IFC10 review – Flight of the Hummingbird

This is a review of a Comp game, and as often happens in reviews of Comp games, I will be Saying Things about this game.  There’s one thing we need before we begin…

There.  I’ll get a new one soon.

Flight of the Hummingbird, by Michael Martin, is a fine game.  It’s entertaining, fast-paced, and very well-polished.  I gather there are a few alternate solutions.  I have only minor criticisms of this game.

I suggest, if you want to play a fun two-hour text game, you make  it a point to play this one before reading further.

The pacing is very good up until the end.  At the end, the game ends too quickly.  The traditional action-adventure flick has one last bad-guy rush out with a gun at the last minute for a reason.  This game ends so quickly that it left me in doubt whether I had really won:  particularly because Dr. Sinister seemed to keep me talking up until the end, at which point his screens flared red.  Had the weapon gone off?  — No, nothing like that (apparently).

It was also confusing because the tone of the game, which you see in the blurb — “This is clearly a task for one of the world’s mightiest champions! Unfortunately, they’ve had to send you instead.” — remains pretty much constant throughout.  So at the end, I was waiting for the punch line; but there isn’t one.

The showcase puzzle was the orbital mechanics one.  Generally I don’t like these kinds of technical, mathy puzzles.  But in this case, it was pretty straightforward.  I was actually hoping for the orbital nature of your motion to have a bigger effect on your movements.

If you don’t know, the trick in orbital mechanics is that you don’t move in the direction you thrust.  If you thrust spinward, you’re now moving too fast for your old orbit, so your obit enlarges and you move out.  And so on.

major digression:

There’s an excellent book by Larry Niven called the Integral Trees.  The setting and back-story:  a neutron star, prior to its collapse, went nova and blew the atmosphere off a gas giant in orbit around it.  That atmosphere is now orbiting the neutron star, which is itself in orbit around a Sun-type star.  A human sublight ship detours to study the situation.

The crew finds life in this free-fall environment.  They mutiny against the ship computer and colonize the “smoke ring.”  Fast forward several generations:  The ship AI circles the smoke ring endlessly, peering in and wondering what its old crew are up to, while, inside, clutching the scattered remains of the old technology, humanity has gone savage.  But which is more savage:  those with or without the technology?

Great book.

The locals need to move in the smoke ring, and that means they have to work with orbital mechanics.  So they have a kind of nursery rhyme they learn:

East takes you out
Out takes you west
West takes you in
In takes you east
Port and starboard bring you back

I read this in high school and had no idea what any of this meant; nor did I understand what was going on with the description of ‘tide.’  But with a little knowledge of physics and the very clear descriptions in the book, I figured these things out.  Pretty cool, for a high-school kid.

end digression.

–So I was hoping I’d have to use this ‘rhyme,’ which I memorized when I was trying to figure that book out.  And there’s a little of that in the puzzle; but it’s such a weak effect that you don’t really need it.  Ah, well.

I would have liked, then, for the central puzzle, not to be harder, but to be weirder.

There were a few minor things:  there’s one crate lying around for no apparent reason — at least, I couldn’t find one.  There’s another later that you search, and turn up an item; but you have to search it multiple times to get everything, and this is not clear.  One would assume it’s empty after one searching, or the game would say otherwise.

You can’t drink your power drink while flying, because you’ve got to flap your arms; but this is not the error the game gives you if you try to drink it early.  None of these things seriously interrupted my play of the game, but they did drive me to the hints, where I wouldn’t have otherwise gone.

Overall, a fine game.  It’s not one that tries to reach you emotionally, other than to cause laughter; but it did cause me to laugh, and in this I consider it a thorough success.  I enjoyed it.

ps – and what did I do after I voted?  I filled out a survey.  Because filling out surveys is easy and important!

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Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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