First Times

by Hero Robb


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Number of Reviews: 8
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1-6 of 6

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Genuinely Effective IF Horror, November 20, 2019
by Blake
Related reviews: horror, positive, quest

A surreal and atmospheric game that manages to be genuinely scary, through a combination of strong prose, unnerving sound design, and creative use of the parser. Easily one of the best Quest games, playing to the engine's strengths and cleanly side-stepping its limitations.

The game tells a dark, tragic story. The author has a knack for coming up with very uncomfortable, unsettling imagery that combines mechanical and non-organic form with autonomy and flesh. They do a great job in integrating your actions into the scene at hand, too, forcing you to get up close and personal with your twisted surrounding. You're never just an observer, and this becomes a vital part of the story. The story itself is not told directly, but pieced together handily, and is left open enough in the right areas so as to allow for multiple endings, all of which are worth seeing. It's easy to tell where in the game the paths branch too, so replaying to see them all isn't too difficult. Just be sure to save fairly often.

The only real issues are a lack of proofreading (quite a few misspellings and grammatical errors), and low verb implementation - "use" is your main verb throughout most of the game, resulting in the game being quite easy. I was able to solve it with no hints and little trouble. I think some other people who have mentioned that they found the game hard may not be fully aware of just how much of each room you can examine. Part of the issue is the engine itself. Quest lists the "level 1" items and points of interest, if you will, the obvious ones, in the "Places and Objects" and "Items" boxes, but not the deeper, "level 2" objects, that are listed only in the room description.

A non-spoiler example: You are in a room. You can see a chest and a flowerpot. Both are listed in the Places and Objects box. They are "level 1" items. If you examine the chest, you find that it's unlocked. You open it, and there's a ruby inside. You examine the flowerpot, and you see a lump in the soil. You examine the soil, and you find a buried key. Neither the ruby, the soil, or the key will show up in that Places and Objects box. They are "level 2", and can only be interacted with the conventional way.

A spoilery, specific example from the game: (Spoiler - click to show)one of the hallways has holes in the wall. While not listed in the Places and Objects box, you can examine and find a journal that offers a critical clue in solving the janitor's closet riddle puzzle.

Because of this ambiguity, and because the author writes the game properly, so that everything is mentioned in the room description, I recommend closing that Places and Objects box and just playing based on the text, just like you would in a normal parser. You avoid a lot of confusion. That goes for any Quest game, really. Some of the bad ones will NOT list items in the room description, opting to include them only in the box, but the games that do this are usually rife with so many additional problems so as to render them not worth playing anyway.

Quest rant aside, do play this game. I've avoided spoilers, so turn off the lights, turn up the sound, and experience the game for yourself. Just remember to examine everything (the game does recognize proper shorthand, so just an "x" will do), and remember that the vocabulary is limited, and you should have no problems solving the game and enjoying one of the scariest IF titles out there.

Revision: I also wanted to add that this game must be played in the Quest client. Playing online causes issues with the multimedia, and the game will crash and fail to load audio properly. The Quest client also makes it much easier to browse other games authored in the engine, and is necessary for any game utilizing sound, so playing online is usually best avoided anyway. Cheers!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A creepy, surreal Quest game with music, August 19, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game feels fresh despite being a surreal game with deeper-meaning imagery, an amnesiac protagonist, and a lab/medical setting, all of which are overused tropes.

But this game seems like something new anyway. It uses Quest and only requires the verbs USE, TAKE, LOOK, and directional commands. The parser is extremely fidgety if you try and do anything else. Even if you think you ought to do something else, you should not do something else.

Basically, you are alone in a symbolic hospital with a lot of dolls and blood and spiders, and you try to enter new areas. Near the end, there is an extended sequence of strong profanity. The whole game is pretty gory and/or disturbing.

This is one of those games that breaks all of the rules for 'good games' but gets an effect anyway. Worth trying if you like horror.

In terms of scare factor, this is the best horror game I've ever played., July 24, 2019
by thecanvasrose
Related reviews: horror

Okay. So there are other horror interactive fiction games out there that are objectively cleaner and smoother than "First Times."

"Anchorhead" is wildly immersive, detailed and, in terms of build, it's a work of art. "One Eye Open" is messy, fun and provides the player with an eerie sense of adventure. "Bogeyman" is a kind of tearjerker that will give you nightmares.

And then there's this oddity. Maybe it has bugs, is a bit too disorienting to solve and isn't necessarily one for the plotline. Yet in terms of scare factor, this is the best horror game I've ever played. Cults, zombie creatures and cannibalism will always be creepy. But pulling an egg out of a doll's stomach? It should never have had to be creepy because I shouldn't have ever had to picture it in my life - if it weren't for this game.

"First Times" hosts a few cliches - creepy hospital, demonic entities - but where it stands strong is where it is really rather original, where an empty stage or a mural of a castle or a room full of stuffed animals manage to send more chills down your spine than your average zombie attack. These elements never quite come together too cleanly, but these elements within themselves are insanely cool and insanely scary.

Play it if you enjoy feeling regret. (I mean this in a good way!)

Good, but an update would be nice, January 11, 2015

I like the atmosphere of this game very much and for this reason I recommend playing it.
However, this game has a big flaw, which is the incomplete implementation of many verbs. For instance, common verbs such as "kick, push, pull, touch, drink, eat, jump, scream", are either not implemented at all, or merely answered to by a laconic "you can not do that". Also, the author has chosen to use a lot the verb "use" which is common in point-and-click games but usually avoided in IF games because it is ambiguous. Even though using the "use" verb avoids the pitfall of guess-the-verb situations, it gives the impression that very little freedom is allowed to the player, while freedom is actually the most attractive illusion offered by IF games. Also, this lack of interactivity deprives the player of many possible hints, for instance sentences such as "you can not force this door in, you will have to find another solution". Worse, the verb "say" appears at first not be implemented since the game answers "I can not understand your command", but in fact it is an essential verb for one unique occasion! I do not think it is fair to the player.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great horror game, April 12, 2013

Considering the features of the quest system, and this being the author's first game, First Times is a very good game. The writing is suggestive, and the presence of a few real time sections, and especially the well-timed sound effects, add some tension.

There are four possible endings, that are selected by doing a couple of choices during the game: one happens at about half game, in one of the real time sequence, when (Spoiler - click to show)in the east-est corridor, the player is hunted by three faceless monsters. There is a boy tied in the east end of the corridor. The player has a few seconds to decide to whether free him; the second one is near the end of the game, and requires to just choose a direction.

The puzzles are generally well hinted (be sure to examine and read everything!).
There are essentially no guess-the-verb situations: the adventure can be completed with just the directions, and the "use", "look at" (or "x" for short), "take", "read", "open", "close" and "say" commands. Most puzzles can be solved with commands like
use <object> on <object>
which, of course, require the player to have the right object to begin with. Just a couple of puzzles (the (Spoiler - click to show)"altar" and (Spoiler - click to show)"build a syringe and fill it" ones) require to combine two or more objects.
The (Spoiler - click to show)"open the janitor's door" puzzle (one of the toughest) is the only place of the game that requires the "say" command. The command to solve it is
say (Spoiler - click to show)metal

This game made me live the scariest moments I ever experienced in an horror IF up to date... however, I took away one star from the maximum score because some of the endings are not up to the rest of the game, at least in my opinion.
Judging by the overall quality of this first attempt, I'm looking forward to more IFs from its author.

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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