Review – Measureless To Man

Measureless is a medium-sized parser game in which the main character is cursed by unspeakable, ancient evil. In most cases, the protagonist has it coming — they know the risks of seeking books bound in human flesh and full of Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, but they do it anyway. In this case, however, the protagonist did not say aloud the forbidden spell, sign a blood contract with a demon, or seek world-crushing power in exchange for his soul, he just handed a key to the wrong guy and was a collateral victim. The moral for young players: don’t hand a key to someone holding an ancient tome. Just say no.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

Game play takes place in three interwoven settings: the introduction aboard a soon-to-crash jetliner, a flashback, and ethereal time spent in another dimension. The flashback scene is interesting on two accounts: first, it is interactive, but written in the past tense, which required some programmatic tweakage. Second, progression is primarily a matter of conversation rather than actions.

Aside from some finicky parser bits (mitigated mostly by the help system, which lists all important verbs), the biggest difficulty I ran into in terms of playing was the lack of orientation during the first scene in the alternate universe and a later scene in the ocean. Both are vast, really infinite game spaces, and without some sort of beacon, a player who can move in arbitrary directions will soon lose bearings. In the first example, the scene description mentions flashes of light and vague shapes in various directions. After a couple tentative moves towards them, I did not see a lot of progress or shift in orientation, so I assumed that I was not approaching the puzzle correctly. There is no way to estimate scale in that setting, and I assumed that I was making as much progress as I would if I tried to fly in the direction of a star. After experimenting around for a while with movement, I realized that I was pretty much screwed even with the walkthrough in hand — I could no longer see the book which serves as my only way to get back to my home universe. This could be easily fixed by making the book visible from a distance and indicating the direction.

Similarly, I thought cluing was misleading in the part of the game where the player is swimming in the ocean and is told that the book wants to draw him deeper. However, he can’t go deeper because it is too dark to see. I assumed here that the author was signaling a puzzle about how to go deeper, presumably by generating light. Part of that assumption was reinforced by having just come across a non-functional flashlight described as probably needing to be dried out. So, I think most players would frame this as a puzzle involving drying out the flashlight, and then finding a way to keep it dry while diving deeper. In fact, the flashlight has no purpose and seems like an intentional red-herring. While it’s up to authors to decide how difficult to make their games, this seems like a departure from modern norms.

Unless there is an ending that I haven’t discovered, there is no happily ever after for the main character, but I can at least offer a way to fight the game to a draw: after hopping in the life raft, open the book and “put book in book”. The book will enter its own inter-dimensional portal banishing it and its evil from our world. The main character will then have the rest of the game to paddle around the ocean at his leisure. I assume that eventually a search and rescue party would find him and that he’d be referred to a specialty center to treat his dermatological condition.

Evaluation

Story: 5

Voice: 5

Play: 5

Polish: 5

Technical: 6

JNSQ: 0

Preliminary Score: 5.2

p.s. To avoid bias, I write my own review before glancing at others that have been posted.

I’d like to draw attention to one that I came across for this game that may be my favorite review of the comp so far.

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