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Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle; Winner, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2002 XYZZY Awards
A neat one-big-puzzle game about dungeon design. Basically, the player lays out doors and deathtraps according to various constraints and then watches an Adventurer try to escape. Highly enjoyable, reasonably deep simulation with a well-thought-out user interface and a good sense of humor (including quite a few references to other games.) Varicella-style gameplay: a repeated fail-and-restart cycle, with each play-through being fairly short. Contains graphical elements that, although not strictly necessary for winning the game, help enormously in keeping track of what you've put where.
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
Death Becomes You
After a while, the requirement to match the PC's knowledge with the player's can begin to feel like a bit of a cage, and the most common contortions an IF game goes through to live inside it (such as amnesia) have long since lost their appeal. Even the freshest ones can still feel a bit tired and gimmicky unless done exactly right. The accretive PC is one key to this cage -- it's wonderfully refreshing to play a character who's really good at something, and even better to become good at it yourself. Of all the jail-breaks that happen in Lock & Key, this one is the most satisfying.
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Hand & Glove
The ways in which Boldo, the adventurer, keeps escaping your little traps (and the way in which the guards unwittingly aid him through their stupidity) range from amusing to hilarious, and are still funny the fifth time; they also change in subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways if you're making progress. Adam uses countless dei-ex-machina to aid the adventurer in his escape, but they're sufficiently ridiculous to make you forgive him.
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Play This Thing!
While the constraints and challenges are theoretically similar to the ones you'll find in traditional tower defense games, the feel is entirely different. Each kind of trap can be placed only once, and the sequence matters. There's a graphical component to the interface, so that you have some visual feedback when laying out the dungeon, but most of the interaction is through text commands, because Lock & Key is primarily a text adventure in form. And much of the game's entertainment value comes not from figuring out where to place traps -- though that makes a solid and rewarding puzzle -- but from the characters and their reactions.
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Lock and Key works well, in short -- it's not revolutionary, and those who profess themselves unable to solve puzzles may find themselves stumped -- but as a puzzle and as another line in Adam's list of achievements, it's worth experiencing. (Duncan Stevens)
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Making the perfect dungeon is difficult, and one is clearly intended to play the game many times and learn from one's mistakes. Playing through the game is lots of fun at first, but gets a bit tedious after a while. There are many hints that you are on the right track, but I think there could have been more of them, or they could have been clearer, otherwise you just have to guess what to do. (Řyvind Thorsby)
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Number of Reviews: 7
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If you are interested in designing Interactive Fiction, Lock & Key is a game you should play: the role of the player character in this game is so different from that in every other piece that it is well worth exploring. Unfortunately, this exploration is made less fun because the central puzzle is frustratingly obscure and you can only interact wiht it through a tiresome interface.
In Lock & Key, you play a dungeon designer. You will be spending most of your time placing traps in a 16-room dungeon. Once you are satisfied with your efforts, the dungeon will be built and you can sit back and watch while Boldo the Hero attempts to escape from his cell. If he does--well, you'd better try again.
This idea is original and fun. Instead of being a static environment for you to explore, the game world becomes yours to design and someone else's to explore. Watching Boldo walk through the traps you have laid out in advance is a real treat, especially with all the humorous commentary that the different characters give.
Of course, it becomes less fun when you are reading the same description for the tenth time--and you will read them more than that, because solving the puzzle of optimal dungeon design is a frustratingly slow process based entirely on trial & error and the discover of often very non-obvious chains of causation. Bring whatever mental powers you have to the task: solving the puzzle will still be 80% brute force and luck, as traps that seemed to do nothing turn out to be essential to the final result.
If there were an easy mechanism to tweak one setting of your dungeon and replay the corresponding part of Boldo's journey, this would be a forgivable problem; but since every redesign is followed by at least fifteen intervening turns of background story, this is not the case. This makes solving the puzzle a slow and boring process, and though there is nothing wrong with some brute-forcing as such, slow and boring brute-forcing is not to be recommended.
Should you play this game? Certainly. The writing and the innovative design make it well worth your time. But unless you are a hardcore puzzle addict, you might want to save yourself some frustration and grab a solution once you've seen your first ten designs come to nought.
The game comes in 3 parts.
1) You must escape an existing dungeon. This part is pretty quick.
2) You must perfect the dungeon so it isn't easy to escape. This is the bulk of the interactivity, as you buy numerous traps to kill escapees.
3) You watch the adventurer get through your traps.
The writing here is great, but because of the numerous tricks the adventurer has, you'll be playing this game over and over to find the combination of traps that will kill him. It doesn't help that he has access to items you don't know about.
First, they annoying parts: You will play this game over and over, and it can be tedius watching the same scenes over and over (such as the capture of the adventurer). Some parts of the game should be more interactive. (Spoiler - click to show) It would be nice if you could suggest to the king or guards that they search the adventurer before throwing him in the dungeon . Some of the tedium is averted by giving you the "qbuy all" command, allowing you to confirm all your dungeon traps at once.
That being said, the game is brilliant. The characters are fleshed out a bit, and the combination of traps needed is quite ingenious, though it definately relies on out of world knowledge to complete. (Seeing how the adventurer handles a trap helps you learn how to prevent him from doing so later). There is a bit of interactivity while he's escaping, but not too much, mostly you just watch him get through each area. (Spoiler - click to show) Unless you need to manipulate some levers in the main room- depending on what traps you bought .
I enjoyed this game tremendously, and it has great replay potential, as you try to get to the end. It also kept my attention and excitement more than many IF I've seen in the past. A+!
I went through several stages while playing this game.
Stage 1: Wow! This is a very clever puzzle.
Stage 2: Man, this is frustrating. This puzzle is hard. It's tedious to type these things in over and over. Any second now, I'm going to give up and look at the answer. It's just not worth the effort.
Stage 3: I feel so close. I'm going to stick with this a bit longer.
Stage 4: I solved it! I feel great!
So yes, this game is irritating at times, but if you stick with it, it's solvable, and very rewarding to solve. All in all, it probably took me about 3-4 hours to solve, and I feel the game is well worth that kind of time investment. If you like puzzles that are tough but fair (solvable with no hints or walkthroughs), then give this game a try.
Most reviews don't bother to mention whether a game is appropriate for kids, but this is an important factor to me when playing a game, so I try to include a bit of info about this in my reviews. I would give this game a PG rating for: violent (but funny) theme, harem reference, and several instances of the partial curse word "motherf-".
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