Improv: Origins

by Neil deMause

Part of Frenetic Five
Superhero, humor

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nasty, with bugs that make it Cruel, July 11, 2022

The object of this one-room game is to open a safe in the center of the room. The safe has a large red button. Here's what it says when you push it:

If it were as easy as that, the bank probably wouldn’t have needed to call a superhero, don’t you think?

That sounds like "you can't push this button" to me. But, instead, you're just supposed to "push the button" again. At that point, the safe asks for a password, on a countdown timer. If you don't have the password (or the (Spoiler - click to show)companion you need to get the password), there's no way to discover and use the password before the timer runs out.

This puzzle is "Nasty" on the Zarfian cruelty scale. The game doesn't benefit from a countdown timer at all, and there are multiple puzzles where you have to just do the same action repeatedly to get a surprisingly different result.

Furthermore, the game is buggy.

(Spoiler - click to show)
  • If you ask Pastiche to unlock the safe before you've solved the password puzzle, the game deposits an "invisible force field" in the room, which never goes away.
  • If you tape anything to anything that you're not supposed to, e.g. if you "TAPE THE CLIP TO THE PEN," you can never unstick them; you're walking dead at that point.
  • You can't call the office until you examine the pen. ("Which number would that be, then?") But when you do examine the pen and call the number, the game says, "Fortunately, part of your Ingenuity training is that you can memorize phone numbers at a glance. Not that you needed to here, since you have the number written on that ballpoint pen, but it’s a nice trick to show off at superparties."
  • Conversation topics with NPCs are very specific. You can "ASK LEXICON ABOUT WORD" but not about "THE WORD".
  • When you "ASK CLAPPER FOR PASSWORD" she claps and Clapper herself beeps. (This makes no sense, because she's not a password of any kind.)
  • The Safe has a password, and a lock, and it's hard to open when unlocked. But there's nothing telling you whether the safe is closed and locked or closed and unlocked.
  • After opening the security box, it's not described when you "LOOK."

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neild, August 10, 2022 - Reply
[quote="Dan Fabulich, post:7, topic:57140, username:dfabulich"]

Where were the hints for these points?

[spoiler] 1. The safe has three layers of security: there’s the password, the safe can be locked or unlocked, and there’s opening the safe with the clip-and-rod. But how is the player supposed to know that? Especially once you’ve gotten the password and you try to open the safe with the clip-and-rod, how is the player supposed to know that the safe is locked? There’s an error message, “but the safe remains stubbornly closed” but that really doesn’t explain the problem.[/spoiler]

Reply: [spoiler]There are a bunch of indications that the safe is locked: If you ask Pastiche to open the safe when it's locked, she tells you it needs to be unlocked first. The touchscreen, if you mess with it, asks if you want to unlock the safe. And, of course, there's the fact that you're trying to open a door and it won't budge, which in the real world is a pretty good indication of what's going on. There are a few other, more oblique hints as well, but it's not at all a secret that the safe is locked.[/spoiler]

[quote="Dan Fabulich, post:7, topic:57140, username:dfabulich"]
[spoiler] 2. Lexicon doesn’t know the password, but he’s the expert on words. It’s counterintuitive at that point that you’d use the phone again. How was the player supposed to know to do that? (And to do it again? And again?)[/spoiler][/quote]

Reply: [spoiler]Lexicon is an expert on *using* words, but expecting him to know a password is like trying to log in to your Netflix account by consulting a dictionary. (If you're patient, however, Lex does eventually suggest that you call Bob back for additional help.)[/spoiler]

[quote="Dan Fabulich, post:7, topic:57140, username:dfabulich"]
[spoiler]3. Throwing the ball at the stick never works, even when you have 12 bands on the ball. Instead, the player is supposed to throw the ball at the shelf. How is the player supposed to know that?[/spoiler]

Reply: [spoiler]That’s intentional.[/spoiler]

[quote="Dan Fabulich, post:7, topic:57140, username:dfabulich"]
[spoiler]4. The duct tape is essential, but I think there’s only just the one hint, appearing once ever, from the Ingenuity professor, mentioning duct tape, but the hint’s phrasing (“No, the other thing”) seems to imply that the “duct tape” hint is irrelevant. If you’ve entered the password, unlocked the safe, got the rod, but don’t have duct tape, how is the player supposed to know that they can actually get duct tape?[/spoiler]

Reply: [spoiler]Examining yourself or asking Newsboy about yourself also provides hints that access to duct tape is key to your abilities. Or looking at the game's logo, if you have the ability to see that. (Does Itch offer a way to provide alt text on images? I'll need to check.)[/spoiler]

[quote="Dan Fabulich, post:7, topic:57140, username:dfabulich"]
My Invisiclues shouldn’t just give the hints… instead, all of my Invisiclues should say “here’s the hint that the game already gave you to solve this puzzle: …” But almost none of the puzzles can be solved just by listening to in-game hints, as far as I can tell.

They can all be solved by in-game hints, though the hints do require some effort to pick up on, yes.

[quote="Dan Fabulich, post:7, topic:57140, username:dfabulich"]

[spoiler]If you push the button before the NPCs have arrived, there’s no way to get the password in time before you get turned into a toad. This makes the game less fun, not more. Perhaps there should be a guess limit, instead of a time limit.[/spoiler]

Reply: [spoiler]I mean, the game did try to dissuade you from pushing the button. (There is, in fact, no reason for you ever to have to push the button.) The stakes of superheroism would be awfully low if no one ever had to worry about turning into a toad.[/spoiler]

Some people are not going to be fans of this kind of game, which is fine — for anyone looking for a game where you'll never get stuck even temporarily, this is probably not the one for you, since it is by design a game about having to overcome unfair puzzles through superhuman powers. (Though, again, there are in-game hints to make this easier for non-superpowered players.) Aside from a couple of genuine bugs, though, which I've fixed in the updated version, most of what you’re observing is exactly how the game is supposed to work.
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