Inside Woman

by Andy Phillips


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Another great Andy Phillips game., June 14, 2019

Like in all of Andy's games, you have to do your homework. Make your maps, make your lists, write important remarks and information down. Fortunately for me, this is what I look for in challenging and engrossing IF. And Phillips never seems to run out of puzzles; this game pushes the limit of the number of different kinds of puzzles, from mental and metaphorical challenges to whether to duck or jump.
It took me 16 days to complete this work. To be fair, I spend a lot of my spare time on my computer, and I consulted online hints for a few of the more difficult challenges. (Spoiler - click to show)One of them was where you are in a virtual video game, where, in order to make progress in the story, you have to score at least 2000 points. I thought that once you reach that goal, you were done with the video game, on to the rest of the story. No way. I didn't realize until near the end of Inside Woman, that I would need to make the maximum score in the video game in order to win an important object, which was necessary to complete the story. I knew what the object was, but I had searched the entire game area for it, and had no idea where it was. Another was a wooden footbridge/walkway--it was supported by steel cables, with one of the main cables broken, so you could not cross the bridge holding a large and necessary item. I kept thinking that I had to find something stable and strong to connect the cable to, in order to bring the bridge fully up out of the water. The solution, which I found out by accident when I reached 'try anything mode', turned out to be to have someone hold it up--that worked, but I came away from that puzzle feeling incredulous. But, you know, all great games have head-slappers like this.
One thing Andy's games all seem to have in common--which may be more of a good thing than bad--is that he has a very unassuming approach in writing. Very vernacular, which can put some off, but it's also 'comfortable', especially if you are used to his games (I've very recently played his Heist, and Enemies, both of which I thought were very good). However, his spelling and usage still needs some attention--even some words were left out. But given a game with such a broad scope (though a z-machine format!), he probably didn't have much time for testing and/or editing. The implementation was very good, though not perfect. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)There is a very necessary container in the game that you should keep with you to store some important items. But you wouldn't think that just by taking something out of it, you could make the other contents fall out, as well--which was annoying. Also, when you are to place certain items onto certain designated places, make sure you consistently use the full terminology suggested by any nearby sign, such as 'put Y on position 2'--the story might understand 'put Y on 2', but you will run into an annoying bug if you continue in that format.

In a word, expect to be challenged. I came to this game much like the way I approach what I hope to be a good novel--and was quite satisfied. Clearly, much of the story is puzzle-driven, and there are time-sensitive parts--you will need to save and restore generously, which for me is not a bad thing. I think the author gives the PC plenty of time to do what is necessary.

I thought this was great science-fiction. I even emailed the author to compliment him on his games; he told me that he was glad I enjoyed them and remarked at the good reviews they were getting lately, but also that his work left him with little time to write more. Still, I told him if he had the time to write another great game like this one, he would find some eager players. I would be one.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Andy Phillip's best game; a massive city spy thriller, July 1, 2017
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours

This game took me about 2500 moves to complete this game using the hints; this is an extremely long game, among the very longest I have ever played.

You are in a 40-story city, with about 20 of the stories implemented. Each story that's implemented has 3-4 puzzles.

The game is a spy thriller, with you as the spy. As usual for Andy Phillips games, there is a lot of action, a lot of 'guess what he's thinking', and some male gaze, although it is toned down from his other games.

This is an epic, sprawling game; I have no idea how this fit in the z-machine. It also has a very well executed plot twist that was almost as good as Spider and Web's.

This game took me about a month of playing 30-60 minutes a day. I could have played 20 IFComp games in the time it took me to beat this.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A Game of its Own Kind, May 6, 2015
by Tristano (Italy)

"Inside Woman" has really caught my attention for its originality. I've found it different from many IF works, in subtle ways. It's a rather long game, the map is not huge and the author devised it in a way that moving around is quite simple.

First, I want to point out that the game can be really tough to get through, and I don't think I'd have managed to get on with it without resorting to hints. Unfortunately, the hints file is not mentioned here, so I'll add a link to it:

I think the author should have put a hint system into the game because some puzzles can get quite frustrating, forcing the player to quit playing. Even after peeping the solution in the hint file I've realized that some puzzles I simply wouldn't have solved them.

Yet, it was worth playing it (even with frequent hints lookup). The story opening is quite unusual: movement in space is strictly linked to puzzles and plot, meaning that to move forward you have to solve some puzzles, and since they relate to plot the experience is that of moving rapidly into the story one-step-at-the-time. This is something that I liked quite a lot because it forced me to focus a lot on every description from the inset, and it gave me a good story immersion experience.

