Tuesday, October 13, 2009

[IF Competition] Grounded in Space

This time, the spoiler space is a quote from an essay by Michael Moorcock.
There are still a few things which bring a naive sense of shocked astonishment to me whenever I experience them -- a church service in which the rituals of Dark Age superstition are performed without any apparent sense of incongruity in the participants -- a fat Soviet bureaucrat pontificating about bourgeois decadence -- a radical singing the praises of Robert Heinlein. If I were sitting in a tube train and all the people opposite me were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn't disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkien or Richard Adams. (Starship Stormtroopers)
On to a review of Grounded in Space.

Basically, this game has three kinds of segments, which I will discuss in turn.
  1. Mostly non-interactive "cutscenes", where all you get to do is wait as your father screams at you, the computer tells you stuff; or where you try to think of topics to discuss with the pirate and have everything rejected.
  2. Guess-the-verb sequences. Did anyone manage to fire the probe without consulting the walkthrough? Isn't "prime probe" a bit too specific, as a command, to expect me to type it? And why do I have to type "target asteroid with probe", while the game rejects the sensible "select asteroid"?
  3. A small geometry puzzle. I appreciate the coding effort behind this, but, first, a text-based medium is not a very good medium in which to pose geometry puzzles involving precise positions and angles; and second, even so the presentation could have been improved immensely. This puzzle would have been much more enjoyable if I could have actually seen the positions and general angle of the mirrors, even if its only ASCII-art; and if I could have seen the walls of the cabin in that same ASCII-art. That stuff is accessible to the protagonist, and should be accessible to me too. Because what happened now is that I typed in some random numbers, nothing gave me any information, and I gave up.
Bit of a missed opportunity here. The writing is well-done and the main puzzle is a small feat of coding; but the puzzle is not presented optimally (to say the least) and the rest of the game is too guess-the-verby and basically not gamelike or interactive or even explorable enough. And the plot doesn't really make sense.

I would call this a not-so-good game by a promising author.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with all you've said, except the bit about the plot not making sense.

    SPOILERS! -------

    You get in trouble with Dad because your rocket engine (=phallus) is too big and destructive of the family home. You set it off too close to Mom's "garden." Dad about-emasculates you, and you're exiled from home to do a kind of slave-labor, in all of which you cooperate because you're a good boy.

    Once there, you confront your evil nemesis, in the form of a pirate captain who (1) isn't a good boy and (2) refuses to do slave labor.

    Through the clever use of your creative ingenuity, you get the engines going -- which is to say, you un-emasculate yourself -- and, using the structure (=phallus) you built during your servitude to Dad, you destroy the pirates.

    At which point, a beautiful girl calls you, thinking that you're your Dad. So you get to take his place, with her.

    It's sort-of Heinlein's formula.


    Conrad.

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  2. Okay, I like your oedipal reading. But surely the story must also make sense on the level not of metaphors, but of events. And it remains mysterious why:

    1. The protagonist is allowed to build a rocket engine and test it, when surely his father could have seen what he was up to.

    2. The father decides to send him on a kinf of suicide quest, instead of enlisting him in local military school or something.

    3. The father gives him the family ship, without which he himself can neither work nor even get away from his home. (No mention is made of a second ship, and the other family you meet doesn't have one.)

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  3. One thing I forgot to mention:

    I either lost my ability to read yesterday evening, or the rocket was not mentioned in the initial room description. It took me minutes before I realised that the rocket was still there, in the garden, even though it wasn't mentioned anywhere.

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  4. But surely the story must also make sense on the level not of metaphors, but of events.

    No, I can't say I agree with that.

    But in any case, these *are* inconsistencies, which, if not deliberate, ought to be avoided.

    Conrad.

    ps - There's a quasi-famous essay someplace, where one critic replies to another, who at one point in a novel says a house is brick, and in another wood. The argument is basically that that's not where the game is.

    Of course, in the case of IF, sometimes that very much *is* where the game is.

    C.

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