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About the Story
Note: In 2007 the author published an updated and expanded version of this game in TADS3. It was renamed "Lydia's Heart" and is available at http://www.musicwords.net/if/if_heart.htm
The game is indeed, as advertised by Aikin, non-linear, but I'm not sure that its story is the better for it. Basically, the player can wander freely over its fairly extensive terrain -- for which Mr. Aikin has helpfully provided a PDF map -- right from the beginning, attempting to solve the variety of puzzles that block her from thwarting the cult's plans and effecting her escape from the resort. There are a few timed and triggered events, but not enough to make the game feel like a satisfying story rather than just a collection of static obstacles to conquer. [...]
But if the plot is a bit thin, there is much else to appreciate. The puzzles are sometimes difficult, but generally satisfying. The writing is detailed and evocative, and the scenery is well-implemented throughout. Eternal Springs in all its overheated, dilapidated splendor feels like a real place.
-- Jimmy Maher
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Last Resort by Jim Aikin is a large, ambitious mystery/fantasy game.
The player controls a teenage girl (unfortunately we don't learn much about her other than she's rather superficial and shallow) who, as we soon learn, is heading towards a rather grim destiny in the course of the day. To escape your predicament you have to perfectly solve a large number of puzzles which I would easily label INSANELY DIFFICULT. Herein lies the main problem of this game.
The player's puzzle-solving ambitions are hampered both by invisible timers and dead ends, which is an absolute no-go in a game of Last Resort's magnitude! The inclusion of puzzles which can only be solved in a short window of time completely contradicts with the game's non-linear approach to gameplay. Twice I progressed through a larger part of the game, only to be stumped with finding me in an unwinnable situation. (I gave up afterwards, as would most people.)
It is really a shame this game is held back by this ball and chain, because the writing and general approach are quite good. The game's events are somewhat unrealistic, but to a degree that can easily be forgiven. (Spoiler - click to show)An example: Would you really let the girl you are going to sacrifice later in the day wander around freely? On the other hand a more interesting main character would likely put the player over the edge of trying to complete the frustrating puzzles. (In such situations, the game Portal always comes to my mind.)
To summarize, brave players might find quite some fun in this monstrous game. It's a trip best aided by the complex hint system. (I asked the permission of the author to post the password - the usage of one should never be necessary in the first place! - here.) (Spoiler - click to show)Password: Gertrude Stein
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