Another IF Comp review, following my format for this comp. There is a cut, then any spoiler-free comments I have, and then spoiler space, and then more detailed feedback that assumes the reader has tried the game.
But first, we have some obligatory filler to try to make sure that the RSS summary does not accidentally contain any review. Filler, filler, la la la…
Okay. Here we go.
Possibly I’m getting jaded, but the idea of setting an IF game in a version of hell that is also a satire on modern business is one we’ve seen a bunch of times already (“Hell”, “Beat the Devil”, “Fiendish Zookeeper”, probably some others I’m not thinking of instantly; see also entry 29 on the Strange Horizons list of SF plots they don’t want to see again).
Beyond that concept, “Escape from the Underworld” hasn’t got a huge amount to offer. It’s not great, not awful: this is a blandly conceived puzzle game with occasionally rough implementation. Most of the puzzles take the form of thinking of a peculiar way to use an object, and some of these uses are obscure, so I relied on the hints and walkthrough a fair amount.
My other gripe is that the game doesn’t actually conclude: it’s part one of some series of unknown length.
I can sort of understand why people do this in comp games — it’s a way to get around the time limit restriction, if you have a plot that just will not fit into two hours — but in general I don’t think it’s a great idea. Part 1 games rarely do as well as games that are complete in themselves, and then quite frequently the later parts never appear. There are some notable exceptions (after all, parts 2 and 3 of Earth and Sky not only appeared but were considerably more ambitious than part 1, and they won their respective comps). But as a rule, this is something I would be wary of.