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20 Exchange Place

by Sol FC

Crime, Thriller
2023

(based on 15 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

Sink or swim in the concrete pool.

"This is what you do. This is what you've been trained to do. You've done it before. You just have to keep a cool head."

A short-form, multi-ending, high-octane race against a ticking clock in the heart of New York City circa 2006.

Can you tread water and work your magic? Or will you sink and drown?

Content warning: Contains scenes of violence, death, and hostage negotiation.


Game Details


Awards

49th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

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Member Reviews

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3 star:
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Short, non-sensical game about trying to recapture a bank from robbers, October 11, 2023
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes, IFComp 2023

In this choice-based game you play as some sort of a cop trying to recapture a Manhattan bank from 6-7 robbers/culprits who have barricaded themselves inside. Even though the blurb talks about hostage negotiation I didn't do any of that, maybe I didn't get far enough in the game, but the PC starts out with no other options other than to plan the infiltration of the banks by "Spec-Ops" guys.

So I played through once and got a bad ending. The thing was that the game gives you absolutely no clues as to how to avoid a bad ending. You aren't given any information, just asked to start making decisions. I briefly went back and played another branch of the game making a different choice for how to breach the bank and got the same ending. I wasn't interested enough to try again.

I feel like the author was trying too hard with some of the wording to make it sound authentically New York, with phrases like "grey-shirts", "silver-badges", and "Spec-Ops", plus at least one "yous guys". But Spec-Ops strikes me as a more military term (though I've only visited NYC so maybe I'm wrong), and the constant use of the terms "robbers" and "culprits" feels real dated for a game set in 2006. There were a number of other well-worn tropes that popped up as well. Finally, 20 Exchange Place in Manhattan is a skyscraper, not a 4-story bank building, and there isn't a Westward street anywhere in the Financial District that I can tell. Just a lot of misplaced steps in this game.

Solid coding. The author's diction and style might make for a good transition to hard-boiled noir fiction. This game was just a miss for me.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Charge sheet, December 15, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

ARREST/CHARGE INFORMATION

SEPTEMBER 20, 2006
NAME: 20 EXCHANGE PLACE AKA “SOL FC” AKA “HAYES”
PLACE OF ARREST: 20 EXCHANGE PLACE
ARRESTING AGENCY: NYCPD PCT001

ARREST CHARGES:

CRIMINAL IMPERSONATION (PL 190.26): suspect entered the scene of a hostage situation outside a Financial District bank at 20 Exchange Place. He put himself out as an NYPD officer and engaged in various law enforcement activities, but his level of professionalism and effectiveness was so indescribably low that suspect obviously was nothing of the sort.

AGGRAVATED ASSAULT UPON A POLICE OFFICER (PL 120.11): suspect claims that upon arriving at the scene and asking his notional colleague, Officer CORTEZ, for a briefing, CORTEZ responded with unreasoning hostility and initiated a physical altercation (Office CORTEZ has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into his actions).

ASSAULT IN THE FIRST DEGREE (PL 120.05): suspect, noting that a crowd had gathered around the crime scene, attempted to clear the surroundings. Subsequently, a reporter for the New York Post identified him as a police officer and approached suspect to ask for an update; suspect, apparently incapable of delivering a simple “no comment”, responded with hostility and escalated the situation and eventually initiated a brawl with the journalist (NOTE: eyewitness indicated the Post reporter carried a live mic and was accompanied by a video camera crew; potential credibility issues if we put them on the stand?)

CRIMINAL USE OF A FIREARM (PL 265.09): after the aforementioned physical altercation appeared not to be going his way, suspect fired three “warning shots” in an attempt to stop the brawl, and then aimed his loaded firearm at one of the journalists. Suspect argues that this was a conservative choice, as his only other option was to “go off book”, though he did not elaborate on what that would have entailed.

