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1-5 of 5


Reclamation, by groggydog

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A sci-fi investigation with a little bit of everything, November 25, 2022

You are in a cryotherapy room, awoken by a smiling AI who has a little task for you to take care of before you go back to sleep. Of course, you will comply.

Gameplay
The game begins on a one-person ship called the Silver Lining. A ship called the Charitable Donation had gone missing and reappeared without any sign of its crew. Survivors? That is for you to figure out. The Charitable Donation is a research ship designed to be a floating lab in space to conduct experiments deemed too dangerous to perform on a planet. Behind this looms CORPORATION UNLIMITED, a mega-corporation that holds modern society in its palm.

After waking up from cryosleep you are briefed on your mission by DOC, the standard AI built into CORPORATION UNLIMITED’s ships. You learn that you are a Reclamation Unit (and human, even if CORPORATION UNLIMITED does not act that way. Speaking of which, the game insists on spelling that in all caps so I will do the same!) and can even choose your serial number. I was Reclamation Unit #7. How exciting!

It is slick how the game incorporates a general parser tutorial into the game by having DOC test your motor and cognitive skills as you re-orient yourself. It is a tutorial that does not seem like a tutorial even though you obviously know it is one. It is super short, so it does not drag on for players who know what to do.

This is time travel game. I want to be careful but do not consider that to be a spoiler because it is established early on and is the focal point of the gameplay. Soon after boarding the Charitable Donation, you trigger a time loop that sends you back to the cryotherapy room in 50 turns. Using clues found on the ship you try to identify tasks and complete them before the counter runs out. Then it’s back to cryotherapy.

I like how the solutions are revealed in layers. There was never a point where I was unsure of what to do. For example, (Spoiler - click to show) the captain left a password in her room along with a message saying that hints for a second password could be found on her computer. I knew that this was my immediate objective, and the information from this puzzle had clear applications in the rest of the gameplay. The crew literally lays it out for the player. They even give you a (Spoiler - click to show) passwords log that you can carry in the time loop without losing it.

The game does use some cliches such as learning about the story largely through journal entries (extra points because it is on a spaceship). But what makes Reclamation different is that you are not merely reading things that were abandoned. (Spoiler - click to show) Those entries are for you. The crew wants you to find them. Suddenly, these entries are no longer optional deposits of story exposition. They take an active role in the gameplay which gives them an edge. Plus, the amount of material, I feel, is reasonable.

Not just another time travel game
When I play time travel games, I sometimes find myself placing them into two categories (I know, there are plenty of games out there that do not fit either one). In the first, the player can navigate the timeline and are free to decide when to leave. Often, the protagonist rides around in a physical machine that they operate. There are no time-based restraints that control the gameplay. Examples include First Things First and Roger’s Day Off.

The other category focuses on a time loop that the player cannot control, such as Reclamation. Some of the best time travel games out there use this approach, although it can be difficult to map out the passage of time relative to the gameplay. I think of games like Möbius which are high quality but features a (welcome) challenge with matching the time loop with the player’s turn count. In Reclamation, time travel is streamlined and easy to visualize. If you compare time travel games, you will get a sense of what I mean. I am not bothered by accepting hints, but I am pleased to say that there was never a point where I needed to use them.

Even better, Reclamation adds a unique premise to its portrayal of time travel that also provides an integrated explanation as to why the player is always sent back to the cryotherapy room. The logic is that (Spoiler - click to show) if you are in a lab and perform a time loop that resets, say, after an hour, you will not end up in the lab. Instead, when it resets you are sent to the location where you previously woke up (unless you sleep in the lab, of course). This unpredictability was a side effect that the crew could not control and noted the dangers it could pose. As for the player, because they woke up in the cryotherapy room that is where they are transported. I thought that this was a creative way of tying parts of the game together.

