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Played On: 10/10/04 (7:00 PM to 12:10 AM)
Unofficial Score: 9.5 (8.5 base with +1.0 skew)
After the first two hours, I would have based the game at 9.5. If I were judging, I'd have probably cast a flat 9.0 based on what I played. However, not being bound by that, I plunged forward without making that mark, and realized some important things about this game. You can get stuck. Perhaps there are really clever, obscure ways to get unstuck (although, to be honest, I'm not so sure), but you'll find numerous ways to get stuck. Mainly, it's a matter of trying one thing before you're supposed to. You can do it -- the game lets you -- but you have no way back. To summarize these (so perhaps I can be corrected, or else they can be fixed in an updated): What's in the mail gets broken if another package is delivered before you obtain the first. On a whim, I tried an action that (as it turns out) allowed me to get my sister's ID -- however, I hadn't visited the patient in the hospital, and I could find no way then to "clean" the cans of paint. Also, the same thing seemed to make it impossible to obtain the mailbox key. I made my way through the puzzle which leads to the tug-of-war session, north again into the shower for that bit, only to find out later that I couldn't return and I needed something I had no way of obtaining previously. Giving the remote to Wesley will have it away for repair for two weeks -- presumably, I won't be able to wait that long. Being thrown in jail ultimately leads to death, with no way out. In several places, I saved before moving forward. I had to restart from almost the beginning two times, and from earlier says two or three times more. This was probably the most frustrating part of the game, and the primary reason Kurusu City gets an 8.5 base score.
However, I'm skewing it a full point for being so entertaining. I mean, I've played other games in the competition that I didn't want to finish even without having to restart a prior save. Plus, it's sci-fi done well. The ending notes were a nice touch. I touched on a couple things as an "after you finish" portion of the FAQ for my game, but I think it would have been a good idea to go into more detail about the evolution of the game, the way Kevin does. It made for an added bonus, and a bigger sense of accomplishment.
Even with the hints, the game was hard! To some extent, I'm glad the hints weren't more specific. I remembered a recent newsgroup post about updated hints, and even though I couldn't find it at first (was the message cancelled?), I found it using Google Groups. I thought Outlook Express has an option for ROT13 decoding, but I couldn't find that either, so I wrote a quickie QB program to do it. A question to the author, though: how is Neeny in two places at the same time? The rest of the game makes sense, in that it seems to follow consistent logic. But for the life of me, I couldn't figure that one out.
As for bugs, I only found minor ones (all unwinnable states aside). You can learn the name of the woman in the arcade before you've actually been introduced, simply by telling her about certain things (the description references her by name). When textbooks appear in the cylinder, the listing appears twice. At one point, probably near the beginning, an attempt to interact with the mirror (get, open, etc) leaves the word "mirror" out of the resulting "you can't" messages. Trying to "put hand in red paint" tells me "you don't even have yourself." Trying to take the note from the catalog machine tells me I can't take the catalog machine itself (similar things happened with other "components" of larger items). But, for every small bug, something surprising was implemented. For instance, the nurse says "don't follow me" -- but you can actually try it, and you won't get the traditional "nothing happens." The random video game names are a nice touch. At one point, I "heard" the soundtrack to the movie "When Help Collides" (an IF-COMP entry in 2002?) playing.
To recap: Difficult. Use multiple saves. Good story. Very fun. Well written. It overshoots the two hour mark, but at this point, it's my marginal favorite.