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First Times, by Hero Robb

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Genuinely Effective IF Horror, November 20, 2019
by Blake
Related reviews: horror, positive, quest

A surreal and atmospheric game that manages to be genuinely scary, through a combination of strong prose, unnerving sound design, and creative use of the parser. Easily one of the best Quest games, playing to the engine's strengths and cleanly side-stepping its limitations.

The game tells a dark, tragic story. The author has a knack for coming up with very uncomfortable, unsettling imagery that combines mechanical and non-organic form with autonomy and flesh. They do a great job in integrating your actions into the scene at hand, too, forcing you to get up close and personal with your twisted surrounding. You're never just an observer, and this becomes a vital part of the story. The story itself is not told directly, but pieced together handily, and is left open enough in the right areas so as to allow for multiple endings, all of which are worth seeing. It's easy to tell where in the game the paths branch too, so replaying to see them all isn't too difficult. Just be sure to save fairly often.

The only real issues are a lack of proofreading (quite a few misspellings and grammatical errors), and low verb implementation - "use" is your main verb throughout most of the game, resulting in the game being quite easy. I was able to solve it with no hints and little trouble. I think some other people who have mentioned that they found the game hard may not be fully aware of just how much of each room you can examine. Part of the issue is the engine itself. Quest lists the "level 1" items and points of interest, if you will, the obvious ones, in the "Places and Objects" and "Items" boxes, but not the deeper, "level 2" objects, that are listed only in the room description.

A non-spoiler example: You are in a room. You can see a chest and a flowerpot. Both are listed in the Places and Objects box. They are "level 1" items. If you examine the chest, you find that it's unlocked. You open it, and there's a ruby inside. You examine the flowerpot, and you see a lump in the soil. You examine the soil, and you find a buried key. Neither the ruby, the soil, or the key will show up in that Places and Objects box. They are "level 2", and can only be interacted with the conventional way.

A spoilery, specific example from the game: (Spoiler - click to show)one of the hallways has holes in the wall. While not listed in the Places and Objects box, you can examine and find a journal that offers a critical clue in solving the janitor's closet riddle puzzle.

Because of this ambiguity, and because the author writes the game properly, so that everything is mentioned in the room description, I recommend closing that Places and Objects box and just playing based on the text, just like you would in a normal parser. You avoid a lot of confusion. That goes for any Quest game, really. Some of the bad ones will NOT list items in the room description, opting to include them only in the box, but the games that do this are usually rife with so many additional problems so as to render them not worth playing anyway.

Quest rant aside, do play this game. I've avoided spoilers, so turn off the lights, turn up the sound, and experience the game for yourself. Just remember to examine everything (the game does recognize proper shorthand, so just an "x" will do), and remember that the vocabulary is limited, and you should have no problems solving the game and enjoying one of the scariest IF titles out there.

Revision: I also wanted to add that this game must be played in the Quest client. Playing online causes issues with the multimedia, and the game will crash and fail to load audio properly. The Quest client also makes it much easier to browse other games authored in the engine, and is necessary for any game utilizing sound, so playing online is usually best avoided anyway. Cheers!

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