A Matter Of Importance by Nestor I. McNaugh

In A Matter Of Importance, you play the part of a thief who has fallen on hard times. You haven’t been doing particularly well as of late and as a result the Thieves Guild have decided to boot you out unless you can prove to them, in three days, that you’ve still got what it takes.

Interesting idea, but I can’t say I really cared for the game itself. You might be playing a master thief fallen on hard times, but you don’t seem to be capable of anything not available to the average guy in the street. Some of the actions you’re forced to carry out – the chain of commands required to get into the shop for example – seem out of character for someone who makes a living breaking the law. Simple brute force never seems to be an option.

The puzzles in this game take guess the verb – or read the author’s mind actually – to a whole new level. The first puzzle I ran into – getting across a road (something which I wouldn’t have thought should even normally qualify as a puzzle) – stumped me. After trying all manner of things to get across, I resorted to the hints and found that IGNORE TRAFFIC was required. Ignore traffic? Try as I might, I can’t understand how the player was expected to figure that out. (I read another review of the game where the reviewer did manage to figure this puzzle out, mainly by typing out one things after another until something finally worked, but as it took him half an hour, I think my decision to cheat and look at the hints was justified.) When simple directional commands and even CROSS STREET or CROSS ROAD don’t work, but something vague like IGNORE TRAFFIC will, you just know this is a game you’re going to have problems with. The second puzzle, dropping a certain item in a certain location in order to get rid of a certain NPC, wasn’t quite as vague as the first, but it’s still the kind of thing that it’s hard to imagine many people figuring out on their own unless they had either a lot of spare time on their hands or were trying everything possible in case something worked. The third puzzle, beating the kid at football, was even worse…

For that matter, there’s the added problem with a number of the puzzles in the game that you don’t know you why need to solve them and so don’t even try until you’re clued into them with the hints. With the yard keeper, it never occurred to me to try getting rid of him until I saw it mentioned in the hints.

As I’d run into three puzzles so far and the solutions to two of them were so mind-numbingly vague that I doubt I’d have ever figured them out, I began to lose interest in the game. Sure, I could have carried on with it and resorted to typing out every command from the hints, but it’s not much fun to play a game that way.

Incidentally, the hints menu is a pain. It presents you with a list of options to choose from and after you’ve selected which one you want, you then have to press H to see the first of them. Why not just have it display the hints straightaway?

One amusing thing, though others will probably disagree, was the game gently mocking the player for resorting to the hints. In a game that was otherwise very frustrating, this was an unexpected comical moment. (Saying that, I’m not sure what to make of it. Has the writer deliberately made the puzzles incredibly vague in order to make it more likely the player will resort to the hints and thus see the in jokes? Or has he simply included them on the off chance that players cheat?)

This wasn’t a horrible game, just one I got more and more frustrated with the longer I played it. Maybe there were clues hinting to the puzzles that made the hints unnecessary, but if so they were vague and I missed them. Maybe the game improves considerably later on, but as I’m only just over halfway through the comp entries and time is pressing, I’d sooner play some of the others instead. If a game doesn’t impress me much in the first hour of playing it, and this one didn’t, it’s hard to find reasons to keep on playing it. Particularly when I suspect most of it will be played via typing out commands directly from the hints.

3 out of 10