Playing “Inside Woman”

So I’m playing Andy Phillips’ just-released Inside Woman, and it’s reminding me of all the stuff I have liked and disliked about Phillips’ past work.

The good: a lot is happening. Phillips writes in a slightly different genre than the average IF — there’s a lot less generic exploration and uncovering of backstory, a lot more sneaking around and playing clever tricks in the present. He goes for plots about jewel thefts, espionage, corporate surveillance. Action-movie stuff. This gives his games a kind of gonzo energy. You can tell he’s working from a big concept.

The bad: Sometimes the execution doesn’t work so well. He doesn’t always do this in a way that works for IF — Heroine’s Mantle contains some sequences that feel like they were imagined for a movie screen and then only grudgingly and reluctantly transferred to interactive format. In particular, scenes are sometimes a bit infodumpy and don’t provide enough else for the player to do while they’re going on.

Also, sometimes the puzzles are just weirdly unfair, and sometimes in ways that don’t make sense within the story. Spoilers on a couple of particular things right at the start of the game (I only have 32/400 points so far):

Early on, there’s a puzzle that involves me telling a computer my age. I’ve had occasion to read my date of birth on a document a few moves earlier, so that part is fine. What I don’t know, as the player of a game set in an indeterminate future, is *what year it is now*. This is a question that the protagonist couldn’t possibly need to struggle with, so it really emphasizes the player/protagonist divide, and not in a helpful way.

I assume that sometime earlier in the game I had the opportunity to see the current year written down, but I missed it.

To make matters more annoying, the protagonist has a permanent uplink to a computer voice in her ear who could, I assume, supply this information as well, but asking it questions is either not implemented or involves guessing a verb that I couldn’t figure out.

I solved this puzzle by guessing a bunch of ages in sequence and undoing every time I got it wrong. Not fun; not interesting; not a successful gating mechanism for the plot.

Considerably more effective is the puzzle involving finding my assigned apartment in my new city, in which I have to work out how my personal serial number correlates to the city geography. This is just challenging enough to produce the mild sense of disorientation one usually feels when traveling to a strange place, and it’s clued in a way that helps fill in some of the atmosphere of the world that I’ve come into.

But now I’m stuck again, and don’t know what I should do next. I think I might need a job, but I’m not so clear on how to get one or how to change myself to “inductee” status.

Meanwhile, the game seems to want me to repair this broken guide/spy robot — except why would I want to repair something whose explicit purpose is to spy on me? I guess there must be a replacement component for its innards somewhere around here…

35 thoughts on “Playing “Inside Woman””

  1. Interestingly, I’ve been having this *exact* same puzzle issue for the character’s age.

    Not wanting to cop out entirely, I’ve reloaded the game three times in another session, and replayed previous events start to present. Nothing. I’ve tried reading newspapers, searching the passport, asking Nanci for the date, and even asking the interpreter itself and seeing if the author published this information in an external blurb.

    I also assume I’m missing something. I feel the puzzles will be well served by further testing and updates. Ignoring them for a moment, the genre and companion system are quite unique, if rough around the edges.

    All in all, IW is a decent game with good writing and good ideas. That said, I agree that the puzzles need work.

      1. Useful, but still (deliberately?) vague on the description.

        I agree with Emily on this one: we should know the date.

  2. Stuck in the same place (don’t know how to get myself promoted to inductee), but had no troubles at all with knowing the protagonist’s age: I think the current date is told at least once before the puzzle being discussed happens. I managed to write it down so had no troubles afterwards. I had troble with guessing the PC child’s name, but this is most probably due to my imperfect English so that I didn’t get the clear hint about this on the first read.

  3. The current date is on the screen during registration, if you examine it.

    You need the guidebot for promotions, so you have to fix it. It took me a long time to solve this one – look carefully at, behind, in, under everything.

    I’m currently stuck 1/4 of the way through the game. I don’t know how to survive the church. Nanci is helpful, but I could really use more direct hints at times.

    1. I can’t get into the church but I have over 1/4 of the points so you must be ahead. I seem to be stuck on the vent puzzle and the baby puzzle. The hook won’t fit the vent and I haven’t worked out the window yet.

      It’s been an entertaining game so far.

    2. Ok, I examined the gate and got inside the church. All of the information you need to survive the church is at the front entrance before you go in. Then, when you don’t know the words, you perform an action (nanci drops a hint and if you’ve looked everywhere you’ll work it out).

      1. Thanks for the hint. I just came back to this game. See, this is what I was talking about – Nanci gives clues, but they’re easy to miss.

