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Wax Worx

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Postby davidw » Fri May 14, 2004 9:13 pm

Wax Worx by Eric Mayer

Eric Mayer's first full size game since Doomed Xycanthus is a chilling horror story with splashes of the truly bizarre thrown in for good measure (including, among other things, the talking head of Marie Antoinette). Wax Worx starts off well with the player awaking, unsure of where he is or even who he is. A little exploration and things slowly begin falling into place, although it never really becomes clear what is going on. The explanation given at the start - that you've been locked inside a wax works museum - has an air of untruth about it.
Strange errors arose in several places throughout the game, the most glaring example being in the workshop when I tried - after being completely unable to locate an exit - to open a door. I was asked which door "the wooden door or the wooden door?" and was told, no matter what I typed, that "that is still ambiguous!" Funnily enough, when I carefully re-read the room description I didn't even notice any mention of a door there, wooden or otherwise.

"Wax Worx" is an unhelpful game in many places. In the first location there are three doors yet trying to open any of them results in the annoying message "you can't open the door!" For something as obvious as this (and let's face it, what else are you likely to type when faced with a closed door?) it's disappointing that the default response wasn't catered for a little better. The actual command required to open the door wasn't an obvious one either, particularly in light of the fact that I had been told that I couldn't open the door. Then again, problems with doors pretty much dog this game. Several times I tried to open a door and was told I would have to specify something openable. What did the game think I was trying to do when I typed "open door"? There's also an annoying response ("Given your current predicament, does that really matter?") every time you try to examine something the writer hasn't anticipated. And while it's nice that *this* time the default response has been changed, it's also equally frustrating that you seem to get this more often than not. When items are referred to in a room description and you try to examine them, you should see something more than a default response. Why put them in the room description otherwise?

On the plus side, the hints system is especially good which is quite a relief as the game itself is difficult. Quite often, commands which need to be typed to get anywhere (putting the nose on the clown) aren't at all obvious and it's unlikely you'd stumble across them without resorting to the hints. (In the example of the nose and clown puzzle, I didn't even have a nose at the time and while I tried a few experimental "make nose" or "create nose" commands, I never hit upon the correct command that was needed.) One of Eric Mayer's previous games had a section whereby the player had to kiss a statue. This game has you putting a nose (which you don't have) on a clown. Such commands might seem incredibly obvious and straightforward to the writer but they sure don't to the poor player.

The game's saving grace is its stylish writing which makes up for the often sloppy gameplay side of things. At times it is genuinely chilling and while a tendency to put silly in comments does creep in and somewhat spoil the general seriousness of the gameplay, the silliness is usually over with quickly enough so as not to ruin Wax Worx completely.

The ending is a strange one, and not a particularly satisfying one either. Then again, Wax Worx is a strange game throughout and a standard, run-of-the-mill ending just would have seemed out of place. All the same, there's a feeling I always have when a game ends badly for the player no matter what route is taken that it makes the earlier puzzle solving and figuring out what is going on kind of pointless. If you're going to die in the end anyway, why make such an effort to avoid it?

But bad points aside (and there were quite a number I'm afraid to say) Wax Worx was well written and chilling. While it could have been so much better, it was nevertheless definitely worth playing.

6 out of 10
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Postby ralphmerridew » Mon May 24, 2004 7:02 pm

You do have a nose; it's the blob of wax you find in the first room.
Bloodhounds can make you laugh and cuss in the same breath. They are endearing, faithful, and can sling drool ten feet in any direction. -- Virginia Lanier
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