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About the StoryUtopia Technologies. Industrial giant, economic powerhouse, the world's greatest scientific superpower, and the organisation most responsible for eroding civil liberties and personal freedoms. They're an all-powerful capitalist megacorporation that you despise completely and utterly, yet you're perfectly willing to join their ranks.
The paperwork has been filed, and you're on the way to the California Archipelago in a transport shuttle. There's no turning back now. Tomorrow morning, you'll be a citizen of Utopia, based in the Arcology -- that overcrowded, polluting eyesore of gargantuan proportions. You'll be a mere immigrant worker at the bottom of the corporate ladder, but your stomach still churns at the thought. Your motives for going may be pure, but that doesn't make it easy.
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The plot and setting of Inside Woman are hardly original. The story takes place 150 years into the future, where global warming, biological warfare and globalisation have all left their mark. The protagonist is an Asian superspy, sent into the capital of another corporate state which is bent on becoming a total monopoly, in a quest to discover their plans. The game begins on a transport craft about to dock at this city, a giant pyramid, and Lo and Behold - puzzles ensue.
So, not a groundbreaking scenario. But playing the game is a real treat as the theme works so well. The writing is often just a bare description but comes across as fleshed out and vivid. And of course the player expectation for a game where the character is a hot female superspy is that it should be fun, and I felt that the author succeeded in this as well. A memorable highlight is when the you are required to win a virtual reality arcade game where you are... a hot female superspy (on a bike!). You will find yourself trying every over-the-top action movie cliché to score the maximum points. It was firmly tongue in cheek, and very entertaining.
As I mentioned earlier the puzzles are not quite as hard as some of the previous games Andy has released, but there are still plenty of times where you will be really challenged. There are a lot more hints around for you to find, many of which are implemented through the player's sidekick, which has made the game more approachable. I managed to get over two thirds through the game with just a couple of hints from other people, before getting totally stuck on one particular puzzle. Fortunately there is a hints file available now, which is how I got past this stage. There are several instances where syntax or the correct verb are important, but at least they are rare.
For anyone new to puzzle-based IF, the key things to remember are - examine and search everything (sometimes more than once, as they might change with no notification), read the descriptions and conversation carefully for subtle clues and think outside the box. With this in mind, if you are up for a challenge you will really enjoy this game.
You are in a 40-story city, with about 20 of the stories implemented. Each story that's implemented has 3-4 puzzles.
The game is a spy thriller, with you as the spy. As usual for Andy Phillips games, there is a lot of action, a lot of 'guess what he's thinking', and some male gaze, although it is toned down from his other games.
This is an epic, sprawling game; I have no idea how this fit in the z-machine. It also has a very well executed plot twist that was almost as good as Spider and Web's.
This game took me about a month of playing 30-60 minutes a day. I could have played 20 IFComp games in the time it took me to beat this.
It took me 16 days to complete this work. To be fair, I spend a lot of my spare time on my computer, and I consulted online hints for a few of the more difficult challenges. (Spoiler - click to show)One of them was where you are in a virtual video game, where, in order to make progress in the story, you have to score at least 2000 points. I thought that once you reach that goal, you were done with the video game, on to the rest of the story. No way. I didn't realize until near the end of Inside Woman, that I would need to make the maximum score in the video game in order to win an important object, which was necessary to complete the story. I knew what the object was, but I had searched the entire game area for it, and had no idea where it was. Another was a wooden footbridge/walkway--it was supported by steel cables, with one of the main cables broken, so you could not cross the bridge holding a large and necessary item. I kept thinking that I had to find something stable and strong to connect the cable to, in order to bring the bridge fully up out of the water. The solution, which I found out by accident when I reached 'try anything mode', turned out to be to have someone hold it up--that worked, but I came away from that puzzle feeling incredulous. But, you know, all great games have head-slappers like this.
One thing Andy's games all seem to have in common--which may be more of a good thing than bad--is that he has a very unassuming approach in writing. Very vernacular, which can put some off, but it's also 'comfortable', especially if you are used to his games (I've very recently played his Heist, and Enemies, both of which I thought were very good). However, his spelling and usage still needs some attention--even some words were left out. But given a game with such a broad scope (though a z-machine format!), he probably didn't have much time for testing and/or editing. The implementation was very good, though not perfect. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)There is a very necessary container in the game that you should keep with you to store some important items. But you wouldn't think that just by taking something out of it, you could make the other contents fall out, as well--which was annoying. Also, when you are to place certain items onto certain designated places, make sure you consistently use the full terminology suggested by any nearby sign, such as 'put Y on position 2'--the story might understand 'put Y on 2', but you will run into an annoying bug if you continue in that format.
In a word, expect to be challenged. I came to this game much like the way I approach what I hope to be a good novel--and was quite satisfied. Clearly, much of the story is puzzle-driven, and there are time-sensitive parts--you will need to save and restore generously, which for me is not a bad thing. I think the author gives the PC plenty of time to do what is necessary.
I thought this was great science-fiction. I even emailed the author to compliment him on his games; he told me that he was glad I enjoyed them and remarked at the good reviews they were getting lately, but also that his work left him with little time to write more. Still, I told him if he had the time to write another great game like this one, he would find some eager players. I would be one.
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Solved without Hints by joncgoodwin
I'm very interested in hearing truthful accounts of at least somewhat difficult games (or games that don't solve themselves at least) solved completely without recourse to hints, walkthroughs, etc.
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