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26th Place - 18th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2012)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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This game, in Quest, has you navigating a mostly-symmetric area apparently seeking for wisdom.
You have a book depicting the 7 deadly sins, which you can slowly fill out by various actions. In addition, there are many religious figures here, including a monk, a fakir, a buddah, etc.
Each room has an image, and many have sound.
However, the implementation is odd, cumbersome, and often interferes with the player. The pictures vary widely in quality, and the game is frankly frustrating.
I didn't finish it, but I did appreciate the symbolic quest.
(I originally published this review on 22 October 2012 as part of my blog of IFComp 2012. This was the 24th of 26 games I reviewed.)
(Tech note: This game has sound. If you play Signos online, you'll need to use the Chrome internet browser to be able to hear it.)
Oh inner peace, if only you really were that easy to find!
Signos is a game handily compressing the eternal quest for existential completeness into the compass of about ten dreamscapey locations. It sports some attractive stock photo graphics of locations and colour-changing backdrops that will probably annoy 90% of players but which I didn't mind. It also sports the occasional sound effect. Quest's hyperlink features are present on top of the parser. They are likely to add to player confusion in what is already a confusing game. English is not Signos's author's primary language and complex prose was obviously never the goal here, but the implementation of Signos is so spare that most players are likely to give up on this life quest very quickly.
The game's layout and design ought to speak at least a bit to anyone who has played a console game at some point during the last fifteen years. There's a hub room with a different "world" accessible from it by each of the cardinal compass directions. Each world is generally a single room with a resident wise man (fakir, monk, yogi, etc.) and will feature a puzzle or two. (Spoiler - click to show)Solving the puzzles gets you pages of a book reflecting the deadly sins, each acquisition accompanied by a fainting spell, and when your book is full you get access to the Zen Garden of the big man: Buddha.
This is obviously a path to enlightenment that the kids can relate to, but in reading back my own summary of the game, I recall that all of the knowledge contained therein was hard fought for. Signos understands almost no synonyms, offers minimal clues and has no descriptions for the majority of its content. Ironically, the work involved in nutting out how this game functions amounts to a better simulation of the discipline required to gain enlightenment than the symbolic actions portrayed in the game itself.
As cute as Signos's fast track to wisdom is, its symmetrical layout idea is neat, even if typical for this kind of design. It also occurs to me that if there had been a Scott Adams game circa 1980 about gaining wisdom, it would probably have represented the problem in a similar manner, just without the graphics and colours. As it stands, the potentially hammer-weight powers of Quest give the appearance of overkill to a simple game which is too raw in its current state for players to come at.
Regarding my own quest for enlightenment in Signos... (Spoiler - click to show)I did find four pages of the book under my own steam, then I took to reading other reviewers' reviews for clues. Once I had all the pages I got stuck again and let the game show me the complete walkthrough. It hadn't occurred to me to try to smash the mirror with the stone because I'd been obsessed with trying to light fires with the cross (steel) and stone (flint). My gaming abilities continued to go downhill in Buddha's garden. After guess-the-verb and inventory limit troubles, I found myself stuck in a way that the walkthrough seemed unable to remedy, and conceded defeat. I guess the path to wisdom isn't so easy to tread after all.
Signos by Mauricio Diaz Garcia is a middle-length, allegorical quest for enlightenment.
On his way to inner peace (and stuff), the traveller is beset by unexpectedly required interactions, perilous spelling errors and vengeful lack of synonyms. You know you have a good game on your hands when the in-game walkthrough doesnīt match up with what you actually have to input to complete the game! On the plus side, the hyperlink-driven interface keeps you focussed on gameplay-relevant items and persons (but donīt expect anything else mentioned in room descriptions to actually be implemented in any way).
The story of Signos takes place in a dreamscape (even though the game keeps reminding you that you are actually "already awake"), requiring interaction with objects that are mostly symbolic and several npcs, themselves representing mainstream religions, annoying the player with quasi-philosophical ramblings amounting to little more than nonsense. Perhaps the author intended to use broken room descriptions, mysteriously undefined items and the lack of any beta testing to allude to a deeper, enlightening purpose, but as the game is, even though enhanced by the praisable inclusion of pictures and sound effects, it fails to draw the player into the game world since one is constantly confronted with its blatant mistakes.
Despite Signos being, for the most part, an unsalvageable failure, I for one still endorse the intention of the author. The basic idea of creating a symbolic, surreal, metaphysical journey perfectly lends itself to the medium of interactive fiction. While Signos certainly isnīt the "Holy Mountain" or "El Topo" of text adventures, one probably can still play it to experience for himself how NOT to write a game of its genre.
PS: as usual, if there are any grammar or spelling mistakes in my review, please inform me of it. Iīm not a native speaker and thus always happy to learn more about the language I use for my own writings as well. ^_^
The writing is terse. The story starts with no real hook. There are misspelled words and mechanical errors.
Okay, I'll quit writing in the same choppy sentences of which this author seems to be so fond. Rereading that last paragraph that I wrote, I sound pretty picky, but here's the thing: while one of these things may be forgiveable (or even a feature, if done right), the triumverate seems a bit much. Here's the intro:
You wake up in a big hall made of stone. There is light coming from all directions.
You are in a big hall made of stone. The ceiling is really high from the ground. There is a deep silence in this room.
You can see some kind of glass room to the north.
My description is a somewhat jarring "Looking good," which feels like a shift in narrative voice (perhaps because it's two words, not the rhythmic flow of 7-11 word sentences I've already gotten used to. Taking inventory informs me that I have a mask, and examining it reveals that "All of you can see is it has two holes for your eyes and a big opening for your mouth.."
In the first minute of the game I've got no hook. That's fine by me, if the writing is evocative or the setting intriguing, or something. But the player has very little here of interest. Except wait, there's a glass room to the north, and that sounds kind of interesting, so I clicked on the little hyperlink for "glass room" (because there are convenient hyperlinks in this game), and find that the game has ended quite unexpectedly(!). Okay, so maybe that's the fault of the website, because I'm playing the game online, so I fire it up again to give the game one more chance.
> look at glass room
Nothing out of the ordinary.
And that's when I quit playing. There were twenty-eight games in the comp, limited time in which to play and review them, and this game needs a lot more meat to make it worthwhile.