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Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2000 XYZZY Awards
Skullduggery in an office environment. Your first day at a new job yields ceaseless snooping around and breaking rules, partly due to the mundane frustrations of the workplace, but ultimately tying into the mysterious disappearance of several coworkers. Gameplay is organized into three chapters, each of which is pretty much linear - in particular, the last section basically consists of a sequence of locked or guarded doors. Good programming, good sense of place, several very fiddly multi-stage puzzles, lots of characters (although only a few truly distinct ones). Careful attention to the text is necessary; many subtle hints are not repeated. One nice feature is the "winnable" command, which lets you know if you've locked yourself out of victory (although the reply can be rendered inaccurate by time limits in a few places). Features built-in hints that gently guide you onto the right path without revealing solutions.
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
[...] while there are one or two clues to find or conversations to overhear, most of the problems are of the traditional kind: obtaining objects, getting through locked doors, and all the other activities we IF-ers love so much. These puzzles aren't very many - it's a relatively short game - but most of them are very well polished. As it should be, it is often easy to see what you are supposed to do, but difficult to see how you should do it. [...] (Robin Adams)
[...] The story develops mostly by eavesdropping, which lends the game an atmosphere reminiscent of a David Mamet thriller, as well as giving a good opportunity for humour. [...] a rapid climax was for me let down by a final confrontation with the villain of the piece which lacked credibility. [...] The game makes up for the formulaic and functional plot in the non-player characters, of whom there are around 30. [...] (Cedric Knight)
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I found the plot, although outwardly mundane, gripping in a sort of subdued way as the mystery unfolded gradually and the conspiracy was gradually explained. The big revelation at the end, although seen coming a mile off, served to tie up most of the remaining loose ends as the ending of all good mystery stories should. As I said earlier the puzzles were not too hard and not too easy, and even when I did get stuck fast it only took a little nudge in the right direction for me to speed through a few more puzzles. It's not a slow trundle, more of a leisurely glide.
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Above and Beyond is a pretty large and well-polished game. You play a programmer on their first day of work; the first third consists of getting into work after losing your card, the second third consists of getting a form signed by jumping through exhausting hoops, and the third is an endgame dealing with a conspiracy.
The feel is a mixture of spy stuff and extreme tedium of work. The walkthrough is 600 moves or so.
I was pretty impressed with this game. It's linear and hard, but it's fun walking through a dozen rooms with 2-4 offices each and meet all of the workers.
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