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About the Story
With amnesia it is quite possible to have a complete or partial loss of memory, but this isn't like that. It is not that you can't remember who you are or anything about your life, you have no thoughts what-so-ever. Your mind is totally blank, as if it has been completely wiped clean. You seem to have no personality, no memories, no feelings; nothing. It is almost as if you do not actually exist and are just an empty shell.
Nominee, Game of the Year - InsideADRIFT Awards 2009
2nd Place - Spring Thing 2009
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Number of Reviews: 2
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(A previous version of this review appeared during the Spring Thing 2009 on my blog, The Gaming Philosopher.)
Richard Otter has written a truly weird game. It apparently consists of rooms taken from all Otter's other games. You have to find items with the name of a Richard Otter game on them, then give those items to people in the location that was taken from that game. Interspersed with this are puzzles of the "give the cloak to the shivering beggar" variety.
I only played one Richard Otter game before (Unauthorised Termination), but you don't need to be familiar with his work in order to play Vague: all locations contain clear hints about what game they are from.
However, walking through a game world that consists of totally different rooms which mean nothing to you, conversing with characters who say little more than "Identify this game!", and hunting down pieces of paper with titles written on them is not fun. There is no story. The puzzles aren't clever. The pieces of the diverse games are not united into a coherent and surprising whole. (At least not as far as I can see, though those who have read more Otter games may find meanings I have missed.)
Vague plays a lot like a failed commercial for the author's other games. It is not itself an interesting game experience.
On top of that, the implementation is far from perfect. Please never write something like this, that takes all agency away from the player:
> wear coat
"For some reason you are unable to do that. It isn't that the coat does not fit, you do not want to wear it."
There are strange parser errors:
> get dart
You pull the dart from the board.
> throw dart at colin
You are not carrying the knife.
There is careless implementation of objects:
> open wallet
You can't open the wallet!
My recommendation is that you first play other Richard Otter games, and tackle this one only if you want more. Unauthorised Termination would not be a bad place to start.
I first played Vague when it was entered into the Spring Thing 2009 and to be honest I didn’t get it. I gave up after a few turns and left it at that. After talk on the ADRIFT forums recently about reviewing and playing games I’ve had another look and thought I would review it.
The player starts brainwashed and naked. Cliché. All the NPC’s are stationary and badly-implemented. Typical bad IF. The game starts by telling you it is likely to be bad. Usually a sign of bad IF. When I first played that’s what I thought.
Now I see that Vague is all about breaking the fourth wall. Almost looking at the game from the point of view of the player character rather than the player. It just doesn’t do it very well.
I think using locations and characters from his own stock of games was the big mistake (and I’ve told Mr Otter that). Most reviewers got hung-up on this and said so. The game is really just a treasure hunt. Like the old school way of having the player carry out random acts and finding and linking together random objects. He would have been better using clichéd locations, you know typical IF locations like bedrooms, garages etc.
It also wasn’t tested enough as it has a number of minor bugs, lacks a little polish and has the ADRIFT weirdness and all that.
But second time around I now think it is - okay. Not the best but I enjoyed playing it.
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