(Tenth in the 2009 IFComp. I love messing around with heavy equipment in space! Grounded in Space - Details (ifdb.org))
You should think your parents would be proud of your advancements in rocket science and pyrotechnics, what with all the effort you put into your experiments. Ok, a tad more forethought might have left the now-wrecked shed in the backyard standing, but still…
But no! They decided to send you on a punishment mining mission to teach you some responsibility…
For all the whimsical slapstick style of the introduction, Grounded in Space quickly turns into a more serious space-faring mission. En route to the family asteroid mining claim, the game allows you ample time to familiarize yourself with the ship’s functions. And you’ll need it.
After a first mining puzzle where you figure out the (well clued) sequence of commands needed to operate the ship’s heavy equipment, the story twists around and turns into a rescue mission. There are multiple possible endings, all more or less intuitive once you use your imagination and think about what a young bright lad on a massive mining spaceship has at hand.
The development of the story through its escalating levels of engagement works nicely. The narrative timing draws the player in while increasing the tension, but still leaves enough room for experimenting, exploring the ship’s interior and its equipment.
There is one geometric/logic puzzle that completely baffled me. The game attempts to aid you in visualizing it with a rudimentary grid and detailed description, but without actually seeing the results of my interventions I could not get a grip on it. (There’s a walkthrough by the author on the IFDB site.)
The endings were perhaps a bit predictable, but the satisfaction of finding that last move to save the day (with more or less collateral damage depending on your chosen tactic) more than makes up for this.
A great SF game with good narrative development.