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IF COMP 2004 - Splashdown

Game #33: Splashdown, by Paul J. Furio
Played On: 10/23/04 (3:00 PM to 3:30 PM and 6:00 PM to 7:45 PM)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (8.5 base with +0.5 skew)

     I was disappointed that COMP04.Z5 rolled "Splashdown" so low in my list. From my initial peek at the game and the included .PDF document, I was anxious to play it. The game features a theme found also in "Escape from Auriga", "Getting Back To Sleep", and "Identity" (at least, the first portion of "Identity"). The game isn't overly long, but it does feature some difficult puzzles. It turns out the puzzles were a little too difficult for me, leading to multiple uses of the hint system.

     Although the story follows a familiar pattern, the author manages to make it more interesting with added detail. The colonists, if you take the time to investigate, are an interesting lot of celebrities (including, perhaps, some members of the author's family). It seems the cast of Star Trek TOS and TNG, maybe Babylon 5, and a number of the who's who of Interactive Fiction are represented. Even Star Wars seems to get a nod by the mention of plasteel.

     A few problems surfaced during the course of the game. As Spider, I tried to take the broken antenna and fix it. This resulted in "warning: @test_attr called with object 0 (PC=ee5f)" followed by "that can't contain things." At the computer, an "activate status" command gives a similar error. In the hints, the "n" is missing from "lauch". The introduction mentions a 32-year trip, but a footnote in the .PDF says 36. I was able to launch Beacon 2 without ever sending Spider outside -- I subsequently reloaded a prior save because I was running out of time to find the generator, but would that have caused an unwinnable state?

     The thing that confused me the most was the pressurizing of the ballast. I got the solution from the hints, but the hints said I simply needed to do that and release the couplings. I couldn't get it to work. I had already released the couplings. Making the appropriate attachments gave what seemed to be an appropriate pressurization message, but the countdown didn't start. I tried several things, including toggling the couplings. Somehow, revisiting the ballast controls did the trick. In fact, I only had to make one attachment and the story moved forward (with the other end still unattached). It was very strange, and I'm not sure I would ever have figured it out without hints. Even with the hints, it wasn't very intuitive. It might merit a little investigation for an updated release, because it seemed like the puzzle wasn't working as intended.

     From a base of 8.5, I skewed the game a half-point for the added detail (for instance, the reason for the splashdown is great), and because I'm still partial to sci-fi -- even a type of sci-fi that has made multiple appearances in the competition. It's a good, fun game.

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