IFDB page: Hell: A Comedy Of Errors
Final placement: 23rd place (of 38) in the 2002 Interactive Fiction Competition
So here we have the Fine-Tuned of Comp02. That is to say: Hell starts out with a great premise — you’re a newly-created demon, and your business is to go about torturing souls and extracting the maximum possible penance from them. There are some fun role-playing elements to choosing your form, your wings, your color, and so on. In fact, much of the game’s setup is RPGish in a good way — you can purchase various implements of torture (all rather lighthearted, e.g. “documentary crew” or “lizards with pointy sticks”) and carve out your own personal infernal landscape of punishment rooms. Getting penance from damned souls results in further credits for further purchases, and opens possibilities of further demonic avenues such as helpers and peddlers.
Hell then completely squanders the promise of this great setup by being so very incomplete. The documentation suggests that some souls give up more penance depending on their particular characteristics, but damned if pretty much every soul in the game doesn’t look exactly identical. So, inevitably, you run out of money and then wander around wondering what to do next. I get the sense that in the finished version, each soul will have its own personality, and the puzzle will be to match it up with the environments and tortures that best suit it. In the current version, it’s pretty much a crapshoot.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that I’m wrong about this. Maybe I’m missing some critical clue that would make it clear how to proceed. Given that the game provides neither hints nor walkthrough, it’s impossible to be sure that this isn’t the case. Nevertheless, what seems quite clear is that Hell doesn’t do what it says it will, and consequently I have no choice but to regard it as an unfinished game. Please don’t submit these to the comp.