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Worlds Apart

by Suzanne Britton

Fantasy
1999

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Number of Reviews: 8
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A sci-fi novel in interactive form, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours
This is by far the largest game I have ever played in terms of text. Unlike most interactive fiction games, the story of Worlds Apart was years in the making, and was the authors main outlet for sharing a world they had imagined their whole life.

This game is set on a completely alien world, with different plants, people, animals, and history. The amount of detail in the game is massive, with NPC's that respond to dozens of topics, every item in the game being implemented in six senses, and a dizzying amount of locations. The game even contains two mini-books, one of which would make a good-sized pamphlet in real life. Just reading the game would take several hours.

I loved this game. However, because of its size, when I got stumped on the puzzles, it ruined the atmosphere. I started looking at the hints once I had exhausted all of the obvious options, because I wanted to read more of the story. But I didn't rush, and I tried to experiment with everything that I could find.

I recommend this game to everyone.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Just about perfect, May 9, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)
This is my second time playing "Worlds Apart" and it was an incredible, cathartic experience. It just pressed all the right buttons for me. Yes, I needed the Hints twice - once because I genuinely didnít know what I was supposed to do, thinking Iíd tried everything, and the second time was that I hadnít realized one of the items was useable in a certain way. (Spoiler - click to show)Specifically, getting rid of the guardian and using the globe. But the rest of the puzzles were solvable pretty intuitively. That being said, the Hints system is one of the best Iíve seen. Context-sensitive, gives hints little by little, and it remembers where you left off if you call it up again. No need to go through all the hint revealing again.

Thereís some disorientation because thereís no explanation about the game world. Player character knows more than the player and the game narration doesnít really elaborate on setting, races, culture, etc. However, these things can be pieced together with character interactions and thereís more of a sense of being there because of the lack of initial exposition. Still, separate documentation about the basic races, continents, and social structure would be nice from the start, so that names and places arenít confusing.

The game was completely accessible. The status actually had a command, which more games should implement. Some screen readers cannot access game status lines, and if compass directions are put there, itís pretty useless for a blind player. Also, menus are number-based, which is the most useable for blind players. True menus do not work well with any Mac interpreter, thatís for sure. As a blind player, this aspect alone would make me rate it higher than I otherwise would. But even without these considerations, I still give it a perfect score. This is just icing on the cake.

Interestingly, the game map is tiny, yet the content is huge. It does help that the world changes often, so due to repeated exploration, itís a good thing the map is small. Flashbacks are implemented well, and the tutorial for using unconventional abilities for the player character was cleverly done. There was an in-character reason to have it, so it felt seamless.

But I think the best aspects of this game were story and characterization. The people are definitely distinct, believable, and evoke strong emotions. (Spoiler - click to show)I had Lyesh sever ties with Yuri and found I didnít feel all that bad. It was like, "You donít need a coward for a friend." But I could also see it in Lyeshís character to forgive him. Then I had Lyesh go and help Lia, since I reasoned she still cares for the girl. In fact, my thinking is she still cherished the memories of Yuri, but she was an adult now and it was better for her to just complete the separation that he started. My favorite character would have to be Saal, though. A warrior but not cruel; a lover of tricks but not dishonest; a predator but compassionate; someone with agendas but not to use people. Itís neat to be able to talk to the characters and ask them about things Iíve seen and heard and get a lot of information that way.

The story, though, had elements I adore. A close-knit mother/daughter, mentor/student relationship; special abilities; losing friends and making new ones; transitioning from codependence to independence and empowerment; bonds that last forever; and a bit of pain just to make things interesting. (Spoiler - click to show)There is even a winged serpent in the game, and I *love* that. I have a fascination with snakes and reptiles. And I tend to prefer dragons that are serpentine as opposed to lizard-like and fire-breathing. Truly, this game had everything I enjoy: integrated puzzles, a knapsack to satisfy my packrat tendencies (at least in IF), in-character puzzles, vivid and reasonable characters (not dysfunctional), and a story that left me feeling cleansed and comforted.

