Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

IFComp 2012: The Test is Now READY

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 6, 2012

The Test is Now READY by Jim Warrenfeltz is an entry in the 2012 ifcomp in which the player is presented with a series of moral choices.

(This post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

The game began on a fairly strong note. In the opening sequence, the player has no choice but to run and hide from a group of zombies, which feels right for the situation. After a few turns, control is turned over to the player, along with a pressing problem: both the player and an NPC, Frank, have been infected by the zombies. You have a gun, with a single bullet. Frank has a single dose of the antidote. What will you do?

I initially thought that I was playing a game about a zombie apocalypse, but completing the first scene disabused me of that notion. Upon choosing how to deal with the zombie problem, you find yourself in a concrete interrogation room, with a prisoner before you, who you are told has information about an upcoming terrorist attack. It is your job to torture the prisoner in order to get the information you need to save thousands of lives. But the game hints very strongly that the prisoner is just an innocent person, and any information you get is just whatever the prisoner made up to stop the torture. How far will you go to get the information your superiors want?

The rest of the game follows the same formula. The player is presented with a series of well-known moral dilemmas, and is left to choose how to deal with them. The titular ‘test’, then, is a test of the moral opinions of the player (or, as it turns out, the AI which is the player character). After you’ve completed five tests, you are presented with a brief description of what your choices meant (for example, “When presented with the opportunity to live a life of meaningless pleasure, the testee chose to ignore temptation.”), and it is explained that the player character is an artificial intelligence, which has had it morals investigated to determine what sort of job it might be suitable for.

I’m of two minds about the game. On the one hand, putting these moral questions into an interactive fiction game makes the what-would-you-do question much more personal. I think this is a great success. On the other hand, the game isn’t that interesting. I was already familiar with the scenarios, so I wasn’t being presented with new and exciting moral questions, and the game is very much on rails. You can’t do much else than make a decision, and then you’re whisked off to the next scene. The game would have been stronger if the player had more options. The depth of the implementation was also unsatisfying–it didn’t know what a floor was, and ‘wall’ didn’t work as a synonym for ‘walls’, for example. A minor detail, but I enjoy being able to investigate absolutely everything in a game.

I’ve got to rate this one 5 out of 10 (subject to change as I review more games, I suppose). From the standpoint of ethical thought experiments, The Test is Now READY is a pretty good use of medium, but from the standpoint of interactive fiction, it lacks interactivity and depth of implementation. I played through three times, to make sure I’d seen all the game had to offer, but I don’t see myself revisiting it, in the future.

Total play time: about 40 minutes.

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