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Spring Thing

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Nothing Could be Further From the Truth, by Adam Wasserman

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

"I am loyal, I am true.

When I'm older I will do

The best I can to serve my home.

Proud I live under a dome."

Welcome to the Bunker!
(No, I didn’t make that song up. Let’s see if you can find who sings it.)

Nothing Could Be Further From the Truth is an entry in Spring Thing 2023. It follows the adventures of Oliva Mirram, a citizen who lives in a dystopian Bunker located under the surface of Venus. She works in Research Lab A-U61 as an unglamourous “dust maid” whose sole task is to keep everything dust free (she is also allergic to dust).

But one day she stumbles across an opportunity that is about to make her life a little more interesting.

Not quite a sequel
Before Nothing Could Be Further came Wasserman’s Today is the Same as Any Other (2019) which features a character named Cory Resden who works in a “Population Monitoring Facility” where, let’s face it, all he does is paperwork. The two games follow a similar framework even if the characters have notable differences in identity.

WARNING: The following section will contain moderate structural spoilers for BOTH games. They will be placed under a spoiler tag, naturally.

In both games, the protagonist is just another non-clearance rat race member of the Bunker working in their low-ranking job with seemingly no upward mobility. Gameplay is restricted to the protagonist’s workplace and the surrounding plaza outside. Their boss, well, sucks (Spoiler - click to show) (Cory: Xian Zimbly, Oliva: Nur Dular) and their relationships with co-workers and non-coworkers alike aren’t much better. No one seems to get along in the Bunker.

(Spoiler - click to show) On a random workday (or daystretch as the game calls it), the protagonist is approached by a mysterious person from the Underground who gives them a mission to prove themselves with the offer of joining the group. It becomes apparent soon after that there are two Underground groups you can choose to side with, but you must commit to one. In Today is the Same your choices are the “Coven” or “Purple Nurple.” In Nothing Could Be Further the options are “Area 51” and “God and Freedom Church.”

Finally, the protagonist is tasked with causing damage (and casualties) to the outside plaza by repairing and activating machinery found in their workplace. While there is more flexibility with this in the first game, it is mandatory in Nothing Could Be Further.

And there is a difficult sentient vending machine puzzle (the puzzle isn’t what’s difficult. The machine is). Oh, and plenty of exciting ways to die/end the game prematurely.

While reading this may give the impression that this game will be a boring remake of an already-been-used storyline, I think Wasserman pulls it off. There is still enough variation to make the games stand on their own, particularly since the protagonists have different workplaces and professions.

There are even small variations that can be easy to miss but rewarding to find. I really liked how the (Spoiler - click to show) “subsurface gala” query in your handy PA device reveals separate things about Oliva and Cory’s personalities. (Did I go back to Today is the Same just to compare PA queries? Of course!)

There are two main differences that stood out to me after playing both games. The first is that Today is the Same takes place underground on Mars while Nothing Could Be Further is underground on Venus. Good to see that humanity has ventured into the rest of the solar system.

The other difference is (Spoiler - click to show) that in Nothing Could Be Further it is possible to earn a security clearance and have the chance to use it (and/or flaunt it) and see where it could lead you in terms of privileges in the Bunker. This never occurred in the first game (you could end the game having qualified for one but that does not count) which was a large criticism I had when I played it.

Reflections on both
Today is the Same struck me as one of those interesting but low-coverage games that end up in a pocket in IFDB that does not get as much attention as other games of the same quality. Unless you go digging through the sci-fi section it probably won’t cross your radar which is a shame because it is genuinely a cool game with worldbuilding. That was merely MY take on it. However, it may receive more attention now that a sequel has been released in a competition. Be sure to check it out.

You do NOT need to play Today is the Same to understand and enjoy Nothing Could Be Further, although I recommend both, starting with the original. Because Cory is trapped in a cubicle desk job, you get a clearer sense of the drudgery of daily life in the Bunker as well as an overview of the Bunker's shady innerworkings. It is not quite as exciting but is shorter and a bit easier. Both have built-in hints.

However, if you only have time to play one, choose Nothing Could Be Further. I liked it better and feel that it showcases the more dynamic parts of the Bunker. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show) in the first game, the concept of a Ward of the State is mentioned in your handheld encyclopedia device (look it up, citizen) and on a poster by your workstation. In the second game, a bratty Ward of the State encompasses an entire puzzle. It was a nice chance increase the scope of NPCs you meet in the Bunker.

