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About the Story
Had you known the bloody history of Corona Labs, you would never have signed up as a test subject. But now, plunged into that history, surrounded by the damned and the dying, you must find the truth. Perhaps you will even survive it.
3rd Place overall; 3rd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2010 XYZZY Awards
One Eye Open is a delightfully graphic piece of Interactive Fiction. An unsettling blend of splatter-fest and mystery, One Eye Open feels familiar. The setting, the circumstances and even the story are all things we've seen before but that doesn't mean the game is any less appealing.
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Number of Reviews: 8
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I'm not a big horror fan. I especially do not like the kind of B-movie horror where piling on the gruesomely killed corpses seems to be the main point. And yet, within a single week I enjoyed both Leadlight and One Eye Open.
This is a bad game, but it has so much fun being bad that it is hard not to laugh along with it. Another creatively eviscerated corpse? Sure! Another hallway with teeth that eats people? Keep 'em coming! But I'm glad that this was IF, not a movie, because reading about gruesome scenes is a lot better than watching them.
What is weird about One Eye Open is that it combines splatter horror with a far more serious storyline about a psychic research facility, the tensions between the researchers, and the horrible results of their experiments. Fictionally, the two aspects of the game merge seamlessly; but it is perhaps impossible for the reader to both laugh about the horror and take the underlying story seriously. Every gallon of blood and every cubic foot of pulsating flesh distances us more from the characters. I doubt this was the intended effect, but it certainly is the effect.
Nevertheless, One Eye Open is remarkably ambitious and mostly succeeds. The game is very large (and should have been submitted to the Spring Thing rather than the IF Comp). The story is complicated, interesting, and well thought-out. The puzzles are good, and the best ending can only be reached once the player has thoroughly understood what happened in the past and what will happen in the future. Care and attention have been lavished onto the environment. I wouldn't quite call it a must-play game, but it is certainly enjoyable and well worth perusing. I personally prefer it to Babel, which is the game that obviously inspired One Eye Open.
My main complaint, apart from the weird mix of genres, is that the story is mostly told through journal entries and other documents. Journals are the disease of interactive fiction. Using journal entries is almost always the easy way out, and almost never a compelling way of telling a story. In addition, it obviously makes no sense that all these secretive protagonists are writing down their most inward thoughts. People don't act that way. Please, IF writers across the world, stop using notes and journals and sundry scraps of paper as the means by which you deliver your story to me?
But hey, cleaning the suit? The solution to that puzzle was so over-the-top and yet so sensible that I laughed out loud.
After a few minutes of playing One Eye Open, I thought to myself, "I remember playing this game when it was called Babel." But after playing it for a good bit longer (much longer than the two-hour judging period), I decided that I liked it quite a lot on its own terms.
The similarities with Babel are legion. In both games, you play the subject of nefarious mind- and body-altering experiments performed upon you by uncaring corporate overlords. You're alone in a research facility in the aftermath of those failed experiments. You gather up the history of the experiments and the facility, piece by piece, (Spoiler - click to show)often by touching objects (although Babel's methodology for this is more organically tied to the story). In both games, you (Spoiler - click to show)fashion an antidote -- tragically never completed by the experimenters -- and have to safely enter a tainted airlocked lab in the northeast corner of the facility. So things may seem awfully familiar.
The primary difference is in tone. Babel is a science fiction/mystery story, with an emphasis on uncovering the truth of what happened at the station. One Eye Open is a horror story. There's a mystery here, but what you really need to know is: the experiment is really, really bad. Your job is to undo it as completely as possible.
There's no build up to the horror. It's all right there in front of you, almost from the first move, which runs counter to the usual horror imperatives of suspense and dread. What it lacks in those areas, though, One Eye Open makes up for in ickiness. The style is early David Cronenberg with the gore turned way up: meat and organs and orifices everywhere, pulsating behind everyday objects. It's agreeably revolting.
The game is a bit too long for the Comp. After two hours, most players will not have completed it (or at least they won't have gotten a good ending, I don't think), and the story is slow to unravel. When it finally does, though, it is very compelling. It's a testament to the storytelling skills of the authors that I persisted long past the judging to get a pretty good ending, and then finally found the best ending days later. Like with certain Cronenberg pictures (I'm thinking here of Videodrome or eXistenZ), I'm not entirely sure what it was I just saw, but I know that I couldn't take my eyes off it.
The coding was mostly solid, with a few minor bugs and annoyances. I wrestled with the parser to get past a certain locked door, had trouble (Spoiler - click to show)putting a vaccine in a syringe, and found myself stymied by files in cabinets. There were some walls of text that could perhaps have been trimmed down as well. But these are insignificant issues that can easily be addressed in a post-Comp release. Familiar as it was, One Eye Open stuck with me, long after Babel did.
i'm going to come right out and say it: the writing in this game is gorgeously disgusting. the horror is real and visceral, and as you begin investigating it things just continually splatter from bad to worse. even images that might otherwise be comical (like the (Spoiler - click to show)laundry chute) have a cleverness to their descriptions that causes the gorge to rise and the eyes to be averted.
you are a test subject in an experiment run by a (Spoiler - click to show)corrupt and evil corporation ((Spoiler - click to show)really, did i even need to spoiler that?). as such, you've developed abilities beyond mortal ken, used with the new CONCENTRATE command. it takes some time to get the idea of how it works, and i kept finding new wrinkles in my powers as the story went on.
in terms of dream-logic, the horror is consistent and makes sense. you can never be quite sure if what you're dealing with is some kind of magic or merely a branch of science that humanity is better off not exploring. you find many diary pages and journals written by the doctors and others involved in your care, and it's very easy to start to care about certain ones (and to want to bring certain others on charges of crimes against humanity).
so, why three stars instead of five? well ... One Eye Open was clearly not adequately tested. there are constant issues with disambiguation any time you're in a room with multiples of the same object, and there are so many objects with the same noun. the notes your character carries are concatenated into a single object; why not the keys? and why isn't there a better way of navigating notes, possibly using the Invisiclues-style menu system that doesn't seem to have been used at all?
there are also cases where there only seems to be a single command that can accomplish the task. i knew exactly what to do in the (Spoiler - click to show)Autopsy Room but I couldn't get the parser to understand any of multiple phrasings. disambiguation stuck its oar in here as well, because (Spoiler - click to show)any attempt to refer to parts of the corpse, including the vital corpse hand, is redirected to the corpse's mouth instead. a situation like this, where you're locked down and being carefully timed, shouldn't have these issues.
finally, while it's possible to get a good ending, getting the correct ending is basically a matter of luck. throughout the game, you'll experience (Spoiler - click to show)flash-forwards to members of the staff dying in assorted horrible ways. in all but one such situation, there's nothing you can meaningfully do. but that one time, unless you ignore the chaos around you and take an unclued action, you're locked out of the true ending. you can't even replay the sequence to try again. this is not fair to the player at all!
overall, there are so many good ideas here. such a good story, albeit one firmly within genre conventions. clever puzzles. but One Eye Open needs more testing and debugging to fix the disambiguation errors, make your notes less of a chore to access, and to fix that one burst of deep unfairness.
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