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Winner, Best Individual PC - 2003 XYZZY Awards
11th Place - 9th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2003)
The chief interesting thing about the game is the player character, who does not seem to perceive the world in the normal way; some reviewers characterized him as an autist.
-- Emily Short
And then -- suddenly -- the game began to grow on me. Almost against my will. There is a wonderful sequence after the PC reaches the main game destination, which speaks volumes about his pernickety attention to dress code. The timing is exactly right and the PC's shock at the event is an enduring memory.
-- Virginia Gretton
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After playing the first section, I nearly quit and moved on to the next game on my list, but I was completely hooked by the second. The game's tone is much lighter than many other of the games in the comp, it's playable in 2 hours, and it's fun.
-- Paul E Coad
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
I still can't decide whether this game is the product of great writing skill paired with novice coding abilities, or whether it's just a not-very-good game that ended up unintentionally profound. If it's the former, Episode would benefit greatly from a once-over by someone like Mike Sousa, who enjoys collaboration and whose TADS skills are impeccable. If it's the latter, well, I guess I'm about to give my highest score ever for a bad comp game.
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
This game does a good job defining the personality of the protagonist by showing his view of the things he encounters. The mundaneness of his (apparently lonely) working-class existence is juxtaposed with his favourable self-view. The protagonist even considers himself an artist of mechanical genius, when ironically his job is so simple a machine is developed to replace him.
The counterpoint to some very interesting writing is the defectiveness of the programming. While still very playable, there are instances you will curse the author's tendency to require very specific inputs. (The final turn of the game is especially bad with this.) At least one one-time-only event is repeated every time you perform a certain action. The final (of fortunately few) puzzles is pure guesswork. You cannot read the victory message of the game because it is unfortunately automatically skipped. The scoring system was left in the game but is never used.
While, like mentioned above, the writing is interesting and done well, there are some weird instances that jar with the rest of the story. Putting fantasy elements in otherwise realistic settings is something I have a strong dislike of and in this game does not benefit this story in any way. In fact, the author's decision to let this story take place in a Zork-based universe is baffling and serves no obvious purpose.
Episode in the Life of an Artist is an interesting piece of work that is unfortunately hampered by abovementioned flaws but certainly worth being tried out.
The fun is what happens along the way; your character has a unique perspective on life, interspersing the conversation with famous quotations, generally trying to find consistency in their life.
Overarching the game's sense of routine and mundanity is a more sinister plot. Someone is making large changes in your life and in your routine.
This game won an XYZZY award for best individual PC without being nominated for any other awards, which is rare in the XYZZY's.
Now with that out of the way, I think you'll probably be scratching your head the majority of this game. It's not that the character's weird outlook prevents you from discovering things; it's not even that what he experiences makes no sense; it's that the game is not well clued or well paced.
Episode... is split into scenes, which are roughly equivalent to chapters, as this is more of a story than a game. That aside, it seems silly to have a score, but nevertheless, there's a score. You can make it to the fourth scene with zero points by doing what you expect the story wants of you. Shouldn't there have been some points along to way to tell you, "Yes, you're doing things right"? I think only the dedicated or the bored will keep trundling on when there's no rewards in sight, be it score or otherwise. The lack of reward lies in the nature of the game, as well. You can progress from scene to scene without any idea that you've done anything great or ill; so there's this sense of being disconnected from what you're doing. Perhaps that is purposeful, given the character's disconnected outlook from his own life.
Anyhow, I can't say that this game really hit me one way or the other. It seemed to just settle into me with a leaden emptiness, like some generic early grunge song. The main character is a mindless happy sort; the world around him is by turns bizarre and mundane; nothing you do or say seems to matter much. I guess it's not horrible, but mystery meat rarely reaches the heights of culinary praise, and Episode...is probably best described as mystery meat.
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I'm looking for games where the player character is significantly stupider and/or less observant than the average player - the kind of game where part of the challenge is making sense of the descriptions offered through the simplistic...
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