(Also, we hear about these popular NPCs who we never interact with. (Spoiler - click to show) News hosts Sally and Yuri can be seen on public television, and celebrities like Van Johnson or Milfred Roth are also mentioned. I assume that the Bunkers on Venus and Mars are identical. It makes me wonder, which Bunker do they live on? Mars or Venus? Or somewhere else entirely?)

The game begins after the lab director of Research Lab A-U61, Ati Vosh, orders everyone to leave the lab for security reasons. However, you were dragging your feet during your shift and failed to leave before the lab director started discussing a top-secret project with two researchers in the lobby. This leaves you in a tough situation since the lobby is the only exit.

A brief pause. "There's no need to worry. I've sent everyone away under strict orders. No one knows about the existence of the invisibility cloak except you, myself, Silia and Renardin."

Everyone except Oliva Mirram. Conundrums like these fill the gameplay of Nothing Could Be Further.

As you will discover during the gameplay, obstacles to your success vanish as they arise. A few puzzles later (Spoiler - click to show) Ati, Silia, and Renardin are no longer an issue, and the game gets to the chase: With Mission Impossible vibes you don a black helmet to receive an incoming message from a mysterious man named Asimov who tries to recruit you for (Spoiler - click to show) Area 51, an Underground group determined to use scientific development to undermine Control’s management of Bunker society.

(Who’s Control? The non-spoiler answer is that Control is the main over-arching conglomerate of high-ranking citizens who overwatch the hustle and bustle of life in the Bunker. There are eight other conglomerates who exercise similar influence, but everything is at the discretion of Control.

Spoiler answer: (Spoiler - click to show) Control is one giant computer tasked by its creators to manage the Bunker’s resources and humanity’s environmental impact, even if Venus is already a runaway greenhouse effect nightmare. Only citizens with a security clearance know about Control’s true nature. Later, that includes you.)

The gameplay from then on is set on your “mission” to gain favor with (Spoiler - click to show) Area 51 or its alternative, the (Spoiler - click to show) God and Freedom Church in hopes of becoming a member and accessing the privileges that would come with it. While the two paths are quite similar, they provide enough variation to be worth more than one playthrough.

The gameplay’s navigation directions are confusing because it opts for “inwards,” “outwards,” “left,” and “right,” which takes time to master. However, I applaud the author’s attention to setting by not automatically reaching for directions used on Earth. A compass does not always function on other planets. You can also map out the gameplay which is a helpful orientation.

Wasserman is an author who wields a distinctive style of puzzles that you immediately recognize when playing his work, even if there are currently only two games in the series to compare. As is the case in interactive fiction, puzzles are tailored to an author’s story and setting, making it inevitable for distinctive styles to emerge. However, authors can also cultivate puzzles that draw a sense of familiarity when a player encounters them in the gameplay.

Everything about Today is the Same can rushing back when I started Nothing Could Be Further. You fall into a groove as you readjust to a change in characters and story without losing the puzzle technicality that you remember from before. That was my immediate reaction to this game’s puzzles.

Nothing Could Be Further is somewhat of a puzzle-fest. My favorite was the (Spoiler - click to show) glass jar puzzle. It reminded me of the melting ice puzzle in Inside the Facility but weirder and deadlier (see side note).

There were a few times where it seemed like everything was a puzzle. For me, this was a downside since I am someone who enjoys puzzles but prefers story material more. The gameplay sometimes dragged on as was the case with the puzzle for (Spoiler - click to show) making the IC chip lie flat before it can be soldered to a circuit board.

But these qualities could also work in the game’s favor. The whole point of a puzzle-fest is to take on whatever puzzle the game throws at you. (Spoiler - click to show) The IC chip puzzle is one that I think would be well-received by puzzle fans. It depends on your preference. And never fear! The game comes with robust in-game hints that ensure you can always move forward. I appreciated that.

(Side note: (Spoiler - click to show) I’m not sure if this is intended but you can still retrieve the glass jar in the refrigeration unit while the vent is turned on. When I first tried the puzzle, I wasted time toggling the switch in the office and rushing to retrieve the jar before the lethal nail clippers started to activate. If you skip that step, you have more than enough time to grab the jar and take it to Dev 2 before it tries to kill you.

