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About the Story
"He thought he saw a pantomime
Nominee, Best Writing - 2001 XYZZY Awards
There is a lot of character-establishing text at the start, maybe too much, but it was effective in drawing me into the role. [...] After spending all that time in one character, suddenly I'm wrenched out and thrust into a new one, and I have to go through the whole process of getting to know them again. And that just seems too tiring.
-- Stephen Bond
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
[I]t was engaging stuff, and was peppered with one or two really clever puzzles. The overall design was solid, save for the one flaw [discussed in the review with a spoiler warning], but that flaw was so glaring, I really can't ignore it. No Time To Squeal demonstrates that great things can happen when two IF authors combine their strengths, but unfortunately, it also shows that even teams still have their weaknesses.
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 3
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Let's deal with the obvious first: No Time to Squeal monkeys around with the standard IF system commands in an absolutely unforgivable way. Early in the game, you will appear to have lost, and will get the standard Restart/Restore/Quit prompt. Typing "restart" here will actually carry you on to the next section of the game. Should an unaware player choose to restore to try to find a better way, he's just out of luck. Ouch. The game then compounds the sin by repeating this trick several more times, long after it has ceased to be the slightest bit clever.
As for the rest: the game opens with an immediately engaging (if long) exposition explaining the (first) PC's life as a professional sports agent and describing one of his problem-child athletes. It then proceeds to do nothing with any of this, instead becoming a different sort of realistic drama focusing on "complications" with his wife's pregnancy. About halfway through, that also gets tossed in favor of the dreaded Surreal Profoundly Symbolic Fantasy World full of characters from Alice in Wonderland's nightmares. This is problematic in that these plots are arranged in descending order of interest. Safe to say this one ends with a whimper rather than a bang.
There's a saying in creative writing that every time you introduce a significant character, object, or symbol, the reader puts that in his metaphorical backpack. By the end of the story, he should have emptied his backpack out again, having disposed of everything in its proper place. (Or alternately, see Chekhov's famous comments about the gun over the mantelpiece in Act 1.) By the end of this game, the player is positively groaning under the weight of unused characters and objects and dangling plot threads. Nothing ever comes together into a whole. Even the gameplay is not consistent, going from a railroaded puzzleless piece to a poorly designed (if equally railroaded) puzzlefest without warning halfway through. I started playing from the walkthrough on this section as soon as I ran into the first guess the verb puzzle.
Mr. Sherwin is plainly trying to write in a different mode than usual here, for which he deserves credit. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work for him, just coming off as awkward and constrained -- the latter in particular not being a word I've ever associated with his work before. There are flashes of the old Robb, such as when the nurse's ex-boyfriend begins quoting a cheesy old Led Zeppelin lyric to her -- "ooooo"'s included -- as love poetry, but not enough. And then the writing is riddled with technical flaws -- missing words, misplaced modifiers, and words that just don't mean what Mr. Sherwin seems to think they do. It reads like a first draft.
To characterize the game in one word: sloppy. You may want to play the first half, but feel free to quit when the Surreal Fantasy kicks in. At that point, you've seen everything worth seeing.
Mike Sousa and Robb Sherwin as a pairing makes sense, as the former's strength is coding and the latter's strength is writing. So I was pretty stoked when I first played this. But instead of combining their strengths, it appears this was developed like a McCartney/Lennon song where they just jam two separate numbers together and hope it works.
The first half of the game is clearly all or mostly Sousa. It feels very similar to At Wit's End, with fun slice of life situations set up in a Rashomon fashion; yet the stilted writing has a difficult time evoking pathos in situations that clearly demand it. The second half of the game is clearly all or mostly Sherwin, as it's trippy and confusing but well-written enough to keep you going. Ultimately, though, it felt like I was playing two completely different games and both left me unsatisfied. And while I do enjoy the occasional allegory, Sherwin is clearly better at writing tautegorical characters and dialogue.
It's relatively short and if you like the authors it's probably worth a play to see if it trips your trigger. But there's a reason why of the games that finished in the Top 10 of the 2001 IF competition, No Time to Squeal has the lowest ratings (despite finishing fourth); it definitely grabs your attention, but the whole is much lower than the sum of its parts.
In this game, you play as a variety of characters who are all tied up together. The story is simple; a pregnant mother is injured, and the baby needs to be delivered. You need to help.
The game starts out in reality and veers into allegory. As others did, I enjoyed the real part more, if only because the symbolism later was hard to puzzle out. The game contains extreme violence.
Overall, the writing was excellent, as was the polishing. An interesting game.
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