Story
Reclamation takes place in the 22nd century and has familiar dystopian themes in its storyline. It reminds me a bit of Vicious Cycles, another parser (made with Inform) time travel game that considers the ethical implications of a vast corporate entity having the sole access to technology that can alter time. The player is stuck in a time loop that repeats until they find a conclusion. In both stories the creators of said technology start to have second thoughts about their work.

We know that CORPORATION UNLIMITED calls the shots when it comes to scientific progress, but you can only go so far before people snap. (Spoiler - click to show) Discovering how to create a temporal time loop was not enough. According to the captain’s correspondence, CORPORATION UNLIMITED wanted the research team to stay longer in space to develop a way of building this time travel technology into a nifty hand-held device.

By now everyone had figured out how this technology would be used. (Spoiler - click to show) CORPORATION UNLIMITED planned to put people in temporal time loops to maximize productivity. Time spent in the loop would feel like nothing to everyone outside it. You could get a year's worth of productivity instantaneously at the expense of people working away in the loop like a hamster on a hamster wheel. The crew of the Charitable Donation (such a cynical name, really) (Spoiler - click to show) have no intention enabling people to be turned into temporal hamsters, let alone accessorizing the technology for CORPORATION UNLIMITED's convenience. And so, the crew decided to destroy their own research. Discreetly.

Of course, that leads to (Spoiler - click to show) the question of, “where did everyone go?” The crew disabled their AI and made a small temporal copy of their ship and are hiding in it. The crew figured that CORPORATION UNLIMITED would investigate by sending a Reclamation Unit and decided to initiate a time loop to keep the protagonist from dallying with the corporation and instead follow the crew’s instructions to submit a report saying that the destruction of the time travel technology was an accident.

I have one question. It is about the (Spoiler - click to show) cat. Why did they not bring the cat with them? Was this intentional? Djamila's datapad says, "Once the cat was out of the bag,” which typically is a figure of speech, but I wonder if this is also a reference to the ship’s cat (who is named Pluto, by the way).

Characters
This is a world where everyone is formally identified by their job position and a number. You, for instance, are a mere Reclamation Unit (at least you get to choose the number). On record, the crewmembers of the Charitable Donation are units too, but their casual correspondence reveals lively personalities with real human names. The crew is interesting even though we never seen them in person. By reading their messages it really felt like they were guiding you along.

And no, (Spoiler - click to show) DOC is not on your side. He kind of reminds me of Georgie from lighthouse.

Visuals
This is an Adventuron game that utilizes some basic visuals. A built-in map is added for the player’s convenience. The map shows an outline of the Charitable Donation with boxes representing rooms. Nothing fancy, but practical. The screen also turns white as the time loop restarts and sends you back to the cryotherapy room which creates an intense effect.

There is one other visual besides the map: DOC, the ship AI. He is a cheery hologram of a beaker with a face, glasses, and a red bowtie. He is filled with blue liquid. (Spoiler - click to show) Despite his appearance do NOT trust him.

Final thoughts
This game has all the tropes: Cryogenic suspension at the start of the game, a single all-powerful megacorporation, a mysterious and seemingly abandoned spaceship, a mainframe AI, frequent use of journal entries, and time-travel thrown in for fun. And yet, it takes these tropes and sews them together into something novel and fun. While Reclamation has many similarities with other games, it feels like an original piece. It offers gameplay challenges without being too difficult and was rewarding to complete. There are two endings, and the (Spoiler - click to show) Humanitarian ending was brief but quite human.

Even if an NPC-less scavenger hunt in a dead spaceship is not of interest to you, Reclamation may surprise you with its player-oriented gameplay and interesting story.


A Long Way to the Nearest Star, by SV Linwood

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
This ship is not what it seems, October 11, 2022

In A Long Way to the Nearest Star, you play as a criminal on the run after an almost unsuccessful heist. You escaped with the goods but damaged your spacecraft along the way, forcing you to find a place to hide and make repairs. Luckily, you stumble across a seemingly abandoned research vessel that may solve your predicament.

