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Sun 28th Aug 2005
By David Whyld - See all my reviews
First the good news: as of October 2004 this was the first full-size, non-competition, non-adult ADRIFT game to be released since February 2004 (something of a record). The bad news: it’s rushed in places and would seriously have benefited from a few rounds with a good beta-tester, not to mention being fed through the tender care of a spell-check.
It has to be said that the introduction isn’t one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s told in centred text with a blank line inserted in between every line of text, which might have seemed like a good idea in theory but in practice it looks a bit of a mess, especially if, like me, you have the font sizes overridden and half the text has disappeared off the screen before you can even read it. Scrolling back up to read text that’s flashed by too fast to be read is never a positive thing. It’s also not a good idea to have an introduction littered with spelling and grammatical errors: full stops seem to be dropped in purely at random (except in the places where they’re actually required) and while a few commas have had the decency to show up, a good few others got lost somewhere along the way. You might get away with this sort of thing partway through a game, particularly if your audience are enjoying said game and willing to overlook minor errors, but right at the start it gives off a very bad impression indeed.
But on with the game…
The objective: you’ve crashed at a friend’s house after a particularly heavy drinking session and need to find your car keys so you can get home. The back bedroom, it seems, needs decorating as your wife’s mother-in-law is coming to stay and you, being the man of the house (though clearly not the one who wears the trousers) are needed home asap, if not sooner, to get the decorating done. Ignoring the fact that such things as taxis, buses and - heaven forbid - walking on your own two feet exist, you decide to hunt around the house for your car keys.
From the above, you’re probably getting the impression that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the start of the game. You’re right, I wasn’t. Potentially the most important part of the game left me feeling that this was a game that had been rushed to get finished and little effort had been taken to bring it up to scratch. But it managed to keep my interest long enough for me to actually make some progress with and, after a while, it began slowly but surely to win me over.
This is a game greatly concerned with a vast array of items and in that respect it harks back to some of the text adventures I used to play in the 80’s when I’d be faced with a whole horde of items which didn’t seem to have a use and part of the fun (or frustration, depending on your viewpoint) was finding out what that use was. Unfortunately I didn’t do very well here. At one point I must have amassed somewhere in the region of 30 items which I had scattered about the kitchen floor as there was a limit on how many I could carry and having them in one place seemed the easiest way to keep track of them all. A few - the knife, some bread and the coffee - I managed to discern a use for but the majority just got the better of me. There were others that I was sure I could find a use for but which it turned out I couldn’t - the bone, for instance, I thought I would need to give to the dog but after trying unsuccessfully with this and being told that the dog wasn’t interested, I guess I was wrong. Either that, or guess the verb reared its ugly head and got the better of me. Even so, I was a bit miffed that a dog wouldn’t even take a bone that was being offered to it.
There are several other characters in the game and while you can ask them questions about a wide variety of subjects (Mark, in fact, seems to have a programmed response for almost every item in the game), they’re not very interesting characters. All seem to be at various stages of a hangover and despite you having access to items such as headache tablets and mugs of coffee (another couple of items that I managed to find a use for), these don’t seem to do a lot for the hangover and the characters remain pretty much the same afterwards. Whether getting them sober is a requirement to finishing the game or just a puzzle that doesn’t go anywhere I couldn’t say.
Mention of the headache tablets brings to mind one of the game’s more annoying aspects. The headache tablets are actually inside a packet. Open the packet and try to give a tablet to someone and you’re told, quite bizarrely, that you’re not carrying the tablets! This being despite the fact that they’re inside the packet which you’re carrying in your hand! Having to open the packet and then remove the tablets before I’m able to give them to someone struck me as a strange flaw and one that could certainly have been fixed with a little effort.
But then this is a game with a lot of rough edges and which appears to have been tested very minimally, if at all. Spelling mistakes litter the text and while everyone makes them (I’m as guilty of this as anyone), they’re distracting all the same and in this age of spell-checks it’s disappointing to see so many. Even more disappointing is that from playing a previous game of the writer’s, I know he’s capable of much better than this.
I didn’t finish the game. I don’t even think I came close. Assuming that all the items I managed to find, and which are now making a sizeable dent in the kitchen floor from their sheer number and bulk, have a use then it’s probably quite likely that I did very poorly. I did, however, manage to discover where my car keys where. The dog buried them. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to use any of the items I had discovered to dig with and nor, in fact, was I able to dig with my bare hands. The hints system seems to imply that the dog can be used to dig up the keys but as he wouldn’t respond to the bone and just dropped the toy mouse back in his basket every time I tried giving it up him, quite how I was supposed to make use of him I couldn’t say. Either I’m getting at worse at these sorts of games (a definite possibility I suppose) or the puzzles are just getting harder and harder to fathom out.
Clearly this was a rushed game and the rough edges leave a lot to be desired. But there’s still a fairly reasonable effort here if you can make the effort to get past the all-too-obvious mistakes and flaws; at times, flashes of the great game it could have been, but isn’t, shine through and I find myself wondering if the best thing for it might to be taken down, fixed, put aside for a few months until everyone has forgotten about it, and then a second version released.
4.5 out of 10