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Make It Good

by Jon Ingold

Mystery
2009

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Number of Reviews: 10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Another gem from Jon., June 21, 2016
A very well- and carefully written game, one of the most intricate I've played. You are a not-so-perfect private eye who is called to investigate a murder, and (Spoiler - click to show)finds himself involved in more ways than one! I say carefully written, because this is one game where the NPCs are not only aware of each other when in the same room, they are also aware of some of the items that you are holding, so you have to be careful! Their actions are strongly influenced by these facts. Veteran IFers may be put off by this, if they are habituated to games where the NPCs are rather discreet with respect to each other(=confined to certain areas of play), and indifferent to what the player is holding, unless the IFer has played Infocom's The Witness, or Deadline. I would recommend this game to a beginner, because the beginner would play with beginner's eyes--EXPECTING the NPCs to interact with each other and to be curious or observant of what you are holding. Also, I would recommend it to them because the game is brief compared to many others--I would call it an appetizer. If you are focused on finding the evidence, analyzing it and interviewing characters, you should quickly uncover (possible) motives and get a rough idea of who did it(or COULD have)--but this is just part of the game! Another part is how to manage the investigation--and keep pertinent details to yourself, what to analyze and what to divulge--and when to divulge it. This is why you may need a number of replays to 'get it right'(which may have you tearing your hair out). One character suggests that it's like a chess match((Spoiler - click to show)and I thought the chessboard was another little touch of genius--see if you can liken the characters to the pieces on the board) Then there is the endgame, which I felt was a masterstroke.
I really have nothing but the usual complaints regarding Ingold's games--the Britishisms(not a real complaint from me, but others may be put off--for example, in the US, we don't call 'em 'vicar', we make coffee, not tea, a car has a hood, not a 'bonnet'), the-one-thing-I-could-do-but-didn't-realize-I-could-do(found this out from a walkthrough--and yes, I did consult a walkthrough, after hours of beating my head against the wall trying to accuse someone who I was sure did it), and there are at least a couple of places where you play 'guess the verb', or you get a different result using two very similar verbs(look at vs examine). These are also the reason why I gave only 4 stars(instead of 5), but again wanted to give an additional 1/2 star, for 4 1/2.
I want to also stress that this game is excellent. You'll get laughs talking to Joe(the officer on duty who assists you with the analyses and questioning). He does not trust you, wants you fired(he knows you're a (Spoiler - click to show)shady alcoholic, and (Spoiler - click to show)possibly even suspects you from the start. If you give him just any object to analyze(that isn't direct evidence), sometimes, without even looking at it, he'll call you a cretin and walk away. But sometimes he's nice and will let you look at the crossword in his newspaper(which I may go back to the game and try to work completely--it's a neat little puzzle on its own, and even has an allusion to the one in The Mulldoon Legacy, another Ingold game I enjoyed).
I found only one bug in the release I played(#13), but even that gave me a laugh--(Spoiler - click to show)you aren't supposed to be able to take Emilia's ceramic water jug without breaking it, but when you go to the Kitchen sink, where the jug is, and say 'FILL JUG'--and the game usually would automatically say (first taking the ---)at any object you choose--the game will then say 'You filched her jug, BUG BUG BUG--I think the author put this in as a joke, once the bug was pointed out to him, and of course, you are not allowed to have the jug, you will have to use the whiskey bottle as a container. If you can hack the aforementioned gripes, then you will thoroughly enjoy the game and appreciate the conclusion. One tip without spoiling anything--when playing a game like this, always search the house and collect evidence, before interviewing. Like a lawyer in court, know the answers before you ask the questions.
Great game.

One of the most well-developed mystery games. A very strong style of writing., February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
This game has really grown on me. When I first played it, I found the atmosphere a bit depressing and the puzzles underclued. However, after revisiting it, I've realized that this game is a true classic. Especially when compared to other mystery games; this one really stands out.

The writing has a very strong style; for instance, we have the following:

"This room is long and thin, like a jailhouse corridor, from the doorway in the northeast corner to the large bay window opposite which stretches the length of the room, overlooking the street outside. The colours are your eyes on a Sunday; red like blood, red like the leather of the over-stuffed chair, which sits a cheap trophy by the main desk. A bookshelf fills the east wall."

The whole game is filled with a feeling of inevitable loss or failure; not of the game itself, but for life in general.

The puzzles are difficult to figure out. For more casual players like me, I recommend exploring until you feel you've seen everything; trying to solve every puzzle at least once; revisiting it after a day; then using a walkthrough. The ending surprised me twice, and even now, I don't really understand all of its implications. For me, this game only improves more and more with time.

