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25th Place - 12th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2006)
Inky's IF Stuff
Hedge took me off-guard a little, I guess, because it's the first game I've played this comp that is the old-new-school type where the puzzles are the whole point, and the storyline doesn't really have to make sense, so you can toss in a bunch of random stuff and it doesn't matter. But if you are going to write a puzzlely game, it seems like starting things off with a not-quite-solvable diagramless crossword isn't the best choice (or maybe it is solvable and I was just going about it the right way — that's the downside of this kind of game).
The other bad sign about this game is the first room is implemented in much greater detail than the rest of the rooms, which usually means the author started carefully putting it together and then ran out of ideas or time and hurried through the rest of the game. I dunno. I didn't come across any serious bugs as such, but the interactions tend not to be implemented in much detail. I expect people who like puzzle games will probably like this — it has reasonably funny writing and stuff. But I didn't find it particularly satisfying, since nothing makes much sense and the puzzles didn't seem that clever. Oh, and considering that >PUNCH (A PERSON) IN THE FACE is mentioned explicitly in the about text, there are suprisingly few places in the game where it's implemented.
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Hedge is a strange tale of one man's journey into The Hedge, fortress retreat of a shadowy "elite" that you desperately want to join... or perhaps destroy.
Billed as a "modern fantasy jaunt" by the author, I found the tone to actually be part comedy, part psychodrama. Much of the gameplay feels like a surreal blend of The Prisoner and Monty Python's Flying Circus, with just a pinch of Little, Big thrown in at the last minute.
For work of a first-time author, this piece is richly implemented. Most objects have layers of detail attached to them, and most verbs have at least a few synonyms. Parser interaction generally shows evidence of both attention to detail and proper levels of testing. I took note of many unexpected niceties in the way descriptions are rendered in response to varying world-states.
Hedge is reasonably well-written in terms of atmosphere and mood, and the status bar helps maintain a mood by displaying the protagonist's emotional state. Although there is a scoring system, score notification is disabled, and the scoring process appears only loosely correlated to the intended story. Interestingly, the "full score" command yields not individual point contributions to your total but a list of unusual "achievements" based on your actions.
The story's structure seems somewhat arbitrary, but this may be by design. Although there is little explanation of the protagonist's motives, the inclusion of multiple winning pathways allows the player to define the protagonist's motives by his actions.
The puzzle structure is frequently obnoxious, particularly in the beginning stages. Red herrings abound; there's even a fountain full of them if you don't get the point. Fortunately, the "about" command yields valuable insights into the mindset of the author, and you can summon a hint fairy at any time by using "help" or "hint."
Although I did find a couple of bugs(Spoiler - click to show) ("take transmitter", "x mayans"), they did not negatively affect gameplay. My two-star rating reflects disappointment that this game seems intended to frustrate traditional players in the first half, for no real reason other than the amusement of the author. This hostile edge probably contributed significantly to Hedge's middle-of-the-pack placement in the 2006 IF Comp.
Mr. Richards clearly has above-average capabilities as a writer and programmer, and I would like to see more from him in the future.
This game attempts quite a bit. You are trying to get into a mysterious club. The game is full of puzzles and many, many red herrings.
There was obviously a lot of thought and effort put in, but it could have used more testing. Fun with a walkthrough.