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All Things Devours

by half sick of shadows

Time Travel

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Number of Reviews: 10
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A beautifully engaging puzzle, September 21, 2009
I don't normally like puzzle games, partly because I like to be immersed in a believable world and puzzles are intrinsically unrealistic, but mainly because I'm not very good at them. This one, however, is one of the most beautiful and satisfying puzzles I've encountered, simply because it is so logical. Everything in it flows neatly, and once you've understood how the set-up works and the sort of thing that you need to do, it is simply a matter of making it so. Each time I played, I managed to overcome the latest obstacle, only to find a new one; each time, again, the solution to the new obstacle was generally not too hard to work out once I'd got used to the way that this world worked. (Spoiler - click to show)I must add that I especially loved the problem of the battery, which I solved almost instantly and was delighted to find that my solution worked perfectly - this made me feel clever, which is not something that often happens when I play puzzle games. The constant replaying in light of new information sounds tedious but in fact replaying each time, carefully taking into account the new problem that had to be overcome while still doing what had to be done to account for the ones encountered before, was enormously satisfying. It is like putting together a series of simple, overlapping themes, one by one, and ending up with a complex symphony.

I thought that the small world of the game is believably structured and described, and that everything is implemented extremely well. The basic conceit of the game - (Spoiler - click to show)having to move around and perform actions at the same time as your earlier self, also moving around and doing things, while avoiding meeting her - must have been a nightmare to code, but everything seemed exactly as it should be to me. I also liked the fact that there are somewhat different paths to victory. (Spoiler - click to show)The walkthrough had the player setting the bomb and then using the time machine for a second time to go back a bit and leave, avoiding the explosion. I, however, did it differently, setting the bomb immediately before using the time machine the *first* time, and doing all the stuff I needed to do and escaping just before it went off. So I only travelled in time once.

There are some flaws with the game. I think the greatest is simply its believability - not because of the SF elements, but because of the implausibility of what your character knows. Paul O'Brian mentions this in his review. There are various items in the complex that the PC needs to take in order to win. In order to take those items, the PC must engage in rather complex and carefully timed behaviour (to put it mildly). The way she acts (on the winning scenario), she absolutely must know precisely what she's doing and be acting with considerable foresight. (Spoiler - click to show)For example, pressing the button for the upstairs door, knowing that her future self will be standing there to walk through it. But of course if she knew all that in advance she might as well just bring some of these things with her and not have to jump through hoops to find them in the complex. I must admit, however, that I don't really find that a serious problem with this game. The game is, above all, a puzzle. Its purpose is not to immerse you in a completely believable world (although of course it must meet minimal believability criteria if the world is to function logically enough to work as a puzzle, and it passes this test with flying colours). When I actually played the game, I didn't care in the slightest that the PC couldn't know this or should be doing that. All I cared about was *me* solving the puzzle that was presented to *me* in the game, and I enjoyed doing that enormously.

Also a word about puzzle-solving here. I saw some reviews that complained about having to write down lots of information in order to complete the game - like mapping Zork, but mapping the timing of events rather than the locations of rooms. I didn't do any of this. As I worked out the solution to the puzzle there were one or two key times that I needed to remember, but I didn't find any need to write them down. Admittedly I used brute force for one part of the puzzle. (Spoiler - click to show)The problem of how to break the glass without making my earlier self hear the alarm had me stumped for a bit, until I realised that I could just wait until my earlier self used the time machine, and then break the glass with impunity. To do this elegantly I should have replayed, noting down the time when I used the machine. In fact I just waited a few turns, tried breaking the glass, undid when I lost as a result, waited a few turns, and so on until breaking the glass did not result in a lost game. Again: unrealistic, of course, but it didn't matter (in my opinion) because I'd worked out how to solve the puzzle, and that's the main thing. So I would say that those who fear mapping or who don't fancy having to write lots of stuff down to complete a game needn't fear this one. You very much have to keep your wits about you and be able to visualise what's going on, and detailed logging might help, but it's hardly essential.