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About the Story
The IBS Radio Network presents...
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This is the second noir IF game to come along in the last couple of months, but "Sam Fortune" is deeply unlike Make It Good. Some of the same conventions show up -- the obligatory bottle of whiskey, the double-crosses, the general shabbiness of the protagonist's environment, the women virtuous and conspiring -- but instead of deep and sometimes frustrating freedom of Make It Good, we have a highly directed, scene-based game that spoofs radio drama.
Each scene offers just a puzzle or two of sneaking around, and though the game bills itself as "nasty", this is not really a reflection of how hard those puzzles are. It's possible to lock yourself out of victory by not taking everything that you should take at a certain point, which is awkward and could (I think) easily have been designed around; but most of the solutions are not too difficult. The game provides built-in hints, as well.
There are some cosmetic flaws -- for some reason, Blanding doesn't always make things "scenery" when they ought to be. Or perhaps he just prefers the effect of having all the important objects listed on their own line even when they're also mentioned in the room description. In other respects the game often privileges function over immersion in the prose: there are exit listings in the status bar, the game periodically prompts you when it's a good idea to save, and conversation is handled with a standard menu system. Object descriptions are minimal unless the object is important to play.
Probably the most unusual aspect of the game is the way it's framed as a radio drama, complete with explicit commercial breaks and a sponsored product that shows up during play in Coke Is It! fashion. If you do something that loses the game, the story cuts away to a listening kid, whose mother comes in and abruptly turns off the radio. The narrative voice also swaps between first and second person, which may be a little disconcerting; but I took it to mean that the first person portions were voice-over narration from Sam's point of view.
The writing tries for hard-boiled wit and sometimes succeeds, but equally often comes off as corny -- a fact that is weakly lamp-shaded in one of the endings when the mother complains of the decreasing quality of radio drama these days.
So overall, it's hard to take very seriously -- but it isn't trying to be taken seriously.
In summary: This game isn't trying to be great. But its modest ambitions are marred by mediocre craftsmanship. At its core (and what's best about the game) are a few neat but simple puzzles. Unfortunately only one really rewards thought; the others are either simple or random. There are some nice touches of humour, and the conceit of setting this as a radio drama is nice, especially with the (all to frequently seen) death or loss messages, which are well done.
(1) It's very linear. Not just in the sense that one scene must precede another (which is fair enough given the structure) -- but in the sense that each scene is linear, too. A succession of tasks to be accomplished in order. The game is full of devices designed to insist that you do things in the order the author intended. Interact ... but on my terms.
(2) Given that in the end it's only puzzles and light humour, both of them need to be great. And they really aren't. Some puzzles are poorly clued. Some are just UN-clued, being more a case of "Do X. Die. Undo. Don't do X again." There's a bunch of learning by dying. Others, by contrast, are very obvious. Of the various scenes, only two are really fully realised puzzles; it feels like the rest were skimped.
(3) The writing is so-so. Telling me that an apartment looks expensive and luxurious is not the same thing as describing an expensive apartment. I was also jarred by the mixture of specifically New-Yorky-names ("lower east side") and non-New-Yorky things (5th and Main anyone ... and a 5th Avenue apartment building with 4 apartments and no doorman?). This jarred, and it's lazy. Either set your story in New York, or in some imaginary city. (The same goes for the game's logic. If it's so late the lift-man's gone home, how come all the tenants are up and awake?)
(4) The implementation is really patchy. Some parts of it are impressively thorough. But in other cases I was unable to do things that should have been possible, including one case where the messages were positively misleading. In at least one other case, I was able to do something completely ridiculous, and I encountered what seemed to be one definite bug. Quite often the code obviously understood what I wanted to do but insisted on telling me to use a different verb. Beta testers are credited; but more testing was needed.
So what's good? Well, it's obvious that considerable care has been taken to accommodate many reasonable or unreasonable actions. The hints are well done, and thorough. The game (and this is definitely a game) will provide an hour or so of mild amusement, which is probably all it was intended for. But with a more self-critical polishing, this could be much better.
This game is long, well-written in the noir style (where men drink hard liquor and every woman is beautiful.
It's framed as a radio play, and has two acts. You end up doing daring things, with cat-and-mouse chases, throwing punches, etc.
Unfortunately, many of these things are under-clued or involve non-intuitive actions. This makes a walkthrough almost required to play through the game.
Detective and mystery games by MathBrush
These are games where you play a detective or someone else investigating a mystery. Most of them are realistic games which I am splitting off of my realistic list. Some are more magical or science fi-ish.