Tuesday, October 11, 2016

IF Comp '16: Inside the Facility

Inside the Facility, by Arthur DiBianca.

What a charmer! "Inside the Facility" is a puzzle parser game with only the basic of premises. You're dared by a friend to explore The Facility, a institute where researchers experiment with all manner of super-science. The stakes are delightfully low: if you can explore half of the Facility you'll win a whole twenty dollars. While the premise may seem simple, simple is what this game excels at. The jaunt through the facility is lighthearted and fun, with clever snippets of writing and some good jokes ("Through a huge window in the north wall, you can see the Invisibility Lab. It appears to be empty.").

The game only recognizes six commands: the four carnal directions, status, and wait. For a puzzle and exploration game this seems woefully deficient at first, but turns out to be remarkably fresh. DiBianca exhibits great creativity at designing puzzles that only rely on movement to execute. There are gate and key puzzles, knowledge puzzles, observation puzzles, investigation and trail puzzles, and intuitive-leap puzzles based on your understanding of the map. I especially loved the ice delivery puzzle, the gardener, and the business with the Chance Lab. Actions that require use of an object are done automatically. So if, for example, if you walk into the Granola Bar Dispensary, your character will automatically grab a granola bar. And upon finding a hungry NPC, you will hand it over with no need for input. The game is streamlined enough that there are no mindreading issues or unclear surprises on what your character is capable of doing. It is really quite excellent.

Speaking of the map, DiBianca encourages players to print a black map that comes with the game and fill it out as they go. For me, this was wonderfully fun. I loved filling in the blank squares, discovering new pathways, seeing how far I had come and how far I still needed to go. I'd almost say the game would lose a large something without this physical component.

The game starts easy but ramps up to some really innovative puzzles. (I'm not sorry to admit that I got stumped in the dark area and had to turn to the walkthrough). It's also fairly long... perhaps too long for the competition, but it does offer a bail-out point halfway. Most players should be able to get the 60 rooms that will win the bet in the time allowed. That the game essentially has a whole second half to sink your teeth into past the win-state gives it a lot of value, and there are even optional hidden challenges to attempt after the end of the game proper.

I had a blast playing "Inside the Facility." It was impressed by it's implementation of a small verb set, it's lighthearted tone, and variety of design. It's great fun. Anyone who's a fan of classic text adventures where the story is just an excuse for some puzzlin' deserves to give it a look.

1 comment:

  1. I think you mean "four *cardinal* directions, but I'm intrigued by the idea of what the four carnal directions might be.