I played this game today and really struggled with it. Tons of spoilers follow.
The first tricky puzzle is to get the note from Sylvia’s purse. But to do that, you have to ask her about an unlisted topic, a drink. The very idea of asking about unlisted topics is a reasonable one, but, if that’s the puzzle, then I think the game has to have responses for a lot of unlisted topics, all over the game. I tried a few unlisted topics with her, including the bar cart, then gave up and checked the hints.
Rundle Hotel apartment door lock can only be unlocked with the holder. If you try to unlock it with a license or with a photo, it just says “That didn’t seem to fit the lock.” But the holder doesn’t fit the lock, either, or, rather, it fits it no better or worse than any of the other small flat things you might try to pick the lock with. I had to check the hints for this one, too.
On Day 2, when you “drive to station” it takes you straight to Union Station, even if you haven’t seen the crumpled note yet. When you enter, it says, “Locker 232 was on the bottom of one of the rows,” as if you already know about the locker.
Calling Flanagan is a very hard puzzle, IMO. Maybe it would be a little easier (dare I say more fair?) if Flanagan keeps taking calls from his desk if you hang around in his office?
The description of “x matchbook” doesn’t make it clear enough that the matchbook is closed and that you need to open it separately.
“ask doorman about dixie” gives a generic response; he should have a custom response to that. Nobody in the club seems to respond to ask/tell about Dixie, which seems like a mistake to me.
“t doorman about dixie” doesn’t work unless/until you’ve greeted the doorman. “tell doorman about dixie” does work without greeting first.
“tell boss about item” gives a generic response. “I don’t see how that ties to the item.” That generic response is confusing. Instead, it should have some dialog where you say you don’t know what the item is. The game didn’t make it clear that I was supposed to tell him about a place in order to lie about the item. Something like, “Tell me where the item is, and I’ll let you live.”
When addressing the boss, “t safe” “Which do you mean, Reed’s safe or the safe?” “t the safe” doesn’t help. You have to “tell boss about the safe.” Similarly, “t estate” “Which do you mean, Reed’s estate, the door bell or the front door?”
“hit window” “Socking the window wasn’t an option with my hands tied up.” The puzzle wants you to “hit window with head” but the description doesn’t make it even slightly clear that the window is within reach of your head, or that you can use your “head” as a separate body part. “hit window” should be sufficient, if you want that to be the solution; I didn’t say “punch window.”
This is a really serious bug: “cut rope with driver’s license” (or any item except the glass) results in a blank non-response, but all of a sudden you can now go east, leaving the warehouse. I’d incorrectly thought that I’d solved the puzzle, except that I couldn’t get the wrench. (If you re-enter the warehouse after Barnes leaves, you’ll find yourself re-tied up.)
I know it’s an adventure-game trope that you can’t just go to the store and buy ordinary tools, but it’s a poor fit for this game to require me to pick up just one particular wrench from this one particular warehouse just to remove one bolt.
“remove bolt” “I wasn’t wearing the bolt.”
“turn bolt” “It was fixed in place.” This message should be customized; it normally means “no, seriously, you absolutely can’t move this thing under any circumstances; it is not a puzzle.”
“get bolt with wrench” “I only understood you as far as wanting to get the bolt.”
(I think the “I only understood you as far as” generic error message should be customized, since the story is told in the first person. “That only made sense as far as”)
I was carrying around the note from Reed’s safe, so when I found the “crumpled note” in the pipe and typed “read note,” I just read the note I already had in inventory. Same when I found the “torn note.” I think the best fix here is to add a modifier to the original note, e.g. “scrawled note.” Then if I “read note” the game will disambiguate, “the scrawled note or the crumpled note?”
I recognize that it’s a trope of noir stories not to reveal what the macguffin is, but it seems like I ought to be able to break the suitcase open on Day 2, or at least there ought to be a better message, like, “I decided to do that back in my office, where nobody’s watching.”