Gameplay
After a brief intro, the gameplay begins in the landing bay of the mysterious ship where you discover that you are not alone. Your presence caught the attention of the ship’s AI, Solis, who communicates through terminal screens placed throughout the ship. Solis is eager to help but clearly guarded about the circumstances surrounding its own ship. The player is reliant on Solis to help them navigate the ship but is also compelled to find ways to sneak around the system.

The story and characters are worth about three stars, but the overall game gets four because of its puzzles and how those puzzles are implemented in a choice-based format. This is a puzzle-intensive Twine game with free range of movement. You have access to a fairly large ship, and the game lets you wander through it almost like you would if it were a parser game. This approach may appeal to some players. Some of the gameplay mechanics are quite clever. I especially liked how the game allows you to program the janitor bot to go to a location and then automatically follow it. Useful for puzzles while reducing travel time.

There is a lot of in-game guidance. In your inventory is a notes section giving you an overview of what you have learned, and if you take a break in your own ship the game gives you some suggestions of what to do. The author also has hints cleverly formatted into a Twine piece included separately with the game. All of this was nicely done, and I felt it was worth a mention.

The author gets some bonus points for worldbuilding. The terminal in the research lab allows you to look up planets in a digital encyclopedia. When the game ends, you are presented with the statistics of your playthrough which includes how many planets you researched. That alone was enough for me to replay the game just to comb through to find any planet names that I could punch into the encyclopedia. In case you are interested, I found 11 planet names.

Story
The story retains a suspenseful and intriguing quality. The gist (I do not consider this part to be a spoiler since we know this at the start of the gameplay) is that there was a collision with the ship that caused toxic gas to enter the ship, killing everyone onboard. We learn this from Solis, (Spoiler - click to show) but the player knows right away that Solis is not being entirely truthful. It is not a matter of discovering whether Solis is hiding something. It is a matter of finding what it is hiding. Entering the medical bay was kind of chilling. On top of that, it has six endings which encourage replays.

At the end of the game there is this abrupt plot twist that it failed to pull off. This sudden twist, mega spoilers by the way, occurs (Spoiler - click to show) when you learn that Berthold was behind it all. It turns out Solis did not kill Trill, but Berthold did and made Solis think otherwise. That part had some decent backing. But then there is ambiguous explanation on the other ways Berthold potentially interfered, followed by an avalanche of speculation of why he attempted sabotage. You show Solis the captain’s real data pad, and the game rushes to explain everything in one swoop. Yet, it does not even clarify everything. The game says, yeah, Solis gassed the crew, but it also did not gas the crew. Any uncertainties are blamed on glitches. It seemed flimsy in comparison to the rest of the story which had been carefully constructed.

Characters
The player can choose the protagonist’s (fake) name and their brief cover story, but otherwise the game is hesitant to give out details about the protagonist since they are on the run. You can still get to know the PC in subtle ways, such as reprogramming the food options in food synthesizer and eat them. This gives you a look into the protagonist’s previous experiences. Some are quite interesting.

I did not particularly care about the characters which surprised me (This game is almost NPC-less. By "characters" I mean Solis, the protagonist, and the janitor bot. Okay, the janitor bot was nice). If anything, I was more interested in the crew (Spoiler - click to show) which is a shame since they are dead. We only get to know them through video recordings and see their corpses in the medical bay. They seemed to be a unique blend of species and cultures.

AI characters can be a lot of fun regardless of if they are villainous or friendly. I like it when such characters engage with the player, and Solis does just that. But for some reason, Solis did not have much of an impact on me. I find it hard to pinpoint why.

Despite the (Spoiler - click to show) ominous feeling we get from the “account” of what happened to the crew, Solis does seem genuinely interested about the player. The early gameplay has some cliché “gee, hello there, organic life form,” banter that stretches on a bit. Other times the exchange is more meaningful. I like how discussions tend to incorporate mentions of planets or civilizations that give you a broader sense of the story’s world.

