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Pathway to Destruction Reviews
Author: Richard Otter
Date: 2005

Click here to see the reviews to the Z-Code version.

Reviewed by Timothy Bard

This game starts out with the frequently used 'You don't know where you are, you don't remember what happened' beginning.  Having being part of the Finish the Game Competition, the first few rooms and objects were familiar.

These two factors made me wonder if there would be anything special about this game.  I will admit that, being part of the Finish the Game Competition, I was being a little unfair with the game to begin with.

However, after I explored some more and discovered what the author added to the game beyond the rooms and objects required to meet the competition rules, I found myself very interested in the game.

The game was set in the future with a sci-fi story and me, being a sci-fi fan, found the game very interesting.  I wouldn't say that there was anything particularly unique on the programming side of the game, but I thought the story was good and it was very satisfying to finish the game.

There were a few points where I had trouble guessing what I needed to do with some objects, but when I used the walkthrough, I didn't feel that I was cheating myself.  I had the general idea of what to do, but just couldn't think of the specifics.   I would say the issue was more of "guess what the author was thinking" than "guess the verb".  However, this happened in only two places and I think I may have gotten one of them, if not both, if I spent more time playing the game.  I think one of the problems was that, because this was part of the Finish the Game Competition, I was reading too fast at the beginning.

There are places where spelling and grammar need to be cleaned up, but it is still very readable.

Reviewed by David Whyld (Reviews Exchange 7)

Pathway To Destruction: winner of the Finish The Game Comp I organised, and my personal favourite out of the comp entries.

What's it about?

You're a worker at the Institute of Transportation and about to embark on an experimental mission that should, in theory, teleport you from one side of the planet to the other. Only, of course, something goes wrong and you actually find yourself in a desolate ruin of the world you once knew.

I felt Pathway To Destruction made very good use of the source material, although in a completely different way than I envisioned when I wrote the source. I had had in mind something along the lines of a medieval fantasy adventure with a swords & sorcery element thrown into the mix, but Pathway To Destruction's sci-fi setting seems to fit in remarkably well with the mini-game that was already written, and at no point did I feel that it was out of place. Full marks for that.

A frequent failing of the author's games in the past has been the shallow NPCs and their wildly implausible dialogue, something that Pathway To Destruction is mercifully free of. There aren't any NPCs here, just the main character, and the game is much better for it. (Although saying that, there are bits when the player, despite being alone, speaks out loud which are pretty implausible themselves. Would he really tell himself what to do next after throwing a certain item at another item?)

My only real complaint with the game was the difficulty factor of some of the puzzles; or, if not difficulty factor, then the fact that some of them are so unobvious that it's hard to imagine people ever figuring them out without resorting to the hints. Why would I want to push a lamp post over? Why would I throw a certain item at another item? Why would putting one item on top of another make the second item work? (The second item, incidentally, has a slot in the side which I spent a while trying to put the first item into. It never occurred to me to try putting it on top.) Getting inside the author's mind, or being psychic, is a good requirement for finishing this game. It also didn't help that sometimes seemingly obvious solutions to puzzles didn't work and there wasn't any real explanation for why. I needed to use one item to get the jewel but another item I had, a bar, didn't work. Why?

But overall I thoroughly enjoyed Pathway To Destruction. It wasn't a perfect game, and there were bits that could have done with improving upon, and some of the puzzles could certainly have been better clued, but those issues notwithstanding it was the best game in the comp and definitely the best game the author has written to date.

7 out of 10

Reviewed by Lumin (InsideADRIFT Issue 36 - September 2007)

Way, way back in the forgotten mists of time (2005 I believe) David Whyld proposed the idea of a Finish the Game comp. The idea was that he'd create six rooms with basic descriptions that could then be added to and elaborated upon to make a full game. The comp did surprisingly well, garnering six entries, all of which were fairly good.

However, Richard Otter's game, Pathway to Destruction, was far and away my favourite, and took first place by a healthy margin as well. I replayed it recently and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had lost none of its charm. I'll admit that a lot of the time I'll make allowances for this type of game, taking into account a deadline that may have forced the author to finish in a rush without much testing, but that was completely unnecessary here. Sure, there were a few flaws that I'll get to in just a moment, but on the whole it's a solid, well-written game that's enjoyable in or out of the context of the contest.

The only real problems I came across (and ones that would be easily fixable, assuming the author was inclined to do an updated version after all this time) were a few guess-the-verb issues that made some of the puzzles much harder than necessary.

In particular, there were a couple of connected puzzles involving a metal bar that I never would have had a chance of figuring out on my own. Luckily, if you don't mind doing things the easy way it's all but spelled out for you in the hints and a 'useful information' topic at the beginning of the game, but in my opinion a far better solution would to have clearer clues in the game itself, and more synonyms for the commands. The same applies to two items in the game, a jewel and a ring, both of which caused me some confusion and could have used more detailed descriptions that at least give you an idea of their purpose and how to use them.

Again, the robust hint system keeps all of this from becoming too much of an obstacle, but I've always founds puzzles that all but REQUIRE hints and/or a walkthrough to be a major annoyance.

But don't get me wrong; despite these problems, PtD is still an great game. The writing in particular is excellent, even if the contrast between the six rooms in the beginning with their bent towards fantasy, and the sci-fi city just outside is at first a little jarring. I seem to recall that the contest rules allowed you to modify the original descriptions a bit, which may have helped smooth the transition, but either way it's a minor issue. In fact it may have even added to the sense of atmosphere that impressed me so much. (What can I say, I'm a sucker for the mysterious ruins of an alien civilization.) I only wish the game was a little longer with a slightly expanded plot, because I would have loved it if I could have done some exploring in the city itself, and done a bit more detectiving before the end.

At first glance it seems like the author might have tried to add some more content by letting you choose whether you were male or female in the beginning, but after trying both options I would have to write it off as a failed experiment. Nothing about the plot changes no matter what you pick, and in fact the only thing choosing a female does is shunt you off to some bizarre 'grrl power' alternate universe where you worship a goddess instead of a god, you're female, your co-workers are female, etc. Everything else is identical. I don't really see a reason to have included the option in the first place, but it seems like that's something just about EVERY game that lets you pick your gender is guilty of, so I can't really hold it against this one. (I would love to see an IF game with a significant difference there, different solutions to puzzles, etc. though sadly the genre that's most likely to tackle this first would be AIF, and that's not the kind of 'puzzle' I had in mind...)

But even as a small game it's pretty satisfying. Without giving away too much of the plot, I'll just say that Something Bad has happened, and one of the more interesting tasks is to figure out exactly what it was. For some reason I've always been fond of information gathering in IF games (maybe because Anchorhead was my first). There's just something about finding a bunch of scattered pieces and then fitting them together myself that's so much more engaging for me than the traditional 'unlock the door, pull the string, attach the gidget to the gadget and steal the gloves from the gardener' type of situation.

I liked the last puzzle in particular, even though I didn't catch the significance to something the first time through and had to play through again. Oh, and just a warning; you CAN die and after that you CAN'T undo. I guess technically the 'no undo' thing is Adrift's fault for essentially booting you out of the program when you lose, but it's something that's so simple to work around I tend to count it as a mark against the game when it hasn't been. But PtD is short enough that even if you forgot to save it's no big deal to get back to where you were, and strangely enough it was actually kind of refreshing to play a game that gave me the freedom to screw up. (If I want to do something dangerously stupid I should be allowed to, dang it! :P)

Anyway, to recap: couple of minor problems, but great game, great setting...great comp, even. After playing this I'm almost inspired to dig out my never-finished entry and try to do something with it.

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