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About the Story
The Timeline must be sanctified. Relive the same few minutes over and over again, attempting to stop a bullet from changing history.
11th Place - 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2011)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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The basic concept of The Binary is that you replay the same few minutes over and over until you get the right change in the time-line. You use things you learned from earlier play-throughs to proceed. Because the pace is moving so quickly, you barely have time to take stock of your surroundings before the time loops back again. But that's okay, because the time is always going to loop back again. This works well because when you want to get things done, there's a great sense of urgency and economy of action. When you don't need to get things done, you can look at things free in the knowledge that you can look at other things in the next go around.
Despite the non-linear timeline aspect of it, the plot itself is pretty linear, though there is one real and difficult choice to make near the end (I only played to completion once so I don't know if the other ending proves fatal). Like all of these non-parser games, figuring out what to do next is easy because you just exhaust all of your remaining limited options. The Binary had the additional time element (some actions would only work at certain times etc.) but even still I wouldn't have needed any hints or a walkthrough. Not to say that the game was a walk in the park: I'd say the challenge was on the lower end of well pitched.
The substance of the plot (working for a strange group of time travellers on an island with a man in your head interspersed with memories of your father and a dash of mysticism) was a little hit and miss. I liked the dual-narrative aspect of it, but the nature of the time travelling group and their motives seemed a little wooly. I suppose there is only so much I can ask for in a game this short.
Though not as smooth as The Play, The Binary works very well visually, refreshing what you can see each round. Ultimately, hyper-link games are limited in comparison to parser-based IF and so it's hard to compare. Compared to earlier hyper-text games, it's pretty swish.
The Binary is a browser based text'n'click game involving looping time travel. To describe it as a CYOA doesn't feel right, as the game keeps track of what you've done and also allows you to revisit locations, though the circumstances of the revisitings are unusual. In common with Operation Extraction, also from IFComp 2011, the timing of your actions is important in this timey game. I found the whole thing somewhat baffling to begin with, with a barrier to play in the form of potential initial uninterest. I think I'd rather The Binary had just told me what my goal was instead of making me work it out myself. Constant forward movement, albeit in a loop, can be mildly aggravating when you don't know what's going on yet and have no hook of intentionality to arouse your interest.
Once you do know what the story is about, it turns out to be as exciting as other stories of its kind often are - that kind being (Spoiler - click to show)stories about people trying to stop an assassination by locating snipers at the last minute. In the role of one of the guys I'm going to call Time Cops, you loop through the same few moments repeatedly, trying to string together the circumstances to bring about change. This scenario also brings about an eagerness to quickly return to the spot where you think you might next be able to best change things up, which is why the cutaway scenes which occur every time the repeating sequence ends are a distraction. They open a window onto a broader mythology, but not one that's too useful for the workings of this small game space. Once you've done some things over and over, it's frustrating to have to pass through the cutscene again, or just to have to wait before you're able to access certain links anew.
Ultimately The Binary is clever and becomes fun, and it's a smoother ride than its cousin (of sorts) Operation Extraction, but it could stand to be sharper.
Like Axolotl Project or Hallowmoor, this is an exploration and inventory based game driven by links.
I found the engine to be polished on both mobile and PC, and the writing to be descriptive. But I felt distant from the narrator and overall, vaguely unsatisfied.
Recommended for time travel fans.
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