One of my favorites., October 17, 2013
by streever (America)
This incredibly clever noir-style detective game casts you in a familiar trope--a down-on-his-luck alcoholic investigator who has one last chance to keep his job.

The game is very detailed and clever, technically quite an achievement: NPCs can observe you and note your (openly carried) inventory.

You'll find the clues easily enough, but probably have no idea what to do with them. I recommend not spoiling this one, even if you feel stuck. Come back later and look at the game with fresh eyes, try crazy things, and really observe the characters. Save often & be prepared to restore old games.

This is a great game with a novel ending, and an original plot. It borrows heavily from tropes and concepts you'll be familiar with from other noir fiction, but still presents an entirely original and creative story.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Challenging, ambitious game, July 4, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: jon ingold
Play it if: you want a difficult, voice-heavy playing experience in the tradition of Varicella.

Don't play it if: you'd prefer something more in the vein of Anchorhead, which sacrifices some challenge for ensuring greater flow in the player's experience.

It's a small shame that the most interesting aspects of Make it Good are not ones it can advertise openly. As such, the blurb suffers a little from being a bit too parodied: a very conventional preview to a rather unconventional game.

Make it Good is an impressive piece of detective fiction, not just in the sense of trying to figure out who the killer is, (Spoiler - click to show)but of course in trying to figure out what you evidence you need to destroy and plant to shift the blame from yourself. The moment you understand the big picture of what's going on is a shiver-inducing moment like something out of Spider and Web(Spoiler - click to show) - though in gameplay terms I do think this is a more complete, if not as unconventional, exploration of the narrative twist. It is written with the economy characteristic of any good mystery: no object, character, or detail is truly superfluous. It pulls off a rather neat trick, as well: details which I thought were minor bugs actually turned out not to be!

In structural terms, this feels much better than All Roads, which in my opinion was a more disorganized experiment in this sort of basic story idea which ended up being more of a noble failure.

Smoothing out the gameplay experience is a generally good sense for synonyms (the game doesn't call for too many exotic actions in any case), a TOPICS command to make dialogue as painless as possible, and a GO TO command to assist with navigation, which is welcome if not strictly necessary for a map of this size.

There are flaws, though. The first is the voice. I got the strong impression that this was a story set in the US, yet for a pulp noir protagonist, our hero uses a hell of a lot of Britishisms. Was this a calculated effect? Did I misinterpret the setting? We may never know. But it did feel jarring, and this is coming from me, a multi-national English speaker with little intuitive sense of dialect. It's a stylistic complaint, but there you go.

Second is the mid-game. Rarely have I felt more at a loss for what to do. Chalk it up to my non-puzzle-expert mind, but while I had a fairly straightforward idea of the goal I needed to accomplish, I had absolutely no idea of how to go about it. One of the problems with something like detective fiction this detailed is that you find yourself over-thinking the effects even mundane actions will have, only to miss a fairly obvious opportunity. The cruelty of the game demands a number of re-plays to compound this difficulty. It simultaneously feels fair - because of the detail-oriented nature of this sort of plot - and unfair, because we don't necessarily know as much as we have a right to. I still haven't made up my mind about this sort of gameplay being requested of players. Time will tell.

Even with these frustrations, though, it's a fantastically engaging game. It really does succeed in delivering the sort of excitement and challenge you'd get from investigating a mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie or Columbo. Just don't expect it to feel particularly fair.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The Next Time, Please Make ME Good, January 21, 2013
by ifailedit (arkansas)
Mr. Ingold's deservedly well-received "Make It Good" is a meticulously-crafted noir tale, with rich detail and difficult puzzles. Comparisons to "Deadline," the grand old dame of IF mystery, aren't the least bit exagerated, whether one is thinking of technical innovation, sleuthing technique, or even (initially, at least) structure. The player's assumptions, despite the similarities, are soon proven false--perhaps even naive. This story is ruthlessly faithful to the noir tradition.

Like "Deadline," multiple playthroughs will be necessary--beyond the challenges of the piece itself, different things will happen at different times in the story, and anticipating these events is, of course, impossible. Also like "Deadline," "Make it Good" is essential reading for mystery fans specifically, and IF enthusiasts generally.

With that said, the piece poses some interesting questions about what, exactly, one would like to experience in IF, and the answer will most probably be a personal thing. I know that I found myself taking a look at what IF does for me, and what I like about it.

I spoil indiscriminately throughout the rest of this essay. You absolutely should go have this experience for yourself before reading on.

