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Outline Reviews
Author: Robert Street (as Robert Rafgon)
Date: 2005

Reviewed by C. Henshaw

1. Does it set the scene? 
Like most of the intros in the Intro Comp, all the required elements are present in the first few paragraphs. You get the important background information, although the writing style could be improved. There’s nothing wrong with a short, punchy introductory text – in fact sometimes it can be a relief - but the writing style here falls into my category 3 opinion, 1 being ‘good story, well written’, 2 ‘good story, writing style neutral’ and 3 ‘good story, but interference from poor writing’. 

Character-wise, I know quite a bit about myself in the first instance – a somewhat lazy, unmotivated policeman who just wants to get the job over with. Although a bit of a cliché it does provide possibilities of wry humour and ironic situations (which is what I would expect in this case). The idea of the protagonist as a standard-issue beat policeman, becoming involved in a potentially important investigation could lead to some interesting scenarios. 

The first room description gives a basic layout of the crime scene, the office of Michael Fleming, a chairman who has supposedly committed suicide by jumping out the window. There is little to distract me from getting on with the action, but that’s probably what such a character would be like anyway. No frilly adjectives here – everything is seen either providing evidence, or not. First impression – curious enough to keep playing. 

The ending – well, it’s a bit obvious, but you can never tell from an intro if what’s obvious is true, or is trying to throw you off track. It does show that there is a plot, and that corporate skulduggery will be involved, so as far as setting the scene goes, it does it’s job well. 

2. Is it well implemented? 
Object descriptions are functional and spare – the obvious intent here is to get on with it. ‘X me’ is not specific, one of my pet peeves, but not exactly uncommon in IF. 

One strange bug (unless I missed something), is that in the beginning, it’s said that I’ve been given a key. But it’s not in my inventory, and I can’t see it anywhere. Hmmm. Hope I don’t actually need the thing! 

I’m faced with a little puzzle right away, which is nice – I like puzzles! What I don’t much like though, is when object descriptions don’t change to reflect what is done to it. The pipe is described as blocked. After unblocking it, the pipe is still described as blocked. Okay, that also happens a lot in IF, so I can ignore it. Otherwise the puzzle is perfectly logical, and satisfying (I like these kind). 

In James McDonald’s office, there is again little to distract from what needs doing. Without going into too much detail, I thought the safe would be a bit more difficult to open. I find a paper, which I can’t examine, take or read which kind of goes against the grain of what I’m used to doing. It would be better if the narrative gave some idea that you don’t need to try doing those things. 

3. Do I want more? 
Sure, why not? I like puzzles, and I think this will have some good ones, even if I find my interest in the character and the plot is a bit blasé. 

Score (each out of 10): 
Scene setting: 5 
Implementation: 6 
Appetite whettage: 5 
Bonus points: 5 for an opening puzzle I liked (and solved on my own) 
Total: 21 (averagely better-than-average) 

Review by David Whyld

Detectives investigating brutal murders seems to be a popular idea at the moment as this was the second game entered in the intro comp that featured this idea. 

I didn’t like this as much as Murder Mansion. The setting never really gripped me and while there was nothing terribly wrong with it, it just wasn’t that interesting either. 

For a short game, there were quite a few puzzles to be found. Maybe too many for such a short game in fact, although that might be just me and my dislike of puzzlefests creeping in again. Several of the things I was required to do seemed overly complicated. In one location there's a pipe which I need to unblock, fill a cup with water from, and then use the water to clean another item to enable me to open a door with it. Aside from this being a really lengthy and convoluted series of actions just to get a simple door open, if I was a detective investigating a suicide/murder wouldn’t I have just ordered the door to be broken down? For that matter, how come I'm the only detective investigating this murder? Where are all the others? 

The intro ends with a series of questions which I'm guessing are supposed to make me think about what the rest of the game would be liked. But I'm in two minds about whether I actually liked this or not – it seemed a little tacky and forced. It also was the sort of thing obviously included purely for the intro and not something you'd be likely to find in a full sized game. 

I’ll play the finished game if it ever emerges but it’s not one I'm really going to be looking forward to based on what was available in this intro. 

Do I want to play the full game? Probably. 

Review by Stefan Donati

Another entry to the Adrift Intro Comp 2005, 'Outline' by Robert Rafgon made it on the 5th place. 

The game focuses on the suicide of Michael Fleming, chairman of a corporation called Mastocorp. When news about this event reach the local police station, the player must leave his comfortable seat to lead the investigation. And since your last job performance wasn't all that brilliant, you'd better make no mistake this time! Although, a suicide case probably won't be much of a hassle. 

The office of Michael Fleming is very clean, and it's only the lack of a suicide note which prevents you from leaving the office and fill in a report to end this case. Trying to examine the office, I first started with the desk, which didn't reveal anything spectacular. An oversight by the author is the description of the desk's drawer, which gives the same description as the desk and states that 'the papers are presumably in the drawer'. Only one my third try did I find the correct command, 'open drawer'. Still, this is only a small thing, as the drawer isn't important for the rest of the game. 

Much more interesting is the bookshelf, which gives way to a hidden passageway behind it. With this, the whole suicide case could get a new spin, at least if you're able to find something useful in there. Maybe the room behind the locked door offers more answers? Achieving to open the door involves solving some puzzles. I didn't find them unfair, but hard enough to use the hint system. Unfortunately, the hints are only numbered numerical, and the hint I needed wasn't number one. Naming the hints to something more directly related to the actual puzzle could fix this. After solving the first puzzle, I encountered another oversight. When I found a pair of tweezers, it was clear that I needed to clean them by solving another puzzle. Anyhow, my first try was to just use 'clean tweezers', which worked perfectly, and cleaned them with some water which shouldn't be there yet. 

Finally through the door, you're in the office of the vice-chairman of Mastocorp., where some more puzzles await the player. Once solved (I'm not going to spoil them), you're in the possession of some interesting outlines. It appears that a big intrigue may be going on. Here the games end, recalling the open questions of the case and thus giving the player an insight of what he can expect from the full game. 

Overall, I liked 'outline'. I sometimes had a hard time guessing the right verb, but to be fair, I'm not sure if this is due to my knowledge of English or not (my mother tongue is German). What I missed the most were more detailed descriptions of the whole environment. Is Mastocorp. a big, worldwide operating company or a local small business? Also, the two offices were too spartan, and remembered me more of a cubicle or lower management office than of a representative bureau of a chairman. But the story sounds promising and I enjoyed solving the puzzles. 

Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.


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