Grounded In Space review

This game did everything right — it had a story, and puzzles, and various endings.  It’s tightly coded and well-written.

And it would’ve been fun, too, except for two problems:

For about the first half of the game, you have absolutely no options or agency.  So, I mean, c’mon — what do you need me there for?

In the second half of the game, the puzzles were suddenly *very* difficult.  I don’t think they were meant to be difficult; I think the author expected me to understand what was going on better than I did.

There was pretty extensive tutorial material that I didn’t follow up on, so it may be my fault that I didn’t understand the puzzles.  Or it may not.  But here’s the reason I didn’t follow up on the tutorial material:

I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to because I had been following a very restrictive script for the first half of the game, which involved being yelled at by my character’s father, sitting there and taking it like a punk, and then being exiled from the family home — “grounded.”

Now, at this point, I figured, Great, I’ll set the autopilot, skip out the airlock in a space-suit, and hang out in the barn for a few weeks, or until they find me and ask where the spaceship went.

Okay, I didn’t actually think that would work, but when I finally had the option of doing *something* it didn’t occur to me to spend that time reading the tutorial material.

(I also wanted to lure Dad into a nearby rocket engine, but that didn’t work either.)

So, the author clearly understands the form of IF.  He has control over the programming, and he can tell a story.  Now to write really top-notch games, he needs to learn to lead the player.  This involves using the player’s emotional responses to motivate him to fall in line with the planned behaviors, rather than pulling in all directions, like I did.  It also involves supplying background information, like backstory and tutorial info, quickly, clearly, and interactively.

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Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 6:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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