IF Comp 2009: Grounded in Space

Screen shot 2009-10-04 at 6.09.41 PMAs has been my practice for the last few years, I’ve set my RSS feed to truncate entries so that I can post reviews without spoilerage. Within an entry, there is a short, spoilerless discussion (though the comp purists may want to avoid reading even that before playing for themselves); then spoiler space; then a more detailed discussion of what I thought did and didn’t work in the game.

I’m also pursuing an approach I came up with last year: I’m playing and reviewing games that have listed beta-testers, and skipping those that don’t. Last year that turned out to be a pretty fool-proof indicator of which games were going to end up scoring 4 or less on my personal scale. I’m hoping this will mean I have more time to devote to the remaining games, which in turn will (I hope) be of higher quality, and you, dear reader, will have fewer rants inflicted on you.

Currently: Grounded in Space.

You too can play it if you download the comp games, or even try it online.

Reasonably solid, but more of the game involved very fiddly puzzles than I entirely liked, and I’m not sure what I think about the characters. Went to the walkthrough after a bit.

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I was taken aback by the attitude of the parents in this game: Mom and Dad send us off to punishment and don’t seem to entirely expect to see us again. (What’s more, this is apparently so common in this universe that ships have a punishment protocol built right in!)

I realize this attitude — send your kids off young, make ’em take responsibility, and if they’re weak enough to get hurt or die, well, hey, we’ve removed the weaklings from the herd — is right in line with the Heinlein-homage feel of the game as a whole. It was still a bit offputting; I like Heinlein’s adventure stories and, when in a bad mood, feel some sympathy with his intolerance of laziness and entitlement, but I don’t ultimately agree with most of his views on government and human nature. Purely as a matter of emotional realism, I think there would have needed to be a bit more establishing information before I bought the parents’ coldblooded willingness to send their son off to his probable death.

The girl who turns up at the end, meanwhile, seems like she might be fun. I wouldn’t have minded hearing more about the strange variety of frontier living one has when one’s closest neighbors live on a different barren rock, only “near” you in space arithmetic and otherwise very far away indeed. Alas, we can’t interact with her much.

Between these two points, there’s a lot of fiddling with the computer and machines aboard the ship. I think I spent too long reading the book holocube and trying to figure out the mining probe. (“PRIME” was the verb I needed, but I’m not sure where I was supposed to have learned that other than from the walkthrough — I asked the computer a bunch of questions about mining and probes, but didn’t find it. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places or wasn’t thorough enough. It’s completely possible that I confused some pieces of the ship machinery with some other pieces.)

However that may be, by the time I got to the part about lining up lasers and reflectors, I mutinied and went straight to walkthrough. I somewhat feel that puzzles involving spatial layouts aren’t a great fit for IF. It’s possible that I would have managed to work this out eventually, though, if I’d had more time remaining on the clock.

Anyway, all told: serviceable, not buggy; characterizations a bit chilly; meant in a good spirit. Especially if you’re feeling a bit libertarian.

3 thoughts on “IF Comp 2009: Grounded in Space”

  1. Isn’t a strange kind of libertarianism when you apparently believe that parents should have power over life and death of their children? That seems rather authoritarian. (I don’t know–libertarianism is a part of the political spectrum that doesn’t exist in my part of the world, as far as I can see, so I know little about it.)

  2. I don’t think Mom and Dad were supposed to have thought they were sending you off to your death. Interesting point about the ship being prepared with the punishment regime. (Hopefully, it’s settable by age.)

    ps – From what I’ve seen, libertarianism often becomes a philosophy of the strong exploiting the weak. In the States, libertarians basically hold the position that government should not regulate corporations, and workers should take what they get.

    1. Yes, I suppose that is what distinguishes a libertarian from an anarchist (and I’m talking about real anarchists, not anarcho-capitalists). But I should really read up on my Nozick.

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