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IF COMP 2004 - Square Circle

Game #17: Square Circle, by Eric Eve
Played On: 10/13/04 (1:00 PM to 4:05 PM)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (no skew)

     "Square Circle" is bigger than it appears. It begins as a one-room adventure. For some reason, I actually believed that everything I needed to do would occur in the cell where the game begins. This turns into a bigger adventure when you escape the cell and make your way through the few rooms of the building. It really opens up when you escape the building and begin roaming the surrounding countryside.

     The back story is very imaginative. I read everything I could find, including each entry in the law book (whew). That alone is highly entertaining. One premature ending alludes to something which I thought might provide an eventual twist (and I was right), which kept me pushing forward despite feeling more and more stuck. The built-in hints became a big help, although I had to resort to the walkthrough for certain puzzles when no applicable clues were available. It's a very challenging game, with plenty of puzzles and red herrings to keep a player guessing for a long time (without clues and the walkthrough). It's another that pushes the limits of what's possible in just two hours (I spent three hours, trying to go easy on the hints).

     The game is well-designed, well-written, and fun. I didn't get the full score (even with a good ending), so I guess some things went undone and unanswered. For instance, what really happened to the other person at the picnic, or is the assumption the only answer? Why does a hermit (with criminal views and opinions, no less) live so close to the center of activity? The story is interesting enough that these questions come up. Although I won't name examples, I've played some games before that gave me no reason to further ponder the unanswered mysteries of the game's story.

     The additional end notes provided by the author are an added bonus. I loaded prior saves and tried a few (but not all) of the suggestions, for some interesting results. The game is about as flawless as they come (although at this point, I think I'm just not watching for problems to the extent that I did at first). I saw "...cirle or sphere..." at one point (circle is missing its second "c"), and that's about it. Bonus interaction abounds: you can draw on various things, you can wrap things around other things even though it doesn't help, some puzzles have multiple solutions, you can push objects around, the NPCs can talk about quite a number of things, and you can find objects which really have no importance. It's great to have so much free interaction, but at the same time, it tends to obscure what's really important.

     I was tempted to rate a little lower because of the difficulty, but this isn't the first difficult (and lengthy) game in the competition to receive a high mark from me. On my scale it's a 9.0, regardless of the numerous 9's (and higher) I've already given. I enjoyed it, it's well- written, the story is unique, and it even has a plot twist. Without a skew, that's still a very high mark.

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