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About the Story
Episode One: Pharaohs Tombs
You've been hired to recover a priceless Egyptian artifact from a traveling antique show. Security is tight and the officer in charge has a history with you. Explore the show, find the artifact, avoid the officers and snatch the prize before some one else does. Oh, and you might fall in love along the way. Includes game stats and gender choices.
39th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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This is a heist game, written in Twine.
It has a character selection screen, and then you’re given a problem to solve. In this case, an ancient Cat goddess desires her treasure back!
The game that ensues is almost entirely focused on mechanics, with the story broadly sketched out. You end up in a very large museum that you have to navigate, finding the clues and items necessary to grab the treasure.
I found myself wishing for an on-screen map early on, getting lost pretty easily. Eventually a found a map, right before I won, but it could have been nice to have it onscreen.
There are 16 or so locations in the museum, and each one has only a line or two of description, with perhaps one interesting item to interact with. This strips down the game to its core features, which are primarily movement and object gathering.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews of parser games saying ‘I wonder if this should have been choice based’. Here, I think, not ‘this should be parser based’ but ‘I wonder if the author would enjoy writing parser games’. There seems to be a true pleasure in gathering inventory and travelling that I think could make parser code appealing.
In any case, I solved it, but only with some hints and a little peeking at the code (I was dumb and couldn’t find the key combination on my own).
Overall, I would have liked a little more fleshed out detail in the museum, since it sounded cool, and would have liked an on screen map, but I did have fun. I scored 82/100!
The Finders Commission is a relatively short game, set as some sort of escape-room-puzzle piece where you are tasked to retrieve an artifact from an exposition, in broad daylight. There are 5 characters to choose from (though I am not sure whether they influenced the gameplay) and a handful of different puzzles to interact with. There are two endings: you retrieve the item or are caught trying. I reached the score of 92/100 after a restart.
TFC takes the campy traits of heist story, with the strange buyer requiring your help*, the security officer that has a tooth against you, the maybe-naive damsel/himbo that slip out important information, and the sneaky exit... The puzzles are diverse and interconnected, some requiring manipulation of an object, others to find a specific object to interact with another, and some to distract NPCs to enter new rooms. And there's a maze-like feel to the main location.
*I don't know whether it was a jab at like the British Museum losing artefacts recently or not wanting to give some back, but the thought of it being the case was funny :P
I played the game twice essentially, one where I felt completely lost, interacting with anything I could, solving puzzles a bit at random, and hoping for the best... and finding myself stuck, unable to find a way into a certain room to get the item to unlock the case with the artefact. Turns out, you have to interact not just with objects around you, but with NPCs (which I thought was a bit weird, you don't really want attention on you). So the second time around was easier... Though I still found myself running around the place, even after getting the map*.
*would have been nice to find a map at the start, with more indication of displayed elements on it. It's a gallery after all... and it's a bit hidden within the satchel, I would have put it in the sidebar imo. Or the rooms each have a name, like with parsers.
It was a bit bizarre to not be able to examine the case until you open it (a nice description of the item could add to the vibe, maybe staying too long would have the security guard be extra suspicious of you), or even examine anything that wasn't puzzle-related object (as a way to "blend" with the other visitors). Also a bit of a shame not to be able to interact with your rival or find a way to have them getting caught (they were really sus), or with the guard (I'm a sucker for taunting your "enemies" even if it would lead to a bad ending), or even further with the tour guide (I was promised romance ;-;*). I was a bit confused too with the need to include other locations, since you don't really have anything you can do there (unless it's the locations for future episode?).
*since the subtitle was Episode 1, maybe they'll be back in the next episode?
TFC is the kind of puzzle game that when you get it, it's smooth as butter... but if you struggle finding things or examine something at the wrong time or don't follow the steps as intended, it can become quite frustrating. With a bit more tweaks here and there, it could make for a well-rounded game.
I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed by this game at first; the worldbuilding felt a bit bizarre and random for what’s essentially a museum heist story. But once I got into the puzzley portion I was hooked. It’s easy to locate the item you need to liberate from this museum, but less easy to acquire and escape with it.
The gameplay reminded me of the Lady Thalia games—explore, find useful items/info, heist, escape. The game does a good job at creating tension, with an officer following you around to keep an eye on you, appearing and disappearing as you traverse the rooms, and at creating a sense of time passing, with the security office going from occupied at first visit to unoccupied at later ones. The achievements at the end make it clear that there are multiple methods for escaping detection, and that it’s possible to succeed at the job but incriminate yourself in the process. All of this added a great amount of complexity and made for a fun game! (Another note: you’ll find an in-game map, which is nice—I had thought about drawing a map at first, but then I was glad I didn’t bother.)
I do have some nitpicks; I found the (brief) dialogue section rather clunky, and didn’t buy the supposed romantic chemistry between the PC and their conversation partner. And then there were some elements that felt set up to have an impact on gameplay, but didn't seem to in the end, such as choosing your character at the start, and the list of locations to go other than the museum. But I certainly had fun solving the puzzles and will gladly play any future games in this series!
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