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Pestilence Reviews
Author: Richard Otter
Date: 2006

Reviewed by Ren

This is a sparse, spare, stripped down game and the writing style suits the subject matter. There arenít many objects, there arenít many characters, but this only adds to the sense of desolation. People run away, you hear distant voices, the atmosphere is decidedly tense. It isnít a ground-breakingly original game, but what it does it does very well.

A light touch on the ALR and a lack of extra tasks means that the game relies heavily on standard ADRIFT responses, and this can get a little wearing. Itís also quite easy to die. Walk into a room and the wrong time and wham, youíre done for (on one occasion, without any warning). However, the game doesnít end and you can just undo.

Randomising the cure ingredients is a nice touch, though I did discover that curing people in the wrong order makes the game unwinnable. This led to me getting stuck, but I had saved often enough for me to leap back to an earlier stage and finish things that way. Iím not sure whether this was a bug or deliberate, but it would have been better if the (sudden) killing had been accompanied by some kind of warning indicating that you should have found the cure earlier.

There did seem to be some door-manipulation bugs that led to the random locking and unlocking of rooms. I found my way into one (previously locked) room which told me there was a hole leading to another room which should not have been visible (I think I was probably supposed to enter via the hole and unlock the door, not the other way round).

I was slightly surprised, but this was my favourite game. It wasnít perfect, but it worked. I didnít get bored, and played it straight through - something I didnít do with either of the other competition games. This isnít as fancy as The Reluctant Vampire, and it lacks that gameís depth, but I enjoyed this more. My pick for 1st place in the summer comp.

Reviewed by David Whyld (InsideAdrift 31)

Pestilence is a game about a disease. Of which you are, unfortunately, a victim. The game begins with you heading to a medical centre looking for a cure. A nicely interesting idea, but I'm sorry to say that my enthusiasm waned quickly afterwards. 

I never really warmed to Pestilence for a number of reasons. The main one was that I, as the main character, often had to carry out some decidedly non-heroic actions to make progress. The first location required me to commit cold blooded murder to gain access to a medical centre where I had gone for treatment; later on I'm required to gas a woman locked in a cell (for which I get a nice score boost even though itís not necessary to perform this action). While I can understand that the player is desperate for a cure, I'm not sure I like the idea of indiscriminately murdering other people to find that cure. I also wasnít too keen on the gameís fondness for killing me off so many times in the early stages. I didnít really expect to die so often, or so frequently, and having to restart the game so early into play was a hassle. In hindsight, one of the ways to prevent my untimely demise did make sense, but it was only after I had died and thought ďbut what ifÖ?Ē that I realised it made a difference. Personally, Iíd have preferred not having to die and restart the game to figure out what I needed to do. 

The player carries around with him a notepad which fills itself in whenever some clue to the cure is discovered. In theory anyway. One game it seemed to fill itself in fine Ė which was nice, because it showed I was making progress Ė yet in another it stayed blank for the most part, even after I found out what I needed to do, and then filled itself in all in a rush. 

I wasnít very keen on the way some of the puzzles were constructed, or the way only a certain command will work yet other, equally reasonable commands, often wonít. At one point, I was required to put an item on another item to allow me to get through a locked door. I had a number of items, as well as there being a perfectly decent one in the room with me, yet the game hit me with YOU CANíT PUT ANYTHING ON THE BUTTON whenever I tried to place items on it. Only the relevant item worked and allowed me through the door, but shouldnít the game have at least had a better response than YOU CANíT PUT ANYTHING ON THE BUTTON if I tried the wrong item? The first time I chanced across the button, I didnít even have the item in question and spent a while trying to put other things on it instead. 

Despite my initial misgivings, the game is actually quite playable once you solve the first set of problems and start making progress. There are the usual puzzles inside the medical centre involving opening locked doors and bypassing various hazards, including an infected woman who will tear your throat out with her teeth if you unwittingly stumble into her cell. I died several times at that point, as I didnít realise the woman would attack me until she appeared and killed me, and not expecting her to keep chasing after and killing me every time I tried to run away. Funnily enough, if I opened her door and then either entered her cell or walked away, sheíd rush out and kill me, yet if I stood there and did nothing, she left me alone. 

There are a few NPCs, although only the lab assistant, like you infected with the Pestilence, has any proper dialogue. He can be questioned about a wide variety of subjects, and while most of these are simple filler, itís nice to find an NPC with so many different responses. He almost seemed alive at one point. Saying that, as the ingredients for the cure are to be found around the medical centre and are reasonably easy to acquire, and the lab assistant actually knows what the cure is, I'm kind of surprised he didnít just make it for himself rather than waiting around for me to come along and save him. 

Finding a cure is a simple enough procedure in itself. Simply locate the ingredients, most of which are in easy to find places, find out what the name of the cure is and make said cure. According to another review I read of the game, the cure varies from game to game, but in the three times I played through it (once just exploring, once relying on the hints to get to the end, once to get a walkthrough done and write my own review), I had to find the same cure each time. Maybe I just got on the bad side of the randomness and it doled out Ďartemisí every time.

Overall, while I wouldnít say I really liked Pestilence, itís not a bad game in itself. I was surprised by the player having to kill an innocent civilian right at the start of the game Ė surely a better course of action could have been implemented Ė and some of the other actions were a little suspect at best, but itís not a bad game overall. 

5 out of 10

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