Hell in Highwater

by J. Arthur


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Adult Adventure Puzzler, February 21, 2014

This is a fairly long but easy puzzler, with a defined world and an interesting story (and a clever travel mechanic) that reminds me in a lot of ways of a graphical point-and-click adventure. Ultimately, I think it would have been a better game if the resources put into writing so many rather forgettable dating targets had been put into other aspects of the game.

Adult stuff, very mild spoilers: (Spoiler - click to show)All the encounters are strictly heterosexual; the only overtly gay character is cowardly, ineffectual, and obnoxious (this may have been a joke, since he's a vampire and I entirely expected to be offered a sex scene with him). There's not much going on otherwise besides willing sex between (with one exception) equals, one of whom wants to repay the other for a favor. The one exception is easy to avoid and telegraphed as "bad" in big, bold neon. None are particularly meaningful or add much to the story except the witch and the pirate.

Since that aspect of the game is entirely optional, I would recommend only pursuing the NPCs who feel plot appropriate or just skipping the adult stuff entirely. It isn't poorly written, but the engine used is obviously based on incrementing meters with actions and that gets tedious pretty quickly, especially with chunks of text recycled between characters.

The plot is dramatic, the stakes high and personal, but the hero never seems to be too concerned about the fate worse than death awaiting him (or about the others who may have already suffered it). The hero remains a blank slate throughout; we know his name, his occupation, his lifestyle, and what he's been doing for the past five years, but his description is the generic "about the same as always" and he has no opinions about anything going on around him (or happening to him) besides mild feelings of guilt if he's unkind. This bugs me, and is representative of the game as a whole; it just can't seem to commit enough to have real impact.

The puzzles are straightforward and somewhat varied. I did flounder a bit occasionally trying to figure out what I should do next other than wander around and look at everything to see what might help. The key seems to be asking everyone you meet about everything you can think of. Personally, I find that I almost never hit on the right things to ask, not just here, but any time an "ask X about Y" system is used without suggested topics. Fortunately there's any ally you can get early on who will guide you somewhat.

I had some issues with the specific phrasing of commands (during the first puzzle, no less), but the game has a context-sensitive hint system that provides two hints and then an outright solution, so I was never stuck for long. None of the puzzles are cruel or require mind-reading. I did find two a bit unfair. In one, a crucial plot item is (Spoiler - click to show)hidden behind a locked door in an out of the way spot, just past a room with six locked doors in it, and the solution is (Spoiler - click to show)to knock on that door even though the first six do nothing. By the time I found the important door, I had assumed the locked doors in this area were scenery. In the other, (Spoiler - click to show)you need to "look in" an item that's only marginally a container (examining it won't work). (Spoiler - click to show)If you can't find the coin to pay the apothecary, (Spoiler - click to show)"look in red chair" in the Ice Flow Tavern.

Be aware that "strip" is not implemented correctly; NPCs may not realize they've been divested of their clothes, and they certainly won't notice if you're naked. And inventory management in general is kind of a pain, but you're given a mobile base to keep everything in that's never more than three or four rooms away. "Drop all" is your friend here.

All in all, worth playing at least once, and a game I would definitely recommend to someone familiar with IF who wanted to try an adult game.

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- Kritsada Piriyakitpaiboon (Ubonratchathani, Thailand), January 28, 2009

- tfbk, April 10, 2008

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