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(based on 11 ratings)
About the Story
Testing your homebuilt rocket engine outside sounded like a good idea, until you incinerated Mom's greenhouse.
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Current Version: 1
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Baf's Guide ID: 3205
10th Place - 15th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2009)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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This SF piece is definitely worth reading and playing. The PC is a young boy sent on a mining mission on a spaceship under “punishment regime” by his father to make a man of him. (Settlers are much the same, it would seem, whether in 24th century Space or in 19th century Old West.)
Apparently, Wigdahl is a professional programmer and a veteran Infocom beta-tester, though this is his first work as IF-author. And it’s a very well-told and well-coded story, indeed; actually, the telling and coding is rather better than the story itself—which makes the reading/playing experience a curious mixture of satisfaction and (relative) disappointment.
In particular, I found the central puzzle somewhat disappointing, partly because it sins again the degree of realism already established in the narrative—it’s simply unbelievable that the engine of 24th century spaceships would employ a mechanism anything like this—, partly because (Spoiler - click to show)the puzzle is a quite hard and quite old one that many players will have learned from logic and lateral thinking puzzle books already as kids, probably making it virtually insoluble to some and really trivial to others.
At his web site, Wigdahl states that the whole piece was conceived and realized in three months (in time for the IF Competition), so there simply can’t have been very much time left for story and puzzle design. I do hope he got hooked on writing IF, for I would love a long series of works of his with puzzles and stories to match the execution.
By the way, Grounded in Space also has an interesting formal structure: its level of interactivity increases as the story progresses. The transition between these levels never feel contrived or unmotivated; on the contrary, they correspond well to what might reasonably be required from the PC at different stages of the story (so much so that I suspect this formal structure was not intended by the author but dictated by his material).
The story thus begins in ‘linear’ mode: it will unfold very much the same whatever you do. This linear opening serves as an introduction to the rest of the story, just as the first chapter of a book or the opening scenes of a play or a film normally does. In the case at hand, it introduces the player to the personality of the PC and explains what an inexperienced kid like him is doing all alone aboard a spaceship a long way from home.
The linear section is followed by one in ‘hypertext’ mode: i.e. you choose freely what to read and in what order. This hypertext section allows you (and the PC) to become familiar with the environment (the spaceship Marryat) and with your supposed task aboard.
To my mind, these first sequences very successfully sets the mood and premises of the work. (Perhaps, to a die-hard IF gamer as opposed to a willing IF reader, the may seem too long or irreleant or boring or whatever. I really wouldn’t know, since I am the willing reader. and I enjoyed these sections.)
Then finally you enter the properly ‘interactive’ mode in a section that leads up to the peripety of the story and the central puzzle. And after that there are several ways to bring the story to several distinct, more or less happy conclusions
An interesting, well-implemented game with competent writing and appropriate length. The story is of the pretty standard "precocious youth of the future" variety (cf. Lost in Space, Meet the Robinsons, Jimmy Neutron, although Grounded's youth seems to be older than his counterparts in these examples), with the first scene consisting of the protagonist getting in trouble with his parents, causing him to be sent out in a spaceship on his own. The primary puzzle (and the only puzzle that will provide more than a hiccup during a traversal) is interesting and fits well within the game's setting and plot, but going from realizing the solution to implementing it is somewhat tedious, with some interface battling and calculations required.
You should think your parents would be proud of your advancements in rocket science and pyrotechnics, what with all the effort you put into your experiments. Ok, a tad more forethought might have left the now-wrecked shed in the backyard standing, but still...
But no! They decided to send you on a punishment mining mission to teach you some responsibility...
For all the whimsical slapstick style of the introduction, Grounded in Space quickly turns into a more serious space-faring mission. En route to the family asteroid mining claim, the game allows you ample time to familiarize yourself with the ship's functions. And you'll need it.
After a first mining puzzle where you figure out the (well clued) sequence of commands needed to operate the ship's heavy equipment, the story twists around and turns into a rescue mission. There are multiple possible endings, all more or less intuitive once you use your imagination and think about what a young bright lad on a massive mining spaceship has at hand.
The development of the story through its escalating levels of engagement works nicely. The narrative timing draws the player in while increasing the tension, but still leaves enough room for experimenting, exploring the ship's interior and its equipment.
There is one geometric/logic puzzle that completely baffled me. The game attempts to aid you in visualizing it with a rudimentary grid and detailed description, but without actually seeing the results of my interventions I could not get a grip on it. (There's a walkthrough by the author on the IFDB site.)
The endings were perhaps a bit predictable, but the satisfaction of finding that last move to save the day (at least partly, with more or less collateral damage depending on your chosen tactic) more than makes up for this.
A great SF game with good narrative development.
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