in Comp03

No Room by Ben Heaton [Comp03]

IFDB page: No Room
Final placement: 22nd place (of 30) in the 2003 Interactive Fiction Competition

In a cheeky display of one-upsmanship (or maybe it’s one-DOWNsmanship), No Room trumps the one-room game by having no locations whatsoever. The author explains in a brief note that the PC resides in “the Inform Library itself, which is the most sense Inform could make of my game.” No rooms were harmed, or even created, in the making of this game. Consequently, the entire thing takes place in a dark, empty void, though I don’t think the location description or reactions are the Inform defaults. Thinking about how they got the way they are is making my head hurt, so I’ll stop.

The gimmick is fun, but doesn’t make for much of a game, of course. So No Room is a piece of micro-IF that basically consists of one puzzle. The puzzle is a good one, though it relied on some basic scientific knowledge that was, embarrassingly, just a bit beyond my grasp. But only a bit. Since there’s no location, the entire thing takes place in the dark, and between its darkness and its scientific-puzzle storylessness, the game feels like a cross between Aayela and In The Spotlight, except, of course, there’s no spotlight.

No Room could have used a bit more depth of implementation. Many of my ideas weren’t implemented at all, and a game this small can afford to take a great deal of care in making lots of options possible with its few items. On the other hand, the implemented parts were coded fairly well, and relying entirely on the sense of touch was an intriguing way to experience a puzzle. I was surprised to discover that a few uncommon Inform commands (like PRAY) were given special messages. Some of these messages felt desultory or over-the-top, but some (again, like PRAY) were funny. In fact, if the implementation had been a little less thin, I probably wouldn’t have found myself trying to PRAY in the first place, so maybe it was intentional…? Nah.

Rating: 6.2

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