Fragile Shells

by Stephen Granade profile

Science Fiction
2010

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Number of Reviews: 9
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Solid, well paced, self-contained, April 8, 2022

My first impression of this piece matches the one I have at the end: solid, intriguing and with a very good rhythm troughout. It can be framed within the "escape" genre (the player is a member of the crew of a damaged space station from which it must escape) but that is also underselling it by a bit.

If there is one thing that has stayed with me after playing is the sense of rhythm the game achieves. It certainly helps that it is a mostly linear affair in a self-contained world of six locations or so, but navigation is easy and painless (once you get used to sea directions, even if cardinal directions work too) and most things you need are not hidden behind obtuse reasoning. In fact, I would say that the only thing players need to succeed in this game is to keep their eyes in the text and to consider every bit of information they are told. There is the one red herring, the multiple-use item and the a-ha moment and it's all there, in the text, just one examine command away.

World-building wise the game exceeds expectations with a fragmented backstory, names and a strong sense of place. By the end, a complete picture is drawn in a short span of time and there is still some wiggle room for your own takes on what happened. The writing is a move in the same direction: detailed, with emphasis on the moment but also empowering the player and translating the way the main character understands the events unfolding.

As for implementation and puzzling (because this is a puzzle game after all) I am very sure everything is ok here. Most commands elicited good responses, all objects served a purpose and most of the scenery is either part of the narrative or part of a puzzle. There is a hint system in place but in the three or four short sessions I spent with the game I felt no need to check it since it was very clear that all I had to do is pay attention and consider my options.

To sum up, a very solid game. I would recommend it to every player looking for a piece of solid work in which to inmerse for a short time (or, as in my case, for several short breaks).