Too Much Free Time

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

Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

IFComp 2012: Signos

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 8, 2012

Signos by Mauricio Diaz Garcia is an entry in the 2012 ifcomp in which the player seeks enlightenment.

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

I had a great deal of trouble with this one. The version I was initially playing didn’t function at all correctly–the pictures weren’t displayed and the sound didn’t play, among other problems. These problems were resolved by playing a more recently updated version.

The premise is that the PC has created the environment of the game within his imagination to search for answers to the big questions in life, such as “Why am I here?” and “What’s my purpose?”. Attempting to answer those questions in an IF game would be pretty ambitious! Signos is not that ambitious.

For a game with such a lofty premise, Signos is remarkably simple. If the game would provide better responses to guide the player as to what is useful and what is not, it could be beaten in ten minutes by anybody. There’s nothing to it: imitate a few NPCs and use some items in the obvious ways and the game is done.

But the game is a little bewildering. The PC begins the game wearing a mask, and carrying a bottle of essence and a book, which is initially blank. Performing certain actions, such as removing the mask, will add a page to this book, on which is written the name of some vice, like “PRIDE”. If you perform none of the actions, you can hand over the bottle of essence to the buda you encounter, and win the game with no points. If you do perform some such action, you must start a fire and burn the pages before the buda will accept your bottle of essence. What exactly is the meaning of all of this? I guess that the PC is letting go of his vices by burning them, but why can you win without experiencing and renouncing all six?

The actions you have to take to get all six pages are sometimes quite obscure, too. In order to get page 4, “GLUTTONY”, you must drink water twice while in the lake, but not at the lake bottom. And just drink won’t do. How are you meant to figure this out? To get page 3, “WRATH”, you must yell at the buda. Why would you do that? If there are clues in the game to do these things, I missed them. Even guessing that the missing vices should be wrath, gluttony, and envy (which actually isn’t featured in the game), it doesn’t make it any easier to figure out what you’re supposed to do. I even had tried to kill buda, which seemed the thing to do when I met him, to no avail. The walkthrough was necessary.

Besides the general obscurity of the game, it had some other problems. It was generally underimplemented, missing many objects mentioned in the scene descriptions, and really needs synonyms–wake should do the same as wake up, and drink should have worked for drink water when swimming in the lake, for example. Furthermore, the help command just gives generic how-to-play-an-IF information, the hint command was useless, and the walkthrough command isn’t mentioned anywhere–I just guessed that it existed. Games should really always implement about, too, in my opinion, but I suppose that one didn’t really impact the gameplay.

I hate to be so negative. I do think that the idea (as I interpeted it) of experiencing and then letting go of vices could have some potential, but it wasn’t realized in Signos. I enjoyed this one even less than Murphy’s Law, so I fear I must give it only 1/10.

Play time: about 45 minutes for two playthroughs, counting time with the broken original version.

Posted in 2012, Bad, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in 2012, Decent, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »