IF Comp 2009 – Interface

Spoiler prevention text, totally unrelated to the game:
“There is no doubt that men in England fall in love chiefly in abnormal periods: when on a reading party or at the seaside, or at a foreign hotel, or at Christmas, or any other occasion when something, either external circumstances or any dominant emotion, thaws the eternal ice. The misfortune is that if these casual thaws do not last long enough, all the advantage gained is lost; two lines of life that causally intersected diverge perhaps for ever, and the frost sets in with redoubled force.”
(Henry Sidgwick)

Now for my spoiler-free opinion of “Interface“: It’s enjoyable, but could do with a bit more meat on its bones.

(Warning! Spoilers follow!)

Interface

by Ben Vegiard
System: Z-code
Blurb:

What happens when your favorite Uncle, a successful electronics company owner, has you try out his latest invention? Of course, something goes amiss and you must struggle to set it all right or suffer the consequences. Deliberately “Old School” romp.

It fits to the supposed old-school-ness, and is a nice touch, that this adventure provides scoring and ranks. I was intimidated when I saw that the maximum score is 90, but I quickly realized that the points are given out five and ten at a time.[*]

The protagonist is a boy whose mind has been transferred into a small, weak robot on treads. The author vividly describes the experience of getting used to the new body, and he builds the puzzles around the protagonist’s limitations. Thus, the puzzles arise from the story and have sensible solutions.

They are definitely on the easy side, maybe too easy, and there aren’t many. I think the game might have benefitted from, e. g., a machine manipulation puzzle and a more complicated distract-your-captor puzzle, both of which could credibly have been integrated into the story, and would have made it a bit longer.

The implementation and the writing are adequate, but do have some flaws here and there. One of them is that there are too many things with just the default description (“you see nothing special”).  Another one was harmless and rather charming:

>cut grass
You only accomplish making light surface scratches.  Your cheap robot parts can’t apply enough force to cut more deeply.

(Also, try to >CUT BODY in the secret lab.)
There are some misspellings, too, and: “On the bed is a keys”, but nothing overly distracting.

On the positive side, the writing is genuinely funny at times. Also, the author clearly put thought and work into customizing the playing experience, and he did it well. There are special responses to >SING, >JUMP, >XYZZY etc.,  all conveying a robot’s perspective on things. This one was simple, but great:

>look under couch
You find that you can’t bend over to take a look.

I also liked the multiple endings (it’s possible to kill oneself in an interesting way, too).

Summary: It could have been just a bit bigger and better, but it’s already charming and enjoyable as it is.

A transcript of my playing session is available upon request, just drop me an e-mail at michaelNOSPAMnealNOSPAMtenuisATgmail.com. (Replace the NOSPAM with “.” and, obviously, the AT with the @ sign).

— Michael

[*] I’m not entirely sure how 90 points are achievable, since I only had 75 points after the optimal ending, and that already included 5 for opening the garage door, which would only have been necessary on an alternate, inferior path through the game. Of course, I might have missed something along the way.
Edit: After Amanda Lange confirmed that 90 points were possible, I was curious and played through again, compared transcripts, and solved the mystery, I think: 20 points are awarded for successfully taking the keys, but ONLY if you haven’t already tried taking them from Gilby when he still slept. In my previous playing session, I tried taking the keys from him while he held them, just to see what would happen – and after waking him, I didn’t get those 20 points when I took the keys.

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