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IF COMP 2004 - Murder at the Aero Club

Game #16: Murder at the Aero Club, by Penny Wyatt
Played On: 10/13/04 (7:35 AM to 8:15 AM)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (no skew)

     Penny Wyatt has written a short, entertaining work that seems perfect for the competition. This is another game with almost no flaws to speak of, and the first so far that hasn't required a single frustrated "help" request, or a peek at the walkthrough. Upon finishing, I did check the walkthrough. It mentions two endings, and I had found both, all unassisted and in the space of forty minutes.

     As a detective sent to investigate a murder, you will question suspects, search for evidence, and ultimately solve the case. Fortunately, the clues become obvious. You won't be relying strictly on the PC to explain these realizations to you, because the pieces will come together even before the detective makes an entry in the notebook. It's a short mystery, with no real twists (it would have been interesting if the culprit had been someone else, requiring another layer of clues of deduce that the likely suspect couldn't have done it, but someone else had a strong motive). Still, very enjoyable, and the lack of complications makes it clearly playable in two hours.

     The writing is great, and the story is interesting. I found no ways to put the game into an unwinnable state (even when bumbling around after the culprit already escaped). When I obtained the 25-point ending, a few quick UNDOs put me in a spot to solve for full points (I knew what I needed to do; I just had to think a moment to figure it out). Because of a comment from the author, I suspect much of the setting and some of the characters are indeed based on reality; it would be even more enjoyable to those in-the-know.

     The only bug report I can make is that an "s" is missing on "joins" in the line "...takes off and join..." and attempting to move the corpse says it's fixed in place (maybe it can't be moved because it's crime scene evidence instead). Well, it would also be nice to have "centerfold" as a synonym for "centrefold", but that's really a nit-pick.

     In summary, "Murder at the Aero Club" is a short, nearly flawless game. It really drives home the fact that this is a contest meant for shorter games -- something many of us authors tend to forget when our personal brainchildren spill over the edges of what's reasonably playable in two hours. This is a solid 9.0 with no skew. I would pop for +0.5 if it was "Murder at the Spaceport", with all the adjustments to character descriptions that it implies -- but that's just me. :)

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