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About the Story
How do you run a mind that cannot run itself? Enter the mind of Nora Atwood and with the help of a little science, you may be able to puzzle out her situation.
60th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
Number of Reviews: 3
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My ten-year-old son wanted to play through one of the IFComp games with me one night last month. I selected Instruction Set kind of on a whim, and it turned out to be the perfect choice. It's written in Scratch! My son has been learning Scratch this past year, and it was really nice for him to see something vastly more complicated than anything he's tried to do on his own. We opened up the Scratch code, too, and looked through it. My son was able to follow the basic structure of the game's code as well.
The gameplay of Instruction Set consists of a series of logic puzzles. Some of them are old classics, like the one where you have only a three-liter container and a five-liter container and you need to create four liters of water. I realize that this particular puzzle is now used as an example of an old, tired puzzle for a lot of folks in the IF community, but I missed that phase of IF where this puzzle was used frequently, and so it did not come across as stale to me.
More importantly, the puzzles get more and more complex the more you solve. So even if you don't like some of the early puzzles, I'd recommend sticking with the game. The puzzles do get better. The last puzzle you actually solve was particularly fun - one of my favorite puzzles in IFComp this year, in fact.
The story involves some researchers in a lab testing a new haptic interface on a patient, Nora Atwood, and understanding what's going on with her. But the gameplay is really about the puzzles.
Folks used to the elegance of Inform's parser will probably find the interface clunky. It is a little clunky. But I'm impressed that the author managed to create a parser-like interface in Scratch at all! To my knowledge there's no native support for such a thing in Scratch. The interface works, too, and there's a window that tells you exactly which commands are allowed on each puzzle, as well as displaying the puzzle for you graphically. (This adds interest to some of those classic puzzles, by presenting them in a form that's not pure text.) There was only one puzzle where I got seriously stuck. I was able to go to the walkthrough, though, and I realized that I had misunderstood the directions for that puzzle.
The author says that he made the game with his kids and that his twelve-year-old daughter did all the artwork. I think that's awesome.
I had fun with Instruction Set, and I'm glad I played it with my son. I'd recommend it for puzzle fans aged ten and up.
Instruction Set consists of a series of abstract puzzles of varying originality, embedded in a narrative about scientists who attempt to wake up a comatose woman. The puzzles are fine, but not great. The weakest is perhaps the 3-by-3 number sliding puzzle, which basically forces you to solve a puzzle you've already solved before, but this time in an inconvenient medium. On the other hand, the falling ball puzzles are fun, and the list-copying puzzles are also entertaining. Overall: adequate. The main storyline too is best described as adequate. It works to create interest, but nothing too unexpected happens, and there's no real drama.
Still, I liked the game more than the previous paragraph may suggest. I liked it because it has charm, a charm created by the combination of the pictures and the often quite funny dialogue. To give some inexact quotes: "I chose to interpret it as a rhetorical observation rather than a command." "Would you like a soothing cup of mildly warm water?" These moments brought a smile to my face and made playing the game a pleasure rather than a chore.
(Spoiler - click to show)More could perhaps have been done with the memories of the protagonist and the reaction of her mother; more character building, more narrative. We learn that there was a car crash, but this fact alone has little impact. On the other hand, more dramatic development at this level of the story might not have meshed well with the tone of the cartoon scientists.
One interesting question that the game raises is this: who are you playing? The comatose woman? Well, her memories are present as external to us, not internal. So perhaps we are merely a part of her brain, the part specialised in puzzle solving? If so, I think this is a very original choice of PC!
Unfortunately, Instruction Set can no longer be played, because an update to the software platform it runs on has broken keyboard input. I hope it will one day be restored, because it if worth checking out.
Unfortunately, this game seems to no longer work in the current version of Scratch.
Scratch is a programming language originally designed to help children make simple games. Jared Jackson and his daughter used (or abused) the system to make a parser game with animations and puzzles.
This game is based off of conceptual, educational-style puzzles: manipulating amounts of water, moving around mazes, etc.
The overall storyline is brief but illustrated. It has a different feel than almost all other IF games out there, and I hope that one day it can be recreated in Scratch 3 or a stable language.