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About the StoryVenture past the limits of ordinary reality as you investigate the mysterious disappearance of an old friend. In order to solve the most challenging of these puzzles, you will need to cooperate with yourself by making several time travel trips to the same event.
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Puzzles - 2005 XYZZY Awards
Not Your Father's Uncle Buddy
I realize there are arguments to be made for underground cave systems and college campuses, but for me the archetypal IF setting will always be Your Crazy Friend/Relative's Crazy House. It's the perfect way to work through all the classic IF tropes - plenty of puzzles to solve for no other reason than to see what's beyond, sealed-off areas you can open, no NPCs, and a plot that emerges in dribs and drabs as the game progresses. Of course, that kind of old-school stuff went out with the dinosaurs (specifically the Nelsonasaurus). These days we're all about the high-concept exploration of character and allegorical narratives detailing the eternal struggle of man vs nature, man vs man, and man vs conversation tree. Right? If so, nobody told Wennstrom - Finding Martin is a fresh-from-the-time-capsule puzzle game of the oldest school and, you know, that's kind of cool. Possibly "cool" is the wrong term for a game that extensively refs Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and Tolkien (not to mention the Beatles, Disney, and Lewis Carroll), but you know what I mean.
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If you love yourself a big, juicy puzzlefest, Finding Martin is cause for
celebration. It's several times larger and more complex than anything Infocom
ever attempted, and it's generally quite well-implemented. I encountered a
number of glitches in my journey through the game, but they were all minor --
typos, missing synonyms, and underimplemented parsing mostly. There are a few
logic errors here and there, but nothing game-crashing, and in fact very little
that even caused me any trouble with a puzzle. Moreover, these problem areas are
a very small percentage of the game itself, and this is a game that implements
some highly complex behavior. A few errors here and there are quite forgivable
in a game this ambitious in scope.
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(Spoiler - click to show)Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, Song of the South, Peter Pan, Waiting For Godot, the play Rhinoceros, a knot theory joke, the ten-inch pianist joke, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Star Trek: Voyager, Zen koans (is that pop culture)?, famous mathematicians like Archimedes and Fibonacci, Duck Tales, etc.
And that's just the ones I could remember off the top of my head!
This game joins the list of ultra-long games such as Blue Lacuna, King of Shreds and Patches, Mulldoon Legacy, and Time: All Things Come to an End.
In gameplay, it resembles Mulldoon Legacy a lot; both are supersized versions of Curses!. You explore a huge structure, manipulating a variety of magical or technological systems, with a variety of hint systems.
Finding Martin has smooth implementation, including several very long time travel sequences interacting with multiple copies of yourself. This forms the last third of the game, and is the most technically competent time travel I have seen. Imagine All Things Devours as a subgame, 4 times.
Finding Martin has a tendency for very long text dumps. As I enjoy reading, this wasn't an issue, but there are probably 20+ cutscenes of 2-4 pages of text each.
As others have noted, Finding Martin is spottiest when it comes to hints. Some things are hinted well; in particular, there are several systems of providing hints, and if you get further in some puzzles, you'll unlock long cutscenes containing hints for other puzzles.
However, so many puzzles require leaps of intuition that you are bound to fail multiple times. For this, a walkthrough is essential. I've tried to upload a walkthrough to IFWiki that I found on web.archive.org, but it didn't seem to go through. The link is https://web.archive.org/web/20080516223332/http://www.qrivy.net/~gayla/fm_walk.txt
This game, as with Mulldoon Legacy, should be more played and more discussed. However, both games suffer from information overload. I get stressed playing Blue Lacuna, which can be played puzzlelessly, and even Counterfeit Monkey, where puzzles are well-clued. These games (Mulldoon and Martin) are just too darn hard to be solved by anyone without clues.
However, my strategy for such games is to play through with a walkthrough, then come back months or years later and try to play without a walkthrough. I've done Curses! 3 times now this way, and I hope to do it without a walkthrough. I hope to replay Finding Martin one day.
Featured on Radio K: Ask/Tell #10, July 23, 2017
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