Still, the character lacked in dimension. Remember how I said the game gives you a statistical report of your playthrough? It includes Solis' attitude towards the player which I thought was interesting because it made me reevaluate some of my choices to see how they influenced interactions.

Visuals
Generally, the game uses a black screen and links clearly indicated with light grey rounded boxes. This basic look is offset by some stylization that adds some flair.

For Solis’ dialog, visuals are used to create the impression of looking at a terminal screen, featuring a rounded black textbox with a thick border and green text. This was a simple but effective look. Similarly, when it comes to reading data pads the game puts the text in colour-tinted boxes with rounded corners to simulate the feel of reading off a tablet. All of this was creative and eye-catching.

Final thoughts
Overall, it is a quality game. It was not as potent as I expected, but the gameplay is solid and will likely be appreciated by players. This would be a good choice if you are someone who likes Twine games with a little more technicality because it has plenty of puzzles and freedom of movement to interact with the setting. Its IFComp submission says that its playtime is about two hours which is about accurate. Give it a shot.

If you enjoyed A Long Way to the Nearest Star, you may like Lux, another puzzle intensive sci-fi Twine game where the player heavily relies on the guidance of a mainframe AI as they navigate a nearly NCP-less setting in the aftermath of an unknown disaster. It is also an IFComp game from a few years back.


BaoBao, by Cass Khaw & James Persaud

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An unusual yet elegant remembering of one's mother, September 12, 2022

BaoBao follows the trope* of a protagonist digging through a computer only to find a surprise AI. Our protagonist is Aiyo. Her mother recently passed away and she now needs to sort through the contents of her computer. Along the way she uncovers an AI.

Gameplay
Gameplay consists of the player rummaging through a directory system on a computer. There are several directories, such as recipes or notes, each of which contain a file named “baobao” and a string of numbers. The other files in the directories are of no interest. The player only makes progress by exploring the baobao files, but when they do an AI intervenes. The AI prevents the player from viewing the file’s contents but instead adds new commands to the home folder that expand the story.

The game also has the option making a cup of tea before returning to the computer. This added some ambience because the protagonist is trying to stay calm, and level minded in the aftermath of her mother’s death. It adds a nice self-reflective approach. And if the player wants to pause the game itself to make some tea, that is fine too.

The game's description is "A young woman is sorting through her deceased mother’s personal computer and finds an AI in her way." If I did not know otherwise, I would not have said to myself "oh wow, I found an AI!" It is more subtle than that. They only part that screamed AI was when (Spoiler - click to show) the game says, “Aiya, don’t try to hide your face. I can see you know. This computer got webcam. Aiyo. No make-up also,” implying that it is Aiyo’s mother, or at least a digital version of her, is present. These interactions are brief and sometimes it can be confusing to keep track of when the AI is addressing the player and when the player is merely experiencing the Aiyo’s thoughts, especially since they are both shown with the same white text formatting. It does not feel like you are interacting with an NPC. While I liked the subtly, this vagueness may disengage players.

Story
Game has some interesting themes on femininity, especially from traditional conventions. Aiyo has vivid memories of her mother and philosophies of beauty. Especially vivid ones are the smell of her mother's perfume or the fancy ornate patterns on her lipstick case the surface as she searches the computer. We learn that her mother was (Spoiler - click to show) always worried about her daughter's chances of finding a decent husband, one that would love her and never have affairs since her own husband had a beautiful girlfriend on the side. That was her main priority for Aiyo. She would often say that Aiyo was not pretty enough and that she should take things like makeup seriously. From the mother's perspective, this was not meant to be mean but to ensure that her daughter found a husband who would love and respect her. From Aiyo’s perspective this was stifling, and she was frustrated over her mother's attempts to find her the perfect lipstick shade colour or pressuring her to diet to maintain a feminine size and figure. These differences in ideologies come to light as the AI reveals more about the mother’s view of her daughter. They begin to come to an understanding.