By all means, find out what the fuss is about, post-haste.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Distance between player and PC is one authorial tactic that can, done well, greatly enrich the player's experience. Plotkin's "Spider and Web" is a shining example. "Make it Good" is as well, and, in fact, closing that distance is the REAL mystery the player will wrestle with--especially during the first playthroughs. The initial discovery of the PC's involvement changes the focus entirely. Being unhappily familiar with the conduct of problem drinkers, my first thought was that the PC was in fact the murder, but did not realize his guilt because of an alcohol-fueled blackout.

When I finally realized that the PC needed to frame one of the suspects for the murder, I had two responses. First of all, I was impressed at the author's faithful adherence to film noir conventions. I enjoy such grim tales. I particularly enjoy, for instance, the crime fiction of Jim Thompson, and the plot and tone of this piece would comfortably sit on a shelf next to Thompson's novels.

With that said, I remain uncertain that I would want to vicariously BE the central character of a Thompson novel, and while IF, with it's inherent opportunities for reader participation, can do things that traditional fiction cannot, I am not sure that I enjoyed framing for murder the most sympathetic (for me, at least) character in the story. I didn't particularly LIKE being motivated by a desire to keep my job and get away with blackmail, either. In this sense, the protagonist's freedom to, post-game, spiral into alcoholic oblivion seemed a Pyrrhic victory, to say the least.

Experiments with unsympathetic PC's are intriguing by nature, and can be done very well. Mr. Ingold's approach here, while ingeniously conceived and executed, very much left me wishing I could have done something else, instead. Of course, then, the conventions of noir would have been compromised, and "Make it Good" would seem a cop-out instead of #16 of the "Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time." The reader in me loved reading "Make It Good." The player in me hated playing it. It may seem starry-eyed and naive, but, at the end of the day, I'd rather just kick Krill's ass, or hit him with a good GUNCHO spell.

I realize that lots of folks like playing evil characters in RPG's and elsewhere. There is broad variation on player preference, I am sure. Your mileage may vary.

It is worth considering what we would like to spend our time pretending to be. Kurt Vonnegut suggested caution, lest we discover "we are what we pretend to be."

I did love reading the story, though, and can't help but be dazzled technically by "Make it Good." Hell, it's just a game, right?

Right?


A remarkable tour de force, February 21, 2012
by TheBloke (Brighton, UK)
When I discovered Make It Good, it was the first IF game I'd seen since I played them avidly as a kid in the late 80s / early 90s. I had thought the genre was extinct, and so was quite excited to discover Make It Good and realise that actually there was still a very active community around.

However, the fact that it was Make It Good that re-introduced me to the genre has been a double-edged sword; it's simultaneously re-ignited my interest, and spoilt IF forever. Why? Because now I've played Make It Good, I worry I'll never find any other game to compare.

Make It Good is an incredible achievement. It draws you in and keeps you gripped from an early stage. The writing is strong, the style evocative. There are numerous well developed characters - not least the PC himself. The plot twists and turns and there are some amazing developments, but you are drawn into this slowly and piece-by-piece, such that you always feel like you know what you're trying to achieve and have ideas as to how to do it - you may feel confused, but rarely lost.

As you progress further in the game, your path will become clearer, but the steps to achieve it are numerous and complex. It requires many playthroughs, many restarts, many save & loads. But by then it will have you hooked - you will be compelled to try over and over, tweaking your strategy, researching new avenues, trying new things, in the search for the missing links. And when you do figure out a vital missing piece, the satisfaction you will get is huge.

It's also great fun to play with a friend. I played it a lot with my girlfriend (using Skype screensharing), and our eventual completion of it came down to important contributions from both of us. There's so much to solve and piece together, that you may well find it most satisfying teaming up with someone to battle it together (though no doubt you'll still find yourself working on it on your own, unable to resist the urge to continue without waiting for your partner!)

Technically the game handles very well - I experienced no bugs of note, there's a comprehensive vocabulary, and there's a good range of convenience functions (like go to <room>) to make playing fun and not tedious, even on the 20th replay.

It's a masterpiece of a game and any IF player should try it.

I just don't know when, or if, I'm going to find another as good!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A bit sketchy? Nah!, December 4, 2010
by Aintelligence (Canada)
If you've ever read the comic books Calvin and Hobbes, then you may agree with me that the protagonist reminds me enormously of "Tracer Bullet". A shady, (Spoiler - click to show) corrupt alcoholic private eye who spends his time solving cases and then deciding not to reveal the guilty because he was 'a close friend'. Yes, the characters are so alike in character and thought, I could have sworn Bill Watterson wrote this.