Then, at at certain point the game takes on a more classical approach: you can move and explore and are faced with multiple puzzles that need to be solved in order to carry on with the story. Overall, the story is quite linear in that most of the puzzles must be solved in a specific order--although, I have to admit that guessing their order is not always easy, and as the story goes on it's easy to lose track of the objectives.

A strong advice: have a notebook of some sort to jot down notes from the beginning because backward references are a recurrent issue in this game. Also, writing down objective is a good way of keeping focused on the various missions and achievements.

Mechanics aside, I liked the futuristic setting and I appreciated the author's prose -- not only it's very polished, but it's also well balanced. There aren't many superfluous descriptions, and the author has managed to be concise but rich, and overall the story emerges quite powerfully. Some puzzles are really hard, but there is enough encouragement to go on because each solution adds some beats to the story and prevents the pace from dying out.

Also, this is a game in which words are carefully weighed and crafted, and they carry more meaning than one might think at first glance--indeed, you soon learn that every sentence contains important clues and is hinting toward the solution of the puzzle it refers to. I can't recall another work in which the text was so masterfully woven so as to embed in each sentence clues to playing, while at the same time establishing setting, plot, and pace all at once and in such a concise manner. Andy Philips is a good writer, beside being a good coder and game designer.

So, extreme attention has to payed to the game's text--but this has a downside also: you'll soon realize that previous description are crucial to solving some puzzles. So it's strongly advisable to use the transcript function in order to be able to read and sift-through past texts. This annoyed me a bit because in the midst of the game I couldn't recover some text from the buffer since I had saved and restored the game across sessions. The author should have put a warning regarding the need of transcripts or, even better, he could have implemented some sort of note-book or other way of recording important texts and events. Or, as mentioned above, just take notes on paper.

Some mechanics here and there could have been polished a bit more, but it's definitely an IF work of high quality--I don't recall stumbling in many typos.

I hope the author might one day take this work on once more and add to it a hint and note-taking system and refine some puzzles that, being too hard to solve, might prevent many from completing it. Also, there are some places where the player has to repeat a sequence of actions over and over again ... those parts should be revised with an implicit-actions system (else it's just cumbersome).

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Approachable and Highly Enjoyable, November 1, 2009
by thelionroars (Melbourne, Australia)

Inside Woman is the latest from Andy Phillips, who authored several IF titles (all puzzlefests I believe) around 10 years ago. I first came in contact with Andy's work with Heist, which also featured a female protagonist. The puzzles were fiendishly difficult and completely beyond me - I didn't get past the first few locations, and had to rely on a walkthrough. Andy seems to have taken pity on us with his latest work, because the puzzles, while often challenging, rarely reach the extent of feeling impossible to solve.

The plot and setting of Inside Woman are hardly original. The story takes place 150 years into the future, where global warming, biological warfare and globalisation have all left their mark. The protagonist is an Asian superspy, sent into the capital of another corporate state which is bent on becoming a total monopoly, in a quest to discover their plans. The game begins on a transport craft about to dock at this city, a giant pyramid, and Lo and Behold - puzzles ensue.

So, not a groundbreaking scenario. But playing the game is a real treat as the theme works so well. The writing is often just a bare description but comes across as fleshed out and vivid. And of course the player expectation for a game where the character is a hot female superspy is that it should be fun, and I felt that the author succeeded in this as well. A memorable highlight is when the you are required to win a virtual reality arcade game where you are... a hot female superspy (on a bike!). You will find yourself trying every over-the-top action movie cliché to score the maximum points. It was firmly tongue in cheek, and very entertaining.

As I mentioned earlier the puzzles are not quite as hard as some of the previous games Andy has released, but there are still plenty of times where you will be really challenged. There are a lot more hints around for you to find, many of which are implemented through the player's sidekick, which has made the game more approachable. I managed to get over two thirds through the game with just a couple of hints from other people, before getting totally stuck on one particular puzzle. Fortunately there is a hints file available now, which is how I got past this stage. There are several instances where syntax or the correct verb are important, but at least they are rare.

For anyone new to puzzle-based IF, the key things to remember are - examine and search everything (sometimes more than once, as they might change with no notification), read the descriptions and conversation carefully for subtle clues and think outside the box. With this in mind, if you are up for a challenge you will really enjoy this game.

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