The room description for Lab Hallway Center could be more polished. It says, "To the left, you can see the Refrigeration Unit." When you first arrive there in the game it says, "You pause and glance into the Refrigeration Unit. A viscous liquid bubbles in a tank.” But if you try to examine the unit, the game acts as if it does not exist:

>x unit
Can't do it.

The game only responds to “look left.” This is an area that can use some slight revision.)

I love alien planets, but I also love it when authors take inspiration from our own solar system. It is fun to see authors’ interpretations of these planets and gives me an excuse (like right now) to talk about one of my favorite subjects. Mars is cool but this game caught my attention because it’s on Venus. That does not happen as often. Let’s consider this:

Earth must be pretty bad for Venus to become prime real estate for humanity’s survival. Attempting to build anything on Mars is a walk in the park compared to tackling the hellish conditions of Venus. You would not last in a spacesuit because Venus will throw everything it has at you.

Temperature: Hot enough to melt lead. Atmosphere: Toxic and corrosive. Surface pressure: Would crush your flimsy human body. Gravity: Actually, almost like Earth.

Each lander sent from Earth to Venus’ surface melted and succumbed to the surface pressure within less than a few hours, if it were lucky (still worth the trip, though).

Realistically, Mars is the only planet in the solar system that has any shot of sustaining human life aside from us possessing some insanely advanced terraforming technology that could transform a hostile world with a person’s lifetime, which we do not. Because of this, I feel that Mars is seen as the safe option when it comes to fictional stories about colonizing our neighbor planets.

Thus, I was delighted to see someone say, "you know what, I want this to take place on Venus and no one's stopping me." I like to see that branching out. Mars isn’t the only planet we have with a surface. There is always a balance between what is realistic in real-life and what is realistic in fiction, but these of course can also bleed together into a middle ground. Here is the thing:

Nothing Could Be Further is not solely "about" Venus. Its location is more of a side note rather than something we directly engage with during most of the gameplay. If it says it's on Venus, it's on Venus. I will assume that they sorted out the technicalities in advance. Although, I am curious about how they made it happen. I don’t doubt it, but the curiosity is still there.

You know, if they can stand off Venus’ conditions long enough to build an entire underground Bunker, I wonder if they have the technological means to save Earth.

How unfortunate. Requesting information about earth is treasonous, at least at your security clearance.

Oh, that’s right, it’s illegal to inquire about Earth. My bad.

We’ve already been over the story. Dust bunny Oliva in her low-ranking job stumbles across an opportunity to join the Underground if she completes a set of tasks with the resources in her workplace. But the Bunker series possesses a backstory that shines in Nothing Could Be Further and deserves acknowledgement.

I love the worldbuilding in this game. Wasserman has reams and reams of content that fills this world’s universe with interesting exposition and intricate details on the simplest things in the Bunker.

For instance, you have a nifty PA device that you can use to look up terms. Great opportunity for worldbuilding. There are quite a few possible entries. Over fifty. I was jotting down notes because the gameplay would drop names, places, entities, technologies in each scene. If you think something has an entry you’re probably right. Similarly, the Loyalty Stretch news station playing in the lab lobby was also an excellent touch.

I do think the game could temper the amount of text unloaded on the player in pivotal moments, particularly when a character makes an entrance because the screen would be washed in a tidal wave of content that can be overwhelming. I love wading through it all to devour the details, but there were times where it took me a few moments to orient myself. That’s what I like the PA concept. It provides a place where you can unleash the details separately.

Bunker society
If you’ve weathered my review so far, I’d like to go over the specific culture that permeates the Bunker since it provides vital context on the story and gameplay. Two words jump out: Loyalty and treason. The game is saturated in those two terms.

The first puzzle in the game perfectly summarizes the overall culture of life in the Bunker.
(Spoiler - click to show)
"I'll grab her," Renardin snarls, reaching inside for a fistful of hair.

Silia, however, slaps his arm down. "And let you get the credit for subduing a traitor? I don't see why you should get a promotion to Delta clearance instead of myself!"

