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Reviews by Wade Clarke

IFComp 2010

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Heated, by Timothy Peers

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Short-lived fun which does what it says on the box., November 25, 2010
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: Inform, IFComp 2010, comedy
In Heated you play a messy guy with a messy life who needs to get to work early, and in a more than presentable state, to secure a raise from the boss. This is a small adventure with a handful of domestic problems for you to solve in a finite number of moves. Things will go wrong frequently, and when they do, your heat-o-meter climbs in response to the aggravations. Get back on track and you will cool off a bit, hence the game's title.

The production is not polished (there are typos and incidences of inconsistent programming) but the important thing is that it works as a whole, however modest, and thus is fun if you enjoy figuring out how to optimise your path through a game's obstacles in the fewest number of moves. There are some Babel Fish-like moments la Hitchhiker's Guide and some cute jokes like (Spoiler - click to show)the move-eater that your backyard turns out to be.

The game is too small for its inconsistencies to really mess you up, and its size is a plus in terms of the gameplay style -- as soon as you learn a better way of doing things, you can replay through an optimal path in a matter of seconds or minutes. This doesn't mean you can't save the game, but UNDO gets you further het up.

One problem with Heated only becomes apparent once you've completed it - (Spoiler - click to show)that the game's small scale mitigates against your heat level really having much of an effect. But the idea that life might work to sabotage us in little ways when we have a deadline comes through clearly.

Rogue of the Multiverse, by C.E.J. Pacian

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Life is weird in the multiverse., November 21, 2010
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: IFComp 2010, TADS, science fiction, comedy
(Review of the original IF Comp 2010 release)

Rogue of the Multiverse is a humorous sci-fi adventure with some wacky/peculiar dynamics which guarantee that its story maintains unpredictability for its short to moderate duration. Whenever you start to feel you might be getting a handle on your situation, the space carpet is likely to be pulled from underneath you in a slightly Hitchhiker's Guide fashion. The result is a mixture of pleasant surprises and disorienting turns which will cause each player to identify different bits that they enjoyed the most, and disagree with others about which bits made them go, 'Huh?'

(Spoiler - click to show)The game will also prompt arguments about whether one should make kissy faces at alien lizard doctors or try to sock them between their stupid beady eyes as soon as one gets the chance.

In this game you play the eponymous rogue, and while "Rogue of the Multiverse" sounds like a real badass title, the kind to be bestowed upon a Han Solo, the segment of your life portrayed here happens to be one of the mushier ones. In the space prison where the game begins, none of the other inmates react to you as if you have any street credibility at all, and pretty soon you're the lab monkey in the rather unimpressive experiments of one Doctor Sliss, a condescending lady lizard who is convinced that bananas are your god. I did feel a little annoyed at my own confusion at having to move about the science complex with the commands 'forwards' and 'backwards', but this ultimately wasn't a huge issue.

Thus a rogue's lot in life appears to be that of playing second fiddle to a reptilian scientist, searching randomised grids of alien turf for interesting people and things to tag at her behest. The descriptions of the alien inhabitants and their behaviours are pretty cute, and each bout of exploration feels not entirely unlike a game of Hunt The Wumpus. Once you work out what you're doing, this section is fun but pretty easy, so it's good that it doesn't outstay its welcome. I was disappointed, however, that I was not able to butter up some of the aliens with goodies procured from the Doctor's complex to convince them not to remove their tags.

Just when you think you've got this grid searching thing nailed, a helpful space agent shows up in a space toilet and assures you he can bust you out of captivity if you just buy him the stuff that will allow him to cobble the escape thingy together... Eww, but he's in the space toilet! Moving toward your escape is arguably the most tense part of Rogue, but afterwards, proceedings get - relatively speaking - even weirder.

My own sense of aggro towards Doctor Sliss, my former jailer, after the tables were turned (or at least shuffled around) never did find release. At first I thought the game was strongly signalling that I could not avoid casting my lot in with her, to the extent that when I had an opportunity to do something contrary to her wishes, I missed it. Plus I was probably distracted by the recent excitement of a chase on jet bikes, another sequence which arrived with the game's customary surprising-ness. What's obvious though is Sliss's presence as a well-written, if inscrutable, character, whether you feel amorous or murderous towards her.

The game's last scenes on another planet (assuming you go that route) feel like the unheralded ending of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the one where you forget about the adventure you were having for the last 80 pages and suddenly travel to another time, meet new people and assume an entirely new role, all within the space of one page and one illustration. Of course this isn't literally what happens in Rogue, but it generates a similar sensation. And this is not an inappropriate final sensation for a game whose story structure and interests have hardly been traditional beginning, middle and end. The game feels more like a window onto the amusing and chaotic adventures of a rather put-upon individual, adventures which were probably just as strange before the game began and will continue to be as strange after the game ends. The title could almost be a joke, or at least ironic. Or it could be the po-faced earnest assessment of the main character's view of him or herself.

The game's peculiar turns felt weird while I was playing it, but they evoked a small portion of universe held together by wonky chance rather than sense. It was the vision of that wonky universe which stayed with me after I completed this well written and executed adventure.




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