IFComp ’09: The Believable Adventures of an Invisible Man

Today, The Believable Adventures of an Invisible Manby Hannes Schueller. Believable they are not. I don’t think they even count as adventures.

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Well, the game does deliver on its title… kinda. You do play as an invisible man, but not in any fun or interesting way. The invisible part seems only as an excuse for inventory puzzles. You can’t carry any items past (barely implemented) NPCs or else they’ll know something’s amiss. A fair share of the puzzles involve figuring out how to get item A to point B. Can you scare, tease, prank, attack, or talk to these NPCs? Of course not. That would require a level of refinement and imagination that this game lacks.

You play as an extremely paranoid low-level research assistant at an university’s science department who wants revenge on his boss for not recognizing his genius. Considering this PC has a secret lab inside his house and has developed an invisibility potion maybe some recognition is deserved. That’s as far as characterization goes. The PC is paranoid because it allows arbitrary boundaries (can’t go in that direction, there are PEOPLE over there). He wants revenge on his boss so that he has something to do. There’s nothing interesting or believable about the character.

The rest of the game is just as inane. I understand that the author is trying for a wacky feel but the attempt falls flat with bizarre descriptions and perplexing motivations. Look at the description of the PC’s apartment (remember, he has a secret lab under it).

Apartment
So… this is where you live. Usually, you only leave if you absolutely have to, for example to get fresh supplies of chemicals. The apartment consists only of one single room which serves as living room, bedroom, kitchen and even bathroom combined. The downside is that you couldn’t get a place without a window. The regular exit is a door on the north wall.

You can see a wardrobe (empty), a bed, a toilet, a sink (empty) and an oven (closed) here.

So we’re to belive that a man who has a hidden lab lives in a crappy, sparse apartment. I guess I could see it, if the character was better defined. But then…

>x toilet
You’ve conveniently placed it in the middle of the room. You removed the lid – closing it only made the smell worse.

He’s placed it in the middle of the room for the convenience. Huh? And closing the lid made it smell worse? This isn’t wacky. It’s insane. Even in cartoons there’s a modicum of reality. Toilets just don’t end up in the middle of rooms.

This insanity extends to every corner of the game. It’s a big problem because most of the puzzle solutions require actions that wouldn’t make sense if you didn’t know the outcome beforehand. I was forced to the walkthrough very quickly (the game doesn’t offer any in-game hints). For example, there’s a creepy guy standing outside of the PC’s apartment. Why? Doesn’t matter. He’s just a creepy guy. But you do need to get rid of him before you can take items out of the apartment. Can you interact with him in any way? Nope. The solution: drop some moldy pizza out your window, which he will immediately gobble up and then DIE. There’s not a single hint or clue that you have to kill this man to move forward or that the pizza is deadly.

I encounted numerous grammar and spelling errors and one bug that put the game in an unwinable state. There were many guess-the-verb instances. Everything is barely implemented. Rover’s Day Out had a toilet that I could tinker around with. One puzzle required opening up the tank and doing some repairs. I appreciated the attention to detail. In Invibile Man you can only flush the toilet. Worse, if you sit on it:

>stand
You’ll have to get off the toilet first.

>n
You’ll have to get off the toilet first.

>exit toilet
I only understood you as far as wanting to exit.

>exit
You’ll have to get off the toilet first.

>leave toilet
I only understood you as far as wanting to leave.

Whoops!

If the game does have a saving grace it does have some of the most hillariously clunky descriptions I’ve ever seen:

University Building
All these buildings look alike – you recognize the familiar hospital athmosphere. An office door welcomes you to the west. The windowless corridor leads north and stairs allow going upstairs.

>x secretary
(the secretary)
From the looks of it, it is most likely a woman, but since she is wearing clothes, definite proof is not available.

>x desk
There’s painfully little on it: a computer, a phone, a small bowl and the usual mail trays (non-empty). Extrapolating how little work is done in this office is so easy that you won’t even bother to think about it.

Hospital
The hospital is a depressing place. Lots of ill or dead people being pushed around in beds.

Right now I want to award Invisible Man with worst place. But I know the nature of the comp and there’s still plenty of crap to go.

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