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About the Story
A text adventure of paperwork, office politics, and sci-fi space battles.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: February 23, 2023
Current Version: 1
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
2nd Place, Best Overall; Entrant, All Games - SeedComp! - 2023
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Number of Reviews: 2
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Meet Sub-Lieutenant of Human Resources Command Sheryl Swift.
Sheryl is punctual, tidy, scrupulously hygienical, and conscientious about her work. All good personal qualities, no?
She diligently organises and leads the weekly staff meetings, preferably during friday-noon lunch break. She sternly believes those beneath one on the societal ladder should be cared for with a firm guiding hand. That’s important work, no?
Recently, Sheryl was promoted to the free-standing cubicle closest to her boss 's Lieutenant’s office. Even though he never asks her in, it's a sign that she’s worthy of her position, no?
The Lieutenant himself even calls her to take care of an urgent matter in the office. On a friday evening. Minutes before she would leave her desk, put on her coat and go home. That’s firm proof of his trust in her, no?
Against a tumultuous futuristic backdrop, we follow Sheryl as she searches the Human Resources Command offices for a number of missing chapters for the new draft of His Majesty Smurg IV’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook. Lieutenant Fernandez wants them sent through that same evening. A menial clerk’s job it would seem, but Sheryl performs it with pride and ingenuity. While we see glimpses of the Space Navy fighter fleet in action through the window, Sheryl just as dutifully does her part for the smooth operation of the Human Resources department of His Majesty’s Space Navy.
His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook utilises a limited and efficient verb set, which it vehemently insists upon when it is strayed from. In contrast, the surroundings are richly implemented. Descriptions of objects provide deeper layers of detail and they often include nuggets of characterisation for Sheryl or clues about her co-workers who misplaced the missing chapters of His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook.
While at first it may seem that there is a bit too much handholding in solving the problems, we must realise that His Majesty’s Royal Space Navy Service Handbook chooses to exchange some player satisfaction or puzzle-glory for a smoother flow of the story and better control of the tempo. This makes for a more engaging story.
Sheryl is a beautifully drawn character. I will remember her for the next XYZZY Awards.
This was a refreshingly well-designed game. There were a couple of things that didn't work out for me, but this game had the kind of smoothness I'd associate with experienced authors like Ryan Veeder or Zarf.
The conceit is that you are a space bureaucrat in a future technocracy. You are in charge of delivering a technical manual, but it's after hours and every chapter of the manual was assigned to a different subordinate. You have to track down each person's personal copy.
There was a lot of light office and space-bureaucracy humor, some fun romance, and a lot of little niceties (like the 'press anything' button being an ascii art anchor and having exits listed).
One nice feature was having all verbs listed, and once you found something using that verb it was crossed off the list. This was very satisfying.
The author seems to have found the lack of verbs a weakness instead of strength; typing the wrong thing too many times gives you a big apology about how they didn't have time to implement responses to everything not on the list. But constrained verb games are their own genre and are fun, and having the player get repeated errors isn't negative, it's just a fact of parser games; the errors are the 'boundaries' of the world, and having firm boundaries can make a game better.
I had a great experience with this. The main thing I disliked is that 8 cubicles are mentioned but you can only ever interact with two, despite learning the names of the others. I'd prefer it if it recognized, say 'Becher's cubicle' and just said 'that cubicle is boring' or something.
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