Press [Escape] To Save by Mark Jones; Inform

Order played: 3 out of 22

There are some IF games I play that I’ll be 10 – 15 minutes into and find I have absolutely no desire to play any further. The lack of desire to continue could simply be due to bugs, a poor standard of writing, overly difficult puzzles, an awful storyline, or a hundred and one other things. This was one such game.

By sheer bad luck, I ended up playing two of the worst (in my opinion anyway) games in this year’s IFComp back to back. As with the previous one (Eduard the Seminarist), this is another game by a newcomer and has the same kind of problems that I generally associate with first timers. There were so many things wrong with it that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

The writing. Let’s start with the writing…

Boy, it was awful. I won’t go as far as to say it was the worst writing I’ve ever come across in an IF game but it’s certainly the worst in this year’s IFComp. Weird phrases litter the text, some of them making me wonder if English isn’t the writer’s first language, or if he’s just very young. But it’s not just the writing that brings this game down, it’s the bugs as well. A description of one NPC read: JUST A HARDCORE JAILRAT. A BURLY MUSCULAR MAN WITH TATTOOS ALL OVER HIS ARM, HE’S A MAN IN HIS MIDDLE FORTIES YOU’RE GUESSING. HE SEEMS LIKE THE EASILY OFFENDED TYPE. (Amazing that you can tell so much about a man who’s currently asleep from a simple glance!) Trying to talk to him hits me with THE CREATURE IS ASLEEP which is kind of unusual in that a) he’s a man and not a creature (did the writer mistakenly flag the NPC as some kind of animal?) and b) trying to examine the creature tells me that I see no such thing. Later on I was told THE FIGURE THEN CLEARS HIS TALL THROAT and wondered to myself just what a ‘tall’ throat is.

The text is littered with numerous typos (one location is referred to as STATE OF UNCOSCIOUSNESS {sic}), grammar errors and more than a few bugs. The conversation system I didn’t care for due to it being one of these whereby you talk to an NPC, get presented with a list of options, select one, then have to go and talk to him again to reach the next set of options. Why not just follow one set of options with the next set? Why require the player to keep typing TALK TO [NAME] over and over again? Oh, and ensure you put in something for if the player doesn’t type in one of the options because [** PROGRAMMING ERROR: TRIED TO PRINT (CHAR) 130, WHICH IS NOT A VALID ASCII CHARACTER CODE FOR OUTPUT **] is a bit jarring. Also, it’s a good idea if there are no further conversation options available to tell people this instead of having



At other places, typing in commands sometimes produced no response at all aside from a blank line. I’m not sure if this was where an error message was supposed to go, some text was intended, or if the game is just horribly broken. Probably all three.

If the storyline had been interesting, I might have persevered with the game a bit longer. But it was a generic “thrown in prison for a crime you didn’t commit” type of thing. Once there, you meet a psycho called Jimmy who has all the depth and personality of a cardboard cut out (definitely one of the worst NPCs in a game I’ve played for a long time) and later on you’re visited by a ghostly presence which pulls you into another dimension. This was where my willpower to keep on playing it just died. Up to this point, the game had been terrible in a kind of must-see way. Like you know you’re going to be disappointed if you keep playing it, but you just have to keep playing all the same just to see if it really is that bad. Unfortunately, it really is that bad. I’d like to say this was a decent but flawed effort by a first timer, but it just isn’t. There are so many problems with the game that even a first time writer should have caught if he was paying attention that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Last place in the IFComp 2007? Well, it’s got some serious competition this year but I’d wager it finishes in the last five.

1 out of 10