Meanwhile, as they fight, a vial of yellow gunk breaks and starts filling the room with toxic gas.
The outcome is not difficult to predict.

Life in the Bunker is great! In fact, it's perfect and can't be improved upon in any way whatsoever.

Not true. Lies, all of it.

Everyone is under pressure to demonstrate their unwavering loyalty to the Bunker. Failure to do so results in severe consequences. These can range from being forced to participate in “caring demonstrations,” to being interrogated by Homeland Security. Proving loyalty by following the rules allows citizens to avoid being targeted. But there is a second dimension: social advancement.

There is a LOT of hierarchy in Bunker’s society, especially about security clearances. Epsilon, Delta, Gamma, Beta, Alpha. The higher the clearance the more resources- luxury- are available to you. Most citizens never receive one and spend their days enviously waiting for any chance they can to get ahead.

Because the quickest way to get a security clearance is to accuse and turn in traitors, culture in the Bunker is all about finding opportunities to turn people in to receive credit for their loyalty. Throughout the game you see indicators of petty ways people have been framed or blamed and sometimes never seen again. And treason can be the smallest thing.

Despite the petty, ruthless, backstabbing nature of everyday life, one cannot fault the citizens for being irked about their non-clearance status. Look at Cory Resden and Oliva Mirram to have an understanding of what your life will be like, citizen.

From the start of your adult life, you are assigned to live in barracks sized to house 140 people in narrow, stacked bunkbeds where the restroom facilities only have five toilets and three sinks. For everyone. Brushing your teeth must be a nightmare. The clothing you received is used. The boots are not quite your size. Food is algae-based slop in the mess hall. Beverages are simply called “Blue Drink,” or “Yellow Drink,” or whatever the drink colour is served on a given day. You also have no choice over which job you are placed in. Between Oliva and Cory, I think Oliva was a bit more fortunate.

So, imagine what it would be like to see how people with security clearances live. They have access to food that isn’t slop, have nicer sleeping situations, and other luxuries. Rumor has it that you get your own bathroom. A lot of this is blasted through celebrity shows that put this lifestyle on display. You see this tension between people throughout the gameplay. Even the (Spoiler - click to show) vending machine has a chip on its shoulder.

The author does a great job at conveying the social dynamics that shape everyday life in the Bunker. The player gets sucked into the mess as they manipulate, cheat, elbow, and shove their fellow citizens (and authorities), to get ahead when carrying out their impromptu and ill-advised mission into the Underground scene.

I was so excited to get a security clearance in this game to access the exclusive parts of the Bunker that most people never see. As I said, the game knows how to put the player into the mindset of a non-clearance citizen who wishes they could break free from the stingy model of daily life. No more slop, access to one of the fancier plazas, having your own means of transportation. I am curious to see both the glamourous and unglamourous innerworkings of the Bunker.

In an underground utopia like the Bunker, space comes at a premium…For this reason, the wide open spaces of the Bunker's plazas are popular...Higher clearance citizens will sit at cafes and restaurants, eating better fare and pretending not to notice who is noticing them.

My Epsilon clearance permitted me access into the (Spoiler - click to show) restricted research lab, which was cool although you are otherwise confined to the same areas. In both Nothing Could Be Further and Today is the Same you only have access to about three locations outside of your workplace. I would love to be able to just wander. I kept thinking to myself, if this is what an Epsilon clearance can do, what doors would a Beta clearance open?

This is more about me being a spoiled brat than an actual flaw of the game, but one can still ponder the possibilities. I can understand why the author may choose to leave certain things a mystery to maintain the Bunker’s mysterious attributes regarding its history, leadership, and objectives.

If you love drastic premature and/or insta-death endings, Nothing Could Be Further is perfect for you.

Oliva is an intriguing character. We know that she works for a private company called Dust Bunnies Ltd and has a horrible manager. As is the case for PCs and NPCs in the Bunker series, character exposition is limited, but Oliva manages to possess a spunk that sets her apart from her fellow citizens.

While Oliva does not inherently come across as an immoral person when you begin, by the time the game ends you will look back and see that she was just as bad as everyone else who tried to use her for their own advancement that you stepped on during the gameplay. And yet she’s not quite as bad.

I am surprised that the cover art does not show her mandatory gamboge bunny ears.

