one runs out of space to explore, and it's not clear how to go on. People's conversation suggests a certain amount of information — there are some obvious sources of motivation and grievance — but they are none of them terribly forthcoming. Mostly we could only get them to talk about things we already knew. Perhaps we were just approaching it wrong.
We eventually found a way to trigger the end of the game, but it wasn't nearly a winning state, and we couldn't discover any other ways to progress with our investigation than by entering the area that seemed to provoke problems. Nor could we figure out a way to find any homeowners' files. The experience with the game ending was so arbitrary and sudden that we were not inclined to go back and replay with the walkthrough to find out what we had missed. Possibly in another circumstance I would've been more forgiving about that, but I was getting bored.
Points for the cheeses, though. Mmm, cheese.