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For a Change

by Dan Schmidt profile


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Number of Reviews: 9
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1-9 of 9

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Therapeutic Minimalism in a Surreal World , October 2, 2017
One of the most unusual aspects of this game is that it gives you just enough detail to create a world full of startling clarity--because you're imagining it. If you are not someone who thinks in images, or who is easily able to exist in an alternate word with alternate world usage (see what I did there) then this game will be fairly difficult.

As it was, it was still a bit difficult for me, because I am new to the genre--that being said, it was the perfect game to draw me in. This kind of surrealism, subtle reference to famous philosophers, and unusual syntax made for a therapeutic game play at once both frustrating and delicate, stunning and hopeful.

The crescendo at the end, how the game seemed to speed up on me, had me literally yelling out loud gleefully, completely immersed. It felt like I had gone on some kind of spiritual path, some type of walkabout, maybe just in my mind--it was really profound. I find myself very interested in how games like this could be used for therapeutic purposes--as I experienced the game to be deeply personal yet removed enough to be safe--and nonspecific enough to let the player fill in their own metaphors.

Honestly, no real words of criticism from this newcomer--perhaps just--this game will really, really work for some people, and it really won't for others who are more linear in thinking. I had to use some hints to finish it, but it was well worth it. Grateful for the experience.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A primordial memory at war with a crossword, July 7, 2017
This is a game in the old, 90s "puzzlefest" style, but it's one of the best of that era, and it transcends the now-peculiar genre it inhabited. I admit, I am one of the softies, and I come from an era of hand-holding invisiclues. I used the hints a lot. I am glad I did, because otherwise I would not have experienced this incredible game; but there was also great satisfaction on the rare occasions that I could figure things out without them. A more patient soul than I would undoubtedly have have had a deeper and fuller experience.

A lot has been said about For A Change. I'll just add this: even if you're not a fan of old-fashioned puzzlefests, give it a try. Use the clues. Schmidt has created a beautiful world that is more myth than story, and more dream than myth.

As little else did, it holds up.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A game that attempts to use real words in the strangest ways, February 3, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
For a Change is an interesting short fantasy game that plays around with the English language to make you feel like you probably know what's going on, even if you aren't sure.

The author intentionally uses unusual word choices and assigns personality traits to objects (for instance, you read that "A stone has been insinuated into your hand"; if you check you inventory, you see that the stone is "humble and true").

This was one of the first IF games I ever played (it was packaged with iPad Frotz), and I thought it was much better suited for beginners than other games in the bundle. It's just a small pick-up-item use-item game, but the way you use items is just bizarre.

Good for anyone interested in surreal or dreamlike games, or who enjoy experiments with the English language.

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.

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.

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The game swirls about, shining with translucent cleverness, February 14, 2011
by A. P. Sillers (United States, East Coast)
The world jaunts with a breezy freshness: your path spirals dizzyingly over its own shadow, sloping to a point with increasing sharpness. Words reach deep into their meanings and bloom in a curious luminance that sometimes occludes but never falters. Wit glides slyly through the air, which crackles with her subtle intrusions.

Exploration is rich with its own reward. Hints curl in on themselves until wanted. Implementation enfolds you with far-reaching warmth, rarely uncomfortable.

Your understanding broadens. Obfuscation scatters, and the world comes into focus with a pleasant sigh.

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
The Case of the Missing Spinster, August 17, 2010
I'm on a bit of a kick about solving games without hints, and I very much wanted to add this one to the list. I failed to, however, because I didn't quite get what was going on in the endgame. In particular, I didn't think of the needed action because I was too occupied with wondering whether or not the situation I found myself in was inevitable (as it turns out it was). This is a meta-issue about design forgiveness, etc., that I probably should have anticipated correctly.

This game is one of the most well-known exercises in IF defamiliarization. It uses synaesthesia and a type of blurring of other semantic categories to suggest the manipulation of alien technologies. Everything is a symbol, and the actions that you take are almost certainly large-scale allegorical constructions of many long-term actions. It reminded me somewhat of being in control of some type of simulation game whose rules you have to infer and whose internal operations are completely incomprehensible.

The author mentions Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun as an influence (along with Ben Marcus's The Age of Wire and String, which, unlike the Wolfe, I wouldn't have guessed), and there are particular resonances with the events described in The Urth of the New Sun, though I didn't pick up on any similar cosmogonic or theological concerns.

A brief problem, which I allude to in the title of this review and which might have been due to my failure to pay attention is (Spoiler - click to show)What about the spinster? I found nothing to do with it during the course of the game, and, after I looked at the hints, I noticed they said that its use would become apparent when the time came. How so? Was there something about it if I examined the model during the deluge? You can't see it afterwards, can you? Was it just a red herring?

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent and unique, June 15, 2008
"For A Change" isn't actually in a different language - it uses regular English words, but in an extremely stylized manner. The gameplay itself is rather simple; the charm of the game comes from watching the way the author uses language, and figuring out the rules of the strange world you find yourself in.

There are a few issues with implementation: one or two times I figured out what I had to do but the game wouldn't accept my phrasing. But these are only minor problems, and didn't interfere much with my enjoyment of the game. All in all it's an excellent and truly unique experiment.

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.

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