First Times

by Hero Robb


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Effective horror game plays to Quest's strengths, July 3, 2012

The immediately remarkable thing about First Times is its use of sound, synchronized cleverly with parser input. The effect may border on cheesiness occasionally, but the grimness of the horrific element and the detail with which the game is implemented prevent it from feeling half-baked in any way.

The implementation is fully up to the standards of typical parser-based interactive fiction. Almost everything is described thoroughly, and every door (of the many mentioned in the game map) is implemented and described separately. The standard quest GUI system does not spoil the puzzles, and the GUI seems to be well attuned with world model. At times, clicking seemed more efficient for me than typing, while other commands seemed much more natural and intuitive using the command prompt. The result was that I alternated, going for long stretches with one or the other before switching when I needed to input a command that was more efficient with the other method. The biggest flaw in implementation is that non-standard but relevant verbs do not seem to be implemented (at least not consistently).

The horror element is a combination of gory slasher stuff with paranormal terror. The game is disturbing at times, but the tone of prose, specifically of the protagonist's responses, is such that I have faith that the author has an artistic purpose beyond glorifying blood and guts. The setting feels like a particularly grim Twilight Zone episode, with plenty of dark paranormal phenomena lurking behind the closed doors that you haven't been able to open yet.

Unfortunately, I may never get to discover the point of all the madness, because I didn't finish the game. I solved many puzzles, and enjoyed the pacing. The game is very traditional in its design. Many of the puzzles were decently clued. However, I eventually got stuck, and after giving it a rest, found that I had no idea where to start in order to get back to the puzzles. There are no hints and no scoring system, making it is difficult to tell how you are progressing.

First Times is well designed and evocative. I wish I could have given it a higher rating, but being stuck with no way to go forward makes an objective analysis of the theme and story impossible and also is a negative mark in the whole experience.

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HeroRobb, July 6, 2012 - Reply
Hey, I wanted to say thanks for playing. For serious, it's my first game and any input is helpful. I'm glad you see it's (supposed to be) more than just a gore fest. If you'd like you can give me some details on where you are and I can give details on how to progress.
Bainespal, July 17, 2012 - Reply
It's hard to describe the state of the game as I left, since it's been a month or so. However, the whole session is saved in the Quest file. I've copied the transcript into a text file that I can send you, if you want to see specifically what commands I tried.

So, here's a description of where I get stuck:
(Spoiler - click to show)The last room I've explored is the child's play room. I've already solved the riddle puzzle and got into that room. I've already found the kiss key and got into the room that it unlocks. I can't get past the slabs/tombstones that block the corridor in one direction, or the locked doors in the other.

Right now, this is my inventory: scalpel, sheet, journal, kiss key, can opener, religious paper, play money.

Thanks. You did very well for a first game, a lot better than I can do. :)
HeroRobb, July 19, 2012 - Reply
Awesome. If you're still interested, the stuffed bear in the child's room can be taken and can be cut open to obtain needles. You can use the play money to get the can from a vending machine in the hallway (the northwest section), in the northeast part of the hallway there is a door with a poster on it, inside you can find flowers, using these items, you can solve the next puzzle with the altar in the room with the altar and the doll in it, then you are probably halfway done with the game. Like I said, 9 times out of 10, the "use 'something' on 'something'" will get the job done, so don't necessarily try to pull out crazy verbs.
Thanks again for playing.
Wade Clarke, July 6, 2012 - Reply
I played some earlier versions of the game which were rougher. My plan was to wait for some more revisions before I reviewed it, but Bainespal's review says largely what I would say. I'll just add that the game has strong allusions and a reference or two to the Silent Hill games. It's plainly not necessary to have played Silent Hill to appreciate this, but if you have, you'll get a headstart on the logic of the puzzles and the aesthetic of First Times.
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