Fragile Shells

by Stephen Granade profile

Science Fiction

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Number of Reviews: 9
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1-9 of 9

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).

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Space Station Escape, October 19, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Escape

This, ladies and gentlemen, is good work!

"Fragile Shells" is an excellently made text escape game. It consists of a series of interconnected puzzles, all of them solvable by using logic, common sense and a ready knowledge of basic physics.

Maybe too easy for some, but I found that the layering of one puzzle onto another, linking their solutions together into one clear chain from the givens to the conclusion was very satisfying indeed.

Just about every command I tried had a meaningful response, a very friendly game indeed.

Add to this an exciting backstory remembered in bits and pieces by the protagonist to frame it, and you get a short and delightful IF-gem.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Satisfyingly not-too-hard escape room, July 19, 2020
by ChrisM (Cambridge, UK)

A solid escape room game with puzzles that are just about the right level of hardness if you want something to think about...but not too hard. I did it in about 45 mins with a full score and didn't need any hints along the way (but they are there if you need them). The story isn't hugely germane to the gameplay but nevertheless, it is there and the revealing of it in snippets and flashbacks as you progress through the game is quite effective. The writing is good and does what it needs to do in relaying tension and a feeling of impending peril, with a minimum of flashing lights and blaring sirens. Give it a go, get through to the end and be reassured that you will know exactly what to do the next time you find yourself in a fix in low Earth orbit.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An enjoyable shortish escape game in space, February 3, 2016

Stephen Granade is the author of Losing Your Grip, one of my favorite games. So I was excited to try this one.

This was entered in the Jay is Games casual gameplay competition, which produced another favorite game, Plotkin's Dual Transform. In Fragile Shells, you play an astronaut with a concussion in a piece of a space station that is heavily damaged. You have to figure out a way to get out.

The game was fun; there are 8 points to win, and each is a relatively simple task, but requires some lateral thinking. I was able to get about 5-6 points on my own. However, I had some trouble when I knew what I needed to do, but didn't know about certain capabilities of the equipment. (For instance, I didn't know with the panel that you could (Spoiler - click to show)connect two wires together<\spoiiler>).

Overall, a fun, fairly short game. Good for fans of science fiction.

Amazing, March 7, 2015

Smart, well written, and made me feel as if I was really there. Truly a wonderful gem in a sea of fish.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A solid, short, scifi "escape game", February 21, 2012
by Janos Honkonen (Helsinki, Finland)

Fragile Shells falls to the category of "escape games", where the aim is to get out of a single room or a small space by using the items that are available around the player. The locale and the backstory for this is rather more interesting than in many similar games: a half of a module from a space station, spinning out of control.

Fragile Shells is a puzzle driven game, and although the puzzles are very "adventure game convoluted" and stretch the suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point, they are enjoyable enough and fun to figure out.

I would've hoped a little bit more from the writing, though. Apart from one piece of narrative, there really is no feel of claustrofobia or panic about being in... well, half a module of a space station that's open to the space on one end.

In any case, this is a solid brainteaser with reasonably good writing and background, and a joy to play.

0 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
Disappointing, June 5, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Yet again, I'm underwhelmed by games everyone else loves -- not so much for the technical aspects, but for the content. That's precisely the joy of this game: facile and mindless "peace" sentiments coupled with some arguably anti-American stereotypes. (Spoiler - click to show)Herein, the UK has a space program, and America decides to attack one of their outposts. Yes, yes. It's more of the same thing we see every day. I guess nothing much has changed in the future!

At any rate, until those aspects of the plot show up, there's nothing but quality. The puzzles are challenging but not impossible; the descriptions are spartan but serviceable; the flashbacks provide the reason for your actions and enough backstory to keep you interested. Even the amnesia makes sense and doesn't feel trite.

As far as making use of the "escape the room" mentality, Fragile Shells does a good job of it. There are enough "rooms" so that you don't feel hemmed in, and yet, you do feel the need to escape. Your situation is dire, but yet communicated without annoying timers and suchlike.

However, the characterization is inconsistent (no particularly English, Scottish, etc dialog is used), and the story is largely unemotional. Also, you won't find out the content until late in the game, but be aware that it is coming.

On one hand, I can see why this placed so high in the Jay is Games comp: it's well-designed and the puzzles are challenging without being unfair. On the other hand, I can see why this placed high in the Jay is Games comp: it feeds the insatiable hatred of the envious and the jealous.

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
Solid escape game, February 25, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Fragile Shells was written as an escape-the-more-or-less-one-room game. It embraces all the conventions of the genre: play consists of solving item manipulation puzzles, there are no NPCs, all the story is told through flashbacks rather than actions of the PC. It is a tired old genre, and Fragile Shells does nothing to rejuvenate it.

However, in the hands of Stephen Granade it suddenly doesn't seem so bad to revisit this old acquaintance. The puzzles are fair and of the right difficulty; the flashbacks keeps us interested in what happened to the player character and the environment he is in; and writing and implementation are solid enough that interacting with the game is a pleasure. Add to this that the game feels very coherent -- something that is often difficult to pull off in a puzzle-driven game -- and one has the perfect recipe for one or two hours of straightforward fun.

Fragile Shells does not point towards the future of interactive fiction. But it does prove that recreating better versions of the past will always remain worthwhile.

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Escape-the-Room artists: this is your dream come true, April 10, 2010
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Related reviews: short games

Somewhere out there is a Platonic Ideal of the "Escape the Room" game genre. In my opinion, FRAGILE SHELLS comes remarkably close.

Most Escape the Room (EtR) games have a simple premise: there is a room full of stuff, and you must escape it. Most I've seen are graphical, nearly all have annoying codes and machines that make little logical sense, a few have interesting twists, and even fewer have any emotional motivation to escape provided rooms.

FRAGILE SHELLS gives me some things I've wanted in the genre (but never realized were missing): a compelling story behind the EtR setup, a subtle and intense feeling of danger, and puzzles that don't require me to write down stupid codes and patterns. Tapping into the emotional motivation behind escaping, though--that is where this game shines for me.

Also helpful: the obstacles you encounter (and how you solve them) make sense, so long as you closely examine everything. Even so, the hints are well-implemented, doling out just enough info to get your brain kick-started.

It's not the best IF game ever (I ran into a few implementation problems, and the technical aspects of the story still aren't crystal clear to me), but it's one of the best of the EtR genre.

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