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Heartwarming, January 22, 2011
Plot-oriented IF is becoming more common nowadays, but it is still not easy to find one that is as "cuddly" and heartwarming as Worlds Apart. Ever since the first scene, I felt intrigued. When I got to hug my mother, as every daughter in the world deserved, and then enter the inner world for the first time, I was charmed. And when I followed the warm glow in an otherwise scary world, and figured out by myself how to help frightened Lia, I fell head over heels in love with the game.

Yes, I referred to the protagonist in first person because it is so easy to identify with her. Even though the story happened in an alien world, where the "sun" is not our sun and the "human beings" don't look much like us, somehow it feels more familiar than many stories set in our world. The world looks beautiful, made all the more so by the author's capable prose, which reads like the work of a writer rather than being too geeky like many IFs are. The people felt realistic and alive, lovable for the most part and understandable at least. And the theme, full of love and friendship as well as healing of mind and body for both others and oneself, makes me like the game world enough to be willing to live in it.

Being an IF, the author's use of interactivity is excellent. The puzzles are mostly easy and making sense, but more importantly, they form a coherent whole with themselves and with the overall plot, and really succeeds to make the story so immersive that most authors of static fiction, and even "puzzle-less" IF, can only envy; even the puzzles that are not connected with the rest of the story so intimately, such as the business with (Spoiler - click to show)kalla leaves, makes me interact with objects (such as (Spoiler - click to show)the notebook and the fireplace) that incidentally provide me with more lovely stories. The low difficulty is in part due to the game's mercifulness and the relatively small number of rooms and objects relative to its size which, as one with limited puzzle-solving abilities and poor sense of direction even after much practice, I heartily welcome; another reason, I think, is that the descriptions are so beautiful (at least for me) that I feel compelled to read---and feel---them carefully, thus gaining the information necessary to solve the puzzles. Admittedly, a few places are still not obvious enough for me, such as the use of (Spoiler - click to show)LOOK UNDER, TURN and REACH INSIDE, but in such cases the incremental hint system both helps me through and gives me confidence by telling me how much I did figure out by myself. The image in the locket is usually too abstract to provide much of a hint---often I could understand the metaphor only long after solving the puzzle---but it does subtly make the solution seem much more natural, so that I don't feel, as in many other IF games, that the author is manipulating the game world arbitrarily. Apart from one act of violence, which does not harm any actual person (Spoiler - click to show)(because it occurred in the inner world) and is, in hindsight, quite necessary for my own good, I have never been forced to do anything I would not really want to do, and am allowed much freedom to act on my own heart's desire. I could hug people that I want to hug (although I think a kiss would also be appropriate for darling Lia), and could answer questions and say goodbye when talking with people like a polite person in real life, and get equally nice answers in return.

While the game gives a heartwarming experience throughout, as almost everything is getting into better shape as the story progresses, a few of the scenes are particularly memorable. One is the aforementioned scene in Lia's nightmare; it is easy to love Lia and feel protective around her, and the author indeed kindly provided many chances to observe her, get to know about her, and even (Spoiler - click to show)a brief reunion near the end of the game if the player is observant, but it is also pointed out that (Spoiler - click to show)mere protection is not enough and can even be counterproductive. Another is in the story of Lyric where, after a somewhat frustrating process trying to understand what was going on (not that mind-healing is easy!), I finally managed to (Spoiler - click to show)communicate with her via thoughts; here the use of font variations and somewhat incoherent sentences are particularly effective, and really made me feel that a long gap had been bridged. The most memorable character for me is, however, undoubtedly Yuri. Although many parts of his story are not told interactively, the manner of their presentation (such as the use of (Spoiler - click to show)the crystal imager, the insect and the axe as metaphors) is so emotionally charged that they almost made me cry, and caused me to lose much sleep long after playing the game, thinking of the fate of him and his daughter.

The gameplay experience is not perfect, but perfect IF gameplay is probably impossible anyway without perfect AI, and given current technology I would say the game is very well programmed. One problem I'm having is with the pauses in various places of the game. I know they are intended to give me time to observe and do conversation, but sometimes I run out of interesting things to do, and then it is often not obvious whether the story is progressing, or if some puzzle remains to be solved; this is particularly evident in (Spoiler - click to show)the first meeting with Yuri in the Haven, the news of Azaera's death, and the last part of the feral shelter story after the contact with Lyric. Story-wise, I am also feeling a little ambivalent about (Spoiler - click to show)Saal. While his reaching across worlds was, in some ways, rather romantic, and he also told me much about my beloved game world that could be difficult to convey by other means, sometimes I do think he knew too much---too much for me to feel much emotional connection with him.

