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IF COMP 2004 - All Things Devours

Game #24: All Things Devours, by Half Sick of Shadows
Played On: 10/18/04 (8:45 PM to 10:20 PM)
Unofficial Score: 9.5 (9.0 base with +1.0 and -0.5 skews)

     In "All Things Devours" (not a typo, as it turns out), the author manages to target a sub-genre of sci-fi that I find especially appealing. Despite a few minor problems (including some frustrations with the time-based rush), it's a solid 9.0. I like the story, and I think it makes great use of the concept (+1.0 skew), but I did get a little frustrated at times (-0.5 skew). That's still an amazing 9.5, making it one of my favorites from the competition. I especially liked the opening line: "You're in." I expected "...a room with..." to follow, then I got it. Clever, clever.

     The author was concerned that the game might not be winnable in two hours, but I managed it well enough (without going to the website for hints, until after I had won). The clues given when you die make it possible to try, try again. In any other setting, this might be a problem -- a game should be winnable without relying on post mortem clues, right? However, even though it doesn't directly tie into the story, it's easy to make it fit, with a little imagination. I also liked that "undo" works (as always), but isn't necessarily a cure-all to puzzle-solving. It's difficult to cite examples without spoiling the game.

     In this game, it is possible to get stuck. It's possible to save in any number of unwinnable situations. It's possible to die -- repeatedly. But, aside from the frustration of it (which simply serves as motivation, at least for this game), it works. I had to restart four times, and I reloaded even more prior saves. The author does a good job of making logical puzzles, although much of it does rely on the experience of prior attempts.

     The author's website mentions the "enter door" missing object bug, so I won't go into detail about that ("undo" fixes it). I was able to lock the Deutsch lab door with the key found inside, even though I didn't have to unlock it to begin with (this will make more sense when you play to that point). The "get all" commands seems to cycle through everything -- I see this quite a bit in other games, too. The word "is" is missing from "...prototype itself a six foot..." When I'm racing the clock, it would be nice if certain commands didn't count against me (for instance, "about" takes up time) -- Hugo calls these "xverbs". When putting batteries into the flashlight, it seems they're loaded into the one on the bench instead of the one in your inventory (again, you have to get there to understand it) -- easily worked around by leaving the room first, or (probably) by taking the other with you. One situation that wasn't handled is that I left the light on in the first floor maintenance room, and presumably it would have been noticed during my lengthy wait at the balcony window (I'm positive the light was switched on before the alarm).

     My solution was a little different than the walkthrough. I actually made the alarm work to my advantage, and it made for a long wait followed by a quick follow-up with no time at all to spare. I should have started a transcript on it -- it's an interesting alternative.

     With some of the entries, I have tried to predict how well the game will do overall. I really enjoyed "All Things Devours", but my suspicion is that it's going to frustrate many of the real judges. I hope enough of them are able to stick it out and think it through, because I believe this game deserves a high ranking in the results.

     FOLLOW-UP: I emailed the author, and he pointed out that some of the problems I found weren't really problems. In particular, I didn't need to turn out the light in the first floor maintenance room, because I didn't turn it on the second time. Also, I confused one key for the other, forgetting that the key to the lab was already in my inventory at the start of the game. It's a complex game, and I fault myself for making these errors.

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