for Interpreter (Glulx)

Herr M.:
Company: Paul Michael Winters
Year: 2020
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Apocalypse / Horror / Text-based
Language: English
Licence: Freeware
Views: 2900
Review by Herr M. (2020-10-24)

While there is life, there is hope. You are driving Alone in your car fleeing from a mysterious infection that turns people into violent madmen. Something keeps you going even if it is just your wish to get away from it all. But sooner or later simply staying alive might not do anymore. You will not last forever this way. Your car certainly does not, because it just ran out of gas. So what are you going to do about it? And we are not talking about finding the next gas station here.

This is the premise of Alone, a piece of interactive fiction, in a nutshell. And while it sounds familiar and relies on overused tropes and stereotypes the game is an outstanding experience nevertheless. For starters it features excellent writing, concise and to the point, yet moody and atmospheric. There are no overlong expositions or walls of text but the author still manages to get your imagination going. It hits just the sweet spot of being informative enough to let you know what you are about to do and keeping the actual reading short enough to spend more time on actual interaction.

Which brings us right to the game’s main selling point: the excellent puzzle design. What makes its brain teasers so good? Several things show that their designer knew his craft: Each one of them is logically sound and placed organically in the game world. Found an electronic lock with no power? Time to search for a fuse box. The vent is too high to jump up to? Go search for something to stand on. You need to search the pockets of a corpse? Be careful not to get infected!

Furthermore the way they are interconnected makes for a natural flow. Which means you rarely have to be told what your next step should be – it always becomes apparent by itself. Your gas ran out, so you go search for a gas station. The pump is locked, so you go searching for a key. You found something hidden in the junkyard? Maybe it will hold the key? It is also commendable that most of the times you can solve several problems parallel to each other. So when you should get stuck on one particular task you can always try something else.

And speaking of getting stuck: Except for some very obvious mistakes – like getting infected – you cannot end up in a no-win situation. You neither have to worry about optimising the battery life of your flashlight nor can you easily miss or lose a plot critical item. Which means you can focus on the actual puzzle solving instead of keeping track of some arbitrary number of turns or inspecting each and every object until you can finally move on to the next section.

Finally there is that one thing that shows – and funnily asks for – a little bit of extra effort: Optional puzzles. Reaching your initial goal takes up the most part of the game and is not all that complicated. It leads to a somewhat satisfying conclusion and might be more than enough for the average player. But there is a final puzzle that is kind of hard and takes a bit more investment.

And this is were the game’s premise cleverly comes into play and things get wrapped up quite nicely: How much effort are you willing to give? When is enough really enough? Depending on your answer things might turn out vastly different.

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