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About the Story
In this short game of intrigue, you play as the venerable A, the highest-ranking member of your religion's Hierarchy. During a formal service at a remote holding, you sense a conspiracy to eliminate you is underfoot, and you note that the speaker is rambling, deliberately delaying the service's natural end. You must act, without breaking protocol, or you'll likely soon be dead.
10th Place - 5th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1999)
An interesting effort, though it's so short that it feels more like an introduction to a game than a game in its own right. You're a high-ranking authority in a nameless religion, scheming for more power and avoiding plots to bump you off. It's not very interactive--the game without warning periodically launches into what amount to long cut-scenes, in which your character does lots of things that you can't control--but the story is nicely put together. The opening scene is hilarious, moreover--it features a sermon made up of randomly generated banalities--and that in itself makes this worth downloading.
-- Duncan Stevens
Should be great, but has many flaws
In fact, the game cries out for a sequel. Using this short scenario as a way of imparting background information is a great way to introduce a world and a character which could be developed further. I'd like to see a game with a similar tone which isn't so linear, and with a greater scope for politicking. The church isn't actually fleshed out that well - it feels more like a surface sketch - but its hard to tell whether thats because of the game's length (or lack thereof) or because the author was actually writing it off the top of his head. The pseudo-science aspects of the randomly generated church dogma lead me to feel its the latter, but the world, sketchy though it is, is engaging enough that I'm sure the author could do a game with much more depth there if he wished.
-- Joe Mason
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
Jacks is another fairly non-interactive entry into this year's competition, but through technical innovation, fresh milieu, and shrewd design, it partly makes up for what it lacks in gameplay.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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This game paints a unique world, where religious hierarchies are structured by the alphabet, and assassination is a good career move.
You are an A, right at the top of the line, but everyone is gunning for you. In this mid length, relatively easy game, you have to dodge multiple assassination attempts while thinking on your feet.
Wonderful for fans of atmosphere, setting, and world-building.
I initially hesitated to get into this piece because it was labelled as "religion", which I thought could be rather controversial or preachy. To those who could find themselves in the same situation: fear not, "Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win" is part short puzzle, part satire and part corporate lingo. As a result, players are very unlikely to be offended by the topic from either side.
The player character plays "A" - the elderly but sharp top figure in the game's religion - as he attempts to thwart an attempt against his own life. I found the writing to be to my tastes and very representative of A's personality: witty, playful and accurate. The text quality was also fairly constant alternating between short descriptions, void-filling memories and satirical quips. Some rooms appear quite devoid of content (with A willfully remarking it) but there is enough to read as to gather some backstory on A and the religion he now commands.
On the other hand, there is little to do. A's quest translates to a short and linear game with around six locations and very precise actions and requirements to advance between them. Observation and examination (and searching!) of things mentioned, then putting some pieces together is all that is needed to progress in the game. Puzzles make sense to those paying attention and there is seldom need for a hint (Spoiler - click to show)(well, maybe "show knife" I got by pure chance.
I feel that the game works better as an appetizer than a full meal. Yes, there are interesting implications in the text, witty backstory components (I loved how places were also named after letters and how murder, conspiracy and power go hand in hand), lots of atmosphere and honest fun to be had, but the interaction with the world is quite restricted and some places I mostly rushed through. I can, however, recommend it as a game that might surprise players with its world and entertain them as long as they can follow along.
The story told in the game is quite interesting and original ; unfortunately, the game is way too short. You have two or three puzzles to solve, and that's all. The descriptions are also wrong sometimes - typically, they describe an object you have taken ten turns ago -, and there's a lot of cutscenes (I mean, compared to the length of the game). Too bad, because the story could have led to a much more developed game.
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