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An extended sci-fi space puzzler on many platforms, June 21, 2021
In this game, you play as someone awoken from cryosleep near the end of a long journey when your spaceship encounters an alien vessel. You'll have to explore the vessel with your helpful artificial intelligence unit Io, discovering its origin and purpose and encountering some bizarre alien technology on the way.
I'm not sure where to rate this, so I'll use my 5 point scale:
+Polish: I've read reviews of the earlier versions, and it seems like the Inform version dealt with most of the issues. I definitely would consider this more polished and bug-free than most games I play. Most standard responses have been replaced, most error messages are helpful, and command suggestions are frequently handed out. The game includes complicated containers, text typing into various interfaces, talkative NPCs, etc.
+Descriptiveness: A lot of the text is vivid. The author is clearly enthusiastic about space and I think it pays off. I was able to get a clear visual idea of each room.
+Interactivity: I admit I liked the puzzles. Many recent old-school games I've tried haven't appealed to me, but this is more of a light Infocom style than the more difficult British games. There's a bit more hand holding than Infocom but I appreciate that as someone who prefers lighter puzzles. I did get stuck a couple of times and had to request help.
+Emotional impact: The storyline itself didn't grab me but my natural curiosity and interest in the setting and exploration was satisfied. I felt like there was always something to work on and overall found it similar to a crossword puzzle in satisfaction.
?Would I play it again? I'm torn. On the one hand, I don't think this will become a long-term favorite. On the other hand, it has a pleasant compactness and unity that I could see myself coming back to in the future, especially if there were a sequel (which the name suggests). So I'll award a point here.
To me this game compares most directly with Hugo Labrande's Tristam Island and Marco Innocenti's Andromeda games. They all have a fairly similar style of 'retro aesthetic with modern affordances', a playtime of several hours, and availability on multiple platforms.
I think this game succeeds in its apparent goal, which is to create a product that people who played adventure games in the 80's will recognize and enjoy. The availability on multiple retro platforms definitely helps with that feel. (I'm making guesses here since I didn't play IF until 2010).
There are two types of authors when it comes to feedback: growth-minded authors and marketing authors. Growth-minded authors are looking for ways to improve and eager to find flaws in their products, while marketing authors are hoping to make more sales/move more product and don't want anything negative.
Competition authors are usually growth-minded, but since this is a commercial game I don't know which type this author is, so I'll put the 'growth' comments in spoilers which can be ignored if not desired:
(Spoiler - click to show)Jon Ingold, a two-time XYZZY winning author and head of the Inkle company said recently that the PC should never take action that isn't somehow the direct result of a player's choice, and I think that's true. Too often our character here does something without input, like the data hub; we're told 'it's not powered on, so you decide not to put anything on it'. It just feels weird. I can think of more examples if you like.
(Spoiler - click to show)Also, IO provides very useful information but talking again just says you can't think of anything to talk about. Again it's
kind of making the decision for you, but more importantly it's hard to get the information again. It'd be nice if IO would summarize for you or if there was another way to repeat that information.