I.A.G. Alpha

by Serhii Mozhaiskyi

Science Fiction
2018

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Number of Reviews: 7
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Memorable use of debugger, March 27, 2021
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

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.