(none) Quintin Stone - Interactive Fiction Review
Interactive Fiction
Role-playing Games


Author: Paul J. Furio
Language: z-code
Score: 7

The second in the cryosleep games, this one is more in line with my expectations. Your ship has crashed, time is running out, and only you can save the hundreds of helpless passengers facing certain doom.

The story should be familiar to anyone who's been around the IF block a few times. Something has gone horribly wrong and if you can't get a number of the ship's systems up and running, you will find yourself quickly bereft of life. And so it's up to you, generic nobody, to wander the ship and fix the broken and dying systems before you and your traveling companions snuff it. The appeal of a story like this is that it's a great setup for interesting mechanical interaction for puzzles. There's even an amusing in-game explanation of your current predicament. (Also included with the game is an accompanying pdf file which provides a bit of backstory and even some hints as to how to reach the game's finale.) Soon into the story you will encounter a Floyd-clone maintenance robot. And just in case you might make the mistake of not thinking that this is a deliberate reference to Planetfall, the robot even discusses Floyd by name. Rather than capture Floyd's charm and humor, however, Splashdown's robot side-kick quickly becomes tiresome as he repeats the same Floyd-ish lines again and again.

The puzzles are generally what you'd expect: mechanically oriented and focused on repairing damaged systems. The process of directly controlling the maintenance robot was a nice touch. Unfortunately, I take issue with the very strict time limit imposed by the rapidly draining ship batteries. It's bad enough that the power shutdown ends the game, it also interferes with your ability to move around (by disabling the elevator) and leaves you without any clear indication of what to do about it (the power generator is inaccessible without solving prerequisite puzzles and you don't even know where it is until you get there). A better indication of where the generator is would have helped me realize what my main priority. The other issue I ran into involved solving two puzzles out of order; both used the same object in their solution, but one of the puzzles "consumed" the object, leaving me unable to complete the other. Whoops. So while the puzzles aren't necessarily difficult individually, the game as a whole can be tricky.

The power shortage and its timer seem to be design decisions, so I don't consider them to be technical problems, however much I disagree with their harsh limits. I did find that the computer interaction could be improved ("voice recognition error" was the response when perhaps a "command not recognized" would have been preferable). There were a couple of instances of conspicuous items mentioned in a room not actually being implemented (the "hazy red light" and the "bolts and metal scraps" that were made to seem important but didn't seem to have a purpose). Oh, and I'm hoping that future editions will make "tube" a synonym for "cryotube".

Out of the three cryosleep games in this year's comp, this was my favorite. I did find myself relying heavily on the hints thanks to the rather severe time constraints. This meant that while I did finish the game within the 2 hour limit, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I should have. One of the great joys of Planetfall was being able to wander around and tinker with the various components of the complex. Here, you have no such luxury because that timer is always hovering over you like an executioner's axe. My wish is for a post-comp release that loosens the time restriction.

Final score: 7

High point:
Having spider fix the wall plate in the gangway. I love it when I go out on a limb and it's the correct solution.

Low point:
Running out of power repeatedly, but not having a clue how to start the generator or even where it was. Countdown timer + lack of direction = sad me.
These pages Copyright © 2004-2008 — Contact me at stone@rps.net