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Halothane

by Ravi Rajkumar

Science Fiction
1999

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Number of Reviews: 3
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Polished but fails to entertain, August 23, 2015
"Halothane" isn't about the story, according to its own author; it's more of a collection of scenes, tied together very loosely by a premice that's kind of interesting. You have to know this before playing, or you'll get frustrated; i kept looking for clues or connections, even just thematic connections, to know how those scenes were going to tie together in the end, but they don't, and it was a letdown for me. Setting up very different scenes and have the player scratch their heads for connections is awesome if you are able to resolve it and have some unexpected yet coherent thing that ties it up together; it feels like a magic trick and blows the reader's mind! (See the structure of Photopia, more generally of an Harold.) There were a few connections (hospital, red liquids, etc) which made me hope for everything tying together somehow, but then nothing happened and it felt like the author made me waste my energy/attention/investment in the game.

The game is very linear, and you have to complete a scene in order to move to the next; at the beginning you can unlock 'bonus scenes', i think based on if you searched around lots in the previous scene. Each scene has a few puzzles, and they are straightforward if you remember standard adventurer verbs; I felt the game was rather easy, and got 90% of the points in my playthrough. But as the game progressed, and as i realized that things were not going to tie together, I lost investment and kinda just went through the motions. I think what kept me playing too was the level of polish: the game is bug-free, you can't get stuck, and there's a very nice hint system, which makes it very smooth and kept me going. Had the game been more buggy or guess-the-verb-y, I would have quit long before; but I didn't like that the game would sometimes get snarky or condescending (or a terse "That's just scenery.") for no reason other than that's not the solution that was expected right here.

Another aspect that didn't work for me was 'the comedy'. I mean, the game's walkthrough says it's supposed to be a fun game, that started as parody, and it has an AMUSING section and lots of references to other IF works... But it didn't make me laugh, like, not once; part of it may be that i haven't played any of the game so the references were lost on me. (Interestingly too, the author's notes say he wanted to explore the idea of a linear game with puzzles and push Photopia further; the game didn't strike me as innovative at all and i wasn't surprised by anything, which could mean the game is dated and players have changed since 99.) But also, I didn't find the situations to be funny, or the writing; but it's just that i hadn't really noticed, rather than the game tried and failed, which would have been worse.

So I don't know what happened, and maybe this review comes from taking this game seriously, coming at it from the wrong angle and expecting the wrong things out of it. I would say, though: don't expect a one-laugh-a-minute game, though, but the premise might be mildly amusing to you, even if it's not going anywhere in the end; the puzzles are easy, you won't get stuck, and you get to see interesting scenes.

Comments on this review

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Christina Nordlander, August 24, 2015 - Reply
I think you put your finger on everything bad and good about this game. I was originally going to put a long paragraph here, but I guess I'd better save it for my own review. To sum up, I found the game well-written and interesting, but frustrating: not because of difficult puzzles, but because I didn't know what was going on or what the end goal was.

My favourite part by far was the Old West town. That section alone made the game worth playing. However, I still couldn't say what the ultimate point was.
dutchmule, August 25, 2015 - Reply
Thanks! I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one to feel like that. Would gladly read your review too!

The Old West town is fun indeed! I think I prefer the hotel just for what the receptionist tells you, but yeah, no idea how to connect it to the rest of the game.
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