Overall, I think this game is a must-play if you like lovely, emotion-packed stories; even if IF is not usually your cup of tea, the game remains very enjoyable just as a story. And since the author seems to be having trouble on the sequel, I hope the game will someday get popular enough to have plenty of fanfictions, for there is certainly enough room left for imagination, romantic or otherwise.

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal, haunting, a must-play, July 6, 2009
Worlds Apart immediately pulled me in with it's surreal and somewhat haunting atmosphere. The writing is extremely good, and I love how the game is paced; it plays with your perception of time and memory in a way that really adds to the surreal feeling.
The hint system was very nicely done; I appreciated the fact that it gives you a series of hints on each subject, with each hint revealing progressively more about what needed to be done. This gave me the ability to get only as much info as I actually needed from the hints, rather than just a little hint that didn't help, or a big hint that spoiled something.
I do have one minor complaint; I was a bit lost during the "midnight" section, because (Spoiler - click to show)I kept thinking that I had to get something done inside the crystal imager, after Saal had cleared the rubble and the axe smashed the viewscreen. All that actually needed to be done at this point was "sleep". However, this was most likely my fault for not paying close enough attention, or experimenting enough.
Worlds Apart is definitely one of my favorite games, and one of the few I'd list as a "must play".




10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Great story, disappointed with game, March 27, 2009
by Mike Ciul (Philadelphia)
It took me a long time to really get into Worlds Apart, but the end it was rewarding. Worlds Apart was far from my first game, and maybe it didn't hold up so well for me because of that. The reviews gave me very high expectations, but I probably should have heeded the part about how it was revolutionary "for 1999." It is indeed very good, but I have a number of issues I'd like to present as warnings to future game authors.

Both the author and the reviewers give frequent advice to explore and learn background instead of merely trying to move through the story. For me, this was probably unnecessary advice - I am an obsessively thorough game player, and usually when I read something like that it makes me obsessive to the point of not having fun. My focus seems to be opposite to the player these notes are addressed to: I spend too much time learning background and then I don't have enough patience left to solve the puzzles. I had to resort to hints at several points, even though I had discovered a lot of background already. In fact, the first time I played Worlds Apart, I got bored very early on and quit for several months.

There were two kinds of situation where I used the hints: One was to find out whether a puzzle was even solvable at the current point in the game. Usually the answer was no, and it was a surprise - I thought nothing was going anywhere until I solved this particular puzzle. For the most part, the game gave a lot of helpful prompting about what needed to be done next, but maybe because that raised my expecations, I got very frustrated when it didn't.

The second situation was when I was ready to solve a puzzle, but I'd missed something important. In one particular situation, I had saved the game and quit for the day right after a new area opened up, and missed exploring something that probably should have been pretty obvious. Even so, I think this points out one of the biggest problems of Worlds Apart: pacing. I spent a lot of time revisiting the same places over and over again, because they changed so often. That was rewarding, but it also encouraged a lot of not-rewarding behavior, so when truly new places turned up, my excitement was dampened. In general I think Worlds Apart worked best when new information came at a slow drip; the occasional big flood was sometimes disruptive.

One of the hardest things about IF for me is figuring out how big a game really is. I expected something smallish for some reason, and when I ran out of leads early on, I thought there wasn't much more to see or do. I was wrong. The first part of the game is VERY large. When the full size became apparent, I got a lot more interested - it's just a pity it took so long for me to arrive at that point.

I had to keep a file of notes on the names of things and characters in the story. It's really not possible to follow the story without being able to keep track of a LOT of names. The names are colorful, but don't always provide meaning to the story - they're just details you have to remember. I probably understood the story better because of it, though, because when reading static fiction I don't take notes. Even so, I missed a couple important things I would have liked to talk to characters more about - the "quicksilver sea" that appears in the prologue, for example. Since I made one very long and thorough play-through instead of many replays, I never picked up on the significance of it until very late.

