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About the Story
Low on income, you've signed up for a sleep study to test a new medication; one that supposedly causes lucid dreams. What you'll learn, however, is that much more will be revealed on The Sueño.
17th Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
I think this was my favorite experience with an MTW game to date.
Though I needed the walkthrough sometimes, I wasn’t leaning on it nearly as much as in some of his earlier work. The overall design of the game is more cohesive and consistent than Jesse Stavro, and the world is structured well enough to make a lot of it explorable by oneself.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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This game had an interesting atmosphere, with several rather vivid and cool images (Spoiler - click to show)(the house covered in pine needles, the deserted town, the bat in the belfry). Unfortunately I couldn't finish it because I think I did something that locked me out of victory, and I didn't know until later.
One thing about this game is that it seemed to have several arbitrary elements/puzzles; you could say it's dream logic, but it just struck me as kind of unfair (how do I know I need to (Spoiler - click to show)sit on the dentist's chair and not die? how do I know i need something from the guy chasing me? how do I know I need to flush the toilet?). I ended up looking at the walkthrough a few times, which is how I discovered that I was locked out of victory. The >dream verb was very interesting, I thought, but it's only used in like 2 puzzles; it would have been interesting to use it more, and maybe it would have been of use to justify odd solutions to 'dream logic' puzzles.
Another thing that I found odd and actually frustrating with this game is the granularity of the actions: the game is pretty finicky about the things you can do and in which order. You have (Spoiler - click to show)to unwrap the box, then open it, then look into it, then take the key; you have to take off your shoes first, then your pants; you have to set each for the four dials to its individual number (instead of, say, >set dials to 9999). And similarly, there are a few times where the game refuses to do something because you didn't specify with which object you wanted to do this: unlock door "with what?", clean door "with what?". I didn't think I liked parser niceties that much, but apparently I find it frustrating to have to find the right order and/or words for something that's obvious given the puzzle.
The writing is okay, not many typos (a few), but there were quite a few instances where it kind of feels like the writer didn't put enough effort in the descriptions. There were a "non-descript door", a "non-descript shirt", a "non-descript tv", and "shoes that go with everything"; the architecture of a room is "weird but you can't really put your finger on it". At some point you have a "twilight zone" feeling, and another room feels like "brady bunch"; I think this falls in the category "show, don't tell": it'd be much better to attempt to give the player a feeling that reminds you of The Twilight Zone (your vision becomes black and white? or even has grain like an old movie?) than straight-up telling the player. It was kind of distracting because as a non-american I have no idea what those are, so they really don't help setting the mood; and the lack of details (non-descript feels to me like another word for "just picture anything") about other objects don't really help either. Object descriptions are not necessarily the most fun to write, but I think they're very effective at building an atmosphere; for instance I absolutely loved the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)there's pine needles all over the roof and the gutters of the house, which made the forest menacing, and I would have loved more of that!
Anyway, I wished that the atmosphere had been better built-up by the writing, and maybe also that the >dream mechanic had been used in more puzzles, maybe even making it more systematic.
This IFComp 2015 Inform game has many parallels with Losing Your Grip; it includes someone taking an experimental medication that causes hallucinations/dreams; it includes a recurring grim authority figure; it includes boxes with hard-to-open packing tape; and it has several moments when you wake up.
Beyond that, they're pretty different. This game is open and non-linear, with many different avenues you can pursue at once. I played it first with a walkthrough, and then tried it again without a walkthrough two weeks later. I got stuck again at the very end, and had to check the walkthrough. There are two points in the game that are fairly underclued, including the main interesting mechanic.
The map consits of a small house and a rectangular grid-like city, with a path connecting them. The city is small, with one building or less per grid spot and each building having one or two rooms each with one or two items.
Overall, this is a game that is good but could use some tune-up on cluing and on some guess-the-verbs (for instance, you can CONSULT BOOKS ABOUT but you can't LOOK UP). A postcomp release would be great.
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What it says on the tin. ^