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About the Story
The wedding is over, but the bride is nowhere to be found. You receive a phone call from a mysterious stranger. Things are not always as simple as they seem, and as you pursue the woman of your dreams you will find that the world is a good deal darker than you had imagined it.
The Adventures in Alan v3 Blog
As to its length, the game is rather long - easily longer than the average IF Comp game and maybe the longest ALAN3 game produced...it's an unpredictable ride with lots of twists and turns. The game turns out to have a rather sinister and disturbing plot and could be classified as a horror story.
...the ending is ambiguous and open to interpretations; this is probably the author's intention. The imagery towards the end is quite disturbing and uneasy. The atmosphere in the game grows all the time towards more frightening. If you're into that type of games, then this is a perfect one for you. All in all, this is a game well worth playing, so be sure to give it a try!
Verdict: 3,5 / 5 (= Some bugs and guess-the-verb moments but overall solid and competent prose with an interesting storyline open to interpretations.)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Room 206 is a huge mystery-horror game of poetic venereal prose (and poetic overkill), a boggle-leaning story and reality-skewing assaults. Programming and writing this game would be an extreme challenge for even a whole team of superhuman IF veterans to pull off smoothly – and I have to say upfront that the game's author Byron Alexander Campbell has not pulled the programming off in bullet-proof fashion – but he has pulled the game off, and done so using the ALAN development system.
The game kicks off in a chapel where you're considering the aftermath of your wedding to exquisite Erica. The wedding party waits for you out on the lawn as you observe stray paraphernalia like a dropped handkerchief and a wafting ribbon, but once you head outside, you find the party has disappeared. Only an anonymous limousine remains. Thus begins this noir-wedding-horror-hardboiled-nightmare-daymare mystery.
Room 206 doesn't have any trouble integrating its sprawl of content and styles into one story, but does have trouble integrating it into the tone of its prose. Lines which are functional, overripe, poetic, super earnest and bizarre all chase each other's heels, often within the space of a paragraph. Dynamically I found this too erratic, so I didn't always buy the narrator's ability to construct back-to-back vivid metaphors while digging through the garbage in a hotel room, for instance. Scripted conversation, especially by telephone, is also in abundance. If you don't like your IF extra writerly, you're unlikely to be able to come at Room 206, but the more you stick with this game, the more you get into its style.
Unfortunately, the adventure reaches close-to-impossible difficulty levels by the halfway mark due to shortcomings in those most important (though boring to always cite) design areas of implementation and giving the player cues. Most objects are implemented for only one purpose, resulting in a lot of preclusion of action and oblivious feedback. Failing to perform a task such as treating your headache with painkillers can result in the game ceasing to progress without telling you why.
Room 206 also makes extreme use of the 'wait' command to progress the script – the walk-through lists more than 50 waits. I appreciate the game's interest in creating an emotional reality in which the player might pause to process thoughts and feelings, but it's too often impossible to guess when you might need to wait to make something happen. It is also in the nature of the game's ambitious content, which becomes increasingly abstract and complex, to make it tough to work out what you might need to do next in general, especially once your character's grip on reality has started to slide. The game mobilises keyword technology for movement (the opening scene is particularly graceful) but geography is typically the least of your worries.
Eventually I was exhausted by the various kinds of onslaught and had to take completely to the walk-through. Doing so typically destroys my interest in a game, but with Room 206 I found that seeing it through to the end was rewarding. I realised I had persisted through lots of challenges, some frustrations – including out-of-game stuff like numerous crashes in two interpreters and corrupted saved files, resulting in multiple replays (I think the latest version of the ALAN interpreter at this time of writing has some Macintosh problems) – and that I had done so because of Room 206's engrossing story and wildness. Even when the prose was overkilly, I started to side with it. And I found myself thinking about the whole experience afterwards. While I was definitely infuriated a lot on the way through, I was ultimately impressed by the fiery reach of this game.
What Room 206 has going for it, mostly, is its story. The small handful of puzzles are well-done enough, but they're not going to challenge most puzzle aficionados (and I have the feeling I've seen one of them, (Spoiler - click to show)the "follow the lights in the void" maze, somewhere before). The main reason to keep going through the game (and its endless "wait" commands and occasional guess-the-verb issues) is to find out what exactly is happening to its protagonist.
In a work like this, then, the writing is of utmost importance, and Room 206 doesn't do quite as well as it might in this regard. In some places, the poetic, somewhat disjointed prose works well to establish a surreal and nightmarish atmosphere; often, though, it falls into "ridiculous purple prose" territory, trainwrecks of mixed metaphors and similes leaving the reader wondering what exactly they're trying to convey. One example I found particularly egregious:
"Accompanying this gypsy theatre of scents, other sensations hang weights and baubles from the darkness. [...] In the middle of all this, thronged by the shapeless muscle like a flock of angels, wrapped in icy moonbeams, a man sits."
What is this description trying to get at? What does "thronged by the shapeless muscle like a flock of angels" even mean? Can someone really be said, even metaphorically, to be thronged by their own muscles? Unless the "muscle" part is a further metaphor describing something else altogether...
In addition to the general figurative language overload and thesaurus abuse, there were a couple of cases of words being used incorrectly, like "contemptibly" used where I'm pretty sure "contemptuously" was meant.
This prose style can interfere with the playing of the game itself; room descriptions are often walls of text, giving a lot of extraneous information and making it easy to overlook things that actually are important. I spent a lot of time trying to examine things that weren't implemented.
Flaws aside, however, the story itself is definitely intriguing, and while some aspects of the twist might be easy to guess, it's much more complicated than it may appear. The mysterious phone calls raise more questions even as they give clues to the game's larger mystery (at one point they're also used to give smoothly integrated in-game hints to a puzzle's solution, which works well). The endings leave the player with much to think about, but still feel like fitting conclusions to the narrative.
Overall, I did enjoy the game and found many of its ideas intriguing. I just feel like it could perhaps have used an editor or beta-reader to curb some of the writer's wilder flights into overblown descriptions.
If this game was actually playable, I have no doubt that it would be excellent, if the uneasy and atmospheric writing in the first two rooms was characteristic. Unfortunately, the first two rooms are all you will ever see in this game. You can never return to the chapel once you leave it. "Exit" works, but "enter" does not. No directions lead anywhere. You cannot affect the door; you cannot take the path, and there is nowhere else to go. It's not a matter of time, either, as waiting produces no results. Purple prose is everywhere, so there's nothing you can do with the world around you. I'm surprised by this, more than anything. Was Room 206 even finished?
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A new, experimental game that has no puzzles but uses only words that change your focus on things, thereby adapting the story. [--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]
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Games with multiple endings by tggdan3
Obviously not counting "death" as an ending, but non-successful ends can count if there are other successful ends. Variation in endings should at least vary the ending somewhat (as opposed to be an extra word or two).