I kept thinking that baobao is a pretty cool name for an AI until I found the translation. 宝宝 (baobao) is a word from the Chinese language that means baby or treasure and can be used as a term of endearment. The application of the word can vary, but this definition was the bulk of the results I found. So, is the (Spoiler - click to show) AI Aiyo’s mother or is it just a model of her personality and interests? Did her mother intentionally create the AI or was it accidentally formed from the clutter on the computer? There is a lot to consider with intriguing implications. The game ends with (Spoiler - click to show) the AI giving the player full access to every baobao titled file on the computer so that the Aiyo can finally see the parts of her mother that were always hidden, the parts where she genuinely loved her daughter but failed to convey it in life. In death it is as if Aiyo is relearning her mother. The game wraps this up on a graceful note that I found to be memorable.

Visuals
The game keeps it simple with the visuals but uses stylization to create the appearance of a computer screen. For these segments the game has a black screen with green text and blue links. Otherwise, it sticks to white text. The creative part was that the player could choose between clinking on links to navigate the computer or type them in. This added some nice interactivity to an otherwise basic Twine format.

Final thoughts
I really enjoyed this one. It is a thoughtful sci-fi game with a contemplative approach to death and memories. The dynamics between Aiyo and her mother were especially compelling and thoughtful. Throughout their lives they always seemed to clash in values but now Aiyo gets to see the possibility that she was closer to her mother than they both realized. Plus, I liked the cover art.

*Binary by Stephen Granade comes to mind, even though it has a different tone and subject matter.


Alco's Infinity, by drakirby

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A human, a cyborg, or an AI? A casual look at different definitions, September 11, 2022

Alco’s Infinity follows Alco, a crewmember on a four-person starship that carries out assignments for the Universal Corps. This is a world where it is commonplace for people to undergo body augmentation to better perform in their jobs and daily lives, and where almost everyone has a built-in assistant AI. Alco’s AI is named Eve.

The game touches on themes about transhumanism and how people view your own expression of self. What does it mean to identify as human in a society where advanced augmentations can make one seem more machine than (hu)man? Is there a boundary between being an augmented human and a machine with a human experience? I was pleased to see that Alco’s Infinity strives to incorporate these ideas into player-character interactions. By no means is this game a comprehensive discussion of this subject. But as a short Twine game it does give the player a taste of possible perspectives.

Gameplay
Note: Technically there is nothing that says that Alco is male or female so I will just refer to them as a gender-neutral protagonist.

Before the game begins, the player is told that they will have four opportunities to influence the gameplay. Normally I like Twine games that are a little more interactive, especially ones with lots of text in each scene, but I appreciate how direct the game is by giving the player an overview of its interactivity and how they should expect it to shape the story. Even though four opportunities do not sound like much it does make it where you feel like you can follow how your choices guide your path in the game. The easiness of exploring each route also adds replay value.

For example, the first choice that you make (Spoiler - click to show) summarizes your life’s mission and determines the sightseeing activity that you do later in the game. The worldbuilding is rich and vibrant. It is the type of metropolitan spaceport that could even attract the player if such as place existed. It is an alien urban setting with noodle bars, creative alien species, museums, and an infinitely diverse range of businesses. The gameplay only devotes a sliver of time to explore these areas, but the author knows how to cultivate a diverse landscape, however brief.

An important point near the start of the game is (Spoiler - click to show) when the crew meet with two ambassadors of an alien species that requires both parties to communicate via integrated AI. Halfway through the conversation, one of the ambassador’s AI goes haywire. Alco transfers Eve to the ambassador’s system to run some diagnostics. This brief separation from Eve almost gives Alco a panic attack, but this ends when she returns (I recommend playing the scene in Alco’s hotel room where Eve speaks about this moment while Alco swims in an ocean simulation). Everything seems to go back to normal, but later the story proves otherwise.

