One Eye Open

by Caelyn Sandel (as Colin Sandel) profile and Carolyn VanEseltine profile


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- sw3dish, June 28, 2023

- Itsame64 (Mcloud, Oklahoma), December 7, 2022

- Kinetic Mouse Car, August 6, 2022

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A beautiful gory palace, built on sand, February 15, 2022
by cgasquid (west of house)

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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Huge horror game with tons of gore, August 26, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

One eye open was an IFComp game much longer than two hours. In it, you play someone being tested for psychics powers.

Without giving away too much, this is a search-the-lab game similar to Babel, but with gruesome gore in the vein of the SCP foundation (like SCP-610, for instance). The horror has also been compared to the Poltergeist.

Somehow Vespers and Varicella disturbed me more than this game. In a way, the horror are not as scary because of the way that they are described, but they provide a coherent atmosphere. There are many endings, many Easter eggs.

There was no profanity, no sexual material. Not recommended for most people, due to the gore. I probably won't play it again because of it.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well-Written But Too Easy, August 25, 2020

WARNING: Some very mild spoilers throughout.

This one didnít do it for me. It has some great imagery, and the authors clearly loved making the game. I liked the psychic slant, though it felt more like an extra examine command or hint system in practice. The background story has some promise as well. As a full package, however, itís not as much fun as it should be.

First off, the authors give themselves a pat on the back as they inform us that the game is full of ďstuff". I donít mind a bit of glib smugness, but it has to be earned. If youíre going to make a claim like that, your game ought to be filled to the brim with items, locations, people to talk to. It better not be an empty medical facility with a large number of one-note rooms, a small number of items, and a story told almost entirely via notes and flashbacks. The implementation is standard too. I was expecting tons of things to examine and sub-examine (and sub-examine). But thereís just a few things per room and very rarely do you get an interesting reaction. Very little show, a ton of tell. The Dreamhold this is not.

The writing is very good, though a bit dry in the less exciting sections. I love the vibe here, a mix of Carpenter and Cronenberg, with a little bit of Verhoven sprinkled on top. Body horror and gore, presented with a wink and a nudge (the washing machine in the basement functioning as a large intestine is ingenious). The descriptions of your psychic abilities are also handled nicely, and the flashbacks are remarkably effective in their design. We have some scary scenes, some entertaining descriptions, and some fun ways to die. Though it is odd how there are a few instances where the PC refuses to kill themself, when most of the time they happily traipse into death with a simple >w. I would have preferred a bit more proofreading. Twice are rooms with a flickering light described as ďcinematic". What a mimesis-shattering adjective, one that also doubles, again, as telling in the face of perfectly good showing. Never again, please. Even worse, an exit is left out of one the room descriptions. Being forced to open the walkthrough to see that glaring error made me very unhappy.

There are multiple endings, nine in total, and extra puzzles to solve to obtain them. This may count as ďstuff" but it doesnít do much to entice me, as Iíve never like having to replay a game, or even just parts of a game, just to see a different ending. Usually, thereís only one good one, and its tedious to have to try the others while searching for it. I donít mind extra endings as a bonus, like in the aforementioned Dreamhold, or as a few simple forks right at the end that I can save and retry. But in general, I prefer one ending, one challenge. The tedium, the sense of running in place that I get when going back after seeing The End on my screenÖ itís so unpleasant. This is very much a personal preference, so I donít hold it against the authors or let it factor much into my rating.

The puzzles are mostly perfunctory, though the optional ones require a bit more brainpower. Overall I was just bored. Waiting in the elevator, going through obvious action after obvious action, going to the next obvious point. The beauty of the text adventure is its ability to engage the player by allowing them to become someone else, to think and act and feel in a strange environment, or in a strangerís shoes. When what youíre doing is this straightforward, you lose engagement. Again, the extra puzzles mitigated this, but having to veer off the beaten path just to have something interesting to do is a problem. I recently reviewed an older game that also had fairly simple tasks; Noah, for the Spectrum. That difference is that in that game, you had a more compact area, open-ended design (no locked doors or items you have to wait to get), and less tedium. I also consider the standards of the time. In 2010, you can make puzzles that are far more sophisticated, with more moving parts and NPCs. This isnít a CYOA game. Itís you wandering around a big, empty facility, discovering fragments of a story. Take a page from Silent Hill, not Slender. Youíve created a surreal hellscape, give me some hard puzzles, a way to interact with it that's more complex than pushing one button or collecting a page. Give me some psychic skills, some psychokinesis maybe. Put a real stumper in, make me work for that good ending. I just want a bit more.

I know Iíve been harsh, but I donít want to hurt anyone's feelings here. This game did have stuff I liked, mostly the writing, which is a very important part of interactive fiction. The game design is just bland when compared to the prose. Iím sure that this game would be great for a novice player. As a more experienced adventurer, I just found it kind of dull. A 2.5 that I'll round up to a 3.

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- beecadee, March 29, 2020

- _firexe, December 4, 2019

My Favorite Parser Game, October 7, 2019

Yes, "One Eye Open" is over the top, but it's just so well fleshed out (heh heh, "fleshed out") and engaging that I cannot help but absolutely adore it. That and I'm already sort of a sucker for horror games anyways. This game has great replay value, the story runs near cinematically (that is, no matter what choices I made, the story felt cohesive), the dark humor is on point and it plays a variety of tropes to clever and original ends. 10 out of 10 from me.

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- E.K., December 8, 2018

- HarryKile, December 4, 2018

- Helena Vernon, February 19, 2018

- karlnp (Vancouver, BC), August 23, 2017

- E. W. B., February 23, 2016

- <blank>, June 30, 2015

- Thrax, March 12, 2015

- bluevelvetwings, August 25, 2014

- M. Tea, August 19, 2014

- DJ (Olalla, Washington), May 9, 2013

- Stier, March 27, 2013

- ptkw, March 1, 2013

- Venya (Olalla, WA, US), January 20, 2013

- Andrew Schultz (Chicago), May 14, 2012

- Meredith (California), December 1, 2011

- Hannes, November 12, 2011

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