Really, all the characters were like this in the story; each with something to hide (except Joe who would rather do crossword puzzles) which made this mystery a classic. What was even more interesting was trying to find more information about yourself to see what was happening in the house. No other detective stories (encountered to date) has this, instead completely focusing on the other characters. In short, the characters were beautifully crafted.

The story was so original. It took me 4 tries to finally see what I had to do to win the game, because before, I was chasing a million red herrings. That's the beauty of the game though, I think. You will run through the game with no result several times before you get the feel of the characters, setting and plot, and the solution just slams into your head. Really, the whole game is a massive puzzle, designed to keep you on your toes and to anticipate every future move, as well as adapting quickly when you find yourself stuck. to those who did it on their first try.

I could talk almost all day of how good and entertaining and puzzling the story was, but I'll leave with one more point. The story was not just a good piece of work on all four cylinders but also the people (not referring to their personalities at the moment). Like many mystery adventures, you had to be at the right place at the right time to win in some parts, but the characters were really sophisticated in the programming side of things. A lot of effort was put into them to make them know a variety of topics to ask or tell them about, and I found discussions were easily carried out.

I'll just say this: If you are interested even a little in mystery, play this.
Note: this rating is not included in the game's average.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
The best IF detective yet, November 23, 2009
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Make It Good is an excellent detective game. It is both a lot of fun and an absolute must-play for anyone interested in puzzle design.

The player is cast as an alcoholic down-on-his-luck police inspector who has one last chance to show that he can still solve a case. A man has been murdered in his house, and the protagonist must search the house and the garden for physical clues, must talk to a number of NPCs, must call on his reluctant assistant to analyse clues, and must, finally, make a successful accusation.

Now most of that may sound rather standard for a detective game, but this game is far from standard. First, the puzzles are simply excellent. Discovering clues is only the beginning--you'll have to think creatively and psychologically manipulate the NPCs if you want to get anywere with them. Second, there are some interesting plot twists, and your ideas of how to find the murderer will change during the game, which will in turn impact what you want to do with the clues and the NPCs.

Make It Good is a hard game. You will not solve it on your first attempt, and probably not on your fifth either. It is true compliment to the depth of implementation and the amount of possibilities that the game remains fun to play for almost the entire time span needed to solve it--and I heartily do recommend you to show some perseverance. I myself took a look at a walkthrough after I had solved all the major puzzles and the only thing that remained was the somewhat tedious process of putting all the details right. This seems to me the right strategy: you are depriving yourself of a great gaming experience if you look at the walkthrough any earlier.

The final stages of playing the game are a bit tedious, though: you'll still be doing small things wrong, and each time you'll have to restart and go through all the steps again. Given the overall excellence of the game, this is a relatively small complaint, though.

My other complaint is that the story does not make perfect sense at the end, even though it presumably has to if I have to be formulating and carrying out the plan that takes me to the ending. That, however, is a major spoiler, and should only be read by those who have finished the game.

(Spoiler - click to show)Surely the maid will retract her confession when she sees during her trial that there is no evidence pointing to Anthony? It seems to me that unless there is also some hard evidence pointing to Anthony, the whole scheme will not work; and in those endings where the maid confesses, there is no hard evidence pointing to Anthony. Certainly not the kind of evidence Joe wants before he arrests him.

The epilogue hints that the vicar has seen you, and that you are going to be arrested because he has told the police about it, right? But he has been telling lies himself in order to cover up for Angela, lies which are inconsistent with him seeing you. Would he really endanger Angela by accusing you, thus reopening the case while at the same time taking away Angela's alibi?


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Some thoughts about ‘Make it Good’ by Jon Ingold, April 27, 2009
by MassimoS
Related reviews: Detective story, Noir
We have to wave the hat in front of Make it Good, because of two reasons. The first is that this is an excellent job, with a smooth writing and an excellent design. The second is due to the fact that in this IF we impersonate a drunk and ‘bad’ detective, dressed in the usual waterproof coat and hat, who will have to deal with a terrible crime. The frame of the investigation will be an anonymous terraced house, with a suspicious maid whose boyfriend conceals a mysterious past, a desperate housewife with a shattered marriage whose ‘close friend’ is a vicar of the near parish and also an excellent victim: an average man by the not so average past.

So the ingredients are all there to make the plot of Make it Good a real noir, sophisticated and engaging.

