Oh my. This is a little sad isn't it? Back in the day half the Comp entries would be in Z-code and the other half would be written in TADS, but this year there's only one entry, which is a tad (no pun intended) disappointing considering how much work has been done to create that vibrant and highly useful programming language. A lot of great things have been written with TADS and I hope that this downturn is only a minor hiccup in the history of Interactive Fiction. Though it could have been worse. We didn't see ANY ADRIFT entries this year. I can't say I'll be missing those awkwardly programmed games (no fault to the authors, the ADRIFT system itself seems unwieldy).
Anyway, our second game in the 2010 IF Competition is entitled "Rogue of the Multiverse". Hmm... sounds like Sarah Palin meets Fringe. Let's hope it reminds me a bit more of the later...
Note: As always, my reviews are filled with all sorts of spoilery goodness. I'd advise you not to reed it until AFTER you've read the game.
Final Verdict: Weird and goofy game with clever gameplay. I recommend.
Promised spoilery goodness after the jump:
Well that was an unusual adventure, but I mean unusual in the good sense. For one, the game was funny, which is a HUGE plus in my book. For another, the game felt... different from a regular interactive fiction game.
The game itself is sort of divided into three sections, the prologue, a sort of sand box open ended section, and an "action packed" finale.
You start as a human prisoner in a reptilian guarded prison for all sorts of life forms. Indeed, you seem to be the only human around, and other characters, particularly the prominent Dr. Sliss will commonly call you "monkey" and "reward" you with what she assumes to be your favorite "prize": a banana.
You're whisked away to be part of a "medical experiment" but which turns out to be more along the lines of breaking-and-entering, except on a planetary scale. You are randomly transported to various randomly generated worlds. In each world you're given fifty turns to wonder about "tagging" potentially valuable items and avoiding mortal danger from the locals, each of whom are intelligent and deadly to varying degrees.
It's actually surprisingly fun. You're assisted by coordinates and a scanner, which will inform you as to where valuable animate and inanimate objects are, and each world comes with it's own types of treasures and local populace. Of course the room description for each world is exactly the same from room to room, but then I suppose a more fully realized location would distract from what each planet actually is, a large space from which you're supposed to scavenge as quickly as possible.
It's a fun conceit, and the fact that each object gives you more play money with which to pursue other goals outside of this scenario makes for a fun back and forth. Sort of like playing the Sims, where you go from actually playing the as your avatar and then purchasing items through the store. It's not a game mechanic that's widely used in IF and it was surprisingly fun.
Of course, I think it might have been made more fun if the game play had gotten deeper. If you could purchase weapons or other upgrades to assist you on your missions, and the strategy for those missions would have expanded. As it was, I found it pretty easy to earn up enough money (substantially more than enough, actually) to purchase the items I needed and get on the with the game.
The rest of the game reminds me of Heavy Rain, in that it consisted of interactive-in-the-sense-that-you-could-say-yes-or-no-or-a-similar-binary-options cut scenes, up until the end. The fact that your character winds up escaping with your snide-at-best-abusive-at-worst captor makes for a strange ride.
Yes, Dr. Sliss is a highly amusing character, but she's not exactly easy to root for. Moreover the whole story is extremely jumbled in my head. Whenever you try to examine yourself, you're asked the question: "How did you get in this situation?" but the answer is never forthcoming. The game comes with a funny little front page graphic of a newspaper from the world you're supposedly inhabiting, but it doesn't give me many more clues as to the back story.
Despite being able to assign the character my own gender and even name I felt nothing regarding his plight or the story. As opposed to "The Warbler's Nest" in which I was very emotionally drawn into the experience, I was left with a general feeling of "meh" throughout the story, and especially once the end-game escape began.
But the game does an awful lot of stuff that is really neat and highly ambitious and I for one greatly appreciated the humor and inventiveness of even my least favorite sections (like when you're on the bike, trying to avoid the cops).
I'm going to give this game a 7, for the above mentioned reasons. Though I can't help but feel that the core concepts could have been expanded to create more strategically satisfying game play, and that the story could have been more engrossing. But all in all, a pretty fun way of spending an hour and a half.