This is a biggy. One Eye Open is meaty, and I likes me some meat.
A bold and imaginative setting, uncompromising writing. Even after a lot of play and catching up on backstory, I couldn't explain it all with any certainty, I hope it wasn't too important. (Spoiler - click to show)We collected dozens of scraps of paper, but there were too many of them, and I lost track. Handling the notes was done slickly, but could have been even better with some way of sorting them (or, again, simply fewer of them). I had no difficulty suspending disbelief about finding notes in random places. Once your fridge has turned into an abdomen full of viscera, it's easier to suspend disbelief about things like that.
I loved exploring this world, and found it consistent and solid and full of exciting mysteries, most of which turned out to be well worth investigating. The scope of the map was perfect, enough locations to get stuck into and fascinated by, but each one fully implemented and meaningful. There was a little humour here and there, but blackest black, which is the only humour that can be tolerated in such a game. As well as the odd IF reference, of course, but tastefully done. (Spoiler - click to show)We
liked "Pick up the vending machine and die" :o)
The game handled some out-of-game things really well _in-game_, such as (Spoiler - click to show)"You add the pages you are carrying together and classify them all inwardly as your notes." rather than letting the parser take it with something like "[You can refer to the papers collectively as NOTES.]" as is common. There's nothing too wrong with that, but having the narrator handle new ideas instead of the parser, which is so slick, and surely reducing the interruption of the parser is very worthwhile.
One location caused frustration ended only by external help: (Spoiler - click to show)
The morgue was a problem because of the worst door design in and out of the world. It was bad in-game as I simply don't believe "There's no visible lock on this side", I mean, what? And it was bad out of game because the door release was timed, but the timer was connected to nothing door-related (presumably it was related to the fight):
"After several seconds of empty silence, you hear a click from the door to the south.
There's no visible lock on this side, but you try the door anyway. The hidden lock releases under your hand."
If you have to trap the player in there, and I think you do, then I'd have preferred something more convincing and better clued.
Did killing the zombie from the autopsy room require prior knowledge? It required something, we went over it several times and died horribly a lot.
We were unable to reach the ending we wanted and which seemed to be clued to us, even after consulting all the help available to us. We were also, possibly relatedly, unable to (Spoiler - click to show)play with the chemistry puzzle, presumably because we couldn't find all the drugs we needed. There were other mysteries left over after extensive play, too, such as (Spoiler - click to show) what the deal is with the vending machine? It has such a juicy description, it really felt like it should mean something.
Screen effects are used brilliantly, subtly, to haunting effect.
Wonderfully solid and slick game, ambitious and well-executed in scope, but flailing in puzzle resolution towards the end, possibly the backstory was over-told (or the same bits told over and again). Loved it.
[This is a review of the competition release, IF Comp 2010.]
I'm finding it hard to think about the game as a whole. It is intentionally modular, and I have no problem with that, but there wasn't enough of a character thread holding it together, leaving it feeling like a dream: (Spoiler - click to show)"Well first I was in prison with these scary aliens, and then I was running around in a space suit, and THEN there was this talking poo! and THEN! we were on a jet bike!" I felt the PC was a puppet and had assistance from unsavoury quarters -- (Spoiler - click to show)a toilet worm? really? -- where I would have preferred to work things out for myself. Every puzzle is guided by NPCs, leaving the PC with only the carrying out.
Not that the carrying out wasn't IMMENSE fun. It really was. The pace was kept very high, and the action felt thrilling and stylish and very imaginative. There was (Spoiler - click to show)a vehicle chase!! How often do you get chases in IF? in any written fiction? It was awesome, I was totally swept up in it.
I found one bug: (Spoiler - click to show)
Answering "no" to "do you identify as male or female?" actually caused the game to break completely.
Enter your name:>> Pip
“Pip!” the doctor repeats cheerfully. “How barely pronounceable!
And do you identify as male or female, Pip?”
(You could say male, or female.)
Dr. Sliss just smiles and nods.
and you are out of the conversation, the game never progresses, and you have to restart. We can leave the political discussion of non-binary gender for another day, for now I'll just say; that's quite a bad bug for an otherwise solidly programmed game.
The game is compassless, it uses forward-left-right instead of north-east-west. I'd not come across this before and loved how subtly it was done. It really cleans up the prose to be able to do this. Not sure how easy it would be to keep the locations straight in my head for a bigger map, but it was fine and very welcome on this scale.
Altogether a brilliantly fun game to play, but could have been tighter with more PC-led choices.
[This review is of the competition release, IF Comp 2010.]
Aotearoa is a great game, extremely solid, though not enough of a mystery for me, a little too childish/educational. It clearly hit all the targets it was trying to, a great romp in a solid setting with a few extras (Spoiler - click to show)such as naming of animals. I thoroughly enjoyed how actionous the game was, lots of physical things to do, lots of energy and urgency. As it is, I've docked a point for it not being challenging/mysterious enough, and for some suspension of disbelief problems with the NPC(Spoiler - click to show) Eruera. Is he really happily telling stories whilst lying on the beach with a broken leg awaiting aggressive poachers? Those folklore bits might have been better in cutscenes as it messed with the urgency in places and thus the pacing somewhat.
There is an optional in-game tutorial mode which includes guidance about what commands to try and highlighting of keywords. I think we need some good beginner games, and the helpful nudges don't intrude on the awesomeness of the game itself, that is, it doesn't feel like a tutorial game, just a game with a handy guide in it. It also has a more forgiving and helpful parser than standard and so is going to be the game I recommend to people who want to start playing IF.
I've just learned how to spell it, still don't know how to pronounce it. I'm sure the blorb would stretch to a sound file :o)
Very tight, polished, obviously well-loved, gentle, warm, actionous, DINOSAURS.
[This review is for the competition release, IF comp 2010.]