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IF COMP 2004 - I Must Play

Game #31: I Must Play, by Geoff Fortytwo
Played On: 10/22/04 (8:30 PM to 10:30 PM)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (8.5 base with +1.0 and -0.5 skews)

     So, I'm nearing the end of my play list, and I'm still having a blast with the entries. This time, as a kid on a mission, I Must Play several cleverly disguised video games to compete for the high score (essentially, by winning each one). Each game is based on a classic. Looking for early clues to identify what it is you're playing is as much fun as figuring out how to win. I would even say that identifying each game is almost essential to winning, because your goal becomes obvious then (where you otherwise might remain confused). Two of the games feature a split perspective -- I won't give it away, but the "about" text does explain more about it. Although both are an expansion to the represented concepts, it does add more depth and originality to what might otherwise have been a pretty simple idea.

     It's a game I expect to receive mixed responses from judges, but overall, the responses should be positive. I know it's not the first game to translate video games into text, but it's the first I've played. The author avoids making this a boring prospect, because the games are varied and you simply need to solve each one (not overly difficult). The idea, thankfully, isn't to survive a complete simulation. The games represented would become very monotonous if so. Even with a couple distractions, I finished "I Must Play" in two hours with no hints. It's designed perfectly for this competition.

     I noted a few quirks and typos, but nothing major. On the turtle, the only direction available is "out" -- but "out" isn't valid (my failure to realize how far along I was resulted in some experimentation). "Wake up alien" says "you see no alien here." In several places, "the earth" should probably be just "Earth" -- although I'm not totally sure the change is necessary. The tense is wrong in "...dropped to the ground..." (should be "drops" to the ground, unless I misread it). I wasn't able to "get in car" but I could "enter" it. A quirk with plural pebbles allows me to pick up one and attempt to throw each (one at a time) by using "throw pebbles at man". Yeah, the game is doing what I told it to, but I probably didn't need to automatically pick up another pebble with each attempt.

     Although "I Must Play" succeeds well as a concept-based game, it's light on the story side. But hey, it's not really about the story. Even so, two things stand out as being odd within the concept. The first is necessary to establish the puzzles -- you can take items into and out of the games. A sign or message in the arcade does allude to virtual reality, although it still seems like a stretch. Second, Eric seems mature beyond his years (eight), when referring to things like notches on a bedpost, clever alliterations, etc. He refers to himself as the top-scorer, but "Fortytwo" (presumably the author) is listed with the top score. Was that a mistake, or is Eric really Fortytwo? If so, is he represented as eight years old because that's the author's inner child?

     As for scoring, my list is getting rather top-heavy. Still, I predicted this before I started, and I have no problem giving high scores to many games. From a base of 8.5, I skewed +1.0 for such playable implementations of five different video games, and -0.5 because the story was just a shell for the game. I really enjoyed "I Must Play", and it's definitely unlike anything else in this competition.

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