OK, can you talk me back into this? As I said in another thread, I felt relieved when I semi-accidentally wiped out my progress and stopped playing. I enjoyed the opening sequence but increasingly found it a chore.
Here’s some things I didn’t like:
Parser communication problems stemming from the restricted verb set:
[spoiler]Early on, when you get to the roof, I spent an awful long time figuring out how I could go anywhere. Eventually (perhaps after using another body part) I did come across a hint that I would need to use my feet. I typed USE FEET ON ROOF to get to the next part.
But then, when I needed to go down stairs later, I typed USE FEET ON STAIRS because that was how I expected navigation to work. Also USE GECKOSHOES ON STAIRS. Eventually I hit on USE STAIRS, which I might’ve tried earlier if I hadn’t been trained to do something different earlier.[/spoiler]
Occasional failure to communicate goals:
In the roof scene I had thought my goal was to figure out a way to open the skylight before the drone wiped out my health. Only after trying a bunch of things did I examine the drone and get told that I had to find a way to protect myself before I opened the skylight. The method of protecting myself I did not find intuitive – why couldn’t I use the fitcloth to make armored clothing? – and then USE SKYLIGHT to open the skylight seemed, well, cheap as well as non-obvious. I think this would’ve gone better if the puzzle were signposted as protecting yourself from the drone, and then you automatically opened the skylight once you had solved that.
A certain object that I think must have been bugged.
The clawdigger by the gates gave me all sorts of inconsistent messages. I used light on clawdigger to power it up, at least I got a message that it was powered up, but then I could not even come close to get it to work. I tried USE CLAWDIGGER ON GATES, since USE GATES had given me the message “If you’re trying to dig, you’ll need some help” – but that didn’t work. When I tried to combine other things with the CLAWDIGGER (I think that’s also USE?) I usually got the message “You now have CLAWDIGGER,” though the clawdigger wasn’t in my inventory. I think I eventually got through by combining the gecko with the clawdigger and typing USE CLAWDIGGER, but I’m not even sure why that worked.
Something that I’m not even sure if I understood:
On opening the skylight, and on digging for the component, I was given a “This will take a long time are you sure you want to do it?” prompt. As far as I can tell there was no other way to progress at that point. Was I screwing myself over? If not, why was the game trying to prevent me from doing what I needed to? If yes, was there a clue?
That Timed Sequence:
[spoiler]I had the worst time with the bike. For one thing, the game was inconsistent about when time passed; typing USE VELOXE (or whatever) ON CYCLE got a disambiguation-style message about which part I wanted to use it on, and also caused a turn to elapse and got me killed. I understand how this works mechanically in I7, but it was pretty annoying, since I was punished for trying to discover what my options were. And every death led to a multi-undo, where it was very hard to keep track of where I was in the undo sequence unless I went all the way back to the racetrack – partly because the game wasn’t communicating when the clock was ticking.
And again I felt like I wasn’t getting feedback about exactly what problems I needed to be solving; except for the part where you weren’t going fast enough to clear the ramp, the death message wasn’t clear on whether my speed score was too low or I had used too many turns or what. Eventually I got what seemed like a very clear hint that I should stickify my wheels, and doing so gave me a sarcastic message and a death. (Maybe I should’ve made myself sticky boots to go up the walls?) It was at this point when I restarted, because the message made it kind of seem like it might not reset the whole episode; but I guess I knew it probably would, and was more willing to risk that than I was to play guess-the-number-of-undos again. It would’ve been great if death had automatically taken you back to the beginning of the optimization puzzle, and failing that, it would’ve been nice to have a save function.[/spoiler]
Overall I thought this game was an unsuccessful attempt to make the parser more accessible – mostly because restricting the verb set but not the action set recreated the problem where the game doesn’t communicate its affordances, because players will sometimes know what action they want to perform but be unable to express it using the restricted verb set. But everyone else seems to love it. Is it just me? If I fight through this part will I like the rest better? I feel bad trashing this because Emily Short is one of my favorite IF writers, though hopefully the general praise this is getting will soften any blow my criticism might provide, and anyway I will admit to some sour grapes about puzzles I can’t solve.