AGGRAVATED ASSAULT UPON A POLICE OFFICER (PL 120.11) (yes, again): subsequent to the above altercation, Deputy Inspector PASH arrived and attempted to deescalate. Suspect once again initiated a fistfight (NOTE: several eyewitnesses swear that the fight lead to HAYES being shot dead, which is clearly impossible. Did the bank robbers release a hallucinogen or something?)

OBSCENITY (PL 235.05): despite claiming to be a police officer, suspect appears to have an aversion to even as mild an oath as “pissed off”, somehow managing to pronounce it as “p***** off”.

SMOKING (NYCAC 17.503): before initiating planning on how to breach the bank and rescue the 17 hostages, suspect paused to smoke a cigarette within 50 feet of the bank’s entrance. Suspect claims that he had no choice, as he is sufficiently addicted to nicotine that without said cigarette, he would have been so nervous that he would have been forced to blurt out confidential information when engaged in negotiations with the robbers.

EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION – HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT (NYCR A.2.7): suspect seems to harbor a bizarre grudge against Irish-Americans, including claiming not to understand the accent of a decorated member of the NYPD bomb squad (NOTE: see charge under PL 190.26. Who the hell does this guy think makes up the force, anyway?)

AIDING AND ABETTING ROBBERY IN THE FIRST DEGREE (PL 160.15): while suspect purported to be trying to rescue the hostages and apprehend the robbers, his advice and actions were so error-prone as to indicate that he was likely in collusion with the criminals. At every stage, even the most anodyne of his suggestions would lead to disorder within the ranks (see charges under PL 120.05, PL 12.11 x2), assistance to the criminals (see charge under NYCAC 17.503), or catastrophic failure and loss of life (three separate suggestions about how to infiltrate the building, plausible on their face, led to unexpected explosions and death of hostages). One initially-promising sortie via a side door was even brought to a halt when suspect appeared to have some form of seizure, requiring resetting planning from the beginning.

CRIMES AGAINST MIMESIS (IFTR 1-25): please just make them stop.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A difficult, branching Ink game about hostage negotiation, November 22, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a pretty tricky ink game. I had to play it around 10 to 13 times to win, even using saves. I didn’t realize that one of the keys to winning was (Spoiler - click to show)steadying your nerves with a cigarette. At least I think that’s what happened. But it would make sense, since it’s in the cover art.

This a hardboiled NYC cop thriller, kind of like NYPD Blue (although I don’t remember much of that show as I wasn’t allowed to watch it. One of the first network shows with nudity!). You are a hostage negotiator at a bank robbery and have to find the best strategy for capturing the thieves and freeing the hostages.

After many, many attempts, I was able to free all the hostages, although the criminals went free.

On the one hand, I felt like it was too hard to strategize in this game, as there weren’t many clues as to what path is best. On the other hand, it was short enough that I could try multiple things on multiple attempts.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Unnecessarily cruel, November 14, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

20 Exchange Place is hostage-situation high-stake game where you play a Sergeant trying to solve a sticky situation. The game offers multiple consequential choices, with many leading to a bad ending. I would rate this game Cruel on Zarf's difficulty's scale. I know it is possible to reach a "good" ending, but didn't manage even with my many attempts.

This game is... frustrating, especially as someone who wants to do good when playing game, and strive to reach at a minimum the least harmful ending as possible. I usually don't mind replaying, until I find a (somewhat) satisfying result. But here, I gave up after a good half-dozen try. And savescuming is difficult with Ink (only one slot, not possible to go back to a previous choice). Meaning you often need to go through the whole game again to change one thing.

20 Exchange Place is very much a "golden"/"only-one-true" path type of game, and if you stray from it, you will face harsh consequences. And while each failed state will get its own extensive variation, having to restart the whole thing every time (especially when you are pretty far along) is tedious at best.

