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IFCOMP 2005 - Escape to New York

Game #25: Escape to New York, by Richard Otter
Played On: 10/31/2005 (9:45 AM to 11:35 AM)
Unofficial Score: 7.5 (7.0 base with +0.5 skew)

     When I first looked at the list of competition game titles this year, certain visuals came to mind. In the case of Escape to New York, I imagined a rough-talking, scruffy Snake Plisskin returning to the island-turned-prison in John Carpenter’s cult classic. However, Richard Otter’s game has nothing at all in common with the Kurt Russell flick Escape from New York. The game is set entirely aboard a large luxury passenger ship.

     Have I begun every Adrift game review with commentary on the Adrift runner? Well, here goes again. It would be nice if “script” or “script on” worked, without the need to turn on logging from the top menu. I had the bright idea to play Escape to New York in the Gargoyle implementation of SCARE, hoping to avoid the inline parsing oddity I’ve noticed when trying to make comments, but I couldn’t find a way to turn on a transcript. I also don’t like that Adrift doesn’t provide an “undo” option upon losing the game. In some ways, that might make things too easy, but it was sorely missed when I had to replay a part when I hadn’t recently saved, where a single “undo” would have helped.

     However, I should also say that I’m liking Adrift’s special features more and more. The mapping window is great, and I noticed today that I could email the author just by clicking on his email address when it appears on the title screen.

     The game isn’t too difficult, but one particularly confusing quirk had me checking the walkthrough in Part 3. You’re supposed to hide something in Part 2, and then find a way to retrieve it in the following part. I found a way, and it avoided triggering an event that was supposed to move the story forward to Part 4. So, I stumbled around trying to make things happen, exploring the upper decks, putting the PC’s thieving skills to good use. When I finally felt that I had done as much as possible, I checked the walkthrough. Fortunately, the game wasn’t unwinnable, and I didn’t have to start over. I just had to return to the lower deck with all the appropriate stuff, and then leave again.

     The puzzles make sense and are pretty well clued. Most of hidden items are extras – loot that will ultimately contribute to a higher score. I found one important item very early (this was something different), and was pleased to see it clued later in the game at a time when it’s actually needed. I missed the cap, which isn’t trivial, but I did pretty well solving everything but some of the bonus puzzles. I didn’t try a play-through based strictly on the walkthrough, but as far as I can tell, it leaves a few points unearned. I can tell that Richard intended this to be a game with some replay value. Now isn’t the time to strive for a higher score – I still have more competition games to finish – but I think this would probably work outside the competition.

     The writing is more matter-of-fact than colorful. A few problems with the grammar were never quite distracting enough to merit much notice. At times the PC interjects with helpful thoughts, but nothing ever seems too urgent. Even at a turning point, when my suspicions about the game’s setting were confirmed (little clues come here and there, but I don’t think the game ever puts a name to it), it didn’t seem… well… urgent. The PC still had plenty of valuables left to loot, and there was time enough for that.

     This one was tough to rank for some reason. I generally don’t, but this time I went back to review some of the scores for prior games, trying to figure out where it fits. I think my scoring criteria may be too focused on the technical aspects of each game (the writing, the story, the implementation), and not nearly enough on just… “how much did I enjoy it?” Looking back, it seems like I may be scoring some games higher than other games I may have liked better. I might change how I rate the games next year, but for now, I’m pretty confident in giving Escape to New York a 7.0 base with +0.5 for being a pretty well-clued puzzle game.

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