Also: The length of days and years on Venus are different than that of Earth. Initially I pegged Oliva as 18 years old in "Earth" years when I saw “eighteen yearstretches of age,” but I assume that “yearstretch” applies to years on Venus. She may be younger or older than an 18-year-old on Earth, depending on the math conversion. Unfortunately, I am not as confident with the math part.

Or maybe she is simply 18 years old.

There are few characters with whom we interact throughout the game. Often these encounters are brief or superficial since everyone has little reason to give you the time of day. Deep meaningful character relationships were not something I expected in this game, and I can confirm that there are none. And that works just fine for this game, although the outcomes of kissing people may just surprise you.

Unfortunately, you will need at least an Epsilon security clearance to keep reading because I am going to talk about the most mysterious NPC in this game: (Spoiler - click to show) Control.

As I mentioned earlier, Control is said to be the overarching conglomerate in the Bunker’s leadership hierarchy, staffed only by the highest ranking of citizens. Or at least that is the explanation used for the non-clearance citizens. Truth is, Control is one giant computer. While the game never uses the term “AI,” I assume that Control counts as such.

Ever since learning that Control is a giant computer and not simply "The boys over at Control" as your PA’s description of Control puts it, I have been seeing life in the Bunker with a new perspective. For example, I was already familiar with the tradition of choosing one patriotic colour per day that citizens must wear. The entry in your PA says:

>what is gamboge
Each daystretch, Control decides on a new Color of the Patriot. Citizens everywhere are expected to demonstrate their patrotism by decorating themselves appropriately.

This was interesting to me because Control has lots to do and wasting its time is seen as treason. In fact, I’m not sure if you can ever have a reason to call Control without being judged as a “DIRTY ROTTEN TRAITOR.”

Therefore, I wonder if the computer actually sits there and ponders whether the colour for today's existence should be gamboge, burgundy, pewter, chartreuse, or cerise (take a guess at which one of these was used in the first game). It probably has a human assigned to handle that position.

Speaking of humans, are there any true human Alpha clearance personnel who work "in the Control department" or is the computer the only entity upstairs? And if Control is only a computer, is it possible for a human to acquire an Alpha security clearance?

The most memorable Control character moment is when it is interrogating you in the surface lift at the end of the game. It is a balancing act of giving the appropriate answer to each question to avoid being terminated. While that may sound intimidating, the game streamlines this scene. Oliva does most of the work for you. She comes up with some slick answers.

The final accusation you must dodge is why you are standing in a Delta clearance airlock when you only have an Epsilon clearance. No need to answer any questions in this part because Control does something unexpected:


You cringe, and despite Control's unwillingness to hear you out, your mind scrambles for some reasonable excuse. But it seems you will not need it.

There is an uncomfortable pause. The great eye stares you down, but otherwise nothing happens. Then, Control speaks one last time.


I’m sorry, I don’t know if I read that correctly.

Did CONTROL bend the rules for ME? A mere dust maid? No way.

I suppose someone could have momentarily hacked the system to downgrade the lift and save Oliva, but something tells me that Control would notice such a change in the middle of a conversation. If Control really did change the clearance level to spare me from treason, then I may just have found a new favorite character in the Bunker universe.

And then of course off we go to commit more treason. I kind of feel bad about that.

Final thoughts
What Could Be Further is a fun game with creative story content and puzzles set in the unique universe of the Bunker series.

Oliva’s employment as a dust bunny in a (supposedly) innovative lab makes her plight more interesting when resources normally inaccessible to her become hers for the taking. You get swept up in the dystopian setting and the competitive nature of life in the Bunker, making a compelling case for Oliva when it’s time to get her hands dirty.

It is a strong entry to Spring Thing 2023 and worth the time as a full-length game. While this is the second game in the series, it can be played independently. I hope to see more additions to the series in the future.

Discussion on Venus, cont.
If you are only interested in the immediate game, skip this detour. I just excited about these things. Consider it an effort to help you better appreciate the setting. (Spoiler - click to show)

So. The go-to pictures of Venus that people see are often radar imaging taken by orbiters or flyby missions that never land on the surface. These images of Venus are terrifying. The surface is shown as a bright yellow cratered ruin of a planet beneath a pitch-black sky.

