Sunday, October 10, 2010

[IF Comp] Rogue of the Multiverse

Having played eight games, approximately 30 percent of all entries, I am positive about this competition. Five of them were different shades of good, one has the distinct possibility of becoming good in a future release, and the other two, while not good, were far from disastrous. The game I'm going to review now is one of the five good ones.

Rogue of the Multiverse -- it sounds like a randomised fighting game. And in a sense, it is, but the ties with Rogue are very thin indeed. Since the player character doesn't seem to be much of a rogue either (more an unwilling thief), one wonders where the title comes from. Anyway, let's go on to more important things.

This game is fun. From the zany interview to the running banana joke, from the motorbike action sequence to the weird array of useless junk you can buy to liven up your prison cell, everything has been put together to entertain the player. The game is very polished (although I would "enter" and "get in" to work for supporters like chairs and beds), the writing is crisp, the jokes are funny, the action sequences flow very well, and hardly anyone will get stuck.

The middle section of the game is built up around a mini game where you are transported to another planet ("You mean he's going to send us to another planet?"), and have to find valuable objects using your scanner and tag as many of them as possible within the fifty turns allotted to your mission. On the one hand, this is a good design: the player can get the hang of what he's supposed to be doing in the first, easier mission; and can go back, and attempt to earn as much money as he wants, as often as he likes. (Or at least as often as I liked.) But on the other hand, the mini game just isn't very good. Once you understand it, there is no challenge: you just walk around, check the scanner, type the right directions, and tag. (There are some enemies you cannot escape from, but there is always "undo".) On top of that, it's a mini game that works against the textual medium: the needed information could have been represented far more efficiently on a graphical map, and the strengths of text are not used at all. After playing three missions, I was not exactly eager for more.

I wonder why Pacian decided to go for such a bare bones mini game, instead of giving us mission that played to the strengths of the medium? It might be meant as a satirical take on RPG quests undertaken for loot, but I doubt it, because it doesn't really connect with that target.

Anyway, the mini game is short and easy, and by the time you realise that it's not going to get more interesting you don't need to play it any more -- so it doesn't diminish the fun provided by the game. I am emphasising that word again, because it summarises both the strength and the weakness of the piece. Everything is fun, yes, but it is not more than fun. The PC is a nobody; the important NPCs are funny, but not interesting; and the political commentary on inequality, sexism and racism takes the form of good jokes, but exhausts itself in that fun-inducing capacity.

In summary: this is a very entertaining piece by an excellent author; but I would like to see him or her (what does that "C." stand for?) move on to slightly more consequential things.

3 comments:

  1. Great review, thanks! Agreed, the light and fun. Though I would personally give more credit to the quality of the writing throughout. Very clever stuff. Despite the repetition of the plot, I kept going because I wanted to read more of the prose.

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  2. Oops. Meant to say: Agreed, the game was light and fun.

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  3. The best thing I found about this game was that it had a likeable NPC, which by itself is no small feat. No other game entered in this competition really accomplished it.

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