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About the StoryYou have worked at the Institute of Transportation for nearly five years. As one of the engineering team in the Research and Development section, it is considered a highly respected position and is particularly well paid. In recent years it has become even more important, as with a growing population the global transport system is struggling to cope. A complete collapse has been predicted in a little under five years' time.
You are currently working on the Pathway project which is a new developmental Rapid Transit System (RTS). This holds out the promise of fast, efficient and cheap travel. You do not fully understand the science behind it but it has something to do with particles, magnetism and time travel. Basically, you arrive at your destination the exact same moment you leave your starting point.
The initial trials have been extremely promising and the first long distance test is now underway. The intent was for you to be 'particled' (as it is called) from one side of the planet to the other and then back again. They strapped you into a chair situated in the centre of the testing chamber and the senior technician on the project gave you the thumbs up sign from the control room. First your hands and feet started to tingle, then your vision blurred, then... nothing.
I felt Pathway To Destruction made very good use of the source material, although in a completely different way than I envisioned when I wrote the source. I had had in mind something along the lines of a medieval fantasy adventure with a swords & sorcery element thrown into the mix, but Pathway To Destruction's sci-fi setting seems to fit in remarkably well with the mini-game that was already written, and at no point did I feel that it was out of place. Full marks for that.
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However, Richard Otter's game, Pathway to Destruction, was far and away my favorite, and took first place by a healthy margin as well. I replayed it recently and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had lost none of its charm. I'll admit that a lot of the time I'll make allowances for this type of game, taking into account a deadline that may have forced the author to finish in a rush without much testing, but that was completely unnecessary here. Sure, there were a few flaws that I'll get to in just a moment, but on the whole it's a solid, well-written game that's enjoyable in or out of the context of the contest.
The only real problems I came across (and ones that would be easily fixable, assuming the author was inclined to do an updated version after all this time) were a few guess-the-verb issues that made some of the puzzles much harder than necessary.
In particular, there were a couple of connected puzzles involving a metal bar that I never would have had a chance of figuring out on my own. Luckily, if you don't mind doing things the easy way it's all but spelled out for you in the hints and a 'useful information' topic at the beginning of the game, but in my opinion a far better solution would to have clearer clues in the game itself, and more synonyms for the commands. The same applies to two items in the game, a jewel and a ring, both of which caused me some confusion and could have used more detailed descriptions that at least give you an idea of their purpose and how to use them.
Again, the robust hint system keeps all of this from becoming too much of an obstacle, but I've always founds puzzles that all but REQUIRE hints and/or a walkthrough to be a major annoyance.
But don't get me wrong; despite these problems, PtD is still an great game. The writing in particular is excellent, even if the contrast between the six rooms in the beginning with their bent towards fantasy, and the sci-fi city just outside is at first a little jarring. I seem to recall that the contest rules allowed you to modify the original descriptions a bit, which may have helped smooth the transition, but either way it's a minor issue. In fact it may have even added to the sense of atmosphere that impressed me so much. (What can I say, I'm a sucker for the mysterious ruins of an alien civilization.) I only wish the game was a little longer with a slightly expanded plot, because I would have loved it if I could have done some exploring in the city itself, and done a bit more detectiving before the end.
At first glance it seems like the author might have tried to add some more content by letting you choose whether you were male or female in the beginning, but after trying both options I would have to write it off as a failed experiment. Nothing about the plot changes no matter what you pick, and in fact the only thing choosing a female does is shunt you off to some bizarre 'grrl power' alternate universe where you worship a goddess instead of a god, you're female, your co-workers are female, etc. Everything else is identical. I don't really see a reason to have included the option in the first place, but it seems like that's something just about EVERY game that lets you pick your gender is guilty of, so I can't really hold it against this one. (I would love to see an IF game with a significant difference there, different solutions to puzzles, etc. though sadly the genre that's most likely to tackle this first would be AIF, and that's not the kind of 'puzzle' I had in mind...)
But even as a small game it's pretty satisfying. Without giving away too much of the plot, I'll just say that Something Bad has happened, and one of the more interesting tasks is to figure out exactly what it was. For some reason I've always been fond of information gathering in IF games (maybe because Anchorhead was my first). There's just something about finding a bunch of scattered pieces and then fitting them together myself that's so much more engaging for me than the traditional 'unlock the door, pull the string, attach the gidget to the gadget and steal the gloves from the gardener' type of situation.
I liked the last puzzle in particular, even though I didn't catch the significance to something the first time through and had to play through again. Oh, and just a warning; you CAN die and after that you CAN'T undo. I guess technically the 'no undo' thing is Adrift's fault for essentially booting you out of the program when you lose, but it's something that's so simple to work around I tend to count it as a mark against the game when it hasn't been. But PtD is short enough that even if you forgot to save it's no big deal to get back to where you were, and strangely enough it was actually kind of refreshing to play a game that gave me the freedom to screw up. (If I want to do something dangerously stupid I should be allowed to, dang it! :P)
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