Review – Escape From Terra

This is an ambitious game with a fun style, but I consider it unplayable in its present state. There’s no hint of proofing or play testing, and the implementation is paper thin. There are confusing parser responses, logical inconsistencies, undescribed objects, narrow vocabulary for understanding objects, and I came across one run time error. Most significantly, there are guess-the-verb issues that players cannot avoid or work around. In summary, it’s a Spring Thing sized romp written to the standards of a SpeedIF.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

That’s not to say there aren’t some redeemable features. It has a fun, shoot from the hip tone, and having the authors cast as PCs is an interesting twist.

When the game starts, it prompts the player about starting a transcript, which is a nice feature, and then asks which of the two PCs the player would like to play for this session. Looking at the walkthrough, there are at least four major paths through this game, two from each PC perspective. There are also complete walkthroughs and PDFs that map these plots.

I find it somewhat surprising that the authors had this much plot and creativity, and clearly put in a lot of effort on the feelies, but came up so short with regard to the game itself. If it was a matter of IFcomp deadlines, I would have suggested passing on this year’s IFcomp. This could still be a good game, but would require many cycles of testing and refinement.

Evaluation:

Story: 2. There is much more story than I was able to get to, but I can only rate what I saw before throwing in the towel.

Voice: 3. Who could argue with charging through a pack of hooligans with a flamethrower, while following a radio beacon to a flying saucer. The voice is diluted, though, by distracting programmatic bugs, lack of dynamic text in responses, repeated responses, and failure to customize standard parser responses.

Play: 2. Play is difficult if not impossible without the walkthrough. The game breaks with many parser conventions without a good reason for going so, or sufficient cluing to the player.

Polish: 1

Technical: 3

JNSQ: 0

Preliminary Score: 2.2

Transcripts: EscapeFromTerraScript1 EscapeFromTerraScript2

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