cobaltnine: interactive fiction 2008 descriptive icon (comp 2008)
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Game: Under, in Erebus, by Brian Rapp

This is the time of year I wish the comp wasn't in October. October is a busy month for me, and it's my first year back in school - in an accelerated program, at that - so I'm burning out a bit. I feel determined, though, and I'm on a roll. This next one isn't a long review, so no more preamble.

NB: Puzzle discussion unavoidable.

I read a short story once, in one of those Barnes and Noble collections of short stories, about a post-modern Hell. Perhaps very modern, actually, no post-. Very Ballardian. The idea was that Hell was somewhere accessed by a man who had died, hadn't known, and drove down the spiral exit ramp of his workplace's giant garage. The ramp gets narrower and narrower and he can't back out, and finally it ends, and that's it. The image stuck with me, even though that was pretty much all the story was, and the introduction to Under, In Erebus reminds me of that. Weird, dark, underworld, train.

That being said, there's really only one major puzzle. My notes for it don't make much sense, because I kept referring to the ewe as a sheep. (Which, if you've done the puzzle, you understand why that screwed me up.) I'm a little annoyed at having to do the puzzle as many times as I did, and the two hands = inventory was kind of annoying given that I then was going back and forth. It is a good puzzle, but multiple uses of it? Not sure. Maybe in a larger game. It's a recipe puzzle of sorts, as well as a cypher or rebus, which is creative. It just gets tedious.

I'm not entirely sure I got the right ending; it felt as if it was written by someone else. Given the kind of stark and bleak tone of the rest of the setting, being specific enough to mention Lake Michigan threw me. Much too in-place, in-time, although it does explain the way the train is used, as the L. T is for Train, Chicago.

Given where my save points were, I wasn't going to go back and redo it the way the walkthrough suggested.

Conclusion: nice puzzle, but I'd rather see it used once in a comp-sized game, or more in a larger game where it isn't the mainstay of gameplay.


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