The Test by Matt, Dark Baron [Comp01]

IFDB page: The Test
Final placement: 47th place (of 51) in the 2001 Interactive Fiction Competition

The Comp01 blurb for The Test includes the following words of warning:

Warning: This game is hard and requires large amount of thinking power, do not attempt if you expect to complete it in 5 minutes. Hints are available, and for the faint hearted a walk through.

Warnings like this are a big red flag for me (even when they aren’t run-on sentences), because they very frequently lead to games whose puzzles require authorial telepathy to solve. In addition, they carry a most unwelcome undertone of condescension, as if the author is sneering, Wile E. Coyote style, “Who among you has the brainpower to solve a game created by such a Sooper Genius as myself?” This implication of superior intelligence is especially hard to credit when the very sentences that express it are improperly punctuated and lack crucial articles (“requires large amount”?). So I went into The Test with my hackles raised, and my expectations low.

But, whoa! Apparently they were not anywhere near low enough. I don’t mean to be harsh, but this game is just awful. The writing alone is enough to sink the game by itself. A sample room description:

You don’t want to be here unless running on conveir belts is your kind of thing. You’re in some kind of factory, in a think passage way standing on a conveyer belt, which is going backwards into a big machine which crushes stuff between giantic steel teeth.

Okay, first of all: “conveyer”; “gigantic”. Game, meet Dictionary. Dictionary, meet Game. Second of all, “a think passage way”? What the hell is that? There are some things even spell check can’t save. Finally, how about mentioning some of the crucial items in the room? Like, say, maybe the exit door.

As it turns out, the puzzles don’t so much require authorial telepathy as they demand an almost insatiable appetite for tedium. The solution to one combination lock puzzle requires that the player try every number, starting from 1, in sequence and try to observe a pattern in the lock’s reactions. Oh yeah, sounds like fun. And they get worse from there. I can’t think what would motivate someone to even attempt the game’s last puzzle — what possible reward could it have to offer? Maybe that’s what the title really refers to — it’s a test of just how much you can put up with before you quit. I hope I passed, but I have a feeling most other judges will have caught on much quicker than I did.

Rating: 1.8