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by David Welbourn

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For a Change

by Dan Schmidt profile

Surreal
1999

(based on 81 ratings)
7 member reviews

About the Story

"The sun has gone. It must be brought. You have a rock." [--blurb from Competition '99]

Game Details

Language: English (en)
Current Version: Release 1.02
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 6
Baf's Guide ID: 605
IFIDs:  ZCODE-1-990925-BE77
ZCODE-1-990930-5DE5
TUID: t61i5akczyblx2zd

Awards

Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 1999 XYZZY Awards

2nd Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 5th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1999)

32nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2015 edition)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide


"The sun is gone. It must be brought. You have a rock." So begins For a Change, one of the most unusual games in recent memory: the language is distinctly nonstandard, in an e.e. cummings sort of way, and figuring out exactly what's going on requires some lateral thinking. (Another example of the syntax: "This subsection of the inset brightens and flickers. The shadows . . . walk the cordstone walls; they move and excite.") While it's not as accessible as most IF, it's still a richly rewarding playing experience; once you learn to think in the same off-kilter way as the game's written, it all comes together. The puzzles are a mixed bag--some make more sense than others--but generally this works both as a game and as a linguistic experiment, and rewards the imagination.

-- Duncan Stevens

SPAG
For a Change is indeed a change, and in a way it's a good example of what text IF can be--it manages to leave most of the visual details entirely to the player's imagination by refusing to pin down exactly what the PC is seeing or experiencing, except in the most general terms. The result is either maddening or evocative, depending on the player; if the player isn't willing to do the work of visualizing the scene as it unfolds (and supplying the images where the author declines to), the game more than likely remains elusive, amorphous.
-- Duncan Stevens

The outcome is something deeply bizarre, resulting in a rather dreamlike quality: everything has some sort of internal logic, even if you don't know what it is.
-- Nick Patavalis
See the full review

>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page

After I had finished the game, I marveled at the cleverness of its linguistic contrivance, and the consistency with which it was implemented, but the pleasure was solely on a cerebral level. Even though the experience of playing the game was interesting, I never cared very much about the story, I think because I found it too difficult to make an emotional commitment to a setting and character that were so completely alien. Consequently, I ended up observing myself a lot, which is a very distanced, passive way to go through something like interactive fiction. Then again, I'm not a person who gets passionate about abstract painting or experimental fiction like that of William Burroughs, so my lack of reaction to the game may be due more to my own idiosyncrasies than any particular flaw in the work.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(22)
4 star:
(34)
3 star:
(21)
2 star:
(2)
1 star:
(2)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, simple, small, October 23, 2007
by madducks (Indianapolis, Indiana)
For a Change has one of the most memorable opening lines in IF, and also one of the most cryptic. The start is disorienting not just in the standard IF sense of being thrown into an unfamiliar world or situation and having to act as a native, but additionally shocked by an unfamiliar language, along the lines of The Gostak.


The game is a puzzle-fest, however it is small and sufficiently clued such that playing without a walkthrough or built-in hints is possible. I found the largely grid-like world map and hollow nature of the world and characterization to be off-putting, but overall the puzzles were satisfying and the game is kept together very neatly. It was just long enough, I don't think the game would have been sustainable for much longer.

Overall I recommend it as a fun diversion, it took me approximately an hour to complete.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Evocative and imaginative setting, June 11, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: dan schmidt
Play it if: you're in the mood for a short, light, memorable story which follows intuitive, dreamlike connections rather than logic-based ones.

Don't play it if: you prefer logic-based rather than intuitive puzzles, are looking for a longer story which emphasizes plot or characterization, or are easily frustrated by decoding descriptions.

For a Change was apparently Dan Schmidt's first completed work, and I have to say it's pretty impressive. It doesn't succeed so much in terms of puzzles, plot, or characters so much as it does in worming its way into your head and making itself easily remembered.

The most distinctive thing about the story is of course the language in which it is narrated to the player. It doesn't go out of its way to invent an entirely new vocabulary like The Gostak, but the game shows a strong preference for describing things in metaphor and generalizations. The player character is "faded and silent". A bed is called a "resting". Occasionally the language will reverse intuitive causalities: "the High Wall looms above the shade, creating it". A lot of the joy in playing the game comes from unpicking the games Schmidt plays in his construction of the descriptions and action, and you can tell he had a lot of fun writing them.

The world itself is also bizarrely engrossing. The style of narration (assuming the player character has knowledge of the world), the oblique language, and the small scale of the game necessarily results in a rather minimalist and vague approach to the description of the world. But unlike situations, where this would simply be hallmark of flawed writing, here the poetry of the game's language succeeds in letting the player's imagination fill in the gaps. While I wasn't particularly invested in any emotional sense, I was intensely curious about the nature of the setting, and those questions are still bumping around in my head. Is the model simply an enchanted object, or is it the world itself (as in, a recursive universe that contains itself)? Is the player character just a manifestation of the world, or is it the world's caretaker? I didn't get the impression that Schmidt was writing with a specific allegorical or thematic goal in mind, but Change nevertheless succeeded in engaging my interest on a mythological level.

In a gameplay sense, Change is a little more straightforward and a little more problematic. A couple of red herrings, including in the hints, make the game perhaps a little more complicated than it needed to be.(Spoiler - click to show)I would also say that the puzzle requiring the lie-opener depends on a rather unfair definition of "lie"; after all, it is true that gravity is working oddly in that room and so not technically a lie. It's also unfair considering that how gravity works in our world is not a reliable reference for how it would work here.

At the same time, the final puzzle, while straightforward and appreciated for its connection to the cube puzzle, suffers a little from a lack of synonyms. I would have appreciated "flip" or "turn x upside down" as alternatives, especially given the extremely limited time the player is given to enact the solution.


Still, I don't think these are major concerns in a game which clearly emphasizes setting and atmosphere above everything else. On its own terms, as a brief romp in a surreal, alien world of dream-logic, For a Change succeeds.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Creating a world of its own, February 1, 2014
by Simon Deimel (Germany)
Probably no other beginning of a noncommercial game is as well known as the opening paragraph of FOR A CHANGE. It gets right to the point: that is what happened, that is what you have to do, and for some reason you have something.

The game comes up with a world that is different from what we know. To show how different it is, the language makes use of unusual words for common things -- the player gets hold of a dictionary soon and can consult it about the unusual expressions.

The atmosphere reminds me of graphical adventures like Myst or Riven -- even without using graphical elements FOR A CHANGE succeeds in depicting a surreal world. Exploration is one part of it, even if the player gets to know what has to be achieved in the first paragraph. There is no reason explained why the player has to do it, but you get the feeling that it makes perfect sense. There are not too many locations, not too many objects, but they are parts of a comprising puzzle and have to be put together.

The game is puzzle-orientated. Some of the puzzles are cleverly made up, some let me stumble over unusual expressions. But that was probably my own fault. I clearly recommend this game: although there is not much characterization of the player, the puzzles will be a worthy challenge.

See All 7 Member Reviews

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Polls

The following polls include votes for For a Change:

IF with a sense of wonder by blue/green
What interactive fiction would you recommend that evokes a sense of wonder? These could be games that capture wonder or beauty in ordinary things, perhaps by viewing the world through the eyes of a child. Or they could be games that...

Great Openings by Floating Info
What games have your favorite openings? By opening I mean everything before the first room description in a parser game or the first screen of a choice game. It could be a sentence, a few sentences, a paragraph, or more. But I'm looking...

No map necessary by Divide
Pieces which can be fully enjoyed without drawing map, ideally without taking any notes whatsoever. Ones which you could play on a bus, on a break, laying on bed, etc. with nothing but a portable player. Games for which you don't need...

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This is version 10 of this page, edited by David Welbourn on 25 August 2015 at 8:38am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item