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About the Story
"You're having a hard enough time getting your second novel to work; how could it ever be possible that you, Harold Banks - world's most unsuccessful published author - could actually be sent on a quest to - er - save the world? Anyway, all you want to do right now is sleep...." [--blurb from Competition '99]
You're an author who's decided not to finish his novel and who gets mysteriously drawn into the world of the story. More story than game--the narrative itself is well put together, but the player doesn't have much to do--but it's nicely written and well told, if you can follow along (not a given--there's lots of plot). It takes a while to figure out where the story is going, though, and it's likely that you'll have to replay to figure out how everything fits together. The puzzles are fairly inconsequential, and when they do come along, they break the feel of the story a bit; they're not all that well integrated into the plot. Still, this is a better-developed story than most IF, and those who prefer the narrative to the crossword may well enjoy it.
-- Duncan Stevens
To be fair, the story is a pretty good one, and the writing is terrific, good enough that the player can easily forgive the linear structure; the plot may be getting shouted at him, but at least it's a fun plot, and well told. There are numerous IF references scattered around, many of them very funny (including a hilarious dig at Muse), and even those parts of the story that are insufficiently developed are intriguing enough that the player (at least, this player) wishes that the author had given them more space. Perhaps the best example of this comes late in the game, in a peculiar scene involving a mayor who has apparently seized power through unscrupulous means. You set things right, but in a way that leaves so many questions unanswered that the player is unlikely to understand how he or she solved the relevant puzzle. It's a shame, because the setting is disturbing and evocative, enough that a good-sized game could easily have been built on that premise alone--but here's it's just one out of eleven or more chapters, and the player blows through it too quickly to really catch on.
-- Duncan Stevens
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
This review probably makes it sound like I thought Halothane was just abysmal, and I didn't, really. The overall impression that I got was that the game is just sort of... half-baked. I don't mean this in an offhand sense, nor is it intended to be derogatory. I just felt like I was playing a game that was not suited for the competition, nor fully realized by the time the deadline arrived, but was entered in the competition anyway, for who knows what reason. Lord knows I've played a lot of games that are worse, even in this year's comp entries. But it's a pity to see the potential in a game like Halothane squandered so. Put that sucker back in the oven and wait for it to rise.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Endearing and innovative, Halothane focuses on exploration and symbolism. The few puzzles are complex but surprisingly intuitive, rewarding players who take cues from the environment and immerse themselves in the detailed environments. The themes of the author's struggles are wrapped in lighthearted banter and extensive description. The latter portion of the game changes tone and protagonist, though the resolution feels rushed and does not plug back in to the overall theme.
It is possible to complete the game with much still left to discover.
"Halothane" isn't about the story, according to its own author; it's more of a collection of scenes, tied together very loosely by a premice that's kind of interesting. You have to know this before playing, or you'll get frustrated; i kept looking for clues or connections, even just thematic connections, to know how those scenes were going to tie together in the end, but they don't, and it was a letdown for me. Setting up very different scenes and have the player scratch their heads for connections is awesome if you are able to resolve it and have some unexpected yet coherent thing that ties it up together; it feels like a magic trick and blows the reader's mind! (See the structure of Photopia, more generally of an Harold.) There were a few connections (hospital, red liquids, etc) which made me hope for everything tying together somehow, but then nothing happened and it felt like the author made me waste my energy/attention/investment in the game.
The game is very linear, and you have to complete a scene in order to move to the next; at the beginning you can unlock 'bonus scenes', i think based on if you searched around lots in the previous scene. Each scene has a few puzzles, and they are straightforward if you remember standard adventurer verbs; I felt the game was rather easy, and got 90% of the points in my playthrough. But as the game progressed, and as i realized that things were not going to tie together, I lost investment and kinda just went through the motions. I think what kept me playing too was the level of polish: the game is bug-free, you can't get stuck, and there's a very nice hint system, which makes it very smooth and kept me going. Had the game been more buggy or guess-the-verb-y, I would have quit long before; but I didn't like that the game would sometimes get snarky or condescending (or a terse "That's just scenery.") for no reason other than that's not the solution that was expected right here.
Another aspect that didn't work for me was 'the comedy'. I mean, the game's walkthrough says it's supposed to be a fun game, that started as parody, and it has an AMUSING section and lots of references to other IF works... But it didn't make me laugh, like, not once; part of it may be that i haven't played any of the game so the references were lost on me. (Interestingly too, the author's notes say he wanted to explore the idea of a linear game with puzzles and push Photopia further; the game didn't strike me as innovative at all and i wasn't surprised by anything, which could mean the game is dated and players have changed since 99.) But also, I didn't find the situations to be funny, or the writing; but it's just that i hadn't really noticed, rather than the game tried and failed, which would have been worse.
So I don't know what happened, and maybe this review comes from taking this game seriously, coming at it from the wrong angle and expecting the wrong things out of it. I would say, though: don't expect a one-laugh-a-minute game, though, but the premise might be mildly amusing to you, even if it's not going anywhere in the end; the puzzles are easy, you won't get stuck, and you get to see interesting scenes.
This is a pretty long IfComp game about an author who is sucked into the world of a manuscript which he has attempted to destroy.
The puzzles aren't too bad; the worst is skippable. There are some color coded key puzzles, but you are told in the notes that they are a parody of other adventure games.
Overall, I enjoyed the first few chapters, but it stretched thin by the ending.
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This is version 6 of this page, edited by David Welbourn on 29 November 2019 at 4:42pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item