IFComp 2012: Escape From Summerland
Posted by Tracy Poff on November 6, 2012
Escape From Summerland by Jenny Roomy and Jasmine Lavages is an entry in the 2012 ifcomp with multiple player characters, set in an amusement park.
(This post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.)
This game had some real promise. The idea of allowing the player to switch between multiple player characters isn’t, of course, completely new, but it’s rare in IF, so I was excited to see where the game would go with it. Unfortunately, Escape From Summerland just proved to be frustrating.
The game begins with the PC waking up in front of his caravan, which has been bombed. He notices that someone seems to be trapped inside, and when you enter to try to rescue him, you see that he has already died. Upon closer examination, the unfortunate man is revealed to be the player character–you are a ghost! Scene transition…
The player character is inside her home. There’s a branch, some hay, and a water thing within reach, and a shiny thing out of reach. Here, I encountered my first problem. The PC here eats hay, so I assumed it must be some sort of grazing animal, or maybe a rabbit, or something else that I knew ate grass and hay. It turns out, though, that the PC here is a gelada, a type of monkey that, it turns out, eats grass. I suppose the monkey-like emoticons (like this: @(^m^)@) ought to have tipped me off, but I didn’t work it out immediately. This is important, because I assumed the PC wouldn’t have useful hands, and so I didn’t immediately try to use the branch to retrieve the shiny thing, and until I did, the scene wouldn’t end.
This was really my fault–the solution was obvious, but I didn’t actually try to get branch. Instead, I used play with branch, which didn’t indicate to me that the PC had hands, and so I ended up restarting to see if there was something I should have done while I was the ghost. Eventually, I realized what I was meant to do, and proceeded. Having taken and played with the shiny thing, the scene again changes.
The player character is again the ghost, Amadan, who intends to make sure the monkey, Jacquotte, is safe. Along the way, you may note that a “fightbot” has crashed in the park. Upon reaching Jacquotte and verifying her safety, the scene again changes.
The player character is now the robot, and the player may switch freely between the ghost, monkey, and robot. Each has certain advantages: the monkey can manipulate certain things and go certain places that the robot may not; the ghost cannot interact with anything, but does recognize and describe objects in a useful way for the player; the robot is very strong and has a light emitter, to light up dark rooms.
After this point, I began to experience trouble. I collected a part of the robot with Jacquotte and brought it back to the robot to be installed, but couldn’t drop it, and got an error with I tried to play with it. After quite a bit of frustration, I found a walkthrough and learned that the component should have dropped into another location when I took or played with it, but for some reason did not. Upon returning to the screen I found it and playing with it there, I was able to proceed.
A little further on, I had to use an elevator. I entered it with the robot and monkey, got it to start moving up, and got totally stuck. The robot, while on the elevator, told me I needed to enter the elevator, then complained when I tried to do so that I was already there. There were no exits from that room. When I changed to the monkey, it could see the buttons in the room description, but when I tried pressing them, it “couldn’t see any such thing”. I fumbled around for a while, trying to get something to happen, but ultimately just gave up.
On the positive side of things, I really enjoyed seeing the world from multiple points of view. Jacquotte’s descriptions, in particular, were pretty fun.
As I said above, I think Escape From Summerland had promise, but it needed more work. I wish I could rate it higher, but I’m giving this one 3/10, which seems pretty generous for a game that made me quit in frustration.
Play time: about 45 minutes.