It would take tremendous effort to successfully send a camera on a lander down to the surface to photograph the planet to see what it would look like if you could stand there yourself and take in your surroundings with your own eyes. Before you died, of course.

And it has happened!

Ultimately it was the Soviet Union's Venera program that managed to A, stick a functioning lander(s) on Venus' surface and B, receive said lander's photographs within the half hour or so it took for the machine to die from the planet's harsh environment. And these are the only on-the-ground surface photos we have of Venus so far.

These photos aren't quite as intimidating as the radar images, but WOW do you not want to live there. Check out Venera 13 and Venera 14 for the nicer ones.

Astronomy! Thanks for reading!

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I Am Prey, by Joey Tanden

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
So am I, April 10, 2023

I had a lot of things to do recently and figured that I could get around to some of them now that the stream of new entries on IFDB died down a bit. But then Spring Thing 2023 was like, “actually…”

But nonetheless I was thrilled to see what people have submitted to this lovely event.

I was immediately drawn to this game. The cover art embodies the weirdness I absolutely live for. It reminds me of my favorite playlist of poorly and/or strangely animated YouTube videos that spew absolute nonsense, although I Am Prey is more refined than that in terms of content.

Just a heads up, the author has made it clear that the game’s entry to Spring Thing is experimental and in Beta phase. Consider my rating as a tentative three stars that merely reflect the state of this current version. I hope the author continues to develop the game into its intended final product. Cool stuff.

I Am Prey follows a clone protagonist in an abandoned cloning facility located in who-knows-where. You are a sickly-looking thing reminiscent of an albino lab rat. But you are anything but a lab rat. You are a durable and annoyed clone eager to survive past your first birthday. And you will prove it by escaping this mess of a facility.

By the way, Prey, you are being hunted by the Predator.

The gameplay begins with you catching your balance in a mesh net after being born as a fully grown clone. Happy birthday! Naked, you grab a uniform and marvel at your new existence. It does not take long for reality to kick in. The Predator makes an announcement over the intercom: He is coming for you! Yes, you must run or be killed.

Your only hope is to retrieve seven pieces of a spacesuit-like garment that will allow you to survive in the wasteland outside of the facility which can only be accessed via the emergency airlock.

The key component for strategizing in the gameplay is the sound of the doors while you explore each room. When door slams shut, it alerts the Predator who takes opportunity to announce your mistake over the intercom.

The Predator's voice can be heard over the intercom:

“Sloppy, Prey! You let the door to Lab B slam shut! That means you’re near Lab B, yeah...?”

Of course, you can use this condition to throw him for a loop by slamming a door and then scurrying off to a hallway on the opposite side of the facility like the clever clone you are.

There is high replay value in the sense that you have six modes you can play in. One is a tutorial for players new to interactive fiction, another is for those new to the game, and the remaining four are different difficulty levels depending on the Predator’s mood. This ranges from Easy Mode to Nightmare Mode.

The Predator has had a string of victories, and will go easy on you, mostly for his own entertainment.

The IF beginner tutorial is where you play as the Predator’s cat which on one hand, yay, but on the other, I am not entirely sure of the point. The Predator wants to give you a bath and you want to avoid that outcome by hiding. It is useful for simply scoping at the map, but it did not give me much more insight that I would otherwise have as a fugitive clone running for their life.

My black coat is speckled with streaks of silvery tips. White highlights my chest and paws, like a tuxedo.

Nor was it much of a tutorial for IF. Still, I appreciate the option. The cat’s personality shines through which makes it a humorous diversion. Even if the cat (Spoiler - click to show) only eats human clone flesh as of late.

Do not be afraid to test out the more difficult modes since there were times in the easier ones where it seemed like that the Predator simply forgot about me. He would do the creepy monolog over the intercom to reassure me that I was dead to him, but then this trickled away. I actually went looking for him with little success.

However, there are a several gameplay mechanics that are showcased in the helpful survival guide (provided separately) but never fully used or as dynamic as they sound (so far).

For example, there is the usage of “tricks” to throw off the Predator. These tactics include turning on sinks to distract him with irritating noises or slamming the door in his face to slow him down. Rarely did I ever get the chance to use them. It is easy to forget that they are available. Of course, availability depends on which mode you select at the start of the game.

