(A complex puzzle box with a twist. One room, one machine, one NPC. The Weapon - Details (ifdb.org))
So many buttons…
Finally! The archeological researchers must have realised they couldn’t understand this thing by themselves. After three months in the brigg, you get a chance to analyse this alien machine yourself. Under close supervision of course…
The Weapon is essentially a complicated puzzle box. Lots of buttons, a few technogadgets, a sequence of actions to figure out. On the surface, the puzzles are not that hard to figure out. It’s just that, between the exact order of commands and the annoying presence of your supervisor, there’s always a few extra complications to deal with first.
The descriptions of the surroundings are finetuned to the purpose of the game: clear, easy to visualise, no distractions or red herrings. There’s a bit of colour in the alien aesthetic of the room, and the outer-space setting is hinted at without requiring further investigation. Although it’s not necessary to talk at length with the NPC, the conversation tidbits do lend a bit of characterisation and context.
Even though it’s a difficult balance to avoid giving the player too much information in a game like this, I would have liked a bit more exposition and backstory. It would have helped the emotional engagement with my PC.
Looking a bit deeper than the puzzle box at the surface, taking the at first minimally understood premise into account, The Weapon plays a subtle game with the different levels of knowledge about the situation of the NPC, the PC, and the player.
The game’s subtitle is “An Interactive Misdirection”. This is clearly implied in the relation and conversation between NPC and PC at the start of the game. The protagonist must keep progress on the machine hidden from the supervisor, lest the research is halted once the NPC figures out too much by herself.
But it also holds true in the relation between PC and player. The player is moving forward half-blind, motivated in-game by the vague objective of the PC, and out-of-game by the wish to solve the game’s puzzles. This leads to her being led to an unsuspected (at least for the first half of the game) outcome. The twist was both simpler and more surprising than I had anticipated, even when it’s obvious from the beginning that the goals of PC and NPC do not align.
A very clever game of NPC- and player-manipulation, manifesting itself on different levels of understanding.