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About the Story"A case study of Murphy's Law in action. In-game hints available." [--blurb from Competition Aught-Zero]
17th Place - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000)
-- Duncan Stevens
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
Sometimes, in its fervor to crank up the puzzle intensity along with the story intensity, the game overloads certain puzzles, thrusting them into the Babelfishy realm of the ridiculous. One puzzle in particular, probably the most byzantine of them all, really strained the bounds of believability for me... This quibble aside, AWE is an excellent piece of work. The writing, though nothing special, is serviceable, and the coding is really outstanding. The game notices and comments on lots of little things, which really deepens immersion, as does AWE's thorough implementation of all first-level nouns. The best part, though, is the plot. At Wit's End has one of my favorite plots of any competition game from this year, one that kept surprising me even after I had figured out to expect the unexpected.
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AWE gets off to a rollicking start with simple, tight, timed puzzles, but then goes much too broad and much too hard, at least for my tastes. While all the puzzles seemed reasonably logical, but the breadth meant a lot of time pursuing irrelevant alternatives, and the difficulty would have required an awful lot of player time to solve without excessively relying on hints/walkthroughs, which I was unwilling to do.
-- Sean T Barrett
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The game did a good job of pacing and keeping the player motivated through the first few puzzles, and they were easy enough to solve without needing to load saves--sometimes, perhaps a little too easy, but only a little. As well, the writing was reasonably good and the story sufficiently engaging to keep me interested.
However, it wasn't without flaws. In the middle of the game (and the game is short--easily solved in a half hour if you don't get side-tracked) there wasn't quite enough hinting, I felt, to indicate which part of the puzzle I ought to be approaching next, so the game felt rather slow as I stumbled around trying to figure out just what should be done. As well, there was a puzzle whose solution was to eat; it was noted earlier that you are diabetic, and there are messages insisting that you are hungry and need to eat, but the food is just right there in the refrigerator, so it felt like nothing but a distraction.
But those are minor problems; removing the eating puzzle and tightening up the mid-game a bit would be easy and would answer most of my complaints. Unfortunately, there were several unintended random features that made the game annoying. A couple of items just kept disappearing from my inventory for no clear reason, which was frustrating. Also, after completing the game, I checked the walkthrough to see what the optimal ending was; but there was another bug that caused the optimal ending to be impossible to achieve unless you worked around it--I had to examine a person twice after completing the final puzzle, or the game proceeded as though I hadn't completed it.
(This review refers to the original competition entry. The bugs mentioned may have been fixed in the later version, but I have not checked.)
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