Slam the exit door?
You have two tricks remaining, which you can spend on slamming the door in his face! This will delay his chase, but will cost one of your tricks!
Y = Slam the door!
L = Leave door open

Unless the game flat out presented me with a trick opportunity (see above), I never used them or even needed them.

The parkour idea is cool but nowhere near as cool it sounds since it consists of jumping onto tables or lockers to reach something on the top shelf. Right now, it is more of a hindrance. The vent shortcuts to other rooms were nice, though.


The following surfaces are either in easy reach, or rest on the same surface that I do:
the exit door
the desk

First you must find a parkour route in the room for it to be used. Discovering it was a byproduct of the game telling me that [room object name] was too high for me to jump on but [room object name] was, although it often took another [room object name] to reach the unusually tall table. While part of the whole point of parkour is to reach areas by jumping or climbing around, it needs more refinement for it to have the same thrilling effect in the gameplay.

One feature that I did use was the “look [compass direction]” command. It was genuinely helpful in deciding on where to go based on the contents of nearby rooms.

>look north
I carefully peek north...

(looking into The Assembly Shop...)

He paces around on the floor, as he watches me!

(returning my attention to The Common Room...)

I better get going, then.

Also, how do you reach the reservoir? The map (separate) shows several locations that seem to be off-limits in the gameplay. These locations are (Spoiler - click to show) Waste Processing, Reservoir Corridor, Reactor Pump Room, Reservoir Control Room, Reservoir, and Utility Access Corridor. A total of five locked doors are also shown on the map. None of these have cat doors.

I am not sure if the game will let you go swimming/exploring in reactor related areas, but the survival guide did say that you could dive into the reservoir to escape. The closest I got to this was a location called (Spoiler - click to show) “The Strainer Stage” where water is separated from kelp with a grate. You cannot enter the grate or swim in the water, leaving you with no choice but to return the way you came.

While flawed and undeveloped in some cases, I still had fun. I’ve already played this game several times.

Story + Characters
So, who is this guy? The Predator, that is.

What we know about the Predator is that (Spoiler - click to show) he’s a mutated clone gone wrong who is now aware of your presence and wants to hunt you down, perhaps as a potential snack. The facility ran out of snacks long ago. The cloning facility was run by non-clone humans and designed to generate a labor source of clones for industrial applications, but some catastrophe happened. This is the Predator’s turf now.

The game ends when you reach the emergency airlock after collecting all seven pieces of your environmental suit. This leads to a scene that seemed like it was supposed to be an emotional moment, but ultimately it did not impact me the way I thought it intended.

(Spoiler - click to show) Both Predator and Prey meet face to face on opposite sides of the airlock where it is obvious that the Prey has won. There is this fellow clone bonding moment where they realize that they are not that different from each other after all. The Prey, knowing that they could never be accepted by humans in the outside world, leaves with the intent of never letting humans get their grubby paws on the facility again.

This is a neat idea in terms of character development, but the writing is lackluster. It also lacks the exposition to make it unfold with any depth. While it could be a meaningful exchange, currently it is not. My response was huh, that’s… nice. I have a feeling that is not the response the author was going for.

Also, I do not mind profanity if it is wielded strategically, which is up to interpretation, but the swearing in this game leaves a weak impression on the player. It does not enhance anything. We know that the Predator is angry that this Prey is running around his abandoned cloning facility. How dare you. How dare you try to escape.

It’s just that the swearing in the dialog in these scenes seemed unoriginal and bland.

Final thoughts
The author seems to have a strong grasp of their own boundaries and abilities when making a game under strict time restraints, in this case being submitted to Spring Thing 2023. It seems clear to me that the author focused their efforts on a consistent structural framework so that the game was playable and could be completed from start to finish. Gather seven pieces of a survival suit and escape.

Was it sparse in some areas? Yes. But I would rather have a sparse game with a strong foundational structure than a game with all the fun details that is a nightmare to finish.

Still, details can make or break a game as well. The author has stated that they plan to release a post-comp version, and I look forward to seeing I Am Prey in its full glory. Already it is a fun and unusual game. Three stars for a Beta version is not too bad. And for crying out loud, let me swim in the reservoir.

Truth is, exploring (sorry, being chased around) an abandoned cloning facility is kind of fun.

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