Changes is a parser-based science fiction puzzle game, fairly challenging and longer (at least for me) than the average comp game. As usual, the jump will be followed by non-spoilery comments; then if I have anything spoilery to say, there will be spoiler space. The fact that I am reviewing it at all indicates that there are beta-testers.
The very opening of this is a gory description of a crash and death, but it fairly quickly switches to interesting world building. It’s apparent that, after your crash, something transformative has happened to you; that you’re now part of an unusual ecology that is reminiscent of Earth while having some very different features. The vast pauses that occur in Parchment every time you take an action indicate that something significant is going on under the hood, quite possibly autonomous NPC behavior calculations to make all the animals you’re seeing run around and take action. It’s plain that somehow you’ll have to use all this to your advantage.
That “somehow” is the problem. While Changes is intriguing and explorable, it is really not great at communicating goals to the player. I repeatedly found myself at a loss about what I was supposed to be doing. There’s a HINT command that dispenses contextual suggestions, but they’re really very vague, sometimes on the order of “now you should look for something helpful!” And there’s no walkthrough linked from the comp page.
So, a little hopelessly, I tried typing WALKTHROUGH into the game.
This succeeded, to my surprise, though with warnings about how reading the walkthrough would ruin my enjoyment. It didn’t: on the contrary, it gave me the first clear information about what I was supposed to be doing in this piece. I played through the majority of the game by glancing at the walkthrough whenever the game became too opaque about what I was supposed to be working on next, which was frequently. And I made progress, slowly but surely, in Parchment, before some fat-fingering managed to send me away from the webpage. When I came back it had started the whole game over.
So that was extremely frustrating, as I had used up almost all of my comp-judging time. Still, I’m pretty sure I saw the majority of the game, which was a science fiction puzzler relying on a consistent mechanic of, well —
…killing telepathic animals and possessing their bodies so that I could use them to accomplish the next step of my mission.
I found this disturbing. My protagonist doesn’t seem to have any significant ethical qualms about it, but I do. I’m not a vegetarian, so evidently I don’t have a real-life ethical issue about killing animals for my own convenience, or allowing them to be killed on my behalf. But in this game, your protagonist is telepathically linked with the animals killed; there’s communication, understanding. Several of the creatures are depicted as having complex feelings about one another and their place in the world. It felt really very creepy, after that, to kill them off and use their bodies as husks: more like killing a chimpanzee or some other creature capable of quasi-human communication levels.
I did end up sorry that I didn’t get to see the end of the game, which is a vote in favor in a sense. But I felt that, given the obvious effort, worldbuilding, and coding complexity, Changes could have been a much better experience if it only had more guidance and better hints. Oh, and it should probably have suggested people download the game if possible rather than playing online, because for online play it is S L O W. (If there was any message to this effect, then I managed to miss it.)