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(based on 87 ratings)
About the Story
From the game's about command:
Language: English (en)
Current Version: 3
License: Public Domain
Development System: Inform 6
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Baf's Guide ID: 2400
3rd Place - 10th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2004)
Nominee, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2004 XYZZY Awards
22nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)
41st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)
Anyway, after a while, all these issues didn't seem to matter. The reason for that was, well, let's call it the puzzle framework of the game. It's mostly based on the idea of time-travelling; sure, there are enough text adventures using this concept (beginning with the classic Sorcerer by Infocom), but scarcely any implementing it as consistent and consequent. And I use the term "framework" on purpose: the whole game is built around and determined by constructing a sequence of actions leading to success. (There are multiple paths to victory, by the way.) While doing that, the player has to account for a number of time-travel side effects and paradoxes, some of which he can use to his benefit, while others are to avoid. It was a real thrill.
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
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The technical aspect is where the game really shines. As both a player and an author, it was easy for me to see the intricate ballet that the various pieces of code have to participate in, in order to create the desired effects, and the author pulls it off impeccably. Also, there are no spelling or grammar errors of any kind, which I could spot.
-- Joao Mendes
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
[T]he game is eminently worth playing just for its clever premise and a couple of excellent puzzles. It may play a bit fast and loose with its concept, and its ending may be a bit anticlimactic, but I highly recommend it nonetheless.
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Number of Reviews: 13
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For anyone who ever thought you could do better than the characters in your favorite science fiction novel, this is your chance. Part of the fun is realizing what lengths you have to go through, in order to solve what seems like a relatively simple problem, and I don't want to spoil one bit of that realization, so I won't go into any more details.
I will admit that due to an unfortunate coincidence near the start of the game, I drew a completely wrong inference that led me down a very non-optimal path. Normally this would have been frustrating because of how long it would take to unravel my error. Instead I got to play the game for five times longer than necessary, and I enjoyed every second of it! And it was still possible to win by going down my path, and very enjoyable to craft the solution.
This game is a masterful example of what IF is capable of, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is uniquely suited to IF. I don't know if there is another game out there quite like it, but I certainly hope so!
This game is exactly one puzzle--but what a puzzle. If you like your puzzles logical, requiring in principle no more than strict deduction from a complex set of premisses, then you will love this game. Once you've found out how the game world works, there is nothing arbitrary anymore; there are no intuitive leaps, no bizarre associations; you just need to think carefully. The effect is a little like a chess puzzle, where'll you try out some moves, notice what goes wrong, think deep and hard, and finally arrive at the solution.
I highly recommend it.
I don't normally like puzzle games, partly because I like to be immersed in a believable world and puzzles are intrinsically unrealistic, but mainly because I'm not very good at them. This one, however, is one of the most beautiful and satisfying puzzles I've encountered, simply because it is so logical. Everything in it flows neatly, and once you've understood how the set-up works and the sort of thing that you need to do, it is simply a matter of making it so. Each time I played, I managed to overcome the latest obstacle, only to find a new one; each time, again, the solution to the new obstacle was generally not too hard to work out once I'd got used to the way that this world worked. (Spoiler - click to show)I must add that I especially loved the problem of the battery, which I solved almost instantly and was delighted to find that my solution worked perfectly - this made me feel clever, which is not something that often happens when I play puzzle games. The constant replaying in light of new information sounds tedious but in fact replaying each time, carefully taking into account the new problem that had to be overcome while still doing what had to be done to account for the ones encountered before, was enormously satisfying. It is like putting together a series of simple, overlapping themes, one by one, and ending up with a complex symphony.
I thought that the small world of the game is believably structured and described, and that everything is implemented extremely well. The basic conceit of the game - (Spoiler - click to show)having to move around and perform actions at the same time as your earlier self, also moving around and doing things, while avoiding meeting her - must have been a nightmare to code, but everything seemed exactly as it should be to me. I also liked the fact that there are somewhat different paths to victory. (Spoiler - click to show)The walkthrough had the player setting the bomb and then using the time machine for a second time to go back a bit and leave, avoiding the explosion. I, however, did it differently, setting the bomb immediately before using the time machine the *first* time, and doing all the stuff I needed to do and escaping just before it went off. So I only travelled in time once.
There are some flaws with the game. I think the greatest is simply its believability - not because of the SF elements, but because of the implausibility of what your character knows. Paul O'Brian mentions this in his review. There are various items in the complex that the PC needs to take in order to win. In order to take those items, the PC must engage in rather complex and carefully timed behaviour (to put it mildly). The way she acts (on the winning scenario), she absolutely must know precisely what she's doing and be acting with considerable foresight. (Spoiler - click to show)For example, pressing the button for the upstairs door, knowing that her future self will be standing there to walk through it. But of course if she knew all that in advance she might as well just bring some of these things with her and not have to jump through hoops to find them in the complex. I must admit, however, that I don't really find that a serious problem with this game. The game is, above all, a puzzle. Its purpose is not to immerse you in a completely believable world (although of course it must meet minimal believability criteria if the world is to function logically enough to work as a puzzle, and it passes this test with flying colours). When I actually played the game, I didn't care in the slightest that the PC couldn't know this or should be doing that. All I cared about was *me* solving the puzzle that was presented to *me* in the game, and I enjoyed doing that enormously.
Also a word about puzzle-solving here. I saw some reviews that complained about having to write down lots of information in order to complete the game - like mapping Zork, but mapping the timing of events rather than the locations of rooms. I didn't do any of this. As I worked out the solution to the puzzle there were one or two key times that I needed to remember, but I didn't find any need to write them down. Admittedly I used brute force for one part of the puzzle. (Spoiler - click to show)The problem of how to break the glass without making my earlier self hear the alarm had me stumped for a bit, until I realised that I could just wait until my earlier self used the time machine, and then break the glass with impunity. To do this elegantly I should have replayed, noting down the time when I used the machine. In fact I just waited a few turns, tried breaking the glass, undid when I lost as a result, waited a few turns, and so on until breaking the glass did not result in a lost game. Again: unrealistic, of course, but it didn't matter (in my opinion) because I'd worked out how to solve the puzzle, and that's the main thing. So I would say that those who fear mapping or who don't fancy having to write lots of stuff down to complete a game needn't fear this one. You very much have to keep your wits about you and be able to visualise what's going on, and detailed logging might help, but it's hardly essential.
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