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About the StoryThe Chinese Room is a hilarious romp through the world of philosophical thought experiments. Have you ever wanted to win Zeno's race? Free the denizens of Plato's Cave? Or find out what it's really like to be a bat? Now is your chance!
Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best NPCs - 2007 XYZZY Awards
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The Chinese Room is a little like Norman Juster's Phantom Tollbooth in interactive form. Taking place entirely in the realm of philosophical thought experiment, The Chinese Room tackles questions about the nature of perception, the foundations of ethical systems, and the theoretical basis of calculus. If you've ever wanted to meet Aristotle or Karl Marx in text adventure form, this is your opportunity.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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There were a few negatives, though. I encountered a rather bad case of guess-the-verb with (Spoiler - click to show)the invisible unicorn and the burden of proof -- the game wouldn't accept things like PUT BURDEN ON UNICORN or GIVE BURDEN TO UNICORN -- which is quite annoying when you have a turn limit. The solution, by the way, is to HANG the burden on the unicorn, which was completely unintuitive, at least to me. Another issue is an unwinnable scenario; avoidable, though: just don't enter the castle until you feel you've solved all the other puzzles. (Spoiler - click to show)The veil is part of the puzzle to get into the castle; don't waste your time trying to find a use for it, and same for the various implements the steward will offer you once you solve her (his?) puzzle.
Because of these issues I am reluctant to give five stars, but it is an excellent game nonetheless and I strongly recommend it.
Finally, the executive summary: This is a very entertaining game with a short to medium play time, great writing quality, and a focus on puzzles over story (since the game is rather surreal, there's not much of a story, but this is intentional and done well, in my opinion).
First off: nits to pick.
-Very annoying typos and misspellings ("er" instead of "her"), the consistent use of quotation marks instead of apostrophes (plover"s eggs).
-Many nouns or synonyms not recognized.
-Shoddy implementation of a cool device (the qualiascope)
-A rather big nit: there is an unmentioned path northwest from the beach.
My consciousness decided on four stars however.
-Although the game has no real story, the diverse puzzles are tightly held together by a very cool and engaging framework, the land of philosophical thought experiments.
-The puzzles are very well thought out, and more often than not very funny.
-Extensive background information, a crash course in the history of philosophy that makes an interested mind look up more on Wikipedia, or, in my case, open up my old copy of Bertrand Russel's "The History of Philosophy."
-The varied locations, landscapes and scenes are very nicely described, painting a picture in the player's head with a few well-chosen sentences.
-Playing illegal logic games with Willard Van Orman Quine (the philosopher with the coolest name ever.)
-An actual intuition pump!
A joy to play.
The game was generally fun, but before I get to the good, I had three bones to pick:
1. The game insults those who look for a walkthrough. To me, this implies that the authors strongly believe that their game is coded well enough that someone who knows the solution to a puzzle will be able to type in the correct answer without a problem. This brings me to the second point:
2. The implementation is spotty; you must (Spoiler - click to show)LIGHT LANTERN WITH LIGHTER, not LIGHT LANTERN, and this is typical of several other parts of the game. When poor implementation abounds, it is frequently necessary to seek help.
3. The game has a condescending tone. The player is an educated atheistic male. The game has some issues with 'male gaze' (although see the comment below by Sobol), includes female philosophers but has little interaction with them, and has the same tone towards religion as reddit's atheism board: "Aren't we so glad that we are superior to those silly peasants with their moral fables?" In fact, the game bashes on religion as much as it can.
I normally don't point out flaws in the works I play, but I can't stand this much smugness.
Outside of that, the game itself is enjoyable, and the puzzles are fun. Quite a few of the puzzles depend on examining things twice (once to see something interesting, then again to see what you need). The in-game help system was well-done, and the images and writing were imaginative.
Recommended for puzzle fiends and those interested in philosophy.
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