Turning Point

by Robert Street

Science Fiction

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1-3 of 3

- Edo, May 14, 2021

- Zape, December 19, 2020

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Decent puzzle design, but bland writing., April 10, 2010

This game is small, but there's good reason: It was submitted as an entry to the Commodore 32 Contest, which challenged entrants to create a Z-code game weighing in at 32K or less (the memory size limit of the fictional Commodore 32 computer).

The competition was created to showcase mInform, a minimalist library designed to replace the Inform 6 standard library. I'm not sure what the point of mInform was (other than the standard engineer's motivation of "because I can"), but mInform can be used to create quite functional games, as author Robert Street demonstrates with Turning Point.

The introduction of this piece sets up a backdrop of interstellar war that comes across with all the excitement of a USA Today news blurb. As the action starts, you are standing on the oddly-placed bridge of a starship as the Captain (whom you are a clone of) issues assignments to handle various problems on the ship. You are shortly assigned to investigate a "disturbance" which turns out to be a firefight with an alien infiltrator.

It's actually not a bad setup, but the execution as a story leaves much to be desired. Though the 32K limit leaves precious little room for exposition, much of it is wasted on an unnecessary and frivolous detours(Spoiler - click to show) -- the fact that the PC is a clone of the Captain, and some backstory about an accident the Captain had which has caused him to take a more juvenile mindset. Neither of these has any relevance to the plot that I could detect, and good editing would have trimmed them out.

There is also a tendency to use humor when justifying restricting the player's actions. While the jokes are amusing, they do not fit with the serious and straightforward quality of the puzzle design.

Regardless, the writing is good enough to create an engaging atmosphere without unduly taxing the player's willing suspension of disbelief, and it is complemented by solid (if basic) programming technique and better-than-average puzzle for such a short game.

It's about a 15-minute diversion to win, and any new authors who are better writers than coders can use this as a benchmark for basic functionality.

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