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About the Story
Three hundred years ago, the Brazilian Space Agency discovered a rocky exoplanet only 38 light years from Earth. With a surface temperature of 1200 Celsius and nine times Earth gravity, it's hardly the sort of place you'd take your dog walkies. Most days.
1st Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 15th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2009)
Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2009 XYZZY Awards
Jay Is Games
Right off the bat, it's clear the writers aren't a couple of science-fiction lightweights. The more tidbits you find on the setting, the more you realize these guys did their homework (or read their Asimov, anyway). The superscience here all holds up quite well, and while sometimes it can get a little lost in the outlandish jargon that starts getting thrown around (particularly in the endgame section), the technology of it all begins to make sense the more you play.
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I feel the writing in this game is wonderful with few blemishes, and the implementation is rock solid. I think that some of the puzzles and a few others things could have been better clued, but besides that, I found this a great game that is a must play for Comp '09.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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The first 3/4 of "Rover's Day Out" is truly excellent; one of the best IF games I've ever played (though I haven't really played through the whole canon of modern IF.) Unfortunately the climactic scene and endgame were a real letdown.
"Rover" is a very 'meta' game, with several levels of reality superimposed on each other. As you almost immediately discover, the character you play is not really a person, and the prosaic apartment you wake up in is not really the clichéd waking-up-in-your-apartment trope. The meta-layers involve a good deal of fun poked at the idea of interactive fiction, and there were several jokes during the introductory phase that made me (literally) LOL.
This introduction trains you for the main task of the game, and in this phase things get weird. In a good way -- it's rather mind-stretching and eerie in the same way as a good Philip K Dick or John Varley story. Every place and item is simultaneously two different things, and the layers of reality begin to fray and tangle up with each other, but you have a job to do and you do it. This was pure gold for me, and I felt simultaneously as though I were reading a really engrossing SF short story, while also realizing that this was an experience that couldn't be duplicated in any other medium. (It would totally not work at all with graphics of any kind.) The puzzles were not too hard but kept my mind working, and the characters were very well-drawn.
The game's problems come with the situation you end up in after you complete the game's primary task. At this point you are trapped and have to escape, and the narrator's voice constantly reminds you that you have to escape, but as it turns out there is not really any way to escape by your own actions. (I had to read the walkthrough to figure this out, after struggling with this scene and restoring many times.) It's really a puzzle with no solution, and all you can do is draw out the struggle before the blatant deus ex machina that leads to the last scene. There are some amusing situations here (the repair droids get in some great lines) but it wasn't worth the frustration.
There is an endgame that involves pretty much nothing but conversation, and IF has not yet attained the level of parser that makes conversation worthwhile. (Disclaimer: I haven't played "Galatea" yet.) This part again felt like it was running on rails, with the other characters just waiting for me to recite the correct stock phrases that would advance the story. In the end there was one last puzzle that, again, I couldn't figure out and had to consult the walkthrough for. (The acting also took a turn for the worse here.)
I initially rated the game five-stars while halfway through it, and I'm reluctant to lower that even though the rest of the game was such a letdown. The good parts are still really, really good, good enough that I'm still thinking them over and savoring their atmosphere. The game really is a must-play; only adjust your expectations downwards for the final scenes.
(warning: while I do not spoil any specific puzzles, this review talks about the underlying weirdness, for lack of a better word, of the game)
The start of this game threw me into a wholly unexpected situation. From the (quickly skimmed) blurb I had taken away that Rover's Day Out would be a space adventure of sorts. Instead I got dropped in a fairly generic "my crappy apartment" intro. Complete with an annoying alarm clock waking me up!
That is... Until I started noticing things...
Most obviously, who are those people talking about me as if I were in another room. Am I? I sure can't seem to talk to them or interact with them in any way.
And... What's happening with the status bar? I'm used to glancing up there for confirmation of which room I'm in. This is different though... Some kind of technobabble straight from Enterprise's ship's computer. It's responding to the boring around-the-house chores I'm doing though...
Wait... There are those voices again, talking about me in the bathroom. One's being a prude about looking at me. But no-one's here...
And then the whole thing collapses when I tried to turn on the dryer.
Rover's Day Out is a 2009 game. It feels older though. This kind of confusing layering of player/PC personas reminds me a lot of the turn of the century experiments with the specifics of the IF medium.
The author uses the an AI-simulation to create a rift between the PC's perception, which consists of a recreation of the morning ritual of one of the designers, and the engineers/designers who judge the AI's performance from outside, in the real world.
During the game, the player shifts somewhere between these levels of perception and knowledge. From being confronted with a domestic breakfast situation, I quickly latched on to the simulation context through cues from the game. My knowledge becomes greater than that of my PC. The commands I give still need to be approriate in the PC's perceived reality however. This produces an alienating feeling of both inhabiting the PC and hovering above it. When the simulation-protocols are partially lifted during the endgame, this alienation is enhanced by an even greater disconnect between PC-perception and valid commands.
The fact that I, the player, am able to overhear the engineers talking about my, the PC's, performance broadens the gap even more, even while I'm consciously striving to bridge that gap and stay connected with my PC.
There are a few points where the partial overlap between player and PC is less than perfectly recognized in the game's responses, and sometimes I had a hard time discerning just what level of reality the description I was reading was about. Once I fully grokked the one-on-one relation between simulated and real objects though, the puzzles clicked quite easily and elegantly.
Confusing in a very good way. Must play.
I initially chose this game because it featured a dog. Unfortunately I found the lack of progress too frustrating and I did not complete this game. I don't really care for games that loop... especially if the loop is full of mundane tasks that I didn't enjoy the first time around. I love puzzles, but I felt this game's "puzzles" were more like virtual chores. There were also a ton of bugs which may or may not have been on purpose. For example, (Spoiler - click to show)when I filled the water dish and put it down for Rover, he seemed so thirsty that I picked it up and filled it again. But when I went to put it down, the game said I wasn't carrying it, and when I did "i" it wasn't in my inventory. In the next iteration the water bowl was already full, so maybe it is supposed to be "glitchy" based on the premise that you are building the simulation. I guess this game just wasn't for me. Two stars because I liked the humor.
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This is more for my own reference than anything else, but these are games whose authors have made their source code public. Priority to I7 games and those with particularly interesting mechanics. Games are in alphabetical order.
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