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About the StoryThis is my first foray into IF, so be gentle. I used a simplified language for inputs on this game. You pretty much only need to type look, take, use "whatever" (on "whatever"), go (north/east/south/west), and read. Oh, and I composed original music for it. You awaken in what appears to be a hospital. Good luck.
It's a horror text adventure that kicks off with you waking up in a morgue, and without giving the game away, it's genuinely creepy as you try to figure out what happened.
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The implementation is fully up to the standards of typical parser-based interactive fiction. Almost everything is described thoroughly, and every door (of the many mentioned in the game map) is implemented and described separately. The standard quest GUI system does not spoil the puzzles, and the GUI seems to be well attuned with world model. At times, clicking seemed more efficient for me than typing, while other commands seemed much more natural and intuitive using the command prompt. The result was that I alternated, going for long stretches with one or the other before switching when I needed to input a command that was more efficient with the other method. The biggest flaw in implementation is that non-standard but relevant verbs do not seem to be implemented (at least not consistently).
The horror element is a combination of gory slasher stuff with paranormal terror. The game is disturbing at times, but the tone of prose, specifically of the protagonist's responses, is such that I have faith that the author has an artistic purpose beyond glorifying blood and guts. The setting feels like a particularly grim Twilight Zone episode, with plenty of dark paranormal phenomena lurking behind the closed doors that you haven't been able to open yet.
Unfortunately, I may never get to discover the point of all the madness, because I didn't finish the game. I solved many puzzles, and enjoyed the pacing. The game is very traditional in its design. Many of the puzzles were decently clued. However, I eventually got stuck, and after giving it a rest, found that I had no idea where to start in order to get back to the puzzles. There are no hints and no scoring system, making it is difficult to tell how you are progressing.
First Times is well designed and evocative. I wish I could have given it a higher rating, but being stuck with no way to go forward makes an objective analysis of the theme and story impossible and also is a negative mark in the whole experience.
There are four possible endings, that are selected by doing a couple of choices during the game: one happens at about half game, in one of the real time sequence, when (Spoiler - click to show)in the east-est corridor, the player is hunted by three faceless monsters. There is a boy tied in the east end of the corridor. The player has a few seconds to decide to whether free him; the second one is near the end of the game, and requires to just choose a direction.
The puzzles are generally well hinted (be sure to examine and read everything!).
There are essentially no guess-the-verb situations: the adventure can be completed with just the directions, and the "use", "look at" (or "x" for short), "take", "read", "open", "close" and "say" commands. Most puzzles can be solved with commands like
use <object> on <object>
which, of course, require the player to have the right object to begin with. Just a couple of puzzles (the (Spoiler - click to show)"altar" and (Spoiler - click to show)"build a syringe and fill it" ones) require to combine two or more objects.
The (Spoiler - click to show)"open the janitor's door" puzzle (one of the toughest) is the only place of the game that requires the "say" command. The command to solve it is
say (Spoiler - click to show)metal
This game made me live the scariest moments I ever experienced in an horror IF up to date... however, I took away one star from the maximum score because some of the endings are not up to the rest of the game, at least in my opinion.
Judging by the overall quality of this first attempt, I'm looking forward to more IFs from its author.
Good, but an update would be nice, January 11, 2015
However, this game has a big flaw, which is the incomplete implementation of many verbs. For instance, common verbs such as "kick, push, pull, touch, drink, eat, jump, scream", are either not implemented at all, or merely answered to by a laconic "you can not do that". Also, the author has chosen to use a lot the verb "use" which is common in point-and-click games but usually avoided in IF games because it is ambiguous. Even though using the "use" verb avoids the pitfall of guess-the-verb situations, it gives the impression that very little freedom is allowed to the player, while freedom is actually the most attractive illusion offered by IF games. Also, this lack of interactivity deprives the player of many possible hints, for instance sentences such as "you can not force this door in, you will have to find another solution". Worse, the verb "say" appears at first not be implemented since the game answers "I can not understand your command", but in fact it is an essential verb for one unique occasion! I do not think it is fair to the player.
If you enjoyed First Times...
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This is version 12 of this page, edited by Edward Lacey on 28 June 2013 at 3:25pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item