by Phil Riley

Science Fiction

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Number of Reviews: 6
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Sabotage, with a question of who did it, and oh, space chores too, January 3, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Crash is commendably ambitious both narratively and technically. It doesn't mess around to start. You're given some trivial tasks to fix a spaceship (a microwave and cabinet are out of whack,) but of course those are just an introduction to the main plot. A spaceport to the side blows up. Obviously, someone needs to figure why, and you're the only person on the spaceship who can do so. Not because you're a detective, but because you're conscious. Not only that, you're on a crash course with a major spaceport! There's a lot of help early on with nice touches such as the Unicode character for an arrow. So I felt pretty comfortable attacking things early. And there was an in-game hinting system. I was making good progress while clueless of the very nice PDF walkthrough that came with the game.

My initial try, I spun out early, but the puzzles I solved, I was happy for. The scoring was neatly done, with a list of things you've fixed, want to fix and have to fix. In some cases it seems like there's an intentional bit of difficulty, for general humor or moving the plot forard. For instance, with a pair of bunks, I could CLIMB the one I didn't need to do anything, but the one I did, I couldn't. The alternative verb exhausted me for a bit.

Still, I had a lot of neat stuff to do and found it generally amusing to see or find what the solutions were. Like the microwave, which should be easy to fix, except I didn't have the right tools. Fixing the microwave, though not a puzzle requiring intense technical knowledge or deep building on what was there, had just the right sort of subversions and got that first point that said, gosh, I had Done Something, and of course it wasn't going to be super-simple right away. And I also enjoyed figuring how to go up from the galley containing microwave–you know something is there, and you hear voices, and it's a good part of the mystery, and it plays well on the fear of death and being lost. Then when you hear the voices, you have another choice to make.

I got stuck a bit after opening the way up, where double-checking the scenery got me "Really, the equipment trunk isn't important to the story. But by all means, continue to fiddle with it" and after a bit of wrangling
with the parser, this felt like someone was looking over my shoulder and saying "boy, you are clumsy with tools." I don't think this was the author's intent, and it may be gone in a post-comp release, Needling the player just the right amount is tricky, and a little snark can go a long way in the wrong sort of way, but hopefully forewarned is forearmed.

That's where I cut off in-comp. I'd started to see there were two people with opposite stories you needed to evaluate. I'd found a way to walk outside the spaceship. So I felt competent, even if I wasn't able to stop it.

So it's where I cut off, as I was at about the time limit, and I'd had a satisfying time, technical quibbles aside. Poking afterwards during a more relaxed time, I enjoyed the possible endings (failure, blowing the ship up without crashing into the city, success) and I'd even worked my way through a schematic with the help of some manuals. This is always tricky for me, as I like to play things to get away from technical manuals. And I wasn't sure if I would feel competent enough to make replay worth it, until the diagram made sense, and aha! There I went. The problem of trusting the Sergeant or Captain was interesting, and I certainly felt pressed to respond, but of course, I didn't have to.

Crash felt like a very enjoyable work that definitely wasn't my thing, and I always welcome those. The author's shown a great willingness to learn even more on the forums. And so Crash sort of has the feel of Marco Innocenti's first Andromeda effort in 2011 both because it's Sci-Fi and it involves an apocalypse and old-scoolish puzzles. In 2012, the second Andromeda effort won IFComp.