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About the Story
You are a senior investigator with the police force of what is basically a totalitarian state. On a world where nearly all forms of crime are punishable by execution, you have been called on to investigate someone who has been unlawfully killed. From the initial investigation it clearly looks like an accident and your superior is very keen for you to close the case. You decide to dig a little deeper and it is then that you uncover something that should probably have been better left hidden.
10th Place - 12th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2006)
Nominee, Best Setting - 2006 XYZZY Awards
Co-Winner - InsideADRIFT Game of the Year Comp 2006
You're a robot on a world of robots. A robot has been terminated without authorization and you need to find out why. Despite the setting, this is fundamentally a hard boiled detective story as you find out the dark secret that the murder is covering up. It's an interesting twist, and I enjoyed it. The game has a number of flaws, but it's still fun. I enjoyed playing detective and uncovering the dark secret.
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This was a charming game, and in a genre I haven't seen too much of: a murder mystery set completely in a world of robots. Bad Machine and Suspended both give off the same vibe of this game, that of a purely mechanical society, but this game achieves a remarkable contrast between the impassiveness of the robots and the emotion of the investigation.
It suffers from ADRIFT's standard problems, but to a much smaller degree than usual. I did have some trouble guessing the later actions, but overall I found myself pleased by this game. I've been lucky enough to find a string of good games in a row this week.
This had a bunch of rough edges, implementation-wise — some problems typical of ADRIFT parsers, and some others. It also has a somewhat railroady presentation: though it's a mystery, the player's opportunities to explore and solve are tightly constrained and directed at all times. There was also one puzzle involving finding an object that I don't think I would ever have gotten without a walkthrough.
All the same, I found this strangely enjoyable. The robot protagonists develop personality and humanity as the game proceeds, and there were some unexpectedly touching moments.
I must admit, I may be scoring this game a bit harsher than I normally would mainly because the author’s description of the game as a near-Orwellian dystopia setting excited me. 1984 remains, to this day, stuck in my mind as the most depressing, frightening and realistic science fiction novel I have ever read. Given what is currently happening in the US and here in Aus, it should perhaps be required reading for citizens so we can see what we’ve got to look forward to. The biggest failing of this game, in my opinion, is its failure to deliver on this potential. The idea of totalitarianism is used as a backdrop in the most literal way possible – it is assumed as a background then not really interacted with at all for the rest of the game.
Despite the fact that your character repeatedly disobeys orders from his superior, who is, from the start, obviously involved in a secret conspiracy, doesn’t hold water with the supposed background. By the time you are first targeted for assassination its really too little too late. This follows later when, in the end, (Spoiler - click to show)your superior (the traitor) has a sudden change of heart, inspired by your mindless devotion to the law, and has himself and his associates terminated.
I have to admit one of the biggest problems the author has with this story is the fact that all the characters are robots of different kinds. It seems though that a decision was never really whether to treat them as robots – computerised, logical, etc – or to anthropomorphise them and treat them as humans. Instead, we are left with an awkward half and half. Our character spends most of the game as a classic robot – reciting laws by number and only interested in pursuing his duty. Most other robots we meet act the same, particularly the ones that help you.
Whilst we’re faced with mostly-computer robots, we’re then asked to believe that elsewhere other robots are gambling in illegal clubs and enjoying themselves in debauchery common only to humans, as well as starting and participating in religious cults. As well as this, our superior and his superior are (Spoiler - click to show)traitors who seek to bring robots with weapons into the colony, the reason for which is not entirely obvious. I assume it benefits them in some way, because they are not at all worried about breaking the law and killing people/robots to get their way.
In the end you save the day, but you’re not really 100% sure what it is you saved, if it was worth saving, or why we should care. I didn’t find it particularly engaging or logical. Technically speaking, the game ran well with no obvious bugs I could see. The puzzles that had to be overcome fit with the story well and didn’t feel contrived or out of place. Except for as mentioned earlier, the characters were well characterised in that they were consistent.
Worth playing, but not brilliant.
Review originally published on Silicon dreams during the 2006 Interactive Fiction Contest
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