IFComp 2009 review: Grounded in Space by Matt Wigdahl

In this game you're a teenager living on an asteroid with your family when you behave so badly that your parents send you alone in space for a potentially deadly mission. (Life sure is tough for children in space.)

The game starts with a lot of things to read. The intro is faux-interactive: the scene progresses no matter what you command. (I always get frustrated when I can't think of anything else to do than Z to keep the text coming.) This continues later when you have to learn how the technology works by reading chunks of text.

There's one unfortunate puzzle that just doesn't work as text. It involves moving mirrors in a grid using x and y coordinates and changing the mirrors' orientation, and it's truly a chore. It's a variation of an age-old puzzle that I could have easily solved on paper, but with a cludgy interface like this it just doesn't work.

There's a lot of build-up and learning how the space ship works and then... it ends. I guess the game does a good job giving the illusion of a world that exists far beyond what the player has access to, but that illusion breaks violently when the you have won -message comes on the screen when things have just begun to get interesting. The relatively large amount of work the player has to invest in learning the game world doesn't ultimately pay off when that knowledge isn't put to good use.

To my surprise I noticed that during the epilogue I was reading the lines of a NPC in heavy US southern accent in my head. Then it hit me -- this is not a space opera, it's a space western! It has it all - ranchers, herding, duels, vast and lonely frontiers...

None of these quibbles are to say that I didn't like the game. I really did. All in all the good background saves a lot and the prose is excellent but the abrupt ending and some puzzles unfitting to the medium keep Grounded in Space from truly shining.

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