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IF COMP 2004 - E.A.S. 3: Luminous Horizon

Game #3: Earth and Sky 3: Luminous Horizon, by Paul O'Brian
Played On: 10/03/04 (2:30 PM to 3:55 PM)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (no skew)

     Paul has done an incredible job with this game -- not only in the writing, but also in adhering to the spirit of the competition. I did get a little stuck in Part 2, but the built-in hints worked very well. EAS3 is very winnable within two hours, and if I were a better player, I'd probably have been able to do so a little quicker and without resorting to hints at all.

     The game keeps moving, and I think that's much of its appeal. I was stuck trying to interact with the vehicle in the hangar, not giving enough merit to the gizmos. I was fed their purpose through hints, only to find myself in sudden death. I did figure a way out of one scenario, and it did seem to provide insight into the importance of the gizmos. When I needed them, I knew what to do with them. I was also stuck trying to enter the robot room, still placing more importance on the hangar and trying to deduce its purpose first. A hint helped me through that, and I had an easier time reaching the end. I didn't require a hint, but I did have to undo from sudden death a few times, to figure it out. The narrative there really had my heart pumping, as I engaged in the final battle. More sudden death in the escape, but that's what I get for dragging my feet.

     The game is nearly flawless (it takes nit-picking to find problems, and even then, it's probably just a problem of personal preference). Good for Paul, bad for the rest of us Comp authors. I'm sure a single play-through doesn't reveal a fraction of the detail and consistency. For instance, Paul doesn't forget that care must be taken when Austin helps his parents out of their situation, in describing them as fragile where super-strength is involved. Similes and metaphors abound. The graphics are a nice touch (although text formatting seemed to be weird in the proximity of the graphical words), and major kudos to your comic artist. I enjoyed the use of cut scenes, even though it seemed awkward to switch to a past tense for that purpose. I believe I understand the reason -- that's the "meanwhile..." section found in a comic -- it was just strange to switch from present to past.

     I may have to revise my aversion to "sudden death" situations. It does add to the challenge, and it would be a bigger issue if "undo" didn't exist. All three contest games I've played so far have offered premature endings, and I've really liked two of them. My past games have almost always done the same, so maybe I'm just starting to buy into the complaints I've received about that. My only other minor annoyance was that "Look Object" was not implemented. As a text-adventure player from way back, it's a hard habit for me to break. Still, "X Object" is shorter, and my unofficial score was not affected by this or by the sudden death situations. The only other glitch, provided it wasn't some mistake I made, was that in trying to have Emily obtain a gizmo from Austin (he was holding both, and I referred to it by its defining characteristic), I was told that he didn't have it. Switching to Austin and giving it to Emily worked fine.

     The only reason I didn't opt for a 9.5 or a 10 -- and it still could turn out that this game tops the competition once I've played through the others -- is that I'm holding out for a "wow, I can't believe it" game. It's difficult to disappoint me, and I suspect most of my comp ratings will sway to the high side. It's the same with movies. I like most movies; some are especially good, and every once in a while I see one and think "wow, that was incredible." Usually, it's the surprise twist or the uniqueness that I love -- Fight Club, Memento, The Usual Suspects -- these are some of my favorites. Luminous Horizon was a great game, and just based on my initial peek at most of the others, it could very easily follow the example set by number-two in the series, and take the top honors.

     Lastly, I want to comment on the dual-character implementation. I found it very easy to use, and a great change from the norm. From the info provided, I gather that the player was Sky in the first game, Earth in the second, making it perfect that both should take part in Luminous Horizon. Very well done. It was extra effort by the author, and it did not go unappreciated.

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