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Origami, Gnomes, and Caffeine Overdoses, July 15, 2010
"Escape the locked room" games have been done so many times it's very difficult to write this genre in a way that feels original. Monday, 16:30 doesn't try. Instead, it shamelessly employs all the conventions and clichés, ignores the fourth wall, and generally refuses to take itself seriously in any way whatsoever. It works.
You play a bored intern trying to kill time until you can leave work. That's an over-simplistic description; the plot thickens quickly as you attempt to win the attention of the girl in the office block opposite without leaving the room. Depending on what you're doing, time passes at different rates; you have a time limit towards the end, but it's fairly flexible and if you think fast and don't waste your turns you're unlikely to run out. The writing is technically accurate most of the time, and will have you laughing out loud in many places. Since I usually abandon puzzly games early on, it says a lot about the quality of the writing that I was willing to persevere to the end just to read more of it. Unfortunately, some of the humorous passages get repeated often (particularly the message when you (Spoiler - click to show)drink too much coffee) and they began to annoy me after a while; it would have been nice to have the message be shorter and simpler after the first viewing.
Monday, 16:30 rewards patience. The opening, which is a railroaded menu based conversation, is extremely unpromising, and I'm still not sure why the dialogue is in italics. It's easy to get stuck close to the start without hints, since the game doesn't give you much of a clear direction. Give it ten minutes, however: the writing and the sheer silliness of some of the situations are well worth the effort.
The puzzles pretty much all involve the same thing: manipulating paper in different ways to achieve different ends. From origami cranes to giant A3 paper planes, it's amazing what it's actually possible to do. The programming must have been a nightmare, but it works well. The special disambiguation when you have too many pieces of paper is a nice touch. The one room of the game is split up into separate areas; this isn't really necessary but it gives a nice sense of where everything is placed. The built in hint system (a miming gnome) is brilliant, and challenging to use in itself. Unfortunately, it's actually impossible to complete the game without using the gnome hints. (Spoiler - click to show)You need to speak to the gnome at least once to learn a miming action you need. Even when it's theoretically possible to solve some of the puzzles without hints, you'd need to read the author's mind to be able to do it without the gnome. Since I was leaning on the hints anyway I didn't mind, but those who like to solve puzzles themselves may dislike this.
Overall, Monday, 16:30 is a fun puzzlefest that's really worth a play. It shouldn't take more than two hours to complete. I look forward to seeing more of this author's work!