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Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Winner, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 1999 XYZZY Awards
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
Part of the reason that it's huge is that it's full of puzzles--this is, in every way, a puzzle-fest. Moreover, a lot of the puzzles are quite difficult, sufficiently so that you shouldn't expect this to take less than several weeks (unless you have a telepathic connection to the author or are relying heavily on a walkthrough). The length and complexity of the game adds to the difficulty, in fact, since you may be required to connect one puzzle with an earlier event that you might have encountered several weeks before, or with an object that you haven't touched in a month. Similarly, you accumulate quite a few objects by the end of the game, meaning that (a) it's easy to lose track of some in the shuffle and (b) it's easy to overlook the connection between the latest puzzle and one of the objects in your archive.
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-It has A LOT of puzzles
-There is a HUGE object list to carry around
-It is almost impossible to complete without consulting the walkthrough (or is it just me?)
But so what? It had me immersed in it for days, despite the fact I didn't have a clue what I was doing most of the time, like a monkey fiddling with a Rubik's cube. Minor quibbles, and I feel awful for even saying this, as I cannot praise this game highly enough, would be the size of the object list (could some spent objects have been conveniently disposed of in the similar way that used keys are left in locks in the game?), and that the sheer size and complexity of the game (did he really write this when he was doing his A-levels?) means the player could do with a bit more guidance about what to tackle and when. Unless you are an incredibly patient, organised, observant, methodical lateral thinker and hyper-intelligent pragmatist (I am none of these), you could spend days of your life wandering around the museum in blissful ignorance (and I did).
Anyway, I am increasingly amazed, and incredibly grateful, that people like Jon put years of their lives into creating these things, despite the fact the only reward they get is the joy of creating them in the first place and (presumably) the vicarious enjoyment of others playing them. A big thank you to everyone out there who creates IF. The main reason for posting this is not an in-depth review, as you have probably noticed (I did type one but got timed out and sent back to the IFDB log-in page!): this laziness is the main reason (apart from a lack of the scary levels of intelligence, technical ability and imagination which Mr Ingold possesses) I can't create masterpieces like this. I just want to see if anyone is out there reads this and who shares my love for this medium. Whenever I try to explain the premise of games like this, which is increasingly less often, to one of my friends, who are increasingly less in number as I lock myself away to play these games, they look at me like I'm mad. Perhaps I am. Mr Ingold, I salute you!
I had read the author's notes about playing the game without a walkthrough, and I was very excited to attempt this. I made a determination that no matter how long it took, I would not consult any solutions guide. But, of course, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak right? So after days of being at a standstill at one particular puzzle, having exhausting all my efforts and resources to try and solve it, I finally gave in and looked at a walkthrough. And I was completely and utterly disappointed. I still have not figured out how I was supposed to reach that particular conclusion without guidance. Nothing in the game up to that point (Spoiler - click to show)(how on earth was I supposed to know I needed to point at the sign and get the monkey to look at it? I mean, huh?!) seemed to have given a clue as to encouraging that particular action in that particular circumstance. It felt like such an unfair situation that, in spite of having the answer I needed, I found myself half-heartedly playing the game after that (continuing to use a walkthrough), before finally giving up and moving on.
Now, would I still recommend this game to others? ABSOLUTELY! It is a great piece of work, and it deserves every bit of praise it receives. (In fact, I personally think Jon Ingold is a genious). But I do wish that I had been able to play without a walkthrough, particularly since this was the author's own advice.
I think I do need to mention that even if you are very observant, some things in this game are easy to miss. You will need to move some things or do some actions that you might not think you would be allowed to move or do. Plus, remember that EVERY object that you find in this game is crucial to your completing it. And there is at least one object that will totally stump you as to its use--but when you realize what its use is, you will be very amused--which I thought was a stroke of genuine genius by the author.
I did not give this game 5 stars, but I would give it an additional 1/2 star if this were possible. I say not 5 stars, because of the above mentioned situations where things are not made obvious or details not made clear, also because in some places, the grammar and syntax in the descriptions are somewhat 'off'(at least in the release that I played). Words are unnecessarily repeated, there are typos, high school mistakes(of the type 'where is he at?' or 'an object which you don't know where it is', etc). And what are called 'Britishisms'--which can put off the already awkward-feeling beginner. However, I am a frequent watcher of British television, and am thoroughly amused by Monty Python, so this did not put me off, in fact I felt entertained by it, but others may not. But when you consider that Mr. Ingold wrote this game while also burdened by student work, he still did an excellent job. An A- from me.
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