The game design is innovative and well-maintained. Let’s forget about a story with a simple linear sequence of commands or actions. Make it Good is a story alive with dozens of items to consider, different rooms and locations to be visited and some riddles of low difficulty rating, but definitely good and affordable through various strategies. This is the highlight of this text adventure, which leaves ample room for the player. The NPC’s artificial intelligence is really nice and there is a distinction between the interaction with the mere dialogue, with which you can inform an NPC about your latest developments on the crime investigation, and interaction with interrogation applications, which can be used to collect the suspecteds’ alibi and modus operandi. It is worth also to say a few words about the intensity of the betatesting which has undergone the game in the first period of public release and the considerable speed with which the author has fixed some bugs, more or less heavy, afflicting the first version. All of this has made the current version of the game, namely the ninth, very pleasant and more enjoyable.

I would really like to note the hinting system which automatically comes to the aid of the player by suggesting the appropriate commands for some situations (this system can be deactivated by the most hardcore gamers!). Good and concise documentation in the game.

I would like to return a moment on the quality of the work’s plot (some spoilers below!).

As with his other work, in fact, the author tries to reflect on the deep dichotomy between the player in flesh and bones and his digital alter ego, making the discrepancy between their knowledge a fundamental point for the ending revelation of the main plot storyline. This analysis is an excellent springboard to think about the importance and significance of the information’s medium and the timing of notification. Not only because this trick, we can find that in fact our task is not merely to investigate a crime so savage but to try to understand, through a few bold descriptions, the ironic and grotesque violence of the likely events prior the crime.

Final Vote: As a result, Make it Good ranks as a timeless classic, having the veins of the mystery stories and the verisimilarity of daily life. It offers an extreme interactivity and vivid characters, although in some sections they are a little ’stereotypical’ but always functional to the plot. Watch out, because their behavior will be certainly plausible and exciting! My final vote for Make it Good is 9.5.

Massimo Stella

PS: I'm sorry for my badly managed English, it is not my main language. The italian version of this review can be found here:
http://nonunsolospettacolo.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/pensieri-sparsi-sullavventura-testuale-make-it-good/

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly scuffed masterpiece, April 21, 2009
"Make It Good" is oddly-flavored detective noir. Though nominally set in the US in an unspecified year (but one in which a television is a luxury), it uses British spellings and cultural conventions throughout. The protagonist is a down-on-his-luck cop one drink away from being kicked off the force, who made a fool of himself with the Michaelmas liquor. One of the keen-eyed, not-to-be-trusted suspects is... a vicar. This sort of thing makes the game feel, from the beginning, as though it is somehow askew from the normal genres and normal reality.

That feeling only deepens as play goes on. What starts out seeming like a fairly straightforward mystery of looking for evidence and interrogating suspects quickly turns into something more: it's easy to begin to assemble a case, but a lot harder to know what you want to do with that information. The protagonist needs to make a careful plan and stick to it in order to bring the investigation to a satisfactory conclusion -- and that includes manipulating just what all the NPCs know, and when they learn it, and how they feel about him and about one another.

Ambitious coding underlies this design. There are five NPCs. Two of them walk around and perform somewhat complex tasks; all five talk, observe, and remember. This is not the sort of game where you can blithely carry evidence past someone and have him not notice. They will even, on occasion, talk to one another in your absence-- a dangerous matter. There are still some bugs in the implementation I played, but the astonishing thing is not their presence but how well most of this enormous machine does work.

The need to plan around these NPCs makes for an intensely difficult game. Like "Varicella" or "Moebius", "Make It Good" needs to be played over and over to be solved; and there are times in this process where the design is not quite as helpful as it needs to be, and it is hard to figure out just exactly what should change in order to make the next iteration more successful. It can, especially in the late-middle section, become a very frustrating play -- though releases after the first have become more generous with clues and somewhat fairer in scoring what the player has done.

Nor is the result of all the careful NPC code anything like a naturalistic portrayal of character. It would be more accurate to say that it is in support of allowing the characters to behave according to certain genre conventions, in which everyone has a secret and the best people are often the weakest and the most easily destroyed.

The PC, too, is an odd duck. "Make It Good" definitely uses what Paul O'Brian dubbed the accretive PC (in reference to "Varicella" and "Lock & Key"): the player starts out not knowing much about the protagonist or his motives, but after many playthroughs is playing a very specific role to specific ends. And yet even then, there is a touch of distance and strangeness; corners of the protagonist's mind that are never quite illuminated, trains of thought that are intentionally ambiguous.

In the end it all does come clear, in a breathless, vivid epilogue, and the player is left victorious, exhausted, and alienated all at once. But then a mystery of this genre never leaves everyone comfortable.

So: a little imperfect, but nonetheless brilliantly conceived and ambitiously executed.


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