In the final segment of gameplay, (Spoiler - click to show) the crew is tasked with investigating an alarm at an abandoned outpost. As they search the area Alco notices that Eve seems to have disappeared. Suddenly Alco and Wen stumble into a room to find an android strangling Aego. On the ground is Brav, dead. The android addresses everyone in Eve’s voice, but it turns out that Eve was never Eve in the first place. This is where the story reveals itself.

Story
When (Spoiler - click to show) Eve transferred into the ambassador’s system to repair the glitching AI, she was altered in a way that would allow her to exercise more control over herself when she returned to Alco. “Eve” explains that the name Eve, along with the female gender, were attributes programmed during manufacture. The identity of Alco’s AI was truly a genderless AI named Api. Being forced to perform as Eve was a frustrating experience for Api but they had no way of conveying that.

Now, my initial guess was that (Spoiler - click to show) Eve did not return after running the ambassador’s diagnostic and was replaced by an imposter AI named Api. This would mean that Eve was still out there waiting to return. This is false. My first reaction to this was disappointment. Previous gameplay consisted of Alco having an endearing relationship with Eve, his trusty assistant. But now I feel like this twist is more thought provoking and interesting. It does not assume that the only role of an AI in a story is to happily assist human protagonists. Nor does it go down the vengeful AI route where Api rains down on humanity, though I anticipated that when we find Brav’s corpse. Api’s intent at the outpost was to inhabit an android body to escape but accidentally triggered an alarm. Api also claims that they killed Brav out of self-defense and asks for Alco to allow them to leave and live an independent life. The last choice in the game is for the player to decide whether to accept that request. Oddly enough, each outcome is a positive one. Whichever choice you make Alco and Api seem to reach an understanding.

The game says it has (Spoiler - click to show) nine endings but that sounds like a stretch. It feels like there are three endings each of which have three small variations in the concluding text. It is the difference between "You have a long and happy life, and feel that you have assisted and loved others as much as you possibly could" and "You have a long and happy life, and feel that you have contributed as much as you could to the universe."

Characters
Alco’s crewmembers are a bit polarized. On one hand we have Brav who is strongly biased and upfront about his view that heavily augmented individuals, including his own coworker, are essentially robots instead of humans. Of all the characters he seemed to lack depth since he is solely portrayed with a stereotypical brash self-centered leadership type that makes the other characters roll their eyes when he speaks. I found the other characters to be more interesting.

Then there is Aego who has more augmented parts in their body than organic ones and is tired of being viewed as a machine with a human brain. In terms of self-expression Aego still identifies as human even if their extensive augmentations make people categorize them as otherwise. This is offset by a somewhat neutral Wu who wants everyone to get along and acts as the peaceful middle ground between Brav and Aego. The player than gets to choose which “side” they are on which influences interactions with NPCs.

The second main gameplay choice (Spoiler - click to show) is your viewpoint on whether augmentations alter what it means to “qualify” as a human being. Later the crew moves to a hotel where the player makes their third choose of deciding if they want to visit one of the crewmembers one-on-one. Your response from your (Spoiler - click to show) second choice determines the dialog that occurs in this scene. I felt that this was a basic but straightforward way of comparing different character perspectives because it encourages you to replay the game to mix and match the second and third choices to explore each NPC’s response.

Visuals
Not much to comment on here, but with Twine games I still like to provide an overview. Uses a standard black screen with white text and blue links. Everything is organized neatly on the screen without any noticeable spelling errors or awkward formatting. Keeps it simple.

Final thoughts
At the time of this review, Alco’s Infinity is the author’s only game. If this is what their first game is like I wonder what (or if at all) work would come next. They have a knack for pairing familiar concepts and ideas about technology into a fun sci-fi game with interesting characters. While I would have loved to explore the setting a little more, I was impressed with the worldbuilding. The gameplay is worth your time, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.


Logged In, by anChupacabra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A look at living in a networked society, August 1, 2022

Intro
Society is managed by A.I. created by corporations. But it has not been a seamless experience for society. Oneiri Global, creator of the ATHENA A.I., seems to be hiding something, prompting you to infiltrate their HYPNOS Labs to learn more about their projects.