The difficulty of the game is that you are pretty blind when choosing what to do next, as there are little to no indications in the text about the correct choice/approach, which is frustrating when the PC is supposed to be a veteran on the job (or are you just that stupid?). Even choices characterised as "safe" lead you down a bad path.
This is kinda the type of game where you need some sort of walkthrough...

While the prose does a good job at setting the scene, and pushing the high-stake envelope about the situation, I also found it awkward at times. This was made even more obvious with the missing punctuation in the dialogues, or the censoring of "bad" and "swear" words, which, considering the indicated genre and content warning, feels out of place.
Is hell a bad word? I think it was most in the context of swearing...

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Blue Lives Matter!!!1!, January 5, 2024
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

So Ink is the platform that in my head has become synonymous with “Attractive, High quality presentation.” This piece initially leverages Ink’s graphical power, but doesn’t fully capitalize. On the one hand, the font and color scheme are very appealing. On the other, they don’t really reflect or resonate with the work on offer. This was the first time I felt the platform’s presentation strengths were not adequately utilized. There was also a notable typo density.

These were notable, but not fatal to the narrative. Much more fatal, to me, was the bizarre narrative/plot dissonance. The protagonist is introduced as an uber-competent police officer, at least in their own mind. They are called on to resolve a bank/hostage situation. The protag has SUPER strong negative opinions about Wall Street, reporters and other cops, confidently expressed to create an air of cynical cool. However, the protag’s actions, as reflected in choices they might make, are laughably amateur hour. If they seize the microphone to dress down a Nosy Newsman, they are immediately reduced to a flustering mess and need rescued. Despite having the final say on tactical approaches, they can take choices that other police question, justifiably, as silly. Including an option to, per the text of the piece, ‘Die Hard’ it. Why are those options even available? In one egregious section, you cannot avoid making an OBVIOUSLY CATASTROPHIC comment to the kidnappers unless you tried to take a smoke break earlier? A smoke break minutes into a crisis situation??? Who is this clown?

It’s not helped by narrative dissonances all around the character. An NPC is furious at him (though also a subordinate?) then friendly with only a single click between those mood swings. That same NPC is professionally composed in description and action, but then referred to as ‘twitchy.’ The street officers are referred to as Grays, when NYPD famously wear black uniforms. Early on, I was wondering if this was an Alternate, Fascist Timeline ™, but no.

There are bugs: a choice to select a basement entry replays an upper floor exploration - up instead of down. A side entrance seems to hang the game completely. Since you’re looping replays anyway, not catastrophic but off for sure.

I played through 7 times, exploring the space. I killed 5 assault teams, victims of a supernaturally effective terrorist plot. I lost hostages to an obviously bad choice that should never have been on offer, and I knew it when I made it. I ‘rescued’ the hostages, only to discover the robbers had just left under my nose. Running out of patience and things to explore I started to feel a turn in my head.

Maybe I wasn’t meant to succeed? Maybe this game is a next level critique of Copaganda by offering that cops are actually self-important bumbling idiots in love with their own mythology? Whose fragile victim mindset curdles into adversarial relationship with those they serve? Whose belief of their own unassailable Rightness makes them a menace to themselves and society? I love that read! As soon as it occurred to me, I stopped playing because it would fall apart if I stumbled into a ‘winning’ scenario.

I actually don’t think this is the case. The disjoint narrative, typos and careless character and phrasing work don’t suggest this kind of tight control. The face value game Bounced me hard - what it seemed to be trying pushed at my sensibilities, and the clumsy narrative undermined even that. But I kind of love how it played out for me, and the conclusions it let me draw. I think I have to rate the game on what it presents as, not what I made it. This is not easy though, because I SO love my read… no, stick to my guns.

Woof, unfortunate turn of phrase there.

Played: 11/4/23
Playtime: 45min,5 dead cop endings, 1 dead hostage ending, 1 getaway ending
Artistic/Technical ratings:Bouncy, Intrusive bugs and language
Would Play After Comp?: No, I so WANT it to be left here.

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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