It took some experimentation for me to get this ALAN game to run on my Mac running OS X Mountain Lion. Spatterlight 0.5 exited with an error code. I was also not successful using an older version of Gargoyle under Parallels/Windows XP. The game did work just fine, however, when I downloaded the most recent version of Gargoyle for Mac (http://code.google.com/p/garglk/downloads/list).
If you are expecting an escape-the-room game, this isn’t one in the traditional sense. There is a single room, and there is a way out, but the bulk of this game involves conversation. Unfortunately, the conversation system is limited and the game play is very linear.
More after the cut
This game can’t be faulted for beating around the bush. One moment you step out for a walk, the next an old guy in a felt hat sends you to a sealed room with a unicorn and a dragon. None of that messy backstory, motivation, or other folderol.
Luckily, the main character is so perceptive that he can tell at a glance that the dragon and unicorn want to talk to him. Just by the tilt of their jaw or the sparkle in their eye. Similarly, he’s immediately aware that the red stain and purple stain are unicorn and dragon blood, respectively. It says so, right there in the description of the stain. I know, when I walk into a room and see a stain, the first thing that occurs to me is “what fantastic animal’s blood could this be?” I would find it more believable if the main character saw the wounds on each animal, noticed the color of their blood, and then arrived at this deduction.
Epistemiology isn’t a strong point in this game. Even knowing the source of the blood, the stains remain a topic of conversation.
Talking to either the unicorn or dragon results in a laundry list of topics that can be discussed. This list isn’t embedded into a conversation, as in Logan’s highlighted topics in Andromeda Apocalypse, but is scrolled out in a newline-delimited list.
There is a strong compulsion to run through the topics in series, first with one interlocutor, and then the other. After an item is discussed, it looks like the topic is deleted from the topic list, and there’s no going back. Your conversation partner isn’t even aware that the subject had ever been a topic at that point.
The mechanistic underpinnings of this game are not far below the surface. The parser repeatedly refers to the game itself and instructs the player about the right way to formulate commands. This prominence of the parser limited my sense of immersion.
There’s no *why* behind this story. You end up in a strange place, have a short talk, and it’s over.
I didn’t get much sense of any of the characters, except the dragon, whose general irritability seemed right.
There is a puzzle and the solution is elicited through conversation with the NPCs and requires that the player draw some inferences, albeit obvious ones. This is a quickly played game, and so far as I can tell, no bugs prevent its completion in under ten minutes.
The ask/show conversation system is not pretty, but it works.
Two points for a having a game that runs at all, and one more for a working converation system.