Why didn't I replay the game when there were so many recommendations that I do so? One reason is that some of the puzzles involve a lot of tedium - waiting, juggling possessions, etc. The game is filled with flashback scenes, some of which must be experienced in a particular order. It seemed laborious to work through several of these to get to one in particular that I wanted to revisit. Also, since there are very few characters in the central "present" node of the game, it involves a lot of guessing to get to a point where you can ask a particular character about a particular thing. Finally, many of the expository scenes are full of times when characters are busy and won't talk to you, so it takes some guesswork to find a place to go back to where you can really grill them.

The conversation system is truly impressive, and the depth of interaction with characters is the beating heart of Worlds Apart. I've never seen anything so vibrant in a computer game. The conversation system has a "talk mode" where you can just type >TOPIC and it will automatically ask the current conversant about TOPIC. It saves a lot of typing and encourages conversational exploration. Occasionally it was hard to guess what topic would advance the conversation, though, and at one point I got a bit stuck because I didn't realize that using TELL (which must be typed explicitly) would give a different result. There were surprisingly few points where TOPIC apparently did not mean what I thought it would. (Spoiler - click to show)At one point, I was sure asking about MOTHER would have the PC saying "Is my mother alive?" but there was no way to ask that question. I think that's intentional, because it would give away too much of the plot, but it seemed like an obvious question for a player to ask at that point, and deserved better handling in my opinion. The biggest flaw of the conversational system for me was topic disambiguation. It didn't happen too often, and I'm sure there's no way to avoid it completely, but it tended to break the immersion, especially when it provided clues as to topics I SHOULD ask about, but I didn't know why. (Spoiler - click to show)I have absolutely no idea why asking Saal about the Emperor would make me a "clever sleuth," but because of a disambiguation question about "eyes," I found out a very surprising bit of information. Maybe there was more to learn about the Emperor that I missed early on. In addition to being a total surprise, I thought this plot point seemed a little implausible - a bit like a deus-ex-machina.

The second part of Worlds Apart goes much quicker than the first, although there's a lot to learn there. The third part goes even quicker. Although it was exciting to be getting along with the story, there was a little bit of anticlimax to the end - after so much struggling and so much character interaction, it seemed too easy.

I hope I haven't given the impression that I didn't like this game - I really did, after the initial false start (which is common for me; I gave up on Curses because I couldn't figure out how to work the projector, and eventually did the whole rest of the game with a walkthrough). But I wanted to bring up a number of issues for people who'd like to write similar games (which would be great!) and want to avoid some of the pitfalls of this one. Worlds Apart is a deeply immersive game with a great story and wonderful characters. Just remember to save at the BEGINNING of each scene so you can get back to it easily and explore it some more. I always forget that. And make sure you have script on at all times!

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
The one that started it all, August 31, 2008
by Xiao Z. Jia (Ottawa, Canada)
I have seen several people saying that this is the first IF work that they've played, or it is the one that got them hooked.

I count myself amongst them.

I think I downloaded it from Download.com way back around '99~2000, back then there's few free game that is worth playing and when World's Apart came up with high ratings I gave it a chance despite never played an IF in my whole life.

It took me a bit to get to know the commands, but like a good book the world and its inhabitants pulled me in, and I would call the atmosphere of the game "tranquil yet mystic".

I have played many more games from then on, but World's Apart still stood on its own on the strength of the unique world, style and very effective atmosphere/mood.

I thought about giving it a 4, since there's still areas that can be improved, but compared with other IF it stands strong on its own despite its flaws, and extra points for being the first IF I read. 5 it is.

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
A brilliant game., May 24, 2008
This game could not be praised enough.
The plot is phenomenal, the conversation system (a skewed version of ask/tell) flows better than most, and the NPC's are thoroughly implemented and realistic.

I don't want to give away the plot, so I will leave this review as it is, but I cannot stress this enough: Suzanne has written a masterpiece.

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A beautifully written work, October 17, 2007
by Ron Newcomb (Seattle)
Suzanne Britton's "Worlds Apart" was the first interactive fiction I ever played, and it remains, to date, my favorite work as far as quality of writing goes. Its gameplay is relatively free of annoyances such as hunger puzzles and sudden death syndrome, which is notable considering it dates from 1999. I had some guess-the-word problems playing, though some of them were intentional puzzles.

I recommend this game to any player of at least moderate experience playing I-F.


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