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22nd Place - 12th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2006)
Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2006 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Note: I previously rated this game with one star, but then realized that it deserved another for writing.
OK, I like satire... Usually. But when the game is poorly implemented, and uses satire openly as an excuse for bad play, I can't bear it.
Some of the writing is laugh-out-loud material, something which is certainly underrated in games today, but when it is interspersed with horrible puzzles such as (Spoiler - click to show)the one where you have to take off your shirt in front of a bathroom mirror and hang another mirror on a towel rack in order to see your back, which has a tattoo on it which (miraculously) happens to be the combination for a safe you had been trying to unlock. I had to revert to hints to get this. There were no clues within the game that had prepared me for it, or if there were, I couldn't find them.
Bad implementation was also horrific. There was an aspirin bottle in the bathroom. The PC has a headache. Logical action?
Oh? The bottle can't be opened? Hmm...
Nope, not that either.
Well, I have to say that after a heap of actions that proved unfruitful, I ended up with that same banging headache as was described in the game. Finally, in a fit of annoyance, I typed
Well, the PC annoyed me enough that I was happy to give him a mouthful of glass.
But, uh, turns out that I was meant to do that. He got rid of his headache, but I must say that mine got worse throughout the game.
The point I quit at was when I ended up with my arm cut off, and a box of bandaids in tow. I tried to put the bandaids on my arm and it said I couldn't. Tried opening the box and I couldn't do that either.
>PUT BOX ON STUMP
Hey, it seemed to work with the aspirin. But no that didn't work either.
I died of blood loss. when I tried again, I examined my stump of an arm after putting the bandaids on (something which the game said I couldn't do, remember?) and apparently it was covered in them.
And I still died of blood loss.
Nice writing in some places though. If the author wishes to write, let him write a novel. Please.
This game purports to be a parody of escape-the-room puzzles, but it really ends up being a fairly standard version of the game, using the 'parody' aspect as an excuse for silly plot points or obscure puzzles.
The main difference between this and a standard game is scoring; you get no points for actions that lead to you winning. Instead, you get points for finding easter eggs.
At least one of the puzzles in the game is pretty clever, though, and not completely trivial to code.
Recommended for fans of one-room escape games.
There isn't really one room to escape--there are five, but hey, that leaves a bit more to do, and the room would be pretty crowded otherwise. Maybe it needs extra walls to deal with all the fourth wall stuff you have to deal with--after all, the author is one of the writers for Kingdom of Loathing, an absurdist heavy-texted MMORPG that relies on that sort of thing. People who like that will probably like this. People who like this game will probably like KoL a bit better, since it's more polished over the years--it's the author's job, and this game was not. Still, it was fun enough.
There's a lot of annoying stuff like eating the bottle and not the pills, the right verb for the safe, and a terrible muddle climbing on things (Spoiler - click to show)you need to stack.
Overall, I think this sort of puzzle works well with an existing fanbase and with discretely labeled choices, because a player base can team up and decide what to do (or how to do it most quickly,) and the next person through can just get the benefit of the humor or maybe polish the solution. With just one player, though, it really bogs down, and there's too much to guess at--I found that to be the case on replaying. There was a lot I remembered and couldn't guess the right verb on.
This is a flawed game that people who're willing to sacrifice a bit of play for humor will nonetheless enjoy because it does enough to get laughs. Unfortunately, it falls into different traps than the ones it bemoans in the funny little introduction. Still, I'm glad it's there. Kingdom of Loathing fans will probably enjoy this when they've used up their moves for the day, though. They might want to have a walkthrough handy, too.
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