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Final Exam

by Jack Whitham profile

Science Fiction
2015

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Number of Reviews: 3
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not a whole lot of fun, but apparently I missed lots of things, November 20, 2015
I didn't find this game very fun, I'm afraid; but I learned later there were a whole lot of secrets, and basically a whole other game, hidden in the game, which I didn't find within the Comp's 2 hours (in fact, I had no idea it even existed). So, take my review with a grain of salt knowing that I might have missed lots of things; on the other hand, I'm sure I'm not the only player that missed all that.

The setting confused me: the idea that (Spoiler - click to show)your face was replaced by a featureless one is creepy and interesting, but the protagonist just shrugs it off. A lot of the rooms are empty, which is guess is meant to provide exposition but it felt like a lot of big empty rooms. And I'm having trouble placing the setting: (Spoiler - click to show)is the 'administration' and their motto/values meant to be commentary or satire? It's hard to know, since it seems close to what most governments do (free speech, laws minimising social unrest). I guess it hints as a role of leader, the Administrator, that you get by... doing a test involving nothing but computers and repairing them? Is this supposed to be commentary on the fact that a state leader doesn't have that much power or just needs to keep the system running? I don't know, maybe I'm overthinking it. (Or maybe I didn't understand what the author meant, what with English not being my native language?)

So I would say it might be a writing issue: the direction to where the setting is going is not very clear, and we don't know what's going on, why, and most importantly why should we care; I was dragging my feet for the most part. (Or, maybe it all makes sense if you find the secrets, I guess). It seemed like the game was (Spoiler - click to show)mixing politics and sci-fi in its setting, so I expected commentary, satire, going a bit further exploring our society or the future and its consequences. But here, it feels like "oh in 5 years a computer will govern us, and you're the janitor". And yeah, the position in which we are as a player is not exciting, so the game isn't exciting: if there's (Spoiler - click to show)a central authority attacked by an enemy with computer viruses, I don't know if I want to plug network cables. And the game seems very, very on-rails for a long while: it's basically "read the orders, do the orders". (But again, maybe that's why I missed the secrets.) It gets more open when you reach (Spoiler - click to show)the caves, but then I didn't really know what to do and kept looking at the walkthrough.

On the other hand I was *really* impressed by the cable that you lay in the cave, and the fact that the game kept track of where you went and laid the cable in all those rooms and in which order. You backtrack and collect the cable, etc -- it seems really hard to implement, and to be honest I'd love to take a look at the source code for that.

Overall it seems like a lot of effort went into making this game (which is why I feel slightly bad that I didn't enjoy it): the game is polished, typo-free, bug-free, with extra responses, and nice hints for players about how to talk to the parser... Props to the genuine effort that was put into it, but I guess I didn't really find it fun.

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Doug Orleans, November 21, 2015 - Reply
It seems like "hidden layers" was somewhat of a theme this comp! This game in particular hid it so much that the walkthrough didn't even include anything that might lead you to notice there was more to the game. (The post-comp version of the walkthrough does list all the alternate endings but it still doesn't clue how to get them.) Personally I loved this trick, and the way that it fit the theme of the game, but I agree with you that many players probably missed it too. And to be honest even if you hadn't missed it, it might not have changed your mind all that much; even before I found the hidden parts, I liked the writing and story, and I enjoyed the main cave puzzle. But the hidden parts changed my opinion of the game from good to great. I plan to write a full review soonish...

My interpretation of the political stuff is that (minor spoiler:) (Spoiler - click to show)it's meant to be mixed, rather than an obvious utopia or dystopia, but that is colored by things I learned from the hidden parts of the game. You can also find (not in the hidden parts, unless I misremember) a book named "Notopia", written by Perry Simm, who is the main character from A Mind Forever Voyaging. I haven't played that myself, but I expect there are parallels to the politics in that game. (Or perhaps this is a response to those politics.)

Anyway, here's a gentle hint for the secrets if you want to give it another try: (Spoiler - click to show)There are a couple of numbers you can find, if you examine the right things, that will open things up when you POKE them. I wouldn't say the hidden parts include a whole other game, but there is more exposition and another big puzzle that reuses stuff from the main puzzle.
dutchmule, November 21, 2015 - Reply
Mmh interesting, thanks! I might try it again, especially if there's a walkthrough that hints a little bit more to it.
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