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About the Story
You may think this game is about a post-Soviet Research Institute. About an experiment that went out of control. You may think that the initials "I.A.G." are somehow related to the Institute. You may think this game is unfinished. You may even think that the game ends exactly as the author tells you.
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee - Rooftop puzzle, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee - Ruslan, Best Individual NPC; Nominee - Nikolai, Best Individual PC; Winner, Best Use of Innovation - 2018 XYZZY Awards
18th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
All the different interfaces are well done individually and combine into a coherent whole. The conceit of reviving an earlier buggy game is charming, and the missing graphics and author notes throughout the game are excellent touches.
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McT's Interactive Fiction Reviews
Truly meta, in the best possible sense, this little puzzly choice game is a delight. It is anything but incomplete, this game. It is a completely polished little gem. <...> The only ding this game gets is for its length. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, then it ends. I do get it though – this must have taken quite a bit of implementing.
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The Breakfast Review
On the whole, I found this to be an intriguing little gem of a puzzle. The writing was fairly terse, which I found to be a relief after some of the wordier offerings so far. It felt to be just right for what the game was. And the Soviet complex setting did seem very suitable to the mechanics of the game, though of course they're technically unrelated; so did the general visual presentation of the yellowed drafting paper background. Very nice.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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I.A.G. Alpha was my favorite game from IFComp 2018, and I played all of them. An English translation of a work originally written in Russian, I.A.G. Alpha appears to be an unfinished game about a guy working at a post-Soviet research institute. Its opening text consists of a note from the author explaining that he never finished writing the game but decided to release what he had written anyway. On the second screen there are comments like "TODO: finish the scene on the roof" and "TODO: comment out the debugger." And, sure enough, there's a DEBUGGER command in the upper right corner that lets you peek into parts of the game's source code. After a few scenes the author stops the action once again, this time to say that he thinks the introductory text is too long, to detail what his original plan for the game was, and then to explain more about why he never finished it.
You play a little further, and you eventually come to realize that the "unfinished" aspect of the game you are purportedly playing is entirely intentional - in fact, it's a setup for the real game to pull what I think is the most genius meta move I've ever seen. I really don't want to spoil it by giving it away, but it's so simple and yet so fundamental. And that's what makes it work so well.
An absolutely brilliant game.
Institute for Advanced Genetics or Incomplete Adventure Game: I.A.G. Alpha presents itself as an unfinished alpha version of a game set in a dubious research facility. The purported story is hackneyed in the extreme, with an obsessed scientist failing to ask questions about the ethics of his work until one day he finds out that his partner has not really been finding ‘volunteers’ at all… after which there’s a dramatic rooftop fight and the good and the bad guy both die. Fortunately, this story is merely the backdrop for something much more interesting: our quest to get through the game using the debugger.
There are, in essence, three stages to the game. In the first, we use the debugger to solve puzzles. For instance, we (Spoiler - click to show)click on a plant and find out that it contains a key, after which we obtain it. This use of the debugger is optional, but it was already fun, and I found myself relying on it extensively. In the second, we learn to use the debugger’s single active power, which is the power to rename objects. Our insights into the source code of the different objects in the world allows us to solve puzzles through smart renaming. Serhii Mozhaiskyi does a good job of guiding us through progressively harder versions of this puzzle, although I must admit that I got stuck at (Spoiler - click to show)the axe. (I spent a lot of time trying something far too complex: rename an object to axe", is_fixed = true –, in order to add real source code to the object. Of course that didn’t work, and the solution was far simpler.) In the third stage, (Spoiler - click to show)we are invited to use our expertise to change the plot against the fictional author’s wishes, exploiting a bug-like feature in the source code of one of the objects.
All of this was a lot of fun and I.A.G. Alpha is a very memorable game. I do think the author could have been more subtle about the third stage: it would have been much more satisfying to (Spoiler - click to show)defeat the fictional author’s plot without first having been told, quite explicitly, that this was the idea of the game. Perhaps the real author was afraid that too many people would then miss this possibility? Perhaps – but I think that’s a risk very much worth taking.
Being relatively new to the world of IF, I have been working my way through the XYZZY 2018 Award winners. I figured starting with a "best of the best" list was probably a good way to give the genre the best possible opportunity. So far, I.A.G. Alpha has been my favorite.
I.A.G. Alpha was a hoot to play, from start to finish, and kept me guessing right up until the end. It was on the lighter side in terms of "wordiness" and, with getting tripped up by a puzzle or two at the end, only took about 2 hours to play through.
The writing is good, where it exists, but like the author points out in the description, the game is unfinished... wink, wink. The puzzles range from pretty easy to moderately challenging. One non-spoiler hint I'll leave you with: utilize the save functionality, particularly as you progress into the latter part of the game.
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