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About the Story
Sitting on the cold side of Mercury, you've waited two months for space debris to drift through the system, caught in the sun's gravity well. Satellites make for great salvage, and you've earned enough before to scrape by, keeping the Kratos flying. But, this time, nothing so far. The radar is barren. You're running low on fuel, and repairs will be costly after being out here so long.
25th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Those were the words going through my mind as I looted the storage lockers while hiding from a xenomorph monster. In this game you play as space-based scavenger camped out on planet Mercury. You need to repair and refuel your ship but cannot afford it. The plan is to wait for a scavenging opportunity. Finally, you spot a derelict ship drifting towards the sun. Perfect for looting. But just because it is derelict does not mean you will be the only living thing on there.
If you liked the planning part of Sugarlawn then this may be the game for you. It has a lot of replay value in a similar fashion. Into The Sun borrows a few structural features found in Sugarlawn. In Sugarlawn you are a contestant in a reality TV show about collecting as many antiques as you can in 30 minutes or less. When time runs out the player is presented with a list of the items they collected and their monetary value.
Into The Sun is similar in the sense that the protagonist is collecting items under a time restraint with the central goal of maximizing monetary gain. It too, evaluates the profitability of the player’s looting excursion at the end of the game. But Into The Sun is no copy of Sugarlawn. It does not take a fill-in-the-blanks approach where merely the setting and inventory items are swapped out to create a sci-fi replica. The game still distinguishes itself in both gameplay and story.
You begin on the derelict ship’s middle level next to the airlock that leads back to your own ship. Things are eerily silent but that soon changes. The author has maps for the game, and I highly recommend using them unless you want to visualize an array of junctions, companionways, and levels. I just opened it in a second tab to refer to as I played.
There is a time constraint. As the derelict ship drifts closer to the sun, it gets sucked in by the sun’s gravitational pull. The farther an object goes in, the more difficult it is to break out. The top of the screen lists the gravity level as it increases. If the player waits for too long, they burn up with the ship. I feel like the time limit is reasonably paced. It adds urgency without overwhelming the player.
One of the main gameplay attractions is the xenomorph alien that adds suspenseful atmosphere and logistical factors that the player must manage. The xenomorph is trying to hunt you down. There is always a sense of danger since you can hear it searching.
Starboard Shuttle Bay - Deck B
The shuttle bay is a round room with an airlock on the forward end. There's not as much smoke in this section, but there's a lot of haze. Looking through the observation window, you see a shuttle that holds four.
The airlock's been beaten on and is damaged. The only exit is port.
You hear something slithering towards the port side of the ship. Distant, but it's coming towards you.
The player has limited means of defending themselves, and it is so tempting to just “undo” whenever you run into the alien. But I appreciate how the game does not let you off the hook that easily when avoiding it. As it travels the ship it spits acid on valuable things, destroying them. If you want to nab this or that you better plan around the alien’s movements before they get *acidified. Sure, you may be able to “undo” to skip the inconvenience of fighting the alien but that will not stop it from trashing the ship. While the player may be able to use loopholes here and there, they cannot do so entirely.
All sorts of obstacles emerge for you to dodge. Oh, you want to go down this passage? Too bad. A pipe just broke and hot steam is spewing everywhere. It really makes the player think on their toes. Play the game to see for yourself.
And best of all….
NO INVENTORY LIMITS!
Don’t get me wrong, inventory limits can have a purpose. They add an extra challenge to the gameplay and promote strategizing. Still, they are frustrating, and I am a tad spoiled by games that do without. Deep down, I love it when there are no limits especially for a game where the goal is to loot anything that is either not nailed down or nailed down under lock and key. Barriers mean little for eager scavengers. This raises the question of how realistic it is for a protagonist to be able to gather endless amounts of stuff while still being able to climb ladders and similar activities that require the use of at least one hand. In this game it is no problem. The protagonist has a sci-fi equivalent of Mary Poppin’s handbag which allows them loot derelict ships with relative ease.
Story + Characters
The story is focused on the protagonist’s objective of scavenging enough to afford to repair their own ship. But there is some secondary story content about the derelict ship and its long-dead crew which is gleaned from flashcards found in the ship. When you put the flashcards in the data reader you find the ship’s old logs. So far, I only found two flashcards, an orange one and a yellow one. I do not know if there are more.
It is a bit of a cliché storyline but still intriguing. (Spoiler - click to show) The ship received a signal from an unexplored planet and the crew decided to investigate the surface. A crew member was infected by something that later killed him and infected another crew member. Something happened and suddenly there was a xenomorph onboard. That is all I know.
The only question I have is about a comment the game makes about the (Spoiler - click to show) ship’s AI. If you acquire the AI core the game says, "you get 200 dollars for the insane AI." When it says, “insane AI,” does the game mean that the AI was responsible for the disaster, perhaps for the strange signal or the creature infecting the ship? Or is it just malfunctioning?
In a nutshell, Into The Sun is ultimately a replay puzzle in a spaceship setting. And a fairly unique one.
At first glance, I assumed the game would follow the familiar mold of a protagonist exploring a disabled ship as it drifts through space. Usually these involve repairing it with a “quick fix” to restore the power or warp drive or similar concept to enable escape or rescue. Instead, Into The Sun throws this to the wind. Repairs? Strip everything of value and leave. Oh, and there is an alien monster tossed into the mix. I just had a lot of fun with strategizing and exploring the setting.
Right now, it is one of my favorite entries in this year’s IFComp, although I still have quite a few remaining to play. We will see. If anyone is interested, my current high score is (Spoiler - click to show) 3,100 adjusted dollars. Someone will likely surpass that sooner or later.
*You certainly do not see that on Sugarlawn!
I played this game during the testing period.
In this game, you run into an old, abandoned spacecraft. It's a large and confusing ship, but fortunately a clear map is provided. Your goal is to grab as much of the loot on the ship as you can before it is pulled into the black hole.
This game is similar to other optimization games like Captain Verdeterre's Plunder and Sugarlawn. The main differences are that this one has an adversary, and that there is much less 'easy money' in this game than those. You can wander for quite a while before getting anything really worth something; the good stuff is all locked behind puzzles.
The adversary is interesting, strategically. You both have to prepare weapons and also deal with the effects its acid has on the terrain; it can both destroy useful items and open areas or containers that were locked.
In my best run, I made 1,755 dollars, including (Spoiler - click to show)taking the ship AI and a gold drone.
As others have noticed, the game is heavily influenced by the hit movie (Spoiler - click to show)Alien, featuring characters and the same setting as that movie.
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