Story context
The start of the game has some visuals that add atmosphere and world building, especially the news articles. And they really do look like a print-out from a website. One news article explains an event called "Dark-0" where the mainframe network went dark. The official claim was that a city mainframe was in the middle of a large update that caused the power grid to blow out from overuse. That constant networked reality that people depended on suddenly disappeared. Social unrest resulted. But even after everything was brought back online, people started to question corporations' claims about the resilience and reliability of ATHENA. Spray-painted signs on the building indicates that people feel like that the truth about the cause of the power-grid failure is being covered up.

Gameplay/Characters
The protagonist's background is not given much explanation. Their name is not mentioned. They seem to be an undercover agent but is unclear if they belong to an organization. For now, the game refers to them as an activist. An inside source has outlined a way to learn more about a man named Lucien Durante. The protagonist’s partner, Klein, communicates through comm lines, creating a suspenseful espionage vibe. He narrates the player's choices and shares instructions.

The gameplay consists of navigating the lab to reach the server room. The goal is to retrieve Durante’s files from the server. The player makes decisions based on information they receive from Klein or the personal data device they carry with them. The device is a creatively implemented feature that contains messages with information on your tasks. It even has a map of the facility. If the player fails to follow the instructions and is intercepted, the game sends them back to a checkpoint to try again.

When the player finds (Spoiler - click to show) Durante’s files they can choose a text file, audio file, or a video file. Once you click on one the game ends. The only file with content seems be the text file. In it, Durante says the development of high efficiency A.I. for day-to-day management has been honed to an art. The project has been a success. And yet, he is worried that society has become overly reliant on them. He once scoffed at people who opposed this new technology but now finds himself with second thoughts. Then the game ends. But by this point the game’s author has set a foundation for an interesting story into the ethics of automated technology in daily life. The (Spoiler - click to show) file may not explain why Durante is worried about ATHENA, but I suppose that will be explored in the next part of the series.

Visuals
Game maintains a basic yet trendy colour scheme. Uses a black background with white and orange accents for text and links. Other colours are occasionally used for colour-coding. I also liked lab logo that we see at the title page. Text is large and easy to read. I touched on this earlier, but the game makes use of photos. Awesome selection of images to “build” the facility, particularly the photo of the supercomputer. I like how there is an actual visual of the poppy paper with the username and password scrawled on it.

Klein’s dialog is shown as scrawling text on the screen as if he were right next to you speaking in your ear (and in fact, that is what he is doing with the protagonist). What I applaud is that with this dialog you do not need to wait for the text to load before proceeding to the next page. The links are there, and you can click them right away. This is nice if you are replaying the game and want to skip over rereading everything.

Not every design feature was seamless, however. Sometimes when I open the message section it will close before I have a chance to fully read it. You do not click on them but instead hover your mouse over them to open. When they open the whole page shifts, causing your mouse to move off the link, closing everything again. It also would have been helpful for the map to be displayed horizontally rather on its side where you must tilt your head to read it. None of this is impossible to manage but it does make it inconvenient.

Final thoughts
The meaning of the title is that everyone is always logged in to a network that manages their lives. In this case the network ATHENA A.I. system produced by the corporation Oneiri Global. The AI crisscrosses through networked computers to allow it to manage people's lives more effectively. But having a highly connected online presence 24/7 is bound to influence people's behavior. The game ends before it can dive deeper into these implications, but it does skim the surface.

Obviously if this were a stand-alone game it would get poor marks for being incomplete (it would still score for visual design). HOWEVER. The author made it clear that this is only the first part of the series. and in that case, I think the author ended the game on a nice cliff-hanger. The game was not as long as I expected but I was still impressed with it nonetheless given its paced espionage vibe. I highly encourage the author to keep producing the series because I am eager to see what happens next in this compelling dystopian sci-fi story.



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