        Of course, now that I’m stuck in the gas maze and cannot focus, I really miss Nanci. Did you/anyone manage to get past this? I know where an exit should be, but I die before reaching it.

      2. This puzzle got to me. I searched the bodies, which makes you search their uniforms only.

        Then I tried searching for the one item I’d like to have in a gas-filled room… and it worked.

      3. Apologies; replying to Anonyme’s request for a hint. Apparently replying to comments three deep wraps back around.

      4. Thanks! Got it. Can’t believe I went through all that, just for a picture.

      5. Yargh, my comment was sandwiched above! See about three or four entries up, starting with, “Speaking of picture.” :)

      6. Yeah the clue for that was to look around (in this case, at the bodies), while you were on the ride. You see there that they have masks. I was having trouble with getting out of the previous room as well, the hint is also looking carefully at the ride for that.

        So I’m on the next part, and have finished the casino… I’ve been stuck on a light/temperature puzzle for ages. Looking at the clues inky has posted on his blog, I also should be able to get into the studio as well but no luck there so far. I’m at around 250 points.

      7. I’m still hanging around the apartment with a power cell and a damaged robot. No bodies yet. What do I do?

  4. Speaking of picture, I can’t figure out the subsidiary companies hint for the life of me. I have a feeling it’s related to the Library puzzle I have yet to solve.

    What am I missing?

    1. Yes, you need to do something at the library. Where are you at right now? If I recall, you need to tackle the school first, then the club, then the library, and then you can get your picture.

      1. Thanks Anonyme, that really helps. I’d been revisiting all previous locations, scrutinizing (and snapping photos of) everything that seemed like a “Subsidiary Business” to no success.

        *** HEAVY SPOILERS ***

        I’ve currently solved all of the puzzles on Levels 21-25, with the exception of “USE THE KEY” (I have the card key, but have no idea what action verb is required) and the last photo.

        I have /not/ entered the club on Level 16 yet, as I still require the third jack to be able to update my card info with my citizen ID and photograph (I’ve already deduced this is required).

        If this is all gating on the school, then that means my real stumper is how I’m supposed to “USE THE KEY”. :)

        *** END HEAVY SPOILERS ***

      2. Doy, I got it. “USE THE KEY” was a red herring for what I was thinking!

        Now that I’ve figured out the window, I should be fine. :)

  5. Just discovered this game. I do like the espionage and sneaking around. but I agree with your comments about the puzzles.

    I’m currently stuck on the school level.. I’ve gotten the two items and tossed them back through the arched window, but I can’t figure out how to get myself back through the window. It’s too high from the ground, and too low when on the wall. I even downloaded Andy’s hints file, but I can’t figure it out.

    Very frustrating since I feel like using the items I just picked up will help me move on in the game.

    Anyone run into this?

    1. I know this post post and this comment is from 2009! But I am completely desperate… I am stuck at this exact part of the game and can’t find a way past it anywhere. I am probably shouting into the void here but I have to try… I am at my wit’s end…

  6. This is driving me NUTS. I know my name is Alice Wei Ling. It’s all over the game, the passport, the hints. Though, when I tell the computer my name, she always says it’s wrong.

    Please, can anyone help? I can’t get past this part, and I really want to check out the rest of the game :\

  7. Here’s how you reach inductee status: after arriving in your appartment, open the drawer, take the watch and wear it, then turn off the light fixture. If you are wearing the watch, it will glow blue after you turn off the light. Next, take the light bulb. Do not take the bulb until after you turn off the fixture. Then look under the cryobed, and you will find a button. Put the bulb in the cryobed, then set the bed to a future time. After that, wait a few turns, then press the button. Take the bulb, drop it, then take the power cell. Open the inhaler, then take the tool and focus on it. Unscrew the guidebot, then remove the fried component, then insert the power cell. The guidebot will speak, then your jewels will change color, and you are now an inductee.

  8. Can you guys please help me? I’m on 240 points in the game at the moment, but I can’t get into the Biodome on Level 12. I know I’m meant to fire the cannon at the guns, but I can’t find the right phrase (I’ve tried everything from “fire cannon at guns” to “shoot guns with cannon” but no success). Please help with that one. Also, the game won’t let me be specific with what tube I want to load in the cannon, I managed to load the first one successfully but it won’t say which specific tube I want. I always have to take things out of the tube and put them back in again, which is too damn time-consuming and I think it would get me killed if I took too long when attempting to get past the guns, and like I said, I already have enough trouble with that as it is. I’ve had to postpone playing the game for about two-three months now because of this freaking puzzle, and I’m going on holiday to Greece from Melbourne in Australia in twelve days so want to play this on the plane, so please help me ASAP!

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