“stand on can. go up.” “I got onto the trash can. It was no go. I couldn’t reach the ladder of the fire escape.” This message, when I’m standing on a trash can, needs to explain why I can’t reach the ladder when standing on the can. It turns out that you have to push the can, but there’s no way to know based on the text where the cans are relative to the ladder.
“break window” “I had better ways of busting the window than socking it.” I think this message is trying to say “don’t use your bare hands” but instead it’s saying “don’t hit the window at all,” which is wrong; the game just wants you to hit it with an inventory item. The message should say “I had better ways of busting the window than socking it with my bare hands.”
After breaking the window, you still have to unlock and open the window to enter. But the glass is gone. Why is this necessary?
When you arrive at the warehouse, you have to wait around for Dixie and Thorpe to arrive, for at least three turns, which is confusing. (If you go east out of the warehouse and back west repeatedly, they’ll never show up, not until you wait a few turns in the warehouse without leaving.) Dixie should start showing up (requiring you to hide) as soon as you enter the warehouse.
Why does Dixie let Sylvia live?
“Gentlemen, with Marshall Reed licked, no one else will dare try to horn in on our narcotics business.” This line is unnecessary exposition.
Whenever I tell the madam at Clarence Apartments anything, it says, "I tried to tell her, but she said, “I’m afraid we only admit gentlemen on our guest list.” " As a result, I couldn’t figure out that I was supposed to
tell her about Thorpe, because it seems like she’s refusing to converse about anything at all. (Like the waiter, the bartender, the sergeant… this is why “guess the topic” games need to have responses for all topics, so as to encourage me to keep trying.)
I suggest that I should be able to “ask madam about guest list” and have her ask me for my name. (How could she even know I’m not on the guest list if she never asks my name??) The guest list should show up on the list of topics after she refuses me the first time. Then, if I tell her the wrong name, the game should say, “I decided to give her the name of someone she must have been expecting.” (And, uh, if I give the names “flanagan” or “noonan,” she should say something like, “very funny, sir, but you’re obviously not a police officer.”)
I don’t see why “hide behind bed” doesn’t work and why “hide behind door” does work. “hide behind curtain” doesn’t work either (“I figured I didn’t have to take an interest in that”). All of these should work.
Why is Noonan trying to shoot me, anyway? Wasn’t he planning to arrest me five minutes ago for Barnes’ murder? He should be trying to arrest me, not shoot me. This scene shouldn’t be a shootout at all. (Indeed, I claim that Noonan shouldn’t be here on the scene at all; just Flanagan, and it shouldn’t be a shootout in any case.)
(Worse, if I did just shoot Noonan, why wouldn’t Flanagan shoot me on sight?)
Flanagan shoots you unless you ask about Marshall. But the error message makes it seem not as if you asked the wrong question, but that he’d ignore any question/topic. “I asked my question, but he ignored me.” “I tried to tell him, but he ignored me.” At the very least, I should be able to greet Flanagan, get a list of topics, and pick Marshall off of a topic list.
You and Sylvia shot the police captain and the lieutenant, but for some reason you’re not thrown in jail? And nobody on the police force tries to take revenge? This ending makes extremely little sense. (This is yet another reason why the end of the game shouldn’t be a shootout, IMO.)
The hints also have issues.
The Day 1 hint, “How do I get the note from the purse?” should say “How do I open Sylvia’s purse?” It shouldn’t spoil the fact that there’s a note in there.
The hints only mention snooping in Flanagan’s office on Day 1, but if you haven’t done it on Day 1, the Day 2 hints make no sense. Day 2 should start with a hint, “What should I do at the start of Day 2?” “Did you snoop around Flanagan’s office yesterday? (See Day 1 for details.)”
On Day 2, there’s no hint in the hints about getting yourself untied. There’s a hint, “How can I avoid being killed by the goon?” and “Where do I go after I escape the warehouse?” but there should be another hint about cutting the rope.
On Day 2, there should be a hint about how to open the suitcase. (It should just say to take it back to your office.)