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Jay Is Games
Happily, in addition to being overwhelming, Final Selection is also extremely entertaining. I love the premise, love the setting, and am hopelessly addicted. The game is extremely clever and well designed; in fact, it won the L'avventura è l'avventura One Room Game Competition in 2006. It also isn't entirely unforgiving, as it provides an extremely convenient note-taking system that keeps track of all of the clues the player has collected.
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When I was pondering what star rating to give this game, I decided that if I was rating it on how enjoyable I found it, it would barely get two stars. I nearly decided to give it three, because I didn't think it was really fair to vote the game down just because I'm too stupid to get anywhere with it, but then I figured I was overthinking it. So it gets two stars. This doesn't mean there's anything significantly wrong with the implementation; it just means I never ever want to play this game (or anything like it) again.
You are about to be offered your dream job as the Director of the Museum and Institute for Puzzles and Problem Solving -- if you can pass one final test by solving an elaborate set-piece puzzle designed just for you by the outgoing Director. In other words, Mr. Gordon grabs the nearest narrative excuse to give you a reason to solve a blatantly artifical, multi-layered puzzle that unfolds within a single room.
At first it all seems rather overwhelming, as the room contains literally dozens of objects -- both the usual collection of oddities to manipulate and cryptic written clues that make you think this is going to turn into an impossible game of riddles. Stick with it, though, and everything finally falls into place as the puzzle's logic at last unfolds before you. When it does, the sense of satisfaction is immense.
Final Selection was originally entered in a one-room game competition, but I'd say Mr. Gordon cheated a bit. While you are indeed locked in a single office, and while the status line never changes, the room is actually mapped into various areas that the PC automatically moves between fairly seamlessly -- and thank God for that, as the sheer amount of stuff in the office would be completely overwhelming if just lumped into one place.
There are, however, a few glitches that can distract from the superb overall design. The PC will only carry a few objects at a time, automatically putting something down in the nearest handy place when you try to exceed that. While this is nice from the standpoint of realism, it can quickly get rather annoying, as you will soon end up with objects strewn all over the room, making it hard to get a good picture of just what is available for use at any one time. The excellent automatic note-taking system helps with this, but doesn't quite overcome it.
Perhaps inevitably in a game that has so much similar stuff packed into such a small area, there are also occasional disambiguation problems.
But overall Final Selection is a great little puzzler, challenging but never unfair. I solved it all by myself, and enjoyed it more than any puzzlefest I've played in quite a while.
A few criticisms about the game would be the immense amount of descriptive material and the rather odd inventory scheme. Normally having every detail of a world implemented is a positive thing, and for the most part that's true here too. But it is a bit overwhelming, especially since almost everything seems important. I actually had quite a bit of trouble solving one part of the game because I forgot about the description of a part (1) of an item (2) that was on another item (3) in a section (4) of the room (5) described in the room description. That's five (!!) levels of recursive detail - and it was vitally important to the game!
Now in fairness the game is only one room, so the author had to have quite a few levels of detail to achieve the puzzle depth that he did.
And then there's the inventory. Because there is so much stuff it quickly becomes obvious that carrying everything in the room would be impossible for a real person. So the author implemented a neat little feature where the PC automatically sets things down if you pick up too much. This is nice in that it avoids the player having to manually juggle inventory but it has a nasty side effect. In a puzzle based game it is often very useful to type "inventory" to get a list of all the items you have at your disposal to solve a given puzzle. The inventory handling implemented in this game makes that absolutely impossible. So if you find something early on in the game and can't figure out what to do with it, later when you need it you might find that it's buried in a drawer somewhere and you've forgotten that it even exits. Which means you'll spend quite a bit of time researching every level of detail just to be sure you haven't forgotten something important.
That's it for the bad. The good is really good though. The puzzles are fun. Each puzzle is clued quite well and none of them require any weird guess the verb nonsense or impossible leaps of intuition. It's all fairly logical and once you have the right pieces everything falls into place. For anyone who loves puzzles this is a rare bit of fun. Frustrating at times and certainly not easy, but worth the time. There isn't a whole lot of back story so it's sort of puzzles for puzzle's sake. If you don't like that then don't bother because the game doesn't have much else to offer. But if you do enjoy a good puzzle this game is a must play.
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