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Re-Played On: 12/04/2004 (9:55 AM to 10:15 AM)
Score For Comp: 8 -- Unofficial Score: 9.0
Fortunately, even the first beta of "Endgame" was quite solid. I could tell from testing that the author was very enthusiastic about this game. It is set after the events of another IF game, although even with hints I couldn't quite deduce the source. I suspect that to those who can recognize it, this game will be even more rewarding.
The premise is simple but clever. You have focused a year and all your wealth on the preparation of a spell that will summon a demon to do your bidding. What you get, however, isn't exactly what you expect. "Endgame" requires that you adapt to this change in plans, outwit the demon, and make it out alive.
Unless you are psychic, this can't be done on the first play-through; maybe not even the second or the third. If this gimmick was simply one puzzle in a larger game, it would probably fail due to the frustration. Like IF Comp 04's "All Things Devours" (but shorter), this gimmick is the foundation of the game. It works -- not because the reason for retries can be explained (even if indirectly, such as time travel in "ATD"), but because it's clear that the game is a one-puzzle effort. You aren't required to wait long before the demon puts an end to you. Simply examine your surroundings and experiment a little. The next time through, you have already gained ground by knowing what will and won't work.
As to the remainder of gameplay, I can't say much without spoiling it. I will say that Samuel has packed this mini-game (it even weighs in at 2k under the limit) with more to do and see than you might expect. Multiple endings can be found. Can you be strangled by the demon? Of course you can. But, can you die of smoke inhalation instead? If that's not so great, can you make it out alive? Here's a challenge: can you make it out alive in some way that doesn't require cracking the egg? Also, can you lose the dexterity to pick up the ring? Can you move the egg without picking it up? I have to credit the author for prompting me to several of those. I think he really enjoyed watching me work it all out via the transcripts. He may even have been laughing maniacally.
The basics haven't changed since I played the first beta. I remember finding the game very difficult in my first play-through, but if I recall correctly, I solved for the main ending within an hour. The hard part was the bit of deductive reasoning needed in order to interact with the egg. It makes sense, but it's only indirectly clued. Subsequent play-throughs were easy then, even though Samuel tightened up the time limits. It's likely to be more difficult now for first-time players.
I won't know how to rank it until I have finished with the other games. It's a great game, though, and it's probably going to earn a position near the top.
Post-review wrap-up: Because of the way I have decided to judge the competition (using the scores as a ranking system), "Endgame" is the "8" in my list. It's well done, and it has a lot to offer. It's only marginally edged out by "Amusement Park" (because I can imagine it as what a successful C32 cartridge would be), and by "Downtown Train". For fun, it would probably have been a 9.0 based on my IF Comp '04 criteria.