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Mechanical., February 27, 2013
Intrigued by the announcement that a sequel to a story I'd never heard of had been released, I thought it might be interesting to check out the original.
This turned out to be more challenging than I expected, as the provided download link does not function (apparently due to a bad permissions setting on the file). A little online sleuthing led me to a working download link over at IFWiki, however, so I was quickly off and running.
Playing the role of the clockwork boy alluded to in the title, your apparent task is to reunite your "parents" (a human King and a fairy Queen) who have separated during the long period between when the game begins and the last time you were wound up. The introduction led me to much speculation about what I might encounter: a substantial backstory to discover about what happened while the PC was "off", extensive NPC interaction in resolving the royal dispute, strange and subtle differences between the human lands and the world of Faerie, perhaps even puzzles about how to keep the PC from running down. Instead, I soon discovered that there wasn't much to recommend this work, which, although founded on an interesting premise, offers only a simple, mechanical experience as interactive fiction -- one which does not take advantage of the possibilities offered by its setting.
Implementation quality is fairly low. NPC interactions seem to follow the ask/tell/show model, but the only responses provided appear to be for asking about a small number of topics. The handful of puzzles, such as they are, consist of an arbitrary arrangement of interrelated obstacles that make little sense within the context of the story. Descriptions are flat and generally reference many objects that cannot be interacted with.
In a matter of minutes, I had seen the extent of the tiny world (fortunately just 7 locations, as many room descriptions omit the list of exits) and, while I could see what would need to be done to advance the plot by assisting the queen, I found myself stymied while trying to get a critical item from one of the two minor NPCs. I had a strong feeling of what was necessary, but the game just would not respond to any of the expected commands. Frustrated, I looked for some assistance and found it in the form of the ClubFloyd transcript of a playthrough of this piece.
While my hunch about the solution was correct (including the idea, the verb, and even the required syntax(Spoiler - click to show), which not-so-fondly recalls the era of two-word parsers), the command simply doesn't work in the version I found, so I was forced to read through the remainder of the transcript to see how things played out. The few minutes of gameplay that I missed as a result were on a par with what I had already experienced, and the plot winds up so quickly from there that I didn't lose much.
While I can't recommend this piece as worth one's time as a player, it is obviously the product of a sincere (if minor) effort springing from a well-conceived (if not well-developed) seed idea. I remain curious enough about the sequel to try it, especially given the fact that it was produced in cooperation with another author.
- Jonathan Blask (Milwaukee, WI, USA), January 14, 2012
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