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Played On: 10/19/04 (6:35 PM to 7:00 PM and 7:10 PM to 7:45 PM)
Unofficial Score: 8.0 (no skew)
When I first peeked at this game the evening the competition package became available, I thought it looked interesting. It features a clever gimmick which, while not perfect, is still a source of amusement. The plot is built around this gimmick, and gameplay is built around the ultimate gadget (it's a gadget-game at heart). The index system in the Field Service Manual was hard to get used to, after playing with something very similar in "Square Circle". The "...in manual" part wasn't optional, and (unless I missed it) it isn't possible to read the contents of the index. Still, once I figured it out, I didn't have a problem reading about what I needed to know. With that solved, it was only a matter of noting what every piece does, putting things in order, and setting the machine to work.
I solved it without checking the hints. However, I probably wouldn't have except a mistake in the Typo system gave me an unexpected break. At one point, "X Pages" was corrected to "X East." Later, a similar correction on "X Street" offered the solution on what to do with the stray plug-in wire. If not for that, I might have remained stuck, resorting to the hints file.
I found very few problems with the game, although I didn't try very many typo responses on purpose (a few -- and it was fun -- but not many). The problems I did find are more to do with the interpreter and less to do with the game, I believe. Inform's "get all" quirk is here in full force, when I tried to take everything from the cabinet that way. (Does it not allow an "exclude_from_all" equivalent for objects?) I have a habit of shortening commands wherever possible -- "turn off blue" asks if I mean the blue switch or the blue indicator light, but when I answer "switch", the game believed I was starting a new command in which "switch" is the verb. Not a big thing -- just an interesting quirk.
The ending -- or rather, the events leading up to the ending -- had me anxious for more. I expected that another part of the game was about to open. For a moment, I thought maybe the entire gadget-puzzle was just the lead-in to another part of the story: Man against Machine, a battle of wits and endurance. As it turns out, this is just an elaborate ending. I don't mean that in a negative way. I'm disappointed that the game wasn't longer, but it sure beats a "you did it -- the end" kind of ending.
It's was a fun, solid, enjoyable hour of gameplay. I liked "Typo", and it would be nice to know what I needed to accomplish for that final point. I'm scoring the game an 8.0, and unless the puzzle frustrates too many judges, it should do well in the competition.