Posted by: Ben | October 7, 2010

if: Oxygen

Next up, Oxygen, by ShadowK, aka Benjamin Sokal. According to IFWiki, Benjamin’s only previous game was a Speed-IF piece called Safehouse. According to science, oxygen is the 8th and best element in the periodic table. It is used for respiration and setting things on fire. You are probably breathing some right now.

Spoilers

It’s been a long day of squeezing and squirming through the corridors of the Aegis mining station. After four conduit repairs, three data integrity checks and a host of valve replacements, you’re ready for a shower. It’s work like this that could earn you a promotion…

The game starts with a quotation from Thomas Szasz. I look up Thomas Szasz. He is a psychiatrist who does not believe in psychiatry. Anticipation builds.

Then there’s an explosion sound effect that would have surprised the life out of me if the game hadn’t primed me to expect it by asking me if my computer had sound. Perhaps there is some good coding reason why the game had to ask, but it feels like a missed opportunity to frighten the punters, or at least get them told off at work.

Anyway, this is a one-room puzzle game with an added moral dilemma, all wrapped up in a decently well-constructed science fiction setting.

It feels solid and professional (apart from a couple of incidences of inconsistent capitalisation, which is just splitting hairs.) The parser is pretty strong, understanding almost any old rubbish I cared to type, although Andre could have been a better conversationalist.

But as for the main puzzle, I wasn’t hugely impressed, to be honest. There weren’t a lot of possible combinations and your counterpart would sometimes do something unpredictable on the last turn when it was too late to do anything about it. I played as a proper bastard the first time, then found what I thought was probably the optimal solution on the second run through, although I did go back a third time to see how badly it was possible to screw up.

I got the feeling that this wasn’t so much submitted as an attempt to win the competition as a marker put down by a new author as a way of putting himself on the map. I’d say it was successful in that, and I hope his next game is more ambitious.

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