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About the Story
"Do you realize how behind schedule and over budget this picture is?"
16th Place - 4th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1998)
A highly unusual effort. You're Sam Wood, film director, trying to put together the last scene of the latest Marx Brothers picture--but that means getting the brothers to stay in one place for more than a few minutes, which, as one reviewer aptly observed, is akin to herding cats. Finishing the game depends in part on discovering how the Marx family dynamics work, but also in part on randomness, which means that this can be one frustrating game; so much trial and error is necessary that the fun tends to wane after a while. On the other hand, the writing is impeccable, Groucho's one-liners are hilarious, the attention to detail is impressive--lots of Easter eggs are scattered around--and there are literally dozens of reasonably realistic NPCs. It's a richly done game world, and if the central puzzle were just a little less maddening, this would be a whole lot of fun; as it is, it's still worth a look.
-- Duncan Stevens
In summary, Four in One reminded me of Tempest from the previous year's competition--a brilliant idea, thoroughly and intelligently done, that I wanted to like more than I did. And just as Four in One arguably worked better as the transcript submitted to the IF Fan Fest, so Tempest works better as, well, the play, and the literacy of the attempt to translate it can't hide that.
-- Duncan Stevens
This is quite an interesting concept, putting a new spin on IF. Instead of the game being object-centric, it is NPC-centric, with NO objects of any use what so ever, and more NPC's per square pixel than any other game I have played, although most of them are thinly implemented.
-- David Ledgard
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
Four In One is a the most character-intensive piece of IF I've ever played. Almost every location has one or more characters in it at all times, and these characters are as fully implemented as they need to be. The gaffer, for example, is not terribly talkative -- ask him about the movie and he'll say "A job's a job," but ask him about the lights and he has an opinion, as he should. Every character has responses about the things they should know about, though if you spend much time in conversations with them you will run afoul of the game's time limit. The Marx brothers can tell you about each other, the movie, MGM (Groucho says, "MGM stands for 'more godless movies.'"), and anything else they ought to know about. Four in One does an outstanding job juggling all these characters, giving them just the appropriate depth of implementation so that the game really rewards replay. After I had solved the game, I went back and just chatted with the various characters, and was delighted with the extent to which they are implemented. The author's research is quite apparent in these moments, and it makes a big difference. Four In One taught me things about the Marx Brothers that I had never known before, and made me want to go out and rent A Night at the Opera again. That's entertainment.
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You are a director filming the Marx brothers, and you have to herd all of them together before you can film them.
There are tons of independent NPCs, all doing all sorts of things, running from each other, fighting each other, etc.
As a technical piece, it's brilliant; as a game, it's less than enjoyable. Even playing with the walkthrough is hard; I recommend dowloading the zip containing the source and transcript, reading the transcripts, and just playing around with the actual game.
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