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IFCOMP 2005 - History Repeating

Game #13: History Repeating, by Mark and Renee Choba
Played On: 10/23/2005 (1:15 PM to 2:30 PM)
Unofficial Score: 7.5 (7.0 base with +0.5 skew)

     This is going to be a pretty short review, because I don’t have much to say about History Repeating. It’s a good, short game. I finished in a little over an hour, but deferred to the walkthrough a time or two when I felt especially stuck. The first time, I didn’t know what to say to the dean (we called them “principals” when I went to high school – deans were at college). The game uses a combination of menu-tree conversations and ask/tell. I guess this became a little misleading, because the right option never appeared in the menu, yet I needed to tell her about something I witnessed earlier. Fortunately, once the walkthrough pushed me past that point, I figured out what to tell the janitor, no hints required.

     The rest of the game worked pretty well. I knew the history lecture was a clue, and that really helped when I began to investigate the pond in the courtyard. I tried to adapt the lunch tray to the purpose, overlooking something more useful (again to the walkthrough). Scenery is well-implemented, and the “help” section even describes a few amusing things to try during the course of the game. I encountered a few small bugs (trying to print the report after you already have it indicates you should type it first, although you already did and can’t do so again), including one in which the game crashes (both in Windows Frotz, and in Gargoyle – probably others) when you “ask janitor for toolbox.” The strangest was probably the layout of the western ends of the hallways, where NW or SW followed by NE or SE toggled the same two rooms. Perhaps it makes sense, but I couldn’t envision it – especially when the rest of the school’s layout was pretty logical.

     It’s a good premise that might have worked as a longer game. You have been brought back in time by your old science teacher, to determine whether or not it’s possible to change the past. It’s done in a wacky way, though. He’s built a time machine on the roof of the school. Accept it, and move on.

     Multiple endings are possible, and fortunately not too difficult to achieve. The puzzles are logical and not overly difficult, although I found some of them a little arbitrary. This is no real problem for me. I like puzzle games, and I take for granted that sometimes the same scenario in real life might have easier, more obvious solutions. This doesn’t bother me the way it might others. If you wonder why no records are to be found near the stereo in the music room, or why something more brick-like wasn’t found elsewhere in the school, well… you’re forgetting that it’s a game. Simulation has its place, and (thankfully) Interactive Fiction is rarely simulation.

     As another neither-bad-nor-great entry in this year’s competition, History Repeating fits snugly into 7.0 on my scale. For a few clever, interesting bits (especially things described in the “amusing” section), I have added a +0.5 skew to the score. It’s a fun, short game.

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